As 2017 draws to a close, Getintothis presents our tenth annual top 100 albums of the year.
Another year nearly done and dusted, and another year of new music well and truly digested.
It’s really only when we’re compiling (read: wrestling haplessly) with our annual top 100 album lists that we manage to see the wood for the trees – in a musical sense, that is. And even then, it might only be glimpses of what’s happened in the past year.
In what is becoming an increasingly hectic, near relentless music climate, there’s barely a second to catch our breath and carefully look back with any sort of considered perspective. There’s always something happening, whether it’s one of many festivals in the city, countless gigs seemingly each and every night, arts events, new bands and artists to get excited and enthuse about. Perspective and reflection is in scarce supply.
This is before we even consider what seems to be a city constantly on the move with threats and/or promises, depending on your point of view, of new developments such as the Ten Streets Project and the implications which may flow from that.
Combine this with what appears to be just as lively a music scene at the other end of the East Lancs and festivals to go to in the UK and wider afield, it really is a wonder that we have any time to listen to new albums.
Yet we do, despite a fair few naysayers decrying it all as an increasingly defunct and irrelevant musical format the album seems set to hang around for a while yet, especially if the breadth of 2017’s selections is anything to go by.
What this somewhat rushed and quite frankly imperfect hindsight that we allow ourselves when compiling this round-up gives is a sense of what we might have missed at the time. Albums that were released way back in January or February of 2017 – and doesn’t that seem an awfully long time ago now – which we overlooked, may have somehow matured and eaten their way into our consciousness and in time might be considered as classics.
Looking along (rather than down the list of Top 100, as looking down seems a touch harsh) what is telling is the sheer diversity of music. We really do not like pigeonholing music into separate boxes, different silos and artistic cul-de-sacs here at Getintothis – the current music climate is a broad church and there should be enough room for everyone to rub shoulders quite amicably.
If anything comes through with this year’s selections, however, is that unlike many other years, there doesn’t seem to be a common theme – no single type of music predominates and it’s impossible to say that 2017 is the Year of x or y. No record label seems to have swept the board and if you want to be pessimistic, it’s not too far a step to say that despite all the vibrancy of the music scene, then everything is becoming quite fractured.
In eerie echoes of the dread that Brexit may lay upon us 18 months hence, the diversity of the music that we celebrate and enjoy could well be its very downfall, with splintering and fractured music scenes sneering at each other, each waving their own flag of purism across imaginary barricades.
There have always been elements of this of course, since the post-war rise of popular culture, yet it does appear at times that there are swirling microcosms music in our city, rarely connecting with each other and bumping each other awkwardly when they do meet.
And yet… and yet… we can still be optimistic and pessimism should not win the day.
All of this is not down to anyone else, save for us as fans. It’s not the promoters or venues or the artists or the labels or anyone else – it’s up to us to keep an open mind and listen to and enjoy all the music that’s out there, whatever it may be.
With that in mind, here’s our wide-ranging and hopefully quite surprising selection of the Best Albums which 2017 has served up. In a break from tradition, the list was compiled by asking all our contributors – writers, photographers and videographers – before being compiled into whatever semblance of order this 100 represents via editor Peter Guy and myself. The reviews and much of the text is similarly taken from our original reviews from our monthly Albums Clubs. Please let us know what you think we’ve missed or overlooked – we’re sure there must be a few – and as always, we look forward to listening. Rick Leach
100. Uniform: Wake In Fright
The cover art states that this LP was recorded in 2016. That’s probably quite correct yet it was definitely released in 2017. And it sounds like it comes from…when? Some dread moment in the future? Or now? Harrowing industrial metal noise. The sound of…nightmares. Rick Leach
99. The Bug vs Earth: Concrete Desert
When we heard of the collaboration between Kevin Martin (The Bug) and Dylan Carlson (Earth) we held our breath. With Martin famed for his deep dub work and more and with Carlson’s immersive doom-laden guitar moves it could have ended up in an unholy mess and a touch pro-celebrity heart surgery yet they and Ninja Tune came up with the goods.
Like an intricate piece of master-joinery, this is the sort of music that will be marvelled at for years to come – a nigh on perfect dovetail joint of sheer sound. Their collaborative noise at this year’s Liverpool Psych Fest was something else. Rick Leach
98. Jamila Woods: HEAVN
The album is focused on a non-separatist and yet still strong sense of black-pride, enforced in tracks like Blk Girl Soldier and VRY BLK which both speak out strongly against recent events in the US, while still maintaining a hopeful, unifying and positive tone.
Her voice may have been the perfect voice to deliver the harsh truths that might have been lost had it been a more aggressive delivery. The album’s protest theme is not purist, and the album is complimented by quite a few beautifully personal tracks from Jamila.
Musically, the choices throughout the album shine, and her choices for feature tracks such as LSD feat. Chance The Rapper are great moves for her own promotion. There is a wide spectrum of R&B influenced sounds throughout the album, from classic hip-hop beats to full bands, especially in the title track, featuring fantastically soulful and jazzy instrumental performances.
An album well worth a few listens, and an artist who is without a doubt worth following as she gains traction. The messages in her music are some that everyone should hear and take to heart in tumultuous times like these. Stephen Geisler
97. Teleplasmiste: Frequency Is The New Ecstasy
House of Mythology
Electronic music to get lost in. Something to drift away with. Not ambient.
But yes, ecstatic indeed and as for frequency; well, just take it as and when required. Rick Leach
96. Avec Le Soleil Sortant de sa Bouche: Pas Pire Pop, I Love You So Much
Who’s ready for a dose of “post-modern psychedelic trance pop the likes of which we can honestly say we’ve not heard before“? This is certainly a bold claim from the record label, but the question is whether it lives up to the grand assertion or if it is just more PR bull-shit designed to sell us some derivative dirge or, else, something that’s too clever by half and knows it.
In part Pas Pire Pop, I Love You So Much justifies its label’s hype. It sounds like a collective of musicians looking to make something that is experimental, that takes prior templates and remoulds them into something new and fresh. Crucially it retains a sense of vital fun, embodying a deft euphoria that makes the fervent experimentation feel light and airy; the product of spontaneously swirling and endlessly revolving jams rather than anything carefully considered.
In that way the label is correct. The album displays many of the hooks and tropes characteristic of pop music, albeit filtered through an experimental rock lens. And of course music this good doesn’t arrive fully formed. On the contrary it is thoughtfully considered and composed, arranged with immaculate care. The skill lies in making it feel natural and that is what Avec Le Soleil Sourtant de sa Bouche can feasibly claim to have achieved here.
In evoking the adventurous spirit of krautrock, without ever sounding like its German forebears, and fusing this with afro-beat rhythms, intoxicating grooves, electronic textures and hypnotic repetitive melodies many would feel the “post-modern” description to be justified.
But then music is more than mere labels, which are the preserve of cataloguers, archivists and record shops. Music is meant to be enjoyed and there is a huge amount to enjoy here in its three largely instrumental – save for almost wordless Hookworms-esque primal howls – suites that journey with joyous effortlessness through a range of styles without ever sacrificing its own strong sense of identity. Magic. Paul Higham
95. Palberta: Bye Bye Berta
Bye Bye Berta is a scattergun collection of twisted, mashed-up-and-spat-out again post punk laced with a vibrant, almost delirious, spirit of adventure. Somehow managing to sound both behind its time and ahead of it. The 20 song collection races by with a jittery giddiness; a palpable air of contagious excitement.
There is a carefree sense of abandon that could, in lesser hands risk, result in a directionless crash. What we have instead conveys feelings of unbounded joy. An indefatigable playfulness channels the trio’s seeming limitless reserves of restless energy into something bold, bright and chaotically brilliant.
Songs are short, barely formed, half fleshed out germinations of ideas that are brought to life amid a discordant cacophony of rhythm and atonal noise. Instruments are stretched to breaking point, unfamiliar sonics assault like jagged bolts of lightning. They light the room yet their presence is often brief, the piercing bursts of energy moving on to a new target only to be quickly replaced by another.
The nearest we have as a point of reference, if one were needed, is perhaps a band like The Raincoats, or maybe Ariel Pink at his label-defying imaginative best. Palberta embody a DIY spirit, more suggestive of the visual arts than of music. And this does feel like art-punk.
You’ll find little by way of melodic smoothness, rather jagged abstractions, concealed identities, sharp angularities and disguised intentions. In applying an almost collage-like technique to musical reproduction there is a real artful presence at play. Yet you hear little audible effect of this guiding hand with the result being much the better for it.
This is the sound of three people having a huge amount of fun and the effect is truly infectious. Paul Higham
94. Loyle Carner: Yesterday’s Gone
Loyle Carner is arguably what UK hip hop has been lacking.
While grime takes itself to new levels, Loyle Carner‘s debut album Yesterday’s Gone is just what the UK hip hop scene needs. Not only does Loyle offer something fresh, but his laid-back style, which comes across heavily in many tracks, is just refreshing. I can count on one hand when an artist has hooked me from the debut, the last UK artist to do this may well have been Dizzee Rascal.
The album features some very cool relaxed beats over which he spits lyrics, of the type you’d expect from a seasoned pro. Showing similarities to conscious rapper Common in his calm and carefully selected word play, he speaks on some very personal topics not expected from a 21 year old, even featuring a poem from his mother.
He tackles issues facing teenagers growing up in Britain on tracks like +44, Rebel 101 and Florence, talking about the struggle with girls, family and peer pressure. It would be hard to pin Loyle‘s album in the same category as Boy In Da Corner, but it’s very hard not to like Yesterday’s Gone, as enjoyable the fifth time, as it is the first. Graeme Watt
Getintothis on Loyle Carner
93. Herva: Hyper Flux
Hyper Flux is Italian music composer Herva‘s first Planet Mu release and it is immediately striking and seductive in its collaged sonic abstractions.
The jittery glitch of choppy electronics marry expertly with a natural analogue warmth. Opener Esotic Energy is bathed in organic yet uneasy moods. There is a gentle hissing ambience and a distinctive analogue resonance, at times like listening through the dappled haze of a musical Instagram filter.
Jitter provides stark contrast offering a jagged-edged counterpoint to its predecessor, yet the well-employed use of sweeping analogue synth softens the harshness and adds welcome texture. Indeed, this is an LP that is all about its use of contrast, shifting from the thumping techno of Nasty MF to the ambient textural soundscapes of Multicone with ease.
What is most striking is its instrumentation. The LP juxtaposes played instrumentation with electronics, although in a way that is far from ordinary. The sounds are twisted and warped and are often produced using home-made unconventional means. As Herva noted, “I have a lot of guitars and weird acoustic instruments at my home and also my dad’s. He’s primarily a guitarist and an inventor of instruments, so I have lots of those.
“The weirdo instruments are the best, you are even more free to reinvent how to play them since no one else knows how to.”
The result is an album that is striking in its individuality and pleasingly perplexing in it array of unusual sounds. Even where it hits hardest it never feels harsh. The rhythmic grooves of Lly Spirals are coated in an early 80s funk vibe that jolts us from a drifting ambient slumber, while the techno of Cops Twerk is far from punishing as it makes sublime use of samples and found sounds, slowly introducing waves of underwater ambience to offset the flickering nervous energy.
What distinguishes Hyper Flux most is its striking individuality and its ability to twist and turn without ever tiring the ears or sounding either directionless or otherwise forced. It marks Herve Atsè Corti as a very real talent. Paul Higham
92. Slowdive: Slowdive
For a band who make such a calm and reflective sound, Slowdive attracted more than their fair share of detractors and derision. The Manic Street Preachers’ Richey Edwards famously stated that “I hate Slowdive more than Hitler” and Melody Maker’s review of their debut album concluded that it was a “major fucking letdown”.
The band were derided as rich boys and girls playing at making music and there was a sense that they were unfairly scapegoated, largely due to the appearance of Suede and the emerging Britpop scene. Outside of the UK however, they were seen as dream-pop pioneers.
After they split, their name started to be mentioned as an influence, and echoes of their sound can be heard in the likes of Ulrich Schnauss, Deerhunter and Tame Impala. No one was more surprised than the band at how much their popularity had grown in their absence, particularly when the reformed Slowdive played Primavera to 25,000 people.
And now they have taken a step still quite rare for reformed bands; they have released a new album. So what, if anything, has changed?
Well, gone are the more ambient soundscapes of their last album Pygmalion, gone also are the more meandering aspects of some songs from their first two albums. What we get can perhaps be seen as a culmination of the Slowdive sound – processed guitars and breathy vocals are present, the music can certainly be referred to as atmospheric and the lyrics go largely unheard. What has changed is that they sound more focused and more solid. It is as if they finally realise what Slowdive are and how they sound, without having to force it or make it up anymore.
Opener Slomo sets the scene with a slow intro and atmospheric giving way to a catchy guitar line. Star Roving and Everyone Knows rock out very effectively and gives lie to the cliché that Slowdive only write introspective songs. In fact, the album is a masterclass in building a song up to dizzying heights, creating a surge of noise, only to have it crash down again in waves of sonic bliss.
Slowdive is an absolute triumph and one that will reward repeated listens. The world, it seems, is finally ready for them. Banjo
91. Milo: Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?!
The album opens with an excerpt from African American writer James Baldwin’s lecture The Artists Struggle for Integrity.
The artist’s struggle, Baldwin claims, is representative of the struggle of humanity more generally.
Speaking in 1962 he reflects on the importance of artists, or poets, ‘in a country like ours and in a time like this’ and in the way that all great thinkers do or have done, draws eerie connections between then and now.
We hear the cyclical nature of time and the depth of struggle, history repeating itself.
‘I would never come before you in the position of a complainant for doing something that I must do’.
And here Milo comes in speaking over and in time with the recording and then repeating the phrase independently ‘I must do… I must do’. Milo (real name Rory Ferreira) has, for the past six years, harvested praise amongst critics as an independent art rapper, who weaves Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, ancient symbolism, poetic imagery and so much more into his raps.
Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?! is his third album as Milo and perhaps a more concentrated expression than A Toothpaste Suburb or So the Flies Don’t Come.
Indeed Baldwin’s lecture that opens Who Told You… reveals much about the album. Milo is an artist determined to retain his integrity despite the challenges and times. His relentless quest for knowledge and constant questioning are a blessing and a curse and there is much to be said about the burden of knowing too much.
It’s an album for those who love language, jazz perhaps and art. Those who like to pour over music that reveals itself over time. Its essence and sophistication just can’t be captured in such a small review and so I implore you if you’re into your hip hop or you just want to hear something different, then listen to this and thank me later. Janaya Pickett
90. Ulrika Spacek: Modern English Decoration
Second album from dream-pop outfit shows them moving from krautrock bass lines and crystalline swirls into a more focused and tighter sound yet equally tripped out and utterly beguiling. Kevin Scheedy
89. Majeure: Apex
A.E. Paterra (aka Majeure); co-founder of Zombi and Contact has long been championed on these pages- and once again his Apex album underlines why. Blistering synth textures. Bass lines to kill for. Top prog drummer. Hot off tours with Mogwai and S U R V I V E. One album with just three tracks – do you need any further recommendation? Wayne Blonde
88. The Fall: New Facts Emerge
This is the thing about The Fall.
