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B-SIDE Magazine

2017 was a big year for music, but also a big year for B-SIDE. We hosted tent shows, upped our content production, and produced our first-ever print edition. Thus, it only makes sense that out 2017 album of the year voting process was our largest and most competitive one yet, with over 50 records nominated by our staff. Ultimately, we boiled our list down to ten albums that grabbed our attention and took hold of our emotions the most. There are faces both old and new, including one artist who became the first to claim our #1 spot in two separate years. 


10. Drake - More Life


More Life is more of the Drake that we know and love with a few surprises. The Toronto superstar seems to be particularly inspired by the UK Grime scene on this project, boasting notable Giggs and Skepta features. Portland with Quavo and Travis Scott had a brief stint as a meme thanks to the instrumental’s notable flute sample. “Passionfruit” brought back R&B Drake over a summery house beat, and gave him one of the most impressive tracks of 2017.  - Chris Patiño

9. Khalid - American Teen


On March 3, 19 year old Khalid Robinson, known simply as Khalid, released his debut album American Teen. Featuring hit singles, “Location,” “Young, Dumb & Broke,” and “8TEEN,” Khalid’s album exploded, providing high school summer anthems nationwide. American Teen was certified platinum in October, and Robinson has been featured with many other artists, including another young phenom, Lorde, and the rapper Logic in his Grammy nominated and critically-acclaimed song 1-800-273-8255. With 1.49 million followers on Twitter and five nominations at this year’s Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist, Khalid may be young, but he ain’t dumb or broke—the world is his. - Zander Kim

8. Calvin Harris - Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1


EDM hitmaker Calvin Harris is best known in the pop music world for crafting festival numbers with the likes of Rihanna and Ellie Goulding. With his latest album, he returns to his nu-disco roots showcased on his 2007 debut album I Created Disco for the perfect summer album. Many of the songs on the album are co-written by songwriting superstar Starrah, and feature some of music’s biggest names. On “Slide,” Frank Ocean’s smooth vocal performance is complemented by impressive rap features from Migos’ Quavo and Offset. On “Heatstroke,” Calvin makes a collaboration between Young Thug and Ariana Grande feel seamless. The album runs at a tight 37 minutes, but feels like a party at the beach throughout its entirety. - Chris Patiño

7. Thundercat - Drunk


Thundercat is, in a word, weird. He rocks pink hair and a socks-and-sandals look on stage, wields a massive, six-string bass as a bandleader, and sings in a warbly, off-center falsetto. Drunk, his third full studio album to date, showcases Thundercat at his weirdest, with an excellent collection of songs to boot - songs that span the depths of the bassist’s mind, with topics ranging from cats, to video games, to politics. Following up on his mainstream exposure via his work on To Pimp a Butterfly, Thundercat is able to showcase his virtuosic talent on Drunk while staying firmly committed to the songs themselves. He enlists Kendrick Lamar and Wiz Khalifa for features alongside soft-rock legends Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins - guests that don’t necessarily make sense on paper, but work spectacularly in the context of the album. With Drunk, Thundercat has successfully captured his own genre-defying sound, and provided a completely unique alternative to anything else in 2017. - Charlie Saperstein

6. Mac Demarco - This Old Dog


Mac Demarco’s third full-length boasts a more mature jangle-pop sound that ranks among his best work yet. Recorded in a house in Los Angeles as opposed to his typical Queens home studio, Demarco stuck with his typical slacker, half-sleeping style to craft an album of smoothly-textured songs that felt more thought-out than his past records. The album sounds less processed and more acoustic while maintaining a lyrical structure that layers the mundane with complex yet familiar emotions. Though Demarco’s outrageous persona often overshadows much of his work (shoutout to the weird dinosaur video at Spring Weekend 2k16), This Old Dog finds Demarco successfully transitioning into a more perfected form of his ultra-chill pop style — still sticking to his old style with a pleasant gesture toward something different. - Jake Goodman

5. Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory


Long Beach import Vince Staples created a buzz for himself initially as an off-shoot of Tyler, the Creator’s Odd Future Collective in the early 2010’s. The now-Def Jam-signee has proven his lyrical skill and forward thinking with his three previous projects, but with Big Fish Theory, Vince solidifies himself as one of the most skilled and creative artists in modern music. Enlisting a team of A-List, equally innovative producers including Flume, Christian Rich, Sophie, and GTA. “Big Fish” is a project that meshes together Vince’s west coast hip-hop roots with elements of house and techno. Vince Staples flows flawlessly on the album’s Juicy J-assisted title track over an instrumental that combines futuristic sound design with classic West Coast bounce. On “Yeah Right,” Vince shows he can go bar-for-bar with industry heavyweight Kendrick Lamar. Lyrically, the album underlines Staples’ maturity, covering topics from fame to racism. - Chris Patiño

4. The War on Drugs - A Deeper Understanding


You know those nights in late summer, where you’re sitting outside and a breeze is blowing and you’re with your friends and maybe someone you love, and you start thinking about life and how happy you are in that moment but also a little bit sad? The War on Drugs took that moment and stretched it out into an hour of stunning, nostalgic, engrossing music on A Deeper Understanding. The album is like a warm blanket threaded with spinning guitars and Adam Granduciel’s wistful voice. These are songs with arcs and motion: “Up All Night” revs the engine; “Pain” twists and turns; “Holding On” picks up steam; and that’s all just in the first three tracks. You have the 11-minute epic “Thinking Of A Place” anchoring the album, and the glistening “Strangest Thing” will take your breath away. It’s only been out for a few months, but A Deeper Understanding feels like a record we’ve lived with our entire lives. - Michael O’Neill

3. Tyler, the Creator - Flower Boy


Tyler, the Creator’s Flower Boy represents a turning point in the California artist’s career. With music that was once defined by media controversy and shock appeal, Tyler showcases an incredible amount of personal, artistic, and technical growth on the album. Tyler is his most vulnerable, discussing his sexuality, fame, and insecurities to the tune of some of the catchiest hooks of his career. Production-wise, Tyler’s instrumentals have transformed from the roughly-mixed, minimal tracks that defined his early sound to expansive orchestral masterpieces that showcase his love for jazz and soul music. On the A$AP Rocky-assisted “Who Dat Boy,” Tyler showcases his signature aggression over trunk-rattling 808s. On “See You Again,” Tyler enlists frequent collaborator Kali Uchis for one of the year’s most beautiful love ballads. Tyler himself described the track as coming “from the love scene of a Disney film.” With a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album to show for it, this is Tyler, the Creator at his absolute best. - Chris Patiño

2. Lorde - Melodrama


In 2013, Lorde’s debut album, Pure Heroine, unexpectedly took the world by storm. After having an international chart topper and being called the future of music by David Bowie, Lorde was expected to deliver a phenomenal sophomore album. Four years later, Lorde did just that with Melodrama. If Pure Heroine enshrines innocent teenage glory, Melodrama enshrines the messy, all-consuming melancholy that comes with growing up. Lorde attempts to party her heartbreak away, but on Melodrama, her heartbreak is the party. Her emotions are lit up and on display, wild and fluorescent. A shift away from her debut, Melodrama replaces the minimalist beats from Pure Heroine with vibrant synths and haunting orchestral elements that seamlessly belong both on the dancefloor and in the lonely echoes of your room at 2am. Lorde may never be royal, but with Melodrama she solidified her place as the queen of dark pop. - Naomy Pedroza

1. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.


When a lot of people are saying that your album is too predictable of a pick for the best of the year, you know you’re doing something right. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise to see Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. at the top of our list, which speaks to the universal appeal of the record. Kung Fu Kenny gave us many of the year’s defining music moments, from the fervor around “HUMBLE.” to the mind-melting beats of “DNA.” to the lingering hope that the supposed follow-up companion piece NATION. is still on the way. Song after song on DAMN. continue to impress, and somehow Kendrick managed to make collaborations with Rihanna and U2 work on the same track list. DAMN. is the latest step in K-Dot’s forever-ascendant career: good kid, m.A.A.d city made it seem like Kendrick had the potential to be the GOAT, To Pimp A Butterfly had us asking if he was already there, and after DAMN., nobody’s asking anymore. - Michael O’Neill

And now, the playlist: