Top 10 Albums of 2017 (So Far)

We’ve already given our rundown of the best tracks this mess of a year has provided us with so far and while songs are significant, the art form of the album is one that makes music such a beautiful thing to so many. From emo-folk to hip-hop to glitzy indie rock, the blinkclyro team has put our heads together to come up with the ten best records 2017 has gave us so far. This could have so easily became a top twenty with the sheer amount of quality albums that have been released so far but we had to show a bit of self restraint – we’ll leave the gushing till the Top 25 at the end of the year. So let’s stop beating around the bush and jump right into the main event: don’t get too angry. 

– Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)

10. The Menzingers – After the Party

According to Greg Barnett of the punk-rock act The Menzingers, there’s a song that was originally meant to appear on a split before all of a sudden “everyone just started falling in love with it”. While it would be easy to point this song out, After the Party contains a lot of tracks that you’ll find yourself adoring due to the band’s integrity being intact while pursuing a more fun sound – though this doesn’t mean that the album avoids touching on any topics that are the antonym of it.

Much like The Dream is Over last year, The Menzingers‘ sublime use of imagery, rock n roll vocals and easy going, fun instrumentals mixed with some smart narratives makes this a must listen to any rock fan.

BEST TRACK: Bad Catholics

9. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Flying Microtonal Banana

The first of five albums they are planning on releasing this year, and their ninth altogether since their debut ’12 Bar Bruise’ in 2012, Flying Microtonal Banana could be considered a bigger, better and more artistically thought-out version of King Gizzard‘s previous release, Nonagon Infinity.

Unlike Nonagon Infinity, the tracks on Banana are all based on different riffs. In true King Gizzard style, they all blend into one another without a break, but you can easily tell when one song finishes and another begins. If Flying Microtonal Banana isn’t to your taste, don’t worry- they’ll probably have released another album by the time you have finished reading this.

Full review by Nicola Roy here

BEST TRACK: Rattlesnake

8. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy

Pure Comedy is the third album our Holy Father has released, which packs in just as much punchy realism and sheer gorgeousness as predecessors Fear Fun and I Love You, Honeybear, respectively released in 2012 and 2015. Pure Comedy is a beautiful and sometimes harrowing critique of 21st-century life, almost taking the piss out of the internet and the culture surrounding it.

It’s also a grandiose message about the state of current society, especially with lyrics such as ‘I’ve got the world by the balls, am I supposed to behave?’ which could easily be a reference to the leaders of our world who have no clue what they are doing. They’re in it so they can have their white, wrinkly hands on our incredible diverse world by the balls. Our collective balls. Once again we are left contemplating our own existence. Very on brand.

Full review by Becky Little here

BEST TRACK: Total Entertainment Forever

7. Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory 

Staples’ sophomore album sees him at his most confident he has ever been with impressive features but no need for help stealing the show, Vince isn’t once outshined by his featured co-stars on Big Fish Theory, capturing the attention span of the listener throughout the entire album.

With the sound hip-hop has been embracing lately, Big Fish Theory comes as a refreshing, fun listen that can be dove deep into or enjoyed on the surface either way. It’s the young rapper’s best work thus far and brings a wild amount of excitement for his next move.

Full review by Ryan Martin here

BEST TRACK: Crabs In A Bucket

6. The XX – I See You

While there are many changes that are apparent on I See You, what’s utterly remarkable and something that should be commended is the fact that The XX are simultaneously pushing themselves out of their comfort zone while staying true to their humble roots. The sampling on display and subsequent alterations to the sound make it feel like an R&B album more than an alt rock one but the emotional voices that manage to project both passion and insecurities feel so quintessentially XX. There are tracks that feel like they could have been ripped straight off of their debut like ‘Performance’ while others like ‘Dangerous’ and ‘On Hold’ feel like they’ve landed from a parallel universe where the band are far less timid.

I See You shows reminiscing, acceptance and strength, feeling like the most solid chapter in The XX arc but leaving room for the inevitable follow-up to build upon the now strengthened foundations.

