Mikey B’s Top Five Albums & Songs of 2017

By: Mikey Bamarni


Best Albums of 2017


phoenix5. Ti Amo – Phoenix

In June of this year, I reviewed this newly released album by Phoenix; yet here we are in December and the record is still just as amazing. It’s even more incredible due to the fact that the album has vibes reminiscent of summer. The more listens you give it, the more you notice the small little details that make this 10 track tour de force so griping. It’s the ultimate indie rock band release of 2017.

 


alvvays4. Antisocialites – Alvvays

Before this year, I had never heard of Alvvays. When I did stumble upon them on the World Wide Web I instantly disliked them. Alvvays?? V’s?? Do you want to be CHVRCHES?? Their name alone made me blood red mad. Since the album artwork was particularly enticing, I decided to judge an album by its cover, and it ended up being a great call. This record is the background music to your favorite dream and most relaxing happy place. Definitely recommend that you listen now.

 


visions3. Visions of a Life – Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice have been on my radar since their debut album released in 2015. Their music sounded like it was straight from the 90’s, but with modern production and less depressing lyrics. The combination was something special. This year they released a phenomenal album. It has many standout songs and fantastically expands the sound they started to show the world two years ago.

 


The_xx_-_I_See_You2. I See You – The XX

The XX is an excellent band. They have three albums that I highly recommend giving a listen to. Their third record, which they released this year, is probably their most up-tempo release yet. It’s always interesting to see this band explore new sounds, as they always end up succeeding. You must listen to the album all the way through at least once. I See You may be the best introductory album for this group, as it’s their best yet.

 


268x0w1. DAMN – Kendrick Lamar

Everyone was stunned by the jazz and political lyrics of the 2015 Kendrick album, To Pimp a Butterfly. While it was clearly a musical masterpiece, it was a hard listen for the more mainstream rap fans to grasp. Especially for those who loved the beats and production of Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, it was hard to get into the more instrumentally driven follow up.

DAMN, however, does the trick of combining the political and personal lyrics of the 2015 album with a production that is even more beat driven than M.A.A.D City. It is a journey of a record, with each track focusing on a single aspect of what Kendrick Lamar wants to discuss in 2017. This is truly a masterpiece.


Best Songs of 2017


5. GOLD – BROCKHAMPTON

When I was on Twitter one day, I noticed a lot of talk about BROCKHAMPTON. At first I thought it was a TV show, or perhaps a cool indie rock band. But, to my surprise, found out that they were a self-described rap boy-band. With this niche classification, I knew I had to be check them out. The stand-out song out of the vast amount of tracks they released in 2017 is this heavy bumping jam. With a catchy chorus and lyrical swag, this song is truly golden.


4. PRIDE – Kendrick Lamar

DAMN was a darn good album (scroll up to see my thoughts). The standout to many critics would be HUMBLE or DNA, but for me, it’s PRIDE. The song is incredible in all aspects. Musically unique and mid-tempo, the lyrics are incredibly poetic and detailed, complementing Lamar’s silky-smooth vocal delivery. It’s a fiery track worthy of your peep.


3. Sign of the Times – Harry Styles

When 1D reached its peak, I was a Zayn Malik kind of guy myself. Mostly due to our similar ethnic backgrounds and shy guy personalities. When Harry, the other arguably most talented member of the bunch, released his debut single, I didn’t have super high hopes. But, I was interested and gave it a listen. This song floored me. The incredible thing is how it’s a straight rocker, yet still reached number 3 on the Billboard 100. Harry went solo with with a huge risk, and he hit it out of the park.


2. Say Something Loving – The XX

They released this song on January 1st, and thus making it a contender for song of the year. The XX did something beautiful with this track. They made a song as infectious and catchy as it is introspective and deep. With fantastic sampling and beautifully mellow vocals, it’s a song you need to listen to before it slips away.


1. The Man – The Killers

The Killers had an epic comeback in 2017. They released their best album in about 10 years, which included the ultimate pop/rock song. With influences from the Bee Gees, David Bowie, and a sample of Kool & The Gang, it was destined for greatness. It exceeded that predicted strength. Although the lyrics may seem cocky and arrogant, a quick watch of the music video explains that the song is mocking the guy who thinks he’s the king when, in reality, he’s just a human (or maybe a dancer).


