It’s that time of year again.
We compiled our contributor’s top ten records of the year and, using highly advanced calculations, figured out the most popular albums across our lists.
20. The Barr Brothers – Queens of the Breakers
Queens of the Breakers is an album created during a period of self-imposed exile from the world and its distractions. The outcome is an exceptional collection of songs that break new ground for a band that had been searching for a true identity. With the extraordinary “You Would Have to Lose Your Mind” as the album’s centre piece, it becomes clear that the band have had a moment of clarity.
Try out: “You Would Have to Love Your Mind” & “Defibrillation”
19. Wolf Alice – Visions Of A Life
Not only is Visions Of A Life a superior effort to the superb debut My Love Is Cool – but it’s one of the best albums of the year. There’s anger and spite, but plenty of sweetness and compassion. Wolf Alice have toured a lot since 2015 and that experience, doubtless, has widened their scope and ambition. Whilst the attention from their debut release could have gone to their heads, they have instead produced yet another collection of enormously accomplished songs, both in the heavier and approachable indie tracks. Proving that they’re our finest band at present, this London quartet are inspiring legions of fans – including young girls – and showing us all what a rock band should be.
Try out: “Don’t Delete the Kisses” & “Heavenward”
18. Viewfinder – Born Ticking
Almost dangerously mesmerizingly, Born Ticking entered the world as a byproduct of Joel Burton’s self-taught lessons. Returning home to London after dissolving his noise-rock band, the album was written as he reeducated himself in the ways of subtlety – an obvious quality once you immerse yourself in its 9 expansive tracks. Born Ticking spins cowpunk, jazz instrumentals and post-rock into a fluid tapestry of memories, thoughts and flashbacks – dusted with deft observations and glimpses of hope. It’s an eclectic masterpiece, fluent in heartbreak and effortlessly excellent.
Try out: “Limit to Forgiveness” & “Instant Moonlight”
17. The National – Sleep Well Beast
It’s easy to revel in the human and real way The National write. There’s no grand metaphors, nor pretentiousness – only the exploration of sweeping emotions wrapped in something tangible and heart-warming. This is just another example wherein this great band make melancholy and heartbreak into something shimmering and beautiful. The National, being the assured songwriters they are, yet again turn misery and mishap into a singularly staggering record.
Try out: “Day I Die” & “Guilty Party”
16. Kelly Lee Owens – Kelly Lee Owens
There is an earthly fluidity to Kelly Lee Owens’ debut album; a living, breathing quality in its pace and development. Richly atmospheric and dreamy, this record sits somewhere in between minimal techno, ambience and ethereal dream-pop. With help from the sampling of rainfall and birdsong on “Arthur”, it seems to create vivid landscapes as it meanders between downtempo intervals and bubbling, contorting techno-synth. Kelly Lee Owens is a hugely impressive debut album that feels totally natural, both in its creative composition and its musical evocation.
Try out: “CBM” & “Arthur”
15. Weaves – Wide Open
A gloriously skittish ball of weirdo-pop released mere months after their debut album, Wide Open continues to perform the balancing act that Weaves execute so immaculately. But Weaves also open up a vulnerable core previously guarded with fizzing guitar and quirky vocals. Jasmyn Burke and co finally let the curtain fall on the masterpiece title track, acoustic guitars pathetically strumming whilst Burke makes her feelings known. Revealing depth to a band so wrapped up in glee that they never even let on they could, you know, feel, this album is a glorious suckerpunch to an attentive audience and a reliably riotous party for those just looking for thrills.
Try out: “Walk Away” & “#53”
14. Courtney Barnett, Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice
An affecting, soothing album of country-tinged songs, Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett’s partnership couldn’t feel any more natural. From “Continental Breakfast” and its tale of long-distance friendship, the six-minute opener “Over Everything” and Kurt Vile’s “Blue Cheese”, this is a terrifically immersive listen from start to finish. Whilst there are a couple of songs not up to the lofty standard we’d expect from songwriters of this calibre, there is a consistency to Lotta Sea Lice that makes it stick in the senses. You’ll find yourself singing along to certain lines and captivated by two warm, close-knit musicians who, one hopes, will collaborate again.
Try out: “Peepin’ Tom” & “Continental Breakfast”
13. Priests – Nothing Feels Natural
Nothing Feels Natural is a stilted, snarling, erratic record that feels bound only by its sheer tenacity and frustration. Consistent throughout are some of the strongest vocals I’ve heard all year in Katie Alice Greer’s bottomless wailing. Post-punk, indie, jazz, funk – there are times when all genres feel amalgamated into one, held together by a propulsive force. It may at times feel like a biting record, but some of its greatest moments – such as on “Jj” – come in impassioned displays of vulnerability.
