MX ritaoraoftheyear 2017
50 Best Releases
Declan McKenna – What Do You Think About The Car?
These days, Declan McKenna is pretty much the poster-child for British indie kids and it’s well-deserved. Along with Louis Tomlinson, he’s one of the two young talents making rock music cool again. Real talk, Declan is very sweet and #relatable it seems. He makes some darn good catchy indie rock, which was first noticed for being about very serious topics, like debut single “Brazil” which discussed the communities destroyed by the 2014 World Cup, or “Paracetamol” which was written about the story of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn. On this album, McKenna pairs with James Ford (the producer behind Arctic Monkeys and Florence + the Machine) and among the tracklist, there’s something for everyone! Overall, Declan McKenna is just a very likeable chap who makes purposeful music. Lovely!
highlight track: HUMONGOUS
BTS – Love Yourself: Her
The whole concept of this EP feels kinda hilarious to me at this point. ‘Love Yourself: Her’ is BTS’ first big worldwide success, becoming the highest charting K-pop release ever in the US (#7 on BB200) and the UK (#14 on the UK Albums Chart). Coming off their big Billboard Music Awards win, this EP feels like a statement to say “hahahahahaha we’re successful worldwide now!”. Like, there is literally an interlude (“skit”) on the album which is the audio recording of their winner’s speech for the award. And good on them for it. On this release, BTS continue to fuse together inspiration from Western trends and apply it to the BTS we know and love – Jimin sounds gorgeous on electro-tinged ballad “Intro: Serendipity” and J-hope’s vocals are as gloriously grimey as ever on the iTunes US #1(!) “MIC Drop”. This EP can be summed up with one horribly translated lyric from the English lyric of MIC Drop – “It’s hella trophies, and it’s hella thick.”
highlight track: DNA
Cashmere Cat – 9
Sorry, but where did this release even come from? Cashmere Cat’s album lead-up felt so carefully planned out. To bring you up to speed, Cashmere Cat was meant to release an album called ‘Wild Love’ (with gorgeous cover art) and the singles campaign was well on its way when some unfortunate leaks of unfinished material threw a wrench into his plans. So, instead Cashmere Cat chucked ‘9’ onto iTunes, a pretty short album with half of it being the previously released singles and some unfortunately low-quality cover art. The album ended up being a commercial flop, which isn’t a surprise at all… but the music itself is actually brilliant. Previously released singles with Selena Gomez and Camila Cabello showed promise, but Cashmere Cat’s most consistent work is his music with long-time collaborator Ariana Grande, who shows up here for an astonishing ballad called “Quit” where her vocals are blended with Sia’s to create this almost electronic belting and it’s quite magnificent. Oh, and SOPHIE is also on this thing so….queue highlight track.
highlight track: AFTER COACHELLA F/ SOPHIE & MØ
G-DRAGON – KWON JI YONG
G-Dragon has always felt like one of the most notable K-pop lyricists in terms of his music featuring prominent dark themes throughout. This initially became apparent to me when I read the lyrics of ‘Coup d’Etat’ single “CROOKED”, which has a bright pop sound on the surface, but lyrically discusses the lack of meaning in life. Furthermore, on an unexpected duet with Sky Ferreira, G-Dragon sings “The colour of my gloomy world is black”. It’s straight-forward and vulnerable, and more of that can be found on ‘KWON JI YONG’, my favourite K-pop release of this year. “I turned my back on you and I’m sorry”, G-Dragon sings on heartbreaking ballad “Untitled, 2014”, and on trap-pop banger “Super Star”, he announces “I ain’t got nobody” as if it’s the both the best and worst thing. ‘KWON JI YONG’ was released on a hand-painted USB stick which meant that the album was ineligible to chart in Korea, but later Gaon Chart was prompted to change their rules to be inclusive of more formats. Perhaps that’s what this release will be best remembered for, but personally, the music itself is what’s truly unforgettable.
highlight track: DIVINA COMMEDIA
Mura Masa – Mura Masa
The self-titled album from Alex Crossan, the Guernsey-born producer better known by his stage name Mura Masa was one half of two brilliant electro-funk albums that were much-needed in Summer 2017 – the yin to ‘Funk Wav Bounces, Vol.1’s yang. What makes Mura Masa so special is his ability to fuse genres together to make these island slow-jams that feel so wonderfully refined yet so detailed in terms of sound. His music is just so happy and enjoyable – it’s no wonder that Boohoo and PrettyLittleThing were practically in a fight all year to see who got to pick his next single as the soundtrack to their adverts. I’m pretty sure I heard “Firefly”, “What If I Go?”, “Lovesick” and “1 Night” all used as part of Summer advertising campaigns for various clothing brands. So, with this information in mind, I have decided to birth a new genre called “online clothing-brand pop” which will exclusively be reserved for any music I hear that uses a steel pan. It’s an upgraded tropical house. Bonus note: “Give Me The Ground” should have been a full song. It sounds like if the ‘Bagpuss’ theme was remixed and made into a huge emotional club hit. It’s entirely plausible.
highlight track: LOVE$ICK F/ A$AP ROCKY