It was a reoccurring bit last year to mention how horrible the past 12 months had been, what with the rise of Trump, Brexit, and other horrible tragedies, and it wouldn’t be amiss to make the same critique about 2017: in a year where racism has been rifer than ever, or maybe just more in our face, along with the exposure of horrible abusers in some of the highest walks of life, the news has been a catalyst for our misery.
Thankfully on the flip side of the coin, a lot of amazing art has been the product of this horribleness and has given many an outlet to process this misery, or maybe escape it altogether. We’ve been lucky enough to cover the best of it and while there’s been a lot of good, we sadly had to cut it down to a select few; well, 40 to be exact.
Over the course of the next however-long-it-takes-you-to-read-this, we’ll be doing our best to justify each and every record’s place on this list which originally clocked in at over 100 albums. In addition, we’ll have some special guests nominated for AOTY to give us their favourite record(s) of the year.
So strap yourself in, grab your beverage of choice, and sink your teeth into this big ol’ boy…
by Kirin J. Callinan
Chances are if you listened to Bravado this year, it was no doubt down to the Best Music Meme of 2017™ that was Jimmy Barnes iconic scream on Big Enough and while that was how most of the team came across this album, it was so much more than just a meme vessel.
The real catalyst for Bravado‘s appeal comes down to Kirin J. Callinan‘s ability to take the piss out of himself (maybe quite literally if the album is anything to go by) as well as others: S.A.D is a wonderful jab at ambiguous-but-totally-not-ambiguous radio hits about drugs while also being a delightful party tune with apt production and vocal warping. Following up this is Down 2 Hang, a song that takes the expression to chill a bit too literally with some black humour about nooses and resembling some Louvre art, showcasing the up and comer’s ability to captivate and entertain.
Don’t get us wrong: Big Enough is a beautiful over the top marvel with a clusterfuck of influences and perfect features from Alex Cameron and the aforementioned Barnes but to play Callinan‘s LP off as solely that would be a cardinal sin. – Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)
If you’ve been smart enough to listen to Arca‘s self-titled effort before reading this, the production of it will not surprise you: regularly visiting and hanging out by the cemetery near his London flat, the young Venezuelan artist found inspiration in the surrounding environments, notably the decomposing trees that “are much more beautiful than any other kind of texture”.
If you haven’t dived into this album then this information will be starkly clear as soon as it starts: Piel is an ever-expanding landscape, spine-chilling yet strangely gorgeous vocals lightly piercing your ears, regardless of your ability to speak Spanish, while the backing instrumentals start to tune themselves in, becoming borderline intimidating as the song reaches its end.
Even when Arca touches into his party animal side, there’s a still darkness dwelling inside, notably on Desafio with echoing, warped vocals booming over as lines such as “there’s an abyss inside me” bounce off his self-imposed, claustrophobic walls. It shouldn’t be a surprise that a producer behind artists like Kanye West would be able to deliver an album like this, but it sure as hell is eerie how it’s presented. – LM
38. Melancholia Hymns
by Arcane Roots
A start to finish epic, Arcane Roots‘ latest release has a lot of touches that help to make it one of the most magical releases of the year. Melancholia Hymns is an amazing atmospheric marvel that plays on a lot of synth sounds yet still pulls through with a heavy and math-rock influence.
The harsh, attacking songs like Everything (All at Once), with Andrew Groves soaring vocals over the top of a battleground of instruments, really punches you a new one. What makes the song so impressive is how it follows up Fireflies which is undoubtedly the calmest of the bunch, truly displaying the variety this band can offer.
Technically and production wise this album is tight as it’s got your classic rock band instruments but with that technological twist with industrial drums and drum machine clicks. Groves learned the piano epically to add a new dimension to the rock outfit’s music which you can hear in the dreamier and more synth-heavy sound they found while discovering this album. All of this ends up resulting in it being the perfect culmination of the act so far with some much-welcomed twists. – Will Sexton (@willshesleeps)
by Code Orange
It’s often said that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but when it comes to Code Orange‘s third studio album Forever, you definitely should: with it being nearly solely black and white bar the red blood gushing from the mouth, it evokes a sense of Sin City-esque visceral-ness.
The album definitely follows through with this promise on nearly every front: there are the usual roars and harsh vocal deliveries that fans of metalcore will be used to and fond of but the way they mesh with some borderline heavy alt-rock instrumentals makes it refreshing to those familiar and accessible for those wanting to dip their toes in.
Tracks like Bleeding In The Blur are undeniably catchy while having some edge to it while something like Real is a straight up colossus that leaves no doubts in your mind how relentless this Pensylvania act are willing to go. Regardless of your regular genre foray, the work Code Orange provide and show off on their comeback LP. – LM
36. Any Joy
by Pronto Mama
A Scottish act well worth smothering in love, Pronto Mama did a very good job at not only filling the Bombay Bicycle Club hole left in our hearts but somehow surpassing this comparison, becoming a wholly unique band in their own right and a force to be reckoned with.
On Any Joy, we see the indie rock label have every fiber of its being stretched: yes, they may be on a small label, shoutout to Electric Honey, with some unmistakable rock elements to them but the sound this Glasgow act go for is something else. This is best summed up by the single Arabesque which goes about some familiar topics such as relationships but goes around it in an incredibly enjoyable way, what with its layered performances lead by the incredibly strong, Glaswegian pipes from Marc Rooney.
There’s an abundance of highlights, a particular favourite being Bottom Feeder that packs in some visceral lyrics, and for a band to be capable of something like this so early on, it’s enough to make even someone with a stone cold heart excited. – LM
35. Eternity In Your Arms
Regarded by many as the most exciting debut album of 2017, goth punks Creeper staked their claim for album of the year early on. Defined as “horror punk“, but taking cues from glam rock, post-hardcore and good old-fashioned punk, Eternity, In Your Arms is a rip-roaring ride from start to finish with the soft piano of Black Rain leading you in, to the bombastic, Queen-esque piano of I Choose To Live.
The meat (or meat-free alternative) and potatoes of any album are the vocals, and the combination of Will Gould and Hannah Greenwood is sublime, with the latter taking a solo turn on the soulful Crickets. Best just to stick this album on and let it consume you, but the real highlights are Black Rain, Poison Pens, Misery, Crickets, I Choose to Live and Suzanne. Easily one of the best albums of 2017, Creeper won’t be leaving your conscience any time soon. – Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)
34. After Laughter
Paramore has somehow remained at the forefront of pop punk since 2005. But 12 years and two band members later, the Tennessee band finally have a new sound. After Laughter shakes off the act’s angsty teenage image and replaces it with something simple but undeniably refreshing. The album is unbelievably sunny, a continuous loop of chirpy 80’s inspired bangers as Hayley William’s, forever impressive, vocals continue to look at sadness and anger but from a more grown-up perspective.
Most of the songs are upbeat but a calm sense of relief and acceptance is consistent throughout. After Laughter feels like the album Paramore have been wanting to make for years. It’s vibrant, fun and bold but still moody enough to appeal to their original fan base. Like their audience, Paramore have grown up.
This album shows that despite change to their sound and their line-up, Paramore remain a go to band for when you just need to feel something, no matter if that is happiness, sadness or anything in-between. – Isabella McHardy (@isabellamchardy)
by Oh Sees
The newest release from Oh Sees (formerly ‘Thee Oh Sees’) titled Orc shows that John Dwyer and his new-look lineup have no intentions of slowing down. After 20 years of great albums, the band has remained both high energy and consistent with their releases. Whilst others look to slow down, John Dwyer throttles his guitar and ramps up the intensity on his newest record.
The California garage rockers have produced one of the most hectically brilliant psychedelic albums of the year. In perfect harmony, the band proceeds to blow minds with their psychedelic jams and continue to impress with their ever-evolving sound. Animated Violence, Nite Expo, and The Static God stand out as album highlights amongst a great track listing, starting the album off with a bang.
With recent years producing perhaps some of the bands best work, it is clear that Oh Sees are royalty in the garage and psych community. With the band changing name, appearance, and sound, it is fair to assume that John Dwyer is still focussed on pushing the band to their limit and consistently releasing great records. Hopefully, this great streak continues into 2018, following the footsteps of A Weird Exists and Orc. – Ewan Blacklaw (@ewanblacklaw)
32. Full Day, Cool Times
by MC Almond Milk
Scottish hip-hop may sound like a funny concept to some but considering the meteoric rise of Young Fathers, the arrival of MC Almond Milk and his place on this list wasn’t so much a question of if, rather when.
You may assume that a Scottish rapper would be more akin to those diss tracks everyone would share via Bluetooth than anything else but you’d be wrong; tracks like 1995 go to show just how mature James Scott’s songs really are as he reminisces on days gone by with the track starting to reach an anxiety-inducing climax as he dwells on current issues. Of course, this doesn’t mean it’s all serious all the time with Scott managing to hit out with some comedic lines and even an upbeat belter in the form of Black Coffee.
With some of the best production to be heard in this genre all year, a particular highlight being on Wet Wednesday Pt. 2 with its jagged crackly guitar and solid keys, Full Day, Cool Times is as close to a claustrophobic listen as you’ll get in 2017. – LM
31. You Are We
by While She Sleeps
An incredibly successful album from one of the most exciting bands in metal, While She Sleeps really burst back onto the scene with You Are We. The album is fully crowd-funded, self-released and recorded in friends houses and their own warehouse they built themselves which makes the album feel formidable. While She Sleeps have albums that make you feel like you’re one of their family, but this contribution to their discography really cemented you are a brother/sister.