To see Mikey B’s top picks of 2016, click here.

COIN’s HWYKIYNT Is Past The Sophomore Album Slump

COIN wows in recent album. HWYKIYNT (2017). Photo By (COIN/Facebook).

COIN wows in recent album, HWYKIYNT (2017). Photo By (COIN/Facebook).

COIN is leading a front in the independent pop artist game. Their newest album, How Will You Know If You Never Try (2017) also known as HWYKIYNT, came out this past Friday, April 21. With leading singles “Talk Too Much” and more recently “I Don’t Wanna Dance”, they leave indie pop fans vacating all music elsewhere and directing themselves to the album. Their second album is a familiar pop series that embodies a mixed bag of emotions, all with a stagnant and cheerful disposition.

Two years after the release of COIN (2015), featuring some prominent go-to pop singles like “Run” and “Atlas”, the new album shows the very development and confidence of the band. The Nashville band takes their dreamy vocals, pumping drums, and wildly smooth guitar riffs up a notch. Their lyrical growth and outreach of emotions makes the listening experience a familiar yet enjoyable one.

COIN’s album starts with an empty and slow introduction “when I talk about the future.” They quickly adjust their momentum and bring back their usual windy drums and pushy beat. Chase Lawrence, the lead vocalist, assures his Nashville heritage by mixing his vocal twang with jumpy indie pop instrumentals. It is rather reminiscent of indie artists who share optimism in their tracks, like Magic Man, LANY, The 1975, Grouplove, and Smallpools.

Following songs have a similar format, each containing relatable story, undeniable cheer, and riffs true to the band. “Talk Too Much” is the third song off the album, and it is the talk of the town; this anthem emulates the insecurities of many individuals in a cute and honest approach. Their fourth song “I Don’t Wanna Dance” also has a similar message, validating the goodness of the song through irony, in a way.

COIN’s album holds a theme: challenging the realities of teenage/young adult love and relationships. With relationships comes insecurities, blunt conversation, and of course, courtship. Their lyrics prove this. In their sixth song “Are We Alone?”, parts of the script add to the very emotion that comes with young love. “Pulling teeth just to ask how your day was” is one notion which many may relate to.

A part of young love, however, comes along innocence and a fresh start. COIN ends their album slow, like the beginning. The last songs “Miranda Beach” and “Malibu 1992” simply add to the narrative, ending in such a way that is filled with nostalgia.

Overall, COIN’s HWYKIYNT (2017) is the ultimate go-to summer album to add to any indie pop playlist. Though there is little variety between songs, they still contain positive messages that are relatable on so many levels.

Rating 7/10, would recommend.

Check out COIN’s full album HWYKIYNT (2017) on Spotify, Soundcloud, and iTunes.

Is 2017 the Year of the Gorillaz?

Rachel Handschuh

WGMU Blogger

Damon Albarn - der britische Musiker und Saenger sowie musikalische Kopf der Bands Blur, Gorillaz und dem Projekt The Good, the Bad & the Queen bei einem Konzert am 01.07.2014 in Hamburg, Grosse Freiheit 36 KEINE PERSOENLICHKEITSRECHTE VORHANDEN, NUR FUER REDAKTIONELLE VERWENDUNG, KEINE WERBUNG. KEINE WEITERGABE AN DRITTE

Many people in recent years have been wondering for the past few years about the Gorillaz’s musical comeback, and 2017 may be giving them an answer. In 2016, the group began to release on Twitter a series of videos and artwork which came to be known as the Book of Noodle, named the animated band member Noodle.

Since then The Gorillaz dropped their first song in six years on January 19 titled “Hallelujah Money,” as of writing this piece has the video has 5,353,209 views, which teased at a new album coming once again. The song made the Internet overflow with the guesses that it will be 2017 the band will finally have the long-awaited album. Yet, a much newer event has made the Internet freak out.

