Top 40 Albums of 2017

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…

40. Bravado
by Kirin J. Callinan
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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)

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39. Arca
by Arca
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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 thatare 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

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38. Melancholia Hymns
by Arcane Roots
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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)

FULL REVIEW HERE

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37. Forever
by Code Orange
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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

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36. Any Joy
by Pronto Mama
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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

Also…

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FULL REVIEW HERE

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35. Eternity In Your Arms
by Creeper
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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)

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34. After Laughter
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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)

FULL REVIEW HERE

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33. Orc
by Oh Sees
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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)

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32. Full Day, Cool Times
by MC Almond Milk
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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

FULL REVIEW HERE

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Also…

2017-12-22

31. You Are We
by While She Sleeps

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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

FULL REVIEW HERE

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30. Come Over When You’re Sober (Pt.1)
by Lil Peep

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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)

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29. Trumpeting Ecstasy
by Full Of Hell

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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)

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28. You’re Not As ___ As You Think
by Sorority Noise

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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)

FULL REVIEW HERE

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27. English Tapas
by Sleaford Mods

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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

FULL REVIEW HERE

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26. Ofbeldi
by Dauðyflin

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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

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25. MASSEDUCTION
by St. Vincent

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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)

FULL REVIEW HERE

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24. Half Light
by Rostam

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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)

FULL REVIEW HERE

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23. Brutalism
by Idles

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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

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22. Mourn
by Corbin

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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

FULL REVIEW HERE

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21. A Black Mile To The Surface
by Manchester Orchestra

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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)

FULL REVIEW HERE

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20. Music From Before The Storm
by Daughter

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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

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19. Gang Signs & Prayer
by Stormzy

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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

FULL REVIEW HERE

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18. A Deeper Understanding
by The War On Drugs

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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

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17. Forced Witness
by Alex Cameron

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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)

 

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2017-12-21

16. Sleep Well Beast
by The National

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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)

FULL REVIEW HERE

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15. American Dream 
by LCD Soundsystem

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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 MindMurphy 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

FULL REVIEW HERE

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14. Antisocialites
by ALVVAYS

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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

FULL REVIEW HERE

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13. After The Party
by The Menzingers

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There comes a time in the lives of all beer-swigging, crowd-surfing, amp-breaking rock bands, when a difficult question must be asked; ‘are we too old to be doing this?’. Different bands deal with this conundrum in different ways. Some, see Green Day, choose to ignore it completely. Others, see Blink-182, elect to grow up a little and are all the better for it (we’re ignoring the travesty of last years comeback record here). And then you have The Menzingers.
Moving away from their usual subject matter of all the emo cliches under the sun, the Scranton natives spent 2017 tackling the age question head-on, with their fifth album After the Party. And in doing so, they managed to produce the most universally resonant, and perhaps best, album of their career. 
All catchy melodies and thumping riffs as usual, what really marks the record as a standout is its sentiment. The whole thing is just packed full of sincerity, and while occasionally straying into cheesy territory, all 13 tracks serve as near-perfect illustrations of the bittersweet acceptance of growing older. – Rory McArthur (@rorymeep)

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12. CTRL
by SZA

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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)

FULL REVIEW HERE

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11. Greatest Hits
by Remo Drive

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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

FULL REVIEW HERE

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10. The Ooz
by King Krule

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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

FULL REVIEW HERE

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9. Flying Microtonal Banana
by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

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When the first of King Gizzard’s 4 (5?) records of 2017 was announced, alongside the release of lead single Rattlesnake, at the tail end of last year, there were more than a few questions being asked. Microtones? What the hell are microtones? Is this out of tune? How many fucking frets are there on that guitar? Rattlesnake? Rattlesnake? Rattlesnake?
After the monumental success of the frenetic psych-punk of Nonagon Infinity, fans were perhaps expecting a continuation of that sound. Instead, the Australians crafted a slower, groovier record, one that required a little bit more time to grow on you. But give it the time and attention it needs, and this is an album you’ll be coming back to long after some of their other releases have been lost in their ever-growing discography.
From the tightly wound grooves of Nuclear Fusion to the towering darkness of Open Water, the record contains some of the finest moments not just of the band’s career, but of 2017 in general. Even when the songs don’t quite hit the mark as on Doom City, there remains the alluringly off-kilter clang of the microtones, keeping things interesting right through to the closing notes. – RM

