Top Albums of 2017

Story posted December 24, 2017 in CommRadio, Arts & Entertainment by Arts Staff

As 2017 wraps up, the CommRadio Arts Department will be taking a look back at the year in music. The top albums of the year were decided through a series of voting until the staff narrowed it down to 20 albums. Here is the Arts Department’s top 20 albums of 2017.

20. Calvin Harris – Funk Wave Bounces Vol. 1

Essentially the Royal Rumble of albums released in 2017, the DJ gathers more than 20 of the biggest names in the industry and throws them in the same ring together to see what happens. While it may lack the wrestling spectacle's majesty, the ability to make such elaborate collaborations should be appreciated, if nothing else.

Hits like "Feels" and "Slide" dominated summer radio play by pumping out beachy vibes while others songs give unique experiences. One can hear the codeine-coated vocals of Future, the turntable skills of longtime DJ A-Trak and the soulful wail of John Legend on consecutive tracks. Production-centric, collab-heavy albums are now becoming saturated in the marketplace, but where many fall short Harris delivers what was expected with a simple, enjoyable, summer-soaked boogie soundtrack. – Ryan Berti

19. Joey Bada$$ - ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$

Joey’s sophomore album accomplishes a lot more than any of his previous projects. On ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$, Joey blends his punchy flow with a new politically charged focus and finds a strong balance between old and new styles. Still at an early point in his career, the decision to center his second studio album on the theme of systemic oppression was a bold one to say the least. What’s even more impressive is that Joey delivered as the album debuted No. 5 on the U.S. Billboard 200. The project represents an important turning point in the young M.C.’s career. He burst onto the scene in 2012 as a young vivacious New Yorker with a raunchy flow and a propensity for drugs. Now he’s using the foundation he built his career on to tell an important story, one that covers the perspective of the oppressed and serves as the next chapter of the kid from Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.

ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ is not only a strong conceptual album, it’s chockfull of great songs from beginning to end. From the upbeat “TEMPTATION” to the deeply emotional “AMERIKKKAN IDOL,” Joey showcases his completeness as an artist as he seamlessly shifts from commercial pop rap to old school bar for bar lyricism. – Sam McQuillan

18. The xx – I See You

After the poorly received Coexist in 2012, The xx returned off of a five year break with all of the magic that put them on the map, but with a host of changes. Romy Croft and Oliver Sim deliver their normal dynamic, but the real star of the show here is producer Jamie xx. Jamie brings everything that worked so well on his 2015 In Colour and brings it to this album. The production is upbeat and fun, but the lyrics take a deep look at the personal struggles of the band. From their own distancing from one another to alcoholism, The xx tackle a host of issues over an entirely new set of instrumentals. This album feels like just the start for The xx and as long as they stay together, it can only get better from here. – David Arroyo

17. Khalid – American Teen

Khalid’s debut album, American Teen, is the perfect submersion into the perspective of today’s U.S. teenage culture. Throughout each piece on the album, Khalid introduces themes lyrically that reflect the somewhat laughable, but momentarily distressing tribulations the youth of America face within their lives and relationships. The way in which the lyrics are portrayed through Khalid’s vocal performance is what truly generates the powerful impact of emotional compassion and inward connection from the listener. Khalid merges his soothing R&B vocal tone into a tranquil pop format to develop a sound that is exclusive to the artist, making him extremely desired in the pop genre.  American Teen understands its audience in a time when listener compatibility is stringent in the pop-platform. The album has also cemented Khalid as a vital voice in changing a market that is seemingly focused solely on revenue and not on its listeners. – JonMichael Pereira

16. King Krule – The OOZ

At just the young age of 23, Archy Marshall has had extreme commercial and critical success in the music industry. Just this year he released The OOZ, a smooth, innovative and near perfect blend of trip-hop, punk, jazz, indie rock and more. While the album itself tells no solid story and has no single genre or flow it keeps to, Marshall grants the audience with a rollercoaster ride of sound, ranging from psychedelic trips to a paradox of serene intensity. The album is not the kind you can put down and pick up later on; it deserves a heavy amount of focus to appreciate and get lost in the sound Marshall has created. His presence in the music industry has been imprinted at such a professional and mature level, it’s exciting and relieving to know this artist isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. – Lilly Adams

