The GILM Awards 2017 Favorite Music (Album)


EDIT: I completely misunderstood something and thought we were able to do multiple nominations per category. I feel happy with what I wrote about SZA, so i’m leaving it as an honorable mention for posterity, but I’m retracting that nomination and putting in:

Flower Boy by Tyler the Creator

When Garden Shed leaked and rumors went around about Tyler coming out, I didn’t know what to make of it. When queer lefty friends came to me and said “you have to listen to the new Tyler album!” I thought the sky had fallen.

For a long time, I loathed Tyler’s music. His first few releases were edge lord crap, throwing out slurs and rape jokes just to get a reaction. There was always that element in Odd Future, but I forgave it in other artists like Earl because they grew past it. For a long time, Tyler wallowed in that Eminem nonsense, and I just wrote him off. With Flower Boy, Tyler grew up and moved past the immature bullshit to give us something both heart wrenching and hype as fuck. November and 911/Mr. Lonely just about made me cry. Who Dat Boy is the anthem of the summer, and I will fight all yall saying Mask Off or I’m The One or whatever.

Growing up is tough. It’s even harder when your childhood is documented in a bunch of mixtapes that millions of strangers downloaded. But Tyler grew up and then some. There is a whole lot of good music this year (enough that I had this comic misunderstanding mentioned in the edit) but Flower Boy moved me because it was one of the best albums of the year despite the fact that I was sure it’d be the worst.

retracted SZA nomination


It’s going to take me a minute to get there so strap in. The tl;dr is that SZA made a great album. Beyond that, she made an album that stood out, despite a great deal of things that could have easily let it fade to the background.

TDE is the Golden State Warriors of rap. To an outsider who just knows one big name, Kendrick or Steph Curry or Kevin Durant, it is easy to assume that they’re the one true star. The reality is that TDE and the Warriors are astonishing because they have deep benches, and every single person on that bench is a star. Even Swaggy P and Lance Skiiwalker.

I think until very recently, it has been easy to ignore how deep the TDE bench is. Partly because Kendrick has been on an incredible hot streak, eating up the limelight, and partly because so many of their talents took some time to develop. Just about everyone on the label gets better with each release, and that pattern was just hard to see for some time.

I doubted that I would like CTRL at all. SZA had an EP from two or three years ago, and it just did nothing for me at all. There was one song on there, Sweet November, that I really liked, while the rest fell flat. I went into CTRL hoping that she had developed more songs like Sweet November and found a pleasant vibe. I came out of CTRL knowing that she had spent these years developing as a songwriter and vocalist and improving in ways I couldn’t possibly have foreseen. The songs on CTRL are influenced by Frank Ocean in that they resist pattern and structure, but still sound like good traditional R&B because of the smart production choices and her strong vocals. Her lyrics are authentic in a way that was hard for me to describe for a long time: her lyrics are like tweets. They mix brutal honesty about depression and anxiety with cryptic in jokes and they leave me with the impression that SZA wants you to understand most of what she’s saying but wants to keep some of it for herself in a way I relate to.

I’m going to do some more nominations tomorrow, and across those nominations one thing is going to become very clear – 2017 has been an astonishing year for R&B. This is coming off the heels of 2016, another astonishing year for R&B. CTRL could very easily be eclipsed by the considerable talent among SZA’s labelmates or the field of great stuff in the genre. For me, it very nearly was! I don’t think I took the time to appreciate how much I really loved this album until a friend sent me his best of the year list the other day. Now I’ve listened to it 3 times today and still have songs I want to marinate in and take more from. So yeah, it’s a long nomination, but all because I’ve felt very suddenly overwhelmed by how great this album is.


The Mountain Goats - Goths
TMG have been basically the quintessential “white dude with guitar” band for more than 20 years, so them coming out with an album with no guitars played (other than bass) in any songs was a shocker, and it being as extremely good as it is was even more surprising. It’s a huge departure from what they’ve done before, and yet every track still feels completely like a Mountain Goats song; it’s so different, yet so easy to see how they got to this new sound.


Man this album came out last friday but I can’t help but nominate Romaplasm by Baths.

