Best Albums of 2017

If you like genre-bending folk music or introspective dance/R&B, have I got a list for you:   12) St. Vincent, Masseduction – Annie Clark continues to solidify her reputation as one the premiere personas in music, but what makes the songs on Masseduction memorable are the ways in which they subvert pop music expectations. Songs like “Los Ageless” unfold in standard verse/chorus form, but each section adds something unique to make the song a journey. Essential listening: “Los Ageless”, “Masseduction”     11) SZA, CTRL – Although CTRL is full of mellow, slow-simmering R&B jams, the production is subtly diverse, as instrumental timbres are rarely repeated on multiple tracks. SZA also stands out for being boldly feminist, adopting a more aggressive sexual tone typically only commandeered by male artists. Essential listening: “Supermodel”, “Pretty Little Birds”     10) Dirty Projectors, Dirty Projectors – As full of catchy grooves as it is introspective sonic experimentations, Dirty Projectors’ self-titled eighth album is an intriguing rumination on aging in the digital age. Essential listening: “Up in Hudson”, “Keep Your Name”     9) Spoon, Hot Thoughts – Nine albums in, Spoon continue to craft well-constructed songs built around deconstructed guitar riffs and percussive more »

Pop Will Eat Itself: Gorillaz’ “Plastic Beach” as a Commentary on the Disposable Nature of Pop Music

“I’ve tried to get into the mainstream consciousness, which is not an easy thing to do these days because it is primarily a very disposable medium… pop will eat itself.” -Damon Albarn, Spinner interview “A Casio on a plastic beach” -Gorillaz, from “Plastic Beach” The imagery that is presented in the title track off of Gorillaz’ third studio album, Plastic Beach, is pretty blunt: there’s a disturbingly massive pile of crap that’s gathering in an ocean somewhere, and we’re to blame.  The lyrics may not explicitly make this connection, but how else can you account for a Styrofoam deep-sea landfill?  It’s a cynical, if not delightfully cheeky, reminder that our actions as humans have a profound impact on our environment. This, however, is not the only reading of either this track or this album taken as a whole.  As Damon Albarn (Gorillaz’ co-creator and musical mastermind, and former Blur frontman) imparted in an interview with Wired about Plastic Beach, “it has environmental thoughts scattered and peppered around every bit of this record.  But at the end of the day, it’s not just that.  It’s way more colourful than that.”  For Albarn, “plastic” isn’t simply symbolic of our wasteful tendencies as more »