The album is brilliant. It is powerful, thought-provoking and my oh my is it heavy. The fact the album was made through blood sweat and tears and off their own fanbase really adds a dimension that most albums don’t have nowadays. Even down to fans having the opportunity to appear as crowd vocals on the album shows they are truly dedicated to us and their art. They impress with every release and show us all how much they have grown and surprised us by keeping a slightly oversaturated genre feeling refreshing and new. – WS
30. Come Over When You’re Sober (Pt.1)
by Lil Peep
As Lil Peep gained traction in the music industry over the past couple of years, he was met with as much love as he was hate. History has shown that artists that have come through with different and new music can be panned in their early career only years later to be hailed as revolutionary and pioneering. Lil Peep seems like he will be remembered as one of these artists and not just because of his untimely death but because his music was truly unique and innovative.
His music would blend the sounds of emo and sad rock with modern trap rap, sampling from artists such as The Microphones, Modest Mouse and many others usually tending to sample the melancholy guitar interlude passages from the artists. C.O.W.Y.S showcased Peep’s best songs to date and successfully portrayed how his music took the trap banger formula and made it into something more moody and introspective that other artists in the genre hadn’t achieved before him.
The C.O.W.Y.S released this year was only labeled as part 1, signifying Peep was only just getting started with his musical path and it goes without saying how heart-breaking it is knowing that he never lived long enough to put out more, however; his legacy although short will live on. – Liam Toner (@tonerliam)
29. Trumpeting Ecstasy
by Full Of Hell
Now to be considered as staples of the genre, grindcore band Full Of Hell released Trumpeting Ecstasy this year, one of the most succinct, brutal projects of heavy rock music for some time. Having released joint projects with extreme music legends like The Body and Merzbow, Full Of Hell combine all of their past sounds onto this blistering eleven track album.
Crawling Back To God is a standout track on the album, featuring one of the catchiest metal riffs of the year, punctuating the beginning and end of the track, adding to a culmination that is both frantic and almost satisfying. The title track is a perfect example of their past collaborations coming into fruition. Nicole Dollaganger provides subtle, swooping vocals over eerie, lo-fi noise, to then fall out onto punishing guitar stabs and screams, this track showing the band’s power-violence past, and giving a real, meaty kick into the listener’s consciousness.
Trumpeting Ecstasy should stand out in Full Of Hell’s already extensive discography, and with their second collaborative release with The Body also coming out this year, it can be easily said that they have had an electrifying 2017. – Charlie Leach (@YungBuchan)
28. You’re Not As ___ As You Think
by Sorority Noise
Sorority Noise have always dared to translate taboo subjects and themes into anthemic tracks, but You’re Not As _____ As You Think delves deep into the darkest crevices of the human mind.
Openly referencing his mental health on stage, Cameron Boucher honestly, and sometimes brutally, has put this into ten heart-wrenching anthems. Intertwining the in-your-face ballad-y likes of No Halo and the more ambient, stripped back First Letter From St. Sean displays their versatility and ability to pour passion into anything they do.
From A Portrait Of’s hindsight-ical tale of despair and desperation to losing “a basketball team to heaven” (Disappeared), YNA_AYT is one of, if not THE most important ‘alternative’ records of the past decade.
Sorority Noise offers the perfect accompanying soundtrack for doleful evenings spent reflecting on past experiences and by the blissful closer, New Room, you realise that maybe, just maybe, You’re Not As _____ As You Think. – Callum Thornhill (@cal_thornhill)
27. English Tapas
by Sleaford Mods
Same old Sleafords, but with a more professional feel to it, English Tapas perfectly dialed into the zeitgeist of Broken Britain. It was still the same mix of Andrew Fearn producing the beats and Jason Williams with the venomous vitriol, but the beats felt cleaner and the vocals felt dirtier.
No one is safe from the Mods’ attack, taking aim at “pretentious little bastards on social medias” in Just Like We Do, Boris Johnson in Moptop, and no prizes for who’s taking the flak in B.H.S. But as per, there’s also getting out on the piss in Army Nights & Messy Anywhere.
Wanna talk an evolution in sound? Look no further than I Feel So Wrong, which actually features a bit of crooning from our man Jase and the quite frankly weird, yet exciting Drayton Manored. As always, we dream of a world where Sleaford Mods‘ commentary isn’t needed, but for the now, we’re so happy to have them. – OB
If you love the sound of noisy distortion and rampaging hardcore punk then Ofbeldi is the album for you. The album begins with screeching feedback and snarling vocals and quickly launches into complete sonic annihilation in the form of ripping hardcore punk. The track only lasts a mere 55 seconds but is a perfect statement of purpose letting the listener get used to the raw chaos that will continue screaming all the way to the album’s end.