FULL REVIEW HERE

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8. Visions Of A Life
by Wolf Alice

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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

FULL REVIEW HERE

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7. Pure Comedy
by Father John Misty

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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)

FULL REVIEW HERE

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6. A Crow Looked At Me
by Mount Eerie

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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

FULL REVIEW HERE

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5. Melodrama 
by Lorde

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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

FULL REVIEW HERE

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4. DAMN.
by Kendrick Lamar

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In a post To Pimp a Butterfly world, you could forgive Kendrick Lamar for taking it easy on whatever he decided to follow it up with. Be it the long rumoured collaborative album with J Cole (still waiting for that yin boys) or… the long-awaited collaborative album with Kanye West (again, still bloody waiting), whatever he decided to do, excitement was at fever pitch. 
Along comes DAMN. then, and it’s chuffing marvelous. If To Pimp a Butterfly was Kendrick staking his claim as the GOAT, DAMN. is him cementing his place at the top of the pile. It’s all go, from the spoken word intro BLOOD. to the confessional and pitch black DUCKWORTH. not a bar, nor a beat is wasted. And with only 3 features (including a great turn by Rihanna on LOYALTY. and, for some fucking mental reason, BONO on the brilliant anti-gun track XXX.), it’s almost entirely Kenny doing what Kenny does best: doing the hip hops better than anyone else.
We could throw as many superlatives as possible at Kendrick and this album but the music speaks for itself. Kenny’s lyricism and flow are leagues above almost everyone else in the rap game at the moment, and DAMN. proves that without a dog gamn shadow of a doubt. – JC

FULL REVIEW HERE

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3. Flower Boy
by Tyler The Creator

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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

FULL REVIEW HERE

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2. Big Fish Theory
by Vince Staples

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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

FULL REVIEW HERE

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1. SATURATION I
by Brockhampton

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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.

FULL REVIEW HERE

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If you want to listen to any of the albums mentioned then follow our playlist down below:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/111518578/playlist/4ZoDUvJwXpxJGBWEmYBj3D

 

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Track Review: Babe Punch – Stanford

By Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)

CW: Rape

Punk has always been the counter-culture genre, standing up for the little man as the privileged establishment rule from their ivory tower. However, it’s only been recently that we’ve seen a real rise in the number of female fronted bands in the scene, wielding their guitars, drums and mics, ready to throw a punch or two while sounding fucking sick in the process.

Welcome to the stage Babe Punch, a Nottingham/Derby punk outfit who, to put it lightly, are fucking sick of their fellow women being abused, undermined and generally being mistreated. A recent case that fuels their rage drenched single Stanford is the Brock Turner rape case, an example of not only victim blaming due to the woman in question being intoxicated but a chilling reminder of how being a white man with power can get you away with just about anything.

Golden boy/ Daddy’s golden boy” is just one line of many that will be familiar to those who have paid a hint of attention to social media with most mainstream publications tending to side with the perpetrator: even Brock’s own father vomited out a “20 minutes of action” quote, further enforcing the rape culture that surrounds us. The menacing guitars do a great job of putting the listener into a similar state as a victim: slowly alluring the listener into a falsely secure environment before pouncing, brandishing a vexed set of screaming.

Tracks that touch upon social issues can easily be brushed off as just repeating a narrative or trying to enforce a viewpoint but Babe Punch complete the difficult task of not only discussing relevant and important issues but making them sound fucking great in the process.

