SB’s End-of-Year panels finally wraps up with the much anticipated album of the year list. In part one, we covered 2017’s best mini-albums which was a list full of variety with a selection of different genres and artists. Now in the final part of the series, Lo, Quian, and Abigail are back to discuss the best albums of 2017 that made the biggest impression in a year full of worthy and admirable releases.
|1||Epik High – We’ve Done Something Wonderful||Epik High – We’ve Done Something Wonderful
BeWhy – The Blind Star
|IU – Palette|
|2||Taeyang – White Night||Day6 – Moonrise||Hyukoh – 23|
|3||Day6 – Moonrise||Red Velvet – Perfect Velvet||Red Velvet – Perfect Velvet|
Abigail: Looking at each list, I’m curious to know why you both decided to choose Day6‘s Moonrise as one of the top albums of the year? Honestly, Day6 have never brought anything exciting to the table to make me want to give each release they had this year a repeated listen. I think this problem mostly stems from the fact that Day6 tend to gravitate towards the pop-rock genre which can be a straight hit or miss for my taste.
However, a band that really had me floored this year was Hyukoh with their debut album, 23. It’s an album that I quickly devoured because of the beautiful versatility of the instrumentations and their melancholic yet relatable lyrics, most profoundly on tracks like “Die Alone” and their somber single, “Tomboy.” Yet, this album had more to offer than quiet and tender slow songs. Tracks like “Wali” and “Leather Jacket” prove that Hyukoh can take on much rougher and edge cutting sounds while still implementing their uniquely styled vibe that made them break out stars in 2015 with their hit “Comes and Goes”. If it hadn’t been for IU‘s gorgeous and extremely well-produced album, Palette, Hyukoh would have undoubtedly stolen the top spot on my list.
Lo: Palette is certainly a wonderful album– in fact, it was my number 3 pick until I heard Moonrise— but it was so delicate and precisely produced that it left me feeling a bit cold. Moonrise, on the other hand, immediately struck me as something I’d heard before; warm and familiar despite Day6 never really making much of an impact on me. It pulls you in and keeps you engaged as Day6 plays genre roulette, hopping from ballads to rock to funk, retaining cohesiveness due to the melancholy, bittersweet undertones that run through the entire thing. Yet Moonrise never hits sad. Instead, it comes off as closure; making peace with an ending so you can move forward.
Lo: Perfect Velvet was certainly solid, and I enjoyed the return of the velvet, but White Night by Taeyang blew me away. On paper, this is not an album I would like. It’s very sparse and stripped down, full of midtempo ballads, the production is split between R&B and trend-following EDM, and to top it off, White Night is only 7 tracks long, plus an intro. No lie, I heard EPs longer than White Night. And yet, it knocked my socks off. And my shirt. And possibly my pants.
It wasn’t until a few repeated listens that I ditched the comparisons, and finally appreciated the album for what it was. Tablo as much as told us, on his verse in “People Scare Me”, that these songs were full of scars, scars received from personal hardships. Relatable stories of heartbreak, regret, loneliness, and nostalgia are skilfully weaved between glances back to Epik High’s entire career. Throughout all the bleakness, however, Epik High keeps on going, and that’s when you realize what they meant by titling it We’ve Done Something Wonderful: the wonderful thing we have done is to keep on living through all of these hardships, and to always try finding the silver lining in life.
Abigail: Epik High’s Shoebox is an album that has stuck with me ever since its marvelous release back in 2014 and even now as I go back to indulge myself in such a masterpiece of an album, I am able to feel the same waves of emotions as I did at first listen. But after the release of We’ve Done Something Wonderful, I shared the same sentiment as Qian in that I came out of Epik High’s new project feeling dissatisfied and disappointed. Although with repeated listens and careful analyzation of the lyrics I was able to appreciate and on some level enjoy the group’s message of life struggles and personal hardship, especially on deep cuts like “Bleed,” it was never enough to conjure the same personal and deeply emotional connection that I had with Shoebox.
Although my dissatisfaction with Epik High’s release was unexpected, especially since I’ve always been a big fan, the album that did hit all my expectations was IU’s Palette. True to its name, Palette musically conveys an array of different moods and emotions that somehow parallels how polarizing this year has been. IU masterfully perfects the chic and contemporary in tracks like “Dlwlrma” and “Palette” while manifesting deep feelings of love and loss in “Through the Night.” The album’s production is coated with fresh melodies that are truly able to shine through IU’s vocals and the flawlessness of the album’s instrumentation. Palette rightfully deserved album of the year and it’s truly satisfying seeing IU get the recognition that she has long been overlooked for especially as one of South Korea’s most successful female solo artists.
Lo: Like you Qian, We’ve Done Something Wonderful was not what I was expecting. Unlike you, though, I fell in love at first note. Epik High has always had a bitter, melancholic undertone to even their brightest work, and it’s one of my favorite things about them. We’ve Done Something Wonderful lives in that undertone, in those times when pretending your world isn’t burning around you is no longer an option. It’s very tempered and deliberate, pulling back on the production and putting the vocals at the front of the mix, leaving the listener with no place to hide from what Epik High is saying.