Each member of the band is just performing so wild and cacophonously here. Whether it’s the venomous vocal work, the screaming guitar or the melodically tinged but equally aggressive bass work, the band come together as a tightknit but ear-splitting unit. The band sounds totally loose, which is not to be confused with sloppy, and they constantly sound like they’re about to go off the rails (but never do). Even when the band falls into slower tempo sections they still manage to sound just as vicious as they do when blasting along at punk speeds.
With 11 short songs, Ofbeldi is over in a mere 18 minutes of distorted chaos leaving its mark as one of the noisiest punk records of 2017. – LT
by St. Vincent
St Vincent takes a step further down the rabbit hole that is electro-pop. Each single is coupled with an arty video filled with as much colour as the record’s album cover, which features the behind of a woman in fluorescent pink tights, inviting the world to effectively kiss her arse.
Usually writing in the style of Kate Bush, from the perspective of a character, this album is one of her most personal records to date. While being overtly sexual in places, she creates an open intimacy with the listener. This is particularly prevalent on Saviour, a track drenched in sleazy synths and synthetic fetish imagery.
This body of work has cemented Annie Clark as a seminal voice of the femme experience of this generation. – Tilly O’Connor (@Tilly_Oconnor)
24. Half Light
It always feels like a backhanded compliment to mention Vampire Weekend next to Rostam’s name. Rostam Batmanglij is so much more than the éminence grise for one of the ‘00s most consistent indie groups. He’s produced tracks for Carly Rae Jepsen, Frank Ocean, and Charli XCX, among others; he’s one half of the one-off electronic band Discovery; and in September 2017, he released his first solo album Half-Light.
Half-Light didn’t catapult Rostam into the stratum of pop stardom he may have wanted, the music was too culturally diverse, too experimental, too masterful. But though the album didn’t give us a manifest chart-topping single, it reasserted the scrutiny and passion Batmanglij has always put into his work as a producer and songwriter. Wood leaps between continents to find the through line between Indian and Western European classical music. Rudy propels a Queer bildungsroman with the vim of Zydeco horns and Don’t Let It Get to You offers a pick-me-up ensconced in a sample from Paul Simon, that longstanding reference point in Vampire Weekend’s music.
Above all else, Half-Light is Rostam’s first real step out of VW’s shadow onto the path of what looks to be a promising solo career. – Sean Hannah (@shun_handsome)
The album title of Idles’ breakout album from this year is an apt description of the aural experience they deliver. From the opener Heel/Heal (one of the best opening tracks of the year), Idles present themselves to British music in all their glory. With not providing much respite, Brutalism entered 2017 with a distinctive message: Idles are one of the most exciting British bands to appear in the last few years.
Though (as it has been said previously on many a music website) the band might wear their influences on their sleeves, they do so with such aplomb. Their sound is loud, and at times quite chaotic, they have developed an excellent balancing act, in which their post-punk sound never veers into the messy and unlistenable. With excellent hooks provided by the guitar work on the album, the visceral vocal talents of lead vocalist Joe Talbot and the frantic yet perfectly grounded bass and drums from by Adam Devonshire and Jon Beavis respectively, this is a truly excellent listen. If you want an album containing the best song ever written about TV chef Mary Berry, look no further! – CL
There have been a lot of miserable albums this year (ones that evoke or explore that emotion, not make you feel it cause you’re suffering through it) and Mourn is no exception. The product of Corbin, formerly known as Spooky Black, this record is one fuelled by the sadness it creates via two important features.
The first of these is the fantastic set of vocals that are omnipresent on this album; they bleed with passion, sorrow, and fear, consistently creating this uneasy atmosphere that makes you feel terrified but at the same time will have you weirdly entranced. When he screams about how much he’s trying on Giving Up, you can feel the exhaustion and on Revenge Song, a particular highlight, Corbin‘s rage is bubbling under the surface with his true sadness being untenable.
An album that will sadly fall under the radar for many, Mourn is a challenging record that will have you in awe when it doesn’t have you biting your nails in un-easement. – LM
21. A Black Mile To The Surface
by Manchester Orchestra
Being one of the 21st centuries most prolific indie/emo acts, the pressure was on Manchester Orchestra to deliver. And deliver they did. A Black Mile to the Surface is a soaring, anthemic, bold and deeply sad album. An amalgamation of everything that Manchester Orchestra has done in the past, but it somehow sounds as fresh as MO always have.