After thirty studio albums, countless live releases, innumerable compilations and what must be thousands of gigs, you never quite know what you’re going to get from them. The Fall always surprise you.
This is not to say everything that Mark E Smith and his merry band of troubadours do is beyond reproach.
After almost forty years of seeing The Fall live and buying all those albums (all thirty of them!) this writer knows only too well they can surprise you in a bad way; shambolic gigs and albums recorded with a “will this do?” attitude (see Are You Missing Winner as a prime example) are part and parcel for The Fall. Yet through all of this, being a follower of The Fall is never boring.
There is still that excitement – and it is a strong word, excitement, but very apt when you hear a new Fall album for the first time.
Waiting for the first notes of New Facts Emerge to come rumbling through the speakers you still get that sense of nervous anticipation when you slapped Dragnet or Grotesque fresh out of their sleeves on your crappy little turntable four decades ago. The format of delivery might have changed somewhat (unless you’re sticking with vinyl and I’d wager MES would have something to say about that) but playing a new Fall album for the first time is really like no other musical experience.
And having played New Facts Emerge a least a dozen times over the last few days, we’re happy to report that it could possibly be one of The Fall’s finest.
There’s a tautness to the whole thing and a sense of urgency that has been sadly lacking from The Fall’s output certainly for the last five years, if not longer.
Even when they’re not firing on all cylinders, The Fall tend to kick off albums with very a strong song and on New Facts Emerge they’ve done that with two; Fol De Rol and Brillo De Facto. The recent loss of Elena Poulou in advance of the album might have been seen as a worrying sign. There was a risk of The Fall falling apart again and losing the edge that her keyboards added, a shade of darkness and light.
If anything, it seems to have freed The Fall up to come up with the most exciting and innovative music that they’ve made for years.
It’s a sign of good Fall album when you can only decipher a tenth of what Smith is on about. So far, I’ve managed to hear him growl about ‘asphyxiated trolls’, ‘the great green jelly’ and something indecipherable about the French. On that basis, we’ve got a great one here. Adding in a Seven Dwarves ‘Hi-Ho-Hi-Ho’ backing vocal to Couples vs Jobless Mid 30’s is a cherry on the cake.
In a very Fall-like way, the album ends with a nearly nine-minute track about albums being reviewed with a 9 out of 10 rating and seems to link back in some strange and reversed way back to Music Scene– the final track on the The Fall’s first album.
Like the rest of New Facts Emerge, it’s wilfully experimental and intriguing and that’s not something that you’ve been able to say about The Fall for a while. There’s a feeling this could well be the last Fall album. If so, they’re going out in a blaze of glory.
But you never know. The Fall will surprise us yet again. They certainly have with this remarkable record. Rick Leach
Getintothis ranks all The Fall‘s discography
87. Idles: Brutalism
Never has an album been so aptly titled. Brutalism (the movement) conjures up images of decimated post-war Britain, its lavish architecture and brown brick homes bombed and replaced by grey monolithic fortresses. Brutalism evokes a period of deep disappointment in society and distrust of the powers that be and if you’ve not noticed these trends emerging contemporarily then go away.
The mission on this record is a full scale attack on modern society from the fetishisation of the housing market, to austerity, to religion. It’s heavy listening, yes indeed, but essential in 2017. Idles is the voice of the everyman, at the end of his or her tether with social injustice and sickening attempts to be pacified by media and consumption.
There’s black comedic undertones to songs like Heel Heal, Date Night and White Privilege, for example (“How many optimists does it take to change a lightbulb? None! The butler changes the lightbulb” quips frontman Joe Talbot). Mary Berry and Rachel Khoo, celebrity chefs and ‘representatives’ of middle class liberalism are up for ridicule: the bohemians and bakers that live for festivals and “cheap drugs and expensive wine”.
Talbot’s lyrics, as sour as they can be, have a cerebral and artistic quality, playing on the sounds of words and forming imagery from seemingly random phrases. Guitarists Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan are forever melodic and bassist Dev Devonshire provides a strong backbone to each track (sometimes just playing one note throughout). The whole caboodle is backed rhythmically and energetically by Jon Beavis. Yeah I’m gushing but this is a band that seriously know their craft.
I must admit though that I was quite drained by the end. The satire is peppered with frankly tragic themes. Talbot’s mother, for example, passed away during its recording and this as a consequence has had a major influence on the record (the album cover features her image). On Mother what sounds like a morbid stream of consciousness looks into the futility of women’s work, advice on how to scare Tories and a shockingly frank assessment on patriarchal culture:
“Sexual violence doesn’t start and end with rape. It starts in our books and behind our school gates. Men are scared women will laugh in their face, whereas women are scared its their lives men will take”.
Such a statement seems quite refreshing in a way, coming from an all male punk ensemble. It’s not often that feminist issues are examined without irony by men in rock but in Brutalism we’re all equally worthless. And it’s stuff like this that show there’s something deeper going on than angst.
The album collapses into the final track Slow Savage, the most stripped back and intimate of the lot. In it Talbot explores love and loss and gets almost croony at times, examining his faults, before reiterating the fact that he’s the “hands down, god damn, worst lover you’ll ever have”. Janaya Pickett
86. Sarah Davachi: All My Circles Run
Students of Decay
Sometimes you discover a new artist and new music purely by chance. Sometimes you have to take a bit of a punt. Sometimes-most of the time-it doesn’t work out. It’s a bit like panning for gold. A lot of work and digging around with high hopes at the start yet all you end up with is a handful of gravel. Not even a glimmer.
But sometimes, just sometimes, you get lucky and there is a glistening nugget shining through all the worthless debris. It can be through sheer chance that you strike it lucky. Maybe it’s a gut instinct, a bit of a hunch; but usually by luck rather than judgement.
This how it worked out with this outstanding album. Just a guess. Nothing more or less. No-one saying ‘give this a go, you’ll love it’ or some stray half-remembered thought of hearing of the artist somewhere along the line. It was a guess.
And I struck gold. And how.
All My Circles Run is the fifth album from Canadian artist Sarah Davachi. She’s a composer working with electronic and acoustic electronic music; primarily with old and obsolete synthesisers and forgotten musical instruments from a bygone age.
Her previous works have melded together old synths and woodwind, string, organs and pianos to bring echoes of the past, ghosts and dusty memories into sharp focus, making new music out of familiar patterns, layered and manipulated sounds swirling and turning into something bewitching.
This new album strips things back but is no less inventive. Five tracks; For Strings, For Voice. For Organ, Chanter and For Piano. It’s kind of self-explanatory and just reading the title sounds a little…dry.
However, this is music that’s far from dry or ethereal or chin-scratching or whatever cliché you wish to throw at it.
It’s possibly the most interesting and exciting music you may hear in 2017.
Davachi has concentrated on strings, voice, organ and piano for the self-titled tracks and a prepared piano for chanter. She’s only used one instrument on each of the tracks, yet there’s nothing one-dimensional about any of them.
It’s too simplistic to call it drone music yet there is a sort of hypnotic drone-like quality to it all. The word drone gets slapped around far too often and has been applied at random and as a lazy label to all manner of music, but this is the sort of drone music you’d want to hear. This is how drone music should sound.
Similarly, you could call it new classical music; akin to Nils Frahm, Max Richter or Olafur Arnalds. Again, that would be a tad too easy. You might want to bracket it in with the likes of Terry Riley or Steve Reich. You could, but you’d be wrong. Yes, there’s touches of all of them in this music but I think that’s more than chance than anything else.
This album deserves more than simple categorisation and pigeon-holing for the sake of it. It’s just a stunning record and one that I’ll be listening to over and over again. It is the gold at the end of the rainbow. Rick Leach
85. Lo Five: When It’s Time To Let Go
Seductive warmth and gently radiating beauty aren’t necessary the things you most expect from modern electronic music. Yet Lo Five‘s When It’s Time To Let Go feels initially blessed with a bucolic pastoral quality, the sweeping cinema and open spaces of the countryside finding favour over oppressive urbanity.
There is an openness to the music, its gently echoing windswept vistas inducing a sense of nostalgia leading to explorations of time, place and memory. Throughout there is sufficient bite yet the overriding feeling is one of rounded edges and a frayed beauty as songs emerge, melody in tact, like half-remembered childhood tales, a grainy hue from faded times.
The record borrows sounds from the world around us. Birdsong competes with wind turbines offering allusions to the inherent contradiction of man’s disruption to nature by the very effort to help preserve it. Sabre Contusion plays on this sense of confusion, an unresolved skirmish between icy minimalism and wider melodic warmth.
A Pivotal Moment stands out equally. The coastal isolation that usually evokes a sense of freedom and opportunity here is quickly replaced with a sense of foreboding as a sinister eeriness holds sway amid its less than soothing ambient waves. I’d Like To Be introduces a sense of the macabre through unsettling laughter while Death To Innovation embodies a struggle between light and dark, seemingly jolting us back into the present day.
As the album progresses the more it reveals of itself. Pushing you down different roads, a journey of surprises and unusual sounds. Like the best albums too it works with your mood, proving equally a wistful voyage into our past as well as a discomfiting reflection of our troubled present. Paul Higham
84. In Flagranti: Sprezzatura
From time to time an album turns up that throws you off balance, makes you see the world slightly differently or skews your perceptions of what a genre of music can provide.
For me, a writer bored of most samey, dull and safe modern electronic music, I wasn’t expecting great things from In Flagranti‘s latest album. The Swiss duo describe it as a ‘pre-internet-record-buying- phoneline-concept-album-come- mixtape’ and have only issued it physically on cassette. So far, so hipster.
However, Sprezzatura – at a hefty 30 tracks long – is actually one of the most light, airy and breezy albums I’ve heard all year.
Apparently influenced by sampler cassettes they used to pick up from their favourite record store as kids, Sprezzatura is less of an album and more of an eclectic electric affair, bouncing genres from distorted techno to glittery off-kilter disco and back again.
There’s a lo-fi authenticity to the album that sets them apart from most modern electronic acts. The 30 track length makes it tough to enjoy as an album in its entirety, but there’s plenty to dip in and out of, knowing that you’ll always find something you like no matter at which point you enter the ride.
Track-wise there’s the mutated easy-listening thrum of TV Fashion Show and Expensive Trinkets; the ‘full-on 80s’ of Charity Bazaar; and the totally tropical Slow Burn.
There’s a lot to take in – although there are very few dull moments as you’d perhaps expect from such a lengthy album. Sprezzatura hangs together well, with standout track My Sordid Little Affair sounding like an early, lost Daft Punk cut.
Hands down one of the most intriguing albums I’ve heard so far this year. Chris Burgess
83. Dalham: Waves
Public House Recordings
Is this on Ghost Box? If not it ought to be.
On Waves Dalham has succeeded in creating an album of twisted analogue electronica that is both disturbing and compelling.
Did I mention Boards of Canada? I hope not because the obvious comparisons are most often best avoided, none more so than here. Waves is a somewhat darker affair, often disguising the sunshine in favour of darker scenes that allow images of a dystopian future to emerge.
Yet this is largely an album that looks to the past and its appeal lies in its apparent simplicity. And by simplicity we mean its sense of space and warmth as its curious synth textures are given room to breath and the time to begin and end. There is a manual playfulness in its evocation of sounds that are broad and rich in their textural experimentation while never sounding over considered or excessively programmed.
There are definite nods to the past. Its allusions to the halcyon days of TV sci-fi and the role it played in the progression of electronic music are paramount, as are the nods towards 1970s horror soundtracks.
New Sun basks in an eerie moodiness that is nonetheless offset by moments of lightness that Dalham just can’t help but allow to seep through. Indeed for all its darkly mysterious aesthetics there remains a bright side and it is this duality that provides the album’s most interesting moments.
The gothic gloom of CHK is adroitly counterbalanced the constancy of a bright electronic beat, while Marlowe acts as a Broadcast-like interlude. Prism begins positively breezily, showcasing the sense of air and space that reins in the threatened tendency to veer into more claustrophobic territory. Hasze is denser fare, its opaque canvas revealing yet another facet to the album.
Waves provides much to admire and in its construction reveals Dalham’s genuine love for off-kilter, weird and unusual electronic sounds that can’t help but engage. It makes for a quirky listen but, in its underlying conflict between darkness and light, space and claustrophobia, one likely to endure. Paul Higham
82. Siobhan Wilson: There Are No Saints
Song, By Toad
The classically-trained and Glasgow-based Siobhan Wilson, previously Ella the Bird, on her second album There Are No Saints, combines classical leanings with pop. Pleasingly there are no pretensions here; on the contrary, her songs are honest and arrangements unfussy.
The singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist – cello her go-to instrument of choice –spent a gap year in Paris as a teenager, a 12 months which morphed into five years. And it shows.
On the French songs – a cover of J’attendrai (I’ll Wait), and Paris Est Blanche (Paris Is White), written by ex-boyfriend Simon Campocasso (also known as acclaimed musician Le Noiseur), she channels her inner Jane Birkin. They’re charming, and chic.
On There Are No Saints she collaborates with producer Chris McCrory, of Glasgow indie band Catholic Action, the album recorded in his childhood bedroom, and appropriately it’s the simplicity of this album which touches the most. Whatever Helps is kindly advice to herself, maybe, on how to deal her depressive episodes. “You’re haunted by the line of a song…try to move on.” Dear God is pure and true, acoustic guitar and vocals, “when I scream your name I do it loudly and clearly so you’ll hear me and one day maybe forgive me…for my sins”, and makes the atheist in me give a nod to the agnostic other half at the very least. “Dear God…all I wanted was a job” shows Wilson’s sharp, clever wit.
The sweetness of her voice, especially on the French songs, cuts through and makes its mark. Themes on the album are dark and thoughtful; depression, and moving on from loss of different kinds. This is ever the way of the sensitive singer songwriter, but Siobhan Wilson has an uncanny knack for making such sad things extremely beautiful. There Are No Saints is a striking record. Cath Bore
81.This is the Kit: Moonshine Freeze
This is the Kit is the moniker of multi – talented, Bristol based singer Kate Stables and this release, her first on Rough Trade, certainly has a kind of Bristol vibe about it.
For this John Parish-produced CD, Stables is joined by a slew of special guests to supplement her guitar and banjo playing. There are saxophones, flutes, trumpets, violins, cellos and more and it creates a multi-layered, yet also sparse sound.
Throughout the album you can hear all sorts of disparate influences – some desert blues on Bullet Proof, an almost African style drum sound on title track Moonshine Freeze and her infamous banjo on tracks such as Easy On The Thieves.
