Every National Album, Ranked From Worst To Best

Ohio based rockers The National have been ever-present in rock music for the better part of two decades: forming in the late 90’s and releasing their self-titled effort in 2001, Matt Berninger and co. have been at the helm of seven records of varying quality, usually finding at least one of their albums in an album of the decade list. Thanks to their arty sombre work, The National have found themselves appealing to people both young and old which have helped them to remain both commercially and critically viable.

Of course, we can’t simply sit idly by and not ask the question: what’s their best record? Well, you won’t have to ponder for much longer as Transistor’s fantastic four Andrew (@weeandreww), Callum (@cal_thornhill), Josh (@jxshadams) and Kieran (@kiercannon) have helped to 100-per-cent-definitively rank their albums – will there be hot takes? Absolutely. Will there be an obvious loser? Probably. Will you be pissed off at us? Most definitely.

Quick disclaimer: This is, like, our opinion or whatever, dude. Disagree? The comments down below will house whatever rage you’re feeling.


7. The National (2001)

Andrew: The National’s self-titled debut actually isn’t as bad as its made out to be. It’s certainly no Pablo Honey in terms of quality, but in a similar manner to Radiohead’s debut, it pales in comparison with the rest of The National’s discography (apart from the sophomore Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers). If I’m honest, this isn’t a record that has stuck with me anywhere near as much as the rest of the band’s discography and I rarely find myself listening to this record.

However, it’s not a complete dud. On tracks like American Mary, you can identify the elements that the band have refined in recent years to make themselves so adored – in Aaron and Bryce Dessner’s interlocking guitar/piano parts, Scott and Bryan Devendorf’s airtight rhythm section and Matt Berninger’s hazy, weary baritone.

Callum: Although this record is being ranked last, it is simply because the others hold more personal and sentimental value. The National’s self-titled debut was, for me anyway, a record I went back to and picked up on vinyl to simply complete my collection. But now, it is a record I dabble in when catching the train or in need of background music. There are some tracks, for example, Theory of Crows that have stuck over the years with the lyrics “I’ll suck off investors, I’ll suck off VCs
I’m losing my posture from time on my knees,” that proved to be the core of The National’s witty and charismatic lyrics. A good foundation of what was to come for the Ohio alt-rockers.

Josh: It has been claimed that the band’s self-titled debut was made simply just because they could, and it shows.  Whilst it undeniably has it charms in cuts like “American Mary” and “29 Years”, it lacks both the punch of their other earlier work and the sophistication of their later albums, opting for an alt-country twinge that never totally sits well with the New York group.  “The National” is the sound of a band searching for their idiosyncrasies, rather than one fully formed and ready to turn heads – not offensively bad, but definitely less than essential.

Kieran: Grammy Award-Winning Band The National are a rare breed – they have yet to release a dud. Although their first two ‘forgotten’ albums (S/T and SSFDL) aren’t quite on the same level as the ones that followed, they’re still enjoyable in their own right. Those who were introduced to The National post-Alligator will be surprised by the Americana-tinged style of the tracks, but there are more parallels to their later material than meets the eye. 29 Years, for example, is essentially a lo-fi draft version of Slow Show, where the same “You know I dreamed about you / For 29 years before I saw you” refrain gets immortalised in its climactic outro. S/T is a solid album, although it’s rather eclipsed by what comes after it.

6. Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers (2003)

Callum: Murder Me Rachael, Available and Sugar Wife. With a fine collection of other The National tracks it could be easy to forget about these gems, but when we reminisce about their 2003 sophomore record we can see exactly why fifteen years later they are continuing to put out tracks that echo the sounds from this sophomore record. Very rarely will you see The National slip a Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers, which makes it a more ‘exclusive’ record for those daring to take a punt on them all them years ago.

Josh: There’s not much between their second LP and their debut, other than the permanent arrival of guitarist Bryce Dessner to the fold and a more formidable growl from singer Matt Berninger.  The instrumental palette is widened and the lyrical tone sounds less despondent, and more whiskey-soaked, allowing The National to bear their teeth on what are, not coincidentally, the best tracks here: “Slipping Husband” and “Available” drunkenly shuffle with barely concealed bitterness until the rage erupts in one of Berninger’s trademark screams.  What really lets “Sad Songs…” down though is its production: flat and lifeless, it ruins the good songs and only makes clear the flaws of the bad ones.

Kieran: On their second album, The National start to move away from the country roots of their debut and begin to forge their own brand of indie rock. Containing some of their heaviest bangers to date (Available and Murder Me Rachael) as well as the debut appearance of Matt Berninger’s infamous screaming, SSFDL is significantly more fleshed-out than S/T but it still lacks the polish and songwriting finesse of the subsequent five albums. That being said, it’s the first time Matt’s lyrics really start to demonstrate his dark humour and wry observation – the unique ways in which he discusses life, love, and relationships.

Andrew: Once again, I’ll have to admit that I haven’t listened to this record nearly as much as the rest of The National’s albums since it’s almost a universally agreed fact that the first two National records are almost stepping stones for the greatness that soon followed. However, Sad Songs is undoubtedly a step forward from the self-titled.

It perhaps showcases the heavier side of The National which the band have flirted with throughout their career more than any other studio album, with Berninger’s groan turning into a full-bloodied scream on Slipping Husband, Available and Murder Me Rachael. However, especially on Rachael, it becomes apparent that these tracks deserve better production than they have on the record, and you can’t talk about Sad Songs without mentioning the undisputed-worst-track-ever-recorded-by-Grammy-award-winning-band-The-National – the somehow reggae-infused Sugar Wife. However, it’s on the tracklisting beside tracks as beautiful as closer Lucky You, so, ultimately, Sad Songs shows a band who have potential, but are sadly yet to fully realise it.

5. Alligator (2005)

Josh: This is where The National hit their stride, and it was helped by the fact their backs were against the wall where success had eluded them for years.  The performances are powerful, the lyrics are powerful, and the track listing consistent: from “Secret Meeting” to the absolutely stunning “Mr. November”, it has something for everyone to latch on to and form memories from.  The only reason it’s so low down in the list is that it pales in comparison to the heights the band have gone on to achieve off the back of this record, which in itself is a testament to its quality.

Kieran: The step-up from SSFDL to Alligator is astonishing. Within two years, their maturity and songcraft multiplied exponentially without losing any of their youthful energy. The best way to describe this album is it’s the pal who comes round to your house with a crate of booze when you’re feeling a bit shit, sits and drinks with you until you’ve forgotten what was wrong in the first place. It’s wild, raucous and (relatively speaking) fairly optimistic but also manages to be hard-hitting when it needs to be (see Val Jester). It’s also massively underrated – so many relatively unknown tracks like Lit Up, Secret Meeting and Geese of Beverly Road deserve to rank among the band’s very best. It’s possibly my favourite National album, and I’ve been searching for any reason to rank it #1 but the margins between Alligator and Boxer really are very fine indeed.

Andrew: Here’s where it gets interesting. Alligator is the first great National record, at the band’s third attempt, and the beginning of the Brooklyn five-piece’s ridiculously consistent run. More than that, Alligator marks the first iteration of what is now The National’s trademark sound. The Dessner’s songwriting is laser-sharp, and its marriage with Berninger’s occasionally hilariously honest songwriting (“Karen put me in a chair, fuck me and make me a drink”) is seamless.

The finger-picked guitar of Secret Meeting is the perfect introduction to the band’s most eclectic record yet. There are tracks as plaintive and stripped back as Daughters of the Soho Riots alongside massive rock songs like Abel, and almost everything in between. What is particularly enjoyable about The National is you can truly pick out each members’ contribution to each track and record and it must be said that drummer Bryan Devendorf is incredible on Alligator, and is the driving force behind some of the record’s best moments – none more so than the incredible closer Mr. November, where the life-affirming chorus is backed up by rapid-fire drumming.

If there is to be one criticism of Alligator, it’s an understandable one – the production isn’t flawless, and on certain tracks, the guitars especially can sound quite tinny – however this can be put down to the fact the band weren’t blessed with a huge recording budget, as this is more than rectified on later attempts.

Callum: All The Wine is as lyrically succulent as The National get and Alligator is the perfect example of Berninger and co.’s turning point. From a cult, nichely appreciated into a majestic, celebrated festival headliner. Teeing up the release of Boxer, the band transition from the delicate to the angsty and the record mirrors how The National construct their live show; just when you are settling into a steady theme of swaying shoulders you’re smacked in the face with fan-favourite Mr. November. Glorious.

 

4. Trouble Will Find Me (2013)

Kieran: This is where the rankings get *really* tough. The beauty of The National, who have consistently matured and adapted over the years, is that the run from Alligator through to Sleep Well Beast is crammed with five records whose individual merits are all sufficient to see them take the #1 spot. Ranking them objectively is incredibly difficult and fans listen to the band for such a wide variety of reasons that an argument could justifiably be made that, perhaps, TWFM deserves to sit at the top. It’s one of their most candid and accessible records, but it certainly isn’t lacking in genius. Matt’s lyrical poetry is in fine form on Graceless as he delivers the line “god loves everybody, don’t remind me” with a hefty dose of sarcasm. There are countless gems to uncover throughout, like the perfectly timed key change on This Is The Last Time, but in my opinion Fireproof and Slipped are comparatively weaker tracks – hence TWFM stays at #4.

Andrew: Anyone at all familiar with The National will know that they’re hardly a band for parties or sunny days at the best of times. This reputation is largely justified – thanks, in no small part – to Trouble…, easily the gloomiest record the band have put out. If you were to assign a mood to this record it would be anxiety, which seems to permeate every kick drum and guitar lick on the record.

This is personified on Don’t Swallow the Cap, arguably the best track the five-piece have ever recorded. The track isn’t heavy, but moves at breakneck pace, with a breathless guitar line propelling Berninger’s frantic, stream-of-consciousness delivery which details a 4am drunken panic attack. The track is backed up by some rapid drumming and a haunting string score, adding up to the kind of track only The National could make.