9/10

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Track Review: St Vincent – New York

By Sean Hannah (@Shun_Handsome)

St. Vincent’s Annie Clark is not a New York native; she was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, moved to Dallas, Texas as a child, and transplanted to The City in her 20s.  Yet on New York, her first single in two years and a harbinger of the forthcoming album Clark has declared “the deepest, boldest work [she’s] ever done,” St. Vincent name checks some of the city’s touchstones with the ambivalence only a real New Yorker can feel.

On 1st Avenue, Clark called out to her errant lover, now departed.  On 8th Avenue, she “last-strawed” the motherfucker.  And swinging by Astor Place, she realizes she’s lost most of her friends too, having abandoned them to go rub elbows with the city’s “blue bloods”.  This isn’t a love letter to the Greatest City on Earth, New York instead serves to remind us that the overcrowded cities are just as lonely as the underpopulated ones.  Not exactly a groundbreaking revelation, but Annie’s mousy vulnerability brings a fresh take on an old truism. 

St. Vincent has never been one to shy away from sentimentality.  She’s evinced a Buddy Holly-level dedication to her paramours in songs all throughout her oeuvre, whether she’s playing the heathen who chooses romantic love over spiritual salvation in I Prefer Your Love or the pugnacious girlfriend ready to butt heads with the corrupt cop who thrashed her Other Half on Strange Mercy.  This is where much of New York’s tension emanates: the unfettered adoration she feels for her lover and the remorse over his/her absence is complicated by the grandiosity of the city and Clark’s increasing disillusionment toward her adoptive home town.  Here on New York, romantic and metropolitan life are two entities constantly at odds with one another.

Musically, however, the song feels more like a re-tread than a step forward.  Featuring a closely-mic’d piano and a supportive, if unobtrusive, string section, New York would feel at home on St. Vincent’s debut Marry Me if not for the inclusion of a pulsating tom drum beat and scant synth characteristic of her most recent, self-titled record.  This kind of self-reflexivity is fitting of the song’s reminiscent lyrical tone, but as an amuse-bouche to an album purported by Clark herself to be a “sea change” from her previous work, the single doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence. 

Still, New York is a solid entry into the St. Vincent canon: it’s a warm, staid track with enough going on musically and lyrically to keep the listener enthralled.  Annie’s words are certainly catchy (“New York isn’t New York without you, love”) and the Illinois-era Sufjan-esque bridge injects some crucial dynamics into the tune.  And even though St. Vincent uses it as a backdrop for dilapidating friendships and relationships, there remains something wholly intoxicating about the city of New York in the song.  As Joey Ramone once sang, “New York City really has it all!

6.5/10 


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Top 20 Tracks of 2017 (So Far)

While the end of year lists tend to give albums the most significance, these records are nothing but the sum of their parts which, in this case, is the songs. It doesn’t matter what the purpose of these tracks are, some are deep layered entities while others are just straight up lovable bangers, all that needs to be considered is that these songs have made 2017 one of the most exciting and interesting years of music that many of us can recall. Without further ado, let us go down the list of all the singles that we’ve had on loop and may or may not have been signing in the shower every morning for the past few months.

20. Royal Blood – Lights Out

While the album this track appeared on didn’t go down a treat with us, it’s undeniable that Lights Out hit a chord with one or two members of the blinkclyro team. It has all the traits that made Royal Blood one of the surprise big acts when they dropped their debut back in 2014 – that’s really all that needs to be said.

19. I Don’t Wanna Waste My Time by Joji 

No one was really expecting the mind behind the disgusting and ludicrous Filthy Frank to hit out with one of the most beautiful tracks of 2017 but Joji has went and surprised not only us but a lot of the music community.

REVIEW HERE

18. Manchester Orchestra – The Gold

An artist exploring two themes (heartbreak and family qualms) that have been done to death in an intriguing way (using the metaphor of mining work) isn’t something we expected to see pop up on this list but when the band in question is Manchester Orchestra, we really can’t complain.

