As we approach that magical time of Listmas, it seems only right for Far Out to be fashionably late to the party in delivering our best 50 albums of 2017.
In what has been a generally frantic year, the untouchable force of popular music continues to thunder forward with the unavoidable influences of the decaying international relations via the somewhat bonkers political climate.
Anyway, let’s do this:
50. Wolf Alice – Visions Of A Life
Release Date: 29 September | Producer: Justin Meldal-Johnsen | Label: Dirty Hit
Indie darlings, top of the pops and on the tip of every BBC radio 1 DJ’s tongue… we have Wolf Alice. The band have created a sophomore album that never looked close to ‘second album syndrome’ on Visions Of A Life. Pumped full of guitar heavy, grunge references juxtaposed with candy love tales and faux-fanged indie, this album was always destined for chart success.
49. Rostam – Half-Light
Release Date: 15 September | Producer: Rostam Batmanglij | Label: Nonesuch Records
One of the creative minds behind the meteoric success of indie rockers Vampire Weekend, Rostam has had a great year out on his own. Developing his solo sound around an introspective persona and the sonic touch of a man with his finger on the pulse; Half-Light is both genteel and modern, fragile and fresh. It’s an impressive debut and feels like the foundation for greater success for Rostam.
48. Ulrika Spacek – Modern English Decoration
Release Date: 02 June | Producer: Ulrika Spacek | Label: Tough Love Records
London-based Ulrika Spacek released their new record on June 2nd via the good people of Tough Love Records.
Much like their debut LP The Album Paranoia released in early 2016, the band chose to record, produce and mix the entirety of the record of Modern English Decoration in their shared house – a former art gallery called ‘KEN’. Modern English Decoration is, in part, a self-effacing play on an interior design cliché that references the meticulous creative processes the band adheres to: “Doing everything ourselves is not just necessary: it’s important to us, as it allows us to truly create our own world,” they said.
Featured Track: ‘Full Of Men’
47. Liam Gallagher – As You Were
Release Date: 6 October | Producer: Greg Kurstin, Dan Grech-Marguerat, Andrew Wyatt | Label: Warner Bros.
Well, who would’ve predicted that at the end of 2017 both Liam and Noel would have number 1 albums under their belts? Furthermore, who would have guessed it would be Liam that outsells Noel? Not many.
But that’s how it went down, and with his classic brand of brattish and brash performance now backed by some chunky solo material (and expert social media work), expect to see the swaggering parka monkey for many years to come. All jokes aside, this is an album which exceeded expectations of pretty much everyone. Bravo, LG! As you were x.
Featured Track: ‘Wall of Glass’
46. Temples – Volcano
Release Date: 3 March | Producer: James Bagshaw | Label: Heavenly Recordings
Self-produced and recorded at the band’s home studio in Kettering, Temples’ album Volcano has gone somewhat under the radar among the end of year lists.
Volcano, is experimental as it is for Temples, was predominantly a signal of intent. There was a sense that the band, matured from the release of their debut record Sun Structures, went into this project desperate to improve on their previous output… and it worked: “If there’s a sense of scale,” says lead singer James Bagshaw, “It was really just a result of implementing a load of things that we didn’t know about the first time around.”
Featured Track: ‘Certainty’
45. Sparks – Hippopotamus
Release Date: 8 September | Producer: Ron Mael, Russell Mael | Label: BMG, The End
The album is a perfect cross-pollination of both new sounds and those cherry picked from the duo’s history; there are Queen-worthy harmonies, and honky-tonk pianos, theatrical ballads, Ron’s rigid digital chord patterns, ‘rock’ guitar parts, sequenced drums, neo-classical harpsichords, and slick contemporary production all delivered in the brothers own uncompromising zany way. Read the full review.
Featured Track: ‘Hippopotamus’
44. LA Witch – LA Witch
Release Date: 08 September | Producer: Lucy Miyaki | Label: Suicide Squeeze
Recorded at Hurley Studios in Costa Mesa and mixed in Highland Park, Los Angeles, this quality of this record has been a long time coming for LA Witch.
