Summer Round-Up: The Best of 2017 (So Far)
2017 has been a remarkable year for new releases across all genres. From Paramore's impressive spin on 80's pop on After Laughter to SZA's highly acclaimed R&B debut Ctrl, rising and established artists alike are pushing their music to ambitious and rewarding heights.
John Mayer -- The Search for Everything
Release Date: April 14th
There's not a ton that hasn't already been said about John Mayer. On his latest record The Search for Everything, he teamed up with the crew that brought Continuum to fruition and the result is familiar yet explorative record. Tracks like "Roll it on Home" flexes his ability to incorporate country into his music in a original, smart way and nodding to his past work -- in this case, his folk centered Paradise Valley. The Search for Everything has something for every Mayer fan and is a beautifully written story of perpetual growth and change.
Kye Colors -- House Party
Release Date: May 13th
Kansas City based producer and rapper Kye Colors' latest release is a summer anthem with production reminiscent of something you'd hear in the streets of Compton. Kye Colors is a young, rising artist with bars and production skills far ahead of his age. It's clear he believes in quality over quantity because there hasn't been a release that hasn't impressed me. If he continues at the rate he's going, I believe he could become one of the most refreshing and prominent names in rap music.
Wallows -- Pleaser
Release Date: April 12th
California rockers Wallows found a lot of success with their explosive surf rock debut "Pleaser". They performed at a sold out show alongside Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard and most recently premiered their second single "Sun Tan" on Zane Lowe's Beats 1 show. Hopefully we'll get an EP before the year is over.
Frank Ocean ft. Travis Scott -- Lens
Release Date: April 23rd
It's crazy how before Blonde we were all complaining about when it was going to drop and now we're getting new Frank tracks (what seems like) every day. Travis Scott has been thriving since the release of his sophomore release Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight. He recently released three new tracks -- "A man", "Butterfly Effect" & "Green & Purple ft. Playboi Carti)" -- after his sold out show at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City.
Paramore -- After Laughter
Release Date: May 12th
Paramore's fifth album is their most bold to date. Their metamorphosis between Brand New Eyes, Self-Titled and After Laughter was a sonically liberating journey. This is a standout album because lyrically Hayley is at her most honest. Their juxtaposition of glimmering 70s pop with cynical themes was executed with originality and showcased their diversity and resiliency as a group.
VeilHymn -- Hymn
Release Date: January 27th
VeilHymn is the project started by producers Bryndon Cook of Starchild & The New Romantic and Dev Hynes of Blood Orange. The R&B duo's debut single takes inspiration from Starchild's 2016 release Crucial and Blood Orange's Freetown Sound while still having the musicianship and depth to stand on it's own. Both friends and collaborators with Solange, they're two trailblazers in R&B that continuously release smart, exciting music.
HalfNoise -- The Velvet Face EP
Release Date: March 24th
After the release of his summery synth pop sophomore release Sudden Feeling back in 2016, Zac Farro shows his ability to expand into different soundscapes as both a musician and producer on The Velvet Face - EP. Early this year, die hard Paramore fans around the world got great news when the band announced Farro would be playing on After Laughter and returning to the band. Although guitarist Taylor York and producer of Self Titled Justin Medal-Johnson produced Paramore's latest release, Farro helped write three tracks: "Rose-Colored Boy", "Grudges" & "Caught in the Middle". He's always been one of the most notable rock drummers to me, but the sonic and visual changes throughout HalfNoise's discography is a testament to Farro's submission to growth and change.
Joey Bada$$ -- All-Amerikkan Bada$$
Release Date: April 7th
22 year old Brooklyn rapper Joey Bada$$' follow up to his debut album B4.DA.$$ is a social and politically conscious account of what it means to be black in the United States. Reaching the much deserved second spot on Billboards Top Hip/R&B albums after it's release, Bada$$ demands your attention with his powerful cadence and calculated flow. With releases from rap giants like Kendrick and JAY-Z, Bada$$ further proves his ability to run with the best and create content that's rich both in music and messages.
