I feel like I listened to 2-3 projects a day for the entire year. How do people manage to compile their favorite projects? What a daunting task. That being said, I managed to gather up my favorites of this year. From full-lengths to beat tapes to EPs to split singles, it's all here for the taking. If you disagree, my DMs are open.
It's also worth noting how my favorite listens in 2017 were made up of two albums not released this year: Yann Tiersen's ambient/classical album EUSA (2016) and the folk/ambient masterpiece Diamond Mine (2011) by singer/songwriter King Creosote and producer Jon Hopkins.
01. Smino – blkswn (Stream)
What can be said about this album that hasn't been said already? Smino's full-length debut is an 18 song hip-hop rapsterpiece. Almost entirely produced by Monte Booker, the cohesive album is a manifesto to the St. Louis rapper's impressive climb. The stretch of songs from "Glass Flows" (with Ravyn Lenae) to "Edgar Allen Poe'd Up" (with theMIND) is a perfect run of seven songs and the best 20 minutes of music you'll hear this year. And that's not even mentioning the remaining 43 minutes of the album.
02. ALEX – Growing Up, Vol. 1 (StreaM) // Alicks – Everything is So Beautiful
I listened to a whole heap of 'lofi' music this year, but no one does it as well as A L E X aka Alicks, who crafts emotional relaxation through ambient soundscapes and stripped down feelings. While Alex's Growing Up, Vol. 1 was my favorite instrumental album of the year, Alicks also released a full-length at the beginning of the year known as Everything is So Beautiful. With 40 songs between these two albums (and plenty of others scattered along the way), it's safe to say that Alex/Alicks had a great 2017.
03. Mellow Fellow – Jazzie Robinson (Stream)
Filipino singer/songwriter/guitar darling Mellow Fellow grabbed my attention at the beginning of this year with a split single curated by label Babe Slayer. Following that, I found myself spinning through his discography made up of bedroom rock, acoustic heartbreak, retro collaborations, and night time demos. While all of the songs on Jazzie Robinson were finalized in 2016, the eight song album wasn't released until this past summer. The timing couldn't have been better, as the album feels like an endless heatwave.
04. Milo – Who Told You to Think?!?!?! (Stream )
The most lyrically dense fifteen songs you will hear this year. With plenty of work in between as Scallops Hotel, Milo's proper follow-up to 2015's So the Flies Don't Come is a sensory deprivation tank, a poetic flex showing off how to walk on water. This album is a book being read over beats you want entering your dreams once asleep. This is the most difficult album on this list to properly describe. Listen while you work on your time machine and your dissertation.
05. Mounika – How Are You? (StreaM) // Walking Good EP
My second favorite instrumental album of the year comes from a French producer I didn't know existed when 2017 began. Mounika creates a foreign dreamland of vintage nostalgia with the album How Are You? one full of crackling samples and knocking drums, complete with an intro, and outro, and an interlude, making the whole thing feel like a trip to a black and white movie. It was followed up nicely with the winter EP, Walking Good.
06. Joe Nora – Lunahjoe (Stream) // Songs About Bears // Caars
As I mentioned in my list of favorite songs of the year, Joe Nora was my favorite producer to follow in 2017. With two EPs, an album, a killer playlist, and plenty of additional singles (including helping out of 4 of the 8 Sleep compilations I released), Joe Nora seemed to be leveling up each and every month, displaying his prowess through his signature sound of aquatic lofi. A sound you never want to fade away.
07. Lovejoy - Lovejoy (Stream)
This.album.deserves.more.love. Chicago sextet Lovejoy created a cohesive, free-forming debut album, one that takes place on the beach, in a hammock with a drink nearby. "Sleep On" into "Lavender" is so lovely. It's a dreamy occasion, one that makes a few stops in garages and basements, but one that mostly feels like sitting on the back porch with some friends, watching the sun go down in peace.
08. Senoy – Shine (Stream)
Senoy's beat tape was one that slipped under my radar when it initially dropped. Thankfully, producer Borealism mentioned his work to me and I spent the next weeks/months living within the minimalism and delicate intricacies of Shine. This is a tape that can turn into background music if you plan on reading or writing, but it's also a cinematic and exotic adventure if you close your eyes and pay close attention to the soundscapes. It's about as pretty as pretty can be.
