2017 Recap: Martin Canine's Top 30 Favorite Albums of the YearMartin_Canine NOTE: This list was compiled between January 1st and 15th of 2018. Of course it only reflects my opinion at the moment and is not definite. I haven't heard all albums of 2017 and views on albums can change.
So, it took me a bit longer to compile my favorite albums of the year 2017. That is mostly because an album is a much more comolex thing than a single song. The whole is more than the sum of its parts, and truly digging to the essence of a music album is something different and more difficult than loving a song, no matter how deep. Reviewing a song is usually more visceral, reviewing an album is something more analytic, although there are also albums you can love solely because they sound awesome, and there are songs you love for their content.
It's a Martin Canine list, you know what to expect: the year's most loved and most despised records go hand in hand in a symbiosis that will make readers shake their heads over how they could possibly go well together. But they do. Also, there will be a bunch of albums that you have never heard of, either because their artist is not as famous, or because of cultural differences.
That all being said: here's my list of best albums of 2017. Have fun, and feel free to comment.
30. ApeCrime - Exit
Genre: German hip hop, trap
With their second album and some crazy sick trap production by Benjamin Bistram, YouTube trio ApeCrime reached the qualities of a legit hip hop group and moved away from the light hearted, almost comic nature of their 2014 debut in favor of a slight conscious touch. “Zombie” and “ISMA” sound morbid and twisted, but deal with the very modern topic of the downsides of fame: losing your personality in favor of more attention, and being constantly stalked by fans until it turns to (justified) paranoia.
29. Entetainment - Feder Gottes
Genre: German hip hop, horrorcore
With a duck-inspired vocal delivery (and mask), paranoid lyrics and melodramatic poetry, Entetainment became the most polarizing winner of the JuliensBlogBattle internet battle rap tournament, and naturally, his debut album became a twisted and morbid, yet strangely religious experience for friends of the darker hip hop.
28. Evanescence - Synthesis
Genre: art rock, synth rock
After 6 years of silence, Evanescence came back with a bag of newly recorded, stripped down yet somehow more overwhelming, elegant versions of their classic tunes that took them to the 21st century rock olymp - and none of their power has been lost on the music’s new outfit.
27. Fler & Jalil - Epic
Genre: German hip hop, trap
After Fler’s chart topping 2016 album “Vibe” opened the last doors previously closed for German trap, its much anticipated follow up “Epic” has all the laid back flows, elegant hi-hat heavy 808 beats and heartfelt vibe it takes to create dope trap.
26. Anastacia - Evolution
Genre: pop, soul
Anastacia’s soulful voice and gripping lyricism is beyond modern day pop standards and shines in the tradition of great artists of previous decades, valuing musicality over trending sounds, and while “Evolution” doesn’t hit you with the impact “Anastacia” and “Resurrection” had, it’s a very welcome alternative for those who seek more in pop music than just a nice earworm.
25. Pepper Coyote - Muh
Genre: folk rock
The great thing about “Muh”, and this was the biggest quality of Pepper’s previous band Look Left, is that it feels rough and handcrafted, and that it can switch from comic novelty tunes to absolute blasters of rock anthems within no time, and still have a natural transition - while “Give It” just got you giggling, the great “True Identity” gives you the chills one track later.
24. Migos - Culture
Genre: American hip hop, trap
Migos are flow, flow and flow, Migos interpolate their voices into the beat, Migos become one with the many hi-hats, bass lines, and cut off snares and clapping sounds, Migos create earworms while rapping, Migos are vocal gymnastics, Migos are living synthesizers, Migos feel it, Migos live it - but really, what are they rapping about? And who cares?
23. Sinners are Winners - The Invocation
No more vanity, this is insanity - and yeah, it’s great. If hate creates even more hate, and hate is a driving force in music, then this is what I want as the outcome, and even though it might cause some readers to shake their heads right now, Dahvie Vanity has released one of the most awesome, most aggressive and darkest industrial albums of the year, knowing exactly how to use his voice to resemble temptation (title track), rage (“Kill Your Ego”) or madness (“Reap What You Sow”) over ridiculously hard gothic techno-rock anthems.
22. Harry Styles - Harry Styles
Genre: art rock
For many, it came to a big surprise how a member of one of the most hated boybands of the 21st century suddenly recorded such a solo album, one of the most praised of the year. I never cared about One Direction, positively or negatively, but Harry Styles crafted a gorgeously written collection of artful, tasteful, mature and naturally sounding rock songs in the tradition of great 60s and 70s rockers - and that’s quite the drastic difference in target groups.