Hippo Campus -- Landmark
Release Date: February 24th
Minnesota alternative rock group Hippo Campus have had an amazing past few years. After huge success with their two EPs Bashful Creatures & South, Landmark is exactly that: a landmark for a band reaching a pivotal moment in their career. Debut albums for any band or artist you're a fan of is always daunting because the novelty of it being a debut can cause excitement for a potential flop. That's not the case for this record...at the top of the year this was one of my most anticipated records and they delivered much past my expectations. While the uptempo guitar riffs and infectious rhythm is still the baseline of their sound, they ventured into new and rewarding waters. Tracks like "Vacation" and "Monsoon" touch on sobering subjects of mourning and depression, something they dabbled in on the South EP on "Violet" and "The Halocline". Experimenting with sampling and vocal effects was something new that was effective and done with modesty; while tracks like "Poems" and "Boyish" shows they're roots and comfortability in just using aggressive guitar playing and war cry vocals. Their musicianship and lyricism is behind their years and I can confidently sayLandmark will be one of the most notable alternative releases of 2017 and for many years to come.
Conor Schulte -- White Noise
Release Date: January 15th
Local UMKC student and musician Conor Schulte's first release "White Noise" bridges the technicality of jazz with the simplicity of DIY pop. The pulse of the rhythm section coupled with psychedelic riffs, swelling synths and atmospheric vocals makes for a great track to play and virtually any setting.
Maggie Rogers -- Now That The Light is Fading
Release Date: February 17th
After receiving a glowing co-sign from Pharrell in July of last year, Maggie Rogers has become a fast rising name in alternative pop. Her debut EP Now That The Light is Fading is an impressive five track introduction into Rogers' inner most thoughts. The pairing of folk vocal nuances and infections electronic pop has made for a standout debut.
Zarin Micheal -- No Challenge (Produced by Alexander Preston)
Release Date: June 3rd
Local rapper Zarin Micheal surprised fans with his Fuck You Reloaded EP and shortly after teamed up with Alexander Preston for his most recent single "No Challenge". The duo have worked a lot in the past and you can hear their chemistry on every track. Micheal's vicious lyricism carried by Preston's explosive bass heavy production continues to prove why they're two of Kansas City's most promising hip hop acts.
Hoops -- Routines
Release Date: May 5th
Bloomingotn, Indiana based dream pop group Hoops released their debut album Routines (via Fat Possum Records). The four piece gained an impressive following with their first three EPs: Tape #2 and Tape #3 (both released in June) and their self titled EP in August of 2016. It's perfect it was released in May, because for many it's been on heavy rotation all summer. Blending elements of lo-fi pop, early 2000s pop rock and synth wave has made Hoops stand out in a genre that's easy to get lost in. They're currently supporting The Drums on tour through the fall and winter, along with festival dates, so spin this album and catch them live.
SZA -- Ctrl
Release Date: June 9th
St. Louis native Solana Rowe, better known as SZA, embraces the heartache and freedom of lost love while preaching the freedom of unworthy men on her debut album Ctrl (via TDE). Not only did she recently announce a U.S tour with support from Ravyn Lenae and Smino, but she also reached the number two spot on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums shortly after the album's release. With stand out features from fellow TDE family Kendrick Lamar and Isaiah Rashad; along with Travis Scott and James Fauntleroy. It's exciting to see such a deserving artist on such a huge wave and can't wait to see her career flourish even more.
Ponderous -- Innerlude
Release Date: July 14th
Kansas City psychedelic rock group Ponderous follow up their singles "There It is" and "Motions" from their recently released debut EP Innerlude. For fans of My Morning Jacket, Electric Light Orchestra, and Post Animal will enjoy their sound. Catch them for free playing at Ingram's during First Fridays.
Now, Now -- Sgl
Release Date: May 11th
"Sgl" has definitely been one of the most exciting releases for me because I've been a fan of Now, Now since 2011 and long time fans have been waiting a long time for new music. The first concert I went to was Now, Now supporting The Naked and Famous at The Midland and I've been hooked ever since. Their debut album Threads was released in 2012 and the band went quiet until now. "I'm a shot gun lover and I want it all.", lead singer Cacie Dalager sings over the minimalistic but catchy bedroom pop tune. It's very exciting having Now, Now back in the woodwork and now we just wait for an album announcement...until then, stream "Sgl" below.
The Japanese House -- Saw You In A Dream
Release Date: June 30th
London born Amber Bain is the musical mastermind behind The Japanese House. Their first two EPs Pools to Bathe In and Clean gained the synth pop group a lot of traction back in 2015. After signing with Dirty Hit, The Japanese House hit the road with fellow signees Wolf Alice and The 1975 last year and released their third EP Swim Against the Tide. Bain writes the music and produces with George Daniel, drummer of The 1975, and has taken the art of sampling and vocal manipulation and made it her own.