17. Amber Mark – Lose My Cool

With Amber herself commenting on this track representing the stage of anger in the grieving process, Lose My Cool delivers this catchy yet simple production that lets the lyrics be the star while giving your ears something lovely to relax onto as well. A lot can be happening at once but considering the reaction of  bottling feelings up in this sort of situation, it couldn’t be more perfect.

16. The Kite String Tangle – Selfish

With a stylistic and extravagant use of synths and beats on display, The Kite String Tangle’s return seems to stand out even more with the recent surge of humility and stripping back. Transparent lyrics give the track an extra edge, helping it to differentiate itself from the countless others artists in the IDM genre. 

15. Sampha – (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano

Without even considering the tearful story behind the track, this was the last song Sampha played to his mother and was fitting performed at her funeral, Sampha uses nothing but the piano, his voice and a handful of near silent beats to deliver one of the greatest ballads not only of this year, but of this decade.

REVIEW HERE

14. Pronto Mama – Bottom Feeder 

Any of the 13 tracks that appear on Scottish rockers Pronto Mama‘s debut LP could appear on this list though it just so happens that it’s the intro track that we’ve happened to choose. Visceral lyrics, varied instrumentals and one of the best vocal performances you’ll hear all year, it’s the perfect way to introduce yourself to the Glasgow act.

REVIEW HERE

13. Sorority Noise – Disappeared 

Euphorically upbeat, yet meshing perfectly with the lyrical themes of mourning and death, Sorority Noise exercise their impeccable ability to approach a variety of situations in a way that only they can. Much like many of the tracks on YNA_AYT, Disappeared is gone as fast as it appears yet leaves an imprint in the few minutes its around.

REVIEW HERE

12. Father John Misty – Total Entertainment Forever 

Starting off with one of the best yet weirdest lyrics ever conceived (Bedding Taylor Swift/
Every night inside the Oculus Rift/
After mister and the missus finish dinner and the dishes), Father John Misty makes his mark right out the gate on Total Entertainment Forever, one that he definitely cemented on his recent LP Pure Comedy. Full of social commentary about technology and more, the track proves to be a witty, funny but equally smart song: something that, in this age of turmoil and tyranny, is definitely needed.

REVIEW HERE

11. The National – The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness 

The final refrain of System, “I can’t explain it any other, any other way”, sees Berninger stretched to the limits of his vocal capacity, similar to his end-of-performance outbursts on stage. If any of this is a reliable indicator, Sleep Well Beast, the band’s upcoming LP, threatens to be their best recording yet.

REVIEW HERE

10. Radiohead – I Promise

Both one of the oldest and most recent tracks from Radiohead, the song is one of three previously unreleased from OK Computer, I Promise easily nests itself into the band’s discography with Yorke’s haunting vocal performance and stripped back instrumentals. It’s a track full to the brim with devotion, leading to one of the band’s most romantic songs to date – whether or not that was Yorke and co’s intention.

9. Alt J – In Cold Blood

Channelling a lot of what has made the band’s past releases so great, In Cold Blood is brash, sleek and beautiful all at the same time with an unshakable familiarity to Alt J‘s sophomore LP. It’s just one taste of the unique cohesion of their various pop styles that Relaxer does so well.

REVIEW HERE

8. Wolf Alice – Yuk Foo

Venturing into mostly new territory vocally, Rowsell is known for the occasional scream on tracks such as Giant Peach, but on Yuk Foo, she is all out aggressive; the track relies on her to pull off the sentiment of frustration and she nails it. Wolf Alice deliver one of the most frustration fuelled songs of the year – the band may finally be shaking off the indie rock label for a more punk heavy one and we couldn’t be happier.

REVIEW HERE

7. Stormzy – Big For Your Boots

The best grime track on Stormzy‘s debut LP is lead single Big For Your Boots, which opens with a sample guaranteed to send shivers down your spine. This precedes the chorus which crashes in with Stormzy reminding any challengers that he has size 12 feet and “your face ain’t big for my boot” with a lightning-quick flow in the verses guaranteed to send festival crowds into raptures.