On their eponymous debut album, L.A. Witch’s reverb-drenched guitar jangle and sultry vocals conjure the analog sound of a collector’s prized 45 from some short-lived footnote cult band – and it’s addictive.
Featured Track: ‘Kill My Baby Tonight’
43. Thundercat – Drunk
Release Date: 24 February | Producer: Flying Lotus, Sounwave, Thundercat | Label: Brainfeeder
Thundercat is the alter ego of virtuosic bassist / singer Stephen Bruner. The South Los Angeles-native has released three critically acclaimed full length albums on Brainfeeder Records.
Drunk, the most recent critically acclaimed piece of work from Bruner, is a 23-track epic journey into the often hilarious, sometimes dark mind of the Grammy-winning artist who recruits a few of his friends to join him along the way including: Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell and Wiz Khalifa.
Featured Track: ‘Show You The Way’
42. The xx – I See You
Release Date: 13 January | Producer: Jamie xx, Rodaidh McDonald, Romy Madley-Croft | Label: Young Turks
The return of The xx meant two things this year; firstly, renting a flat in Brixton so you could see all the guest stars for their incredible residency. Secondly, the restoration of the band as one of the most important artists in the country.
A soon-to-be cultural touch point for the ages, The xx represent a generation in many ways and I See You followed suit, showing the maturation and movement of a band progressing into adulthood and beyond.
41. The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
Release Date: 25 August | Producer: Adam Granduciel | Label: Atlantic
This record signalled the return for the The War on Drugs, the first album since the release of their critically acclaimed milestone of a third album Lost in the Dream, four years ago.
It is impossible to deny that A Deeper Understanding is a spectacular sounding record, luscious and dream like, filled to the brim with details and hidden intricacies. But like a dream, it is difficult to remember much about the album once it has finished.
40. Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder
Release Date: 07 July | Producer: Joe Chiccarelli | Label: Arts & Crafts
Toronto’s Broken Social Scene released their first album in seven years, Hug Of Thunder, via City Slang.
Produced by Joe Chiccarelli and mixed by Shawn Everett, Hug Of Thunder includes contributions from all fifteen original members of Broken Social Scene, as well as new guest vocalist Ariel Engle.
Managing to continue the essence and spirit of the band after so long away, the record signalled a renewal of everything that is joyous and exciting about a band that triumphs the eternal sense of togetherness.
39. Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog
Release Date: 05 May | Producer: Mac DeMarco | Label: Captured Tracks
In truth the album shows Mac at his most polished musically and most clouded emotionally. It gives the listener the chance to really hear DeMarco, not the interview version we all hope to preserve. This transitional period of his life; from boy to man, is happening in front of the audience’s eyes and ears.
This Old Dog is moving, veracious and sultry whilst also giving enough sunshine to make the day feel golden whenever you drop the needle on it.
Featured Track: ‘This Old Dog’
38. Thurston Moore – Rock N Roll Consciousness
Release Date: 28 April | Producer: Paul Epworth | Label: Caroline Records
Rock n Roll Consciousness is the fifth studio album from Thurston Moore, a record that had a whiff of relief from the 58-year-old who let fly the hippie tendencies that were somewhat submerged deep within Sonic Youth.
The Thurston Moore Group is made up of Sonic Youth’s drummer Steve Shelley, My Bloody Valentine’s bass player Deb Googe and local guitarist James Sedwards, so it was always going to be great.
37. Loyle Carner – ‘Yesterday’s Gone’
Release Date: 20 January | Producer: The Purist, Tom Misch, Rebel Kleff | Label: Virgin EMI Records
Conscious rap is a bit of a buzz word right now. It’s a very poorly phrased way of describing hip-hop which doesn’t necessarily subscribe to its perceived themes of money, glamour and violence. Loyle Carner has managed to pull off, not only producing rap which doesn’t fit a typical rap theme, but doing so in such a way that it still gets national attention.
