Yes, it’s that time of year again, lists, lists and well, more lists – and from every angle possible. That said, compiling an annual list of my favourite records from throughout the year is one of the most enjoyable aspects to the blog.
There was lots of great music in 2017 (as with every year) but here are my 20 favourite records from the year. Also, I’m hoping the festive period will provide time to catch up on some records I’ve missed throughout the year, so feel free to recommend some listening material.
Without further ado, here are my favourite records from 2017:
20. Czarface – ‘First Weapon Drawn’
For album number four, Czarface (Esoteric, Inspectah Deck and 7L) teamed up with Marvel Comics to create a soundtrack to an actual hardcopy comic of the same name. The previous installments have featured rapping from Esoteric, Inspectah Deck and other guests, however, on this occasion it’s just the superbly evocative instrumentation, with narration tacked on throughout. In fact, 7L’s production is some of strongest found throughout all the releases. Not quite at the level of albums 1 – 3, it provides an excellent little stop gap while we await a new album proper.
19. Nouveaunoise – ‘Nouveaunoise’
Galway duo Nouveaunoise – Conor Gaffney & Niall Conway – had earned themselves a rep for finely crafted electronic productions, intricately weaving crackling samples, jazz-sampling percussion and warm melodies and crisp beats a la Four Tet or Boards of Canada. The pair released their debut back in 2010 and their self-titled follow-up sees them continue to shine when it comes to elegant, lush and intricately produced pristine electronica. Eight years is a long time but it was worth the wait!
18. The Courtneys – ‘The Courtneys II’
With their 2013 debut, The Courtneys peddled lo-fi fuzzy slacker garage-pop with the ’90s casting a pretty long shadow and for the follow-up, the Vancouver trio have repeated the trick. Endearingly ramshackle, the dreamy vocals and laid-back sunkissed vibes are pumped with fuzzed-up distorted guitars, sweet licks and heavy, driving bass lines. Rarely has ramshackle indie been so appealing and so pretty damn irresistible. This is the sound of long, hot summers.
17. Girlpool – ‘Powerplant’
Girlpool’s sound gets bigger on their second LP, beefed up with addition of a drummer crafting that classic alt-rock loud-quiet-loudness throughout but Girlpool know where their true power lies: Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad’s voices still sit front and centre. The unsettling magic that exists between makes them Girlpool distinct, lending their patented fragility and vulnerability. Powerplant is sparse and explores the energy and shape of contrariety and emptiness.
16. Simen Mitlid – ‘Everything is the Same’
Recorded in vivid locales including his hometown cabin, Oslo and Vancouver, Simen Mitlid’s debut LP, Everything is the Same is a charming record, imbued with a warm inviting glow, optimism and playful wonder. Crafting lush, Nordic indie-folk a la contemporaries like Sufjan Stevens, Broken Social Scene and Patrick Watson. These are charming, beautiful and warm folk songs with intricate and sharp arrangements, world-weary and melancholic, yet marked by an understated optimism – and the album is a delight.
15. New Jackson – ‘From Night to Night’
The debut LP from David Kitt’s New Jackson project has a graceful intimacy to it as it flickers between moody nocturnal and jazzy deep house, with Kitt’s voice centre stage. It is at time both comforting and unsettling – as Kitt delivers a wholly hypnotic, captivating and deeply atmospheric blend of late night electro grooves.
14. Ships – ‘Precession’
Sorca McGrath & Simon Cullen have been making music together as Ships for five years or so, in which time they have carefully nurtured their songs and in doing so created something rather special. Crisp, neon beats, phasing guitars and synth, heavenly vocals are all employed to bring about their spacey synth-disco, which is one hell of a ride! In short; Precession is a supremely accomplished, intelligent and beautifully crafted music imbued with a genuine exploration of human emotion.
[Stream on Spotify]
13. Our Krypton Son – ‘Fleas & Diamonds’
Derry’s Our Krypton Son, aka Chris McConaghy, returms with his beautiful second album Fleas & Diamonds. McConaghy is a singer-songwriter in the truest sense of the word, possessing an uncanny ability for lyrical turns of phrase, instrumental arrangements, personal reflection and emotional evaluation. Textured, thoughtful and immensely beautiful from beginning to end, this perfectly formed 12-track collection of honest human truths is tied together with lush sweeping arrangements, swooning melodies and McConaghy’s richly warm vocals to sumptuous effect – something of his trademark sound. A compelling and truly engaging listen from one of Ireland’s finest songwriters.
12. Ten Fé – ‘Hit The Light’
2017 saw London-based Ten Fé release their long-awaited debut LP Hit The Light, a lush record of ‘indie-music-to-dance to’ – taken to euphoric heights. A stunning distillation blurring the lines between synth-pop, ’80s new wave and electronica – encompassing Screamadelica style vibes alongside shuffling lazy beats, ‘Come Together’ style choirs and flourishes of Simple Minds and Springsteen moments. An album with a big sound, big on ideas and big on heart.
11. Run The Jewels – ‘RTJ3′
Killer Mike and El-P stick to their tried and test fiery formula, and how the pair make this vital sound seem quite so effortless, is a mystery. RTJ3 isn’t done with quite the same claustrophobic intensity or breakneck speed but the foot is eased off the accelerator only marginally. And while there’s a sense of measure to their ripostes, there are still plenty of sledgehammering, industrial beats which make the bed for two rappers with a shared interest in lyrical exuberance. RTJ continue to put the ‘super’ back into supergroup.