Andy Hull’s lyrics are always debatably the best part of any project he touches, be it Manchester Orchestra, Bad Books or Right Away, Great Captain!, and that hasn’t changed. Whether he’s singing to his infant child (on The Sunshine), weaving a tale of an attack/suicide attempt at a supermarket (on album highlight The Grocery) or reviewing a love gone sour (The Gold), the words he uses are never, ever wasted.
Instrumentally, the band strays from what’s expected of them multiple times. The aforementioned The Sunshine, for example, has a shuffling drum beat and a killer groove to it, whereas album opener The Maze is a slice of arms-in-the-air, stadium-ready atmospheric rock.
In short, Manchester Orchestra continue to better themselves with each album. This is a truly stellar, vital album that I’d recommend to absolutely anyone. – Jake Cordiner (@jjjjaketh)
20. Music From Before The Storm
Music from Before the Storm is the soundtrack to the game Life is Strange, but it manages to stand by itself as one of the best albums of the year. The majority of the album is eerily instrumental. Elena’s voice only sweeping in occasionally to add to the vast atmosphere of the album. The songs flicker between from one extreme to the other; some being loaded with heavy distortion, others comfortingly soft and spaced out.
The real magic behind the album is how it is composed. Instruments, samples, and voices layer upon each other beautifully. Like most of Daughter’s music, Music from Before the Storm is heart-wrenching.
This album is bold and self-assured. When there are vocals, they flow in chants and echoes. You never know where the next song will take you. Although it was made to play along to a video game, this album is special as it is. – IM
19. Gang Signs & Prayer
We all knew that Stormzy had chops when he dropped Shut Up (currently at 70,000,000 views on YouTube), but little did we know he had more chops than a butcher’s when he dropped his debut album, Gang Signs and Prayer. First things first, the album gets off to a flying start with First Things First, with the beats heavy & the flow as smooth as silk.
The best thing about this album though is its raw honesty, whether it’s Stormz being open about his mental health in Lay Me Bare, which many of us can relate to in the lyrics, or even, no matter what your beliefs are, how true he is to his faith in Blinded by Your Grace (Pt 1 & 2). He also pays tribute to his dear mum in 100 Bags, so it feels like just such a wholesome, honest & real album. No fronting, just one man opening the door on his life.
One of the highlights of this album is, you guessed it, Big For Your Boots. It’s a dancey bop that warns everyone to stay out of Big Mike’s way. Be real with yourself, you’ve loudly shouted “Rudeboy you’re never too big for Adele“, and you’re just waiting to tell someone “you’re getting way too old for a diss“
The only drawback with this album is that it’s too broadly well produced, written & mixed to try and single tracks out. Sure, you might not listen to Mr. Skeng as much as Shut Up, but could you get rid of either?
UK Grime is only getting bigger & bigger and more into the public consciousness, and Stormzy is going to be one of the artists leading the charge, and one that will no doubt go down in history. – OB
18. A Deeper Understanding
by The War On Drugs
The newest War on Drugs album, A Deeper Understanding takes listeners on an hour-long journey of atmospheric sounding synths and guitar. Accompanying the beautiful instrumentals are Adam Granduciel’s dreamy vocals and intimate lyrics, which sound just as good as the 2014 release, Lost in the Dream.
At the time, it may have seemed that the previous album would be hard to top, but A Deeper Understanding certainly comes close. There are so many different layers to each song, every one meticulously crafted by Granduciel. It truly is his manic attention to detail that creates the unique atmosphere present throughout the album. This newest project definitely feels more optimistic and romantic than Lost in the Dream, which dealt with a rough breakup. The tracks are long and sweeping, littered with tiny details that must have made for a painstaking studio process for Adam Granduciel.
The War on Drugs have developed a more complete sound and matched their previous best album with this newest album. It’s great to hear the band continuing to put out amazing albums, although it may be another three years before their fans get another one. – EB
17. Forced Witness
by Alex Cameron
The success of Alex Cameron in 2017 can be put down to any number of things: his sleazy on-stage dance moves, his co-writing contributions to The Killers latest, his fantastically absurd and breathy Big Enough cameo.
But what cannot be overlooked is the sheer strength of the songwriting on his sophomore effort, Forced Witness. Musically, every song has an unshakeably addictive melody that you’ll find yourself singing long after the opening bass chug of Candy May kicks in, coupled with an appropriately cheesy instrumental that couples self-serious indie-songwriter with cheap 80s synth-rock that somehow manages to sound like plastic doused in inexpensive aftershave.
However, the heart and the soul of the record that will truly win you over is Cameron’s lyrics; having abandoned the sole persona of a failed entertainer from his debut to focus on several scummy narrators orbiting themes of toxic masculinity, fragile egos and insecure romances that simultaneously critique and make fun of such behaviour without every normalising it into making it acceptable – case in point on the disco strut of The Chihuahua: “Our love was like a fire, I pissed on it so I could sleep.”