Having watched from afar as Loyle’s career has gone from strength to strength we couldn’t be prouder that his album, laden with pop hits as well as deep, thoughtful and emotional pieces, continues to provide the nation with enough reason to keep Loyle Carner close to their hearts and minds. Simply poetic. Simply bloody brilliant.
Featured Track: ‘The Isle of Arran’
36. Mogwai – Every Country’s Sun
Release Date: 01 September | Producer: Dave Fridmann | Label: Temporary Residence Limited
Every Country’s Sun see’s Mogwai join forces once again with producer Dave Fridmann for the first time since 2001’s Rock Action. The new record takes two decades of Mogwai’s signature, contrasting sounds and finds the combined end result.
Every Country’s Sun says, ‘don’t fear change, everything is going to be ok’.
Featured Track: ‘Party in the Dark’
35. Oh Sees – Orc
Release Date: 25 August | Producer: Ty Segall, John Dwyer | Label: Castle Face Records
Orc is the nineteenth studio album by American garage rock band Oh Sees… otherwise known as Thee Oh Sees.
The record signalled twenty years of Oh Sees for lead singer, producer, guitarist and label owner John Dwyer. The sense of ‘returning to their roots’ is prevalent, Dwyer somewhat nostalgic of the entity he and his band-mates have built over the years.
A few name changes along the way, same old brilliant sound.
Featured Track: ‘The Static God’
34. Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
Release Date: 16 June | Producer: Robin Pecknold, Skye Skjelset | Label: Nonesuch Records Inc.
It took six years in the making but Fleet Foxes’ third studio album is their most complex and intriguing record to date.
The six-year hiatus, which had seen a tepid response to their previous record before drummer Josh Tillman decided to leave the band to become Father John Misty, left Fleet Foxes in some disarray. Had ‘freak folk’ had it’s time?
“All things change/did I need time? As far as I can see,” proclaims Robin Pecknold on the new record… and how fitting. I superb return to forefront.
Featured Track: ‘Third of May / Ōdaigahara’
33. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice
Release Date: 13 October | Producer: Callum Barter | Label: Matador Records
The collaborative LP from Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett, two superbly gifted lyricists, was an intriguing project to say the least. Constantly meandering over each other’s melodic voices as the duo tell tales of friendship, home life and growing to a deeper understanding.
Not quite hitting the heights of their own respective solo material, theirs something wonderfully endearing about this record but their’s a part of us left with the lingering thought of what could have been.
Featured Track: ‘Over Everything’
32. Laura Marling – Semper Femina
Release Date: 10 March | Producer: Blake Mills | Label: Kobalt Music Group
If her new album was to prove anything it was that Laura Marling hadn’t lost her incredible eye for songwriting. In this case, consider the point well and truly proven.
Semper Femina was another masterclass from Marling in the ability to write veracious and vociferous music capable of rousing synapses and rounding up emotions in indie-folk bite size pieces. Another job well done from a woman so comfortable in her own musical skin.
Featured Track: ‘The Valley’
31. Sampha – Process
Release Date: 03 February| Producer: Sampha, Rodaidh McDonald, Kanye West | Label: Young Turks
And a star was born.
Always the bridesmaid and never the bride..
Sampha Sisay, who has previously worked with the likes of Beyoncé, Drake and Kanye West as a producer, emerged from South London armed with an album strong enough to scoop the Mercury Prize ahead of the likes of Ed Sheeran, The xx, Stormzy and alt-j.
A truly remarkable breakthrough.
Featured Track: ‘Timmy’s Prayer’
30. Lorde – Melodrama
Release Date: 16 June | Producer: Lorde, Jack Antonoff, Jean-Benoît Dunckel + more | Label: Lava, Republic
The follow-up to Lorde’s enigmatic debut Pure Heroine was always likely to be a difficult venture. But with Melodrama the young artist proved that her debut was no fluke.
The album centres around a change of circumstance for Lorde as she deals with the loss of her long-term partner as well as the new world filled with partying and press events that’s now unavoidable for her. Maintaining a tightrope walk between art and pop the enigmatic artists does so with aplomb. Worth the hype.