10. Sleaford Mods – ‘English Tapas’
The Nottingham duo returned this year with English Tapas, which picks up just where 2015’s Key Markets left off – and in case you are wondering, that is no bad thing! Prolific tirades (foul mouthed, furious and funny), stark sounds and ghostly ambiance revolve around simple basslines, pummelling backing tracks with Williamson’s fiery bark atop, and it is this deliberately limited sonic palette makes them (in part) so endearing, potent and incisive.
09. Siriusmo – ‘Comic’
Album number three from Berlin based producer Siriusmo is, much like his previous works, wildly eclectic, colorful and enormously fun. While somewhat more focused, coherent and cohesive than his previous work, there’s still plenty of invention, surprises and playful touches as we rampantly barrel through, a genre hopping experience with touches of disco, house, jazz, and hip hop, to name but a few. A bold, colourful and singular musical vision from one of electronic music’s one-of-a-kind talents.
08. The Horrors – ‘V’
For their fifth record, The Horrors shift their focus toward synth and groove, as they take us on an excursion through robust, synth and dub bass heavy tunes, reeled off with style and swagger. V isn’t a total overhaul, it’s more subtle than that but it’s worked a treat. The Horrors have unearthed something rather special here; a space where threatening menace can coexist with woozy beauty. This is a band who are no strangers to making great records, having done so with their previous three. Tracking their evolution has been a rewarding pursuit and V is every bit imaginative as anything they have done before.
07. Sweet Baboo – ‘Wild Imagination’
Those of you already familiar with Sweet Baboo’s gentle and warm approach to indie-pop will find little surprise on his sixth album. Wild Imagination is a charming confection of exquisite indie-pop with aura of pastoral freshness with themes of love, longing and well, more love. This is a nice record, and refreshingly so, that provides a tonic for those who need it with the sweet scent of summer in the air and blue skies up ahead.
06. Great Profile – ‘Stress Relief’
Great Profile is Lisa van Kampen, a 22 year old Dutch singer/songwriter with a penchant for no-frills guitar-pop. Written, recorded and produced in her bedroom at her parent’s house, Stress Relief is 30 minutes of catchy-as-can-be fuzzed-up guitar-pop imbued with heart, soul and bouts of vulnerability. Van Kampen’s lyrics are sharp, witty and drenched in layers of warm fuzz and distortion. Similar in many respects to that of Coleen Green, Courtney Barnett or Amber Arcades – not bad company to be mentioned with – but that aside, there are no shortage of reasons to fall in love with this record. A terrific debut.
05 Alvvays – ‘Antisocialites’
Alvvays have veered into slightly darker territory for their second record, but fear not, the Canadian foursome have retained the expanding hazy indie-pop sound that made their debut so wonderful. Another shimmering, jangletastic delight with heavenly melodies, vocals, and results!
04. H. Hawkline – ‘I Romanticize’
I Romanticize enchants and charms with pristine pieces of psych-pop that seeps into your consciousness and implores you to groove through its hypnotic combinations – twee but haunting, and familiar but peculiar. Buoyed by the charm and signature quirks of its creator, H. Hawkline introduces harsher, weirder grooves to the mix, which along with fluttering guitars and lilting welsh vocals, furnishes us with a tantalising record of irresistible wonky pop.
03. Cotton Wolf – ‘Life in Analogue’
Following on from three wondrous EPs, Cardiff duo Cotton Wolf – Llion Robertson & Seb Goldfinch – released their spellbinding debut LP, Life In Analogue in 2017. A gorgeous marriage of epic euphoria, ethereal electronica and frosty, crisp elegance – this is spine-tingling musical cinematography at its very finest. With its blend of luscious synths and noise, gorgeous chilled moments, hypnotic danceable beats, you will be whisked away above the clouds and afforded some respite from the ails of the world with a fantastic bout of dreamy escapism.
02. El Goodo – ‘By Order of the Moose’
Welsh psych-pop outfit El Goodo returned with their third album, a whole eight years since their last. By Order Of The Moose indulges in a glorious nostalgia for 60’s music, cross-bred with a cinematic spaghetti western aesthetic, to produce a swirling and unexpected hybrid of adventure of the two. Guitars twang, surf and duel, vocals echo and soar and it is packed with wistful harmonies and beautiful bouts of melancholy and melody. Warmly produced and tightly arranged, this is a record that offers boundless escapism and affectingly feels simultaneously familiar and fresh; and with touches of The Coral, Gorky’s, Morricone and The Beach Boys – the ’60s has never sounded so good.
01. Kelly Lee-Owens – ‘Kelly Lee-Owens’
The self-tilted debut LP from Kelly Lee Owens continues the trajectory set by a slew of sublime singles; eerie, personal and bewitching creations oscillating somewhere between the avant-garde, pop, techno and almost everything in between. There is a real magic at play here. Centering largely around vibes, there is an emotional resonance to it all, and touches of fragility and vulnerability making it deeply personal, yet remaining dancefloor appropriate. Murky electronics slither with ambient synths, melodic grooves mingle with muffled, echoing pulses of bass and enchanting, ghostly vocals, cascade in an entrancing hypnotic haze. Divine.