The two elements come together in impeccable harmony on Stranger’s Kiss, a duet with Angel Olson that is as heartbreaking as it is hilarious, and leaves us in anticipation for Cameron’s next perfectly poised move. – Josh Adams (@jxshadams)
16. Sleep Well Beast
by The National
Following the release of Trouble Will Find Me and a period of intense touring, a breather was on the cards for The National. Their hiatus, albeit brief, spawned several side projects: Matt Berninger formed indie supergroup El Vy while the Dessner twins produced an ambitious Grateful Dead cover album.
Far from acting as a distraction, these extracurricular activities became vital ingredients of Sleep Well Beast. The goal was never to reinvent the wheel, as keen observers of the Cincinnati-via-Brooklyn sad dad quintet should be well aware if they’ve been paying attention since Alligator.
Instead, they’ve mastered the art of gradual evolution, adapting to new conditions with every new release. Berninger’s lyrics, grandiose and cryptic yet strangely familiar, cover the entire spectrum of human emotion – the optimism of youth, the crippling anxiety of marriage and parenthood, the awkward nature of social interaction. Whereas before he was brash and defiant in the face of adversity, now he sings with a sigh of resignation.
At the risk of sounding platitudinous, most The National albums are growers, arguably none more so than Sleep Well Beast; however, with repeated listens each and every song on this record reveals itself and, all of a sudden, it becomes a thing of breathtaking beauty and despair. – Kieran Cannon (@kiercannon)
15. American Dream
by LCD Soundsystem
After their much-publicised Madison Square Garden farewell in 2011, it looked like LCD Soundsystem were no more.
Many years passed, speculation lingered and rumours swirled until eventually frontman James Murphy posted at great length on Facebook, confirming the reunion everyone was waiting for – well, almost everyone. Some fans were left disgruntled, especially those who attended that high profile final hurrah but when the late, great David Bowie commands it, who are we to argue?
American Dream is a triumphant return to the spotlight for Murphy et al. and a fitting tribute to Bowie, the man who was instrumental in getting LCD to reform and whose musical legacy pervades the entire album. In Change Yr Mind, Murphy considers his place in the world as the onset of old age marches on: is he still as “dangerous now”? Absolutely. His razor-sharp wit and bombastic delivery are still as effective as ever, toing and froing between twisted Robert Fripp-esque bursts of guitar and apprehensive drumming.
Call The Police and Tonite conjure up LCD tracks of old while How Do You Sleep? is the sprawling epicentre of the album. As it happens, though, the crowning achievement is the very first track – the crooning Oh Baby, arguably the finest song on the album and without doubt among the best material they’ve released to date. – KC
Alvvays’ hook-heavy, jangly take on dream pop is an amalgamation of many bands before them. A bricolage of trickle-down influence, the Ontarian dream pop group finds the cohesion between obvious forebears The Byrds and The Cranberries along with more inconspicuous acts such as Camper Van Beethoven and Vivian Girls. But in spite of the panoply of predecessors, Alvvays forged an inimitable, indelible sound on their sophomore effort Antisocialites.
Frontwoman Molly Rankin learns the stakes of true love on the shoegaze power pop anthem In Undertow, an epiphany that informs the rest of the record. Love can be elusive (Dreams Tonite), it can be saccharine (Lollipop (Ode to Jim)), but above all else, it can’t be forced. For all of the group’s lyrics, which range from cloying heartbreak to unbridled exultation, Alvvays succeed by virtue of their symbiotic musicianship. The band’s guileless, solid rhythm section lays the groundwork for Television-inspired guitar conversations and retro synth lines.
They may have slipped under the radar after the release of their eponymous debut, but Antisocialites proved that Alvvays are a band worthy of our attention. – SH
13. After The Party
by The Menzingers
The debut album from SZA, CTRL was the breath of fresh air to R&B that 2017 needed. Exploring themes of insecurity, infidelity, and self-identity is nothing new but SZA’s unique approach is endlessly fascinating.
On CTRL, SZA discusses these topics with brutal honesty and is never kind to herself, laying her demons on the table for everyone to see, which makes the album so powerful, by showing that she will no longer allow herself to be ashamed of who she is, and if she lets the entire world see her insecurities then she can finally own them and overcome them.
In a saturated genre, SZA demands attention with an intricately detailed album, which includes various contributions from her mother who is giving her daughter advice throughout the album which relate to the themes SZA explores. With each listen, the album becomes more and more personal and it becomes almost overwhelming how much personality SZA poured into it.