15. Benjamin Clementine – I Tell a Fly

I Tell a Fly by Benjamin Clementine is the highest form of musical art in 2017 and will be uncontested for years. With Clementine establishing his career in literature before music, he employs his poetic talent in I Tell a Fly to represent concepts of universal importance. Even the approach in which Clementine takes in composing the pieces in I Tell a Fly manifest this atmosphere similar to a “grand show,” attributing to the feeling that this album is an incredible spectacle of truth. Though the album does take some damage as a whole due to the abstractness of it all, the intricate care put into each detail displays the impressiveness of the work as a whole. Clementine has demonstrated in I Tell a Fly that he is the modern day Shakespeare of music and with the thematic vastness of this album it’s fair to say listeners will be dissecting it for years to come. – JonMichael Pereira

14. Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog

After two years of production, Mac DeMarco presents his third studio album, This Old Dog. It marks a departure from his guitar-heavy styles previously seen in 2 and Salad Days in favor of a more synth-based style previously seen in his Another One EP. The shift in style also affects the lyrics Demarco writes. There is a tonal shift from the Happy-Go-Lucky themes from previous works to a more depressing journey. It covers ideas such as fear of abandonment, as well as grieving the death of a loved one, ideas that to some are a drastic change in Demarco’s style. However, he plays it off very well, taking it very seriously and puts effort into conveying the emotional tones he sets up. It is a surprisingly fluid and moody album that was one of this year’s best. – Jack Grossman

13. Lorde – Melodrama

After an impressive debut album, fans wondered if Lorde could match or even surpass the standard she set, a difficult task considering the popularity of her debut album. But with Melodrama, Lorde delivers one of the best albums of the year, taking her indie-pop style and bringing it to the next level. Using her experiences as a teenage artist finding success, Lorde crafts an album that is able to express all her anxiety with being a celebrity, especially as she considers herself introverted, and the pressures of being a celebrity are even greater at such a young age. The Grammy nominated album is a parallel to a modern day Greek tragedy that at the same time manages to be tongue in cheek. Lorde’s star shines bright and this album only solidifies her status as one of the best young artists around. – Owen Paiva

12. Thundercat – Drunk

Bassist and songwriter Thundercat embodies a humorous tone on his album, Drunk, which is the most positive piece in the musician’s career thus far. Many tracks on this record tell funny stories from being friend-zoned to spending money on anime; yet Thundercat also manages to create more emotional ballads driven by passionate lyrics such as “Walk On By,” which features Kendrick Lamar. The album takes listeners on a journey of simply living one’s life while paying attention to the ups and downs that come along the way. The 23 track record starts on a lighthearted note and eventually travels into a darker direction towards the end. The progression on Drunk is an example of Thundercat’s sensitivity and willingness to share his personal development over the past four years. – Jenna Minnig

11. Open Mike Eagle – Brick Body Kids Still Daydream

Brick Body Kids Still Daydream is an emotional journey through the mind of art rap darling Open Mike Eagle and sees him reflecting on both his upbringing in the Robert Taylor homes in the Southside of Chicago and the recent destruction of that same project. The album flows together beautifully, with each track offering an emotional highlight in a larger concept. Open Mike Eagle’s art rap style shines the most on this album. From witty one liners to introspective looks into modern society, there is no shortage of quality lyrics throughout the project. Open Mike Eagle stands out among many of his contemporaries and Brick Body Kids Still Daydream proves it. He has a lot to say and every word of it is enjoyable. This project is cohesive, thought provoking, catchy and unapologetically indie. Brick Body Kids Still Daydream does nearly everything right and holds its spot rightfully as one of the best albums of the year. – Zach Hall

10. Julien Baker – Turn Out the Lights

An understanding of mental illness still seems to elude the mainstream consciousness of the United States. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US, with roughly 44,000 Americans dying from self-harm ever year. And while 2017 certainly saw its fair share of artists making an effort to bring awareness to the issue, no artist was able to give the listener a better understanding of the issue like Julien Baker’s Turn Out the Lights. Intimate, cathartic and harrowingly honest, the singer/songwriter’s sophomore album offers a more direct look into her own struggle with her mental health than 2015’s Sprained Ankle. While there are certain moments where the instrumentation pushes Baker from the center stage, ultimately this is an album that soars from the incredible lyricism. Baker has crafted a piece of art that has the potential to build empathy in so many with a misunderstanding of an issue, cutting deep into listener’s heart with the unapologetic and unveiling power of these songs. – Chandler Copenheaver

9. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Polygondwanaland

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard (KGATLW) released one of their best albums to date on their fourth full-length release in 2017. Polygondwanaland showcases the band’s usual psychedelic rock genre with an emphasis on articulate rhythm and melody that is coherent on each track. The Australian band was ambitious when they announced their plans to release five albums in 2017 and so far they have succeeded in providing their listeners with creative and sometimes unexpected music. They set high expectations when they dropped the first single, “Crumbling Castle,” a beautifully crafted piece with intense drums, soft vocals and a whole lot more happening all in the span of ten minutes. Without hesitation each song on this ten piece album flows perfectly into the next. It is hard to expect anything better to be released from them this year, but KGATLW promised five albums this year and there is no doubt that will be accomplished. – Jenna Minnig


Not many artists in all of music can bring on the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Travis Scott for features and remain in the center of the spotlight, let alone avoid fading into the background on their own track. SZA does more than hold her own on those tracks and throughout her debut album as she proved she can hang with the big boys at Top Dawg and the very best in hip hop and R&B.

The artist expertly pens together modern narratives of romance that are real, raw, beautiful and at times blunt. She also expands the boundaries of R&B by singing over a mix of trap beats and solo guitar riffs. While she may have been largely unknown to the music world a year ago; one gold album, two platinum songs (one of them not even a single) and four Grammy nominations later and she is now one of the biggest rising stars in the industry. – Ryan Berti

7. Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory

Vince Staples delivered a bleak future vision as well as some self-reflection on his sophomore effort Big Fish Theory. Staples delivers a polished, well thought out album that is prophetic, yet also knowledgeable. Staples shows his maturation from his previous works and growth as an artist on one of the best rap albums of the year. Through clever writing and sound instrumentals, Staples manages to connect two main threads between a breakup album and as Staples puts it “Afrofuturism.” Staples is able to take his style of fast, energetic bars and blend it with collaborators that each bring new influences and style to the table, shaping this album into a polished, complex and entertaining reflection of the recent past, while also providing a bleak near future vision. – Owen Paiva


BROCKHAMPTON started the SATURATION trilogy off with a bang with the release of the first installment. BROCKHAMPTON’s large amount of members allow for a plethora of unique personalities and rap styles. Each track has its own vibe and with 17 tracks, there’s bound to be something of interest for everyone. BROCKHAMPTON is a very unique group, mixing R&B with rap and on other instances playing around with electronic and rock samples. Each beat feels fresh because they aren’t carbon copies of other tracks on the album. Each track has its own instrumental style and unique twists that keep the audience coming back. Because of the large amount of members who rap in BROCKHAMPTON, each track has a variety of different styles and voices that keep each track from feeling repetitive. Nothing about BROCKHAMPTON is cliché and allows for them to stand out amongst other rappers this year. The sheer amount of talent and quality on this album is more than enough to solidify its place as one of the best albums of the year. – Zach Hall

5. JAY-Z – 4:44

Hip hop historically has been a genre dominated by the youth, but on 4:44, JAY-Z proves that hip hop can grow up. Highlighted by his candidness about his infidelity, JAY-Z peels back the curtain and allows his audience into his life like he never has before on this album. He also tackles issues related to race, the growing division in the hip hop community and other issues. 4:44 is a dense album, but thanks to the skillful, sample-driven production by No I.D., it is also one of the easiest listens. On 4:44, Jay-Z shows maturation not only for himself, but for the entire hip hop genre. – Jerome Taylor


Where SATURATION introduced listeners to something entirely new, SATURATION II built upon all of those concepts for one of the most sound hip hop albums of the year. From production to lyrical content, there was absolutely nothing more that a hip hop fan could ask for from BROCKHAMPTON on this project. From the extremely catchy hooks on “GUMMY” and “SWAMP” to the group addressing the very complaints lobbed against them, BROCKHAMPTON offers so much new material album to album.

