Some of the best albums from the first half of 2017 thus far include a stunning debut, an aberrant-but-alluring work by an underground saxophonist at the peak of his game, and the third studio album from Joshua Tillman’s terrific solo venture.
Process by Sampha: If Sampha’s singing voice occasionally veers too close to a James Blake falsetto at various points over the course of the album, the mammoth chorus on lead single “Blood on Me” dispels any and all concerns that Sampha is an imitator. In 10 tracks, the British R&B/electronic musician bares his soul across tender ballads (“No One Knows Me) Like the Piano”), synthetic ambience (“What Shouldn’t I Be?”) and energetic pop infused with the West African kora (“Kora Sings”). It’s a tremendously ambitious debut, and if Sampha’s scope of vision remains as wide as it is on Process, he’s got a successful career ahead of him.
All This I Do For Glory by Colin Stetson: Primal wails over serrated saxophone jabs, industrial scratching and hollow metallic drums generally color a majority of the instrumentation of this avant-garde pseudo-jazz project. Stetson skillfully balances his shriller, harsher pieces (“Like wolves on the fold”) against moments of airy serenity (“Spindrift”). With only six tracks, Stetson has the freedom to draw out his concepts to thrilling climaxes and demand the kind of patience and focus required by drone music. Few releases this year have been as experimental as All This I Do For Glory.
Pure Comedy by Father John Misty: If the purpose of a title track is to define its corresponding album, there’s no better title track than “Pure Comedy,” an emphatic lamentation of humanity’s descent into indecency. The comedy of Pure Comedy is largely gallows humor, a sordid affair that finds bittersweet beauty in life’s ironies. With his third album, Father John Misty reestablishes his place at the top of the contemporary indie folk scene; he knows what he does and he does it immaculately well.