Top Albums of 2017: The Final List

Every year the music supervision team at PlayNetwork review thousands upon thousands of songs trying to find the perfect tracks that resonate with the many brands we partner with. While many of us don’t adhere to the genre phenomenon, our motto is always “If the sound fits, hit PLAY.” In 2017 over 8,000+ albums/EPs/compilations made it into our extensive library and as is tradition, we are tasked to name our top albums of the year. Just from the music team alone, there were over 150 distinguished albums that made the list, an astonishing number that speaks volumes on how diverse our team truly is.

Without further ado, we give you our top 20 albums of 2017

1. Kendrick Lamar – Damn (Interscope) 2. SZA – Ctrl (RCA) 3. Mura Masa – Mura Masa (Polydor Ltd.) 4. Kelela – Take Me Apart (Warp) 5. The xx – I See You (Young Turks) 6. Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy (Columbia) 7. Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound (Southeastern) 8. Benjamin Booker – Witness (ATO) 9. Cut Copy – Haiku From Zero (Astralwerks) 10. Dan Auerbach – Waiting On A Song (Nonesuch) 11. Four Tet – New Energy (Text) 12.

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Top Albums of 2017: Take Me Apart

The music supervision team at PlayNetwork saw over 6700+ albums, EPs and compilations added to our extensive music library in 2017. With so much amazing music to pick from, our Music Supervision team finally narrowed down their top 10 albums of the year.

Continuing our theme of top album write ups, we’ve enlisted Music Supervisor Alex Ruder who has over 15 years’ experience in the music industry. Besides his work here at PlayNetwork curating music for brands, you can find Alex hosting variety and electronic on-air shows at KEXP or mixing it up behind the decks in nightclubs around Seattle. If that’s not enough, he also runs his electronic label Hush Hush records. Alex writes on why the new Kelela release was one of his favorites of 2017.

Artist: Kelela

Album: Take Me Apart

Twitter: @kelelam

Track: LMK

It was five years ago when I first heard the stunning voice of Kelela Mizanekristos. She appeared on arguably Teengirl Fantasy’s best song ever, “EFX,” from their 2012 album Tracer. A year later, her name popped up once again,

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Top Albums of 2017: Slowdive

The music supervision team at PlayNetwork saw over 6700+ albums, EPs and compilations added to our extensive music library in 2017. With so much amazing music to pick from, our Music Supervision team finally narrowed down their top 10 albums of the year.

To get things started we have enlisted one of our seasoned Musics Supervisors, Alex Espinosa, who has been curating music for clients all over the world for over 20 years. Alex tells you exactly why Slowdive is his favorite album of 2017.

Artist: Slowdive

Album: slowdive

Twitter: @slowdiveband

Track: Star Roving

Shoegaze is a term that originated in the early 90s in London that typically means hearing distorted layered guitar sounds behind ethereal vocals. Many classic bands such as Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine have come out of this era but one that stands out for me is Berkshire natives Slowdive. It was during the release of their debut album Just for a day (1991) produced by legendary Alan McGee, that had shared vocal duties by Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell that grabbed my attention during my college years.

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Music Discovery: September 2017

This month’s music discovery comes to you from one our seasoned Music Supervisors, Alex Espinosa, who has worked in this business for over 25 years. As always, our September BrandRadio playlist has been handpicked by our entire music team to set your playlist in the right direction with some new music discovery.


Music has always been about diversity for me–not caring about color or religion when it comes to the music. My personal opinion has always been, “If it sounds great, who cares who sings it.” With today’s political climate and a them vs. us mentality, I’m happy that music still has that universal feel to it where everyone can just enjoy good tunes.

Below is a list of songs from 2017 that I feel embodies undividedness where it’s the music that really matters.

Artist: Bomba Estereo

Twitter: Bomba Estereo

Track: Ayo

This Colombian band has been making their steady climb since performing at SXSW back in 2009. Since then, they have been nominated for 3 Grammys, performed a song with Will Smith and have won many admirers with their live performances,

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12 Days of Music: A Review of Shura’s Album Nothing’s Real

Artist: Shura

Album: Nothing’s Real – Polydor 2016

Follow: Facebook, Twitter

The alias of British artist Aleksandra Lilah Denton, Shura first emerged in 2014 with the immediately arresting song “Touch,” the first in a string of singles that confidently introduced her sultry 80s-steeped R&B/pop sound. Last year she unveiled a few more stellar singles, appeared on an excellent single from fellow up-and-coming UK talent Mura Masa, and anticipation for her debut album consequently increased to a fever pitch. Fortunately, her debut album Nothing’s Real delivers on the promise of those early singles, yielding one of my favorite pop albums of 2016. Stacked with all of her prior standout singles and seamlessly sequenced to paint a full, cinematic, and expansive sonic landscape in just under an hour, Shura’s first full-length album offers a mature yet playful spin on the nostalgic and romantic tropes of 80s pop with a slick, refreshing, contemporary R&B touch.