21. P!nk - Beautiful Trauma
Genre: pop, indie pop
In 2017, both P!nk and Nelly Furtado released a brand new album after a 5 year break, and each were among my most anticipated albums of the year, as both made pop that’s way more bionic and inventive than that of the average artist. Nelly heavily disappointed, but P!nk delivered exactly what I always loved her for: indie authenticism, a strong female personality and an attitude nowhere near mainstream, performed with an unaltered raspy voice.
20. Young Kira - Six Feet Thunder
Genre: German hip hop, cyber hip hop
On his debut mixtape, Westghosts member, rapper and producer Young Kira unfolds a chaotic yet strangely harmonic mixture of disturbing darkness, druggy trippiness, anime references, scifi aesthetics, vocoders, shoutouts to all kinds of artists, and youthful rebelliousness, thus creating the most blissfully weird and fun hip hop release of the year.
19. Chelsea Wolfe - Hiss Spun
Genre: avant garde, indie rock
Artist Chelsea Wolfe creates nightmarish, scary and unsettling imagery out of echoing, sombre vocals, hissing and distorted soundscapes from hell. Her mission is to fight against her fears by frightening them away until they are creeping back where they came from - and thus creating the year’s most depressing and frustrating piece of pure art.
18. Charlotte Gainsbourg - Rest
Genre: art pop, indie pop
The deeply fragile, soft indie pop that is “Rest” is without a doubt the most vulnerable record of the year, digging deep into the melancholy of the memory of her deceased family, and sharing intimate moments with us that dig right into the core of the artist’s heart.
17. Eko Fresh - König von Deutschland
Genre: German hip hop, oldschool hip hop
Eko Fresh is probably the single rapper who manages to sound modest when claiming to be the king of his nation, over a beat that sounds more like a fanfare - simply because he does it with such an honesty that it doesn’t even feel like boasting, and because he really has been around since the very beginnings of German hip hop’s mainstream standing. The album features a guest list that reads like a who’s who of German hip hop (Kollegah, Farid Bang, Bushido, Sido,...) and is filled to the top with creative ideas and unexpected lyrical output, and naturally, the result is maximum fun. Nevertheless, the album has one very serious song that cuts deep: “Life Goes On” deals with the horrible fate of a Syrian family who try to flee from their country.
16. NF - Perception
Genre: American hip hop, conscious hip hop, horrorcore
What an energy and charisma this guy has is simply amazing and rare. He has the same lyrical brilliance, self awareness, intensity and deranged humor that made Eminem such a great artist back in the days. And comparing “Perception” and “Revival”, he sounds fresher than Marshal Mathers and has twice as many exquisite ideas at the moment. Maybe he won’t have the impact he had, because yeah, Em reinvented the wheel, and maybe his peaks aren’t as absolutely god-like as Eminem’s, but NF is without a doubt a worthy successor that offers a whole cosmos to explore.
15. Bushido - Black Friday
Genre: German hip hop, gangsta rap
Rapper-producer Bushido’s 2003 album “Vom Bordstein bis zur Skyline” is the widely accepted as the single most important German hip hop album of all time, having shaped the entire genre in the following 15 years (almost every aesthetic that’s normal now can be traced back to this work) and making gangsta rap acceptable in the mainstream. Since then, he released several highly successful and often chart topping albums, but it felt with each he lacked more and more of his initial personality in favor of a more polished and classy sound and shock value lyrics (most infamously, his threat to shoot two politicians in a 2013 verse). Now “Black Friday” finally has him back to form: it’s very gritty, it’s very bleak and it’s very energetic, and while aggressive, it’s not set up to be controversial, and yes, that’s what a gangsta rap album should sound like.
14. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.
Genre: American hip hop, conscious hip hop, art pop
I never made a secret out of the fact that the highly acclaimed “To Pimp a Butterfly” with all its uber artsy complicated beats didn’t quite get through to me. But with the more easily accessible production of “DAMN.”, I was able to fully soak in Kendrick’s wonderful poetry and messages, and witness the experience of a meditative American hip hop album that also has some clever punchlines to offer in its lighter moments.
13. Marilyn Manson - Heaven Upside Down
Marilyn Manson is the antidote to bigotry, conservatism and social issues, constantly revealing society’s biggest problems by triggering them to the ultimate maximum. Well, at least he did so until times didn’t need it anymore - the 90s and early 2000s had a debate about violence in the media where Manson was desperately needed, but he won, and since then focused on performing awesome dark rock music, without the message. But now he’s called back to arms, and in times where many countries decide to vote for populist leaders, he gives us 10 anthems to rebel, and they are more artful than ever.
12. Nickelback - Feed the Machine
Genre: hard rock
“Here and Now” was a lackluster, “No Fixed Address” was a harsh disappointment. So… in conclusion… “Feed the Machine” is their most ambitious project to date. They take aim at political issues, perform songs as apocalyptic as epic and fantastically adventurous, triple their power and heaviness and leave us with a collection of songs that could easily be mistaken for a best of collection of modern rock opera songs.
