Saturday, 6 January 2018

Albums of the Year 2017

Better late than not bothering at all.

2017 was a fucker. We all know it and saw it, so let's not dwell. We needed music and it provided. No mere hobby, but a balm, an instigator and the strength to keep pushing on. Without it... well, let's not even consider that.

There's been no one trend or act that has made it's presence felt above any others but instead a constant stream of albums from different voices and perspectives. Whilst it's filtered though my inherently indiepop leanings I hope the below list reflects that more so than in past years.

20) Charlotte Hatherley – True Love
On her first album in nine years Charlotte Hatherley has ditched the guitar pop for which she's best known in favour of sci-fi inspired progressive synth pop. The change suits her. The elevator pitch would be “Tegan and Sara soundtracking Blade Runner”, but the sound is now Hatherley's own.

19) The Courtneys – The Courtneys II
Sounding as perfect at the height of summer as it does in the crisp snow The Courtneys second album is an under-the-radar treat of driven guitar pop. Whilst 'Lost Boys' is a personal highlight the opening half of this record is as good as most other runs of songs you're likely to have heard in 2017.

18) Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
I'm feeling less need to be contrary as I've got older, so have no qualms about including a record that's on literally ever other end of year list. Feel free to read those lists for insight. From my perspective this is simply a great, essential record that gets better and better with each listen.

17) Downtown Boys – Cost Of Living
Cost Of Living is as vital as a punk album can get in 2017. With songs sung in both Spanish and English it highlights the importance of people like me just sitting back and listening for a change. Downtown Boys have something important to say so take note. (Also, sax in punk songs is one of the greatest ideas).

16) Japanese Breakfast – Soft Sounds From Another Planet
A rich and immersive listen, Soft Sounds From Another Planet is the perfect album to curl up with after a long day. From gentle waltzes to more guitar driven fare Japanese Breakfast (aka Michelle Zauner) demonstrate an absolute mastery of everything she attempts. It's all the more impressive for arriving only a year after début album Psychopomp.

15) British Sea Power – Let The Dancers Inherit The Party
It's becoming harder and harder to imagine what a fair and sane world would look like, but the one certainty is that in such a worlld British Sea Power would be recognised as national treasures. Let The Dancers Inherit The Party may not be their finest album, but on tracks such as 'Bad Bohemian' they can cut to my emotional core as well as they ever have.

14) Paramore – After Laughter
It took more than a couple of listens for After Laughter to sink in. Which is absurd for an album that's as obviously pop and apparently instantiations as anything ever recorded. I'm listening to After Laughter now as I write this and nearly every song sounds like a hit. I like it almost as much as I do their previous, self-titled, album.

13) The Darkness – Pinewood Smile
The novelty aspect of The Darkness wore off a long time ago, leaving us with a great rock band and amazing songs. Where their previous album found it difficult to live up to it's opening salvo Pinewood Smile is of a consistently high quality and their best overall since their debut. Go for the deluxe edition wich concludes with the awesome/daft 'Rock in Space'.

12) Waxahatchee – Out In The Storm
Katie Crutchfield has been making a name for herself as one of the great indiepop stars of her generation, and on Out In The Storm has consolidated this into her most accessible collection of songs yet. Endlessly listenable, it's almost as good as future classic Ivy Tripp.

11) Run The Jewels – RTJ3
I haven't seen this on many end-of-year lists, and can only assume it's as it had a digital release at the very end of last year. A Public Enemy for whatever we're calling this decade, RTJ3 is a blast of anger, a protest record, a triumph and vital listening for anyone hoping to survive these times.

10) Kamikaze Girls – Seafoam
A two piece band from Leeds, Kamikaze Girls make the guitar and drums line up sound fresh and exciting again. They seem to have been active for a few years, but have only come to my attention recently and I'm glad they have. Seafoam has punk energy but some post-punk textures and makes for a satisfying and memorable listen.

09) The National – Sleep Well Beast
Trouble Will Find Me took a long while to sink in for me, so it was exciting that Sleep Well Beast was absorbing and brilliant from the off. 'The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness' is easily amongst the best singles The National have released and is only one the many high points of this record. I'm happy to go all-out and say that this may just be their best album since Alligator.

08) Peaness – Are You Sure?
A three-piece band from Chester, Peaness released Are You Sure? as an EP on Alcopop! records this year. But as it's not only backed with some older recordings (taking it to a full-album length) but totally amazing it has more than earned a spot on my Albums of the Year list. Guitar pop that's this fun and smart is always worth celebrating and I can't wait to see where they go next.

07) Rose Elinor Dougall – Stellular
Rose was always my favourite member of The Pipettes so it's amazing to see that on her second solo album she's close to hitting the heights her former band did on their début album. That may undersell Stellular somewhat, as despite their classic pop perfection The Pipettes could never cover the range of styles that Dougall does here – from the Pulp-esque stop of 'Closer' to the dreampop 'Poison Ivy'.

06) Maxïmo Park – Risk To Exist
On their sixth album Maxïmo Park tackle the refugee crisis, far right press and feelings of hopelessness in a world that's more than a bit fucked. What could in lesser hands be obvious or sloganistic becomes an energetic riposte and their best album for a decade.

05) Hurray For The Riff Raff – The Navigator
On paper The Navigator falls loosely within a folk influenced indie template, but in reality covers a much wider range of styles and textures than I'm qualified to identify. The end result is a wonderfully evocative, lived in record that places the listener in the middle of a bustling, vibrant city.

04) Lorde – Melodrama
A future classic and pop perfection. It's all already been said about Melodrama. I loved it as much as everyone else and knew I would from the moment I heard 'Green Light' for the first time.

03) Los Campesinos! - Sick Scenes
With their sixth album Los Campesinos! have ascended to the level of Greatest Band in the World. At least they have in my eyes. Ten years and six albums in they've been a consistent comfort and have helped me through a number of tough times. I needed this album in 2017. #LC4LYF

02) Alvvays – Antisocialites
Alvvays have very much ascended to my top tier of bands. Antisocialites picks up where their sublime début left off, supplying us with ten tracks of pop perfection. It's an eclectic record, with impeccable influences, that hangs together perfectly. I got old this year and saw Alvvays on my Birthday so can thank them for proving I'll never get too old for amazing indiepop.

01) Charly Bliss - Guppy
I'm not sure when I last heard a début album that was as fun packed, instantaneous and amazing as Guppy. Charly Bliss should surely be stars. There's hints of Weezer, The Strokes and Veruca Salt to this fun indie rock album but Charly Bliss are well on their way to claiming complete ownership of the sound. My Album of the Year is usually decided by what I can't help but keep coming back to, and in 2017 Guppy has proved more addictive than any other record.

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