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12 Days of Music: An Overview & Review of Radiohead’s A Moon Shape Pool

As we inch closer to the new year, we reflect on everything that has happened in the music industry in 2016.

This year has been marked with many heartaches, with the passing of some of our legendary musicians like David Bowie, Prince, Sharon Jones and Leonard Cohen to name a few. But, there have also been some bright spots in the music world with so many amazing releases and new artists emerging.

At PlayNetwork, our music supervision team stays on top of the current trends in music, and work to program these new releases and artists in our branded playlists. As our holiday gift to you, we present our 12 Days of Music, a collection of album reviews from our music supervisors highlighting their favorite albums of 2016.  You may not find many of these on year end charts, but these albums are earworms that you should discover sooner rather than later.


To kick it off, I would like to share with you my favorite album of the year.

Artist: Radiohead

Album: A Moon Shape Pool – XL 2016

Follow: Facebook,

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Music Discovery: September 2016

With the summer months coming to an end and fall just around the corner, we’ve created a list of songs that our talented group of Music Supervisors have been listening to lately, be it spinning these tunes DJ’ing at clubs, relaxing at home while finding that next un-discovered artist, or curating these selections for the many clients we program for around the globe. One of our seasoned music supervisors, Alex Espinosa, has selected a few of his favorites below that will take you on a journey where the sun starts to fade and the cold nights get longer.


Artist: Rob Crow

Twitter: @rob5d4

Track: Business Interruptus

Besides being from my hometown of San Diego and seeing his previous band, Pinkback, numerous times, Rob Crow’s solo efforts never seems to amaze me with how current he tends to be with his indie sounds of using heavy bass and amazing melodies. With his current band called, Gloomy Place, and the single “Business Interruptus” this trend still exist. Local San Diego club, The Casbah, which was my home away from home in the early 90s makes an appearance in the accompanied video below as well.

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Music Discovery: April 2016

Check out what our music supervisors are listening to this month in our Music Discovery playlist for April. Also featured are some great songs to help lift your spirits into spring, hand picked by Alex Ruder, one of our music supervisors.


Following months of constant rain, grey days, and early sunsets here in the Pacific Northwest, I welcome the transition into spring with wide open arms. Time to finally roll the car windows down and jam out to some feel-good music. While I’d still bump these tracks year-round, these 5 new tracks are all sounding especially nice in the sunshine.


Artist: The Range

Twitter: @therangejames

Track: Florida

The Range is the alias of Brooklyn-via-Providence electronic producer James Hinton. He’s been bubbling up from the underground over the last five years with standout releases on fantastic incubator labels such as Astro Nautico and Donky Pitch. His new sophomore album Potential marks his first release on Domino Records, a major look for an artist largely making beats out of his bedroom. His new record is based around samples he discovered while going down YouTube rabbit holes,

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Featured Artist: TW Walsh

As a music lover of all things new and fresh, I was checking out the many music blogs and stumbled upon the track “Young Rebels” by TW Walsh.  After the first deep bass drum kicks of the song, I was hooked.  With the mixture of synth sounds and keyboard swashes, this track by Massachusetts born Timothy William Walsh has a retro 80s feel to it that is popular with today’s indie crowd looking for something that stands out from the norm.  “Young Rebels” actually reminds me of my youth when I was really into Gary Numan and The Cars.

Working as a songwriter, producer and engineer, TW had his hands on different projects before joining Seattle Indie band, Pedro The Lion back in 2003.  He has since provided production assistance from anyone from Sufjan Stevens to Crystal Skulls.  After spending 18 months with a mysterious illness he attributed to insomnia and bad dieting, TW Walsh got into Eastern Mysticism which had him thinking of ways of bringing classic music production techniques into today’s modern technology.

This is noticeable on his latest release Fruitless Research out now on indie label, Graveface Records with a collaboration in production duties with Yuuki Matthews who also has worked with Crystal Skulls as well as The Shins.

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Music Discovery: Music Supervisors Top Picks of 2015

Every year, our Music Supervisors, who range from DJs to label owners, dive through hundreds of albums and thousands of songs to find perfect and unique songs that will fit seamlessly into the audio strategies for our brands. After many years of curating playlists myself, I’ve come to realize that our clients just want one thing: to stand out from the droves of other brands by sharing songs that pique the interest of their customers. Now that the end of the year is upon us, we’ve put our artistic audiophile brains together to come up with some standouts in music discovery, some of which you’ve heard already playing at your local coffeehouse or fashion boutique and some you’ve never heard before.