Personally, when I think of Trouble.., its stunning ballads are the first tracks that come to mind. The five-piece are rarely as stripped back as they are on tracks like Slipped, I Need My Girl and Pink Rabbits, with Berninger’s heart-breaking lyricism taking centre stage with lines as stunning as “I was falling apart / I was a television version of a person with a broken heart”.

Callum: In my opinion, this is where critics realised that The National were far more than an underappreciated, cult-followed, niche band. Some of their most heartfelt tracks feature on this record and have been echoed back all around the world since it dropped in 2013. Kicking things off with, yep you guessed it, a hearty ballad in the form of I Should Live in Salt; what follows is an accumulation of brilliance which makes it extremely difficult to choose just one highlight. Dabbling in the poetic, e.g. Pink Rabbits and I Need My Girl as well as the abstract lyricism of Graceless, this is without a doubt one of the greatest records since the turn of the millennium.

Josh:  “Trouble Will Find Me” is a strange album, and, in a way, arguably the most “National” album of all in their discography.  At first it is an uneven listing, with some of their best tracks ever recorded rubbing shoulders with some of their worst (looking at you, “Don’t Swallow The Cap” and “Fireproof”), and the whole record has a grey, almost lethargic sheen to it; like a fog smothering a skyscraper in the Financial District.  But over time, it grows and opens up, allowing some of Berninger’s most striking lines to cut right to the bone: “You didn’t see me, I was falling apart, I was a white girl in a crowd of white girls in the park” from Pink Rabbits is a personal favourite, and it sums up why this album is so good; because you don’t see it at first.

 

3. Sleep Well Beast (2017)

Andrew: The newest entry in The National’s discography saw a pretty seismic shift in the band’s songwriting. Sleep Well Beast is far more electronic than its predecessors, and for the most part, it is a remarkably subtle record. The National’s 7th LP is characterised by tracks like Walk It Back and Empire Line, subtle tracks that establish a mood and atmosphere and stick with it for their entire run time rather than building to any sort of climax.

This could easily have backfired and come off as boring, but by this point in their career, The National are masters of atmosphere, and these tracks are all the more fascinating for their refusal to build to a crescendo. Walk It Back in particular features a brilliantly piercing guitar line courtesy of Bryce Dessner while a lengthy vocal sample plays in the background.

That is the record’s mood for the most part. However, there is one beautiful outlier in the form of Turtleneck: a track that just scrapes the three minute mark where the band really lets their hair down. Berninger’s ragged vocals fire shots at “another man in shitty suits” currently occupying the White House, but the track’s best moment comes when the Dessner twins trade guitar solos on the ferocious bridge.

Callum: 2017’s dark and enigmatic Sleep Well Beast ties together everything The National has ever released, but with a subtle yet gracious twist. Using samples, electronics and most importantly cutting lyrics to portray love, loss, and desperation; the Ohio outfit delve deep into one’s core and submerges itself in a portion of self-deprecation. In the quieter ballads, for example Carin at the Liquor Store and Guilty Party, we are offered a voyeuristic glimpse of where relationships have faulted – but, the hastier tracks like Turtleneck reminds listeners of their tongue in cheek abilities. Similar to Mr. November in terms of style; Turtleneck, however, refers to Trump as “just another man, in shitty suits, everybody’s cheering for.” Classic.

Josh: Only The National, the musical epitome of the underdog, could provide one of their greatest this late into their career.  The band’s embracing of electronics into their otherwise consistent chamber rock proceedings gives each song an unusual yet captivating flavour, with eerie vocal samples and skittering drum machines bouncing between Berninger’s voice and secret weapon Bryan’s drums, often revealing themselves to be a welcome addition.  Whilst it may stumble off a bit towards the end with one too many slow burners, “Sleep Well Beast” is proof enough that The National still have plenty of fight left in them.

Kieran: Their latest and most experimental album to date, Sleep Well Beast was a radical departure from pretty much everything else they’ve released. Plenty of electronic bleep-bloops, unconventional song structures and – wait – is that a guitar solo?! The sense of freedom is palpable, as the band eschewed the tedious and meticulous sort of recording process they endured for High Violet in favour of a much more freeform and avant-garde approach. The record evokes feelings of winter and hibernation – saying no to the party invitations, closing the windows and shutting out the world until everything makes a bit more sense.

For this reason, it’s melancholic even by Ntl standards, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t moments of tenderness. On album highlight I’ll Still Destroy You, Matt sings about his daughter – “Put your heels against the wall / I swear you got a little bit taller since I saw you” – a bittersweet remark about the downsides of being on the road, missing out on important stages of your kid growing up. It’s an intriguing new direction the Cincinnati sad dads are heading in, and it’ll be fascinating to see how it pans out.

2. Boxer (2007)

Callum: The only record by The National to warrant an official, full-length live recording (Boxer Live in Brussels), so that means something, right?! For me, though, as brilliant as Boxer is, it is an accumulation of banging tunes as opposed to an iconic album as a package. The two year period between Alligator and Boxer allowed The National to develop from a somewhat angst-saddled outfit into a maturer, emotion charging, dinner party band. Of course, you can’t drop Available or Mr November when you’re in red wine territory, but you definitely CAN pull out Guest Room.

Josh: And this is where it becomes controversial.  “Boxer” is often considered to be the point where the band finally broke through and became the sad dads we all know and love today.  Everything about the group that has remained steady well into the present was firmly established here: Berninger’s baritone croon, the lush orchestral arrangements, the driving guitars, the powerful drums.  It all comes together in a glorious mix that nearly lasts the entire LP, with “Squalor Victoria” and “Slow Show” being definite highlights; unfortunately, like most National albums it stumbles towards the end with one too many slow songs after a balanced entrance that contrasts their enthralling energy with their gloomy tendencies.  “Apartment Story”, “Racing Like a Pro” and “Ada” to their best to save a sludge of the second half, but not enough to make it the crème de la crème.

Kieran: This is it. Boxer. The album that arguably defines The National and captures their essence in a way no other album has managed so far. In terms of their progression musically, it’s difficult to exaggerate how important this record is. Its use of lush orchestral arrangements and synths lifts the melodies to new heights – and despite the grandeur on the fanfare at the end of Fake Empire, on other tracks the devil is in the detail. Green Gloves, for example: the keyboard part playing in the background of the final chorus brings the song to a subtle but incredible climax. The genius is that you don’t even notice until you listen to it a few times and really pay attention.

The album’s track order is perfect as well – slower tracks arrive at just the right time to let off some of the pressure built by upbeat, rapid-drumming songs like Apartment Story. The decision to end on three fairly low-key tracks – Racing Like a Pro, Ada and Gospel – could be considered a bold move, but in reality there’s no better way to wind down the album. The explosive nature of Mr November was the ideal way to end Alligator, just as Gospel is a fitting way to reflect on Boxer as a whole. It’s the very definition of a slow burner, but trust me folks – it’s well worth sticking by it.

Andrew: While Alligator was undoubtedly a huge step forward for the band, Boxer was the record when the world really took notice of The National, and for good reason. In 43 incredibly concise minutes, the five-piece announced themselves as the band everyone knew they were capable of becoming. The piano part that opens Fake Empire and the record is now nothing short of legendary, and the track’s politically-infused lyricism is as relevant now as it was in 2007.

Boxer just feels like the trademark National album. From the legitimately threatening Mistaken for Strangers to the brilliantly bullish Apartment Story (“we’ll be alright, we have our looks and perfume on”) this is a band on top of their game.

Perhaps the quintessential National track is Slow Show, a ballad beautifully incorporating acoustic guitar and piano, with Berninger describing his social anxiety at a party and his desire to rush home to his partner, with a vintage lyric “can I get a minute of not being nervous and not thinking of my dick?” If you ever find yourself doubting why The National are such indie royalty, just look at how moving their tracks can be while Berninger sings about his penis.

1. High Violet (2010)

Josh: Here we have the only National album that doesn’t stumble once throughout its 48 minute long run time – the closest the band have ever come and probably ever will to a perfect record.  It’s almost ironic then that it starts tentatively, with an echoing muted guitar strum to test the water before jumping straight into one of their most moving songs, “Terrible Love”, that features a monster of a chorus that feels like it was designed for the larger crowds the group found themselves playing for after “Boxer”.  Nearly every song builds to a climax or a certain moment that takes your breath away: the repeated mantra at the end of “Afraid of Everyone”, or the joyous crescendo of “England”, or the final, reverberating chorus of delicate closer “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”. Everything just works, and works staggeringly well at that. What more could you ask for?

Kieran: When I first started dabbling in The National, in all honesty, I wasn’t sold – that is, until I heard the opening drumbeats of Bloodbuzz Ohio. High Violet is the album that got me utterly, utterly hooked on the band. It’s an explosive, cathartic wall of sound and it’s so compelling I still find myself struggling to turn it off without listening to the entire album front-to-back. Terrible Love is the perfect way to start an album (although plenty of debate has raged about whether the alternative version on the extended edition is better) and is a case in point that the band have mastered the art of the opening track.

It’s much more polished and painstakingly produced than Boxer or Alligator, to the point where Lemonworld was rewritten 80 times in order to achieve the perfect sound – although the final version ended up resembling the original demo. I absolutely loved High Violet (still do), and although it got me into The National –  Alligator and Boxer made me stick around.

Andrew: High Violet is a flawless record. As much as I love them, if I was to nit-pick, I could criticise Sleep Well Beast and Boxer, but High Violet is a different beast. There’s not a weak track to be seen in the track listing. Hell, there’s not even a weak chorus, verse or bridge.