Will Wiesenfeld has consistently been one of my favourite artists for about 6 years now. In my first year of uni, I fell into chillwave and (LA?) beats hard, and Cerulean hit me especially with production that sat at the crux of the two. Other artists I was obsessed with at the time have drifted in and out of rotation, but Baths almost never has.

I think the core thing about Baths is that everything is earnest. His songs aren’t just emotional, they’re emotions you feel powerfully, keenly, things to get swept up in. His songs hit a sweet-spot that just pulls me deep in to them, as well as often just being great pieces of production.

A lot has been said about Romaplasm as being a conscious reaction to the moodier vibes of his 2014 release Obsidian, so I won’t go over it too much again here. But it’s true; Wiesenfeld’s earlier releas this year as Geotic was warm in a slightly bittersweet way, and Romaplasm is much more bombastic. But it’s also not just a one-note record that wears you out, there’s nuance here too.

One of my absolutely favourite songs on the album is Human Bog, which mixes some of the aesthetic Baths used on the soundtrack to Bee & Puppycat with a weird glitchy beat. On top of it, Will sings like he’s playing a character from a victorian novel; “By day, positioning pearls on younger girls that couldn’t be bothered…”. It’s pained, but not pessimistic; it’s a song for sitting with your bad feelings, not hiding from them.

Anyway, I could ramble about this record forever. I love it and it deserves a listen!

Additional shoutouts to Biking by Frank Ocean, for being probably my favourite stand-alone song of the year.


Eluvium - Shuffle Drones

I really like the concept of this album. It’s made for digital playback as you are supposed to shuffle the songs and play them in a random order. Each “track” is 32 seconds long (except for the last 43 second piece) and it’s just 23 tracks, but because of the shuffling, the music evolves in all kinds of different ways. It’s not perfect, but it is a wonderful ambient album from one of my favorite ambient artists.


The Nashville Sound (album) by Jason Isbell

A nice, soothing Americana sound with meaningful lyrics and a refreshing leftist tone for an otherwise conservative-dominated genre of music ^^


Cult of Luna - Live at La Gaîté Lyrique
If you’ve never heard Cult of Luna before, the easiest way describe them is as a metal version of Sigur Ros. For my money, Live at… captures everything that makes them great, deceptively tight compositions, big, meaty riffs, wonderful post-rock guitar, some neat synth bits and what can only be described as one of the best “sounding” bands on the planet.
You can watch the the whole thing on youtube here: Cult of Luna: Years in a Day


Propagandhi - Victory Lap

While I mostly played games to chill out and de-stress from the rest of the world, I tended toward music that got me up in arms. Propagandhi has been a long-standing companion, and the title track off their latest album is a frickin’ barnburner. I’ve also got a lot of friends who have kids that are just perpetually worried about the world they’ve brought them into, so the final track is a touching send-up of exactly those anxieties is a nice way to close out the album.


Beauty and the Beast

Hello, I am basic and this soundtrack makes me cry.



It’s an album that feels like very much a response to Trump’s rise, but one that doesn’t let anger be its overriding theme. Joey seems to innately understand that for black Americans, Trump is more business-as-usual rather than unprecedented anomaly. Combine that with effortless flow and sick beats, the album is hands down one of my favorites this year.


I don’t know if this entirely counts, but John Carpenter - Anthology: Movie Themes.

John Carpenter’s remasters of the movie themes from 1974-1998, including Halloween, The Thing, and my favourite: Christine. They’re all fantastic remasters, and having an excuse to listen to these crisp new versions of the songs that inspire so much of the music I listen to now was a real treat.


EDIT: I’m going to go ahead and second Romaplasm as my album of the year - I held back before because it’s so new, but I see it stretching further than Rainbow, and having a broader appeal overall.

Kesha - Rainbow is my album of the year. It’s bright, optimistic, catchy, and just the right amount of indignant. I can return to this album whenever, wherever. From the total jam of “Let 'Em Talk” to anthems like “Praying” and “Rainbow,” and even the cheekier tracks like “Godzilla,” I just can’t stop grinning ear to ear while listening. Kesha is an old favorite, but my pop habit has been revitalized by Rainbow and I love it.


