Best Albums of 2017

Another year gone, another list to provoke debate, bemusement and bafflement. Maybe not the definitive best albums of 2017, but just a sample of some of the music that excited, entertained or moved me during the past year.

 

 1. Capacity – Big Thief

Capacity -Big ThiefDebut album ‘Masterpiece’ announced Big Thief as an exciting new talent; ‘Capacity’ confirmed that debut was no fluke. No sign of difficult second album syndrome here  – this was a brilliant sophomore effort that showcased the song-writing craft of Adrianne Lenker to wonderful effect.

 

 

 

2. Stranger in the Alps – Phoebe Bridgers Stranger in the Alps -Phoebe Bridgers

First impressions on seeing Bridgers support Conor Oberst in Dublin earlier in the year were ‘wow -where did THAT come from?’ Her debut album was everything we could have hoped for – her bittersweet, melancholic songs are reminiscent of Elliott Smith, Aimee Mann and  song-writers of that ilk but there is enough of her own stamp to mark this out as one of the year’s finest releases. A stunning debut.

 

3. Pure Comedy – Father John Misty

Pure Comedy - Father John MistyIt’s a record that seems to have divided opinion, even amongst some of his most ardent fans, but love him or loathe him, you cannot ignore him. Josh Tilman aka Father John Misty, delivered a sprawling, apocalyptic, sometimes testing opus that seemed to perfectly capture the turbulence and confusion of  Trump’s America. Not a crowd pleaser by any means, but a record that shows Tilman has more of an edge than his ‘I Love You, Honeybear’ might have suggested.

 

 

4. A Crow Looked At Me – Mount Eerie A Crow Looked At Me - Mount Eerie

Musically, it is stripped back to nothing, arid and bleak, melody and structure sacrificed at the expense of this deluge of words to his dear wife. An exploration of grief that is almost unbearable to listen to at times -Elverum resorts to the one thing he knows to make sense of the random, arbitrary nature of life – his art. The results are devastating.

 

5. Cry, Cry, Cry – Wolf Parade

Cry, Cry, Cry -Wolf ParadeA comeback album of sorts, it’s been seven years since the mercurial talents of Spencer Krug & Dan Boeckner have combined, after numerous side projects and experimental ventures in the interim.  ‘Cry, Cry, Cry’ offers thrilling evidence that the alchemy they create with Wolf Parade is both reassuringly familiar and strikingly unique.

 

 

6. Mysterium – HammockMysterium -Hammock

Post-Rock stalwarts Hammock have been toying with ambient classical music of late and this glacial, gorgeous record is one of their finest albums. Choral interludes fuse with elegiac, orchestral manoeuvres in creating a minor masterpiece of this sometimes overcrowded  genre.

 

 

7.  Sick Scenes -Los Campesinos!

Sick Scenes -Los Campesinos!In many ways, Los Campesinos! are a throwback to the era of fanzines and 12” EPs, to a time when hanging around record shops on a Saturday afternoon & scouring the NME/Melody Maker for mentions of your favourite band was a big part of being a music fan. They are stubbornly and beautifully out of time and we should love them all the more for that. Guitar pop music at its very best.

 

 

8.  A Deeper Understanding -War On DrugsA Deeper Understanding - War On Drugs

Confession time: I didn’t really get what all the fuss was about with War On Drugs last album ‘Lost In the Dream’. It seemed to aspire to be something that it wasn’t – at a basic level it skirted too close to the MOR-ish sounds of Tom Petty, Dire Straits, despite finding the approval of the indie crowd. But ‘A Deeper Understanding’ just clicked with me, a record more comfortable in its own skin, a big, bold radio friendly unit shifter with an air of weary romance and a well produced sheen to win over the most stubborn resistance.

 

9. French Press – Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever 

French Press -Rolling Blackout Coastal FeverIt barely qualifies as an album but over the course of a zippy, frenetic six tracks, this Australian combo invoke the spirit of fellow countrymen the Go-Betweens for one of the year’s freshest and most invigorating blasts of indie guitar pop. Not a moment is wasted as they blitz through a hook laden, melodic treat of a record that has real charm. Watch this name: their first album proper could be something special.

 

 

10. Visuals -Mew Visuals -Mew

Seventh album ‘Visuals’ is the first album recorded without founding member and guitarist Bo Madsen. His departure in 2015 may have left some fans anticipating this new album with some trepidation – they need not have worried: Visuals is an absolute treat, sprinkled with that rare Mew magic that makes them so unique.

 

 

 

11. Three Worlds: Music From Woolf Works – Max Richter

12. Relatives in Descent – Protomartyr

13. Swim Inside The Moon -Angelo De Augustine

14. Slowdive -Slowdive

15. The Centre Cannot Hold – Ben Frost

16. Costero – Slow Meadow

17. Luciferian Towers – Godspeed You! Black Emperor

18. No Shape -Perfume Genius

19. Sleep Well Beast – The National

20.  The Easter Vigil – Joe Chester