First things first: I didn’t spend enough time with the Kendrick album or the Lorde album this year to justify their inclusion. In most polls I’ve seen this year they’re the clear front runners and both will deservedly face off next year in the Grammys.  So no Kung Fu Kenny but what did make the most prestigious best of list of the year?

 

  X: Stranger in the Alps by Phoebe Bridgers

The title may be a Big Lebowski reference but unfortunately, this isn’t a stoner rock album about bowling.  Ms. Bridgers rights great music for staring out of car windows on a rainy day which is basically my favorite time to listen to music.  Check out “Motion Sickness” which throws heavy shade at her ex Ryan Adams (catch him later on this list). 

 

  IX: Colors by Beck

Beck original planned to release this around the same time as his 2014 Grammy winning folk snoozefest Morning Phase but the hype around the latter album convinced him to hunker down and work harder on the follow up.  Over the next three years, Beck dropped numerous singles, blew threw three release dates, and opened for U2 on their Joshua Tree tour before finally delivering an album.  Colors is his most optimistic and Pop-iest album yet.  In 2014, aka the year of “Happy”, this would’ve fit right in but in 2017 the album is jarringly escapist.  “Wow” was originally supposed to feature Chance the Rapper but it still bumps heavily.  

 

 VIII: Flower Boy by Tyler the Creator

AKA Blonde part 2.  If you liked Frank Ocean’s loosie singles this year like “Chanel” than you’ll love Flower Boy and not just the song Frank is on. It doubles as a coming out statement from one of rap’s most terrifying and often problematic voices.  Besides the previously mentioned Ocean featuring “911/Lonely Boy”, “Boredom” is a great song to start with.

 

 VII: The World’s Best American Band by White Reaper

That title is honestly not far off. If you like garage rock or power pop or whatever suburb kids make in their basements with distortion pedals then you’ll love White Reaper.

 

 VI: reputation by Taylor Swift

Is this a great album? No. Is it her worst album? Ehhhh maybe. It’s extremely entertaining and only like three of the songs are complete train-wrecks.  The more traditional second half of the album work is the best. “Getaway Car” sounds like a 1989 b-side which is a compliment coming from me.

 V. Harry Styles by Harry Styles

Who knew that Harry Styles would be this year’s’ most convincing 70s style rockstar?  Probably anyone paying attention to One Direction’s late career Fleetwood Mac fetish but back then I was too busy listening to Sun Kil Moon to bother.  Lo and behold, I barely made it through one of the new Sun Kil Moon albums this year but Harry’s solo debut has been a steady presence in my Spotify recently played. 

 IV. A Crow Looked At Me by Mount Eerie

This album is the sound of Phil Elverum grieving. It was recorded following his wife’s death from cancer, in the room she died in, on her instruments, Crow is among the most realistically sad albums you’re likely to hear.

 

 III. Pure Comedy by Father John Misty

His press antics always threaten to overshadow his music but his lyrics are still at least as interesting as his interviews, so I’ll keep listening.  The last one’s theme was marriage and sounded like upbeat NPR folk rock.  This one covers everything from religion to politics to something far scarier: Josh Tillman’s own thoughts.  Sure, it’s a 74 minute slog but the 70s soft rock production makes it a very pretty slog and the lyrics make it an extremely funny slog.

 II. Prisoner by Ryan Adams

His solo debut was entitled “Heartbreaker”, but after a divorce with actress Mandy Moore, Adams is now the one who’s heartbroken.  Following his full album cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989, Prisoner is Adams’s first album openly about his divorce with Moore and it sure shows.  Heartbreak has always been RyRy’s strong suit and Prisoner does not disappoint. By my ears, it’s his best album in over a decade. 

 

 I. Dark Matter by Randy Newman

Arriving nine years after Newman’s last album of newly written songs, Dark Matter is an absolute masterclass in songwriting. “The Great Debate”, “Putin”, and “It’s a Jungle Out There” are razor sharp satire.  “Lost Without You” and “Wandering Boy” are tear inducing. “Brothers” is an imagined conversation between Jack and Bobby Kennedy debating the merits of the Bay of Pigs.  The music sticks to Newman’s classic piano man leading a big band template, but rocks as hard as any punk record I’ve heard this year at times.

 

Written By Jonah Skeen

            The last time I heard Willow Smith’s name was in 2010 when “Whip my Hair” was at an all-time high. Any chance I got in 6th grade, I would attempt to “whip” my monochromatic, barely past shoulder-length hair in an attempt to mimic her iconic music video. She was the epitome of “cool,” embracing something unique to her. 2010 turned to 2011, and so on, and Smith’s funky, fresh beat turned into nothing but part of a Zumba workout playlist. Last year I started to wondered what ever happened to Willow, as do most millennials with childhood stars. I only just found an answer to this this past October.