This month the band announced that in partnership with Red Bull a one day festival will be held Saturday, June 10 in Margate, England. Now has it already been completely sold old, but the rumors of the event being the greatly craved album release are rapid on the Internet. I personally believe this concert holds a significant point in the Gorillaz history and could hopefully bring us a new album. Hopefully 2017 hopefully can be the Year of the Gorillaz.

Album Review: As It Is: Okay

Rachel Handschuh

WGMU Blogger

as it isAs It Is is an up and coming pop punk band from the United Kingdom. Their second album, Okay, was released on January 20. This album has a good mixture of upbeat songs and continues their theme of having deep and meaningful lyrics. The first half of the album includes songs with cheerful tones and catchy lyrics, such as the song “Pretty Little Distance.”  Yet, the second half of the album gets slower, softer and has heartfelt lyrics. For example, the song “No Way Out” conveys a sense not being able to escape one’s mind yet still has a slow yet a strong and powerful meaning.

Overall, “Okay” has this strong lyrical and emotional vibe, and that largely comes from their American singer, front man and songwriter Patty Walters. Walters used this album as an outlet to talk about his past dealings with depression and anxiety, and that reflect most in the song “Hey Rachel”. In a post discussion after the release of the music video for the song, Walters revealed that his past relationship with his sister Rachel, who was suffering from mental illness, was the fuel for the lyrics he wrote for the song itself. Overall, this album is another step up from As It Is and its message, saying it’s OK sometimes to be not OK, is a heartfelt message that is relatable to anyone.

Are Music Videos Dead?

Kaitlyn Koegler

WGMU Blogger

It’s a question many music fans have asked, and certainly one that doesn’t come without its merits. After all, one of the first suggestions that pops up on Google when typing in, “do music videos” is “do music video still exist?”

While many of us know they certainly still exist, to what extent do they still have power and impact in the music world? We’re no longer in the days of cramming around the TV to watch a new music video from our favorite artists on MTV. No longer are we in the days where a new music video causes huge pop culture buzz and excitement.

We are now in the days where streaming services like Spotify and Pandora thrive and the focus on an audio experience seems to be more popular than that of a visual one. We’re busier now; our lives are arguably more fast-paced than ever before. We don’t need to worry about making time to turn on the TV or buy a CD to hear music; for all we need to do now is just log on to YouTube on our own schedule.

But has that switch to media consumption through the Internet caused music videos to fall through the cracks? It’s certainly an argument that can be made. On the other hand, however, it could simply be that music videos just don’t have the mass amount of funding that they did back in the 80s and 90s. Music video directors like Anthony Mandler find this to be music video’s biggest problem.

“Part of what is missing today are event videos,” said Mandler to Forbes magazine. “70 percent of videos today don’t have enough money invested in production or start with a clever enough idea to do something unusual … and, therefore, slip into the sea of the average.”

This is not to say that music videos today are never clever and impactful by any means. Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” is an entire compilation of music videos that easily pass as an art film with an initial release on HBO that harped back to the best years of MTV. But it’s a matter of the frequency of these types of videos and how, in modern times, we just don’t see them very often. They just don’t pack the same punch as they used to.

Could music videos go back to being as huge as they were in their best days? Perhaps. The platform is there, and the ability to reach a global audience is right under artists’ fingertips. It’s just a matter of not only funding, but bringing back the emphasis on visual performance that we once knew with greats like Michael Jackson or Prince. Audiences need to have a reason to want to see a music video. There needs be an aspect of an artist’s music that can only be expressed through the motions of a music video.

Will those motions appeal to mass music audience ever again? Only time will tell.

From Teens to Twenties: Lorde Announces 2nd Full-Length Album

Kaitlyn Koegler

WGMU Blogger

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "Scarlett Johansson" Episode 1720 -- Pictured: Musical guest Lorde performs on March 11, 2017 -- (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCU Photo Bank)

After nearly four years since the release of her last album, Pure Heroine, 20-year-old New Zealand singer Lorde will be dropping a new album this year.

Releasing her newest single “Green Light” March 2, Lorde is supposedly releasing her new album this summer per Pitchfork.

“Green Light is officially out in the world,” wrote Lorde on her Instagram account, “I am so pleased to share with you that this song is the first from my sophomore record, Melodrama.”