Nomination: Gord Downie - Introduce Yerself

His fifth and final solo album will always be tied to his death (the album released just 10 days after), but that’s not entirely unfair. Introduce Yerself is an incredibly personal album, a self reflection on a life lived by the greatest musician Canada has ever produced.

In my life of get and get
I’ve got more than most and yet…

Top notch.


A Black Mile to the Surface by Manchester Orchestra

I love MO but this is their best album by miles, the lyrical storytelling woven in with personal stuff, the mix of slow, acoustic tender love songs (the maze, the parts) and crashing guitars/drums (the wolf, the moth) its all beautiful!

Fave tracks: The Maze, The Grocery


When you realize you can’t really contribute to the conversation because you’re a nerd who hasn’t been keeping up with new music this year
hi there friend


The Smith Street Band - More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me

Is one of the records I’ve most self-identified with in a long time, with songs about scene drama, getting older and realizing all of your friends are kinda awful but you’re trying to be better, finding inspiration, and talking to people about your feelings and problems. All of that with a really solid, amazing melodic background.

There were a few other releases this year that I really enjoyed, but TSSB really got me good.


Ulver have long since abandoned metal. What used to be a mid-90’s Norwegian black metal band have gone on a musical journey unlike any other. Their 15th album, The Assassination of Julius Caesar continues their trend of releasing an album unlike anything else in their discography. A dark synthpop album that’s one part Tears for Fears, one part ancient roman history mythology influence, and a whole bunch of Ulver weird with Garm’s GORGEOUS vocals taking the centre stage for the first album of theirs in a while. It’s a self-proclaimed ‘Caesarean banquet’.

It’s everything I want in an album and there’s a reason why Ulver are my all time favourite band. The provided track is worth listening to just to see why I adore everything about Garm’s vocals.

Ulver - The Assassination of Julius Caesar


Currently listening to the new Tyler the Creator and damn is it some good stuff!

But my record of the year is Narkopop by Gas. It’s a followup to this classic 2000 album Pop, and a return that I hold in the same level of triumph as My Bloody Valentine’s mbv. Narkopop takes the ambient techno style of Pop and expands it to a much more emotional and cinematic tone than its predecessor. I couldn’t believe engaging it was listening to it.

The most brilliant ambient music is described as as ignorable as it is interesting and that is what Gas music is, even moreso with Narkopop!


Nomination - Lorde - Melodrama

Poptimism’s a weird thing. While it’s a growing critical movement, most of the pop albums appraised by this movement are throwbacks. While Lorde isn’t above a homage here and there (the In The Air Tonight drums in the start of Loveless in particular), this album is richly modern. It’s an emotional journey of intense hedonistic rushes (Green Light, Homemade Dynamite), introspective moodiness (Sober, The Louvre), and tragic melodrama (the title track, Liability, Writer in the Dark), and ultimately acceptance of life as a bittersweet joy (Perfect Places). Yet, all this occurs in the concept in one night. Career-best Jack Antonoff production (where the fuck was this Jack in Reputation?) and smooth vocals allow this rich concept to reach its fulfillment, and this album to become an instant classic.


I will go ahead and throw my nomination in for SZA - Ctrl. Above, all this album has gotten the most play from me this year, I find it comforting whether I need to relax, focus, or get pumped, this album can do it for me.


I gotta throw Perturbator - New Model into the ring.

I don’t listen to a whole lot of non-game OST music, and when I do, it’s often old favorites, or hits from a year or two ago, but one album was actually from this year!

I really enjoy the way they Synth wave. I’d probably uhh… normally list them under “potentially problematic likes” if someone was going to look at a bunch of their album/promo art/video/etc. but - for moody, retro soundscapes, with a mix of melodic/beat focus synth 80’s style dance/electronic music… I didn’t hear something I liked better this year. Closest being Carpenter Brut, but I think New Model has 'em beat on variation with what comes off as almost narrative, instead of dance floor tracks. (What they lack in consistency I think they make up for in intrigue. (But also really enjoyed both this year.))
(I’ve now written this five times, going back and fourth on which to actually nominate, fully aware neither will be in the voting round. Basically comes down to - Brut is far more consistent track by track, where some of the leaps made in New Model don’t… entirely work? But if I had to pick half an hour of music to listen to all year, that’s New Model.)