Willow Smith in “Whip My Hair” music video 

 

            On Halloween of this year, Willow Smith dropped her album “The 1st.” It felt like it came out of nowhere with no advertising or before-hand hype. I only discovered it by the recommendation of a friend. Upon adding it to my music library, I was apprehensive. I knew I had grown out of the intense beats and pop-like music that Willow once made. Was it going to be a repeat of 2010 or had she also matured? I did my initial listen as I wasted away in the library, attempting to work on a physics problem set. Within seconds, I was in love.

The album cover of “The 1st” 

 

            On a whole, “The 1st” combines classic alternative beats, with subtle R&B undertones and acoustic vibes. Some songs even contain violin and piano. I listen to this album when I’m cleaning, when I’m walking to class or even in a “mood.” Her lyrics really analyze the workings of young love, relationships and growing up. Her voice is simply amazing and has a very raw feel to it. One of my favorite songs from the album is “Lonely Road.” The lyrics speak about messing up in life and feeling isolated through those mistakes. I enjoy listening to it when I’m in my “feels.” If Beyoncé and Florence and the Machine had a child, it would be this song. Another valid track is “Warm Honey.” This one has a strong resemblance of the sassiness that a young Willow once portrayed in “Whip my Hair.” The song’s lyrics talk about existence when in love.

Willow Smith at a redcarpet event

            Overall, this album will be a long time favorite of mine. Although I’ll throw down to “Whip my Hair” any day of the week, I am much happier sipping coffee and listening to “The 1st.” I admire Willow’s ability to mature and grow as an artist. I think her transformation can remind us all that we have the ability to change our style and that self-identity is ever evolving. I see big things her future and can’t wait to see what she will accomplish.

 

Written by Zoey Miller 

Nearing the end of their tour, THATH still light up the stage

 

The Head and the Heart engaged audience members with their rich harmonies, melodious guitar, and on-stage chemistry at the Fillmore in Philadelphia on September 22. The indie folk band, which hails from Seattle, performed at the Fillmore as part of their fall headlining tour for the album Signs of Light.

The band’s third and most pop-oriented album, Signs of Light was released in September 2016 and has been increasing the group’s fan base ever since. After sharing their music with audiences spanning the United States, Canada, Mexico, and several European countries, The Head and the Heart are now wrapping up their tour.

The Head and the Heart 9/22/17

THATH concert in Philly, September 22, 2017

 

 

I had the pleasure of standing among the crowd at the Fillmore for the second year in a row. The set list for this year’s Philadelphia show was essentially identical to that a year earlier—a well-thought-out mix of new and old fan favorites. Despite a year of touring with the same songs, the band members performed with the same vivacity and captivity that they had at the start of their tour, their rhythmic melodies traced by devoted audience members.

 

The Shelters, a rock band formed in 2015, opened up the show this time around, lighting up the space in preparation for the main act. Some personal favorites from The Shelters were the songs “Rebel Heart” and “Never Look Behind Ya.”

 

A few highlights of the Head and the Heart’s performance were vocalist Jon Russell’s sped-up rendition of the song “Let’s Be Still,” vocalist and violinist Charity Rose Thielen’s emotive performance of “Library Magic,” a song that she wrote about the band’s experiences on the road, and the constant expressions of pure joy on the face of drummer Tyler Williams.

 

One missing part of the show was the absence of former band-member Josiah Johnson, who sings many of the group’s songs, including “Rivers and Roads,” the band’s greatest hit, and who I once witnessed crowd surfing at a concert in Boston. As Josiah is taking time to deal with his health, artist Matt Gervais, who is married to band-member Charity, took the stage for the entirety of the tour and truly stepped up to the plate.

 

If you are interested in finding out what the Head and The Heart is all about, check out the following link to videos from their New York City concert in 2016:

http://teamcoco.com/music/head-and-heart?page=2

 

Additionally, songs from their three albums can be found at the links below:

Signs of Light full album

Let’s Be Still full album

The Head and the Heart full album

 

AND if you get the chance to attend a Head and the Heart concert before the final United States portion of their tour is complete on October 29, their magical live performance will not disappoint.

 

The remaining Signs of Light concert dates can be viewed on the The Head and the Heart’s website. After they finish up in the United States, the band will continue on to Maya, Mexico.

 

Written by Sarah Dembling ’19