REVIEW HERE

6. King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard – The Lord Of Lightning vs Balrog

You would think with the band’s ambitious feat to release four to five albums in 2017 alone that King Gizzard would run out of ideas or fuel by now. Lead single for Murder of the Universe titled Lord of Lighting is enough to put those worries to rest, delivering the most insane song of the band’s career so far, referencing past releases not only by name but style as well.

5. Remo Drive – Yer Killin’ Me

Instrumentation from the intro of this Remo Drive track is reminiscent of bands like Gnarwolves or a heavier The Front Bottoms, the middle of the song sounds like it was influenced by Foals, the end sounding NOTHING like the rest of the song and vocal lines influences from bands like FIDLAR. However, the song still breaks down to be an emo anthem in the end: there aren’t many bands who could throw all of that into an album, let alone one song, but make it sound so effortless and downright beautiful.

REVIEW HERE

4. Frank Ocean – Chanel

Even though Chanel is suspected to have been written post-Blonde it still plays with the same themes, a lack of conventional ‘verse-chorus-verse’ song writing (with the exception of returning lyrics and motifs) and lush instrumentation. The most interesting part about this song is that even thought it was written within a year of the release of Blonde, it feels like it wouldn’t fit on the last album. The song from the start is a beautiful mix of piano, bass and jazz-influenced percussion, (drums and percussion being absent for the majority of Blonde, showing a progression in instrumentation).

REVIEW HERE

3. Francis & The Lights feat. Chance The Rapper – May I Have This Dance?

Remember during the intro when we mentioned that some tracks are just straight up tunes that don’t need analysis to shine? Well, here’s the track that inspired that: sounding like something straight out of a Disney Movie outro, May I Have This Dance is one of the purest songs to drop all year with one deliciously wholesome verse by none other than Chance The Rapper.

2. Lorde – Green Light

One thing that should always subtly remain with you when listening to Lorde‘s music is her age, and what she’s achieved by it. Around the age of 13/14, she was laying the groundwork for her debut album, Pure Heroine, and by the age of 16, she smashed into the face of the earth, becoming an instant success. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Green Light is an utter tune.

The chorus has a dancy, nineties feel as she’ll “get [her] things, but [she] can’t let go”, before segueing back into the sombre, minimalist piano beat as Lorde sometimes “wakes up in a different bed, too”, with the lyrical theme subtly, maturely and perfectly covering the protagonist’s heartbreak & the route to mending that patching up that poorly ticker.

Closing out with a beautiful, yet simplistic synth-style solo with the energetic choral backing vocals weaving in between it, Green Light offers a frank and honest account of a break-up, with the partying that comes as part and parcel of setting yourself right with a maturity, depth and energy that only someone like Lorde can offer you.

REVIEW HERE

1.Kendrick Lamar – Humble

Comparing yourself to a religious symbol is usually bound to result in you becoming an infamous figure. If you need an example then just take a look at Kanye‘s Rolling Stone Cover where he not so subtly recreated the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Unsurprisingly this made Mr West public enemy number one in the eyes of many Christians, something which has continued when he repeatedly announces himself as a god.

So as Kendrick Lamar donned pope robes for the music video accompanying new single Humble, his second track in the space of a week following The Heart Part 4, you would have expected him to maybe take a second to reconsider his attire. Throughout this track, though, Kendrick isn’t concerned with the thoughts of others as we get an abundance of braggadocious bars that the Compton rapper hasn’t really channeled since his second studio album Good Kid, m.A.A.d city. 

