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So, here are my Top 20 Albums of 2017, in order from best down. As usual, my Top Songs of the Year are quite different from my Top Albums. To partly reflect this I have also picked my Top 5 Songs Not On Albums of 2017 which I’ll put up a separate list.

Please leave comments to let me know what your favorite albums of 2017 were.

01 THE NATIONAL / Sleep Well Beast

‘The National’ are that rare thing – a band who by their seventh album are still only improving and refining, as ‘Sleep Well Beast’ boasts perhaps their finest and most focused selection of tracks yet. Written as a therapist exercise between frontman Matt Berninger and his wife in an attempt to save their failing marriage – we’re treated to brutally honest lyricism penned from each side of the relationship, which marries with sublime production and the perfectly restrained melodies to get under your skin in a way no other album could for me this year. Near Perfection.

02 SORORITY NOISE / You’re Not As ______ You Think

This is my first run-in with ‘Sorority Noise’, having missed their previous two albums. But holy shit I’ll be paying attention from now on. This is one of the finest selection of tightly-woven, brilliantly melodic, painfully honest, rock songs I’ve heard in years, that knows exactly when to sway between mosh-pit riots and ‘The Cure’-inspired slow-waltz’s. I don’t really have much bad to say about this album, there’s simply not a bad moment here – just go listen to it.

03 HOTEL BOOKS / Equivalency

‘Hotel Books’ were number 1 for my 2015 list, and in 2017 they fought for a second place. Here they rally back and forth between their traditional spoken-word poetry and a more commercial post/punk/emo/rock approach. But listen closely and you can hear on lead single ‘Celebration’ the bands disgust at themselves – “We sound nothing like we did at the start, we made some rock and gave up on art, I hope you’re happy mum, I wrote a happy song, now let’s hope that the world holds their remarks.”

Surrounding this poking criticism of themselves and their new fans is an album full of chokingly honest heartbreak with some of the most poignant lyrics and melodies of the year.

04 BRAND NEW / Science Fiction

It’s been 8 years since their last album, but ‘Brand New’ proved they’d lost none of their vigor with this return which is the undisputed top album of the year for many of my close friends. And it’s hard to argue with them – beautiful, violent, tender, patient, bold and the sound of a band owning themselves; this is a truly exceptional album, but it just didn’t speak to me as personally as my top 2 picks.

05 SOLEY, SIN FANG & ORVAR SMARASON / st

What a strange release here from Morr Music – An Icelandic Supergroup, featuring Soley, Sin Fang, and Orvar from Mum. Three wonderful bands I’m guessing you’ve probably never heard of. Well here they combined their talents and released a new track every month throughout the year to create a nameless album from a nameless band. But oh what a nameless album it is – packed full of glacial, endorphin-rushes, and bristling with electronic beats and fractured piano chords. A glorious album to soak in.

06 VAGABON / Infinite Worlds

The creative outlet for Laetitia Tamko, who in addition to vocals and guitar, plays drums, bass, and synth on this debut album. Stuffed full of raw, beautiful, grungy rock, punctured with fragility and a soothing, bold voice that carries throughout all the 90’s turmoil. This is an album where the production perfectly matches the melodies and crafts the finest debut I’ve heard all year.

07 IRON & WINE / Beast Epic

One of the kings of modern acoustic Americana returns with a triumphant album stuffed with perfect back-road desert melodies and it’s a shining example of a release that will probably reveal itself over the years to have been deserving of far higher placement on this list. And from a roster of superb releases, this is certainly one of his most mature and focused.

08 PERFUME GENIUS / No Shape

‘Perfume Genius’ are one of those bands who have been cranking out great albums for years now, and yet seem to only garner a cult following. On ‘No Shape’ Mike Hadreas continues to evolve his lo-fi sound into something much more contemporary, confident and genre-defying. But through the varied production notes of bubbling samples, harps, slapped guitars, broken pianos, synths and lush strings lies a core of gorgeous, infectious melodies.

09 JULIEN BAKER / Turn Out the Lights

22-year old Julien Baker really came into the limelight this year with her second studio album, which quickly became a bastion of representation for groups trying to raise awareness for sufferers of depression. And it’s easy to see why – every track on this minimalist album is painfully honest, and soaked in a sadness that in small doses is exhilarating and liberating, but as a whole can become overbearing. This isn’t helped by the lack of production variety throughout, but it’s impossible to ignore just how fantastic these slices are when digested in pairs rather than in one go. She also featured on ‘Frightened Rabbit’s new EP this year.