There are so many little details that set SZA apart from her contemporaries and even though this is just her first attempt, she has already produced a classic. – Ethan Woodford (@human_dis4ster)
11. Greatest Hits
by Remo Drive
Remo Drive are an alt-rock three-piece from Minnesota who have come out of fucking NOWHERE with an album chock full of angsty bangers. Breakout single Yer Killin’ Me (which I also wrote about for the sites song of the year list, cheeky wee plug) set standards high prior to the release of the band’s debut studio full-length Greatest Hits (such a good bloody title), and thankfully those standards were met with ease.
Songs like Art School, Trying 2 Fool U and Summertime perfectly convey how it feels to be a pissed off 20 something. But they don’t just go for angst, the boys have a cracking ear for melody and, when the time’s right, can lay down a kick ass breakdown or two. The shouted vocals do well to make sure the listener pays attention to the sad and often hilarious lyrics and the instrumentation throughout is stellar.
I cannot say enough good things about this band and this album, genuinely. A bloody sensational debut from you and your dad’s new favourite band. – JC
10. The Ooz
by King Krule
The “Lounge Music” genre has long bore implications of class elitism and cultural appropriation. A diluted form of jazz used to fill the silences of parties feting middle-management promotions and quinquagenarian birthday celebrations, lounge music held no connection to working-class England.
But in mid-October, Archy Marshall (d/b/a King Krule) released The OOZ, a grime-covered, vitriolic reconfiguration of easy listening forged in the mind of a twenty-something savant with equal admiration for James Chance and Mark E. Smith. Replete with an imperious saxophone, murky but steady basslines, and a cockney voice harsh enough to shake all of London (and some of America) to attention, King Krule took lounge music from the ceramic-tiled living rooms of the upper middle class and transposes it into the seedy world of derelict youths.
The dramatis personae of The OOZ are the lowest of lowlifes; there’s the criminal who forgets his burner phone at the crime scene on Biscuit Town, the indigent transient of Logos, and the rapacious cross-species hybrid from Half Man Half Shark. But rather than cast conceited moral judgment on these misfits, Marshall sings almost empathetically about them. He knows he’s not much different from them. Maybe none of us are. – SH
9. Flying Microtonal Banana
by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
8. Visions Of A Life
by Wolf Alice
Following up their critically adored debut My Love Is Cool, Wolf Alice returned this year with a follow-up that matched the potential they had shown the first time around.
Being a band that refuses to be defined by a genre, the London indie rock outfit continues that trend on Visions Of A Life, each track either harking back to sounds from their debut and building upon them or going in completely new directions ranging from angry grunge rock to folk. What sets Visions Of A Life apart from the myriads of other indie rock albums to come out this year is the sheer passion Wolf Alice have. Each track just had this special aura to it that sucks you in with each listen, and Ellie Rowsell’s status as one of the most exciting lead singers today is solidified with an incredibly versatile performance across the album that increases the effectiveness of the album significantly.
On this album Wolf Alice prove themselves to be an anomaly in British rock music right now, a band that constantly improves and make music that stands out on its own and feels important not only now, but no doubt in the foreseeable future. – EW
7. Pure Comedy
by Father John Misty
Father John Misty revels in being 10 steps ahead of everyone, and his position has never been as secure as it was with the release of Pure Comedy, the record that no one knew they needed until they got it. Josh Tillman’s 70-minute exploration of the human condition at large is witty, calculated, scathing, ironic and hopeful – sometimes all at the same time.
Sonically, Pure Comedy is incredibly cohesive while never repetitive; composed of grandiose piano ballads which feel distinct from one another due to the stunning horn and string sections which Tillman enlists on all of the record’s tracks, but never used to better effect than on emotional centrepiece, Leaving LA. The 10-verse track barely feels half that – the orchestra providing the perfect foil for Tillman’s uncharacteristically fragile vocal.
The lyrics are undoubtedly the record’s main selling point, however – with Leaving LA hearing Tillman introspectively exploring his past, condemning LA and mocking the song itself throughout its mammoth 13-minute run time. The lyrics never fail to grab the attention, whether Tillman is branding humans “demented monkeys”, or brutally holding God to account, it’s difficult not to hang on to his every word. – Andrew Barr (@weeandreww)
6. A Crow Looked At Me
by Mount Eerie
In a particularly miserable year, it’s rather apt that one of the best albums we came across was one riddled with grief; enter the stage Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked At Me, something that we’re hesitant to even call a record considering how raw a document this is of Phil Elverum’s coping process after losing his wife.
There’s nothing ambiguous about the album: over the course of the 11 tracks, we see Elverum’s ability, or lack thereof, to come to terms with what has happened as clothes are given away, memories are fondly looked back upon and their daughter is left in a scary, new situation. As the closing track Crow flies above, it’s impossible not to feel a smidge of the same weight Elverum’s has painted for you be lifted from your shoulders.