The project is cohesive and finds beauty in complexities. BROCKHAMPTON tackles complex issues and still finds a way to make the album fun. With so many young members, BROCKHAMPTON should continue to release albums that fall on lists like this for years to come. – David Arroyo

3. Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy

Considered by some to be a masterpiece of its time, Flower Boy by Tyler, The Creator is an album that tells of many different themes and ideas. It is a more experimental work, playing mostly with soul and R&B influences, along with the rap that Tyler is most known for. With many different features including Steve Lacy and Estelle, the album is very well-rounded and shows a diverse and mature side to Tyler that he has explicitly said he was looking to expose. The sounds are new, fresh and captivating. It is evident that Tyler has put a lot of effort and focus into creating this album. The surprise and awe of this new and fun style is what allows this piece to contend for album of the year. – Jack Grossman

2. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

DAMN. is the perfect combination of the commercial appeal of good kid, m.A.A.d city and the complex lyricism of To Pimp a Butterfly. This perfect marriage continues to prove that Kendrick Lamar is the greatest rapper alive. On DAMN., Kendrick tackles topics such as love, lust, humility and pride. Kendrick also talks about his views on politics and religion on this album. However, the best part is the listener will never feel overloaded with information because the album is such an easy listen. This album is loaded with complex thoughts and intriguing social commentary and showcases everything great about Kendrick Lamar. – Jerome Taylor

1. Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked at Me

A Crow Looked at Me is one of those rare moments in an artistic medium’s history that feels impervious to critique. It’s built from the basic conventions of the medium of music, but the emotional and thematic material is so powerful that it defies any possible standards of critical evaluation. Though it’s a commercial release, A Crow Looked at Me is entirely personal and self-serving for Phil Elverum, the man behind the suffering of these minimalist songs. Elverum uses the medium of music to process the loss of his wife and make sense of what his life will now be. Nothing is sensationalized, instead a direct journaling of Elverum’s emotions.

Instrumentally, Evelerum’s songs are hauntingly sparse. Though they perfectly create the sonic landscape to support the tone of his lyrics, they feel purposefully incomplete. It mirrors Evelrum’s psychological state, incomplete without the person in his life that has given it so much meaning. Perhaps this is what makes A Crow Looked at Me so significant: there is no sense of resolution. A Crow Looked at Me is a snapshot of a man’s life at its lowest point, not looking to offer the listener anything more than this. It destroys any possible romanticism of death that has often plagued music from less experienced songwriters and instead provides the listener what all great art should provide: greater empathy for their fellow man. – Chandler Copenheaver

Arts Staff Members Personal Top 10

David Arroyo

Chandler Copenheaver

Jack Grossman

1. Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked at Me

1. Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked at Me

1. Tyler, the Creator - Flower Boy


2. Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell Live



3. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Polygondwanaland

3. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.

4. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.

4. Milo - Who Told You to Think??!!?!?!?!

4. Mac DeMarco - This Old Dog

5. Tyler, the Creator - Flower Boy

5. Moses Sumney - Aromanticism

5. King Krule - The OOZ


6. Julien Baker - Turn Out the Lights


7. The xx - I See You

7. Father John Misty - Pure Comedy

7. Azizi Gibson - Memoirs of the Reaper

8. JAY-Z - 4:44


8. Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory

9. Future - HNDRXX

9. King Krule - The OOZ

9. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Polygondwanaland

10. Julien Baker - Turn Out the Lights

10. Fleet Foxes - Crack-Up

10. Thundercat - Drunk

Jenna Minnig

Jerome Taylor

JM Pereira

1. Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked at Me

1. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

1. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

2. Father John Misty - Pure Comedy

2. Jay-Z - 4:44

2. Khalid- American Teen


3. Tyler, The Creator - Flower Boy


4. King Krule - The OOZ

4. Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory

4. Tyler, The Creator - Flower Boy

5. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Polygondwanaland

5. Migos - Culture

5. JAY-Z - 4:44

6. Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory


6. Open Mike Eagle - Brick Body Kids Still Daydream

7. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.


7. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Polygondwanaland

8. Mac DeMarco - This Old Dog

8. Joey Bada$$ - ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$

8. Calvin Harris- Funk WavE Bounces Vol. 1


9. Jidenna - The Chief

9. Benjamin Clementine - I Tell A Fly

10. Thundercat - Drunk

10. Drake - More Life


Lilly Adams

Owen Paiva

Sam McQuillan

1. King Krule - The OOZ

1. Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked At Me

1. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.

2. Mac DeMarco - This Old Dog

2. Lorde - Melodrama

2. Joey Bada$$ - ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$

3. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.

3. St. Vincent - MASSEDUCTION

3. JAY-Z - 4:44

4. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Polygondwanaland

4. Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory


5. Benjamin Clementine - I Tell a Fly


5. Lorde - Melodrama

6. Thundercat - Drunk

6. Protomartyr - Relatives in Descent

6. Migos - Culture

7. Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked At Me

7. JAY-Z - 4:44

7. Tyler, The Creator - Flower Boy


8. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.




9. Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory

10. JAY-Z - 4:44

10. Open Mike Eagle - Brick Body Kids Still Daydream

10. SZA - CTRL

Ryan Berti

Zach Hall

1. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.

1. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.


2. Tyler, the Creator - Flower Boy

3. Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked At Me



4. Open Mike Eagle - Brick Body Kids Still Daydream

5. Tyler, the Creator - Flower Boy

5. Milo - Who Told You to Think??!!?!?!?!


6. King Krule - The Ooze

7. Lorde - Melodrama


8. Thundercat - Drunk

8. Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory

9. JAY-Z - 4:44


10. Julien Baker - Turn Out The Lights

10. Lorde - Melodrama




Ryan Berti is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email

Sam McQuillan is a junior majoring broadcast journalism. To contact him, email

David Arroyo is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email

JonMichael Pereira is a freshman majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email

Lilly Adams is a freshman majoring in film/video studies. To contact her, email

Jack Grossman is a sophomore majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email

Owen Paiva is a freshman majoring in film/video. To contact him, email

Jenna Minnig is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email

Zach Hall is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email

Chandler Copenheaver is a senior majoring in public relations. To contact him, email   

Jerome Taylor is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email

About the Contributors

Ryan Berti's photo

Ryan Berti

Senior / Broadcast Journalism

Ryan Berti is from Erie, Pa. He aspires to one day become a producer, beat writer or reporter for a national network in the field of sports media. Follow him on twitter @RBirdman7.

David Arroyo's photo

David Arroyo

Senior / Broadcast Journalism

David Arroyo currently serves as one of two General Managers for CommRadio. David is a former arts & entertainment director, social media director and editor for the station. He has produced for multiple Penn State sports while in CommRadio, has done play by play for Penn State sporting events such as football, basketball and volleyball and co-hosted and produced his own talk show. During the fall of 2017, David was an anchor, producer and reporter for the Centre County Report. David most recently interned at WPVI-TV, 6abc in Philadelphia during the summer of 2018. While at 6abc he was a programing intern and helped in the production of their weekly show “FYI Philly.” David has interned at B94.5 (State College) and Center City Film and Video (Philadelphia). Follow him on Twitter (@_arroyodavid) or email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

ChandlerCopenheaver's photo


Senior / Public Relations

Chandler Copenheaver is a Production Director and Arts Director of CommRadio who has been a member of CommRadio since the spring of 2015. Chandler’s responsibilities entail managing the production department, managing the arts department, creating audio commercials for CommRadio and external organizations, scheduling commercial blocks, and writing editorial content related to the arts. Chandler Copenheaver has worked most recently at Arlington Thrive in Arlington, VA as a Development & Program Intern, WellSpan Health in South Central PA as a Public Relations & Marketing Intern and served as a teaching assistant for the Penn State course BiSci 3 Environmental Science. Chandler aims to work in the fields of Public Relations, Communications Strategy or Communications Management. Follow him on Twitter @C_Copenheaver or email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Owen Paiva's photo

Owen Paiva

Senior / Film/Video

Owen Paiva is a senior majoring in film-video. He currently serves as a social media director at CommRadio. In the past, he interned at both WPSU as a sports production intern and at Shadowbox Studios as a production intern.  f you want to contact him, email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

JonMichael Pereira's photo

JonMichael Pereira

Freshmen / Telecommunication

JonMichael is a writer and contributor for the Nittany Record Club, the first music analysis talk show at ComRadio. Before Penn State JonMichael was the director and head of production for his daily high school news show. He is always looking to forward his experience in the field of production, you can reach him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Lillian Adams's photo

Lillian Adams

Junior / Film/Video Studies

Lillian Adams is a writer and contributor for the Nittany Record Club, a department in CommRadio dedicated specifically to the analysis and reviews of current albums of the year, and the former albums of the past. as well as current films released. In addition to this, she hosts her own talk show on Commradio called “Reel Talk.” She is currently a member of the Student Film Organization as well as Commradio. She also is a regular PA on multiple student films on campus, and works as a Videographer for Commagency. She is always looking to expand her knowledge in the fields of cinema and music, and is excited to see what opportunities Penn State will bring her. To contact her, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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Jenna Minnig

Senior / Broadcast Journalism

Jenna is a General Manager of CommRadio where she manages the student radio station.