To discuss the actual songwriting of High Violet, it’s easily the most cinematic National record. It’s almost the antithesis of Sleep Well Beast in that it is thoroughly anthemic: High Violet is personified by colossal climaxes – such as “it takes an ocean not to break” on Terrible Love, your voice is swallowing my soul” on Afraid of Everyone and the huge wordless crescendo of Bloodbuzz Ohio.  Remarkably on a record with moments this huge – it’s not at all disjointed, the flow is incredibly natural and even the less ambitious songs on the tracklist, such as Little Faith and Lemonworld, serve as small but vital parts of the beautiful canvas.

Arguably the record’s most dynamic track is penultimate number England, which develops from a world-weary piano riff into a colossal emotional epiphany – worthy of closing just about any album. However, what comes after is one of the most beautiful tracks in the band’s discography – Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks, a stunning acoustic track which features Berninger singing in an uncharacteristically high octave, seemingly suggesting there’s nothing this band and album can’t do.

Callum: Another accumulation of The National’s musical prowess here. High Violet is home to the commercially wonderful Bloodbuzz Ohio, but it is elsewhere that we find the ripe, unpicked fruit. From front to back, this record oozes powerful emotion and tracks perfect for all aspects of life – predominantly the themes of abandonment (Anyone’s Ghost and Conversation 16) and pining for the second coming of what has gone before (England). Teetering on the magnificent, majestic and all round.

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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
by Paramoreparamore-slide.jpg

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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Also…
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

 

Top 50 Songs of 2017

We’ve been fairly negative this week, what with the moaning behemoth that was our ten worst tracks of the year list, but let us assure you that music in 2017 hasn’t been terrible: in fact, it’s arguably the strongest it has been since the glory year of 2015. There’s still another week to go before we give you the round up of the records we couldn’t get enough of but until then, the BLINKCLYRO team have a treat for you.

This year’s Top 50 Songs list marks the first year where it isn’t just Liam compiling his favourite tunes: all the writers for the site have submitted their top 10 tracks of the year and after compiling them, tallying the points and laying them out, this post before you is the end result of that. So strap yourself in, relax and prepare yourself for a bucket load of great tunes that’ll make you feel blessed to have ears.

50. Blaenavon – Orthodox Man

First heard in 2015 when played to a crowd of under twenty, Orthodox Man has remained very much the same between then and now. However, now played to sell out crowds it has become somewhat of a fan favourite and it is clear to see why. It is fun, it is exciting, it gets the crowd going. What more could you want from a debut record single?

49. The Xcerts – Daydream

What sets The Xcerts out from others is the vocal style, and Daydream is no exception. Murray Macleod’s Aberdonian accent beams through the track and the catchy riff and drums make it a dance along track. Throw in that beautifully constructed bridge and you have yourself an upbeat pop rock song, that is sure to send the Xcerts flying into 2018.

48. The War On Drugs – Holding On

Holding On is a highlight pick from the new War on Drugs album and makes for easy listening with a dreamy feel across the instrumentals and vocals. The fact that this song stands out on A Deeper Understanding, which is an already amazing album, testifies to the quality of the track. The winding journey that the track takes you on is definitely one to remember.

47. The Mountain Goats – Unicorn Tolerance

This funky pop track off this year’s Mountain Goats album is remarkable in both its familiarity, in terms of lyricism from Darnielle, and harmonised chorus, taken straight out of the bands previous works; it is notable too for its difference, with a very chill melodic pop beat going through, and an almost dreamlike feel, making something that old fans, as well as Mountain Goats VLs, will get.

46. Pip Blom – Babies Are A Lie

Hailing from Amsterdam, Pip Blom have been around for around half a decade now yet continue the evolution from, as they put it, the girl with little guitar to a full-on band that hit their stride on this tune; a chill track that eases in with a simple introduction and lets its hair loose on its earworm of a chorus.

45. Benjamin Clementine – Phantom of Aleppoville 

From this year’s I Tell A Fly, delivered by the avant-garde maestro Benjamin Clementine, this is very much a high point experimentally for the album, with a lon sweeping intro, blending in classical music, after an anxiety inducing chant early on with the track’s lyrics really shining as the song reaches its end.

44. The Smiths Street Band – Birthdays

I feel overwhelmed so I wanna be alone but then when I’m alone I feel lonely” were the words shared on the Australian rock outfit’Instagramam about Birthdays, a romance heavy tune that features on the band’s frankly underrated LP More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me. Transparent and deeply emotive, The Smiths Street Band manage to effortlessly discuss issues of mental health and desire over this tight 3-minute odd track.

43. Idles – Mother

2017 was a fantastic year for Bristol outfit Idles, and their single Mother punched and kicked straight into the music communities consciousness. With scathing, growling lyrics from frontman Joe Talbot, the song was a perfect shot of heavy guitar music arrived with aplomb this year. This track stands out on their excellent album Brutalism for its much-needed commentary on the social fabric of our country.

42. Woes – Losing Time

Opening with an excellent sounding pop punk riff, Losing Time doesn’t hesitate to go huge. The vocals are reminiscent of the bands’ self-titled EP released last year, and both singers vocals blend brilliantly to create a beautiful harmony. The bridge of the track slows right down, with lead vocalist David Jess passionately shouting, before getting back to business: Woes are definitely one to watch in 2018.

41. Tommy Genesis – Tommy

While there’s a solid bit of production in the form of a Charlie Heat beat, Tommy‘s main draw is the display and establishment of herself as an aggressive and hyper-sexual rapper who can stand her own ground. With the bravado and confidence that Tommy Genesis holms, we wouldn’t be surprised to see her come out with something major in the near future.

40. Dua Lipa – New Rules (Initial Talk Remix)

It’s no secret that Dua Lipa seemingly came out of nowhere to deliver one of the biggest pop tunes of the year, one with a great sense of empowerment. Initial Talk thought that New Rules was missing something and decided to give it a dollop of 80’s gloss, an odd decision but one that works very well for a song that could have easily found itself sang by the pop juggernauts from that decade.

39. Enter Shikari – Undercover Agents

Easily one of the best tracks off The Spark & one of the most accessible Shikari songs, Undercover Agents is a bouncy number that’ll get the whole floor howling at the moon. Is it a song about Facebook or Instagram, or is “I want to see your body” covering for something else?

38. N.E.R.D – Lemon

Though it could be argued to be more the “Pharrell and Rihanna show” rather than a full-blown N.E.R.D comeback, this song is still a bonafide club banger. Just like the lyrics, the production bounces along with deep 808 bass kicks and a high popping synth, while in the latter part of the song, Rihanna raps with a swagger that is seldom heard.

37. Rostam – Bike Dream

Aeronautical oranges, continental paintings, an uxorious pair of boys. These are some of the images that populate Rostam’s Bike Dream, the fanciful second track of his excellent debut Half-Light. Atop the synth-drum dynamo powering the song is the exultation of Rostam seeing himself in the myriad New Yorkers ambulating around 14th Street. Amid the chaos, Rostam reaches the bittersweet summation of his many romances: “Telling me something or nothing, never the one thing I wanna hear”.

36. St Vincent – Slow Disco

Near the culmination of Annie Clark’s neon pop masterclass, Masseduction, sits one of her finest songs yet. An emotionally affecting powerhouse, Slow Disco stands out as a work of stripped back beauty amidst the sea of oddball experiments. On first listen it may just seem a welcome variation from the robotic and futuristic sounds of the rest of the record, but with time it reveals itself as the albums powerfully vulnerable highlight.

35. Vistas – Retrospect

Latest single Retrospective is everything we know and love this Edinburgh pop-rock outfit for. Opening up with the catchiest of riffs, the nod-along melody kicks in with frontman Prentice Robertsons’ spectacular vocals create a happy, feel-good vibe. The band has worked tirelessly the past two years and it is now all beginning to pay off with this tune being evident of the progress they’ve made.

34. Protomartyr – My Children

The second single to be released from their latest album and one of the most complete songs they’ve recorded yet, Protomartyr have managed to distill almost every aspect of their music into a deeply satisfying 3 minutes and 42 seconds. An ominous, mumbled intro gives way to angular guitars as anti-frontman Joe Casey delivers a caustic take on issues of growing old, remaining childless and the implications that might have on his legacy.

33. Alex Cameron – Runnin’ Outta Luck

Who would have thought that a satirical concept album based around the trials and tribulations of toxic masculinity and fragile egotism could be so catchy? The third single from 2017’s delightfully playful Forced Witness epitomises the thematic musical and lyrical consistences that run deep through the record via a bombastic, synth-embellished sound that recalls the classic rock and pop of the 1980s with an unrelentingly ear-worming chorus.

32. Harry Styles – Sign Of The Times

2017 marked the year that the members of One Direction stepped out on their own and released their debut solo material, and unarguably the best track born of the hiatus has come from unofficial band leader Harry Styles, who boldly emerged with Sign of the Times, a 5-minute epic which channels heroes Prince and David Bowie, effortlessly building from a solemn piano into to a rock opera without breaking sweat. Styles vocal performance is enthralling throughout, growing with the track from a brooding opening before howling “WE”VE GOT TO GET AWAYYY” in the epic climax, the track’s escapism aided by a choir and a glam-rock guitar tone elevating Styles’ already huge vocal into the stratosphere.

31. Clairo – Pretty Girl

Clairo seems to be fitting in remarkably well to her newfound position as a self-aware, bedroom pop artist. As you may expect, Pretty Girl is a relationship influenced song but one that finds pleasure in pointing out the flaws of superficially lead ones with a simple music video only exasperating the simplistic charm that she delivers in bucketloads.

30. Phoebe Bridgers – Funeral

A cut from her debut album, this track from Phoebe Bridgers is a real story of Bruce Springsteen proportions, delivering a thought-provoking, heartfelt and genuinely sad song, involving the artiste singing at a funeral: just as morbid and depressing as you would expect but with a glimmer of beauty.