It isn’t an easy listen but if you’re up for the challenge and want to witness this organic mish-mash of music and poetry then this is the art for you. – LM
The title of 2017’s best pop record goes to Lorde, whose sophomore record Melodrama excels in just how self-aware a pop record it is. That shouldn’t be surprising, given Lorde rose to superstardom from megahit Royals, penned about her disillusionment from the lyrical content in much of the hip-hop which she loves.
The best word that can be used to describe Melodrama, both musically and lyrically, is meta. Lorde seems to mock the hallmarks of modern pop music, and revels in doing so. Sonically, it is heavily electronic and synthetic and while tracks like Sober and Homemade Dynamite could loosely be described as bangers, they revel in darkness and subtlety, rather than bright maxamalism like contemporaries such as Carly Rae Jepsen.
The Louvre is perhaps the past example of this where the verses masterfully build tension to what could be a huge chorus, only for the guitar to fade, leaving only a synthetic drumbeat over which Lorde nonchalantly sneers “broadcast the boom-boom-boom-boom, make ‘em all dance to it” in an apparent dig at what she sees contemporaries doing.
The album’s lyrics are just as smart throughout – with more than a few striving to the record’s title – “I hate the headlines and the weather” is a highlight, coming from closer Perfect Places, which serves as Lorde’s 101 of how to write a great pop song – with the quality of Melodrama, it’s a lesson many would be wise to listen to. – AB
by Kendrick Lamar
3. Flower Boy
by Tyler The Creator
Flower Boy roundly made tabloid headlines for Tyler’s apparent coming out on I Ain’t Got Time! (“I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004”), when the real headline should have been the fact that Flower Boy saw Tyler finally release a record mature enough for an admission like coming out.
Flower Boy hears Tyler far grown in every sense imaginable; lyrically, sonically, and as a result, artistically. Sonically, Flower Boy is radiant and gorgeous, with the instrumentals of many tracks (Garden Shed, See You Again) leaning towards Frank Ocean-esque R&B than brash hip-hop. Speaking of Tyler’s former Odd Future collaborator, Ocean pops up on highlight 911 / Mr Lonely, a disarmingly catchy and upbeat track where Tyler declares he is the “loneliest man alive”.
911 is an excellent microcosm for the record, as Ocean sounds gorgeous, but the Blonde mastermind sings little more than “Chirp chirp!”. Flower Boy is full of features but is a lesson in how to use them perfectly. Big names pop up such as Rex Orange County and ASAP Rocky, and undoubtedly add to the tracks they appear on; however, their appearances merely feel like cameos on the Tyler show, a show which he runs with glee throughout undoubtedly the best record of his career so far; it’s no wonder he feels like Glitter. – AB
2. Big Fish Theory
by Vince Staples
The real appeal of an album like Big Fish Theory is that from a totally superficial level, you’ll have an absolute joy from start to finish without putting much thought into your surroundings.
Tracks like Love Can Be are, from a surface level, absolutely bangers that aren’t so much sprinkled but aptly drowned in their influences, specifically UK dance and Detroit techno. The hooks on here are monumental, no doubt etching themselves into your cranium without a moment’s hesitation.
Upon further listens, and thorough analysis, it’ll be difficult not to find yourself admiring the lavish, almost avant-garde production or the nihilistic dark lyrics of Mr. Vince Staples. It’s a mesh that really shouldn’t work but it miraculously does, especially on the likes of BagBak that packs in a near untamable banging bass while Staples fires out beautiful lyrics to his future baby mama one minute and making his political aspirations for his brothers clear the next.
Big Fish Theory is without a doubt one of the most compact, well-made pieces of art 2017 has provided with us, easily balancing social awareness, introspective interest and some of the best hip-hop production we’ve experienced this decade. – LM
1. SATURATION I
BROCKHAMPTON, a fourteen man strong boyband who met on a Kanye West fan page ended up being the surprise package that 2017 needed. Despite most of the members being basically unknown, they made themselves impossible to ignore by releasing three albums in one year, titling the collective the Saturation trilogy.
Any one of the three albums could have made this list but looking back, I feels the most significant. Announcing the arrival of “America’s favourite boyband” Saturation is a collection of hip-hop bangers that calls back to classics such as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
Each member, whether it be Matt, Kevin, Ameer, Dom, Merlyn or JOBA, have their own strengths and personalities and it creates such an exhilarating listen as each track brings new surprises and they prove time and time again that they are capable of producing fresh, exciting hip hop that the genre desperately needed.
Everything on this album is done with near perfection, from the intelligence of the lyrics to the intricacy in the production, there is so much to appreciate about Saturation and is especially commendable when they somehow managed to make two other albums that were just as good all in one year, 2017 certainly felt the presence of BROCKHAMPTON.
If you want to listen to any of the albums mentioned then follow our playlist down below: