| 03.18.2018

A Diverse Review of 2017 Albums — A second look back at the music of 2017


     Flower Boy

With a breath of confidence and a focus on a distinct style, Odd Future mastermind Tyler Okonma returns to 2017 after a semi-flop album.

In the documentary for his previous album, “Cherry Bomb,” there is video evidence of Okonma meeting with greats such as Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer. These artists prompted Tyler to be engaged in their critiques and conversations, and something from these meetings must have clicked.

“Flower Boy” is the result of a slew of influences from across the spectrum that inspired Okonma to create an R&B album that rivals modern classics like Frank Ocean’s “Blonde,” with Ocean even credited twice on the album.
The album’s flow is some of Okonma’s best work, where the concept idea that was explored on “Wolf” has been ditched for more of a compilation style of album that glides smoothly along. The compilation effort allows songs like the blissful “See You Again” and the electric “Who Dat Boy” to stand back-to-back in the track listing, even though these songs are seemingly opposites.
Themes of hidden homosexuality and weakness are explored on the slower and more vulnerable songs like “Garden Shed,” but just two tracks later is the obvious N.E.R.D.-inspired banger “I Ain’t Got Time!” Although this style of contrast can seem like more of a hinderance than a benefit, the flow isn’t interrupted – it’s blended.

In between these two songs is the sexy but friendly “Boredom,” an easy-going soul anthem with slight psychedelic influences, assisted by Rex Orange County (also featured on the equally pleasant intro track “Foreward”).
Variance is key within the confines of “Flower Boy,” an album that lives up to its name through the blooming and colorful sound of Okonma’s maturity and guest features carefully placed as if they were rose petals on a honeymoon bedroom floor.

Neo Wax Bloom

Brainfeeder label creator “Flying Lotus” has always pushed for needlessly complex rhythms and compositions infiltrating the music scene, but the 2017 release from Irish artist “Iglooghost” fits the style of release that Brainfeeder has been waiting for.

After receiving well deserved publicity for his EP “Chinese Nü Yr,” Seamus Malliagh returns with “Neo Wax Bloom,” a mild-concept album that revolves around comically extreme cartoon characters that are made from gum.
The concept alone gives insight into what this album is – eclectic. The public would be hard pressed to find an album with as much variance as NWB. Fusing over the course of 41 minutes are math-rock, footwork electronic, ambient, jazz fusion, DnB, future garage and the unique style known as “wonky.”
The ambiguously-named genre is best depicted in hectic songs like the previously released “Peanut Choker,” or even the transition into “Super Ink Burst” from “Pale Eyes.” These two songs blend a carefully executed saxophone performance with a sound reminiscent of the odder experimentations of “Flume,” but in hyper speed.
Much of what makes “Neo Wax Bloom” an interesting album is its difficultly to be explained thoroughly. As a project that throws you fewer and fewer sounds you’re familiar with while simultaneously introducing a plethora of integral yet short-lived sequences, the track list thrives on the opportunity of an ever increasing, ever changing cacophony of sounds.

Flick Your Tongue

Lastly we have a semi-concept album under a new moniker from Memphis rapper Lil Ugly Mane. “Flick Your Tongue” illustrates Travis Miller himself going through his recent mental health issues. Distancing this work from his more trap oriented style under LUM, he takes to the “Bedwetter” name. Showcasing personal stories from his mental rehabilitation and even the cover of the album being the saferoom he was kept in, much of this album seems terribly personal.
As expected, this is not a party album.
From the intro track “john,” a spoken word passage throws the listener into the fray, with dissonantly edited vocals swimming around the left and right channels. The eerie feeling isn’t ditched after the intro song – if anything, it is amplified on “man wearing a helmet,” an anthem of a child being abducted and abused. The specific details Miller paints on the track engulf you in the atmosphere, the grain of the gravel or a dismal winter day.

A key signature that Miller depicts throughout the album is a minor key of almost intrinsically depressing gloom, either by the haunting guitar plucks on “fondly eulogizing sleep” or the serrated vocals on “haze of interference.” Instrumental songs like “square movement” pop up as a much needed release from the asylum world that the “Bedwetter” personality traps you in. These melancholy vocals and dissociative instrumentals fuse together with so much tension, it’s almost as if you’re waiting for Miller to be sent upstate in the middle of recording his verses.
I wish Miller the best of luck in his recovery, but as a musical listener I am intrigued to see how he continues to represent his health through sound.

Rem Jensen can be reached at arg-arts@uidaho.edu

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1 comment
  1. Excellent review, top-notch analysis and enjoyable to read. Makes me want to listen!