In a bumper year of great albums it has been so difficult for every one of our photographers and journalists to choose their best albums of the year. 2017 saw album releases from Bleachers, Noel Gallagher, Perfume Genius, St Vincent, Lorde, Killers, Liam, Arcade Fire, Bjork, Prophets Of Rage, Frank Carter, Lucas Nelson, Ibibio Sound Machine, Laura Marling, Father John Misty, Fleet Foxes, Jessie Ware, Kevin Morby to name but a few. Those albums are very good indeed but did they make the list of our Albums Of The Year 2017. Here are our favourites.
Courtney Barnett/Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice. A match made in heaven, full of traditional twang filled duets that sound like the two have sat down and recorded a conversation between old friends..and why wouldn’t’ you?
Rews – Pyro. An apt name for an album full of explosive numbers from the energetic female duo. A highlight at this years’ Camden Rocks festival, in this debut, their stage effervescence is bottled into thirty minutes of pop-rock brilliance.
The National – Sleep Well Beast. After the success of 2013’s Trouble Will Find Me, The National could easily have taken easy route and filled an entire album with variations of the breakout hit I Need My Girl. Instead they stepped back, looked inwards, and created a bleak but beautiful masterpiece that rewards repeat listens.
Robert Plant – Carry Fire. Plant’s reputation for making delicious world-influenced folk-rock albums is further enhanced with this hypnotic album.
The Penny Black Remedy – Maintaining Dignity in Awkward Situations. Dark humour, monstrously clever lyrics and severely catchy tunes combine to create the third album from these rising country/folk/gypsy/ska/punk stars.
This Is The Kit – Moonshine Freeze. Thoughtful and sometimes delicate songs wrapped in beautiful and eccentric harmonies, imagine Television doing folk.
Jim White – Waffles, Triangles & Jesus. Jim White, musician, storyteller, model, surfer, taxi driver, turns 60 and part of his mid life crisis was to write “a bunch of songs with falsetto in them”. From playing guitars to far beyond the spoken world Jim delivers his most heartfelt album.
LCD Soundsystem – American Dream. The album that Arcade Fire have been trying to make since The Suburbs. James Murphy can make you dance and cry at the same time as big beats, minor chords, matter of fact vocals, and everyday mundanities collide.
Depeche Mode – Spirit. At this point in their career, Depeche Mode are like clockwork: a new album every 4 years, followed by 18 months of touring, and a live DVD just in time for Christmas. So it’s a surprise that their 14th album doesn’t sound like the work of a conveyer-belt band. Angrier and more political than before, their bluesy electro is the work of a group re-energised. Grand, poised and chilling from Basildon’s best.
Oh Sees – Orc. Who?..They used to be Thee Oh Sees. Oh yes they were great remember Plastic Plant? Yes, well now they are back with a new name and a slightly different style..see..Oh See. Very psychedelic and very wacked out.
Beck – Colors. With each subsequent album, Beck has consistently delivered something different, new and yet distinctively Beck. Colors is ‘Pop’ Beck and his most fun record do date. Pop Beck doesn’t even need to ditch his guitar, which is very welcome in the current landscape of rediscovered synthpop. From its title track opener (seems to be a running theme in 2017) through the body of the record, it’s light, colourful mix (no pun intended) is just a delight to listen to and even more fun to dance to, trust me I’ve tried! It’s candy for your ears from a music maestro, what’s not to like?
Foo Fighters – Concrete and Gold. For some years now Foo Fighters records have been a mixed bag of purposely-crafted stadium anthems among Dave Grohl’s experiment of the moment, resulting in less than stellar results. 2005 gave us middling half rock, half acoustic double album In Your Honor recorded in the band’s brand new custom-built studio. Wasting Light took Grohl’s men back to a garage to record on analogue tape while Sonic Highways took them on the road to produce one song per city while filming a documentary. Concrete and Gold delivers the group’s most coherent record in years, drawing unapologetically on Queen and Beatles influences, but delivering in spades. A massive album that’s all killer.
Wolf Alice – Visions of a Life. Along with Royal Blood, Wolf Alice brought a refreshing sound back to British rock with their debut record. And like Royal Blood expectations were high for the London four-piece’s follow-up to hit record My Love Is Cool. And (once again) like Royal Blood, they exceeded expectations with the massive Visions Of A Life. Frontwoman Ellie Rowsell’s honey slick vocals on Heavenward quickly turning full on scream by blistering first single Yuk Foo. Stand out tracks Planet Hunter and Don’t Delete The Kisses are simply a joy to listen to over and again but the record is a turntable favourite from start to finish.
Mr Jukes – God First. Guest stars galore on this cracking album combining the talents of Jack Steadman from Bombay Bicycle Club with the late great Charles Bradley, Lianne La Havas and Horrace Andy to name a few.
Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark. After successful debut LP, they keep the bar high. Don’t expect any less than to be swept out of your feet. Brilliant album!
Rationale – Rationale. A powerful debut by the singer-songwriter / producer, displaying his songwriting mastery and impressive vocals. Re.Up is mesmerising.
Lights – Skin & Earth. Canadian pop and art sensation, Lights, sonically distances herself further from her electro/indie roots to create singalong-filled, club anthem, dark pop album.
Sløtface – Try Not To Freak Out. Party anthems galore in this memorable album by the Norwegian Pop-Punk band.
Mastodon: Emperor Of Sand. Although each successive album edges closer towards the mainstream, the band’s ambition hasn’t diminished. This has their biggest melodies and hooks yet, but at the end of the day it’s still an intricate, complex, and musically daring concept album about death.