Featured Track: ‘Green Light’
29. Japanese Breakfast – Soft Sounds from Another Planet
Released: 14 July | Producer: Michelle Zauner | Label: Dead Oceans
The follow-up to Japanese Breakfast’s critically acclaimed debut was always going to be tough. The new work, a self-reflection that looks out at the cosmos in search of healing, finding inspiration in science fiction, outer space, and the Mars One Project, landed perfectly on planet earth.
Proof that Michelle Zauner is perpetually otherworldly.
Featured Track: ‘Machinist’
28. Bjork – Utopia
Released: 24 November | Producer: Bjórk, Arca | Label: One Little Indian Records
Björk, having described her new LP as her “Tinder album”, was always going to produce something a little bit special.
Utopia is the ninth studio album by Icelandic singer and one that addresses the search for that loving person. With fourteen tracks in total – 71 minutes and 38 seconds to be exact – the record is Björk’s longest studio albums to date.
She has a lot to say and boy are we happy she found a way to express herself.
Featured Track: ‘The Gate’
27. Waxahatchee – ‘Out in the Storm’
Released: 14 July | Producer: John Agnello, Katie Crutchfield | Label: Merge Records
Katie Crutchfield (aka Waxahatchee) is known for her soulful sound. Her debut American Weekend was more of an Americana Wet-dream as it toyed around with the kind of suburbanite indie music that make Zach Braff weep. Then followed similarly heartfelt and emotionally bruised efforts in Cerulean Salt and Ivy Tripp which both showcased Waxahatchee perfectly – a raw emotion conveyed with honesty and without trying to achieve anything in particular. It felt true.
Out In The Storm shows Crutchfield in a whole new light. It shows a singular image of a life that has continued to meander and change, an image of woman facing a changing world, the flash of a grittier development, the tableaux of a tumultuous time. It’s a glimpse provided by the thunder and lightning of one of her best albums to date.
Featured Track: ‘Silver’
26. The Big Moon – Love In The 4th Dimension
Released: 7 April | Producer: Catherine Marks | Label: Columbia Records
The Big Moon firmly made themselves the only gang you wanted to be apart of in 2016. Their brand of Britpop swagger mixed with bubblegum pop makes one sweet ass album. Love In The 4th Dimension was another call to arms for The Big Moon’s legion of fans. It wasn’t serious, it didn’t take on political or social issues, what it did was provide its listeners with an albums worth of fun and frivolous tracks. Sometimes that is exactly what you need.
Featured Track: ‘Silent Movie Susie’
25. Charlotte Gainsbourg – Rest
Released: 17 November | Producer: SebastiAn, Charlotte Gainsbourg | Label: Atlantic Records
Rest is Gainsbourg’s first studio album in seven years and features collaborations with Sir Paul McCartney, Daft Punk’s Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, Connan Mockasin so, undoubtedly, it’s the best work she’s ever done.
There’s a real sense that Gainsbourg found her own direction on this project, discovered the artistic path she wanted to take and refused to divert: “Thanks to my first step into directing, I was able to take possession of my own imagery and produce different music videos to quite a few of my album’s songs,” she explained.
Featured Track: ‘Rest’
24. Big Thief – Capacity
Released: 9 June | Producer: Big Thief | Label: Saddle Creek Records
As the front cover may allude to (it features vocalist Adrianne Lenker being held by her young Uncle), Big Thief’s sophomore album delves deep in to family history. There are stark accounts of death, domestic abuse as well as guttural romances themes littered throughout the LP. Though the true theme lie in the duality of life and the continued fight between the two. It’s a piece of work that sees Lenker and Co. at the height of their powers.
Featured Track: ‘Capacity’
23. Real Estate – In Mind
Released: 17 March | Producer: Real Estate | Label: Domino Recording Company
In Mind is a portrait of a mature band; a band of men grappling with both the trials and ecstasies of adult life. Long beloved for their deft lyrical hand and gorgeous melodies, In Mind carries Real Estate even deeper into the pantheon of great songwriters.