Given the accolade of being Rough Trade’s album of the month for July this is a feelgood record for the summer, the warm notes and Stables’ smoky, lazy vocal style make the perfect accompaniment to a cool Campari and soda sipped out on the decking.
There’s a simplicity to the sound that belies the more complex structure of the arrangements and there’s lots to discover even after a number of listens.
This is a folk record, probably, but that description does it an injustice because, while those sorts of influences are apparent, it draws on so much more to create a glorious gem of gentle harmonies and shifting rhythms that isn’t easy to pigeonhole anywhere in particular, save in the file marked “Excellent”. Peter Goodbody
Getintothis on This Is The Kit
80. Kendrick Lamar: DAMN.
Top Dawg / Aftermath Entertainment / Interscope Records
An album that screams iconoclastic. From the ramped-up capitals, big themes and full-stops of every track title to the opening spoken word homily and relentlessly self-critical bombast of DNA. (“sex, money, murder / our DNA“), DAMN. feels like an extended draw down on the genre hyperactivity of To Pimp A Butterfly.
Where that record demonstrated mastery of the full spectrum of lyricism, melody, composition and genre destruction, DAMN. winds down the pursuit of maximalist social commentary towards a zen-like introspection.
There’s no King Kunta strut here; in its place arrives instead yet more evidence of Kendrick Lemar‘s pre-eminence as a rap technician who can easily wrong foot the listener with a melodic mid-verse (LOYALTY.) and coin a masterfully kooky beat for PRIDE.. The latter is as good as it gets, an Outkast-riffing slip of funk like D’Angelo fronting Mild High Club.
For every claim you can make about the general change of pace and the careful avoidance of straight up party anthems, Lamar gets deep into the groove, and never more so than on the Prince-worshipping LUST. with its hilarious, man of a thousand voices tip to the UK and reticulated bass whomp.
Speaking of voices – it remains hard to know exactly when Kendrick is inhabiting a character. The nasal delivery of HUMBLE. suggests that those reading heavily into the video and its comment on Photoshop and female body image manipulation might be missing the mark. That said, placing yourself at one remove can be a tempting, and wrongheaded defence for all manner of crimes.
When the groove arrives, as on FEAR., the album recalls the slickest moments of The W, setting a rundown of prospective deaths and the need for resolution to a coolly monotone beat; “The shock value of my success put bolts in me / all this money / is God playing a joke on me?“. On this edition, like on good kid…, the smoother the surface, the harder his punches land.
Though DAMN. isn’t instantly breathtaking in the way his previous effort was, it has something of the bluesy, back to basics aesthetic that necessarily follows a big budget star vehicle. It’s personal – or maybe as personal as a natural actor can appear. Nik Glover
79. GNOD: Just Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine
Based in Salford, Gnod have a reputation as a collective of sorts, yet their new album Just Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine offers a leaner take than 2016’s sprawling Infinity Machine. Rarely subtle, it is a record borne out of a righteous anger full of blunt and brute force.
Paddy Shine’s vocals embody a sense of paralysis. Rather than howl and growl in the expectation of rebellious change, the semi-spoken mechanical delivery seems to encapsulate the futility of protest when the odds are so inexorably stacked against you.
What remains intact is Gnod‘s undeniable visceral propulsive intensity; see People‘s squalling nine minute guitar attack or Real Man‘s white noise horror which is akin to Faust having a cage fight in a junkyard with Sir Killalot from Robot Wars – all’s that is missing is Craig Charles‘ cry of ‘awoooga!‘.
In such a scenario music, with its visceral power and its undimmed ability to shake and to shock, seems to be the last voice. Where once folk music documented the music of protest, today the burden seems to fall heaviest on the noise-rock sphere. In combining elements of metal, avant-noise, space-rock and propulsive kraut rhythms Gnod keep the flag flying higher than most. Paul Higham
78. Nadine Shah: Holiday Destination
Nadine Shah won a sea of plaudits for this release as her deeply personal lyrics intertwined seamlessly with textured grooves to devastating effect.
With previous work focusing on mental health, relationships and love, Holiday Destination is a no-holds barred look at the world we find ourselves in today, with her brooding vocals at their most powerful yet. Craig MacDonald
77. Sleaford Mods: English Tapas
Rough Trade Records
You have to admire the confidence of Sleaford Mods. To not include the blistering double whammy of single TCR and B side I Can Tell suggests there is enough material here to pack both sides with no filler.
Opener Army Nights is an earworm that reminds us of the band’s musical merit, it’s not just Jason Williamson’s lyrics that matter here. As with previous efforts, the lyrical content is a series of character attacks, the military beefcakes in the opening track and the music industry hypocrites in Just Like We Do.
The snapshots of working class Britain are annotated with perfect soundbites “A trip to Spar is like a trip to Mars” (Drayton Manored), “You’re stuck in moments that have grown out of themselves” (Messy Anywhere), priceless.
The messages are as strong as ever but this is curiously enough an easier album to listen to than previous long player, Key Markets. Even the relentless swearing of former releases seems to have been quelled, and the tunes are a lot catchier. They’ve not sold out by any stretch but this is certainly an album that could reach a wider audience.
Album highlight is undoubtedly BHS, “We’re going down like BHS, while the abled bodied vultures monitor and pick at us.” As Williamson said in a recent interview, “Buy a company, run it down, take the money, fuck the workers, it’s legal” here he is bestowing the same fate on the underclass scrap heap by the powers that be “We are the Baldrick’s son and Blackadders”.
We need Sleaford Mods, no-one else is painting such a vivid picture of the country right now. Crack open the crisps and nuts, you can’t beat a bit of English Tapas. Del Pike
Getintothis on Sleaford Mods
76. Justin Walter: Unseen Forces
Opening with 1001, Unseen Forces begins with a mournful drone, its vintage wind-synthesiser summoning us from our slumber as its light melodies gently usher in the first lights of the day. Its gently soothing undertones easing us into the album.
Title track Unseen Forces is equally enchanting. With only the merest hint of an increase in tempo its delicately crafted vistas talk to the soul, before the insistent trumpet reminds of its melodic intent puncturing you from the inside with the wistful sense of melancholy that it easily conjures.
The record makes its mark with its expansive soundscapes that can’t fail to leave a lasting impression. It develops with every listen; the subtle drones ever-eager to reveal more while the marriage between its minimal structure and the enveloping atmosphere solidifies with each passing spin.
This most definitely is anything but background music. The ambient textures demand to be listened to, growing more powerful as the record progresses. Sixty ups the ante considerably fomenting a growing sense of unease and discomfort as it adds layer upon layer of droning textures which never quite fit together in snug harmony.
End of Six begins as a series of protracted notes reveal themselves through a murky underwater haze, gently echoing away from the listener into the mid-distance with a sense of resigned despondency. It’s Not What You Think pulls the listener back into its seductive melody. Its initial funereal mood gives way to jittery electronica that emphasises the juxtaposition between the underlying lugubriousness and an edgy tension.
Unseen Forces is near classical in its structures composed almost entirely from wind synth it shows remarkable restraint and in its analogue ambience betrays both an unerring beauty and a surprisingly melodic heartbeat. Paul Higham
75. Jessica Moss: Pools of Light
Jessica Moss is a founding member of Black Ox Orkestar, plays violin for Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and has worked with many other acts including the likes of Arcade Fire, Geraldine Fibbers and Broken Social Scene.
Pools of Light is her second solo album and shows how well things can work when someone steps forward and spreads their wings.
While there is a certain familiarity- or at least echoes of her work with Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and that is only natural – there’s enough on this album to make it her own.
There’s eight tracks on the album, all of which last between four and a half and seven and a half minutes. The album is split into two parts; the first four tracks are titled Entire Populations I and II and split into Pts I and II and the second four tracks are titled Glaciers and similarly split into four parts. A sense of balance therefore.
Both Entire Populations and Glaciers deserve to be listened to in full. They make a lot more sense that way. In fact, this is an album that should be heard in one go.
Entire Populations is full of looping and twisted and treated bowing, eerie vocals that fade in and out and resonates with ancient klezimer stylings. Fans of both Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra as well as Godspeed You! Black Emperor will find much to appreciate in this. There’s that same sense of implicit horror and dread floating around.
All four parts of Glaciers are even better. It simply sounds how you’d imagine a glacier to sound. It sounds like ice. Again Moss’ voice drifts in every so often, sometimes singing solo and looped, sometimes back at herself. Odd phrases and words rumble alongside drones and undulating metallic waves, leading to a contradictory feeling of both unease and contentment.
Pools of Light is a remarkable album and one that bears repeated listening. Rick Leach
74. Ferdinger: Gelände
Life In Patterns
German techno seems to be one of that handful of styles that seems capable of constantly refreshing itself, remaining as vital now as it was back in the 90’s. One reason of many for this is that young German composers still get involved in techno and approach it with the seriousness and intellectual rigour that they would any other style of music or visual art.
Ferdinger is a prime example.
This is his first album, self-released on his Life In Patterns label and it oozes with confidence. The technical standards are on a par with Herbert von Karajan’s BMW, all purring and shiny. Where this album really stands out is Ferdinger’s ability to bring new flavours and techniques to techno without disturbing the music’s direct accessibility.
A couple of tracks sit neatly on the album but, although completely danceable, aren’t actually in 4/4. Sporn – the last track on the album- displays the kind of spectral slowly evolving harmonies more often found in the concert hall and Firn shows mastery of the minimalist principles of Steve Reich.
The title means “Terrain” and each track title refers to different aspects of mountain landscape: Nordwand, Kamm, Tobel. This is perhaps a clue to the persistence of German techno. It’s become part of the kulturlandschaft itself, as permanent and everpresent as the Alps. Jono Podmore
73. Happy Meals: Full Ashram Devotional Ceremony (Volumes IV – VI)
For me this was like discovering synthesised music again for the first time. It’s a return to the future past.
To say that I loved this album would be an understatement. I’ve followed this band from the first LP Apero to the follow up album of Fruit Juice. Both those albums are a collision of disco beats and indie ethic, but on this album they seem to have moved their sound to a new level
Happy Meals are the duo, Lewis Cook and Suzanne Rodden, and in this, their third release, they have developed more ethereal sounds, moving away from a pop ethic for more transcendental drones and pulses, merging elements of seventies futurist synthesiser experimentation with aspects of Spaceman 3-layered contemplative psychedelia.
The opening drone of 432hz resonant activation tone washes over the listener. Colliding oscillations build the anticipation of the track only to be broken at the end with a wash of pink noise that bleeds into ‘may you be the mothe/-may you be the sun’ Carpenter-esque drum sounds are overladened with synthesiser chimes and shifting delays: flute and guitar develop the sound into a wonderful Krautrock rhythm.
While Suzanne Rodden’s vocals shift between the track as it develops and becomes more trance-like collapsing into full ashram emerging theme which seems to float in the air with the music bleeding out, leaving only a vocal chant behind.
Every moment is a birth is like a summoning of sound, its experimental warpings are interspersed with arpeggiated keyboard breaking into Berlin-school style repeats and the album ends with 528hz full heart vibration – the final drone. A truly stunning album and worth searching out, a true future classic. Guy Nolan
72. Girl Ray: Earl Gray
Girl Ray, three nineteen-year olds from London, emerged last autumn with the single Trouble, indie pop as it is meant to be.
The sweet but off-kilter harmonies led by Poppy Hankin and assisted by bandmates Sophie Moss and Iris McConnell added an edge, and next single Stupid Things (about the-well, stupid things teenage girls do to impress a guy) and the third, Preacher, delighted even further.
The videos accompanying each single only added further to the intrigue. It’s all about the letters, you see. The album Earl Gray fulfils the promise of those initial songs.
Calling your debut album after a type of tea is so utterly British, and quaint; Girl Ray have oft been compared to the C86 bands of thirty years ago, yet the trio’s musical palette is far wider reaching.
Poppy’s voice carries the slightly detached quality of Nico, yes, but her knowing tone and wry lyrics inject more than a touch of humour. Beach Boys-esque harmonies on opener Just Like That are like a hug, but if you’re hoping for a nostalgia trip, then I suggest you go elsewhere.
The indie-twee comparisons may well be valid but, I suggest, but we’d all do well to remember young women in indie bands- drummers, bass players, musicians in their own right- were more commonplace three decades ago, but washed away by Britpop a few years later and are only now making a recovery in number.
We’re just not used to it yet. But we soon will be.
Earl Grey is the work of a band past fledgling status, but not there quite yet; it was a treat to see these songs performed live at Liverpool Music Week in late October. Cath Bore
71. Drums Off Chaos: Compass
Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit, who died earlier this year played on over 200 releases but strangely the group that he worked the closest with for over 35 years have only ever released a handful of tracks.
But in the last few months of his life Jaki earmarked some Drums Off Chaos recordings as suitable for release, as found on this release on Burnt Friedman’s Nonplace label.
Jaki developed a profound and all-encompassing systematic approach to rhythm largely through daily experimentation with Drums Off Chaos. Though his system is derived from studies of music from all over the world, the result is music that transcends cultural definition and boundaries.
Of the five tracks here there are flavours of African, Middle-eastern, Indian, Far-eastern and European art music, but nothing that clearly defines it as borrowing from any of them.
This only comes from identifying, using and living with the principles behind the music; in contrast to just taking a snapshot of the surface – like a kid using samples provided in software to build their music.
This is hand-made – including the drums themselves. Yet the rhythmic precision of, for example Antidote, or the technical control of Turn Off the Blue reach beyond the scope of the stiff programming that makes up so much of our music today.
Compass is something genuinely fresh and yet utterly timeless. It stands outside of so much of the music we’re accustomed to so it might take a while to sink in. But when it does your ears will never look back. Jono Podmore
Getintothis on Jaki Liebezeit
70. Lost Horizons: Ojala
A veritable feast of ideas, vocal washes, neo-operatic instrumental waves and under the watchful eyes and ears of Bella Union boss Simon Raymonde this was a real surprise treasure delivered late in 2017. Winnie Driver
69. Autobahn: The Moral Crossing
Not so much Kraftwerk but more Joy Division via Leeds and a few decades further on; the second album by the Yorkshire five-piece mixes post-rock indie moves with windswept Pennine echoes and the whole thing hits much harder than you’d expect. PJ Duncan
68. Daniel O’Sullivan: Veld
Six years in the making, this album by one half of Grumbling Fur was released on Tim Burgess’ O Genesis imprint in June.
Veld showcases O’Sullivan’s love for hidden corners of pop as well as influences ranging from Tony Conrad and Alice Coltrane to the Cocteau Twins. Francois Bruno
67. Shabazz Palaces: Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star
Sub Pop Records
It’s been three years since our intrepid, intergalactic word-of-wonders Shabazz Palaces dropped Lese Majesty and it seems they’re fresher than ever.
