It’s a ridiculous task bordering on impossible to pick the ‘best’ albums of 2017. So what we do is pick the ones that stood out for us. Let us know what your favorites are.
Kelly Dance – ‘Wild Grass’ (Broken Stone Records)
We first caught wind of her on her first tour of China, helped with this endeavor by local label Medic. We were blown away by her stage presence, penetrating vocals, and, most importantly, the songs. ‘Wild Grass’ ably showcases all of these defining Dance attributes. Top marks. Read more here.
Father John Misty – ‘Pure Comedy’ (Bella Union, Sub Pop)
Not our favourite album by FJM but it’s still a formidable work. If and when our world goes up in smoke, presuming there are survivors, perhaps in the future they’ll find this record and think, ‘Ah. Some people did get it. Not all of them lacked self-awareness.’
Future Islands – ‘The Far Field’ (4AD)
It’s interesting that many of our picks for 2017 aren’t necessarily the best out of our chosen acts’ catalogs but perhaps we should be satisfied with the consistency on show and keep our fingers crossed it points to more great stuff in the pipeline. To be fair to Future Islands it’s damn hard to pick a favorite out of all their albums. Included on this record is the track ‘Shadows’ featuring Debbie Harry. And the album was produced by John Congleton. Enough said.
Kendrick Lamar – ‘DAMN’ (Top Dog, Aftermath, Interscope, Roc Nation)
Again, we preferred his last album proper and, in fact, his EP ‘Untitled Unmastered’ is arguably a more concise and enjoyable listen. However ‘DAMN’ ain’t half bad and gets better with repeated listens. There’s still nobody that comes close to Lamar in his field though Tyler The Creator gets a special mention for ‘Flower Boy’.
Mac DeMarco – ‘This Old Dog’ (Captured Tracks)
In this age of big statements and everything coming with bells, whistles and flashing lights, what a welcome breather this album provides. Understated but refined, accomplished without being in your face, DeMarco’s output continues to fly in the face of his supposed slacker persona. Did we like it enough to write about it? We did. It’s here.
Hooded Fang – ‘Dynasty House’ (Daps Records)
A whirlwind of swirling indie rock with fast-paced beats, chugging bass, and trippy vocals from one of Canada’s finest. And you can read our interview here and our review here to get more on their wavelength. Can’t say fairer than that.
Perfume Genius – ‘No Shape’ (Matador)
An interesting artist and no mistake. Bold production. Sharp writing. Melodies that feel timeless. And you get the impression there’s still plenty left in the tank. Looking forward to hearing a lot more, hopefully before too long.
Roger Waters – ‘Is This the Life We Really Want?’
Whether you’re in the Radiohead camp or firmly on Roger Waters’ side when it comes to the rights and wrongs of playing a gig in Israel, doesn’t it put most younger artists to shame that this album is such vital and on point listening for the times we’re living in? Not many these days are willing to go this close to the bone. Perhaps it could be asserted it’s a luxury to have enough success and years behind you to make such bold pronouncements but, that aside, some things just need to be said and it’s to be commended when an artist dares to raise their head above the parapet.
John Carroll – ‘Aviation’ (Medic Independent Records)
Based as we are in Hangzhou it would be remiss not to mention a great local artist who more than punches above his weight as far as we’re concerned. Originally from Limerick, a location with such a rich musical seam it produced the likes of The Cranberries, John Carroll managed to follow up ‘Cenotaph Tapes’ with a completely different type of album in 2017 that was no less enticing. Read what we thought of it here.
Beach Fossils – ‘Somersault’ (Bayonet Records)
If we’re not mistaken the only entry on our list missing from our quarterly lists. This passed us by when it first came out though I’m sure there’s plenty of albums we haven’t yet heard which we’d also love too. Listening back to their other material I’d say this is the record where Beach Fossils mastered the balance between lofi and the type of catchy indie pop which could see them permeate the mainstream.
Steady Sun – ‘Indifferent World’
Once in a while a band come along that make you not quite so gutted The Beatles will never release anything again. In 2017 we were blessed with Steady Sun. Just how did Dylan Nowik manage to make an album that sounds this good with just a little help from his friends and no access to George Martin? Find out more about Steady Sun and ‘Indifferent World’ here and here.
Grizzly Bear – ‘Painted Ruins’ (RCA)
Our biggest worry on hearing this LP, initially, was that it failed to ignite. How wrong we were. This is a classic grower of a record and, more than that, it is a beautifully rounded album. There are standout tracks but it almost does the overriding flow of the LP an injustice to name them. So we won’t. A near perfect complete work that, in the age of the scattergun Spotify playlist, warrants your undivided attention. Read an in depth piece on this record here.