11. Amy MacDonald - Under Stars
Genre: folk pop, indie pop, country
The woman with the gentle guitar, the lively songwriting ability and the big melodies is back for another striking record of heartfelt music. “Pictures on the wall in the place that I call home / We blew it up and burned it down and now we stand alone” she sings, she’s “standing at the water's edge, dreaming of a better place” but she knows “we'll get there someday, nothing's set in stone until the end” and ultimately is “on top of the world and [she] won’t look back”. And each time, we believe her.
10. TJ_beastboy & Mary Man - CY-Beast lvl1
Genre: German hip hop, cyber hip hop, rap rock
Taddl on the mic, Marley on the beat. The TJ_beastboy & Mary Man side project was an opportunity for the two Dat Adam members to let out all their energy and creative ambition without having to worry about whether it fits into their group’s musical outfit or not. Taddl spits creative bars that are so far from the usual guns and violence gimmicks that you can’t foresee what will come next (I mean, writing an entire song about how he uses chart topping music as a substitute for sleeping pills, and another one about how he gets props from god… that’s just awesome), while Marley goes crazy on the 808, then going straight to oldschool boom bap drums, before mixing distorted cyber fx into electric guitars, building a song up as an angsty ballad before suddenly switching to a hard hitting electro beat. It’s not as conscious as Dat Adam - actually not at all - but hell, is this inventive and fun!
9. Cardi B - Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 2
Genre: American hip hop, hardcore hip hop, trap
First things first: Cardi B delivers the best skit I ever heard on a record (meaning it’s not a completely unnecessary filler, but is actually really intense). But yeah, you’re here for the 9 songs. And wow, does Cardi dominate the beats she is offered. The great thing about her is she has both the flow of a great trap MC the lyrical ability to back it up, demonstrating her female strength in every line, claiming her respect from the scene as well as from her partners. Underestimating her intelligence and pride? “Boy, you gon’ need a surgeon!”
8. Lana Del Rey - Lust for Life
Genre: indie pop
“Lust for Life” embraces life in a nostalgic yet deeply modern way. It is full of references to older music classics (just look at the album’s title), and its sound is of the same vintage charms, but at the same time sympathetically understands the zeitgeist of the modern youth and what their preferences and expressions are, which is often reflected by the album’s drum kits, which intertwine with the 60s style retro sound of the record. She artfully sews together the flower power mentality of 68 teens and the hipsters of today by addressing topics meaningful to both of them, showing that hey, maybe the kids haven’t changed all that much - they just like different things and have different styles.
7. Kollegah & Farid Bang - Jung brutal gutaussehend 3
Genre: German hip hop, hardcore hip hop
The two rappers were underground went their first collaboration dropped in 2009, it only being a minor success, in 2013 number 2 became the first number one album for each, and “Jung brutal gutaussehend 3” was certified gold over a week before its release on December 1st of 2017 - and all 17 songs from the record entered the German top 50, with “Sturmmaske auf (Intro)” becoming their first chart topping song. Rightfully so? Absolutely. “JBG3” is ridiculously heavy and hard, it’s savage even, the two MCs attacking about 50 German celebrities, many of them on several occasions, with a brutality equal to the image of a man getting his face bashed in by a fire extinguisher in Gaspar Noé’s “Irreversible”. To wake up, Kollegah raps, he “pisses against a high voltage fence”, and that’s how it feels, and Farid Bang’s flow increased so drastically that he could outrun a machine gun. That the two are masters of word play and unusual and complex rhyming should be a commonly known fact by now - but we never heard them that no holds barred violent and testosterone filled.
6. Falling in Reverse - Coming Home
Length: 51:13 (physical edition)
Tracks: 13 (11 regular titles and 2 bonus tracks)
Genre: emo, indie rock
Falling in Reverse has always been one hell of an interesting emo band, and definitely one of the genre groups with the biggest personality. Yes, often it’s seen as a pure Ronnie Radke show, but it is only natural as his character is written all over the record, with all its negative and positive traits. Some songs are cynical and oddly humorous, because he is, others are straightforward devastating, because his life has been one chaotic mess. On “Coming Home”, the project has a much more indie rock and less metalcore inspired approach, reducing any gimmicks to an absolute minimum (it’s not screamo anymore, it’s screams), and putting their focus on overwhelming, hard hitting musicality to back Radke’s stories up with the emotionally wrecked rock needed.
5. Casper - Lang lebe der Tod
Genre: industrial, indie rock, rock rap
Europe is burning, at least mentally. Some citizens lose themselves in paranoid conspiracy theories, some blame all the others for their country’s state, some drown in sorrows, some are voyeuristically satisfying themselves by watching all the other people around them go insane, and some are euphoric waiting for everything to change. But some are also optimistic. Some also feel love and are happy about the positive things of life. “Lang lebe der Tod” has Casper playing different archetypes of a Europe whose society is on the edge of devastation.