Full review by Liam Menzies here

BEST TRACK: Dangerous

5. Paramore – After Laughter

After Laughter is the riskiest album Paramore have ever put out. 2013’s self-titled effort, while great in its own right, felt like the beginning of a metamorphosis for the band. They were gradually becoming a different beast entirely: with songs like Ain’t It Fun and Still Into You, they were starting to shed the “punk” from their “pop-punk” label, opting for an edgier pop vibe, and it worked with those singles being massive successes. 

So, now comes the most important question about After Laughter: did Hayley, Zac and Taylor make the right decision in not listening to the angsty side of their Parafans? (Note: we’re not sure if they’re called Parafans but as far as Jake is concerned, they are now). In short, they absolutely made the right choice. After Laughter is the sound of a band finally making the kind of music they’ve been threatening to for years now.

Full Review by Jake Cordiner here

BEST TRACK: Hard Times

4. Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me

Whilst A Crow Looked At Me is full to the brim with sombre and heartbreaking imagery, one line that manages to evoke the realness of Phil Elverum‘s ordeal comes on the record’s third song. As Ravens concludes its second verse, Elverum’s sulky and trauma-ridden voice project the words “now I can only see you on the fridge in lifeless pictures“. Without context, the lyricism of Mount Eerie still manages to strikes an emotional chord with even the sternest of listeners though being a concept album, A Crow… becomes a different beast when you dig beneath the surface.

While the sound, lyrics, and themes that fuel A Crow…help to make it the magnificent record that is, it’s hard to shake off that what it represents it what helps to make it such a vital listen. That’s not to say that the record is only good because it is about losing a loved one and deserves sympathy points for it, no, not at all. Instead, A Crow… manages to rise above some limitations of music much like last year’s Blackstar: it explores death both depressingly and beautifully, making the issue far more 3D and lifelike despite being solely audio, while also acting as a Memorium to someone special.

Full review by Liam Menzies here

BEST TRACK: Toothbrush / Trash

3. Run The Jewels – RTJ3

“We’re in sync so much now, after two records and several tours – and this new one felt like we hit that point in the Rocky training montage when he’s just killing shit,” said El-P in an interview with The Guardian and RTJ3 very much feels like the point where both him and Killer Mike have managed to catch the chicken. Showing sincerity, awareness, and aggression all at once, RTJ are the epitome of every liberal’s worst nightmare: they’re an answer to the intolerance that has infected America since its birth and do not give a fuck who disagrees. Their music is sure to be the soundtrack to the revolution and what a fucking soundtrack that is.

Full Review by Liam Menzies here

BEST TRACK: Legend Has It

2. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

It seemed like Kendrick Lamar‘s ambitious feats in the world of music may become his own undoing. After the success of To Pimp A Butterfly, expectations were high but somehow, Lamar managed not to falter under the pressure. Exploring an abundance of themes and emotions (pride, heritage, paranoia, love, lust etc.) with interesting instrumentals and engaging sounds, DAMN does a fantastic job of cementing Lamar’s legacy.

DAMN and Kendrick asks you this: will fear drive you down a wicked path, falling victim to the fate that has faced many? Will you find yourself weak, surrounded by the sins our world has? With the last track looping the album into itself, the questioning is eternal and Kendrick has made a record that will be sure to be as timeless.

Full Review by Liam Menzies here

BEST TRACK: DNA

1. Lorde – Melodrama

When Lorde first released Pure Heroine at 17, she instantly gained notoriety for her cutting art pop. Rightfully so, her debut was exceptional, and after a long four year wait we finally have a follow up LP. Coming in the form of “Melodrama” the new album is big, bold and devastating. More realised and confident, it is a fitting follow on to everything Lorde embodies.

Melodrama is nigh on perfect. It’s joyous and celebratory of the singer’s successes but maintains everything she became known for. It’s nice to see that writing songs for the Hunger Games series hasn’t swayed Lorde towards more commercial ventures. Especially when trips down a more avant-garde route produce such high quality output.