Artist: Wild Ones

Twitter: @wildonestheband

Track: Dim The Lights

Portland based band ‘Wild Ones’ starts us off with a track that made topped many of our Music Supervisor’s lists of their favorite songs of the year. Daniel Sullivan’s gritty voice sounds like she’s walking the streets under the dim lights of Manhattan–and we have found this track fits nicely with many of our brand’s sonic strategies.

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Featured Artist: Natalia LaFourcade

Artist: Natalia LaFourcade

Twitter: @lafourcade

Track: Hasta La Raiz


Mexican born Natalia LaFourcade has been making music since the late 90’s when she was part of the trio girl band called ‘Twist’. She then decided to go solo at the tender age of 17 releasing her first album in 2003 simply titled Natalia LaFourcade. She has since released 4 other albums, but her biggest breakthrough came with her much acclaimed and personal album to date ‘Hasta La Raiz’ that garnered 6 Latin Grammy nominations and 5 wins including Record of the Year, and Song of the Year for her song ‘Hasta La Raiz’ off the same album. Look for more to come from this amazing singer song-writer from Veracruz.

Other tracks from Natalia LaFourcade

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Music Discovery: August 2015

August may signal the end of summer to some, but for our music supervisors, August is a time for upbeat and cool music that contrasts these long hot days. Among the songs selected by the Global Music Supervision team, four songs have been featured as quintessential summer jams by Music Supervisor, Alex Espinosa.  Check out the playlist, featuring songs from Waster, U R, World Beneath The Sea and Railway Lines.

WIN WIN – “Waster” My first selection comes by New York band WIN WIN. Their song Waster was an exciting fine by way of shopping for music at Amoeba record store while on a business trip. With its buzz worthy chorus, off centered guitar riffs and the not so subtle hand clapping has this track, off of their latest release ‘Primaries’ as a standout for me.

Beach Baby – “U R” My next selection is from the English band Beach Baby. With its shoegaze sound and laid back beach feel, their new single U R reminds me of the days of skipping school to go surfing with best friends. Look for them to tour stateside in the coming fall.

Brave Shores – “World Beneath The Sea” World Beneath The Sea by Canadian brother and sister act Brave Shores entranced my musical senses with their drum loops and synths sounds.

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Latin Alternative Music Conference 2014 – Alex’s Recap

Alex Espinosa is a Music Supervisor at PlayNetwork with over 16 years of experience working directly with brands around the world.  Though he’s worked in radio in the past, his passion lies in creating music experiences for his clients.  Alex has created the soundtracks for brands ranging from Taco Cabana and On The Border to Godiva and Nautica.

Quinceañera’s are usually reserved for Latina girls celebrating ones 15th birthday.   With the Latin Alternative Music Conference (or LAMC for short) now celebrating their 15th anniversary, this was a celebration of music and how far this conference, held in NYC, has come.  I’ve been attending LAMC for 10 years and was asked to speak on a panel aptly titled, “What Actually Moves the Needle?”.  What’s great about LAMC are the hungry musicians and fans from all over Latin America who attend and  listening to the pulse of what’s happening in world of Latin Alternative music.  One of the reasons why this conference means so much to me is not because of my love for Latin music and discovering new bands, but because it makes me hopeful for where this genre is going.

Day 1:

First up was French/Chilean Hip Hop artist Ana Tijoux playing at the Central Park Summer Stage.

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Cinco de Mayo!

Cinco de Mayo…5th of May…what does this mean? To me, when I was a child, I just saw my family drinking margaritas and cervezas and having a good time on this date every year. I also thought this was Mexico’s Independence Day for many years, but it’s not. This date is actually important to the United States as well; and no, I’m not drinking right now. You see, Cinco de Mayo is the date when Mexican troops stormed and defeated Napoleon’s French invading army in the battle of Puebla on May 5th, 1862.  Napoleon III and France wanted to invade and defeat Mexico so they could get to the vulnerable United States who was already weak from its own Civil War.

So now you say “Where does the music come into play?” Here is the best part. After Mexico defeated the French, many Mexican rancheros that fought in the war brought out their acoustic guitars and started singing and playing festive songs in a style that would later be known as Mariachi. For our clients on this holiday we’ve developed a Cinco de Mayo program that has a bit of everything that is festive from Mariachi, Rancheras, Cumbias,

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A (Tour) Van Down By The River

Doing the tour thing from coast to coast in a van is a way of paying your dues in the music world of rock-n-roll.  Everyone from Elvis to the Rolling Stones has done it and I’m sure countless of musicians will continue the tradition in the future.  I remember in my early twenties riding along with a friend’s band doing the California stretch in a week playing in five towns and taking turns behind their trusted van only to stop for food, beer and the occasional bathroom stop (in my case, we used the old milk gallon trick).  Paste magazine has posted an article where nine bands ranging from Maps & Atlases to Cursive tell their stories of the joy on touring in a VAN!!!