There’s rarely been a shortage of planetary imagery or otherworldly metaphorical MC-ing in their rich imagination however while a darkness pervaded their previous release here they’re seemingly exploding through the dark abyss into something wondrous and exotically colourful.
Lead single Shine A Light featuring a guest spot by Thaddillac is emblematic of the jewel-encrusted riches on offer; all Bond-like orchestration and Wall of Sound production – it’s more lavish than a double portion of Viennetta.
As always there’s a whacked-out narrative at work that’s as playful as their quite incredible promo shoots. This time round focusing upon the sentient being Quazarez – an extraterrestrial who’s basically just a big G cowboy in space. All of which is bum fluff around the main course of music on offer – though we did manage to work out that his parents are called Barbara Dream Caster and Reginald The Dark Hoper.
Highlights include That’s How City Life Goes a sensual diazepam-fuelled squelch dripping in honeyed RnB, Parallax featuring The Palaceer Lazaro is akin to George Clinton playing lyrical table tennis with André 3000 aligned to a glass-cutting beat while The Neurochem Mixalogue is a heavy jam of Blaxploitation weirdness. It’s far from perfect – at times their surrealism axis’ Uranus once too often – but for the most part this is another characteristic voyage into Shabazz Palaces‘ unique universe. Peter Guy
66. Hey Colossus: The Guillotine
Hey Colossus have undergone a spectacular transformation with their last few records, growing from krautrock infused sludge-terrorisers into measured and menacing psychonauts with honest to god catchy songs.
This new record sees them continue down this path, perhaps for the first time placing Paul Sykes‘ spectacular lyrics front and centre, which is a good job, because he’s really got something to get off his chest. The dread of the current political climate hangs over the entire record, with a verse from single Englishman‘ that muses on the futility of nationalism sticking out in particular: “Whoops the empire slipped through the cracks / The stuff of legend and it’s never coming back / Here lies egress / Stitching on a dodo to the family crest“. He strikes out at the world’s ails with verbose, pointed and acidic wit throughout the record, while retaining a level of esoteric mystery that’s captivating.
Sonically, the band demonstrate their control here more than anywhere else in their discography, and having caught them live twice recently, they clearly know the strength of their new material – they played 6 of the 8 songs from this record both times. Their triple guitar attack is a dense latticework within which no player ever intrudes on each other’s space, and often functions as an extension of the rhythm section.
Even in their most plaintive moments like the delicate Calenture Boy and Potions, they move with looming power as a solid propulsive unit. The focus on the vocals makes them feel much more like a Post Punk band than ever before, but they don’t sacrifice any of their heft for their newfound nuance. Second track Back in the Room might be a career highlight, with animalistic yelps that Nick Cave would be proud of, a deadly two note kraut groove in 3/4 that sounds like Swans on speed, and an incredible saxophone solo that slices through as the track releases all of its muscular, paranoid tension in its coda.
Fans of the band’s previous record Radio Static High (one of this writer’s favourite rock records of the decade) may find some of what’s here a bit downtrodden compared to that record, and definitely not as immediate for the most part, but it unravels layers of wonderful detail upon repeated listens. The Guillotine is THE rock record for modern Britain, and another stunning notch on an astoundingly consistent band’s bedpost. Michael Edward
65. Colin Stetson: All This I Do For Glory
The first of two appearances by Colin Stetson in this years Top 100, All This I Do For Glory is a record by an artist who you feel whose time has finally come.
This is one of those rare records which you’ll be listening to for many years to come and one which you’ll never grow tired of.
Listen to Spindrift and marvel at exactly how Stetson can wring such sounds live and with no overdubs out of his old bass saxophone. Listen to the title track and lose yourself in the twists and turns and the wholly unexpected paths Stetson takes you on. Listen to Between Water and Wind and tell us you’re unmoved by it all. We won’t believe you because this is an album that restores any lost faith in music. Rick Leach
64. Kelela:Take Me Apart
From a mixtape way back in 2013, an EP (Hallucinogen) and an appearance on Solange’s 2016 album, A Seat at the Table, the world has been waiting for a fair old while for a full length proper album by Kelela.
Patience is indeed a virtue because the splendid and glorious Take Me Apart fully warrants its inclusion on our Top 100 Albums of the Year list. On the strength of this we hope we won’t have to wait another four years for a follow-up. Fetty Duckwrap
63. OMNI: Multi-task
Trouble In Mind
Released on September 22 2017 (the day the band played Liverpool PZYK 2017), OMNI’s second album release, Multi-task is a thoroughly pleasant lo-fi noise, most of which laments the experiences and anxieties of typical lads in their early twenties.
The alt-rock band, from Atlanta Georgia in the USA, have been touring the UK in recent weeks, and have invited plenty of praise along the way.
From the first few seconds of Track 1, Side 1, Southbound Station, OMNI band members: guitarist, Frankie Broyles (ex-Deerhunter), singer-bassist, Philip Frobos and drummer, Doug Bleichner, effortlessly manage to do what most are unable to and take us on a multi-task journey of bounding, bouncing bass runs, Postcard Records-style riff-strums and prominent, quirky vocals; all locked in by a precise, percussive pulse.
The sound of Multi-task can be described as a wiry, prickly mix of Devo, Talking Heads and Lena Lovich and thus locates itself very much in an early-80s post-punk genre.
There is an album full of high-points on Multi-task and OMNI manage to avoid the ‘difficult second album syndrome’ with consummate ease. A listen to Multi-task goes highly recommended. Mark Rowley
62. Sua-Hiam-Zun: Scattered Purgatory
Developing their sound, Sua-Hiam-Zun have drifted away from their psychedelic doom folk and towards Krautrock rhythms and drones. They continue their themes of otherworldly realms with this album.
They’ve become a window onto a new universe of sound, using familiar texture and sounds in a very unfamiliar way they drop.
Cascades of synthesiser drones and appegiating layering with repeating delay shimmer through each song, they remind this listener of early industrial/electronic pioneers such as Clock DVA or Red Mecca- era Cabaret Voltaire with each song a progression of the last, enveloping the listener to the end. A well-structured and pleasing album, well worth searching out a hard copy for the extra track. Guy Nolan
61. Eyre Llew: Atelo
There are times when the surroundings you find yourself in can simply take your breath away. You stand there in awe of whats in front of you. In their glorious debut album Atelo, Nottingham three piece Eyre Llew have captured that element of wonderment perfectly.
Searing vocals, crystal percussion intertwine with valleys of juxtaposed guitars and delicately placed synths to create a sea of emotions. From sampling train stations to the gales of the fjords of Norway, there is an abundance of lush sounds to plunge head first and absorb your senses with.
The journey that Atelo takes you on will stay with you from the moment you let its delights flow over you. When the clouded waters of Opus1 strike you, you know just how special a record Atelo really is.
Havoc brings a numbing tension as it hits your core, taking you up and down peaks and troth’s of suspense, the stirring tones of Oslo feel as if you could be gliding on the thermals of mountain tops.
Gaining its name from the Greek meaning for incomplete, Atelo does feel like the beginning of an epic saga that is yet to be told. If Tolkein had decided to sit off and watch an Attenborough box set before spending a month in the Himalayas, this would be the soundtrack to his Hobbit shaped adventure.
From heartache and somber to elation and bliss, Eyre Llew have managed something truly gripping with their debut. If this is the beginning of their journey, we can’t wait to see how their story unfolds. Craig MacDonald
60. Jlin: Black Origami
A conversation from May 2017.
‘You heard the new Jlin album?’
‘No, but it’s supposed to be brilliant. You heard it yourself?’
‘Well, yes but only ‘cos one of my mates has been going on and on about it. Kind of forced me to listen to it. Said it was the best thing he’d heard for years. Groundbreaking and all that.’
‘So I went out and got it and…’
‘I just don’t get it. At all. Not one little bit. I mean, I usually trust his judgement but I can’t see it at all! It seems a load of glitchy old rubbish to me.’
‘But? I can sense a but here.’
‘Well, there must be something about it for him to rave about it that much and me to hate it just as equally.’
‘That’s usually the way it goes.’
‘So you going to listen to it then?’
‘On the strength of you hating it? Defo!’ Geoff Bland
59. Beaches: Second of Spring
Antipodean psych-rock double album seventeen tracks woozy and fuzzy and sprawling all female iconic Melbourne band third album rave reviews post punk shoegazey kosmische pop spacey drifting instrumental tracks hypnotic bass lines sparkling guitars…
This is what happens when Australia enters the Eurovision Song Contest. It’s great, isn’t it? Nell Mangell
58. Ulver: The Assassination of Julius Caesar
House Of Mythology
For a band, formed in 1993, whose previous metier incorporated experimental metal (often excruciatingly challenging but always hellishly potent) and expansive electronica, The Assassination of Julius Caesar was a surprising left-turn.
One could be forgiven for thinking that the album was conceived after a mammoth bout of listening to Depeche Mode records, such are the murky synths and vocal histrionics at play here.
As a relative newbie to their back catalogue, I was immediately smitten by this adroit turn into the nourish underbelly of pop. Rarely has a record been so darkly magnificent whilst also proffering such enticing hooks for the discerning ear.
There is no surrender here, no embrace of sugar pill sentimentality. Rather, here was a re-imagining of what conventional pop music could do in the hands of skilful craftsmen with a bleak(er) worldview. It is undoubtedly a record that will challenge your expectations in a thrillingly visceral way and perhaps even subvert your existing prejudices and assumptions about music.
Now, who doesn’t want to own a record like that? Chris Leathley
57. Froth: Outside (Briefly)
Third album from LA band shows them dialling down the obvious psych influences of their 2013 debut, Patterns and its 2015 follow-up, Bleak to create something much more inventive and pop-inflected. Sometimes less is more. Beef Crisps
56. Clark: Death Peak
Clark’s Death Peak-released in early April-is an album that I’ve found myself returning to constantly over the past nine months or so.
It’s one of those records that worms its way into your affections, like a malevolent electronic puppy. Death Peak has the sound of post-Brexit dread hanging all over it, or rather running through it, akin to a nasty virus that’s become resistant to all antibiotics.
With titles such as Un UK, Aftermath and Catastrophe Anthem, you don’t really need to read much between the lines to determine what Clark’s preoccupations were when making this gem of a record.
However, far from being something that was only relevant for a few weeks and a limited number of plays, there’s an unexpected depth in the fractured electronic noises and textures which make it such an impressive album. Something that I’ll be listening to right through 2018 and beyond. Rick Leach
55. Ex Eye: Ex Eye
Heavy metal, jazz, Can, Led Zeppelin, Yes, 13 minute songs, hammering drums, screaming guitars, saxophones, pauses, 5 tracks, more saxophones. Difficult listening. Am I selling this one right?
Yup. I am. This is an absolute belter. A kind of Mogwai on speed and Godspeed You! Black Emperor backed into the blue corner by the masters of the kick-ass manic crazed mayhem that is Ex Eye.
This is a debut album from a band put together by saxophonist Colin Stetson – and drummer Greg Fox – a pair who have an impressive CV of collaborations with a long list of luminaries as diverse as Tom Waits, Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, TV On The Radio, Feist, Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, Bill Laswell, Evan Parker, The Chemical Brothers, Animal Collective, Hamid Drake, LCD Soundsystem, The National, Angelique Kidjo, Fink, and David Gilmore.
But none of that list prepares you for the onslaught of Ex Eye. And it gives you no clue what this record will sound like. And, neither, really will this review – it’s more a steer to get you to go and check out something different.
It’s complex from a writing point of view and, according to my partner, mind numbing. It takes no prisoners. It grabs you with its power, angst and difference. It’s an album like nothing we’ve heard before. We can’t pigeon hole it other than to say it’s wicked.
There’s a gentle-ish intro in the form of the 4 minute Xenolith; The Anvil which is a pretty classic romp around some heavy metal guitars. But that’s just a teaser. Followed up by the 13 minute behemoth that is Opposition/Perihelion; the Coil the listener is left reeling, but wondering what’s coming next. As Anaitis Hymnal; the Arkose Disc takes hold, you’re gripped and there’s no going back.
You’re trapped in this maelstrom of unfamiliarity, not sure where it’s taking you and not even sure you’re really enjoying it. But something gnaws away and you keep going. You manage to get through the, by now, it seems, relatively brief 8 minutes of Form Constant; the Grid – all cymbals, bass sax and screaming. You haven’t even noticed every track has a semi-colon in its name, let alone wonder why. You can’t yet process what’s going on.
There’s a beauty to the intro of Tten Crowns; the Corruptor – here’s some jazz sax and gentle rhythm to get you in kind of different mood, but it doesn’t take long before it starts to get darker and sinister with a violin that would appear to have been sacrificed for the cause. Drumming that would make Metallica look pedestrian and then, even at 12 minutes it leaves you wanting more. You feel, in the end like you’ve only got started.
We have no idea about the semi-colons, nor why Tten Crowns; the Corruptor has two Ts to start with. It’s a bit like some kind of John Le Carre mystery novel with a double twist at the end. We can only hope there’s more of this madness because it’s just absolutely brilliant. Peter Goodbody
54. Aerial Pink: Dedicated to Bobby Jameson
Seventh full length album from Aerial Pink is as much as you’d expect and pretty much well out there.
Full of melodies that wiggle and worm your way into your heart and ears it seems quite apt that it’s redolent of the 1970’s bearing in mind its central theme of the weird and lost world of cult musician Bobby Jameson.
Like digging through the crates at a car boot sale and coming up with an unexpected treasure. Kenny Fiveways
53. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile: Lotta Sea Lice
Courtney and Kurt. Sounds a bit better than Kurt and Courtney. That latter combination of names has a certain loaded ring about it. And it definitely sounds a whole lot better than Barnett and Vile – that summons up a Dickensian image suitable for a malevolent firm of solicitors.
But enough about names-what about this album?
By all accounts, it kind of grew and grew into a full-length long player somewhat by accident; Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile kept bumping into one another at various festivals across the world and decided that it might be quite good to record a couple of songs together. One thing led to another and before they knew it there were a dozen songs in the can.
Now this may be not entirely true- although it sounds quite neat and romantic-you get the feeling that despite their neo-slacker credentials both Barnett and Vile are more astute and driven than they let on. There may have been a plan all along.
Having said that, it doesn’t really matter than much because they’ve come up with a bit of a treat.
Opener Over Everything (written by Vile) sets the tone, with Barnett and Vile swapping vocal duties in a wholly relaxed fashion, all underlaid with chugging Neil Young/Crazy Horse vibes.
From then on in they take turns with each other songs, along with Jen Cohler’s Fear is Like A Forest more Skakey-like than Mr Young himself and Tanya Donelly’s Untogether worthy of special mentions. Vile’s Continental Breakfast works very well; you can tell that they had a great time making this record.
