Review

2017 In Review: Day 14 – Album Of The Year

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2017 In Review

1. Prelude (Best Album Art)
2. R&B and Soul
3. Rock and Alternative
4. Rap and Hip-hop
5. Dance and Electronic
6. Pop and Ballad
7. Folk and Country
8. Jazz and Blues
9. Crossover and Other
10. Best Collaborative Work
11. Rookie Artist of the Year
12. Artist of the Year
13. Song of the Year
14. Album of the Year
15. Other Recognition
16. Concluding Remarks

We wrap up the general categories today with what I consider to be the most important distinction – the Albums of the Year. We may be living in the era of digital singles, but nothing beats sitting down with a proper, coherent, fleshed-out LP (or EP, in two cases below). The following painstaking labors of love offered some of 2017’s best experiences in that regard.

Again, no honorable mentions today. Also note that the “First Ten Out” have a rank ordering today, unlike the other categories.

Album of the Year 2017

Sister’s Barbershop – 홀로 있는 사람들 (People Who Stay Alone)

Produced by Sister’s Barbershop

Sister’s Barbershop is dutiful and matter-of-fact in its sixth and parting album, in presenting People Who Stay Alone‘s stories of loneliness, insecurity, and sorrow. Lee Suk-won’s lyrics are uniquely empathetic, written in a style that often seems to cry out to a void rather than to someone in particular, even when there is an addressee. Through regrets and resolutions (kept or not), these narrators live on the best that they can. Lee Suk-won and Lee Neung-ryong are nimble in adapting their characteristically inventive-yet-accessible melodies to different sound sets; the result is a panel of striking songs, like the danceable yet inexplicably melancholy (and our Best Rock Song 2017) “Shake Your Body Move Your Mind” and its friends, or the ponderously swinging “Sun Shines Over the Window”. At the end of the journey, in quietly bright synth-pop “People Who Stay Alone”, Lee wryly admits disillusion at life (“I’m not the person this world wanted / But this world isn’t the place I wanted, either”) and in a person (“All my dreams towards you broken, and I was left again”). But after all that, he reaches back out to the person, wanting to sing a song together for as long as they can. In the final track “Dancing Alone”, the wish is followed by an earnest vision of a day when “everyone can shake their bodies, sing, dance together”. It’s hope, then, answering the album’s solitude; hope, that completes the 23-year career of one of the greats of indie.

Runner-up Album of the Year 2017

Han Seung-seok & Jung Jaeil – 끝내 바다에 (And There, the Sea at Last)

Composed by Han Seung-seok and Jung Jaeil; arranged by Jung Jaeil; written by Han Seung-seok, Oh Joo-seok, Sa Sung-ku, Won Gi-joong

Following the pansori-crossed-with-orchestra experiment of 2014’s Bari, Abandoned, the Han and Jung duo teamed up again for seven ambitious epics in The Sea at Last. Where Bari was allegorical, this one is earthy and grounded: there’s no central narrative, but rather a theme of a better world, and Han pens a series of lyrics that illustrate and dream and celebrate, drawing rich inspiration from historical literature and modern poetry. There’s classic pansori in here, as well as jarring mashups like “Morning Convenience Store” where vignettes of laborers are told in unflinching, hyperrealistic detail, and an in-between space where both archaic and contemporary language coincide. All this then comes to life through the poignant and stirring arrangements of Jung. The heavenly vision of “The World Through Love” is realized in the sweeping strings of the Budapest Film Orchestra, while a brass groove and traditional Korean instruments form a raucous peanut gallery for the public trial of money in “Money Song” before its touching twist. By the time it reaches a colossal climax in our Best Crossover Song 2017, the album has blended sound and story into one, able to capture beauty, searing power, and enduring grace.

The First Ten Out

3. Youn Sun Nah – She Moves On

Produced and performed by Youn Sun Nah, Jamie Saft, Brad Jones, Dan Rieser, and Marc Ribot; additional composing and writing credits to Vanessa Saft, Sangmi Kim, and Sterling Fox; additional performing credits to Maxim Moston, Antoine Silverman, Hiroko Taguchi, and Anja Wood

4. Doe Jaemyoung – 토성의 영향 아래 (Under the Sign of Saturn)

Produced by Doe Jaeymyoung; additional arrangement credits to Oh Hye-seok; additional performing credits to Lee Ja Ram, Jung Cha-sik and Nam Sang-ah

5. Dhani Song – Songs for an Afterlife

Produced by Dhani Song and Jung Joong-yeop; additional arrangement credits to Kim Hae-won, Kim Ho-yoon, and Kim Eun-jung; additional performing credit to Chichi

6. TakeOne – 녹색이념 (Green Ideology)

Produced by TakeOne; additional production and performing credits to Pleyn, Duplex G, Taylor, BrotherSu, Jay Kidman, Vida Loca, DCLAT, Lil Boi, Cheska, Stella Jang, Gray, ELO, Yella D, MC Meta, Loco, MC Sniper, Big Pie, and Dakshood

yi sung-yol

7. Yi Sung-yol – 요새드림요새 (Yosedreamyose)

Produced by Yi Sung-yol

8. Kim Oki – 피스투아우어솔 (Peace To Our Soul)

Produced by Kim Oki; performed by Kim Oki, Lee Gyu-jae, Brian Shin, Chin Soo-young, Kim Tae-hun, Jeon Je-kon, Choi Gyu-chul, and Ejo; technical credits to Min Sang-young

9. Yeseo – Million Things

Produced by Yeseo; technical credits to Imlay and Boymod

10. Kim Yoon-ah – 타인의 고통 (The Pain of Others)

Produced by Kim Yoon-ah; additional production credits to Ahn Joon-young, Kim Hong-jip, and Park In-young; performed by Kim Yoon-ah, Ahn Joon-young, Choi Ji-hoon, Choi Eun-chang, Gu Bonam, Lee Sun-gyu, Jung Soo-wook, Hong Joon-ho, Yeom Sung-gil, LA String Ensemble; technical credits to Metropolis, Koko Sound Studio, Studio-T, Brickwall Sound, The Village Studios, and Prelude Studio personnel

11. Dok2 – Reborn

Produced by Dok2 and GroovyRoom; additional writing and performing credits to Beenzino, Changmo, Keem Hyoeun, Hash Swan, The Quiett, Cho Won-sun, Bryan Chase, Jay Park, Superbee, Lee Hi, B-Free, and Okasian; additional arrangement credit to Krissi O

12. Code Kunst – Muggles’ Mansion

Produced by Code Kunst; additional production and performing credits to Nucksal, Cjamm, G.Soul, Tablo, Loco, Mino, Justhis, Loopy, Punchnello, Ugly Duck, Jayho, Lee Hi, Ohhyuk, BewhY, YDG, Suran, Hwaji, and Car the Garden; additional composition credits to Chancellor and Cream; additional arrangement credit to Colde


Sources: album art and Sister’s Barbershop header image from Bugs Music

Read our past series:

2016 In Review

2015 in Review

2014 in Review

2013 in Review

2012 in Review

 

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