Alex Espinosa – Associate Music Supervisor PlayNetwork

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Making An Impact At SXSW

With SXSW happening but once a year, flocks of musicians and bands make their trek to Austin, Texas for the one-off chance of making an impact on the thousands in attendance.  Once such act; La Vida Boheme who hails from Caracas, Venezuela made that impact at this year’s SXSW music festival two weeks ago.  Being dubbed as the next big thing in the Rock En Espanol movement with influences ranging from 80’s punk to Electronic Dance music, La Vida Boheme tore through their set at The Parish dressed all in white with blue and green paint splattered all over them.  Their latest release “Nuestra” on Nacional Records, received two Latin Grammy nominations for best rock album as well as one for best rock song for “Radio Capital”. Led by singer Henry D’Anthenay, these guys are making people take notice not only for their eclectic shows but also as a staying powerhouse in Latin music.  NPR Music put out their “Possibly Life-Changing Music Discoveries from SXSW 2012” and La Vida Boheme made that list with flying colors, no pun intended.


Alex Espinosa – Associate Music Supervisor PlayNetwork

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Latin Music Discovery

Here’s a name to share with you: ‘Mati Zundel”. This artist from Buenos Aires, Argentina is on the ZZK label, who are starting to release intriguing new Latin releases that are based on Cumbia, Urbano and Electronica dub beats.  With Mati’s new release titled “Amazonico Gravitante”, the elements he mixes are something that are not normal in the Latin world; he mixes Cumbia, Urbano, Electronica and Latin Folk to create an artisanal sound that will hopefully have other’s following in his steps.

Here’s a video of the new single “Señor Montecostes”…disfruta!


Alex Espinosa, Associate Music Supervisor PlayNetwork

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Coachella – a look back (and ahead)

  Every year around April, masses of music lovers from around the globe attend this 3-day festival which has grown immensely since its inception in 1999.  With over 25,000 people attending the inaugural event that had headliners Beck and Rage Against The Machine, this festival is now a haven for the up and coming artist, established acts or the ever recurrence of bands reuniting for that one off show for the festival.

Indio, CA and its surrounding neighbors of Palm Desert and Palm Springs has always been a location where retirees go to and relax in their Bermuda shorts and black socks or play some leisurely golf.  Since 1999 though, the Empire Polo Grounds, which is this huge oasis of irrigated lawn right smack in the middle of Indio has been the sight of the Coachella Music Festival (back then being called just Coachella).

With acts ranging from Roger Waters to Thievery Corporation, you’ll get everything here via the many music tents and stages situated all around the grounds.  In one tent, you may get M.I.A. performing to a hip hop crowd and then in another tent, you may here a spoken word performance by the legendary Leonard Cohen. 

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Remembering Etta James

Ladies and Gentlemen, Ms. Etta James

The Legendary Etta James

“At Last” is a song that will always remain buried in my memory as a song that not only makes me feel relaxed but also reminds me of my mother as I was growing up.  You see, before I knew who the Stones or the Beatles were, I would hear this song play on my mother’s old Crosley record player during the holidays and always knew she was baking cookies.

Miss Peaches or better known as Etta James has that effect on people. Back in 2000 Rolling Stone Magazine ranked her #62 in their list of 100 greatest artist of all time.  With her bluesy voice with a touch of gospel elements as well as her influence on so many singer/songwriters, she should be rated much better than #62.  She was loved by many and worshiped by others and her voice will live on forever.  Ms. Etta James passed away on January 20, 2012 at the tender age of 73.


Alex Espinosa – Music Coordinator PlayNetwork

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Who Said Don’t Look Back? More ‘Best In Music’ From 2011

Happy New Year world! We continue our look back at 2011 in music…

Alex Espinosa, our newest member on the Music Services team, gives us a look at his favorite albums from 2011 which includes a few Latin artists you may not have heard of. Disfruten!

The Black Keys – El Camino (Nonesuch) For having just two members as their core, this blues rock band from Akron, Ohio put the crunch in dirty blues rock.  Their seventh release titled “El Camino” was such a surprise to me from the start that I couldn’t wait until I heard every track.  With the first single “Lonely Boy” that has this guitar riff and analog synth sound at the start; I immediately wanted more.  El Camino delivers especially with my favorite on the album “Run Right Back”.  This song has not only sex appeal but that dirty, kick the dirt type of sound that gives the Keys a swagger like the days of Bowie and T-Rex. Listen to “Run Right Back” here

Hello Seahorse – Lejos, No Tan Lejos (Nacional Records) Mexico’s indie sensation, Hello Seahorse latest release titled “Lejos, No Tan Lejos” which translates to “Far,

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