I just wanted to take a minute to Stan for one of my new faves: Jeremy Dutcher. This Toronto-based classically trained vocalist and composer blends Wolastoq and Western classical music, and it’s nothing short of stunning. He’s currently workong on his debut album “Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa” (Our Maliseet Songs). In the meantime, I’m playing “Honour Song” and “Mehcinut” (the latter of which dropped yesterday) on repeat. Get it, Jeremy!
I turned 26 last week, and to commemorate the fact that I’ve made it through my early 20s, I compiled a list of records released in 2017 (and 2018 – shoutout to Supaman!) that I love. These off-the-beaten-track records have had me, for want of a better term, shook. At the end of this post, I compiled 26 of my favorite tracks onto a playlist. Wunnegan – enjoy!
WHAT: A unique, effortless blend of hip-hop and R&B, DAP’s first release in 2017 is set apart by thoughtful collaborations (“Chains,” “Blue”) and timely political commentary interwoven between jazzy riffs (“Two Roads”).
WHY: In seven tracks, DAP’s nimble lyricism (“Another Day, Another Night”) and musicality (“Forever Yours”) shine through.
WHAT: Ambitious genre-blending that will make you re-think your (mis)conceptions about Christian music. This record is confessional and ultimately cathartic.
WHY: What McMillan accomplishes here is deeply spiritual (“Nothing Stands Between Us”) and, at the same time, unapologetically human (“Unhaunted,” “Persephone”). McMillan asks a lot of universal questions and points beautifully to God as the ultimate answer.
WHAT: The first full-length album of Appsáalooke artist Supaman is Indigenous hip-hop at its finest. He incorporates traditional music and a few very well-chosen features for a stunning debut.
WHY: Unapologetically and unequivocally Native (“Somewhere” with Northern Cree, “Why”), but it’s also true hip-hop (“Miracle” with Maimouna Youssef, “Prayer Loop Song” ). Not an easy balance to strike, and for that, Illuminatives is not to be missed.
WHAT: Pronounced “Ejiogbe,” IIII+IIII is the first full-length album from the Afro-Caribbean group named after an ancient Yoruba city in Nigeria.
WHY: This record both reclaims and re-invents. I love it not only for the clear Black American influences (“UMBO (Come Down)”) but also for the rich histories and various West African traditions it alludes to (“3 MUJERES (Iború Iboya Ibosheshé)” and “YARI GEMINI (Beyi La)”).
WHO: Amber Mark
WHAT: This debut, self-produced EP chronicles Mark’s grief following the death of her mother. It is, as the singer says, really for anyone processing loss, and as such, it feels both persynal and universal.
WHY: Mark’s sonorous voice over infectious pop melodies (“Way Back”) and moving ballads (“Monsoon”) is everything you didn’t know you need.
WHAT: The debut full-length album from Raleigh-based singer/songwriter Taylor Leonhardt. Her clever lyrics (“Everything,” “Diamonds”) and honest, searching choruses (“Would You Be Well,” “Deja Vu”) are not to be missed.
WHY: Some of the most refreshing Christian music I’ve ever heard. That River House is Leonhardt’s first full-length project is exciting: without a doubt, she’s an artist to watch.
WHAT: One the most important records to me, easily in my top five like, ever. The self-described liturgical duo draws on a variety of influences, from gospel (“Turning Over Tables”) to pop (“Hear Our Prayer”), all while creating a distinct style (“Lift Your Voice” and “Gravity of Love”).
WHY: With lush instrumentation and poetic lyrics, this record is a modern day book of Psalms, a heartfelt and exquisite analysis of the human condition. In short, All is Not Lost is a masterpiece.
WHAT: Featuring a few well-chosen samples and spoken word pieces by Tanaya Winder, The Bridge weaves together both personal and historical pain. Waln raps with urgency rooted in a palpable rage (“7” with Tanaya Winder, “What Makes the Red Man Red”), but his flow is undeniable (“Basements”). Ultimately, the hope and love for our people shine through (“Good Way” and “My Stone”).
WHY: Rich, layered with history, pain, and hope, The Bridge resonated with me even in my experience as an urban Native womyn from the northeast – and I rarely see myself reflected in Plains artists’ work. I love this record because it really feels like it’s for us, not for white consumption. #JustCookinUpThatNativeShit.
9) In Our Time
WHO: Sanctuary Music
WHAT: Sanctuary Music’s debut EP draws from Habakkuk 3:2 and Exodus 33 in the title track (“In Our Time”). It’s an honest appeal for God to show up, as the title song suggests, in our time and in this place (e.g., Providence).
WHY: Well-written, thoughtfully composed worship music from a church intentionally showing up for its city. In only three tracks (one of which is the Spanish version of the title track), Sanctuary Music shows they are not here to play games (“For Your Love / Micah 6:8” was one of my top five most played songs in 2017). Look out, Bethel and Hillsong – Providence is on the come-up.
10) Everything Now
WHO: Arcade Fire
WHAT: A departure from the Canadian band’s earlier projects, Everything Now is a dizzying carousel of influences and sounds that captures the frenzy of living in the age of mass media.
WHY: Certainly less cohesive than Funeral and Neon Bible, Everything Now delivers dark, self-reflexive, lyrics (“Everything Now,” “Electric Blue”) over rock anthem choruses (“Creature Comfort”) and with a heightened sense of mania. The band wasn’t lying when they named this record: it is everything, all at once.
As promised, here’s the playlist. What did I miss in 2017? Put me on!