29. Peach Pit – Being So Normal

Described as being “chewed bubblegum pop” by, well, themselves, Peach Pit manage to leave a muffled indent with this eponymously titled track off their debut LP; the lead smooth vocals may sound exhausted but when backed up by warm guitars and an undeniable crisp production, it’s hard not to feel yourself mellowed out and enthralled.

28. The Vegan Leather – Shake It

This paisley disco-pop outfit’s debut single was one of the hottest Scottish indie hits of the year, almost anthemic in its delivery; with a fantastic dance beat to accompany it. One of the most notable elements of the track is the harmonies between male and female fronts of the band, Gian and Marie respectively, working together to deliver a positively electric track.

27. King Krule – Dum Surfer

Dum Surfer, from King Krule’s album The Ooz, amplifies the very darkest aspects of his music. The lyrics are aggressive and unsettling. Krule’s deep and brooding voice matches the violent imagery which contrasts starkly with the jazzy saxophone and abundance of percussion. It sounds like nothing else but manages to stand by itself as one of the best tracks of the year.26. Young Fathers – Only God Knows

Young Fathers provided the backbone to the Trainspotting 2 soundtrack. Included was the beautifully layered track, Only God Knows. Accompanied by Leith Congregational Choir, the trio from Edinburgh create three and a half minutes heart pounding, distorted bliss: it’s impossible to not find yourself smiling when this song comes on. Not only does it undeniably bring the other songs from T2 together but also establishes the versatility of Scottish hip-hop.

25. Lil Peep – Save That Shit

The “Pt. 1” affixed to Lil Peep’s debut album Come Over When You’re Sober will forever serve as a reminder of what Gustav Åhr’s career might have been. A sense of death’s rapid encroachment pervaded much of Peep’s music, and last month, a fatal overdose granted his self-fulfilling prophecy.

Standing out among Åhr’s robust oeuvre is Save That Shit, a maudlin breakup song featuring spidery post-grunge guitars, tightly-wound trap drums, and Lil Peep’s trademark gruff whine. The details of the couple’s relationship are in constant flux: “All she want is payback,” “You ain’t getting nothing I’m saying, don’t tell me you is,” “Do I make you scared? Baby, won’t you take me back?

The optimist in him wants to salvage the relationship, but the realist in him knows he can’t save that shit.

24. Corbin – Giving Up

When Corbin dropped his album Mourn earlier this year, it showcased his soulful vocal talents over moody and mournful cloud rap and RnB beats which have stuck out in our minds over this year though Giving Up is the track that has remained at the forefront of our minds.

The synths create a very downtrodden atmosphere to begin with and bring you into a state of melancholy where you can then be lulled by Corbin’s silky smooth voice. The drums kick in about 2:30 into the song which lifts the track considerably but the depressive quality of this track just gets stronger as Corbin’s vocals become more powerful and desperate near the end.

Taking into account the song’s lyrics’ focus on suicide makes this track a total emotional barrage, but a fucking good one.

23. Sorority Noise – A Portrait Of

Although Sorority Noise have teased listeners with lyrics and themes meaningful enough to rip your heart from your chest, 2017’s A Portrait Of is when the depth of the band really hit home. All of YNA_AYT is a journey into the deepest crevices of your conscience, but when the sophomore track opens with “I’ve been feeling suicidal..” you know you’re going to be in for an emotional ride.

Roaring a mid-section poetical giving reference to living his life as a continuation of theirs, Cameron Boucher truly opens up here and by the end of the track you’re left speechless, in tears or both.

The instrumentation is not ghoulish, nor is it an overly slow ballad to emphasise the lyrics, it is standard Sorority Noise in-your-face riff-topia with cutting hooks, dominant drums and quite frankly an elegant yet boisterous glue holding everything in place.

22. SZA – Drew Barrymore

Throughout her debut album CTRL, SZA discusses both relationships with others and herself with remarkable honesty and this is most evident on Drew Barrymore.

An ode to SZA’s favourite actress, the song’s themes are reminiscent of Barrymore’s iconic roles of women finding their identities. Similarly, on the track, SZA admits her insecurities and instead of being embarrassed by them, she sees a piece of herself in one of her biggest idols.

It is rare to see such difficult emotions towards relationships expressed so directly and with that comes sincerity that makes this track resonate so deeply; anyone that’s ever felt inadequate will both appreciate those feelings described so accurately and also a reminder that even people as talented as SZA feel the same way.

21. Mount Eerie – Real Death

Artistic expressions of death and grief are rarely ever as direct as they are on A Crow Looked At Me, an album dealing with the of passing Mount Eerie mastermind Phil Elverum’s wife Geneviève Castrée at the age of thirty-five. Yet in the opening track, Elverum insists that his record is exactly not that: “Death is real… it’s not for singing about, it’s not for making into art”.

With every word his cracked and pained voice utters, the listener gains only a minute sense of what it must be like to have been put through such a traumatic ordeal, and then shift through the aftermath. It’s a song so heartbreakingly beautiful that I struggle sometimes to listen to it in full – but I’m still glad that such a succinct statement of personal loss exists in today’s world.

20. Everything Everything – Desire

Desire feverishly builds, reaching a chorus featuring so many layered vocals, it sounds like an entire choir made up of Josh Higgs’ indulgent falsetto. The guitar riff at times rings like early naughties math rock in the best possible way and topping it all off are some very on brand Everything Everything lyrics “I am a pencil pusher with the pencil pusher blues“.

The beat stomps on through from the start, breaking at times into a delicate two-step instantly transporting you to a sweaty dancehall. It’s a song that makes it near impossible not to dance; some of the best indie pop we’ve had all year.

19. Kirin J. Callinan – Big Enough (Ft. Alex Cameron, Molly Lewis & Jimmy Barnes)

This is one of the rare songs on this list that has to be heard to be believed, especially in conjunction with its fabulously grandiose music video. Country twangs, EDM drops, heavy metal screams and a fist-pumping, chest-burstingly triumphant list of arbitrary countries, continents and states for a conclusion that, similar to marmite or self-immolation, will change your life for the better or the worse.

The reason it works and not devolve into the aural equivalent of a thirteen-way pile up on the M8 is the strength of the songwriting and the dynamics of the production, both of which create an addictive cocktail of a serotonin rush that never fails to lift your spirits. That, or make your face cringe so hard it cracks in two, but if it does that then you probably hate fun.

18. LCD Soundsystem – tonite

If James Murphy and co.’s first two comeback singles were intriguing yet divisive, then tonite firmly solidified the validation for their return to the stage, whilst simultaneously setting the scene for the album upon which it settles into snuggly in the middle third.

Lyrically, Murphy rearms his iconically ironic New York cool stance but with an updated penchant for the self-aware, allowing himself to deprecate the stagnant state of the charts without ever falling into the “Old Man Yells At Cloud!” trap that haunts many of rock music’s elder statesmen.

Pounding behind the words is a groovy instrumental that takes its cues from Daft Punk and The Human League, and reaffirms LCD Soundsystem’s place on the dancefloor, and indeed our hearts. We’ve missed you, Murphy.

17. The Menzingers – Thick As Thieves

With February’s After the Party, Scranton natives The Menzingers reached a career peak. A wonderful record bursting at the seams with shout-a-long slices of life, it establishes the band as a bonafide grade-A rock outfit. An ode to reckless abandon, Thick as Thieves encapsulates all that is great about the album.

The whole track just drips with an endearing sense of nostalgia and sincerity, with vocalist Greg Barnett gleefully yelling of ‘building castles of cans and bottles’ without a trace of cynicism or irony. The chorus, perhaps the best the band has ever come up with, seems tailor-made for crowds to scream back at the stage; it’s just joyous.

If you can get it out of your head, you’re not human.

16. Remo Drive – Yer Killin’ Me

What a belter this track is. A slice of raucous, driving, almost poppy emo from the Minnesota 3-piece Remo Drive’s beauty of a debut album Greatest Hits (killer title).

There’s such an infectious venom in frontman Erik Paulson’s vocals and lyrics that you almost can’t help but be subconsciously pissed off at whoever’s wronged him.

The mathy breakdown towards the end of the track is delicious as well. Yer Killin’ Me is a perfect introduction to the world of Remo Drive, and one that would easily fit into your running playlist or your moody playlist. Brilliant.

15. Lil Uzi Vert – XO Tour Llif3

The king of emo rap’s magnum opus. XO TOUR LIiF3 by Philadelphia’s own Lil Uzi Vert manages to walk the tightrope between depressing as fuck and club banger with aplomb. Flexing about his car one minute and lamenting a failing relationship in the next, this is a deceptively complex slice of hip-hop from one of the most exciting MCs of 2017.

Mr. Vert explores concepts that most modern rappers wouldn’t dare touch, the likes of how maybe drug abuse isn’t that good and suicide. On a surface level it’s a cracking trap track, but if you listen to the lyrics it’s a sad portrait of a man who’s a bit lost in the world of hip-hop. And that’s what makes it so good.

14. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Open Water

Choosing a highlight from King Gizzard’s extensive set of 2017 releases is no mean feat. From tightly wound prog to loosely held together jazz pop, the range this band have displayed this year trumps what most bands achieve across their whole career.

Way back in February, the group released the finest of these efforts, Flying Microtonal Banana, and with it, Open Water, the seven-minute colossus that stands as the jewel in the crown.

Bursting with pitch black imagery and fluid, winding licks, it sees the band really push themselves to their limit. Their drums had never been quite so ferocious before, the atmosphere never quite so delightfully disorientating, and the end result rarely quite so brilliant. 

13. Carly Rae Jepsen – Cut To The Feeling

Carly Rae Jepsen‘s transition from early 2010’s meme to critically applauded pop artist has been one of the most interesting moments over the past few years and this cut for animated flick Leap continues the trend.