“Green Light” comes after a smash break-out from the young star. Her single “Royals” skyrocketed her into fame, with critics praising the then 17-year-old singer for her intricate lyrics and raw talent from someone of such a young age.

With many of Lorde’s fans waiting with baited breath for her much-anticipated release, the singer has a lot of expectations to live up to this time around. Luckily for her, however, Green Light has been received well by fans and critics alike, and it looks like the unconventional, perfectly poetic singer will be showing the music world another album that will exceed their ever so high standards for this pop superstar.

 

Coachella 2017: Three Artists to Watch

Kaitlyn Koegler

WGMU Blogger

perform onstage during day 3 of the 2016 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival Weekend 1 at the Empire Polo Club on April 17, 2016 in Indio, California.

Under the beating sun of the California desert, famous annual music festival Coachella is just around the corner. And, like many years before, an impressive line-up of well-known superstars and rising underdogs will be taking the stage once again to perform at one pop culture’s most well-known festivals.

Sporting a huge line-up every year, Coachella spans two weekends in April. And for many that attend or simply track the play-by-play online, the sheer number of artists to check out can be miles long.

Luckily for most there are some artists that stand out just by name. But many others, while not recognizable by first glance, are artists you’re going to want to keep an eye on at this year’s festival.

Here are three artists to watch out for at this year’s Cochella festival:

1. Swet Shop Boys: Forming in 2014, Swet Shop Boys are a hip-hop group consisting of rappers Heems and Riz MC and producer Redinho. Just releasing their very first full-length album in 2016, Swet Shop Boys are new in the music scene. That certainly hasn’t stopped them from chasing success, however. Their album Cashmere scored high praise from music reviewers and critiques and with a gig at Cochella soon arriving, we may be witnessing the birth of a rising star.

2. Kiiara: Many that know Kiiara from her smash hit Gold have failed to dig deeper into this 21-year-old electropop princess’ insanely solid discography. Her music totes an almost dream-like quality with a certain air of darkness lacing her enchanting voice. Sure, she’ll probably perform Gold at Cochella; no doubt about it. But to not know her other tracks is denying oneself quite the musical treat.

3. Glass Animals: A frequent flyer when it comes to festivals, Glass Animals has made a rise to stardom within the alternative rock community. Their 2016 release, Life Itself did relatively well on alternative rock charts. And with appearances at other noteworthy festivals like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, this little band from England might just be the next big thing.

Cochella runs from April 14 to 16 and from April 21 to 23.

Just By Chance: Chance the Rapper’s Rise to Stardom

Kaitlyn Koegler

WGMU Blogger

chance the rapperIt was an unprecedented event; a rapper with no record label behind him winning three Grammys.

Becoming the first artist to win a Grammy for a streaming-only album, Chance the Rapper (born as Chancellor Bennett), is a 23 year-old rising star with three mixtape releases under his belt.

Releases all pioneered by none other than himself.

Chance, unlike most big names in the industry, is not signed by any record label, releasing his music on Soundcloud to avoid the restrictions that come with being signed to a huge company.

Not to say that he isn’t wanted by any; he is. Big time. Pagesix reports that the artist is reportedly turning down 10 million dollar offers just to stay out of what he believes is a pointless deal.

“It’s a dead industry,” said Chance to Rolling Stone. “What’s an album these days, anyways? ‘Cause I didn’t sell it, does that mean it’s not an official release?” 

Despite his criticism of labels, he continues to prosper. With 1.39 million followers on Soundcloud and all-star artists like Justin Beiber and Kanye West featuring on his tracks, it doesn’t look like Chance will be slowing down anytime soon.

If you’re interested in seeing Chance live, tickets for his summer tour are currently on sale at ticketmaster.com. He will be making stops in Bristow, Virginia Beach, and Baltimore.

Mike On The Mic’s Top 5 Albums & Songs of 2016

Michael Bamarni | Top Five Albums

  1. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

e3c43867Radiohead’s first release in five years will stand the test of time as being one of their best releases ever. For a band that has been around for over twenty years and with multiple classic albums already in their discography that is quite a great feat.