10 CLOCK OPERA / Venn

Another frustrating album from ‘Clock Opera’, who, when they are good (on tracks such as ‘Whippoorwill’, ‘Closer’, ‘In Memory’, ‘When We Disappear’, are simply sumptuously fantastic, but when they miss – are just forgettable. But at least 50% of ‘Venn’ is filled with some of the most heart-swelling, electronica I’ve heard in a long time, bolstered by graceful lead vocals and tremendous command of lyricism. Let’s hope they keep on this upward slide as I desperately want to put this band higher up my end of year lists.

11 GRANDADDY / Last Place

Has it really been nine years since the last ‘Grandaddy’ album? What’s perhaps more stunning is how the alt Americana band have lost none of their style and talent for unique pop songs, baked in gorgeous ‘Sparklehorse’-style production with trademark haunting vocals. They even return to old themes with a (potential) final part in the ‘Jeddy’ series, illuminating, for those needing clarity, what the series has always been a metaphor for.

12 CLOUD NOTHINGS / Life Without Sound

Their 4th album in six years, ‘Cloud Nothings’ are gradually pulling out from the blankets of their trademark, grungy fuzz and a more defined sound of tremendous, tempered, rock songs are emerging. They’ve always been great, but here they show a maturity that helps create an album full of tides, ebbs and tsunamis.

13 BIG THIEF / Capacity

This New York band return with a sophomore album that is such quintessential timeless Americana for it to be hard to trust it’s release date. Sounding like a female-led bar band playing alternately in the 90’s, 70’s and the 00’s, it’s all a little too washy to appeal to me as much as most critics, but it’s impossible to deny it as a truly great gem from the year.

14 WHY? / Moh Lhean

One of my all-time favorite bands returns with a great collection of tracks, built from a refreshingly organic series of production ideas which sometimes works beautifully and at other points slightly holds back the tunes underneath. Certainly not ‘Why?’s best work, but an album that unfurls on repeated listens to reveal itself as one of their most intimate and trusting.

15 THE FRONT BOTTOMS / Going Grey

I’m not a fan of the name ‘The Front Bottoms’, I tend to hate their cover art, fonts, and even song names. Hell, I’m not even a big fan of lead singer Brian Seller’s voice. But fuck if they don’t put out fantastic albums packed full of some of the best American/indie/rock/punk out there. And ‘Going Grey’ is no exception. Just a truly solid album of brilliant songs to sing along to.

16 MOUNT EERIE / A Crow Looked at Me

Another terrible cover, masking a truly exceptional album, that critics went crazy for this year. If you’re a fan of ‘Sun Kil Moon’, then the intimate picked guitars and hushed, personalized lyricism of ‘Mount Eerie’ may work for you. Although it’s an altogether sweeter affair, embracing (sometimes to the point of theft) Leonard Cohen style melodies and poetry. The lack of variety eventually mars the album for me, as the tunes and production values remain alarmingly the same throughout. But still; a gorgeous, hushed collection.

17 MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA / A Black Mile to the Surface

One of the best bands in modern American indie-rock, ‘Manchester Orchestra’ return with another brilliant album that can’t reach the heights of their early glories, but is still brimming with fantastic tunes in ‘The Gold’, ‘The Alien’, ‘The Mistake’, ‘Lead, SD’ and more.

18 THE SMITH STREET BAND / More Scared of You Than You Are of Me

Loud, raucous, packed full of vim, this is the first time I’ve heard of this Australian pop-punk band and they’ve left an impressive mark on me. I’m not a big fan of lead singer Will Wagner’s vocals in some places, but in others (oddly on the quieter moments) it works like a dream for me. Tight, tuneful, and fun as hell, but still with enough grit to ground things.

19 MEW / Visuals

In 2003, ‘Mew’ were one of the most exciting, genre-defining bands I’d ever heard. Hailing from Denmark and bringing with them a mesh of art rock/progressive/dream pop and time signature changes – this was a band with gorgeous melodies but production ideas so suffocatingly bold that it would take a few listens to unearth. Now on their 7th album and I’ve grown accustomed to their sound, but there’s still nothing else out there quite like it and ‘Visuals’ may be slightly more conventional than some of their releases, but it’s still a big warm hug for me.

20 GIRLPOOL / Powerplant

With their sophomore album, ‘Girlpool’ offer up even more refined 90’s fuzzy grunge folk punk, coated in the silky doubled vocals of duo Cleo and Harmony. Stitched together with bold little flourishes and hummable melodies that help separate it from the increasingly busy pack of this sub-genre.

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