09. TSUKI – Severance Package (Stream)
I can't think of another album this year that begins as well as TSUKI's Severance Package. Opening with the mesmerizing "Pareidolia", the project dances with elements of glitch, acoustic, ambient, and everything in between for a wild ten song ride. TSUKI released a handful of other pieces this year, including a mini instrumental EP, but it is Severance Package that truly dilates the pupils.
10. Spooky Mansion – I'm the Moon, You're the Wave (Stream)
I could listen to Spooky Mansion's two tracks "I'm the Moon" and "You're the Wave" forever and ever. Two songs considered for my desert island scenario where I can only bring a few pieces of music along. Acting as the opening offerings to their four song EP, the San Francisco group impressed and delighted this year, complete with some Sofar Sounds performances of songs you won't be able to find elsewhere in their catalog. Here's hoping for a full-length in 2018.
11. J.I.D. - The Never Story
If we talk hip-hop, I'll mention J.I.D. and I'll mention Earthgang. The three Atlanta artists had a stellar year, perhaps best showcased through The Never Story, J.I.D.'s full-length album through J. Cole's Dreamville imprint. Tracks like "Never" and "D/vision" really turned heads to make the rap world pay more attention to J.I.D., who isn't going away any time soon.
12. Joey Pecoraro – Tired Boy
Joey Pecoraro evolved in 2017 by releasing cinematic instrumentals fitting as backdrops to your next afternoon nap. His nine song album dropped at the beginning of 2017, and Pecoraro continued with five more singles throughout the year, each one just as touching and captivating as the next.
13. Yellow Days – Is Everything Okay in Your World?
Yellow Days' debut full-length did not disappoint. After wowing with his 2016 EP, the UK artist came correct with thirteen more songs of guitar-driven sing-a-longs. This is the kind of album where you scream every line and lose your voice as you drive to wherever it is you're going.
14. Imbaru – Trukur
A modern classical daydream. Chilean artist Imbaru switched between piano and guitar to create a truly moving audio experience. His entire discography is worth your while. This project in particular feels like gentle rainfall at sunrise.
15. Netherfriends – Sleep on Me // Turn Down
I couldn't tell you how many times I listened to these two projects. I pressed play and wrote to these two albums over and over and over. While Netherfriends released 24 albums this year (holy shit), it was the instrumental albums Sleep on Me (meant for sleep) and Turn Down (meant for yoga) that were both right up my relaxed alley.
16. Puma Blue – Swum Baby EP
Puma Blue's debut is one hell of a bedroom pop EP. This lofi production from the intimate UK artist sounds like unearthing an emotionally vulnerable batch of Jeff Buckley demos and crying along.
17. Oatmello – Memory // Campfire // Between Us // Mocha & Vanilla // Sunrise // Breath
What a prolific producer! Oatmello had an MVP year, releasing one full-length through Inner Ocean Records and an additional six EPs (six!), as well as plenty of loose singles and collaborative pieces scattered throughout. It was fun keeping up all year long. A particular favorite was the nine minute instrumental journey of Between Us.
18. Earthgang – Rags EP // Robots EP
Two for two from the Earthgang crew. With plenty of collaborations and music videos under their belt, they dominated 2017 with a duo of EPs: Rags and Robots, both of which act as appetizers to their 2018 full-length. I can't wait.
19. Borealism – Ripples in the Stream
When I think of Borealism, I think of textures. The dense and atmospheric instrumentals he spawns are pieces of their own world, where everyone is welcome and anything can happen. While his Moebius-art singles captivated all year long, it was his full-length from Inner Ocean Records that properly showcased a truly ambitious musician.
20. TedLK – TLEP
A free-flowing and evolving EP arose throughout this year courtesy of experimental and unique producer TedLK, who slowly and steadily impressed with his live sounds and field recordings, creating an ambient style unlike any other producer on the globe. Like Hot Sugar settling down for a nap with a trumpet not too far away.