The War on Drugs – ‘A Deeper Understanding’ (Atlantic)
Despite lacking the urgency of some of the songs on their previous album, this record showcases slightly more sophisticated production and arrangements. What’s fascinating about this group, when you take a step back, is they’ve managed to create a sound that most likely appeals to three generations. To the grandparents that remember peak Springsteen and Dire Straits so fondly; to their kids that…err…remember peak Springsteen and Dire Straits so fondly; and to their grandchildren that just know good music when they hear it.
LCD Soundsystem – ‘American Dream’ (DFA, Columbia)
After being late to the LCD Soundsystem party and catching up with all their albums and their moving, supposed, last ever concert film, I’ll admit I felt a bit cheated when they reformed. But I could see James Murphy’s logic in doing it after considering his argument and, after listening to this album, I’m glad he did what he wanted to. Like classic LCD, it’s brimming with references to the past whilst still remaining, well, classic LCD.
The National – ‘Sleep Well Beast’ (4AD)
It’s interesting seeing some of these bands that came to the fore at the end of the New York explosion which began, in terms of bands that made it to global prominence, with The Strokes, at the turn of the century, more than hanging in there and going from strength to strength. Here’s to the underdogs. All power to ’em, especially The National who just keep on coming up with the goods.
Vessels – ‘The Great Distraction’ (Different Recordings)
2017 was a big year for this band, based in Leeds in the UK. Not content with collaborating with The Flaming Lips, this LP also features collaborations with Harkin, Vincent Neff, and John Grant. And also the entire record is bloody brilliant which always helps. Read our interview and review here and here.
Ariel Pink – ‘Dedicated to Bobby Jameson’ (Mexican Summer)
Is there anyone more out there on his own when it comes to record-making than this guy? A concept album that comes in at 13 tracks long? You’d be forgiven for swerving to avoid it with that description but this LP never outstays its welcome. Cleverly weaving familiarity with arty weirdness, Pink actually leaves you wanting more. And we’ve been greedily hitting play again and again.
Andrew Hung – ‘Realisationship’ (Lex Records)
Something of a broadening of Hung’s horizons takes shape on this stonker of a record but perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised given this is a fellow that has a film soundtrack under his belt, as well as being a sought after producer able to turn his hand to a wide range of music. And he’s a great guy to engage in webnatter with too as our interview with Mr Hung here attests to. Read our review of the LP here.
Seamus Fogarty – ‘The Curious Hand’ (Domino)
It’s arguably been a long time coming for Fogarty to get the critical adulation he deserves but boy did he get it in 2017. Of course, we’ve long been singing his praises – we reviewed his fabulous ‘Ducks and Drakes’ EP back in 2015. Have a look here.
Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile – ‘Lotta Sea Lice’ (Matador, Marathon Artists, Milk! Records)
Sensibly pairing themselves as Courtney and Kurt rather than the other way around, this was one of the sweetest surprises of a year that contained many nasty ones. The way they bounce off each other feels completely divorced of ego and the songs and production prove sublime.
King Krule – ‘The Ooz’ (True Panther Sounds, XL)
Oh to be young. Cool and aloof, King Krule blends hints of The Clash and The Specials into his own unique recording style. There’s something quintessentially London about this record which might just be because he’s a Londoner. He’s got a bit of a potty mouth but we’ll let him off seeing has he wields his swear words with such lyrical dexterity.
St Vincent – ‘Masseducation’ (Loma Vista)
Prince will never be replaced. Obviously. But at least in St Vincent we have an artist than can straddle vaguely the same type of terrain the purpley one once dominated. If there’s anyone doing anything more interesting with pop music right now I’d like to hear ’em quick smart.
Jonti – ‘Tokorats’ (Stones Throw Records)
I’m going to type the word ‘chillax’ twice. I feel ill using that term but this is probably my favorite record of the year to chillax to. It just is OK. Why? Buy it. Lie down on a sofa with your headphones on. Close your eyes. Listen to it. See? We just couldn’t understand how anyone could diss this album. As this review shows right here.
Jump For Neon – ‘Jump For Neon’ (Medic Independent Records)
Sneaking in towards the end of the year, the debut outing for William Gray’s Jump For Neon project. Featuring some tasty guitar extras from John Carroll and a live band currently in rehearsals to take the music to the stage in 2018, we look forward to catching a gig before too long. If you like the idea of psychedelic 60s guitar music married with 80s/90s alt rock and sampled beats then this could be the LP for you. Read our full review here.
Sam Gendel – ‘4444’ (Terrible Records)
Ah. Mr Gendel. I thought the year was probably over in terms of absolute gems but suddenly here was another awesome little discovery. And he was kind enough to converse with us too (here) before we had a go at dissecting this brilliant work (here).
Want to hear what we’ve been waxing lyrical about? Check out our 2017 playlist here.