Accompanied by the punchiest 808 bass line you’ll hear this year along with a catchy piano riff, this is the first witnessing of Kendrick‘s departure of the jazz-fuelled sound that can be found all over To Pimp A Butterfly and untitled.unmastered. Not only this but the lyrics seem to channel a lot more of the narrative that carried the aforementioned Good Kid, m.A.A.d city with Kendrick spouting lines about his youth surrounded by gang affiliations and cheap grub before he begins to brag about money and sex with one of the wittiest albeit cheesiest lines of the year so far (parmesan where my accountant lives).

While some may feel a bit light changed by DAMN., though not us, Humble cements Kendrick as not only the greatest rapper of the 21st century but a serious contestant for the GOAT title.


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ALBUM REVIEW: Brockhampton – Saturation

By Ryan Martin (@RyanMartin182)

Preceding last year’s All-American Trash mixtape, Brockhampton, the boy band from Texas, break down the door on the opener of their debut album, Saturation. Opening with one of the many unstoppable singles released before the album, Heat has elements reminiscent of the punk attitude Odd Future carried in their prime and the hardcore sound Rage Against the Machine had. While it’s clear Brockhampton have many influences (they have a track named 2Pac), they bring a fresh new energy to the table through their music and visuals.

Dancing between banging hip-hop tracks and turn of the millennium pop music, Saturation is all over the place and doesn’t settle on a specific sound. Going from the intensity of Heat to the laid-back braggadocio of Gold feels like an unnatural transition but still carries momentum. The backbone of Gold is the Pharrell-esque hook which is repeated throughout the track and flows like butter over the beat. Star follows and is one of the best tracks on the album. All three members of the collective murder their verses with name-drops and flow change ups. Kevin Abstract, the leader of Brockhampton, incorporates personal lyrics about his sexuality and love for pop-star Shawn Mendes, resulting in one of the most incredible verses on the whole project. Within the first 4 tracks of the album, it becomes apparent that while the project may be scattered in sound, the chemistry of the collective is undeniable and what makes the songs succeed in the way they do.

Abstract has stated on his Twitter that the project is about member Robert’s story, with the skits on the album and the intros to each video accompanying the album starring him. The skits usually follow the same formula as the intros to the videos and have Robert introduce himself and state a fact about himself or the situation he is currently in. The third skit captures more of what Robert’s story actually is, which is trying to find others that you connect with and finding a place where you feel you actually belong. Much of this can be directed back at the lyrics on the album in songs like Milk where Abstract croons over the hook:

 I gotta get better at being me (Being who I am) I gotta get better at everything (Being who I am) I just want a friend that I can hang out with (Being who I am) Someone I can sit around, lay on my couch with (Being who I am)

 Milk is an especially honest track for members featured Ameer Vann, Merlyn Wood and Abstract. The verses are direct and highlight past struggles and insecurities. The personal lyrics on Saturation is where the album connects where it doesn’t in sound. There are much more pop songs than there are songs like Heat and Star, The aggressive flow of both tracks can be found in spurts throughout the album, with not many other songs having a similar tone. Bump is a minor exception with an awkward hook by Abstract with hard hitting verses surrounding him. The hook takes away from the vibe of the track and is one of the most lackluster on the whole project.

Much like Abstract’s last release, his sophomore solo album, American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story, traces of indie rock can be found throughout the album in songs like Swim and the gentle closer, Waste. The incorporation of indie rock can be a hit or miss with Abstract. With both tracks mentioned, they add a level of depth while bringing a bright summer theme to the project.

Saturation is much more cohesive than last year’s All-American Trash and highlights the group’s chemistry more than ever. Where it falls flats is when tracks become cluttered with ideas with vocal distortions and clumsy additions that restrict members from shining on their own. Overall, Brockhampton’s debut is a solid offering that can attract new fans and bring excitement for what the group is going to do next, which is a sequel to Saturation, due out later this summer.