4. Eisbrecher - Sturmfahrt
Genre: Neue Deutsche Härte
With a band as gripping and uncompromising as Eisbrecher, it’s no wonder Neue Deutsche Härte never died. The riffs are beyond thunderous, the drums stomp on everything they come across ready to squish what’s too weak, and when the synths come in, they sound as deranged as the world is right now. “We are the warriors”, Alexander Wesselsky sings, “and we simply burn down your madness / the great freedom doesn’t come out of nothing”. The songs of “Sturmfahrt” are political protest anthems. They are also bittersweet melodrama and a staggering head banger marathon, depending on how you listen to them, and what you read out of the lyrics. It’s like a sledgehammer being repeatedly hitten to the face, but it just feels too good to want it to stop.
3. SpongeBozz - Started From the Bottom / Krabbenkoke Tape
Length: 115:53 (71:21 + 44:32)
Tracks: 26 (13+13)
Genre: German hip hop, hardcore hip hop
In 2013, the masked and anonymous SpongeBozz won the JuliensBlogBattle internet battle rap tournament. In 2015 his debut album topped the German charts. Then he vanished. No media presence, no music. Then BOOM! he’s back in 2017 with an 18 and a half minute single to an almost 2 hour long double disc album, and revealing his true identity. He’s Dimitri Chpakov, also known as Sun Diego, and he once was a close friend to Kollegah - now they are enemies. And he opens up about this circumstance. Once a pure fictitious persona, Chpakov and his alter ego SpongeBozz now merge into a monster that combines the aggressiveness and fun violence of his previous songs with more introspective, personal content. With a lyrical complexity and the ultimate perfect rhyming (he has an entire song where he only uses syllable-for-syllable rhymes with “Zlatan Ibrahimovic”) he slaughters his way through the German rap scene with almost perverse vileness, but not without explaining his disappointment in former friends, how he feels about his Jewish heritage, how his mother’s will to fight in hard times never decreased, and how he suffered from meningitis during his participation in the JBB but knowing he had to pull it off to be successful.
2. Björk - Utopia
Genre: avant garde
When you think of Björk, is the image and sound that comes to your mind that of this indie electro pop pixie that made songs about being “violently happy”? Great music that was, lively, bionic and still somewhat catchy. But this is not the Björk of today. In 2017, Mrs. Guðmundsdóttir is fully transcendent. She herself turned into a string of philosophical and introspective thoughts, her mind is an odyssey of ideas, feelings and colors, and her music is the picture painted from transforming her insides into musical notes and words. “Utopia” is Freudian. It’s all experience and no structure. Every moment of sound is just as impulsive as the thought process on observations of life. That being said, it’s a hypnotic journey of stunning beauty. There’s little to understand, and everything to feel.
1. Cro - tru.
Length: 96:03 (52:26 + 43:40) (premium edition)
Tracks: 20 (10 + 10) (17 regular titles and 3 bonus tracks)
Genre: German hip hop, conscious hip hop, art pop
Cro’s 2012 debut album was called “Raop”, a portmanteau of “rap” and “pop”. Reads almost like a joke, considering on his third album, he has live soul pianos and organs, an 8 minute keyboard and vocaloid solo on a 12 and a half minute song, and lyrics about the visions he has the second before a deadly car accident. Cro isn’t just a rapper or singer, he’s a gifted musician and a powerful poet, who is capable of acknowledging his own humane flaws. “tru.” is meditation on his own psyche, on the fatal interplay of social status and character, on attraction opposed to the true deep feeling that is love, on the difference between artistry, leaving a legacy and commercial success. He starts to look beyond the façade, he realizes that people aren’t who they seem to do - but more importantly: he starts caring. And furthermore, he also realizes that he ditched people, especially women, whose characters were unspoiled by society and were pure at heart in favor of friends and groupies who were beautiful to look at and were of higher social status, but whose acts and words were meaningless. No, he doesn’t want all of this anymore. He deeply desires something real, something “tru”. I wonder what event has caused him to rethink his life to such an extent that he began to question his actions and beliefs. “tru.” is not unlikely the year’s emotionally richest album. Last but not least: Cro’s musical ability. He produced and composed all of the songs himself, and his ambitions and musicality reached a new peak in German popular music. No songs are modelled after the traditional composition of a pop or hip hop song, instead of this we hear an artist who feels music in a way that it seems to have become an integral part of his identity. Unlike his two previous albums, “tru.”, while topping the German album charts, spawned no hit song. But how could it when not having a radio single?