The fourth studio record to their name, it is the band’s first album since founding member Matt Mondanile’s departure, and the first with his replacement as lead guitarist, Julian Lynch who slotted in perfectly.
Featured Track: ‘Darling’
22. Brand New – Science Fiction
Released: 17 August | Producer: Mike Sapone | Label: Procrastinate! Music Traitors
It feels like a long, long time ago that Brand New released their seminal, and most widely acclaimed, album Deja Entendu and with the passing of fourteen years you would be forgiven for thinking this new album was going to be a little dry. The eight year wait for their fifth studio album was well worth it however as the band intend to make a statement before they leave the airwaves for good.
An album that eclipses the aforementioned work means something truly special for a band not willing to let time pass them by too often. An approximation of their work that will not be forgotten.
Featured Track: ‘Can’t Get It Out’
21. St. Vincent – Masseduction
Released: 13 October | Producer: Jack Antonoff, St. Vincent, Lars Stalfors, John Congleton | Label: Loma Vista Recordings
St. Vincent – aka Annie Clark – announced her new album, Masseduction, armed with a heavy guitar sound and pointed lyrics aimed at themes of power and sex, imperilled relationships and death slice through the album, Clark’s first since her 2014 breakout ‘St. Vincent.’
If you haven’t heard the record yet you’ve probably been living under a rock. Mass media appeal and a sell out tour have come off the back as Clark remains as cryptic and curious throughout all the hype.
Featured Track: ‘New York’
20. Nadine Shah – Holiday Destination
Released: 25 August | Producer: Ben Hillier | Label: 1965 Records
Remember we mentioned a 12 months steeped in political chaos and an air of uncertainty? Yeah, nobody tells that turmoil quite as directly as Nadine Shah.
“So on this one trip to the States,” Shah recalls, “I’m taken to the other side of the airport in this room where everyone in the room has brown skin – and they’re all looking at me like ‘what the fuck are you doing here?!’ I just made this joke, I just said – ‘oh, I’m Pakistani.’ And then everyone started to laugh.”
Featured Track: ‘Yes Men’
19. Princess Nokia – 1992
Released: 10 November | Producer: DJ Premier | Label: Rough Trade
Wow. What a debut. Princess Nokia came at us with her brilliant single ‘Tomboy’ (a straight banger designed to challenge the ideal of females in hip-hop) and with it Princess Nokia became one of the most important artists of the moment.
Following that with an unflinching and uncompromising hip-hop album that straddles trap music and infiltrates pop, Princess Nokia has made a name for herself that we will all be referencing for years to come.
Featured Track: ‘Tomboy’
18. Perfume Genius – No Shape
Released: 5 May | Producer: Blake Mills | Label: Matador
The melodrama that Perfume Genius, aka Mike Hadreas, showed on his recent albums was one borne of self-deprecation, self-medication and the journey towards self-actualisation.
On No Shape there is a feeling that this journey has neared its end and that we have reached the light at the end of the tunnel. It is flamboyant and joyous at moments whilst still permeated with high drama and orchestral revelations. As crooning mixes with high art Hadreas has perfected a high quality album.
Featured Track: ‘Slip Away’
17. Mount Kimbie – Love What Survives
Released: 8 September | Producer: Kai Campos | Label: Warp
Defying categorisation since the release of their Maybes and Sketch on Glass EP’s in 2009, Mount Kimbie began as a project synonymous with ‘post-dubstep’, taking the stylistic elements of that genre and making music that challenged our understanding of it.
In 2017, as if imbued with a greater sense of freedom, Maker and Campos continue further down the road of discovery to find their sound, but this time it feels more assured. In a sense, they delimit and constrain their own music through a careful assembly of generic markers.
Featured Track: ‘Blue Train Lines’
16. Sleaford Mods – English Tapas
Released: 3 March | Producer: Sleaford Mods | Label: Rough Trade
Here’s another dose of that political theme we were talking about. And when we say ‘dose’ what we really mean is a fat fucking fist to the mouth. Sleaford Mods are not the type to mince their words and this is a bruising post-Brexit poetry book for the poor. Shameless and unabashed it attacks at every turn and refuses to surrender. While making some subtle stylistic changes (heavier dub, a few notes of vibrato from vocalist Williamson) they are still hellbent on making valid and vociferous points.