We could easily discuss the effortlessly ascending and descending bits of production that tie into the Canadian singer’s wonderful pipes or her delivery from hushful whispering to ambitious proclamations; the hook, line, and sinker of Cut To The Feeling is just how bloody fun it is and in another dark and dreary year, we need more of these than ever.

12. The National – Day I Die

Bryan Devendorf herein stakes his claim as one of indie’s pre-eminent percussionists, kicking off one of the highlights of Sleep Well Beast with a frenetic drum intro. Relentlessly uptempo and featuring guitar licks reminiscent of The Cure, themes of marital affairs are navigated with reference-laden lyrics.

Matt Berninger boasts that, “Young mothers love me, even ghosts of / Girlfriends call from Cleveland“, although he’s clearly still more concerned about the no-mans land his current relationship occupies, struggling to understand where exactly things stand.

During the bridge, further context is given to “great uncle Valentine Jester“, a character visited previously and, as it happens, someone who Berninger shares a lot in common with, particularly when he gets “a little punchy with the vodka“.

11. Lorde – Green Light

Fresh from a break-up, Lorde’s second album, Melodrama, explores dealing with losing someone for the first time and all the thoughts that come with it. The first single, Green Light, starts desperate and heart wrenching.

The song opens with her raw, slow vocals and simple piano, but builds quickly to a fast dance anthem, flinging her reputation as a moody teenage songstress into the mainstream. The sincerity in her vocals mixed with the constant change of pace creates a warmth inside your stomach. It’s a song to cry but also to move on to. Lorde is showing us how to dance through the pain.10. Frank Ocean – Chanel

Frank Ocean is famed as one of modern music’s lyricists for his complexity and deft storytelling talents. However, Ocean throws this subtlety out of the window in the mic-drop of an opening couplet to surprise single Chanel – “My guy pretty like a girl / and he got fight stories to tell”.

This sets the tone for Chanel’s lyrical tone – it’s part bashful, part confessional, varying as Ocean drifts between singing and rapping – displaying a mastery of each. The dreary beat is the perfect bed for Ocean’s varied delivery, and transitions into perhaps Ocean’s most iconic hook yet – “I see both sides like Chanel” – another lyrical masterstroke as he flips hip-hop’s obsession with brands into an expression of sexuality.

9. Stormzy – Big For Your Boots

Stormzy seems like one of the nicest guys in music, but Big For Your Boots is a definite warning to anyone tries stopping his rise. His flow is incredible throughout the whole song, and some of the lines are solid gold.

Had a peng ting named Amy telling me to come round hers on a Valerie ting“. Sublime. The whole of GSAP was one of the standout albums of 2017, but this was the biggest diamond in the jewelers.

8. Paramore – Hard Times

Where do you start with the summery, pop anthem that is Hard Times?! The emo, pop-punk icons of yesteryear seemingly flipped their iconic style on its head and replaced it with a neon light complementing, almost sickly pink doused, upbeat classic.

Hayley Williams’ voice sounds as good, if not better, as their Riot! days and the re-addition of founding drummer Zac Farro adds a warming, sentimental value for the old-skool Paramore fans.

What we have is effectively an infectiously catchy piece of pop elegance from someone who was the antithesis of Hard Times. A fluorescent burst of colourful chaos, synths galore and a something that is a simple yet strangely complex arrangement of upbeat fun.

7. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy

Father John Misty’s third LP is comfortably the most lyrically ambitious release this year – providing social commentary on the grandest scale imaginable. This is best executed on the record’s stunning title track where Josh Tillman gives his perspective on “the comedy of man” – beginning with the birth process and arriving at religion with a lot in between – on the most grandiose score Tillman’s voice has ever graced.

The lyrics are the star of the show here, however, with Tillman addressing the human race at large with observations like “their illusions they have no choice but to believe”, however, the lyrics never take themselves too seriously, especially as he smirks “how’s this for irony?” in a subtle nod to his Father John Misty persona.

6. Brockhampton – Star

In a year where BROCKHAMPTON dropped three albums, there were several stand-out tracks that defined their year but none more memorable than STAR.

This track has a unique theme with its constant pop culture references. From Dom McLennon’s rapid-fire name dropping from Matthew McConaughey to Liam Neeson to Ameer Van’s bragging about being “the black Tom Hanks” and being “kingpin like Jay Z, dance moves like JT”. The track finishes on perhaps their strongest verse of the year as Kevin Abstract pronounced himself “Heath Ledger with some dreads” in a hilarious yet vicious verse that mixes references to pop culture and his own sexuality with ease.

America’s newest boyband have been on fire this year and that’s no more evident than on STAR.

5. Gorillaz – Ascension (Ft. Vince Staples)

When Vince Staples strutted onto the stage unannounced midway through Gorillaz’ sold out Hydro show, it was clear that the already fantastic gig was about to reach a new level. Staples’ stage presence was electric, his short frame covering almost every inch of the arena’s huge stage.

Somehow, the Long Beach MC manages to convey that energy as well on record as he does live on apocalyptic banger Ascension. Beginning with a quick-fire Staples verse atop a wartime air horn which soon gives way to Staples’ nonchalant attitude to the end of the world with the lyrics “the sky’s falling baby / drop that ass ‘fore it crash”.Gorillaz latest record Humanz was criticised for being too guest-heavy, but with Staples in such electrifying form, you can’t blame Damon Albarn for giving him the spotlight across his 2 lightning-quick verses.

As much as Staples is on fire, this still feels like a Gorillaz track. An Albarn verse is interspersed between Staples’ and is the perfect foil: Albarn sounds his age in contrast with Staples’ youthful exuberance: his verse darker, gloomier and more measured. He is happy to give the spotlight back to Staples who trivialises the apocalypse once more; with Staples on the mic, the apocalypse has never seemed so exciting.

4. Vince Staples – Yeah Right (Ft. Kendrick Lamar & Kucka)

Wouldn’t you know it – two tracks featuring Vince Staples back to back and boy, does the man deserve the high rankings on this list; anyone with a vague knowledge of Odd Future will have been made aware of the rapper’s potential and while he’s released some solid solo material, this track off Big Fish Theory certifies that there’s gold in them there hills.

Packing in the stellar production that can be found over the course of the entirety of Vince’s sophomore LP, Yeah Right teases the listener with his trademark delivery and a subdued instrumental before it’s released like a pack of lions with Detroit techno coursing through their blood. The sheer velocity of the bass borderlines on untenable at moments which adds to not only the power this song possesses but how closely this album walks the line between experimental and excruciating.

Then there’s that Kendrick verse which may possibly be the best guest bars to have been spat all year with an abundance of meta, serious, humourous and braggadocious lines that’ll etch themselves into your cranium. Tie in that bridge by Kucka which has a reminiscent tinge of old school UK Grime and you’re left with one of the greatest hip-hop tunes of the year.

3. Wolf Alice – Don’t Delete The Kisses

Already known for being able to essentially do anything, Wolf Alice proved that once again when they defined the modern love song with Don’t Delete The Kisses.

Ellie Rowsell’s lyrics have never been better even though they are the most sentimental she’s ever written. “I might as well write all over my notebook that you ‘rock my world!’” she admits in one of two verses Rowsell delivers in an almost talkative tone that mimics the thoughts going through her head; it somehow encapsulates these thoughts that everyone experiences in a creative way.

Don’t Delete The Kisses is unashamedly lovesick and cliché, and it’s confidence forces a massive smile onto your face as Rowsell’s closing words “I see the signs of a lifetime, you til I die” would manage to touch even the most cynical of hearts. The second single from sophomore album Visions of a Life, such an instant classic was unprecedented and will be hard for Wolf Alice to top but for now, they can revel in the success of creating a song that will undoubtedly remind a whole generation of fans of the person that they love.

2. Tyler The Creator – 911 / Mr. Lonely

True to form, the 10th track of Tyler’s widely acclaimed comeback project Flower Boy is a two-parter – a reoccurring theme across each of his albums. It’s a perfect synopsis of the dichotomy between the two different personalities of the record – one side is airy, melodic and full of summery optimism; the other, introspective and brooding.

The beauty of this track and, indeed, the rest of the album is the way Tyler reconciles these aspects and lays them bare so candidly. Perhaps one of the most apparent throwbacks to earlier, darker material such as Goblin, he alludes to his erstwhile depression throughout – in 911 he takes a philosophical approach, realising his own experiences can help him relate to others. Portraying a soothing voice on the other end of the phone, perhaps an emergency call handler, he introduces himself: “My name is Lonely, nice to meet you”.

Soon, though, he finds himself the one most in need of reassurance as he lapses back into despair in Mr. Lonely. The beat becomes dark and snare-heavy as he condemns his outwardly loud and brash personality, also questioning whether materialistic pursuits have ever really helped to alleviate that omnipresent feeling of loneliness. The last line cuts the deepest of all: reaching for a friend “so I never have to press that 911”.

1. Kendrick Lamar – DNA.

Regardless of your opinion on DAMN., light 7 or not, there’s no denying that 2017 has very much been the year of Kung Fu Kenny himself. From the teaser track The Heart Part IV tearing apart America’s newly elected toddler/President to his comeback single Humble, along with its subsequent meme value, to the hotly discussed topic of how his fourth LP should be played, there are very few artists who managed to stay relevant for all the right reasons in 2017.

A constantly evolving artist, think back to K Dot on Good Kid, m.A.A.d City or the existential, jazz poet on To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar is the most important figure in hip-hop at the moment and certifies this perfectly with D.N.A. An introspective and aggressive behemoth, this track serves not only as a reflection of himself as an idolised and sought after celebrity (Only Lord knows I’ve been goin’ hammer / dodgin’ paparazzi, freakin’ through the cameras) but it’s so much more than that.

