To Die By Your Side

My Favourite Albums of 2017

December 31st, 2017

I’ll be honest, I’ve been putting off doing this post for some time now.

For two reasons really.

Firstly… it’s been so long since I properly wrote about music on here or anywhere else, that I’m not entirely sure I still can. I fear my descriptive powers may have lessened through lack of use and that I may not be able to string together any better reasoning than, I like the way it sounds.

And secondly… choosing my favourite albums of the year has proved rather harder than in recent years. Not because of a dearth of good music mind you. Far from it in fact. To my ears, 2017 has been a flipping great year for music. No, what I’ve actually struggled with, is narrowing down my list to a manageable amount. One that doesn’t seem like I’m just recommending almost every single album I’ve listened to. So while I have managed to settle on a final 16, there are at least another 10 or so that I could easily argue deserve to have been added to this list. But I’ve tried my best to be as brutal as possible, culling any record that is missing something that stops it from being truly great.

As ever, I make no claims that these are ground breaking, barrier pushing records. They are merely the albums released in 2017 that I’ve enjoyed the most, returned to most often and would recommend you add to your record collection. And, as I repeat every year, music isn’t a competition, so I present this list not in numerical order, but in alphabetic order.

So without further ado, here are my favourite albums of 2017.

Arcade Fire – Everything Now (Buy)
I’m not sure if it was a reaction to the controversial (to some) marketing campaign that preceded its release or if it was simply time for a backlash, but Everything Now seemed to take a fair bit of a kicking from certain quarters of the online community. To my ears though, it’s a delight. A natural progression of the disco sound they’d hinted at on Reflektor and thankfully they’ve exercised a certain amount of restraint and produced a record that is shorter, tighter and more focused than the last couple of releases.

Listen to ‘Everything Now (Live Session Version)’

Broken Social Scene – Hug Of Thunder (Buy)
A welcome return for everybody’s favourite indie collective, Hug Of Thunder manages to be reassuringly familiar without ever becoming a lazy pastiche of former glories. Despite their 7-year absence, it’s like they’ve never been away.

Listen to ‘Halfway Home (Live Session Version)’

Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice (Buy)
In which the slacker king and queen team up for a gloriously laid back set of songs that show off both artists natural charm and obvious friendship. Courtney is as wonderful as on everything else she’s released and her presence here seems to have reined in the rambling excesses that usually stop me from fully enjoying Kurt’s solo work.

Listen to ‘Continental Breakfast (Live Session Version)’

Elbow – Little Fictions (Buy)
There’s something reassuringly reliable about Elbow. Whether it’s Guy Garvey’s gruffly angelic vocals, his wonderfully romantic lyrics or the bands beautifully elegant melodies, there’s always something to delight in. Whether deliberately or not, on Little Fictions, they’ve stepped back away from the stadium filling anthems that were starting to feel a little forced and expected, to a subtler kind of song that doesn’t need to be a crowd pleasing sing-a-long in order to connect with their audience.

Listen to ‘All Disco (Live Session Version)’

Grandaddy – Last Place (Buy)
It’s been a year of triumph and tragedy for Grandaddy. They returned with their best set of songs since The Sophtware Slump, yet suffered the untimely death of bassist Kevin Garcia. How that will impact on their future isn’t clear but for now we have another lo-fi fuzzy indie gem to delight in.

Listen to ‘This Is The Part (Live Session Version)’

The Horrors – V (Buy)
After a couple of enjoyable but forgettable albums that seemed content to merely tread water, The Horrors fifth album is jam packed with big pop anthems. If your idea of pop is a goth-synth-indie mashup that is.

Japandroids – Near To The Wild Heart Of Life (Buy)
While it may be more polished and expansive than their previous releases, Near To The Wild Heart Of Life retains the white knuckle rush that is unmistakably Japandroids. It’s as enjoyable, if not quite quite the full on rock attack, as anything they’ve released before.

Kelly Lee Owens – Kelly Lee Owens (Buy)
I forget where I first read about Kelly Lee Owens but her name kept cropping up on the various music websites I find myself reading. So i figured that many people can’t be wrong. And they weren’t. Her self titled debut albums pulses with electronic beats that alternate between soft airy ambient pop and spectral dance.

LCD Soundsystem – American Dream (Buy)
Now this is how you reform a band! With every record LCD Soundsystem release, I find myself proclaiming it their best yet. Once again, I find myself doing just that. That they can come back after calling it quits with a record this good is testament to how important this band really is.

Laura Marling – Semper Femina (Buy)
Another Laura Marling album, another inclusion on my favourite albums of the year list. This time around it’s a collection of musings on femininity that stretch her folk based music far and beyond the conventional confines. In lead single ‘Soothing’, she produced one of the sultriest, slinkiest and best songs of the year.

Listen to ‘Nothing, Not Nearly (Live Session Version)

Liam Gallagher – As You Were (Buy)
Let’s be honest, after the crash and burn demise of Beady Eye, there can’t have been many people crying out for a Liam Gallagher solo album at the start of the year. Yet here we are with As You Were sitting pretty on this list. While it may not stray very far from the Oasis template of old, there’s no denying that the songs really do live up to the hype Liam promised. Though, considering there was a team of talented songwriters working away on it, maybe it would have been more of a surprise had it been a dud.

Listen to ‘Wall Of Glass (Live Session Version)’

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Made The Moon (Buy)
Not to be out done by his little brother, Noel roped in producer and DJ David Holmes and came up with a record that is the least Oasis sounding record he’s ever made. Experimental (for Noel) and flirting with a kind of poppy psychedelia, Who Made The Moon is a joyous and uplifting listen from start to finish.

Listen to ‘It’s A Beautiful World (Live Session Version)’

Pumarosa – The Witch (Buy)
I first came across Pumarosa on Later With Jools Holland and was so taken with their performance of the track Honey, that I went out and bought the album the very next day. It’s been a while since I bought a record based on one listen to one song but in this case, the risk more than paid off. With a sound that’s grooves in a baggy psychedelic indie meets electronica kind of way and vocals that at times feel shamanic in delivery, this is an awesome debut.

Listen to ‘Lion’s Den (Live Piano Only Session Version)’

Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark (Buy)
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it seems to be the rule of law on Royal Blood’s second album. Picking up where their debut left off, there’s certainly nothing broken about the mix of loud riffs and thundering drums served up here.

Listen to ‘Lights Out (Live Session Version)’

Waxahatchee – Out In The Storm (Buy)
I’d read the name Waxahatchee many times in recent years but never found myself ever actually listening to them. That all changed when I heard opening track and lead single Never Been Wrong which bursts out of the speakers in a blast of furious yet focused rage stemming from the end of a relationship. It’s a tone that barely lets up across the rest of the album.

Listen to ‘Never Been Wrong (Live Session Version)’

Wolf Alice – Visions Of A Life (Buy)
On their second album, Wolf Alice stretch their musical muscles and veer from loud and messy, to soft and hazy. In lesser hands it would probably sound like a right old dog’s dinner, but Wolf Alice masterfully manoeuvre the various sounds into a coherent record that flows beautifully.

Listen to ‘Heavenward (Live Session Version)’

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