Full Review by Patrick Dalziel 

BEST TRACK: Hard Feelings/ Loveless


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The XX – I See You ALBUM REVIEW

Incorporating all the talents each member brings to the table with new innovations to their well established bittersweet formula, The XX return from their hiatus sounding just as refreshing as they did back in 2009.

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

Soft spoken and introverted, the international success of The XX back in 2009 was somewhat an anomaly due to how much they differed from similar UK acts who managed to make it across the pond with braggadocious attitudes and face melting riffs. Comprised of Oliver Sim, Romy Croft and Jamie ‘XX’ Smith, the indie rock outfit seemingly came out of nowhere with their bittersweet soft melodies to win the Mercury Prize Award with their eponymously titled debut and become one of the most talked about acts of the late noughties. Most of this no doubt came from how the band managed to accumulate their hype, refusing to appear on their covers despite the fact that Sim is male model handsome. In an interview back in 2010 with The Guardian, Croft proclaimed that “We’re very keen not to be…flash” and the band has not went back on that promise, still adorning black clothing that many would describe as suburban goth.

Having influenced various other UK acts who have tried to replicate the act’s sound, most of the time very poorly (here’s looking at you London Grammar), it would have been so easy for The XX to stumble into the pitfall of maintaining the status quo much like they did with their atmospheric yet somewhat repetitive sophomore record Co-Exist. Thankfully, though, the London band have managed to shake up their well-established sound on third LP I See You which, in Jamie’s own words, makes the record their most expansive and outward looking to date.

From the first single off of I See You ‘On Hold‘, it’s painstakingly clear that The XX have all brought their own merits to the table and tried to innovate on them further with the biggest plus to the formula no doubt being the spotlight shone on Jamie XX far more than the act’s previous efforts, in no small part due to his stellar debut record In Colour. The sublime sampling of Hall & Oates is utterly captivating and displays Smith’s, as well as Rodaidh McDonald’s, wonderful production capabilities, giving the song a funky rhythm which makes it one of The XX’s most lively tracks to date, something of an oddity in the act’s discography but a welcome change nonetheless. On Hold not only displays the evolution in sound but a further refining of the lyrical content provided by Sim and Croft with the topic of ambiguity tying it beautifully to the sampling, resulting in one of the most cohesive pieces of music to come out of 2017. 

This is, of course, totally overlooking opening track ‘Dangerous’ which makes it immediately evident that while the themes of lost love, relationship woes etc. are all still very much apparent, the way in which they’re delivered, at least sonically anyway, are extremely different to what The XX have done before. Beginning with some isolated saxophones and trumpets followed up by a lone, soothing and alluring bassline, Smith brings it all together into one bubbling cauldron that never feels like it’s trying to do too much at once but never feels as minimal or stripped back as their debut was.

Something that’s worth discussing is the vocals, provided by Sim and Croft, that are as pleasant as always but seem to stick out more considering the step forward in terms of production and sound. While they never sound abysmal or even sub par, only one track, that being Performance, manages to display that three records either vocalist is attempting to anything different with their voices. As mentioned, though, both Sim and Croft manage to do their jobs well and even show glimmers of chemistry on tracks like Say Something Loving which features some added production by Croft, showing that she provides more than just a good set of pipes. 

the-xx

While there are many changes that are apparent on I See You, what’s utterly remarkable and something that should be commended is the fact that The XX are simultaneously pushing themselves out of their comfort zone while staying true to their humble roots. The sampling on display and subsequent alterations to the sound make it feel like an R&B album more than an alt rock one but the emotional voices that manage to project both passion and insecurities feel so quintessentially XX. There are tracks that feel like they could have been ripped straight off of their debut like ‘Performance’ while others like ‘Dangerous’ and ‘On Hold’ feel like they’ve landed from a parallel universe where the band are far less timid.

I See You shows reminiscing, acceptance and strength, feeling like the most solid chapter in The XX arc but leaving room for the inevitable follow-up to build upon the now strengthened foundations.

8/10


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