From trendsetting experimentation in the electronic scene and indie rock, to lo-fi bubbly tunes, 2017 brought out the best in cutting edge alternative. These are my top five picks of the year, bringing an eclectic listening experience from around the world, in no particular order.
Buscabulla, meaning Spanish slang for troublemaker, is an experimental Puerto Rican duo whose music chimes in your ears like waves of groovy self-discovery. Their style is a mix of chillwave, R&B, Latin, funk, pop, and electronic influences with a heavy focus on percussion in most of their songs. In January 2017, they released their second EP featuring four songs, called EP II. Their music aesthetic sings of free form living that connects the listener to their roots in the first minute, even if the language is different from one’s own. Buscabulla is made up of Raquel Berrios and Luis Alfredo Del Valle, a couple who now live in Brooklyn, New York as èmigrès. Not only are they a dynamic musical duo, but also are supporting Puerto Rican independent musicians and artists struggling after Hurricane Maria through primafund.org. The recommended song to start with on EP II is Frio, featuring Helado Negro.
Tinariwen, meaning “empty places”, is a Tuareg group taking the traditional branch of Malian music to the new level, with incorporations of beautiful fingerstyle guitar riffs and percussive journeys throughout. They’re experimental style almost delves on the edge of a surf-grunge rock band underneath influences of Malian music. The band has released eight albums since 2001, with Elwan being their newest release of 2017.
The band originated from the southern Sahara, forming in Tamanrasset, Algeria in 1979, but was forced to return to Mali to serve involuntary military service. They termed their style as “Tishoumaren”, meaning “the music of the unemployed”, due to their nomadic lifestyle. Their music expresses issues of politics, exile, oppression of their people, and cries of independence.
The recommended song to start with off Elwan is Tiwàyyen.
They don’t identify with gender-izing their genre, because they’re lo-fi grunge should say it all; and sticks it to the haters every time. Carlotta Cosials, Ana García Perrote, Ade Martín and Amber Grimbergen are the girl crushes of 2017.
Daughter of singer Aminata Diakitè, Oumou Sangare is a Malian Wassoulou artist who is an internationally renowned, Grammy Award winning musician. Not only does she create beautiful music, but is also a business pioneer and activist for women’s rights in Mali and throughout Africa. She was born in Bamako, and started as a singer hired for weddings and other events with her mother, but began singing on her own professionally by age 13. She has performed in tours and festivals all around the world since the 90’s, but has since signed a deal with a French indie label called Nø Format in 2016. Her music breathes passion among woman’s rights, the world of love, and marriage equality.
Oumou Sangare’s newest album released in 2017 called Mogoya sticks to her traditional roots, but brings a fresh sound into her soul awakening style. It experiments with electroacoustic qualities underlying the Wassoulou percussion and melodies.
The top pick to listen to off her Mogoya album is Kounkoun.
AJ Tracey, or Chè Grant, is a 23-year old rapper from Ladbroke Grove, West London who is new on the streets of UK grime. His style is classic with influences of international rappers and melodies of trance electronic undertones. Don’t let the trance fool you, however, as he spits rhymes with an unforgiving force. His fifth EP was released in October of 2017, Secure the Bag!, and hit number 13 on the UK albums chart. He has received two MOBO nominations, and is working with popular North American rappers such as Denzel Curry, Rick Ross, and A$AP Rocky. He was listed by the Guardian as a “best new act to catch at festivals in 2016”, was pegged by MTV as an artist to watch, and was featured on the BBC Sound Poll.
The song of his new album Secure the Bag! Is Shisha.