It also might be their most personal album to date. Thom Yorke’s lyrics throughout are full of sadness and openness not seen by many current artists nowadays. With all that being said the album isn’t just a tear fest, the music’s simplicity keeps the listener fully engaged and there are some crazy string sections, guitar solos, and choir chants to keep you rocking too.

Stand Out Tracks: Burn The Witch, Daydreaming, Identikit, True Love Waits

  1. Frank Ocean – Blonde

frank-oceanOne of the biggest music jokes on social media over the past few years has revolved around the release of Frank Ocean’s follow up album to the wildly successful Channel Orange. Release dates were switched so many times, whether by the man himself or just the media reporting inaccurate information. Finally though, four years after his last album, Blonde was released and it did not disappoint.

Much like Radiohead’s album, Blonde does more by doing less. There are very few songs with actual drumbeats or loud production; instead you get more guitars and pianos. It’s a great release because while it is an R&B album at heart, Ocean is not afraid to explore other genres and sounds. If Ocean’s going to continue to release albums of this high quality, I don’t mind waiting another four years for a follow up.

Stand Out Tracks: Ivy, Self Control, Nights, White Ferrari

  1. The Growlers– City Club

maxresdefaultThis is the album that might get the most polarizing response out of any on the list, but if you give this new Growlers album a proper listen, and maybe even a few more listens after that, you will see why this album is as high on this list as it is.

An album that sounds modern and also extremely reminiscent of 60’s/70’s rock, it gives the listener an incredible mix of funky bass lines, catchy choruses, and somber ballads. Brooks Nielsen’s voice is incredibly unique, and his lyrics are no joke. It may not be the stuff you hear on the radio, or an album you hear much about in general since the truth of the matter is that rock music that is this upfront with its influences isn’t as commercial as it was maybe 20 years ago, but that doesn’t stop the fact that it is still heavy on killer tracks, and few on the filler.

Stand Out Tracks: City Club, I’ll Be Around, When You Were Made, Too Many Times

  1. The 1975 – I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it

the-1975-i-like-it-when-you-sleep-for-you-are-so-beautiful-yet-so-unaware-of-it-2016-officialTake a rock band creating an album over an hour long, plus an album title longer than anything seen in modern music, an album full of instrumental tracks, and that’s being released in the year 2016, what could go wrong? A lot is the answer, especially since it was coming from the same band whose debut album was shut down by many critics for being too poppy and radio friendly just three years prior.

The 1975 went bold, and as what might be the biggest musical surprise of the year, it paid off. The album is a journey that is almost better to listen to in it’s entirety instead of just picking and choosing songs. The lyrics are very self aware but also very poetic. The genre changes are constant and invigorating. Overall this album is fantastic, and even if you’re not the biggest fan of “rock” music, that doesn’t mean this album won’t work for you. It has it all. You’re bound to like some of it. You might even like it when you sleep.

Stand Out Tracks: Love Me, Change of Heart, Somebody Else, The Sound

  1. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

ca9xf0eweaapibgThis man doesn’t stop. Call him anything you want, but you definitely can’t say he’s lazy. Kanye West had a year for the record books. He released and rereleased the same album at least three times, each time with mixing changes, added tracks, added vocals, etc.

First the album was solely available on Tidal, then eventually went on all the big streaming services (yet there is still no physical copy available.) Then he created a tour stage unlike anything ever seen before. Not only that, but he returned to the Yeezus-era Kanye by going on huge concert rants which while fun at first, ended up being a sign of mental exhaustion along with who knows what else, but here’s the thing, with all that being said…the album is fantastic.

With 20 tracks to its name, it is by no means a quick listen.  That doesn’t stop it from being amazing. It has influences from all of his other albums, while still pushing his sound forward. To some it may not be his best album-there are some tracks here that are really unnecessary, but that’s kind of what makes it work. The album fits the person, a genius, but one with flaws and mistakes that even he can sometimes admit to having. This is Kanye’s White Album. It has a little bit of everything and for the most part, it’s all incredible.