21. Naji – The Optimist EP // Naji & Thomas White – Luna EP
Naji had a great 2016 and a great 2017. So many songs worth talking about. While I could go on for days about his single tracks, he also managed to release two EPs this year, first with his fully produced EP The Optimist, then with his collaborative split single, Luna, with producer Thomas White. Both will win you over.
22. Moses Sumney - Aromanticism
I mentioned it earlier this week while talking about my favorite singles of the year, but Moses Sumney is the falsetto king, and he impresses through and through with his album Aromanticism, one that topped the end of the year list over at Bandcamp. Tracks like "Don't Bother Calling" and "Quarrel" were made for fireside evenings. Respect.
23. Zack Villere – Little World
Evolving and transforming from Froyo Ma to Zack Villere, the musician went from Louisiana to Los Angeles and dazzled with his debut full-length, Little World. It is an album that showcases the trials and tribulations of a lovestoned, superhero confidence, an open diary of the battles with beauty and uncertainty, all in one conceptual and endearing testament.
24. Nick Hakim – Green Twins
Nick Hakim's album is a psychedelic whirlwind, full of experimentation and hard-hitting tracks. "Cuffed" and "Bet She Looks Like You" should be all over the radio. Certain songs will guarantee a good time with headphones while others will be certain to gain approval from your parents.
25. Lucille Furs – Lucille Furs
This album is a trip back in time. It is one of the best projects out of Chicago for 2017. Like being lost in a comforting thrift store. I feel like elegant royalty when I spin this album. I feel like a British king visiting Morocco and trying opium for the first time.
26. Ravyn Lenae - Midnight Moonlight EP
Ravyn Lenae's sophomore EP honed in on her signature style, complete with continued Monte Booker backdrops. Midnight Moonlight displayed her growing ambitions and dreams as a solo artist, one that shines brightly in the dead of night, and one that will come complete with a project alongside Steve Lacy next year.
27. Jetson – Culture
Despite being only eight songs clocking in under 12 minutes, Jetson's 'album' is one of my favorites of the year, one that has been on repeat since dropping back in October. This is emotional trap for your commute to work.
28. Late June – Bedside EP // Rainworld EP
I didn't discover Late June until late in the year (long after June), so his releases might be higher up after more listens, but the songs he released throughout the year are emotional and cinematic, full of vocal samples and dialogues that speak on love. Late June owns his cohesive and signature sound, a sound all his own.
29. Rhoda & Lion Detective Club – In Evergreen // Rhoda – Thank You, Thank You for Everything EP
Rhoda hushed his way through 2017, with two quiet and calm EPs, one of which was a collaboration with artist Lion Detective Club. It's a known fact that Rhoda's music sounds better with snow on the ground and with sleep in your eyes.
30. Kupla – Taiga Native // in.the.forest.we.are.wizards EP
How do you combine piano compositions with lofi kicks with cloudy bass and roll it all into one cohesive genre? Just ask Kupla, who released two emotionally moving and relaxed projects this year.
31. Qari & Mulatto Beats – Space Jam // Mulatto Beats – .22 Summers
Chicago's Music Garage is responsible for producing and recording some of the best Windy City hip-hop of the year. Qari and Mulatto Beats' EP Space Jam dropped back in January and Mulatto's debut producer album arrived this past summer, both of which are full of dense and cloudy tracks worthy of your stoned ears.
32. Iris Temple – Vistas EP
At only three songs in length, Chicago duo Iris Temple managed to cover three sounds and styles. From the circus to an underwater world, these three tracks act as a fine melting pot cauldron to Iris Temple's infinite capabilities entering into 2018.
33. Dwyer – Night Swim
Find me a more fitting title than producer Dwyer's album Night Swim, one that feels like a moonlight dip in the sea, like bathing in a waterfall and paddling yourself home.
34. Gabriel Garzon-Montano – Jardin
This was my favorite album for the first quarter of 2017, one that was enhanced by the Stones Throw SXSW showcase, where Garzon-Montano highlighted some of the stand-outs from the album. Find a better final three songs on an album this year. I'll wait.
35. fla.mingo – Deep Sleeper // Silk // Fla.mingo05 // FFF
Producer fla.mingo took me by surprise this year with his Deep Sleeper EP, one released as one long MP3 on SoundCloud. Following that release, he went on to drop an endless amount of music, seemingly something every week (including three other projects), but I continued to find myself returning to that deep, deep ambient sleep.