If this album is what they (and particularly Barnett) can come up with after a bit of messing around then imagine what they could do if they put their mind to it. Rick Leach
Getintothis on Courtney Barnett
Getintothis on Kurt Vile
52. Nadah El Shazley: Ahwar
A dreamlike evocation of complexity mixing free improvisation, classical Arabic music, punk, noise, electronics and powerful vocals – and one of the album covers of the year. You’re not entirely sure where this album is taking you or where you’re going to end up but it’s sure interesting finding out. Sometimes it’s better to travel than to arrive. Rocky Bilbao
51. Liima: 1982
Typing Liima into a search engine can lead you into the false trap that is Limahl and while this might appear somewhat random there might be more to it than meets the eye.
This album, produced by Chris Taylor from Grizzly Bear is the second from the erstwhile Danish members of Efterklang along with Finnish drummer Tatu Rönkkö. The album’s title is inspired from the year that Liima’s Casper Clausen was born, with the other three band members born in the surrounding years.
It’s an album that looks backwards in time yet reflects on the present as much as the past and though not a tribute to the sounds of 35 years ago, you do wonder if the subliminal effect of Kajagoogoo back in the early 80’s has played a part in its making. Surely not – the long arms and fantastic hair of Limahl can’t possibly bridge that gap. Chippy Dinner
50.Tom Rogerson and Brian Eno: Finding Shore
A collaboration between Three Trapped Tigers keyboard player, Tom Rogerson and everyone’s favourite go-to chap, Brian Eno, Finding Shore swaps the sheer brutalist noise attack of Rogerson’s band for contemplative and introspective synths and piano work.
There’s still echoes of that dark noise and tumbling electronic waves of sound, but like a headache that ebbs, flows and fades away it leaves you with a feeling of peace and serenity.
An album to keep coming back to. Rick Leach
Getintothis on Three Trapped Tigers
49.The National: Sleep Well Beast
In what seems almost a lifetime ago, way back in 2013, The National released their last studio album, Trouble Will Find Me.
That was their sixth long player since their 2001 self-titled debut. Although it received wide critical acclaim and commercial success, to the ears of this writer, it sounded slightly of a band that was becoming a bit tired and a touch worn out.
Although not bereft of ideas-it was far from that- Trouble Will Find Me was a sombre, downbeat and strange to say, a quiet affair.
It seemed different from their three earlier albums, Boxer, Alligator – and especially the high-octane High Violet.
There was an element of something lacking; an urgency, a sharpness and indeed that touch of righteous anger which had made that triptych of their previous releases so vital. Maybe it just was a sign of a band simply maturing as opposed to running out of steam. We had to give them the benefit of the doubt, but nevertheless it felt like The National may have just been going out with a whisper. A good whisper, yet a whisper for all that.
It kind of felt like a natural conclusion especially when lead singer Matt Berninger hinted quite strongly at the time that Trouble Will Find Me could be their last album. Ah well, it was good while it lasted.
Berninger recorded a spin off album as EL:VY and fellow National bandmates, brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner seemed fully occupied with soundtracks and art projects.
But you shouldn’t always write great bands off, because The National are back in 2017 with a brand- new album and we are taster single e pleased, nay ecstatic, to report that it’s an absolute cracker.
Sleep Well Beast sees The National return stronger and tighter than ever before.
We had a sign of this with the release of the first single from the album, The System Only Sleeps in Total Darkness earlier this year. It had those Raymond Carver-esque hints and echoes of quiet and desperate lives that The National excel at; those narratives that act exactly like short stories and leaving you needing to know more, yet perfectly formed as they are.
That edge had come back with that single. Staccato guitars and swooping vocals merged with an ever-rolling drum pattern. This was The National as how they should be!
We wondered if it was a one off. Had they simply picked the strongest track from the album?
We needn’t have been concerned because when they played Glastonbury this June, they took the brave step of playing five brand new and unheard tracks from Sleep Well Beast in their Pyramid set.
If anything, the taster single was just that; a taster because the new tracks were so good and on the album they sound even better. Strings and intricate keyboard arrangements are used with skill and just at the right level to add that urgency that’s needed.
Day I Die and Turtleneck are particularly worthy of attention, the latter a three-minute pure blast of invective that Berninger appears to have dragged and dredged up from the depths of his sub-conscious.
2017 has been a vintage year for albums and now with this one from The National we’ve got one that stands right at the very top. A treasure. Rick Leach
Getintothis on The National
48. Moon Duo: Occult Architecture Vol. 1
Sacred Bones Records
The recent death of Can drumming legend Jaki Liebezeit was a sad reminder of krautrock’s endless quest for mind expanding musical experimentalism. Crucial to this was invention of motorik, the genre’s famed propulsive rhythmic style as perfected by Liebezeit and fellow perfectionist Thomas Dinger of Neu!
It’s this classic trope of krautrock that has served as Moon Duo‘s comfort blanket for four albums now as Ripley Johnson and Sanae Yamada‘s Wooden Shjips offshoot have stuck to a compelling if slightly restricted pattern of groove-based repetition.
To liven things up a bit, Occult Architecture comes as the first volume of two albums this year in which Johnson investigates the Chinese concept of Yin and Yang with this first collection dealing with the dark side.
Strangely this journey into the black has brought out a pleasing poppy side to Johnson‘s song writing with White Rose and Will Of The Devil sounding like the kind of song The Terminator guns down club goers to in Tech Noir and Creepin’ even managing to recall The Strokes if they were from Dusseldorf. Frank Courgette
47. All We Are: Sunny Hills
It’s been a while, but All We Are have released a belter to follow up their breezy poppy debut, self- titled album from 2015.
The band teased the release out on YouTube starting with the glorious, League-of-Gentlemen inspired video for Human – New Road, anyone?
They followed that with videos for Animal and Burn It All Out.
The music is uplifting, joyful pop/rock, but the subject matter’s serious and a reflection of these crazy days in which we find ourselves having to negotiate. Worthy GIT Award winners in 2015, All We Are form part of a seriously impressive Liverpool scene that includes the likes of Clean Cut Kid, The Sundowners and She Drew The Gun, all of whom are getting decent press and TV coverage.
The album seems like a perfect summer soundtrack without being cheesy. On the contrary, this is an intelligent, well written, well-structured piece of work. When Getintothis spoke to the band last month they talked about music as a universal language – ‘Everyone understands music. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what language you speak.’
This, we think is an album that can speak to a pretty wide audience and, will do their brand a great deal of kudos. A wider audience awaits. Peter Goodbody
Getintothis on All We Are
46. Tinariwen: Elwan
Malian desert blues maestros Tinariwen conjure up yet more hypnotic grooves with this, their seventh album and with a style which continues to amaze. Vanilla Boghart
45. Flyte: The Loved One
Faithless kicks off with concert piano chords before some vocals that recall the pastoral psych of the likes of The Zombies and The Kinks. It features a hint of their trademark four-part harmonies as the track takes their anthemic indie pop sound closer towards Coldplay and Keane territory than ever before, although this is undercut by a choppy guitar solo that calls to mind some of Brian Eno’s mid-70’s solo albums. Will Neville
44. Alvvays: Antisocialites
Boppy as fuck and sprightly as a forest elf pop from the second album by Canada’s Alvvays. A sound follow up to their 2014 self-titled debut – and with single In Undertow they’ve one of the stand out tracks of the year. Get hold of this and you won’t be disappointed. A blistering riot from start to finish. Jerry Catarrh
43. alt-J: Relaxer
Relaxer is the third studio album of indie rock band alt-J, with just 8 tracks, the concise nature of the album contrasting with the grand landscapes created throughout.
With pop culture references to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood to The Animals The House of the Rising Sun, the cinematic effect on the sound of the album can’t be denied. The dark undertones below a surface of dizzying melodies allow the band to explore more intricate narratives from murder to depression to crushes on historical figures long gone.
The entire narrative of the album appears to follow separate stories of each track. The second track of the album, In Cold Blood relays the story of a man who dives into a pool at a party and re-emerges to find someone has been stabbed. While this tale alone could have been a slower and more melancholic track, alt-J take the chance to show the urgency and panic and confusion of the surroundings of the story.
The use of a full orchestra on Deadcrush takes the track to a whole new level of a cinematic score as it builds an unusual tension throughout and allows the strange nature of a deadcrush to wash over the listener.
Last Year is the penultimate track on the record and possibly the most devastating lyrically and the stripped back nature of the melody allows this to shine through as a look into depression and suicide, as the vocals depict the heartbroken struggle of understanding.
The album ends with the track Pleader, a track inspired by How Green Is My Valley by Richard Llewellyn, with the title being a main lyric throughout the song and the soaring vocals and harmonies feeling grander than life as they sweep in and around the track.
alt-J have returned with a third album of epic proportions by delving into the narrative of human nature. Jess Borden
42. Aseethe: Hopes of Failure
Thrill Jockey Records
“Reach further for hopes of failure, your body is breaking down, build further the bridge we need”.
I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure what type of bridge the lads in Aseethe are hoping to construct.
It could be like the Runcorn Bridge because that’s one hell of a structure which, according to Wiki, is 482m long with the main arch spanning a whopping 330m. However, I’d say it’s unlikely Iowa’s premier doom outfit are that au fait with the cantilevering steelwork constructed to bridge the gap between Runcorn and Widnes.
They could of course be referring to the Chacahoula Swamp Bridge situated in the Terrebonne Parish of Louisiana – for it would certainly fit their modus operandi of brooding concrete trestles draped across gloopy passages of sludge.
But to be honest, and while I am no bridge expert (for I have never built one, and don’t even drive so barely ever go over one – unless it’s a foot bridge, which let’s face it, are becoming less of a thing – except if you’re on a school trip and going over those cattle grid things; are they even bridges – probably not) I’d hazard a guess that Brian Barr (guitar, vocals, synth), Eric Diercks (drums, samples), and Danny Barr are hoping for something along the lines of the colossal Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge in China.
For Aseethe don’t dick about. Like the Danyang’s 102.4 mile expanse, Aseethe specialise in long-drawn-out monstrousness and each track on Hopes of Failure careers into the ten minute zone limitlessly descending into further levels of extreme.
Or as they put it: “The meditative component of Aseethe’s sound remains driven by an inward focus, a stare down the caverns of depression.” Happy New Year, everyone. Peter Guy
41. Kelly Lee Owens: Kelly Lee Owens
The debut album by the London based producer Kelly Lee Owens is fragrant with character that she has acquired along the way from her native North Wales to Manchester to working at London’s XL Recording. An electronic mostly techno work at heart, the self-titled album can potentially convert someone not already interested in those genres.
Filled with perfection and nuances one can expect from a producer who constantly collaborates with Daniel Avery and James Greenwood (Ghost Culture), the album’s upside is the flow from song to song on top of the variety the songs offer.
The opening track S.O. is by far the most seductive with its moodiness and drama. The minute you think it is just business as usual, use of ethnic loops take the sound levels apart. From Anci to Lucid, the techno influence takes the forefront evolving to its punchiest peaks at CBM. While the moodiness comes back at Keep Walking and the ethnic exoticness at the drone-laden 8 which with its immersive qualities sums up a whole album that’s made up of creative genius, moodiness and atmospheric beauty. Amaan Khan
40. Seán Street, Neil Campbell, Perri Alleyne-Hughes: Estuary
The idea of a 17-track conceptual album about estuaries set to spoken word poetry is perhaps going to struggle to make a significant dent in today’s pop charts.
However, the collaborative project between poet and broadcaster Seán Street, Liverpool-based guitarist Neil Campbell and vocalist Perri Alleyne-Hughes really is quite something.
A 12-poem sequence across two books by Street were pulled together via the music of Campbell and vocals of Alleyne-Hughes for Merseyside literary festival Writing on the Wall in 2015 – and it’s received a full album release in 2017.
While the subject matter relates to dancing ferries, the Iron Men of Crosby beach, tranquil harbours and a plethora of aquatic species it’s the overall ambience which truly washes over and captivates the listener.
Street’s voice itself is like a stream of consciousness ebbing to and fro between Campbell‘s progressive guitars which veer between Michael Rother-like cosmiche and Canterbury prog.
Alleyne-Hughes is used sparingly but her appearance injects a deft power to the proceedings – see the modulating soul of Storm Blind or Sestina (Part Two)‘s cascading waterfall of nylon strings and sparse bass.
There’s some truly transcendental production work at play too with Marty Snape layering textured electronica subtly beneath the waves of guitar (see Fog Redux‘s Eno like rhythms) while unsung Mersey producer Jon Lawton allows the entire piece to breathe amid the delicate waves of instrumentation.
This is a seriously fine record and quite unlike anything we’ve heard for some time. A natural beauty. Peter Guy
39. Courtney Marie Andrews: Honest Life
After spending nearly a decade touring with big bands and playing solo, Courtney Marie Andrews jacked it all in and ended up working a bar deep in rural Washington.
We’re glad she returned invigorated and this simple and beautiful country-inflected album has rightly won many over with its stories of personal redemption and resilience.
She’s just announced a live date at Liverpool’s Arts Club in April 2018 and quite frankly, you’d be daft to miss out on it. Jacqui O’Mascis
38. Warm Digits: Wireless World
Dance infected mania from North East electronic duo Andrew Hodson and Steve Jefferies and featuring guest vocals from the likes of Sarah Cracknell, Peter Brewis and Devon Sproule, Wireless World explores the gaps between modern day celebration of technology and the imminent and ever-present threat of the collapse of democracy and the planet. Heavy and heady stuff. Professor Plume
37. Gnoomes: Tschak!
Gnoomes have produced a striking and contrasting follow up to 2015’s excellent Ngan.
The Russians’ previous four song album was bookended by two protracted suites of music that locked into sweepingly cinematic stargaze vistas. Tschak! by contrast feels bolder and looser. More experimental, broader in the scope of its ambition.
This isn’t an extreme reinvention, the blend of synth-heavy krautrock, psychedelia and shoegaze wanderlust remain present and correct. Yet it’s the directions that the band take this in that define this remarkable record.
Opener Super Libido Awake is a phased, fuzz-laden lollop of rhythmic discordancy that builds relentlessly with the merest hint of sun-dappled melody shining through the cracks. It works as an intro yet Maria offers an immediate and surprising mood change. Clean vocals delivered with a sense of wistful longing are delivered over beautifully considered synth which nonetheless build into a gloriously ecstatic euphoria of ever-increasing intensity.
Cascais sees a further change. This is a full throttle experimental krautrock as drum beats and synth co-exist in a a sense of uneasy competition while a noise-led whirlwind rages in the background. What makes Tschak! such a thrilling ride is its variety and restless creative energy. Where much of their contemporaries seem content to lock into a familiar groove, churning out variations on a narrow theme, Gnoomes‘ career towards new horizons with an exciting sense of élan.