Sleaford Mods aren’t going to slow down for you or anybody else.
Featured Track: ‘B.H.S’
15. King Gizzard – Flying Microtonal Banana
Released: 24 February | Producer: Jarvis Taveniere | Label: Heavenly Recordings
I mean, what more do we say about King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard? They were always going to make it into this list, it was more a question fo which of the FIVE records they’re putting out in 2017 was going to be the one. Admittedly, we’re still waiting on the fifth!
It’s personal opinion, of course, but here at Far Out we’ve opted to give our vote to the first album released this year in Flying Microtonal Banana. The album set the precedent for what was to come, it laid the foundations for those freaky Australians to do their thang and oh my, they’re doing it.
Featured Track: ‘Rattlesnake’
14. Beach Fossils – Somersault
Released: 2 June | Producer: Jonathan Rado | Label: Captured Tracks
For Brooklyn’s Beach Fossils, Somersault was a chance to finally break free of some of the shackles that had them stuck, tied down and pigeonholed into a genre that was perhaps no longer befitting of the band.
Progression from their self-titled debut to 2013’s Clash the Truth was obvious, the leap from that to Somersault is a giant chasm. Dustin Payseur and the band have managed to dodge the problematic departure of drummer Tommy Gardner, who has moved to China having been with the band since 2011, to produce a wonderful ‘coming of age’ piece of work.
Featured Track: ‘Sugar’
13. Timber Timbre – Sincerely, Future Pollution
Released: 7 April | Producer: Timber Timbre | Label: City Slang
Lead single ‘Velvet Gloves & Spit’ was right up their in Far Out’s most played tracks of the year, the same single the spearheads a triumphant sixth studio album by Canadian band Timber Timbre.
The band have always created music that traces a shadowed path, on Sincerely, Future Pollution, they coat the stark, sensual sound of their previous work with a darker and compelling edge by surrounding themselves in La Frette chateau outside Paris. Submerged in the freedom of recording abroad and armed with a wealth of synths, Timber Timbre produced their most compelling work to date.
Featured Track: ‘Velvet Gloves & Spit’
12. Jack Cooper – Sandgrown
Released: 25 August | Producer: Jack Cooper | Label: Trouble In Mind
Sandgrown – Jack Cooper of Ultimate Painting’s first solo record – is nine concisely compacted songs, channelling his hometown of Blackpool and his upbringing on England’s Fylde Coast.
To be blunt, this record has been a long time coming for Cooper who has relentlessly worked on other musical projects, somewhat inadvertently avoiding the path of a solo record. The sense of longing, the desperation and the willing to finally put this album together feels evident. Sandgrown is beautifully sincere and earnest record, and one that has seen Cooper reach new levels that perhaps he was unsure of before.
Featured Track: ‘North of Anywhere’
11. Ariel Pink – Dedicated to Bobby Jameson
Released: 15 September | Producer: Ariel Pink | Label: Mexican Summer
Ariel Pink is an interesting character, always seemingly teetering on the edge of annoying, his determinable use of what can feel like weaponised irony in interviews can sometimes overshadow his work as an artist. Dedicated to Bobby Jameson is where all this and more comes to fruition.
At points the album can feel aggravating and irritating and lead you to think of his interview persona, but it is that exact sentiment and feeling which Ariel Pink thrives on. Moving his production from your ear to under your skin in minutes the new album speaks highly of his skills. Operating under several genre-defying guises, tracks range from 60’s retrospectives to his adored 80’s pop-rock, from solemn soliloquies to outlandish irreverence. It moves quickly and expertly.
But what’s most prevalent in this album though is his generation defining rhetoric, which skips along computer game theme tunes to globalised mutations, all balled up in a modern-day metallic masterpiece.
