My interest in music has been rocked this year by the unlikely addition of podcasts into my so called life. If that means that this list feels more incomplete than usual, that’s because it is! 2017 has seen a lot of disappointing big releases (Arcade Fire, Weezer) but also loads of good stuff too. Here are ten of the best:
10. Elbow – Little Fictions
Elbow have long been one of the best bands in the UK and their lush orchestration is realised beautifully on their seventh album Little Fictions. Each Elbow album is subtly different and while their latest may be missing a unifying anthem in the style of ‘One Day Like This’, it is still quietly beautiful and typically ethereal.
The Bury band have always known their way around a melody and lead track ‘Magnificent (She Says)’ adds to an already impressive list of singles.
Best Track: Magnificent (She Says)
For Fans Of: Richard Hawley, Doves, Beck
9. Maximo Park – Risk to Exist
While many of their peers have long been forgotten, Maximo Park continue to churn out interesting and well constructed albums. Risk to Exist sees the band experimenting with a more abrasive, punk rock sound while also incorporating a strong, political message.
Personally, I prefer frontman Paul Smith when he is being lovelorn rather than ‘right on’, but there are still enough great moments here to ensure another solid album, namely; “Get High” and the title track.
Best Track: Get High
For Fans Of: Franz Ferdinand, Eagulls, Cribs
8. Loyle Carner – Yesterday’s Gone
It gives you some idea of Loyle Carner’s genre spanning appeal that I first heard him on Radcliffe and Maconie’s BBC 6music show. Carner uses top tapping beats to espouse his gentler, more level headed take on British hip hop. If you are sick of hearing about guns, bling and bitches, Carner is the natural antidote to such masculine tomfoolery.
Tracks like ‘NO CD’ and ‘Ain’t Nothing Changed’ set Carner aside from his more aggressive peers and find him closer to someone like Kate Tempest. Extra marks for putting on a great live show, something that this genre routinely struggles with.
Best Track: NO CD
For Fans Of: Kate Tempest, Public Enemy, Jurassic 5
7. Sundara Karma – Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect
Despite touring with Circa Waves and the Wombats, I arrived pretty late to the Sundara Karma party. Their soaring brand of majestic indie rock recalls the Maccabees and Arcade Fire, and while they never quite reach the dizzying heights of those bands at their peak, the Reading outfit more than hold their own with debut album Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect.
Superbly named frontman and guitarist Oscar Pollack wails and moans over a backdrop of tight and melodic indie rock to deliver one of the finest straight forward rock records of the year.
Best Track: Flame
For Fans Of: Foals, Maccabees, The Amazons
6. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
Josh Tillman has graced this list before under his Father John Misty moniker for 2015’s I Love You Honeybear, so this years follow up Pure Comedy had a lot to live up to. Despite being one of the best reviewed albums of the year, it didn’t quite capture the public’s imagination in the same way as its predecessor, but it is still an ambitious, sprawling, gift of an album. Tillman abandons his snarky sarcastic tone of previous records to ask the big questions about life, love and ultimately death.
In many ways, Pure Comedy is a throwback to the golden age of the album. A time when records were meant to be played in full rather than listened to in fragments through a streaming service. Pure Comedy is a concept album where the concept is as profound as they come, namely what it is to be alive in 2017. Oh, and his performance at Glastonbury was utterly mesmerizing.
Best Track: Pure Comedy
For Fans Of: Elton John, Jackson Browne, Fleet Foxes
5. Liam Gallagher – As You Were
While fans were hopeful that Liam was capable of serving up something more inspiring than the insipid Beady Eye albums, there was always a nagging doubt that he might create an album full of songs like ‘Little James’…
Happily, As You Were took everyone by surprise. The banging singles and memorable album tracks ensured that As You Were was one of the albums of the summer. Now I don’t buy into this whole Liam vs Noel debate as I love both of them and their musical output. That being said however, Liam won this battle. Noel’s 2017 effort Who Built the Moon should be commended for being a bit more experimental but it just doesn’t have as many tunes.
Best Track: Wall of Glass
For Fans Of: Oasis, Courteeners, Jake Bugg
4. Circa Waves – Different Creatures
Circa Waves have been easily one of my favourite bands of the last few years and Different Creatures is another leap forward for the Liverpool band. Following the fine tradition of city mates the Wombats, Circa Waves produce smart and snappy indie pop with an ear for melody. Their second effort is a little darker than 2014’s Young Chasers but it still bounces and pops with a crunching flourish.
This band are slowly building an adoring fan base, their third album could send them into the stratosphere. Watch this space…
Best Track: Fire That Burns
For Fans Of: The Wombats, Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes
3. The National – Sleep Well Beast
Following the sad demise of such luminaries as Kings of Leon and Arcade Fire, Matt Berninger’s indie rock heroes The National are perhaps the most consistent band on the planet right now. ‘Guilty Party’ and ‘Day I Die’ are typically classy but it is the showstopping ‘The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness’ that really brings on the familiar heart swells.
Along with Conor Oberst, Berninger is one of the best lyricists in the game right now but he is just one component in a monster that appears to be hitting its stride.
Sleep Well Beast is not the best National album but it is still one of the albums of the year. That tells you how good this band is.
Best Track: The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness
For Fans Of: El Vy, Czars, The War on Drugs
2. Queens of the Stone Age – Villains
Josh Homme is in danger of taking Dave Grohl’s title as the busiest man in rock, the difference being that Homme is much more consistent. 2013s Like Clockwork was a record fraught with stress and tension and that is reflected in the claustrophobic but brilliant album those sessions wrought. The recording of Villains ran much smoother apparently. QOTSA have learned how to have fun again…
Villains is a funky, groovy machine that sees the band retain their rock sensibilities whilst also slipping on their dancing boots. ‘Feet Don’t Fail Me’ and ‘Domesticated Animals’ are as strong as anything in the bands arsenal and ‘The Way You Used To Do’ is a thrilling slice of sleazy rock goodness. The National are all about the comedown but for QOTSA, it’s party time.
Best Track: The Way You Used To Do
For Fans Of: Iggy Pop, Ramones, Arctic Monkeys
1. The Big Moon – Love in the 4th Dimension
When I saw four stage shy girls supporting Peace in 2015, I never dreamed they would go on to be Mercury nominees and, even more prestigiously, recipients of my 2017 album of the year. The fact that the track they closed with that night, ‘Eureka Moment’, didn’t even make it onto their debut album indicates just how strong a record this is.
Replicating Britpop is an impossible task but The Big Moon capture the fun, breezy essence of that magical decade while still sounding fresh and vibrant. From the glorious opening track ‘Sucker’through to ‘Formidable’ and finally ‘The End’, Love in the 4th Dimension is a record that just keeps on giving. Having listened to it steadily for six months I am still not bored of it, and the London four piece are a wonderfully energetic live band.
Best Track: Sucker
For Fans Of: Libertines, Elastica, Honeyblood
There isn’t an album on this list that I would consider to be a classic, and that is a shame. 2017 has been a solid year rather than a great one but each album on this list has brought me hours of joy. Roll on 2018!
Everything Everything – A Fever Dream
Shed Seven – Instant Pleasures
The Orwells – Terrible Human Beings
Los Campesinos – Sick Scenes
Sleaford Mods – English Tapas
Alvarez Kings – Somewhere Between
Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark?
Declan McKenna – What Do You Think About the Car?
Foo Fighters – Concrete and Gold
Wolf Alice – Visions of a Life
Noel Gallagher – Who Built the Moon?
Milburn – Time
Slaughter Beach, Dog – Birdie