Stormzy – Gangsigns and Prayers. This debut was for alot of people this year, an introduction into Grime and the power it has to cross over genres. With a hint of gospel, the album felt like Stormzys spiritual awakening and was definately on repeat across my flat for months after release.
Billy Bragg – Bridges Not Walls. Relevant, powerful and political mini-album from (probably) the UK’s hardest working protester with a guitar.
Arcane Roots – Melancholia Hymns. This album is best described as a cinematic experience for your ears. An absolute masterpiece.
Jim Jones & The Righteous Mind – Super Natural. Another step on Jim Jones’ sonic journey, in turns dark, melancholic and rocking, a masterpiece.
Soul Scratch – Pushing Fire. Debut album of the year southern conscious soul for those that know what’s going on.
Queens Of The Stone Age – Villains A good old rock’n’roll album with a psychedelic tweak. It’s still QOTSA, but stripped back and back to basics.
Tired Lion – Dumb Days A fantastic debut album full to the brim with in your face rock songs.
The Dream Syndicate – How Did We Find Ourselves Here. Comeback album of the year paisley underground guitar fuelled masterpiece.
Slowdive – Slowdive Here’s proof that reunion albums don’t have to suck. Almost two decades after their last LP, Slowdive released a collection of songs that sound at once familiar and, thanks to the wave of ’90s nostalgia, current. Lead single Sugar For The Pill is easily as good as anything they’ve ever done.
Paul Weller – A Kind Revolution Weller sounds as good as he ever has on this trip through every genre he’s ever played.
While She Sleeps – You Are We . Metalcore northerners, While She Sleeps, prove they’re worthy of the big leagues with an anthemic album built with catchy choruses and addictive riffs.
Going Grey – The Front Bottoms. Heavily influenced by the 80s, The Front Bottoms return with a throwback-sounding release with a Front Bottoms’ twist to create a contemporary take on the sound.
Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile to the Surface. Not from Manchester and not really an Orchestra but yet again push themselves to write and release a set of thoughtful and intricate songs.
Chris Shiflett – West Coast Town. This album changed the way I see country music, and for the very first time, I can say I find something for me. Perspective changing, brilliant in every way. One of my all-time favourite and most played records
Danny Gruff – Danny Gruff. Long awaited, the first LP by Dany Gruff. It’s a fantastic piece, that sums up ten years of touring and songwriting. Something for the long winter night with a hot cuppa and blanket
Jamie Lenman – Devolver. Further proving that he’s much more than just the frontman of Reuben, Jamie Lenman creates a wholly diverse album that highlights his musicianship in entirely his own right.
Jessie Ware – Glasshouse. Oh my goodness what a collection of songs. Tunes filled with mystery, love and longing set in vast soundscapes. Each one could be a soundtrack to a different film.
Hurray For The Riff Raff – The Navigator. Storytelling life experiences filled with brilliant melodies, sing-along-choruses, hooks and damn fine production. A feel good album for those who never say die!
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – Soul of a Woman. The final, posthumous release following Sharon’s tragic passing in 2016 is a brilliant collection of vintage soul, upbeat tracks and orchestral ballads that moves, shakes and stirs. Her legacy lives on.
Zak Abel – Only When We’re Naked. Uplifting and charismatic debut from emerging British artist Zak, its production influenced by High life music, that showcases astounding soulful vocals and clever hooks.
Loyle Carner – Yesterday’s Gone. Confessional, emotionally-open and stunning debut from the highly talented South London rapper. Uplifting gospel soul in Isle of Arran and powerful delivery and hypnotic beats in NO CD are highlights.
Nerina Pallot – Stay Lucky. Delicate and delightful sixth album from this cool, quirky pop songstress – a tad quieter and jazzier than some of her previous releases.
Cage The Elephant – Unpeeled. Live and (almost) acoustic album from the Kentucky act who put on some of the most rip-roaring shows on the planet.
Pumarosa – The Witch If you want a lesson in electronic groove rock, the London five-piece deliver a lesson in electronic groove rock.
Dreadzone – Dread Times. Unmistakably Dreadzone but possibly opening the door to a new direction for the band. Dub rooted dance and uplifting lyrics.
Terra Lightfoot – New Mistakes. Superb guitar playing is not the only thing that Canadian Terra Lightfoot is good at. Her songwriting is amazing and if Paradise is not a hit someday then I will eat my own ears.
Kelela – Take Me Apart. Totally realising her potential of those early mix tapes. This album is filled with honest & beautifully written tunes backed by some great instrumentation from someone who knows the sound they want to create and what to do with it.
Public Service Broadcasting – Every Valley. This homage to the loss of the welsh coal mining industry and its community took a few listens, but my word, it was worth it.
Waxahatchee – Out In The Storm. Perhaps taking a harder edge and sounding more like an early 4AD band this album is full of great tunes and rhythms, it really rocks in places.
Thundercat – Drunk. How many sounds can you get from a bass guitar?…how many strings can you have on bass guitar? Thundercat knows.
Nadine Shah – Holiday Destination. Nadine likes to keep her songs confined, often set with in a minimalist structure, hooking you in with repetition and often building to a great climax. This album is full on rhythm and politics.
This is just a selection from the great year that was 2017. So many wonderful albums one of the best years for diversity quality and innovation.
Albums from The War On Drugs, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Sheer Mag, Rapsody, Chris Stapleton and Rag n Bone Man were on the periphery…periphery our new favourite word.