Featured Track: ‘Feels Like Heaven’
10. Jay Som – Everybody Works
Released: 10 March | Producer: Jay Som | Label: Polyvinyl Record Co.
Melissa Duterte, who records as Jay Som, has excelled the genre of ‘bedroom pop’ in which she resides with this clever, warm and ultimately brilliant debut record. Executing the storytelling of a transitional moment in her life, Jay Som depicts the movement from youth to young adulthood with a stylish and heartfelt piece of work.
Everybody Works shows the talented songwriter at her best; experimenting with different sounds and styles but still finding a rightful home in her fuzzy bedroom pop niche, and at times evolving far past this confining title. The dynamic change of pace between tracks is intriguing to say the least and utterly engaging at its best.
An incredibly impressive debut.
Featured Track: ‘The Bus Song’
9. Kevin Morby – City Music
Released: 16 June 2017 | Producer: Kevin Morby, Richard Swift | Label: Dead Oceans
His fourth album, City Music works as a counterpart to Morby’s acclaimed 2016 release Singing Saw, an autobiographical set that reflected the solitude and landscape in which it was recorded.
Then follows City Music, the yang to its yin, the heads to its tails. It is a collection crafted using the other side of its creator’s brain, the jumping off point perhaps best once again encapsulated by an image: “Here, Lou Reed and Patti Smith stare out at the listener,” explains Morby. “Stretched out on a living room floor they are somewhere in mid-70s Manhattan, also smoking cigarettes.” It finds Morby exploring similar themes of solitude, but this time framed by a window of an uptown apartment that looks down upon an international urban landscape “exposed like a giant bleeding wound.”
Featured Track: ‘City Music’
8. Protomartyr – Relatives in Descent
Released: 8 September | Producer: Protomartyr and Sonny DiPerri | Label: Domino Recording Company
Protomartyr’s fourth full-length and Domino debut, Relatives In Descent presents twelve variations on a theme: the unknowable nature of truth and the existential dread that often accompanies that unknowing.
An insight to the thought process behind this quite spectacular record: “I used to think that truth was something that existed, that there were certain shared truths, like beauty,” says Protomartyr singer Joe Casey. “Now that’s being eroded. People have never been more skeptical, and there’s no shared reality. Maybe there never was.”
Featured Track: ‘A Private Understanding’
7. The Moonlandingz – Interplanetary Class Classics
Released: 24 March | Producer: Sean Lennon | Label: Chimera Music
Featured Track: ‘The Strangle Of Anna’
6. LCD Soundsystem – American Dream
Released: 1 September | Producer: James Murphy | Label: DFA Records/Columbia
After the band announced their emotional disbandment in 2012, a hiatus that lasted nearly five years, LCD Soundsystem announced their first album in seven years… and what a rebirth it has proven to be.
James Murphy revealed it was the late and great David Bowie who convinced him to get the band back together, so it was only fitting that Murphy and Co. would produce a record fittingly brilliant.
American Dream is urgent, it’s relevant and it touches on every anxiety and worry of today’s current climate; ‘American Dream’. If anything, the band have re-found their edge – if, of course, they ever really lost it at all.
Featured Track: ‘call the police’
5. Slowdive – Slowdive
Released: 5 May | Producer: Neil Halstead | Label: Dead Oceans
“It felt like we were in a movie that had a totally implausible ending…”
Slowdive released their debut album, Just For A Day, in 1991 via Creation Records. The esteemed Souvlaki followed in 1993 and Pygmalion in 1995, and then the band disbanded. In the 22 years of their virtual disappearance, the band’s reputation and reverence continued to grow, as people continued to discover and be drawn to their recordings.
The intention was always that new music would follow. Finally in January 2017 the band signed to Dead Oceans and released their first new single ‘Star Roving’ from their forthcoming self-titled album.
With some understandable trepidation, Slowdive managed to deliver exactly what they and their adoring cult following always wanted; to lose yourself in that iconic shoegaze sound that has served them so well over the years.
