Top 10 Albums of 2017
While this time of year is mostly about Christmas and New Year, the end of the year is also a time to reflect on some of the year’s ‘best of’s. Plus, we just really love making lists! So with 2018 just around the corner, we’re going to take a look back at year’s best music with our top 10 favourite records of 2017.
10) King Krule – The OOZ
Genre: Art Rock
Standout Track: Slush Puppy
He may be only 23 years old, but King Krule AKA. Archy Marshall feels like he’s been around for an eternity. That probably has something to do with the London musician’s ability to craft something so unmistakably Krule, every track is memorable. His unique combo of dancefloor ska, sentimental ballad and punk rock’n’roll is fully on show in his second album, The OOZ. It creates an entire universe for itself – one that’s dark and almost post-apocalyptic. But somehow it just about stays its in line despite its chaotic make-up – beautifully controlled chaos if ever we’ve seen it.
9) The XX – I See You
Standout Track: Dangerous
Following two records of elegant, striped-back dance-pop, I See You saw The XX trio move things along from your bedroom to the dancefloor. They named their third triumph after a line from the Velvet Underground’s ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’: “Please put down your hands/’Cause I see you.” Though samples and brass accents pierce through lyrics, this is still very much The XX. Lyrics deal with the band’s personal demons like alcoholism, deaths of loved ones, and isolation, it’s just that the band have found some truly killer beats and club-ready choruses this time round. It’s rhythmic, epic and all the more fun for it.
8) St. Vincent – Masseduction
Genre: Art Pop
Standout Track: Los Ageless
2016 saw Sia jump from critically-acclaimed art house musician to pop superstardom, and many tipped Annie Clark (St. Vincent) to make the same transition ahead of her fifth album, Masseduction. Having worked with Jack Antonoff, a producer famed for churning out hits for the likes of Lorde and Taylor Swift, she ticked most boxes going. But St. Vincent was never going to change a winning formula. Masseducion isn’t a new direction at all – more a continuation of perfectly crafted pop songs with too many of Clark’s idiosyncrasies to break it global. That’s just fine by us – and we’d bet is it for her too.
7) Thundercat – Drunk
Standout Track: Them Changes
Such is Thundercat’s – AKA Stephen Bruner – reputation as one of the best bassists around, he’s appeared on records by everyone from Kendrick Lamar to Flying Lotus to Erykah Badu. From that alone, you can probably tell he’s eclectic as well as respected. And his third solo, Drunk, showcases this broad-ranging talent in all its glory with a personal record which packs as many laughs as it does hooks. There’s songs about cats – meows and all – video game references, and guest spots by artists as random as Kenny Loggins. But for all its goofiness, Drunk is a complex contemporary soul record with some real flow despite its seriously fragmented 23 tracks.
6) LCD Soundsystem – American Dream
Genre: Dance Punk
Standout Track: Call the Police
Very rarely does the story go; cult band breaks up at the peak of their powers, gets back together and releases a career defining record. But not every band is LCD Soundsystem. Having been on indefinite hiatus since 2012, James Murphy got bored of high-profile marketing projects and running a wine bar, and decided to release the best indie/disco/punk record of the year. Nobody does thinking-man floorfillers quite like LCD, and there are plenty of them on American Dream – ‘Tonite,’ ‘Call the Police,’ and ‘Other Voices’ stick out in that regard. But it’s the album’s more atmospheric moments that make this so worth the wait, and also a bit of a relief.
5) The National – Sleep Well Beast
Genre: Indie Rock
Standout Track: The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness
If there’s a band whose notoriety has had a more linear trajectory than The National, we’d like to see them. Sleep Well Beast is their seventh album, and things a little more daring this time. There’s intentionally slack guitar rifts, drum loops and even a bit of vocal splatter seen in the likes of ‘The System Only Dream in Total Darkness’ and some real aggression in the likes of ‘Turtleneck’. But don’t think Sleep Well Beast is going to reinvent the band’s image. Just like the aforementioned tracks, Matt Berninger and his crew still offer shivers and plenty of uneasy contemplation, they’ve just undone the top button and loosened the tie a little. Unsurprisingly given their unrivalled consistency, Sleep Well Beast grows and won’t leave until you’ve given in. This is another stunning The National record.
4) Sampha – Process
Genre: Alternative R&B
Standout Track: (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano
Those in the business have been aware of London-born Sampha’s talents long before Process. Having worked with the likes of Solange, Drake, Frank Ocean and Kanye West, among others, this year’s Mercury Prize winner has long been one of urban music’s most in demand songwriters. And having finally released his own efforts, it’s not hard to see why. Process is exactly as the title suggests; a long and achingly painful record which deals with the long cancer battle and eventual death of his mother. (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano explains this grief better than any poet or soliloquy ever can, and for us is probably the track of the year. We just hope we don’t have to wait as long for the sophomore follow-up. But we’d be happy to do so.
3) The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
Standout Track: Holding On
Following 2014’s masterpiece, Lost in the Dream, The War on Drugs frontman Adam Granduciel bagged himself a new label in Atlantic (and the budget that brings) and an industry legend in Jimmy Iovine for the band’s fourth album, A Deeper Understanding. The result was The War of Drugs’ most expansive and polished record to date. Packed with 2017’s political narratives, as well as the American group’s famed escapism, A Deeper Understanding is richer than previous records and also feels less lonely with Springsteen-inspired anthems as epic as they are melancholic.
2) Lorde – Melodrama
Genre: Art Pop
Standout Track: Green Light
When Lorde released Pure Heroine in 2013, it never truly received the recognition is deserved with many critics and audiences focusing on the New Zealand born popstar’s age as opposed to her talents. But her follow-up album, Melodrama, should dispel any talk of talent for her age. Lorde is one of the most talented pop artists on the planet, regardless of years. Melodrama is an expression of this argument in many ways, with tales of break-ups, regrets, and social anxiety told in a way only a teenager can really express. But the themes are expressed so maturely – musically with influences from dance floorfillers and R&B slow-jamz, and lyrically with vivid precision – you’d be forgiven for thinking Melodrama was Kate Bush singing about her High School years: “Broadcast the boom-boom-boom-boom and make ’em all dance to it”. There aren’t many 21-year-olds who think quite like Lorde.
1) Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
Genre: Hip Hop
Standout Track: HUMBLE.
Kendrick Lamar has something to say – each track title on DAMN. is in capital letters, just in case you were in any doubt. And following on from one of the decade’s genuine masterpieces, To Pimp Like a Butterfly, the Compton native confirmed what we all probably knew anyway before DAMN.; Kendrick Lamar is the most important living musician still making music we have. His inner war rages on as he exposes the reality of the world he occupies, while also questioning his role in it. The record fuses timeless old-school techniques with pioneering musicality, with Lamar playing numerous roles and characters in the process. DAMN. is textured, punchy and sometimes even jubilant. It’s also Lamar’s most emotionally resonant record yet; How do you proclaim yourself as the saviour but still stay HUMBLE.? Probably because he’s not lying when he calls himself the greatest. There can’t be any doubt post-DAMN.
While we have you – check out what we think were the Best Films of 2017!