36. Alex Szotak – What Little Time
Alex Szotak might be best known as the bassgod assisting on other artists' projects (Zack Villere, Cehryl, Soft Glas, Mulherin), but his soothing debut solo EP What Little Time deserves its own acclaim.
37. Mt. Marcy – Tied Together EP // Sorry EP
Producer Mt. Marcy experimented in 2017 with the guitar/piano EP Tied Together and later let loose the 24 minute Sorry EP, made up of loose tracks and unreleased instrumentals. While these two EPs might be the last from Mt. Marcy, I'm certain artist Jack Follansbee will be back in some form in 2018.
38. Joy Again – Joy Again EP
One of the first 2017 releases to really blow me away was Joy Again's self-titled EP, one that sounds like taking a cigarette break outside of a house party and walking home stumbling and smiling.
39. LEGIT – Maudlin
After years of tweaks and twists, scraps and updated versions, Chicago rapper and visionary Legit finally released his long awaited project, Maudlin, a dense and lyrically sharp soul-searching project, one that demands more than a few listens.
40. Shrimpnose – Dawn // Not Really // Seasick
The Shrimp was Mr. Prolific this calendar year. With three projects and plenty of singles, he seemed to be releasing something new every couple of weeks. While his Not Really EP was his most fleshed out, his tribute EP Dawn was deeply moving, and his compilation of past lofi beats led to the surprise drop of Seasick. Three for three from Lobsternostrils.
41. Phib – Spaceship EP
When I interviewed Phib earlier this year, he told me how he was building a spaceship. The result is a six song EP, complete with original collage art for each track, taking the listener on a galactic voyage both cosmic and experimental.
42. Allem Iversom – Without You
Producer Harris Cole developed an alter ego to release lofi music both hypnotic and relaxing, acting as a nice change of pace from his layered and well composed album, Pause, which still sounds like heaven one year later.
43. THEMpeople – Sitcom EP
This project would be much higher on the list, but it was only two songs long. With theMIND, Via Rosa, and Smino on both tracks, it was one of my favorite collaborative releases of the year.
44. The Last Artful, Dodgr & Neill Von Tally – Bone Music
Portland duo made up of rapper The Last Artful, Dodgr and producer Neill Von Tally took us deep into the industrial caves with Bone Music, a conceptual and dark album, one that demands you light a torch before pressing play.
45. Knox Fortune – Paradise
Chicago artist Knox Fortune stepped into the solo limelight this year with the eleven song album, Paradise. It is an album that blends bedroom-crafted sincerities with freak folk blossomings and glamorous hip-hop daydreams. It's an unboxed melting pot.
46. Yomi - #THATHARPIST Mixtape // Goodbye Autumn EP
Vocalist, harpist, and producer Yomi handled it all on her own with her psychedelic and transformative mixtape, #THATHARPIST, one that was followed up nicely by her Goodbye Autumn EP.
47. Blockhead – Funeral Balloons
The legendary beatsmith unleashed his seventh solo LP this year, taking his loyal listeners further into his wonderland factory of progressive noises and instrumental nightmares. I love Blockhead because no song finishes the way that it begins.
48. L'Orange - The Ordinary Man
After spending the last couple of years working on collaborative albums (Kool Keith, Mr. Lif, Jeremiah Jae), L'Orange closed 2016 with a free instrumental EP, one that acted as an appetizer for his full-length, The Ordinary Man: a 17 track circus attraction the likes of which have never been seen. Or, rather, heard.
49. Hot Sugar - The Melody of Dust
With an eye-opening Noisey documentary in 2015 and his third volume of Seductive Nightmares in 2016, Hot Sugar dropped the LP Melody of Dust this year. The result is a 13 song instrumental adventure, one that picks up right where he left off.
50. Taylor AC - Hyperreal
An instrumental joyride from a nursing home to a Detroit basement. Taylor AC's beat tape sounds like an amusement park staying on beat. Update: he removed the tape from his SoundCloud sometime within this last week, so I've embedded the only available song under his name. Expect plenty more in 2018 from this blossoming being.