This isn’t a singular vision, it’s a multi-faceted embrace of musical history from krautrock, kosmische, cold wave and industrial yet reimagines it with an undoubted modern relevance. Steverokamsk recalls Harmonia but with a clattering of post-industrial noise coupled with doom-laden deluges added over the top. It is typical of Gnoomes‘ material, songs inhabit themselves seeming to live and breathe independently of the band.
Elsewhere, the title track heads off to a different place altogether embracing the jittery anxieties and warped electronica of the post-millennial era. City Monk delivers a monotonously detached vocal delivery above rumbling noise and the repetitive constancy of electronic beats before a wail of skyward guitar kicks in for good measure.
You can’t help but feel that Tschak! pushes Gnoomes into new territory. Its experimental tendencies and the forced collisions of styles serves to create something new, compellingly refreshing and genuinely thrilling. Paul Higham
36. Bedouine: Bedouine
Caroline International P&D
Azniv Korkejian aka Bedouine’s debut album, sounds like a nigh-on perfect summer day.
With hints of 60’s pop running through soft folk tunes and with her Armenian/Syrian/Saudi heritage and having growing up and living in Boston, Houston and latterly LA, she’s melded all these disparate influences into something remarkable.
It’ll be fascinating to see what she comes up with next. Jan Franco Granola
35. Jane Weaver: Modern Kosmology
Jane Weaver’s latest offering continues to explore the sonic territory of 2014’s The Silver Globe, probably the most successful record of her long, varied and durable career thus far, though it may yet prove to outdo its predecessor. Certainly it’s been very well received by the critics and it’s not hard to hear why.
The song-writing is as good as ever and the arrangements provide a pleasingly inventive backdrop for Weaver’s ethereal vocals. She has a good ear for a melody and resists the urge to overwhelm it with endless overdubs. Indeed, as a whole the album sounds noticeably pared-back when compared with her previous collection. The continuity between that record and this one is immediately apparent, yet this is no mere re-tread of old ground. This is a carefully considered, if cautious progression rather than the great leap forward which separated The Fallen By Watchbird and The Silver Globe.
It can be broadly described as contemporary psych, though it sounds nothing like a 60s revivalist album – much more Trish Keenan than Grace Slick. The influence of Can, whose original singer Malcolm Mooney pops up to provide guest narration here, is apparent throughout. The analogue synths and vintage music tech employed to great effect are reminiscent of Weaver’s extensive, cool and knowing influences and it’s an album that wouldn’t sound out of place on the Ghost Box label – early electronica, experimental soundtracks, 70s space rock and krautrock comparisons are unavoidable, but don’t tell the whole story.
You may well be thinking that these are well-ploughed fields of inspiration yet Weaver manages to bring a freshness to them whilst carefully avoiding the clichés. The album’s pleasingly succinct opening track breathes new life into the well-worn motorik beat and doesn’t out-stay its welcome. The song concerns itself with Hilma af Klint, a Swedish painter and mystic who produced abstract paintings in the belief that she was channelling spirits, and it’s hard to avoid thinking that Weaver is here, metaphorically speaking, doing something similar in the exercise of her creativity. Gary Aster
Getintothis on Jane Weaver
34. Liars: Theme From Crying Fountain
For Liars’ eighth studio album, the bustling backdrops of Los Angeles, Berlin and New York have been replaced with a presence far more intimate and autobiographical as Liars once again boldly step out of their comfort zone into vastly new musical territory and reinvent the band’s paradigm – blurring the lines between electronic and acoustic, between the experimental impulse and the addictive pop sensibility. Ryan Craig
Getintothis on Liars
The first full length album by album since 2011’s Now I Am Here by New York/ Florida duo (and brothers) Andy and Edwin White.
Comprising of just three extended tracks of noise, distortion and full-on sheets of sounds this is the sound of modern psychedelia writ large. It’s a psychedelic roller-coaster, addictively compelling as its endless loops of stirring repetition transfix and hypnotise. Tim Swingball
32. Here Lies Man: Here Lies Man
Riff heavy and heavy riffs from Marcos Garcia’s (Antibalas) new LA band Here Lies Man.
Like the bastard offspring of Black Sabbath and Goat with a sprinkling of Fela Kuti funk thrown in for good measure, doesn’t this sound like an album you just have to get your ears around? Hash Brown
31. Martyn Heyne: Electric Intervals
Stunningly beautiful and quiet music from Martyn Heyne on this, his first full length album.
Reflective and gentle yet with a steely core, this is the sound of the new classical. Lily Pod
30. Neil Young: Hitchhiker
It wouldn’t be a Top 100 without an album from Neil Young making an appearance and this one, from early in September, is truly a thing of beauty. Clocking in at a shade over just over 34 minutes it’s a small yet perfectly formed thing, comprising of lost versions and outtakes of well-known classics such as Pocahontas, Powderfinger and Ride My Llama as well as Hawaii and Mr Kennedy. Long may he run. Steven Spielburger
Getintothis on Neil Young
29. EMA: Exile in the Outer Ring
Erika Anderson (better known as EMA) has made a habit of entering the dark vortex via alternative portals.
Her fourth album, Exile in the Outer Ring, continues the trend, this time focusing on the decay of the American Dream, isolationism and finding optimism from between the lines of “the system”.
Reading various interviews with EMA and you felt this album was coming. While her William Gibson inspired third album, The Future’s Void, poignantly critiqued social media and its insidious role in modern society, EMA becomes even more philosophical and nihilistic here, questioning the liberal elite status quote as well as finding solace on the fringes of society, or as she calls it, “the outer ring.”
Sonically, it’s not so far removed from her previous body of work, largely inspired by heavy industrial leanings (’33 Nihilistic and Female’), however EMA has always had the ability to floor her listeners when she eases the pace.
Gorgeous opener, 7 Years, is clearly the vanguard where the slower moments of Outer Ring are concerned.
Exile in the Outer Ring operates within the fine margins of beauty and brutality. EMA almost seems comfortable in the uncomfortable. Although the album illuminates the state of hopelessness we currently find ourselves in, oddly enough you still can’t help but feel a sense hope. Simon Kirk
28. Sinkane: Life & Livin’ It
Genre-defying fourth album from Sinkane, led by founder and frontman Ahmed Gallab, with slinky funk and soul grooves to the fore, sub-Saharan melodies. Having played over 166 shows in over 20 countries in just over a year, Sinkane are winning hearts and minds over right across the planet. Ricky Virgin Isles Pendalino
27. Big Thief: Capacity
With vocals sounding something akin to a pitched up Kristin Hersh clashing with Joanna Newsom‘s eccentric mannerisms yet paired with canny lyrics and infectious guitar chords Brooklyn’s Big Thief have hit the mark with their brand of raggedy indie rock on this, their second album following their 2015 debut, Masterpiece. Their best yet by some distance – and without a doubt one of the sleeper hits of 2017. Alfred Wendal
26. Noga Erez: Off The Radar
The obvious comparison for this super confident debut album by Tel Aviv-based Israeli artist Noga Erez is to MIA. The production kow-tows to Diplo to the point of downright obsequiousness (check the Major Lazer quotes on Noisy) and the fashionable disjointedness with female vocal borrows unapologetically from FKA Twigs. It’s all competently, at times pyrotechnically produced, but far too in thrall to its heroes to make a real mark.
But there are other flavours here that put this album beyond the reach of even its stylistic trailblazers. There’s an honesty and social rage here necessitated by, albeit a thousand steps removed from, referencing hip-hop conventions. But whereas MIA’s political commentary is a generalised “stick it to the man” THC enhanced sulk, Noga Erez has the experience of living in the racist, militarised state of Israel to lend lyrical gravity.
Dance While You Shoot leaves little doubt that Erez isn’t afraid to publicly question the validity of her nation’s belligerent behaviour, not least upon the psychology of its own citizens. The moment on Pity where we see the guns and other toys ‘aiming for the forehead’ has the same uncomfortable ring of first-hand experience that the Wu Tang Clan brought us back in the 90’s
This uniquely Israeli voice extends into the music too. A touch of Arabic melody and harmony, a whiff of the pre-war opera houses of Europe, the close harmony of 40’s Broadway, even the clarinets of Klezmer shoehorned into the contemporary production.
All these flavours: political and musical coalesce on Muezzin, one of the high points of the album which, like the entire record, is at times both beautiful and chilling in a very different sense. Jono Podmore
25. Bardspec: Hydrogen
Regular readers of Albums Club will now be well versed by this writer marrying an album to a film – well, get this, Hydrogen‘s sprawling nine-minute epic opener Bone is an absolute shoe-in for an imaginary reboot of Predator.
This ridiculously compulsive slice of propulsive beats, sitar-like guitar strokes and that juddering frenetic gnarliness is tailor-made for Dutch and his crew to be legging it full pace through the sweaty climes of a remote jungle hollering ‘GET TO THE CHOPPPAAA!‘
You can almost hear the sweat pouring off Mac’s face as he caresses that razor blade across his face or feel the skin opening up as Billy drags the sword across his chest waiting for the monster to move in for the kill. The follow up, and ten-minute whopper Fire Tongue, even recalls Predator composer Alan Silvestri‘s use of tumbling wood blocks rhythms which perfectly suits the ferocious forestry climes.
Back in the real world, Hydrogen is the work of Enslaved guitarist Ivar Bjørnson – who together with Steve Austin on effects and more guitars plus visual effects man David Hall – have created a piece which is both claustrophobic and hugely absorbing.
Each of the pieces are mammoth in scale, Gamma a ten-minute ambient piece which recalls their inspirations of Tangerine Dream and fellow Krautrocker Klaus Schultze while the more contemporary sounding Salt wouldn’t seem out of place being blasted at Liverpool’s Psych Fest at 2am to a room full of wide-eyed, battered mind souls.
If there’s a weak spot, it’s that the two furious openers outweigh the rest of Hydrogen, but for a debut Bjørnson and co. have created a quite beautiful and at times brutal beast. Arnie would have his hands full. Peter Guy
24. Black Angels: Death Song
It’s been 11 years since Passover, the breakthrough debut album by the underlings of garage doom, The Black Angels, stationed themselves like a hearse loaded with heroin and thunder – and much has changed.
Their introduction to this listener came off the back of buying the simple black sleeve 12″ by The Warlocks – a band crossing over into the mainstream courtesy of a new wave of dark rock and roll outsiders; The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and a clutch of others represented a pocket of new-wavers making smack-laced blisteringly exciting drone.
While the BJM toured relentlessly garnering their infamous reputation, and fleeting appearances by BRMC and a notable set by The Warlocks upstairs in Liverpool’s then Barfly Loft, The Black Angels proved more elusive and certainly more enigmatic.
Push things forward and this careeringly bleak yet energising psychosis of guitar rock is now firmly entrenched in the mainstream – with any city worth it’s salt hosting a spin off Psych Fest – so it seems only natural The Black Angels made their return at the UK’s finest of such here in Liverpool.
Death Song is the album centre-piece and Currency – a rip-roaring condemnatory outcry against capitalism is the rallying cry. It sets the tone for a record which barely deviates from their characteristic template which is nonetheless a wonderfully vicious, steely listen.
I Dreamt shows the band at their most direct, almost Clinic-like in it’s spooky pop before whisky-soaked riffs plough through the mix.
Elsewhere, Comanche Moon is a triumphant blast of titanic power, echoing choral vocals and a vortex of a fuzzy climax. Better still is Half Believing a neo-gothic ballad which marries Alex Maas‘ deadened vocals with a sharp military beat and ribbons of spiky fretwork while closer Life Song is a mournful cousin of Pink Floyd‘s Eclipse drenched with regret and modulated synths.
While there’s little new present on Death Song, The Black Angels‘ reemergence is not only fitting but a timely reminder of a small gang of dark musical prophets who spawned a legion of unholy apostles. Peter Guy
23. Forest Swords: Compassion
Compassion is one of those rare records that not only bears repeated listening, but rewards you every time you hear it. Multi-layers of digital textures and field recordings, clattering beats and distorted sax arrangements mix with orchestral swoops and clattering beats to give an impression of unease, uncertainty, tension, claustrophobia and yet in many ways, hope.
It’s quite a remarkable recording and one that sounds both old and new at the same time. Ancient sounds from other worlds drift in and out all the way through the record and invoke visions of strange, dangerous and exotic places. New future beats and rhythms weave in and out of such a rich tapestry of sounds that at times it’s difficult to say where the old ends and the new begins.
The very titles of the tracks lend a vision of a world teetering on the brink; War It, Arms Out, Border Margin Barrier, Panic, Sjurvival. The album ends with Knife Edge, a quiet and elegiac piano driven piece that initially sounds foreboding, but on reflection speaks of hope and promise and of better things to come. Rick Leach
Getintothis on Forest Swords
22. VEYU: Underbelly
Clocking in at just shy of the 30 minute mark Underbelly is a characteristic slab of melancholy fused with mighty riffs and a wrecking ball of percussive grooves. It’s unmistakably VEYU – and any long-time supporters of the band will revel in it. It will surely ensnare new fans too. It should. It must.
What’s immediately apparent on Underbelly is the heightened taut steeliness, typified in Ash Hopkins‘ pranging bass line in the aforementioned lead single Where Has The Fire In You Gone? which works in tandem with (sometimes the under-utilised) Donovan Collins‘ metallic synth shimmers. It recalls the slick industrial feel of Running setting the tone in grandiose fashion.
The trick is repeated later with Anyone Can Count which sees the band in strident new wave form as the modulated keyboards marry with Adam Bresnen‘s moonlit guitars. The Collector carries much of what vocalist Chris Beesley refers to as his introspective imagery (they could eat you alive, ’til they chew you up and spit you out) as his mournful vocals pour over iridescent waves instrumentation – it’s as if Echo & The Bunnymen are channeling Radiohead.
The twinned centre-piece tracks work beautifully as contrasting sides to the same coin – Rabbithole is an abyss-like post-rock downer magnified with colossal builds and swells and cinematic coda while the radiating rhythmic chugs of Everytime showcases drummer Tom McCabe in understated yet metronomic mode as his band members unravel a twisting cyclical pop joy. They close with their angriest track to date – the live beast Battlecry – a call to arms, and a delicious slab of pounding noise. Peter Guy
Getintothis on VEYU
21. Mac De Marco: This Old Dog
Purportedly written on a $10 acoustic guitar this latest album by eclectic Canadian Mac DeMarco dropped in April this year and was touted as his most personal collection of songs to date; which is saying something, bearing in mind he’s not too shy about wearing his heart on his sleeve.
Although an acoustic album, it’s hard to say that it’s his equivalent of Springsteen’s Nebraska as there’s a fair old smattering of synths across the whole thing and in particular the title track is washed liberally with them.
Yet at no time does it come across as some sort of cold synthy beast; there’s happiness and sadness in equal measures throughout the album and the strength of these personal songs shine brightly like a thousand stars.
Getintothis on Mac DeMarco
Sometimes (usually always) the best thing about music is the ability for it to surprise. Just when you think you know what’s happening then something comes out of leftfield to knock your socks off or totally change your preconceptions.