True to his roots and heritage, D.N.A is primarily about Kendrick as a black man and in a year where race was the focus of some of the most despicable moments of the year in America, its message is more important than ever: the feature of a Fox News anchor stating that his music “has done more damage than racism ever has” only provokes him into becoming the passion-driven, bar spitting activist that music needs more of.

As he ends on some vicious lines, the inclusion of “peace to the world” could be taken literally or be a homophone for the slang for a gun; either way, the intentions are made clear on a song that seems to sum up this year into a claustrophobically tight 3 minutes, six seconds. 

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/111518578/playlist/4T1V1dcSEhkDsZcyny9CWY


So there you have it, our definitive list of the best songs we’ve heard all year. I’d like to thank the following people for contributing not only their rankings which helped make the list but also the little write-ups they did for each track: 

Top Corner! Five Fantastic FIFA Tracks

By Callum Thornhill (@Cal_Thornhill)

There is no secrecy or mystery between the linking of football and music. The terraces are constantly changing iconic lyrics with the names of their nippy winger or slating the opposition with “____ are falling apart, again” to the tune of Joy Division‘s Love Will Tear Us Apart. One connection between the two industries is closer to home and often overlooked by passive gamers – the Fifa, originally Fifa Football, franchise is constantly churning out a quality soundtrack year after year to millions of players around the globe.

With hundreds of tracks being on the Fifa jukeboxes over the past two decades it is impossible to make a solid, fairly ranked list of the best, but here I look at what I call the golden tunes EA Sports have included over the years since Blur’s Song 2 hit us in 1998 like a Steven Gerrard worldie.

Before revealing the list below, there are a few that could easily have been added including:

Flogging Molly – To Youth (My Sweet Roisin Dubh), Bloc Party – Helicopter, The Strokes – Machu Pichu, and Caesars – Jerk It Out.

5) Morrissey – Irish Blood, English Heart [FIFA 2005]

Okay. So, in my opinion, Morrissey’s solo stuff isn’t THAT great, but this tune soundtracked endless hours of rinsing the PlayStation 2 version of Fifa Football 2005 while I was winning various titles with Ajax. Nestled amongst a brilliant soundtrack (more of which are on this top five list), Fifa may be to blame why I am a Smiths-loving loser…just maybe.

4) The Sounds – Seven Days a Week [Fifa 2005]

Another gem here, The Sounds, who I still know absolutely nothing about except they are a Swedish outfit, have old-school Blondie vibes and an abundance of sass. Seven Days is easy listening and was always allowed to be played through fully rather than hitting the R3 button to skip. The Sounds have made it to endless Spotify playlists I’ve made in the past and thanks to Fifa I actually have a vague idea of who they are.

3) The National – The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness [Fifa 2018]

A modern great in the form of The National. Needing absolutely no introduction at all, they are a band who have only excelled themselves time and time again and even though I don’t own this edition of Fifa, it is heartwarming to know that anyone who (stupidly) hasn’t discovered the band themselves will be introduced to some ambient brilliance.

2) Foals – Olympic Airways [Fifa 2009]

Oxford’s math rock maestros have featured on Fifa soundtracks a couple of times, but it is Olympic Airways that makes the list. Added pretty much at the same time as their debut, Antidotes, dropped. Foals, like the Fifa series, have been a constant companion to my life for a long time now and to see the two combine is fantastic.

1) The Streets – Fit But You Know It [Fifa 2005]

THE tune that got me into music. As a football-loving eight-year-old, who thought it’d be such a stressful life at that age, I didn’t really understand the whole blue Topshop top or being a 9 and a half in four beers time, but knew the lyrics off by heart. It took a fair bit of convincing but I managed to get A Grand Don’t Come For Free on CD that Christmas and had to play it through headphones because of the parental advisory sticker. In short, I have to thank EA Sports and Fifa for effectively making me the person I am today.

Do you agree with the list of Fifa soundtrack greats? Let us know on the usual social media places with your favourites.

Killer Finales: Albums That Finish With Their Strongest Tracks

Whether your album goes on for an hour or ten minutes, the general rule of thumb is to finish things with a bang rather than a fizzle. Sure, there are a handful of albums that could be considered one of the greatest whose best track is somewhere in the middle (hell, maybe all the tracks are so great it’s hard to pick a definitive one) but that’s not what we’re talking about today. So strap yourselves in folks because today, the good folk of blinkclyro are going to go through a host of favourites that made sure to bow out in the best way possible.

The Velvet Underground – Sister Ray
White Light/White Heat

17 and a half minute long epitome of the legendary band’s sophomore avant garde quest to create something new from the thunderous noise rock they hammer out via tribal drums, buzzing organs and melting guitars – so brutal the producer walked out half way through the recording, but so very good.

Josh Adams (@jxshadams)

The National – Mr November
Alligator

The ultimate send-off for the album which represented a turning point in their careers, the twilight zone of a band on the verge of critical and commercial success. An explosive 4-minute distillation of everything they’ve done up to that point, Matt’s voice nears breaking point as he yells “I won’t fuck us over / I’m Mr November” with steely conviction.

Kieran Cannon (@kiercannon)

Carly Rae Jepsen – Roses
EMOTION SIDE B

WILDCARD BITCHES! Nothing omitting a cheeky wee b-side album, not as long as I’m running this site, which means the once meme turned queen of Partrician can make an appearance with this stunning track. If you’re gonna title two of your albums with EMOTION then you gotta show it and Roses just oozes heartbreak, whether it be the flower imagery or Jepsen’s vocals that at times sound like she has a legitimate lump in her throat. 

-Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)

The Clash – Train In Vain
London Calling

Initially elided from the track listing and kept as a secret cut on the record, The Clash opted to close out their sprawling, genre-swinging double album London Calling with a modest breakup song. Detailing the dissolved relationship between vocalist Mick Jones and Viv Albertine of The Slits, the band turn their politically keen focus inward. Easily the most personal song on the album, Jones reaches an invaluable epiphany in the throes of his heartbreak: “You don’t understand my point of view/ I suppose there’s nothing I can do.”

-Sean Hannah (@shun_handsome)

Fatherson – Foreign Waters
I Am An Island

Just sums up Fatherson and their debut in every way possible. Slow, sad moments mixing with huge chorus and drum – throw in the addition of the wee 2 minute hidden track at the end and you’ve got a superb finale.

– Gregor Farquharson (@grgratlntc)

Radiohead – Motion Picture Soundtrack
Kid A

So much has been said and written about the icy atmosphere of that record and MPS continues this to the n-th degree with the chilling organ backdrop, however the twinkling harp that comes in combines with some of Thom’s best ever vocals to bring a beautiful sense of humanity to the record, and “I will see you in the next life” has to be the best album-closing lyric ever.

-Andrew Barr (@weeandreww)

Gaslight Anthem – National Anthem
Handwritten

An album that shows so much ‘in your face’ guitar angst is closed perfectly with a delicate, emotional ballad. It shows the versatility of their sound & that they have much more to offer than riffs, hooks & drum fills – for me, this is the peak of the most rounded album The Gaslight Anthem have ever put out.

-Callum Thornhill (@cal_thornhill )

Biffy Clyro – Now The Action Is On Fire
Vertigo Of Bliss

It (somehow) manages to condense everything that made very early Biffy so special into one song. It has a bit of everything, a frantic string section, some of the best vocals the trio had ever and will ever put down, some gloriously heavy instrumentation and weird as fuck lyrics that were fast becoming a signature part of the Biff’s repertoire. It’s bombastic, loud and by all accounts it shouldn’t work but THAT’S why it’s so good. In a word, masterful.

-Jake Cordiner (@jjjjaketh)

Arctic Monkeys – 505
Favourite Worst Nightmare

At this point in their career 505 was the most emotionally bare Turner’s lyrics had been and still today remains arguably their best song and suitably ends most of their sets with that unforgettable riff sounding better each time you hear it. On an album where the band improved in every way, 505 embodies that change during its climax.

-Ethian Woodford (@human_dis4ster)

Muse – Knights Of Cydonia
Black Holes & Revelations

The epitome of bombastic rock and roll grandeur, from the giant opening stabs to the infamous “No one’s gonna take me alive” bridge/ending, it could be used as a blueprint to end an album. It’s overblown, in your face and pompous, making it the perfect song for the credits to roll.

– Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Death Grips – Hacker
The Money Store

Described by cuindependent.com as “the moment when all shit breaks loose and all that’s left to do is riot”, Hacker is the point in Death Grips’ career where they realised that they were the shit and wanted everyone to know about it. They’re in your area, whether you fucking like it or not. 

-Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)
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Album Review: The National – Sleep Well Beast

By Kieran Cannon (@kiercannon)

‘Taking a break’ is a notion that carries a sense of inevitability. Often a vague suggestion with an indefinite timeline, its utterance appears to spell doom for many ill-fated relationships despite the best intentions. Eager to prove otherwise, The National have spent time apart after wrapping up Trouble Will Find Me. While not an official decision per se, all five members have taken a breather from the tumultuous life of touring to spend time with family and embark on other pursuits; enigmatic frontman and famed wine guzzler Matt Berninger, for example, teamed up with Ramona Falls founder Brent Knopf to bring indie project EL VY to life.

The band have spoke of fraught relationships in the past, predominantly down to the differing musical philosophies of minimalist Matt and trailblazer Aaron Dessner, but this newfound sense of creative freedom appears to have granted the Cincinnati-originating outfit a new lease of life. Relocating from Aaron’s garage to his rural Long Pond recording studio has proven an ideal congregation point for the now-geographically dispersed five-piece, who can come and go as they please. One significant bonus is the soothing effect its scenic surroundings appears to exert on the recording process. “It’s hard to be a dick when you look out the window and there’s this tranquil pond”, explains Matt.