Standout Tracks: Ultralight Beam, 30 Hours, No More Parties in LA, Fade

 

Michael Bamarni | Songs of the Year

  1. Burn The Witch

You ever hear a song for the first time, and think to yourself that you’ve never heard anything like it before? That was how Burn The Witch was for me. By using a string instruments instead of guitars and also building a slow but steady intensity that ends up reaching it’s climax just as the song ends, you never really get a chance to breathe. It’s okay though, because suffocating never sounded so good.

  1. Miracle Aligner

For those who don’t know, Alex Turner is one of the greatest musical minds of the past 10 years. His albums with the Arctic Monkeys show that he not only knows how to make a catchy song, but that he is an incredibly intricate and detailed lyricist who can make you laugh or cry at a moment’s notice. Miracle Aligner, the stand out track from the overall somewhat disappointing second Last Shadow Puppets album is a beautiful track that has an extremely fun chorus and lyrics throughout that make you think how a man who just hit 30 years old can be so lyrically creative.

  1. Somebody Else

Many people thought The 1975 were a joke after their first album. They were even voted worst band by NME back in 2013 so to see them ranked as the number one album of the year by the same magazine is quite incredible. The song on the album that stands out the most is the R&B inspired Somebody Else. It’s on the longer side and is definitely not super loud or energetic, but what it does have going for it are beautiful lyrics and an overall vibe that is hard to describe, but once you hear it you know. It’s almost as if Matt Healy is aware that he has created his own unique sound on this album, and this song in particular does the best job of showing off the sound.

  1. Oblivius

What side you standing on? I haven’t heard Julian Casablancas sing this impassioned on a Strokes song since 2006. Clearly a comment on the current political climate of  mid-2016. He asks the listener to make a decision on what they want out of their country.  Not only do the lyrics stand out, but the breakdown might be the best musical moment of 2016. It builds and builds until you reach that loud chorus once more. Then it ends with a Casablancas yodel. What else could you ask for?

  1. I Feel it Coming

Daft Punk have a gift. The gift is that they make really good songs, and I mean REALLY, REALLY good songs. Sadly, they don’t release much music nowadays. So when Starboy dropped, the lead single from The Weeknd’s new album, and it had (feat. Daft Punk) at the end of the song, it was good news.

I Feel It Coming is a better Get Lucky, and it has Daft Punk written all over it. In an interview with The Weeknd he admitted that the song was finished when he entered the studio and that it was really just a matter of writing lyrics and a melody. While The Weeknd might not be the best lyricist in the world, his voice is so soothing and reminiscent of Michael Jackson, that you can’t help but smile while listening to the track. It’s the song of the summer, guys.

 

Lit&Local: The Strokes’ Valensi, Sheds “New Skin” With CRX Tour

14909901_1667412903570447_7619501183182998757_nNick Valensi, NY-native and Frontman of CRX joins WGMU staffers Jackie Reed and Mikey Bamarni in an exclusive phone interview to talk about his fall tour. Known as the guitarist for headlining band The Strokes, having him a part of WGMU is something that Reed and Bamarni assumed to not just let go, or “Give [It] Up”, if you will. The album, New Skin (2016), is a cutting-edge presentation, with an abundance of deep basslines and pop undertones, and a diverse expression of creativity reminiscent of discographies’ the band members have built up over the years. Literally an “On Edge” collection of pop hits and colorful mixes, the new album is an experience Valensi will surely enjoy, something that will keep him musically active during his time off with The Strokes.

Below is an interview with Nick Valensi, facilitated by Local Music Director Jackie Reed and Assistant to the Program Director Mikey Bamarni:

 

CRX’s “Ways To Fake It”

CRX is performing at U Street Music Hall, Wednesday, November 16th. Tickets are $15, Doors open at 7pm.

The Streets of Laredo and The Gloomies will be opening the show.

Link to show: http://www.ustreetmusichall.com/event/1338683-crx-washington/

Social Media Sites:

Facebook/YouTube: https://www.facebook.com/CRXmusic/?fref=ts / https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHSvaQrqHSVrHuHy6mGmLPQ

Twitter/Instagram: @crxmusic / @crxmusic

Snapchat: @crxmusic

Website: http://www.crxmusic.com/