Well, both of these things happened with Thundercat’s Drunk album.
Coming from the Flying Lotus/ Kamasi Washington stable and working with Kendrick Lamar as well as his Suicidial Tendencies roots, hearing Drunk for the first time was a tad unexpected.
Stephen Bruner (aka Thundercat) came up with what was not unfairly described as something 10 CC might have come up with in one of their more mellow moments and if they’d come from California rather than Manchester in the mid-1970’s. It was that much of a left turn.
With guest vocals from Kenny Loggins and Michael MacDonald what initially sounded so smooth and well, laid back, has now, with the passage of time and repeated plays become something more than that. It’s unsettling and dark and disquieting and speaks of the uncertainty that surrounds us all. A very surprising album and so much the better for all of that. Rick Leach
19. Grails: Chalice Hymnal
One of the best bits about going to All Tomorrow’s Parties was actually getting there.
Journeying from the North to some seaside outpost felt like a genuine vintage holiday trip and sorting out the tunes for the mission was part of the whole experience.
Traditionally we’d leave Liverpool with something fitting like The Stone Roses or more recently By The Sea‘s debut album; Waltz Away perhaps the obvious choice. The finale of five or more hours on the road would culminate in a traditional sing-off of Fleetwood Mac‘s Go Your Own Way (our driver, Rama, taking on Buckingham‘s harmonies and tapping the wheel for Mick‘s drums, while I’d take the lead with Stevie).
But before all that car-seat elation it’d be preceded by an epic outrock jam in true ATP fashion. And Grails would often be that band.
With their Eastern flavouring, sitar wig-outs and masterly craft of building tension and release they ramped up our excitement and flooded the speakers with the kind of decadence that awaited our chalet-bound three-day riot. The spaghetti western meets Godspeed! approach of Silk Road remains a favourite ten years later.
Over time the Portland collective have mixed up their expansive template but remained in essence an instrumental force with a tendency to push music into brutal territories – 2011’s Deep Politics perhaps a career high point mixing epic metal, sludgy textures and ambitious symphonic rock.
Their latest Chalice Hymnal once again finds them in new territory – an altogether more meditative album reminiscent of the kind of interplanetary jazz-rock plied by the late David Axelrod; see the dreamlike Rebecca, the airy floating chants of Empty Chamber or the Grecian sweeping plumes exhibited on Deeper Politics.
Elsewhere, Pelham borrows from 70s prog-funk à la Golden Earring, there’s the folk metal strum of Thorns II and the string-laden ten minute tapestry of After The Funeral which very much lives up to its name. The album is awash with stylistic avenues and switching between cosmic plains.
But make no mistake, Grails are always committed to the heavy cause. New Prague is a slab of molten rock while our pick Deep Snow has that beautiful trademark stamp of plucked acoustic guitars duelling with Morricone sandstorm atmospherics and quite punishing power chords reminding the listener that while Grails may entice you with their charm underneath it all they’re gnarly beasts of the highest order. Horns up, you bastards! Peter Guy
Getintothis on Grails
18. Hannah Peel: Mary Casio: Journey To Cassiopeia
My Own Pleasure
I’ve been listening to this album almost to the exclusion of anything else this last month. It’s one of those records.
The sort of record that when you pick something else and listen to a few tracks- or even just one track or even a few minutes of one track- you find yourself thinking, ‘What am I doing listening to this? I could be listening to Hannah Peel. I should be listening to Journey to Cassiopeia.’
This is a record that demands to be played over and over again. On repeat. It’s a record that mesmerises and makes you wonder where on earth did all that come from? How can anyone, how can any one person make something so…well, nigh on perfect?
Because that’s what Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia is.
I guess we knew that Hannah Peel could make a great record. After all, her previous album, 2016’s Awake, But Always Dreaming which documented her grandmother’s struggle with dementia was a brave and visionary personal tale, yet one which was oddly uplifting. Her work as part of The Magnetic North, and in particular their The Prospect of Skelmersdale album rightly made Getintothis’ Best of 2016 list.
Yet with this record, she seems to have taken a massive leap forward.
Where those two albums beautifully dealt with things on a small and limited stage (the inner mind and the psychogeography of a new town), Journey to Cassiopeia looks heavenwards, across the boundless dust of space and to a constellation many light years away.
It’s the (real or imagined) journey of an 80-year old woman from Barnsley, a stargazer who has always dreamed of travelling to Cassiopeia.
Hannah Peel has said that the journey may not actually have happened and it might simply have taken place in the imagination of her protagonist. That doesn’t matter. This album takes us, the listener, on that trip.
She’s managed to skilfully meld electronics, analog synths and a full brass band (Tubular Brass) to produce seven tracks that demand to be heard.
From the opener, Goodbye Earth, which sets it all up perfectly, through Sunshine Through Dusty Nebula with plaintive brass leading into Deep Space Cluster hopping and dancing and picking your way through somewhere distant, she’s managed to make the disparate elements of electronic and brass work so well.
It all ends with The Planet of Passed Souls. This is a treated recording of Peel’s grandfather, singing as a choirboy in Manchester Cathedral from many years ago. Overlaid with Mahlerian chords, she’s managed to retain the dusty scratches of an old 78.
We hear those notes and that voice echoing down the years. It gently fades away and leaves us spellbound. Hannah Peel has made something intensely personal and shared it with us and isn’t that what art and the creative process should all be about? It’s a remarkable record. I’m off to listen to it (yet) again. Rick Leach
Getintothis on Hannah Peel
17. Mogwai: Every Country’s Sun
With Every Country’s Sun, their ninth studio album, Mogwai have come up with a blinder.
Reunited with US producer, Dave Fridmann (The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev) for the first time since 2001’s Rock Action, this record is a revelation.
Mogwai have always been one of those rare bands who are confident and self-assured. Even from their early days, they seemed to have known where they were going. They were artists who weren’t messing around.
Yet, with Every Country’s Sun, they have taken it one step further. With tracks like Coolverine (the opener), Don’t Believe the Fife and aka 47 there’s still that faith in what they’re doing shining through but there something else. Something more.
It’s that sense you get when you see someone who has complete mastery with their work It might not necessarily be a musician; it could equally be someone making an intricate piece of jewellery or repairing something that appears to be utterly broken. It could be an artist, a painter, even a footballer; just think of Zindane in his prime.
Whatever it is, they make it seem effortless and right. You don’t really understand how they can do it, but they do.
This is the level that Mogwai have reached with Every Country’s Sun. It’s effortless and right.
Party in the Dark in possibly the hookiest song that Mowgai have ever recorded. In an alternative universe, it would be Number 1 for weeks. And as there clearly are alternative universes, then this perfect pop tune, with distinct echoes of New Order or the Flaming Lips at their catchiest has been at the top of the charts all summer long.
The album builds and builds to the title track which rounds it all off so well. It’s crescendo after crescendo, everything layered and interwoven. It explodes like thousands and thousands of fireworks in the darkest November sky and you find yourself slack-jawed and amazed as it ends.
How did Mogwai do all that you ask yourself? You’re not entirely sure, but you’re so glad they did. Rick Leach
Getintothis on Mogwai
16. Fever Ray: Plunge
Released right at the very end of 2017, the new (and second album) by Fever Ray dropped years after her debut and interspersed by two albums recorded as The Knife alongside her brother.
Plunge is an adventurous thing. It’s an album about sex and relationships and isn’t afraid to nail its colours to the mast. Where the first Fever Ray album was starkly ethereal and Nordic to the point of stereotypical coldness, then Plunge kind of…plunges into tales and electronic narratives of both pain and pleasure with the lines between both of them being intentionally blurred.
Brooding and bleak, Plunge is a more of a grim fairy tale than a Grimm one. Jasper Garrote
15. Sampha: Process
They say death is like taxes, in that it is a process we all sadly must face at some point in our lives. Whether it be loss of life, loss of a lover, loss of something or someone, it is a finite part of life
London neo-soul maestro Sampha is all too aware of bereavement, with his debut offering Process being his own beautiful mechanism of dealing with loss.
Having built up an impressive CV by working with the likes of Kanye, Drake, Frank Ocean to name but a few, Sampha has bided his time well before taking the step into the limelight and his patience has paid off ten fold.
In Process, Sampha explores an arrange of losses he has had to find a way to cope with, as he delivers an astonishingly touching array of ballads as he amalgamates Celtic, urban and jazz influences into a sensory melting pot.
Each song on his debut has purpose. Not one of the tracks feels strained or like a plea for pity from the listener. They are sophisticated journeys into the changes he has faced in his life, with Timmy’s Prayer, co-written with West, sublimely deliberating sibling rivalry under a cauldron of vulnerability.
Although standout track (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano is undeniably one of the moving songs in recent memory, it is perhaps another tribute to his late mother that truly makes you aware of his talents with Kora Song presenting brutal honesty we can all relate to.
Having dealt with grief all too frequently, it’s albums like Process that offer you the escape that music can thankfully provide you with. Craig MacDonald
14.10,000 Russos: Distress Distress
There’s got to be something said for any record which includes a track called Europa Kaput.
A very apt title for the chaos that’s unfolding across the continent and while the song itself has a quite a funky and upbeat bass-led vibe it’s underpinned by a hypnotic and motorik rhythm seemingly at odds. In theory you’d think that these two disparate elements wouldn’t work, but they do and fit together so well.
This kind of sums up what Portugal’s 10,000 Russos do on this album.
There’s clearly elements of psych rock and with a krautrock flavouring thrown into the recipe it could easily end up in a bit of an unholy mess; neither one thing or another.
Yet with songs like the first single off the album, Tutilitaraian, they’ve taken a huge step forward. This is not psychedelic music by numbers, some lazy shapes jumbled up together, but something else altogether. It sounds like something they’ve thought about and worked on.
There’s a true dark edge to it all and this is a record that may well take a genre forward into new and exciting territory. An album to explore. Peter Panopticon
13. Oh Sees: Orc
In a year when The Flaming Lips sadly seem to be ploughing a dead and increasingly irrelevant creative furrow, we should be grateful for the The Oh Sees and this, one of the three albums released by their mainstay, John Dwyer.
With a solo electro-punk set under his moniker as Damaged Bug, and a bespoke and well- crafted twisted pop album under the new OCS banner bookending 2017, we had this thrashy garage outing complete with touches of jazz and trace of ambience thrown in for good measure.
To be honest any of the three albums could well have made our list but if we were having to pick just one, then Orc is the way to go – and in Animated Violence they’ve written the year’s best rock track. Tolkien would have been proud. Rob Goblin
12. Woods: Love Is Love
Written as a response to the election of Trump, the title – and sentiments contained within the 10th album by the New York indie folk band- may seem a bit trite and indeed hippyish.
Love Is Love and all that. Easy platitudes. Maybe. But in the face of everything that’s been going on what can we do? Rant and rave in a Crass-like way, screaming irrelevantly into the teeth of a tornado, our voices being lost and thrown away or stand defiant yet quietly and keep speaking what we know to be true?
The latter is what Woods seem to do with this album and main songwriter Jeremy Earl undercuts accusations of naïve optimism with edgy arrangements and in particular within the sadness shown in Spring Is in the Air.
Love is Love and Hope is Hope. That’s what we’ve got here. Janitor St Porter
11. ZU: Jhator
House of Mythology
Two tracks. Twenty plus minutes each. A Sky Burial and The Dawning Moon of the Mind.
Forget Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s latest offering, which is quite frankly tired, irrelevant and predictable-get hold of this offering from this power trio.
Jhator builds and builds and builds with both tracks, making music that’s exciting and subversive, interesting and exploring new worlds throughout. There’s a moment 17 minutes in when a sky-severing guitar cuts through the mix and it feels like your mind is about to drop out your eyeballs. Seriously, it’s that good. You’ll want to listen to it again and again and there’s more to hear each and every time. Stan Hyperbole
10. LCD Soundsystem: American Dream
This is a big deal. Anything LCD Soundsystem does is a big deal, but here we have a new album from a band, the death of which was announced six years ago, although, true, they said last year they were back and this album hasn’t exactly come as a surprise.
So, the phoenix has risen, and then some. The last recorded output of any substance from the band was the long goodbye (lcd soundsystem live at madison square garden) – a near 4 hour unedited recording of the behemoth of the gig, said at the time, to have been their swansong.
Since then there have been rumours and counter-rumours, but Murphy & Co did indeed play some gigs in 2016, as well as cancelling some. In January 2016 the intent was announced of a new LCD Soundsystem album later that year, but for whatever reason it didn’t happen.
But now it has landed (does a phoenix land?) and it’s a belter.
Although, to be honest, it’s not massively different from their previous output. Murphy’s voice is still there at the front and the relentless rhythms that make up the band’s distinctive DNA will keep fans happy enough.
There’s no barnstormer track a là Daft Punk Is Playing at My House and at times we’re reminded of John Lydon’s Public Image Limited (how do you sleep?), which is no bad thing. But as a coherent body of work this album hits the sweet spot.
Arguably, tonite is the most Creamfields friendly track, but there are other gems and nods towards Murphy’s brand of indie style dance.
Oddly, the track call the police seems to borrow a motif from the Icicle Works’ Whisper To A Scream (Birds Fly), which is no call out (the similarities are there, but this is no rip off), and is a recognition of the way LCD Soundsystem manage to walk a peculiarly difficult line between outright dance music and indie rock with seemingly effortless ease. It’s a clever trick.
Title track american dream – “The revolution was here that would set you free from those bourgeoisie …” is a slower, more measured piece. Probably not a highlight, but it feels like Murphy is shouting at the walls and anyone else who will listen. But it’s unlikely to hit the target, other than the already converted.
Album closer black screen is a 12-minute piece of joy. Understated drums, synth led, dreamy pianos and a statement of intent. It never gets up to the pace of the other tracks on the album, but it’s the perfect chill out room and is a fitting end to the journey so far.
We can’t help speculating about the lack of capitalization of the name of the album and all of the song titles. It seems like there’s another message here. We don’t know what it is. But we can guess.
This is a masterpiece from a man who knows how to do music. Peter Goodbody
Getintothis on LCD Soundsystem
9. Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 3
Run the Jewels, Inc
Some albums just feel important the first time you listen. The feeling that it’s a record that will completely consume you for most of the year. Other boss records will be released, but this will be a constant in your life for the foreseeable future. It demands to be listened to.
Run the Jewels 3, the third studio LP by the hip hop duo made up of El-P and Killer Mike, is one of these records. It’s an absolute juggernaut of an album, and although it might only be January, we know already it’ll be a standout of 2017.
Easing you in with the more laid back vibes of opener Down (feat Joi), things are taken up a notch with the absolute wallop in your grid lead single Talk To Me. It’s colossal, and an example of Run the Jewels at their swaggering, urgent best.
