Lists! They're back.
Marvel at my narrow taste in music with my top 50 albums of 2017. In reverse order of course:
50 Angel Olsen - Phases
49 Lydia Ainsworth - Darling of the Afterglow
48 Jane Weaver - Modern Kosmology
47 Torres - Three Futures
46 Jay-Z - 4:44
45 The Charlatans - Different Days
44 Little Dragon - Season High
43 Widowspeak - Expect the Best
42 Diet Cig - Swear I’m Good At This
41 Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.
40 Menace Beach - Lemon Memory
39 Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott - Crooked Calypso
38 Tired Lion - Dumb Days
37 Denai Moore - We Used To Bloom
36 The Hayman Kupa Band - The Hayman Kupa Band
35 Gary Numan - Savage (Songs from a Broken World)
34 Stormzy - Gang Signs & Prayer
33 Lana Del Rey - Lust for Life
32 Bully - Losing
31 The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Echo Of Pleasure
30 Juanita Stein - America
29 This Is The Kit - Moonshine Freeze
28 Public Service Broadcasting - Every Valley
27 Aimee Mann - Mental Illness
26 J Hus - Common Sense
25 Pale Honey - Devotion
24 Sarah Slean - Metaphysics
23 Halsey - hopeless fountain kingdom
22 Miley Cyrus - Younger Now
21 Blondie - Pollinator
20 Kesha - Rainbow
Given the horrific background, what a comeback song Praying was.
19 Kalela - Take Me Apart
Taking R&B in an electronic direction will never be wrong. A stunning debut.
18 Waxahatchee - Out in the Storm
Consistent songwriting here. 10 songs at just over 30 minutes. Like all albums should be.
17 The Blue Aeroplanes - Welcome, Stranger!
I wrote a review of this back in January for the final edition of Norwegian e-zine Luna Kafé:
...an album full of big noise, big guitars and a new set of songs that are perfect for Wojtek, the band’s legendary dancer, to excel at. 10 songs that will reward multiple listens with magnificent lyrics, outstanding production and musicianship.
A career highlight, Welcome, Stranger! is easily the most enjoyable Blue Aeroplanes record for over 20 years.
16 Ride - Weather Diaries
Lovely to have them back.
15 Stars - There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light
Saturdays are lonely
And Sundays you're alone
Still checking for the signal
For the bars on the phone, phone, phone
You can travel for a thousand miles
You can spend a thousand nights alone
You can lose your way so easily and never ever make it home
so come out with me tonight
out with me tonight
no-one falls in love under fluorescent light
14 Sylvan Esso - What Now
It's taken me a while to get into Sylvan Esso, but this is the one that's drawn me in. Loved their live set at Latitude this year.
13 Charlotte Gainsbourg - Rest
Her best album yet, by far. Luscious.
I'll forgive her for making Deadly Valentine twice as long as it needs to be. When you hit a sound like this, you've got to milk it I guess.
12 Wolf Alice - Visions of a Life
In the hands of many other bands, such a wide range of different styles would make for a bit of a mess of an album. Wolf Alice are no ordinary band though. They shine with everything they take on here - from punk to dreampop, taking in some shoegaze (!) too.
11 Nadine Shah - Holiday Destination
Political yet uplifiting, Nadine Shah restores humanity to the dehumanised.
10 Marika Hackman - I’m Not Your Man
Moving away from the stripped back folk sound of the her earlier work, this is an album I've been returning to a lot.
9 Daughter - Music from Before the Storm
A score from a game, mostly instrumentals, with no physical release and little or no publicity might not count officially as Daughter’s 3rd studio album but it should do.
It’s an atmospheric soundtrack based around a 16-year old character in a game - and is a work of beauty.
8 The Big Moon - Love in the 4th Dimension
Joyful indie guitar pop, reminiscent of Sleeper era Britpop. Marvellous.
Also, this is sort of their second entry in this list - they feature as the band on Marika Hackman’s album.
7 Japandroids - Near To The Wild Heart of Life
8 tracks. 8 anthemic bangers.
I love the noise these two generate. So exciting live.
6 MUNA - About U
“I Know A Place” is the standout track. One of many that speak of overcoming pain and fear set to the most joyful of melodies. Defiant and hopeful.
Given added poignance after Manchester and California, this song - oh god this song. Music is everything.
After the album’s release this year, it’s become even more of an LGBTQ anthem, now with added lyrics:
Even if our skin or our gods look different
I believe all human life is significant
I throw my arms open wide in resistance
He’s not my leader even if he’s my president
Watch Katie Gavin sing these extra lines, starting 3:50 in here. It gets to me every time.
There are songs of relationship trauma and other personal pain - yet when they're all delivered through big pop escapism and empowerment, there's such joy to it.
I love this.
5 Kelly Lee Owens - Kelly Lee Owens
Electronic and dreamy, this is the album that has grown on me most this year. Given another month or two I wonder if I'd have placed this even higher up.
4 Juliana Hatfield - Pussycat
My favourite musician of all time™ released a remarkable album in 2017.
In April I wrote a track-by-track review describing "Pussycat" as "the most exciting music Juliana has made since 2008's exceptional How To Walk Away" and "her most political since 2005's Made In China".
An outlet for anger unambigously "inspired" by the US Presidential election of 2016, and touching on all related issues of male privilege and abuse of power, the themes would become ever more relevant towards the end of the year as a soundtrack to the #metoo stories of mysogyny, assault, and harassment.
3 Slowdive - Slowdive
The shoegazer's shoegazers back even better than before. I still can't believe they reformed.
2 Lorde - Melodrama
Inevitably, all the (brilliant) songs on Melodrama are overshadowed by Green Light. 10 months on, whenever I play this track I still have an urge to play it again immediately.
Oh yeah, Juliana Hatfield loves it too. She wrote a whole article about Green Light for Talkhouse:
I always want music to be a tangible thing that I can wrap my actual arms around (I have hugged my boom box before), but it isn’t. I want what I can’t have. I want to sink my teeth into the sound of that rich, strong, honest voice. I want to drink and drink and gulp it down; that is the magic of a well-built and -performed and -recorded pop song. You get filled up, and sometimes you overflow with cleansing tears and cathartic shouting-along — if only temporarily — until the song is over, and then you play it again. It’s like a drug or a sugar rush. “Green Light” is ear candy.
By some distance my favourite song of the year.
1 Phoebe Bridgers - Stranger in The Alps
'Smoke Signals' and 'Motion Sickness' draw you in to this album from the start.
These opening two songs highlight the compelling storytelling and beautiful songwriting that continues throughout this record. Then it hits you. Track 3. 'Funeral'
The most perfectly sequenced track on an exceptional album. No other moment in 2017 hit me quite like the first time I heard it.