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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Every album I listened to in 2016

December 31st, 2016

Just in case you were intrigued as to which records didn’t quite make the cut in my end of year favourites list, I thought I’d do a quick post to show you every new album and EP that I listened to in 2016. Not as many as in previous years but then I have less time, less money and more children than previous years. I also haven’t included any of the special edition re-releases that I got my hands on because, having being originally released in other years, I don’t think they really count.
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My Favourite Albums of 2016

December 29th, 2016

So here we are then. The end of December. Another year under our belts. Another 12 months of new music listened to. Which means it’s time to compile and post the obligatory end of year list. And as ever, I’m going to repeat what I’ve said every year since I’ve been doing this. Which is that I make no claims for these being the best, most artistic, boundary pushing, genre busting records of the year. These are merely the albums released in 2016 that I’ve enjoyed listening to the most. The records that have moved me in some way, that have meant something to me, that I have found myself returning to again and again. And as ever, they are presented in alphabetical order because music isn’t a competition and I’d probably spend far too long agonising over the order, only to change my mind the very next day.
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In November I was mostly listening to…

December 4th, 2016


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My Favourite Albums of 2015

December 31st, 2015

So… it’s that time of year where I remember that I used to write a regular blog and then put a post together where I’ve compiled my favourite albums of the year.

To break from tradition though, I’m not going to start this one with any excuses, justification or explanation of why I haven’t posted here for the last year. Instead, I’m just gonna launch straight into it. So here we go…

In order to compile this list properly, I’ve spent the last 6 weeks or so listening back to all the 2015 releases I’d heard. Surprisingly, I’d actually listened to more than I thought and the majority of them offered something to enjoy. Though not all stood up to or really enticed me enough to garner repeated listens. Those that survived the cull certainly deserve their place on the final list. What’s also good to see is, as well as some reliable old favourites, I’m still finding new music that excites me. And, while I hate to use the phrase ‘return to form’, there’s a couple of artists on there who I really wouldn’t have expected to have made the grade at the beginning of the year. All in all, I think 2015 has been a pretty good year for music and frankly, I could have easily left another 3 or 4 on there.

As ever, this list comes with the usual disclaimer. I make no attempt to suggest that these are the best, most creative or cutting edge albums. These are simply the 16 albums I’ve enjoyed and returned to the most this year. All are worthy of your time and money, so go buy them from your local record store, listen to them on your favourite streaming sites or get out and see them live if you can.

Now, without further ado or unnecessary waffle, I present to you my favourite albums of 2015.

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My Favourite Albums of 2014

December 31st, 2014

I fear I may sound like a broken record.

A needle trapped in a scratched groove, doomed to endlessly repeat the same cracked phrase over and over.

It’s been a long time since I posted here.
It’s been a long time since I posted here.
It’s been a long time since I posted here.

All I can do is offer my apologies. If this reads like a carbon copy of my post from the same time last year, then it’s for the same reason as last year. While I have on several occasions thought about resurrecting this blog with more regular posting, the reality is that life keeps bumping it down the list of things I need to do.

This is neither an excuse nor a grumble, it just is what it is.

It also means that for one reason or another, I’ve listened to less new music than previous years. Which may explain why I don’t feel like it’s been a golden year for album releases. Though I think that could itself be an excuse. In truth, I genuinely don’t think it has been a great year. As will soon become apparent, there are a number of albums that I’ve really enjoyed, I just don’t think any of them have grabbed me the way a truly great album does. Were I to make a list of my top 10, 20, 30 or 40 favourite albums of all time, I’m not convinced any of this year’s records would vie for a position. Maybe one or two, I’m not sure.

Either way, 2014 has definitely been a mixed bag. There have been several underwhelming releases from some of my favourite artists. Not bad records per se. More just albums that are simply unremarkable. Filled with the sound of musicians treading water, paddling in the tide of familiarity and lacking in anything distinctive or remarkable. Too many have felt like a collection of forgettable songs that simply fade from memory the moment the next track begins. Records that will never ever be the first one you go to when thinking you want to listen to that artist.

Which leads me neatly on to another pattern that emerged this year. Maybe it’s my age that’s doing it but this year I’ve found myself on some kind of weird yearning nostalgia trip. There’s been a lot of revisiting of classic albums and artists from my youth in the last 12 months. That, or discovering records from the 90s that I’d previously overlooked. I’m not sure if the lack of amazing new music this year inspired it, or if listening to older music has made me think this year’s been disappointing. Either way, I can’t deny that there’s something about the alt-rock sound of the 90s that I just never tire of. Though conversely, I do seem to have tired of going to gigs. Well no, that’s not strictly true. Though it is odd to think that this is the first year I haven’t seen any live music since 1991.

All of which probably sounds way more negative than I meant it to. Indeed, when revisiting all of the year’s releases to put this list together, I surprised myself with how many albums actually made the grade. Don’t be under any illusion, all of the records on this list are more than worthy of your time and money. So if there are any you haven’t heard, I urge you take a listen. Though before we go any further, it’s probably best that I repeat what I say every year. That this is merely a list of my personal favourite albums of the year. I make no claims that they’re the ‘best’ or that they offer any hitherto undiscovered insights into the human condition. These are merely the new albums I’ve enjoyed the most over the last 12 months. The records I’ve returned to again and again. As ever, the list is presented in alphabetical order because, as my end of year disclaimer always pronounces, music isn’t a competition.

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The Also Rans

December 31st, 2013

So after rising from the flames like a word spewing phoenix with yesterday’s albums of the year list, I thought it might be worth throwing a little context on the whole affair. So here for your viewing pleasure, is the full list of albums and EPs that I listened to last year. Well, the ones that were released in 2013 that is.

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My Favourite Albums Of 2013

December 30th, 2013

Hello.

I hope you don’t mind me greeting you with a simple ‘hello’ after so long away but it’s seemed like the best way to start this. I was going to begin by saying something about how long it’s been since I last posted but looking back, the last few posts seem to have started in similar ways, so I decided not to. Although technically, I guess I kind of just did.

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My Favourite Albums Of 2012

December 31st, 2012

Blimey, it’s been a while since I’ve been here. At least 6 months, maybe more. No offence but I can’t say I’ve missed it and really, it’s only since I stopped updating this blog that I realised how much I was just going through the motions. That is to say, writing about music for the sake of it rather than the love of it. Maybe this year hasn’t been great for music. Or maybe like Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon, I’m just getting too old for this shot. Who knows. Either way, I guess I kept this place alive just in case I ever felt the need to start writing again and while I wouldn’t necessarily say that was the case right now, I kind of felt like I wanted to do this post. So, just in case you haven’t had enough lists thrust at you this month, here’s my choice of favourite albums of 2012. As ever, I make no claims to them being the best, the most important, the most revolutionary or any other grand statements like that. No, these are merely the albums that I’ve enjoyed listening to the most over the last 12 months. As ever, the albums are presented in alphabetical order because to my mind, music isn’t a competition. Read more

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My Favourite Albums of 2011

December 23rd, 2011

Okay, so before we go any further, I have to confess to making a little mistake. A miscalculation shall we say. For previously, where I said that this list consisted of 13 albums, it appears I counted wrong because there are actually 14. Clearly my maths skills aren’t what they used to be. Not that it makes much difference. These are still my favourite albums of 2011. So without further ado, I present to you, in alphabetical order, the 14 albums that stood out for me over the last 12 months.

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