8/10


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ALBUM REVIEW: CIGARETTES AFTER SEX – S/T

By Anna Cowan (@‪L0VESlCK)

Even by judging the band’s frank name “Cigarettes After Sex”, it’s clear to the listener that frontman Greg Gonzalez is a bit of an open book – and the intimacy and delicacy of their self-titled debut album confirms this. As though it were his diary, Gonzalez takes the listener through ebbing and flowing waves of melancholia and lust – themes which are recurrent throughout the band’s discography. 

Forming in 2012, the band rose to fame through online streaming services, as many do these days; but yet, their sound does not necessarily reflect this medium. Rather, it is soaked in nostalgia and is coloured black and white, creating an atmospheric listening experience as opposed to one of texture and diversity. Previous tracks from the band such as the notable “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby” feature simple yet deeply emotive lyrics, thus setting a tone for Gonzalez’s writing: pure, uncomplicated romance. This style remains in their debut, and is what defines it as an album of hazy passion.

The album’s opening track ‘K’ is particularly notable for using this stunning simplicity. The echoing intro and Gonzalez’s whispering vocals illustrate a simplistic love story, straight out of a Hollywood film. The direct address to the woman in the chorus could, in theory, be anyone to the listener, making this a gorgeously overly-romantic ballad.  Much of the album follows this idea similarly; “Each Time You Fall In Love” features the same light drum beat and hazy melody, but with much lonelier lyrics, clearly depicting a more sombre theme, but yet one with an underlying romantic undertone.

Sweet” stands out as a track rich with emotion, perfectly fitting the album’s theme. Gonzalez finds the perfect medium between sexy and dreamy, with lyrics such as “You know that I’m obsessed with your body / But it’s the way you smile that does it for me” depicting a passionate affair. Similarly, “Opera House” paints the picture of a love-at-first-sight romance, another beautifully crafted track with a much more hushed tone.

However, despite these moments of gorgeous intimacy, some moments on the album are almost cringe-worthy and uncomfortable. On “Young & Dumb”, the final track of the album, Gonzalez sings “Well I know full well that you are / The patron saint of sucking cock”. Indeed, Gonzalez may think this is just a bit of tongue-n-cheek humour, but it sticks out like a sore thumb when compared to the previously stunning lyricism featured on the album.

It would seem easy to some to compare Cigarettes After Sex to other ambient-indie acts such as Beach House and Mazzy Star, but this album nor do the band themselves entirely fit this comparison. Rather, it follows a very consistent structure whilst creating a different story for each track. Repetition is a slight issue for the band, however, but upon listening to the album as a whole the listener is caught in a trance of hazy dream-pop. Thus, as a whole this self-debut is a step into a lust-driven, incredibly romantic and poetic mind, and through showing the listener an almost anecdotal approach to this, a gorgeously rich and intense album is created.

7/10

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TRACK REVIEW: Sweet White – Lovers

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

Showing themselves as an act who like to spend time working on their craft rather than rushing it out, Sweet White have returned with a brand-spanking new single named Lovers.

Following up the success of Genine, which you can read more about here, the five or so months in the lab has lead this Peterhead rock act to create something subtle yet fierce: like a lion before it pounces on its prey.

Kicking things off with an ambient, synthetic opening that sounds like it could be found in a PORCHES record, Lovers feels different right off the bat. While their last single displayed the amount of power the band could deliver, on here everything is noticeably and intentionally softer. The only thing that could be described as being within the realms of brutish is the delicate driving bass that backs up the introduction of the love-torn lyrics.

As always, Jake Cordiner’s vocals manage to keep your full attention with their subdued dominance. However, an inclusion of drummer Shaun Wilson as backing vocals, with a hint of distortion, give the song an extra bit of oomph that will help Lovers to stick out in the band’s ever-growing discography. Even the breakdown feels particularly fresh, the guitars only getting slightly more aggressive as the vocals steal the limelight with a ferocious bite to them.

Like every song we’ve had from Sweet White thus far, Lovers is a sum of its part. Each member adds to an ever growing piece of music which, somehow, seem to get better and better with every new single from the act.

You can keep up to date with the band via their Twitter and Facebook


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