Featured Track: ‘Star Roving’
4. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
Released: 7 April | Producer: Jonathan Wilson, J. Tillman | Label: Bella Union, Sub Pop
Father John Misty is still an incredible artist. It can be very fashionable to do that classic music snob trick and turn your nose to something once it hits a certain level of popularity. But anybody who listens to this album and denies it as some of his best work is just a flat-out liar.
The best of what made Josh Tillman’s FJM moniker ring true is still apparent on this album. There are still modern themes attacked in classical folk ways, there are still veracious moments of candid pillow talk, and there is most certainly still moments to melt your heart. Now though, Tillman has added a bit of bite to this otherwise irreverent persona. Addressing the break-up with his long-term partner and the lack of grace most of us employ once alone, FJM is showing a whole lot more of Josh Tillman than ever before.
Pure Comedy offers much more than we’ve ever looked for from Father John Misty and his inclusion in this list was never under doubt.
Featured Track: ‘Pure Comedy’
3. Cigarettes After Sex – Cigarettes After Sex
Released: 9 June | Producer: Greg Gonzalez | Label: Partisan
After once proclaiming that the best ‘review’ lead singer Greg Gonzalez had ever received was that his music had helped with someone’s sleep anxiety, it feels only right that we start with the dream-like sound Cigarettes After Sex have created on this self-titled LP. It’s hard to skip over as the deep melodies and inter-locking guitars feel fluid and ethereal at every turn.
But what is also important to point out is that unlike a lot of their counterparts Cigarettes After Sex also deploy a steady stream of grit and dark themes to push them beyond their contemporaries. Using their deep bass lines and flinching themes means the album transcends the ‘dream-pop’ moniker. Strong and sturdy its bullish behaviour leave it feeling addictive and undeniable.
With the help of Gonzalez’s androgynous vocal at centre stage the band manage to revive this at times flailing genre and show Warpaint and co. that dream-pop doesn’t have to be forgotten in the morning.
Featured Track: ‘Apocalypse’
2. The National – ‘Sleep Well Beast’
Released: 8 September | Producer: Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, Matt Berninger, Peter Katis | Label: 4AD
The seventh studio album from former Brooklynites The National sees the band not only reach another musical milestone, well worth the deserved applause, but also sees their evolution continue to outweigh the scene they grew from.
Musically the band are pushing themselves to uncomfortable positions on Sleep Well Beast: “It was important that we genuinely explore new territory and risk falling on our faces, or not make a record at all,” explains Aaron. “This album feels complete to me.” Using more synths and avoiding their traditional hard sound such as (‘I’ll Still Destroy You’ and ‘Guilty Party’) adds a new dimension to the band. Thankfully, they evoke industrialisation and digitisation with the same post-modernist truth that makes The National national treasures.
The band prove on Sleep Well Beast that not only can their creativity not be tempered by distance apart during down time and recording, but it is purely this creativity which drives them together and brings us along with them.
Even after their seventh studio album; forward is still the only turn The National know how to make.
Featured Track: ‘Day I Die’
1. King Krule – The OOZ
Released: 13 October | Producer: King Krule | Label: True Panther Sounds
Immersive. One word to describe an album can often feel a little trite, but immersive is the primary word used for describing the latest effort from Londoner Archy Marshall (AKA King Krule). Following 2013’s 6 Feet Beneath The Moon was always going to be a challenge, with the LP taking so much critical acclaim, but The OOZ is something onto itself.
The album feels like a meandering and menacing stroll through the dystopian world that surround Marshall, he envelops the listener with his frankly marauding and vicious soundscape and then finishes the job with his, at times, violent vocal additions.
Deep, dark and wet with mold, the picture Marshall paints is nothing but consuming. A twisted yet clear view on the underbelly of society, warm with the blood of loneliness and scarred by the society which bred it.
Marshall tries to hold the listener’s hand as he, composed and in control both lyrically and musically, guides us through this myriad of murky veins, ending with the acknowledgement that this land is not only real, it’s the one we are all living in.
A near perfect record.
Featured Track: ‘Czech One’