It’s a record strengthened by some great collaborations, with Danny Brown, BOOTS, Tunde Adebimpe and most notably Kamasi Washington on the grooving slow burner Thursday in the Danger Room, yet it’s the interplay between El-P and Killer Mike that make this one of the great rap records of recent years.
They weave between each other without ever breaking the flow with constant furious energy. They’re real veterans of hip hop and it shows. Proof, if it was ever needed, that it doesn’t have to be a young man’s game.
RTJ3 is Run the Jewels’ defiant message of resistance in turbulent times. Their manifesto. Their finest moment yet, and in this current golden age of hip hop it has well and truly set the benchmark for the genre in 2017. Adam Lowerson
Getintothis on Run the Jewels
8. Watter: History of the Future
On Watter‘s 2012 debut This World the band hinted (with sledgehammer-like purpose) at the group’s formidable combined musicianship – for here was a band with Grails‘ Zak Riles, Slint drummer Britt Walford and Louisville musician Tyler Trotter – the results were naturally stunning (see our 2014 end of year review). Yet on the follow-up they’ve almost impossibly upped the stakes.
The likes of the two and half minute Shadow Chase is a statement of intent – all Morricone dueling guitars reminiscent of those classic Grails moments but given a sturdy backbone with John Carpenter sinister synths paving the way for something slight in time but epic in scale – these moments glitter throughout. Sacrifical Leaf is a snaking sidewinder which catches you off guard with its breezeblock electronica, the title track is a seven minuter all regal, pageant-like in its magnificence while Macho Milano is exactly that a metallic thundering blast of strident robotic rock. There’s few bands who this writer would dearly love to see more than Watter at Liverpool Psych Fest – the dream goes on. Peter Guy
7. Vuelveteloca: Senora
Fuzz Club Records
Much like Rocket Recordings, London independent record label Fuzz Club, have been churning out superlative sounds for some time – and they usually love up to their moniker. Were Rocket characteristically go cosmic, Fuzz invariably do fuuuuzzzzzz.
Peak fuzz heads are Chilean lunatics, Vuelveteloca – and band who combine the riff magik of Sabbath and inject it with the same kind of raging fun only King Gizzard can possibly equal. If their la Quite frankly, there’s been fewer records we’ve spun all year, and it’s going to take some stopping as we hurtle into 2018. Peter Guy
6. War On Drugs: A Deeper Understanding
Atlantic / Secretly Canadian
The year’s 2082, it’s 9pm and more than 642million people are glued to Prime Fudge TV.
Helen Worth aka Gail Platt is stood shaking with acute glandular fever having performed a heroic version of Dusty Springfield‘s You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.
Next to her is 24-year-old, Adam Granduciel. Dressed head to toe in double denim. The underdog.
The man who’s survived eviction four weeks running. His matted hair glued to his face like a bearded collie that’s been sexually assaulted in a car wash. He dribbles having just performed *the one*.
It’s the moment all 642 million have been waiting for. It’s the very reason why Andi Peters put him through in judges’ houses. Now, in front of Anne Widdecome, Sooty, Sharon Stone and Rick Flair he’s done it all over again.
He hit the notes. He delivered the killer solo. He smashed the key change during the ‘there’s no love‘ section. He nailed it.
Presenter Matthew Kelly, pulling his trousers pants which have inadvertently wedged between his arse cheeks into position, reveals the winner…
“Taking home, the £1million pounds and record deal, is….
*Fast forward 15 years*
Granduciel is sat in his garage. Picking the rind from some out-of-date bacon from his teeth…
“That Bryan fucking Adams. On 6 Music again. It’s the fucking third time today. House Arrest. I’ll give you House Arrest. It could have been me. I could have been a contender, I could have been somebody…” Peter Guy
Getintothis on The War on Drugs
5. All Them Witches: Sleeping Through The War
New West Records
Nashville’s All Them Witches have in many respects summed up this writer’s year – a languid WTF is happening experience which glides and jolts in equal measure; riddled with exhilarating highs and crushing self-doubt lows. Delirium and delirious. On this, their fourth full length since 2012’s Our Mother Electricity, they revel in frenetic freak-outs – see opener Bulls characteristic riotous guitar jams only to be sucked into a subdued stoner muddy swamp of Don’t Bring Me Coffee, which too explodes into a cornucopia of colourful explosive rock and roll.
The depth and sheer weight of Sleeping Through The War is both all-consuming and at times oppressive but burst through the other side and the rewards are plentiful; 357 is an organ-driven beast of meandering fuzz, Internet is akin to the final death roll of a strangulated wildebeest caught in the jaws of a croc while Alabaster is surely the most sinister, grooviest track we’ve heard all year – a juggernaut of cool and swagger – which pretty much sums up this monstrous monolithic slab of first-rate rock and roll. Ingest heavily. Peter Guy
4. Circle: Terminal
Growing up in a small village we had to make our own fun.
Curby, one bounce and dicking about down the back field were always winners during the summer months. But in the winter it was pretty bleak.
One October a couple of us befriended this local loner and for two consecutive winters we found ourselves holed up in his bedroom involved in Warhammer role-play.
Bear in mind, this was before the internet, and we weren’t old enough to drink, let alone even know what drugs were, so we sat there rolling 48-sided dice, marvelling at his collection of three-headed goblins – all meticulously crafted in Games Workshop paint while he pretty much made the rules up behind his mass of long, straggly unwashed hair.
For about a year or so, me and my mate Stephen kinda worshipped this oddball loner – you know the type; wears his brothers hand-me-down Iron Maiden t-shirt, has spliff blimps in all his clothes and can never find the grinder, stunk of dog and was monosyllabic until his ma called him for tea and told us to fuck off home.
Anyways, after two years of playing his impenetrable Warhammer board games and attempting to decipher his whacked out Middle Earth narratives we decided to fall out with him by throwing soilies at his house. His dad was real fucked off and told us never to come back – even knocking at our parents’ homes before cleaning all the mud off with a gigantic hose.
Somewhere, I can guarantee that madcap, orc-loving lunatic is listening to Finnish prog-metal-glam-pop-riff-demons Circle and having the time of his life while priming an orc with some white base coat acrylic paint. Peter Guy
3. Alex Cameron: Forced Witness
Part irreverent enigma, part lounge lizard, part comedic bro, on paper Alex Cameron shouldn’t really work. But he does. Oh yeah, he sure does.
Combining a knowing wit with some of the finest electronic pop songs since Robyn was abandoned on the dancefloor, Forced Witness is a sax-infused, sleazy romp through bittersweet love bust-ups, neon jungles and being turned over by Nigerians on the internet. Certain sections of the oneupmanship media have been quick to call him out but they’re missing the point, these are powerful jukebox anthems exposing alpha male dickheads worth cranking to the max – and in Politics of Love he’s penned the album closer of 2017. Peter Guy
2. Julie’s Haircut: Invocation And Ritual Dance Of My Demon Twin
Long time readers of Getintothis would be forgiven for thinking we’re on the payroll of Rocket Recordings.
Scooping our Label of the Year in 2015 followed on from hyperbole which dates back to our very beginnings with these pages championing to the nines the likes of Teeth of the Sea, Hills, Goat, Josefin + The Liberation, White Hills, Hey Colossus and a legion of contemporaries.
Well, standby for more hyperbole. Because there’s a new gang in town. The preposterously named Julie’s Haircut may be new to many listeners but the Italians have been active since 1994 with seven albums and 15 EPs to their name.
Having evolved through various line-up changes, they arrive on the Rocket launchpad with the kind of mantra-like avant-rock not too dissimilar to their label mates – looping percussive drones, wigwam rhythmic lunacy, whispered unintelligible vocals and malevolent grooves – they’re almost the perfect fusion of much of those listed above. Yet, they never stray into pastiche or sterile territory, and that’s what makes Invocation.. such a thrill.
It’s positively bristling with energy and fizz and ideas. In fact, they’re in many respects closest to Can – imagine Ege Bamyasi‘s tin of green beans spiced up with Tago Mago‘s throb and Future Days kosmiche radiance. It’s a magnificent musical cauldron.
It should be emphasised this is no guitar album either – it’s free of pigeonholing, there’s as much sax, brass and tribal drums as there are chords and riffs – yet it’s high on melody and catchy refrains. Indeed, the 11 minute opener Zukunft is a free-wheeling ’70s cop-show theme in waiting built around a motorik jam and Blaxploitation horns blast. The wah-wah decadence of Salting Traces is another example of the band firing up a demonic noise while Deluge is a riot of squalling Bernard Herrmann fuzz.
It’d perhaps all be a little too intense were it not for their expert pacing with the likes of Orpheus Rising and Cycles dropped in the mix to harness your senses; the former a whacked-out opium trip, the latter a finger-picked acid-laced daydream.
With a record like this, it’s a genuine wonder that Julie’s Haircut haven’t come to prominence before now. But with Copenhagen Psych Fest under the belt in 2016, and thanks to Ground Control at Rocket Recordings HQ, they’re very much on various listener’s radars – make sure they’re on yours too. Peter Guy
1.Sacred Paws: Strike A Match
First rule of music criticism – don’t talk about the weather.
Well, tough shit, because here’s 2017’s Album of The Summer [edit: and year!].
Yup, arriving ahead of schedule in late March, guitarist Rachel Aggs and drummer Eilidh Rogers, have made the most joyous album we’ve heard all year – and we’d be surprised if it’s topped. For a little over half an hour Strike A Match funks, bops and breaks loose barely letting you catch your breath, positively oozing nervous giggles of anxiety-aggit-pop.
The alchemy between the duo is irresistible – made all the more remarkable given they live at other ends of the country and seemingly operate the band loosely between their London and Glasgow bases. It’s positively wondrous to hear bubblegum hooks gel with funky rhythms, body-popping jangles and frequent bursts of trumpet plus their infectious call-and-response vocals adding to the nonchalant savoir faire swaggering out the speakers. In some ways the effect recalls the naive innocence of Elastica‘s classic debut – in that every song beautifully bleeds into the next with self-assurance and quiet untapped innocence. There’s no highlights here – it’s just a simple fully-formed whole of good-time moments.
Say, 0.45 in of Nothing Matters when those first parps of unexpected brass rips through the system; 0.56 of Voice as the drums rachet up a notch and rays of cheeky snaking synth angles into view. Or how about the Gracelands-like Afropop jangle one minute into Rest – a track that’ll make you want to do the Conga around your sitting room. On your own. Or grab a neighbour.
Only once does the pace drop – Wet Graffiti is the midpoint softer lilt with a careless melancholia – ironically it’s almost sunny with its liberating refrain ‘I wanna run away‘ sitting atop an out of tune recorder. It serves as respite and only helps the following title track rattle along at twice the speed.
Simply put, Strike A Match is that rare pop jewel which will have you clinging on from start to finish. We’d implore you to buy it. Peter Guy
Getintothis‘ Albums of the Year 2017
- Sacred Paws: Strike a Match
- Julie’s Haircut: Invocation And Ritual Dance Of My Demon Twin
- Alex Cameron: Forced Witness
- Circle: Terminal
- All Them Witches: Sleeping Through The War
- The War On Drugs: A Deeper Understanding
- Vuelveteloca: Senora
- Watter: History of the Future
- Run The Jewels: Run the Jewels 3
- LCD Soundsystem: american dream
- ZU: Jhator
- Woods: Love Is Love
- Oh Sees: Orc
- 10,000 Russos: Distress Distress
- Sampha: Process
- Fever Ray: Plunge
- Mogwai: Every Country’s Sun
- Hannah Peel: Mary Casio: Journey To Cassiopeia
- Grails: Chalice Hymnal
- Thundercat: Drunk
- Mac De Marco: This Old Dog
- VEYU: Underbelly
- Forest Swords: Compassion
- Black Angels: Death Song
- Bardspec: Hydrogen
- Noga Erez: Off The Radar
- Big Thief: Capacity
- Sinkane: Life & Livin’ It
- EMA: Exile in the Outer Ring
- Neil Young: Hitchhiker
- Martyn Hyne: Electric Intervals
- Here Lies Man: Here Lies Man
- Tonstartssbandht: Sorcerer
- Liars: Theme From Crying Fountain
- Jane Weaver: Modern Kosmology
- Bedouine: Bedouine
- Gnoomes: Tschak!
- Warm Digits: Wireless World
- Courtney Marie Andrews: Honest Life
- Seán Street, Neil Campbell, Perri Alleyne-Hughes: Estuary
- Kelly Lee Owens: Kelly Lee Owens
- Aseethe: Hopes of Failure
- Alt-J: Relaxer
- Alvvays: Antisocialites
- Flyte: The Loved One
- Tinariwen: Elwan
- All We Are: Sunny Hills
- Moon Duo: Occult Architecture Vol. 1
- The National: Sleep Well Beast
- Tom Rogerson and Brian Eno: Finding Shore
- Liima: 1982
- Nabah El Shazley: Ahwar
- Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile: Lotta Sea Lice
- Ariel Pink: Dedicated to Bobby Jameson
- Ex Eye: Ex Eye
- Clark: Death Peak
- Froth: Outside(briefly)
- Ulver: The Assassination of Julius Caesar
- Beaches: Second of Spring
- Jlin: Black Origami
- Eyre Llew: Atelo
- Sua-Hiam-Zun: Scattered Purgatory
- OMNI: Multi-task
- Kelela:Take Me Apart
- Colin Stetson: All This I Do For Glory
- Hey Colossus: The Guillotine
- Shabazz Palaces: Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star
- Daniel O’Sullivan:Veld
- Autobahn: The Moral Crossing
- Lost Horizons: Ojala
- Drums Off Chaos: Compass
- Girl Ray: Earl Gray
- Happy Meals: Full Ashram Devotional Ceremony (Volumes IV – VI)
- Ferdinger: Gelände
- Jessica Moss: Pools of Light
- Justin Walter: Unseen Forces
- Sleaford Mods: English Tapas
- Nadine Shah: Holiday Destination
- GNOD: Just Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine
- Kendrick Lemar: DAMN
- This Is The Kit: Moonshine Freeze
- Siobhan Wilson: There Are No Saints
- Dalham: Waves
- In Flagranti: Sprezzatura
- Lo Five: When It’s Time To Let Go
- Sarah Davachi: All My Circles Run
- Idles: Brutalism
- The Fall: New Facts Emerge
- Majeure: Apex
- Ulrika Spacek: Modern English Decoration
- Milo: Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?!
- Slowdive: Slowdive
- Herva: Hyper Flux
- Loyle Carner: Yesterday’s Gone
- Palberta: Bye Bye Berta
- Avec Le Soleil Sortant de sa Bouche: Pas Pire Pop, I Love You So Much
- Teleplasmiste: Frequency Is The New Ecstasy
- Jamila Woods: HEAVN
- The Bug vs Earth: Concrete Desert
- Uniform: Wake in Fright
Previous Getintothis End of Year Album Polls