This chilled-out, bohemian approach to songwriting has culminated in The National’s most exploratory output to date. Perhaps in keeping with that ethos, Sleep Well Beast surely ranks as one of the year’s worst kept secrets. While other artists tend to keep their cards close to their chests, fans have instead been treated to a myriad of opportunities to hear new material, ranging from a steady influx of single releases to numerous live performances debuting certain tracks. The first of those singles, The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness, offered a good insight into what could be expected to emerge from the Long Pond studio. In stark contrast to the opulent guitars of Trouble Will Find Me, sharp, jutting riffs appear at the forefront augmented, much to everyone’s surprise, by a guitar solo; a sign of stylistic change towards a more freeform approach. Whereas in the past every carefully-layered texture, every chord change felt calculated and precise, this record feels notably more off-the-cuff in nature. In hindsight, “we’re in a different kind of thing now” becomes prophetic.

Upon first listening, Sleep Well Beast immediately strikes as an album of extremities. Raucous tracks like the rip-roaring Turtleneck occupy one end of the scale, an outburst not heard since the Alligator era. Sung with Nick Cave-esque abandon and strewn with dueling guitars, this signals in no uncertain terms that the rulebook has well and truly been thrown out the window. Within tracks such as this Bryan Devendorf stakes his claim as one of indie’s pre-eminent drummers: his driving rhythms and grasp of unusual time signatures form a significant basis of most tracks, controlling the flow with surprising nuance.

On Day I Die he demonstrates his abilities yet again, kicking off one of the highlights of the album with a blistering drum intro. Relentlessly uptempo and featuring guitar licks reminiscent of The Cure, themes of marital affairs are navigated with reference-laden lyrics. Matt Berninger boasts that, “Young mothers love me, even ghosts of / Girlfriends call from Cleveland“, although he’s still clearly more concerned about the no-mans land his current relationship occupies, struggling to understand where things stand. During the bridge, further context is given to “great uncle Valentine Jester“, a character visited previously and, as it happens, someone who Berninger finds himself sharing a lot in common with, particularly when he gets “a little punchy with the vodka“.

There’s no doubt the subject matter is more introspective than ever before and these domestic issues are explored in customary fashion. While there’s an abundance of esoteric wordplay, the frontman’s unique songcraft is equally able to deliver upfront, candid lyrics. In Carin at the Liquor Store, an ode to his wife and intermittent co-writer (it’s pronounced Cah-RYN, god), crypticism is eschewed in favour of sincerity. On the previous iteration, Karen, he was unabashedly defiant whereas this time round he appears more reflective: “It’s gonna be different after tonight / You’re gonna see me in a different light” Accompanied by tender piano and an achingly beautiful guitar solo, this slow-burner is one of the more conventional songs on the album but it delivers volumes of raw emotion.

Following on, another straightforward ballad appears in the form of Dark Side of the Gym. Noticeably more mellow and laid back than Carin, it showcases the Dessner brothers’ willingness to experiment with electronic sounds. While electronic influences tinge some songs, they dominate others such as I’ll Still Destroy You. Cryptic verses about self-medication are sung with a distinct Tom Waits inflection as several narratives converge towards the end, amounting to something of a revelation. As his overindulgence in substances begins to spiral out of control, everything is placed into perspective. “Put your heels against the wall / I swear you got a little bit taller since I saw you” ponders Berninger, an allusion to worries about spending time away from his daughter and missing out on her growing up.

The album’s titular closing track, Sleep Well Beast, ranks as one of the most unorthodox offerings in the band’s entire back catalogue. Berninger’s voice is almost a whisper as his characteristic baritone reaches its lowest pitch in a wonderfully dreamy six and a half minutes of glitchy lo-fi guitars, haunting backing vocals and programmed drums which ebb and flow throughout. One minor disappointment is that the band haven’t extended this avant-garde attitude to stripped-back tracks like Born to Beg and Empire Line which, perhaps, could’ve benefited from injections of experimental style.

Although The National’s songs are renowned for their blend of earnestness and dark humour, moments of optimism on Sleep Well Beast are fewer in number than before and occasionally it feels like the album needs one or two more songs like Day I Die; tracks where the music stretches its legs and the band allow themselves to let go. It would be difficult, however, to argue that such a profoundly affecting record doesn’t deserve to be ranked among their greatest output.

8/10

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FESTIVAL REVIEW – Gettin’ Glastönbutlered

By Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

The key thing you need to take into consideration with Glastonbury is that it is not your common garden music festival. I mean, first of all, it’s actually a ‘Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts’, which is true, because no matter where you go in those trillion square acres of Somerset countryside, there is always something weird and wonderful going on.

Whilst yer da was at home complaining about how Jeremy Corbyn and Ed Sheeran was on his telly with 6,000 other available channels, there were a million other things happening. People were indulging themselves in ancient cultures, sampling some of the world’s hottest and most loved musical and artistic acts, and slightly overweight music writers were permanently sipping beer as they thought of what they were actually going to say about Glastonbury.

https://twitter.com/notoliverbutler/status/877657321886896129

Sorry to disappoint you, but there’s no perfect way to describe it. As soon as you sweep through the sleepy village of Pilton, Somerset, you’re greeted by sights that would put Disneyland to shame, and it really is Disneyland for grownups. There’s so much whimsy, magic and wonder as you stroll about Farmer Eavis’ Gigantic Farm of Banter, and the view at night from the hill on which the Glastonbury sign sits is unparalleled.

In every sense of the matter, this festival is huge, and the big name bands are merely just a side show. If you spend an entire Glastonbury weekend just watching bands, then buddy, you done fucked up.

However, my job for this website is literally writing about bands, so let’s talk about that, shall we?

Thursday

Old Dirty Brasstards

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ga25UP2Lt8

Ooooooooh I’m drunk, and these boys are the perfect accompaniment to any decent session. The tweed-clad army of lads play up-tempo covers of some of your favourite pop and rock songs, opening 2017’s set with a beautiful rendition of QotSA’s No One Knows, followed by Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, and of course, for the stars of Friday’s show, a cover of Radiohead’s Paranoid Android, all expertly communicated through the jovial means of brass and percussion. Without hyperbole, if these boys played a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night, there’s every chance I’d have sacked one of the headliners off to see them. The Brasstards are the perfect feel good start to a weekend of quality music.

10/10

BANDS SEEN: 1

BEERS DRANK: Got a bit hazy around twenty. Went to Pimp My Fries, then strolling around the legendary South East Corner, on the hunt for some good times. Threw up. A lot.

Friday

Oh God. Is it possible to be this hungover? I can just about move my body and that’s to poke my head out of the tent pod’s little window to retch the last of my pimped fries up. Damn you Pimp My Fries. This Friday at Glastonbury is going to suck even more as in the evening, Radiohead, Lorde, Sleaford Mods, Dizzee Rascal AND Clean Bandit all clash. Fuck this festival and the sheer amount of quality musicians on offer.

Nothing But Thieves

They’re nonces, Jim.

Royal Blood

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8AuiZ0O6Qg

Here’s another hot-as-bollocks band with a second album that’s come out in 2017, which, at first was a bit disappointing, but has grown on me, with live performances of Where Are You Now?, Lights Out, Hook Line and Sinker and Hole In Your Heart strengthening the love for How Did We Get So Dark? 

But it just wouldn’t be a Royal Blood set without jams like Figure it Out, Little Monster, and the almighty Out of the Black closing the set, with a massive cock tease as sticksman Ben Thatcher went into the crowd just before the final riff, only for the camera to pan to LARS FUCKING ULRICH FROM FUCKING METALLICA, maybe nodding to the fact that Lars took over the drums once before whilst Ben got closer to the crowd. However, it wasn’t meant to be, but Christ almighty, what a set!

8/10

The XX

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhZTexVqRCI

I’ll level with you here. I watched these guys from my chair back at the tent which overlooks the Pyramid, because I couldn’t face standing up for a few hours waiting for Thom Yorke and His Gaggle of Weird Lads to show up. But having never really given them the time of day before, they were very impressive, and their airy, synthy sound was the perfect relaxer for a man with a devastating hangover. However, I did have a can. Lovely.

Look, if you’re looking for someone who spent his weekend sober, whilst sticking religously to his itinerary, trying to review as many bands as he could, you’ve come to the wrong place.

7/10 

Radiohead

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGFg0FN2yBU

Bucket list band time here gang. Ever since I got my pubescent paws on a copy of OK Computer and The Bends whilst only really knowing the words to Creep, I’ve wanted to see this band, but in my heart of hearts, I knew they’d disappoint me because of how much I wanted this.

The first bar of Daydreaming and there was zero possible way that Radiohead could disappoint me tonight. I was stood around the WORST people, including a group of LadBible fanatics doing keys of MD, a man in slacks and a fleece taking photos of EVERYTHING, a couple who wouldn’t stop fucking kissing and literally Your Dad singing every word of every song but sulking through Creep.

However, the set was perfect, the notable highlight being the eerie silence during Exit Music (For a Film), turning that song from a 10/10 to a 20/10. Songs such as Ful Stop, Weird Fishes, Lotus Flower, Bodysnatchers and Nude made an appearance because I’m Thom fucking Yorke mate. A friend commented that they’ve got to play Pyramid Song because they’re on the Pyramid Stage, and they did! But probably not for that reason, probably because I’m Thom fucking Yorke mate.

Whilst some bands stick to their vanilla setlists to please all palettes, I can’t even work out what flavour this set was. Aged pistachio or something. But when you get Fake Plastic Trees and Karma Police as some of the final accents, it can be whatever flavour you want it to be. Truly one of the best sets I’ve ever seen. Ever.

10/10

BEERS DRANK: Two! Two!

BANDS SEEN: Four. Ish. 

Saturday

Fresh as a daisy mate. Fresh. As. A. Daisy. I’ve probably had 10 hours sleep, and I’m ready to have halloumi for breakfast. I think I had halloumi. Really it’s hard to work out what happened and when, but one thing I can tell you for definite is that Saturday started with…

Jools Holland and His Rhythm and Blues Orchestra

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6naZMWemDs

No word of a lie, there were fewer bands I was more excited to see this weekend. When he’s not walking backwards in a studio introducing bands, he’s an accomplished blues pianist, bringing boogie to all the land, and with his full orchestra, oh my, it’s a party!

Jools and his guests played a variety of covers, getting an early afternoon audience up and ready, pumping them full of feel good, including a joyful cover of Enjoy Yourself by The Specials, and an appearance from my favourite, the Queen herself, Ruby Turner.

One thing I would recommend is getting tickets to go and see this man. You won’t have a better evening, I guarantee.

9/10

Craiiig David

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuUZh81B27I

Re-rewind, when I run back to the tent for more beers!

Straight off the bat, Craiiig David was a delight to see, playing a mix of orignal garage, soul and R&B classics, plus a few covers and a TS5 DJ set. It also led to the theory that Bo’ Selecta! did actually ruin Craiiig David‘s life, in that when introducing the stone cold banger that is Rise and Fall, he spoke about coming through adversity and how writing music helped him get through some tough times. Bo’ Selecta! came out in 2002, Rise and Fall came out in 2003. Your honour, no further questions.

But needless to say, Craiiig David had the last laugh, as he’s had a number one album, a UK wide arena tour, played the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury whilst Avid Merrion being about as funny as a haemmorhoid being Keith Lemon. So who won that round? Ya boi Craig did.

8/10

Jeremy Corbyn

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVGFi8balOM

“WOAAAAH JEREMY CORBYN! I don’t give a fuck about him, I voted UKIP” – those lads doing MDMA behind me at Radiohead.

Still never know which way Glastonbury leans. Whilst it’s an inherently left leaning festival in that it used to be a CND festival, it is chock full of Tories, and when they try to mosh, they endager the lives of everybody in that pit. That being said, worst you could do is give them a head injury and create a Lib Dem front bencher.

Oh yeah, Jeremy Corbyn.

It was a rapturous reception for the Labour party leader, with the field surrounding the Pyramid packed to the rafters (there are no rafters in fields, but fuck you) for his address, stirring the souls of every person in that field, giving a lucky young boy named Michael Eavis a signed copy of the Labour manifesto. Well jel. Whilst he was preaching to the many converted, undoubtedly there were a few who couldn’t help but be enthused by his message.

1 billion/10

Run the Jewels

Image result for run the jewels glastonbury 2017

Another tent special. Good guys, good sound, good message.

7/10

Liam Gallagher

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xo_GcOsp4k

Oh my God. This guy is literally Your Dad. He’s in his anorak, trying to sing Oasis coverOH it’s Liam Gallagher. If you were at that gig, please let me know if you were also there, purely for him to say “Oh and by the way, this is my brother Noel“.

In defence of the lesser of the two evils, sound quality plagued the Other Stage for the entire weekend, but the sound quality was still dire, as an anaemic crowd tried to pretend they gave a shit about Wall of Glass. Sure he played Rock n Roll Star, Morning Glory and Slide Away, plus an emotional rendition of Don’t Look Back In Anger, but there was little substance to this set, making the fact I ran out of cans even more upsetting. Jesus.

4/10

Katy Perry

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5vp6usKX_Y

Caught the last bar of Roar, because it takes 9 years to walk anywhere ¯\_()_/¯

The National

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBg9xysCYwU

Mad how Jurgen Klopp manages Liverpool and also fronts The National. Top boy all round. Being honest, I’ve got little to no interest in The National and couldn’t work out why they were sub headlining Saturday but the Eaviseseseseses are absolute r/madlads, so you’ve just gotta ROLL WITH IT, GEDDIT?! Oh wait, Liam Gallagher was the last act.

Yeah these guys sounded pretty good, and drew a decent crowd, but I can’t say I’d ever listen to them again.

7/10

Foo Fighters

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2ER7ChXX6s

The more I think about it, the more I realise Foo Fighters is a ridiculous name for one of the world’s biggest bands, but Dave Grohl could start a band named All My Fans Are Cunts and I’d still lap up every note.

Two years ago I was pencilled in to see the Foos twice in two weeks, once at Wembley, and once at Glastonbury, until Dave selfishly broke his leg. Bastard. So this, in many ways, was a redemption gig. Opening the set with Times Like These, dedicated to Florence from Florence and the Machine, who performed the same song two years ago in their headline slot, you knew it was gonna be a good’un.

The thing about Dave Grohl, much like Thom Yorke, means that little to no fucks are given about setlist content. Which is why cats like Cold Day in the Sun, Wheels and Skin and Bones were thrown in amongst the pigeons of All My Life, The Pretender and Monkey WrenchSonic Highways hit Something from Nothing also seems to be a setlist mainstay these days, which is good, because it’s a high-grade banger, along with medium-grade banger Congregation. Brand new banger Run also got a… wait for it! Run out!

The negative points on this report card? No guests. I’ve seen these guys perform motherfucking Under Pressure with goddamn John Paul Jones and christing Roger Taylor before, but there were no special guests this time. But a cover of Under Pressure performed with Taylor Hawkins doing the vocals so that counts, I guess?

The high point of this set? The Everlong ending. Because quite frankly, if anything could ever be that way forever, if anything could ever be that good again, my word.

10/10

BANDS SEEN: Seven. Ish.

BEERS DRANK: So many. At least thirty. Ended up at a silent disco and a communal sleeping tent that honked of incense. N.B. It was a communal sleeping tent, and not an invasion of someone’s tent. 

Sunday

Hungover as fuck, gotta go load the car, so the first band I saw today was in the late afternoon and it was…

Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2oqXN06ffE

He’d be the first to admit it, but Frank Carter is a bona fide madman, and his Sunday teatime slot with The Rattlesnake just adds to that theory. Clad with pink hair, white jeans and a sheer white shirt, the punktastic prince angrily wrangled his way through Sunday afternoon, stopping to throw an entire bottle of piss back in the face of a lad who threw piss at him first during Juggernaut. A madman. A legend. An idol. Tried to start a circle pit through the whole of the tent. Killers fans weren’t having it. Mugs,

The beauty of a Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes set is that you’re guaranteed hits, and with Snake Eyes, Jackal, I Hate You and Lullaby being charmed out the snake basket, it was business as usual from an energetic and enthusing set. Another particular highlight was getting a girls-only crowdsurf during I thiiiiiink it was Devil Inside Me, threatening to decapitate any handsy male who tried groping them, stating that we are all equal, to which the Andy Dick looking motherfucker creepily rubbed his hands together when the subject of groping young women came up, and sulked when Frank said that we were all equal. I hope you do get decapitated, pal.

9/10

The Killers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRF0q6z60hc

Best part about where we camp is that we can hear about four stages clearly. I heard The Killers. In this same time period, I had violent diarrhoea. Go figure.

Chic

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2khokvlf_Y

I also heard funktastic disco legends Chic from our tent, which was much, MUCH better, for am I of the opinion that there are few finer guitarists in this world than Nile Rodgers. This set delivered by the bucketload, featuring, Everybody DanceGood TimesLe Freak, fucking He’s the Greatest Dancer, Let’s Dance, GET FUCKING LUCKY, and Good Times. Also featuring a funk off between Nile Rodgers and Jerry Barnes. Jesus Christ.

9/10

Biffy Clyro

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlPt8C5Fnxk

First things first. Biffy should have headline before Sheeran. They’ve got greater pedigree, more albums, more prowess and more fucking everything than someone playing a small guitar. There. I said it. Although someone leaving Chic was saying “I hate Biffy Clyro, he(?)’s shit, ooh, Courteeners are on”. Confusing.

But then again, Biffy were a wildcard. I’d have never painted a band of their demeanour as Glastonbury sub-headliners but they made sure that they secured themselves a second invitation. Definite 2019/20 headliners.

The set was a mix of old and new, opening with Wolves of Winter and ending with Stingin’ Belle,whist throwing Who’s Got A Match?Bubbles, Medicine, Re-Arrange and Animal Style in between those two delicious slices of bread. Also they threw in Puzzle album track 9/15ths because why not? It’s fucking brilliant.

Seriously though, Biffy delivered in a big way, and proved their worth as certified festival headliners.

9/10

Boy Better Know

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_BzqnpyVM8

My relationship with BBK is strained at best. Whilst I remember the days before JME and Skepta had albums and were world renown, I just can’t seem to enjoy a live set, and neither did Glastonbury, as barely anybody showed up. To be honest, the only song I really recognised was That’s Not Me, leading me to realise I’m quite behind on the times with BBK, but will forever remember playing songs like Serious and Doin’ It Again on repeat. Sometimes, the past is best left in the past.

6/10, I guess.

WEEKEND VERDICT

Yet again, this magical festival met my expectations and exceeded them. I had a fantastic weekend with quite literally, all my friends, having a laugh, getting drunk and mooching around the numerous exciting and interesting areas, sights, sounds and indeed, smells, this festival has to offer. Sure I could’ve spent my weekend religiously seeing a lot of bands, but there’s no fucking fun in in that. I could’ve been up, bright and breezy to see someone I’ve never heard of who might be alright, but I’d be on my own, or I could’ve gone for a greasy breakfast and had a few cans with my friends.

What I’m trying to say is that music is beautiful, it’s wonderful and it’s lifesaving, but it’s meaningless if I can’t enjoy it with my pals. They’re the real headliners of any festival, and the highlight of any set. I had a fucking great weekend and had gotten my money’s worth by Wednesday evening, because we were all having a laugh together.

So here’s my final review:

My Pals

A great set from the 14-piece roast-and-booze ensemble, notable highlights including Broken Chairs, Stone Colding Beers, Dancing to Bassline Junkie in the Tent and of course, Saturday Night Piss Up. Could never ask for more from an act.

14/10


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