Try out: “Jj” & “No Big Bang”
12. Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy
Featuring artists such as Frank Ocean, Jaden Smith, Lil Wayne, A$AP Rocky, Estelle, Rex Orange County and already nominated for a Grammy – Flower Boy is one of those albums that won’t be forgotten quickly. Using his singing voice more than ever and venturing into recording with a live band, this might well be Tyler’s best since 2013’s Wolf. The jarring combination of sweet, mellow cuts such as “See You Again” with the thrashing sounds of “Who Dat Boy” encapsulates the unpredictable and ever-compelling nature of Tyler’s personality. A bold follow up to 2015’s Cherry Bomb, Flower Boy remains one of the stand-out hip hop records of the year.
Try out: “911 / Mr. Lonely” & “See You Again”
11. Thundercat – Drunk
Thundercat’s Drunk provided one of the undisputed ultimate musical treats of year. Pairing absurdly complex yet hugely enjoyable musicianship with equally ridiculous yet contemplative, somber lyrics, Drunk is a magical utopia of funk, hip-hop and soul.
Try out: “Show You The Way” & “Walk On By”
10. King Krule – The OOZ
Messy, unfocused and yet still seductively intoxicating, The OOZ is the second album from Archy Marshall under the King Krule moniker. Smothered by a lengthy tracklist, multiple delights lay just below the surface of the swampy, white-noise opiate production employed on its seventeen tracks. Forcing together genres normally best left apart, Krule drags jazz into trip-hop and punk into dance, leaving him giggling behind the heady clash he’s meticulously masterminded to induct committed listeners into his sleepy South London. Shedding casual fans like a new skin, The OOZ may be challenging, but it is all the more rewarding for it.
Try out: “Biscuit Town” & “Czech One”
9. Alex Cameron – Forced Witness
Alex Cameron’s sophomore LP Forced Witness, released in October, is a sugary portrait of a witty, yet somewhat tragic arsehole. Its 80s grooves and synths provide a backdrop for a heartbreaking list of confessions and shortcomings, as our ageing protagonist tells stories of failure, self-restraint and questionable online behaviour. One can’t help but sympathise with a man who would otherwise remind you of somebody’s uncle knob-head. The suitably melancholic Angel Olsen gets in on the act with a few vocal appearances, as does Cameron’s saxophonist and ‘business partner’ Roy Molloy with the occasional sax solo.
Try out: “Stranger’s Kiss” (ft. Angel Olsen) & “Runnin’ Outta Luck”
8. Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger in the Alps
An album of such intimate experience, Phoebe Bridgers’ Stranger in the Alps is in equal parts characterised by deathly contemplation, foreboding metaphor and trembling affection. Masking crippling anguish and heartache with overwhelming beauty, Phoebe Bridgers writes with an honest (and sometimes brutal) perceptiveness that repeatedly knocks the air out of your lungs. An incredible debut album from a young artist who is wise and talented beyond her years.
Try out: “Motion Sickness” & “Killer”
7. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
“Last LP I tried to lift the black artists”, Kendrick spits on “ELEMENT”, “but it’s a difference between black artists and wack artists.” In light of his socially conscious and culture-shifting classic To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar is allowed to question the credibility of other rival artists around him. On DAMN, it’s clear Kendrick’s mindset and intentions have shifted somewhat. His creative approach has broadened, not confined by the discourse of inner-turmoil and social injustice. Instead, we get a huge amalgamation of sounds, genres and topics. With DAMN, Kendrick Lamar effortlessly proves to the world that he can pick and choose his sonic direction without flinching. Whatever the message he wants to bring to the table. Hip hop, trap, pop, indie, duets, politics, introspection, beef – it really doesn’t matter what he does – Kendrick is a master of it all.
Try out: “LUST.” & “ELEMENT.”
6. Lorde – Melodrama
2013’s Pure Heroine was an album few expected from such a young talent. The record introduced to the world a very intelligent and skilled young songwriter. Its follow-up, Melodrama takes that a step further and signals Lorde as one of the finest young talents in music. Breaking the charts as well as hipster publications, the songs are far richer, deeper and enduring than anything in the pop mainstream. Lorde takes a mature look at fractured love and anxieties, providing an utterly compelling and unpredictable vocal performance throughout. With this rate of progression so far, it’s almost frightening to think what her third or fourth album may sound like.
Try out: “The Louvre” & “Writer In The Dark”
5. Alvvays – Antisocialites
Antisocialites makes an argument for holding frontwoman Molly Rankin as one of the decade’s best new songwriters . Songs like “In Undertow”, “Not My Baby” and “Dreams Tonite” stand out as some of the strongest indie anthems of the year and strike the right balance between freshness and faith to tradition. Possibly the most genuinely charming record released this year, Alvvays have found a great formula in shimmering guitar, Rankin’s breezy vocals and fuzzy surf-pop choruses.
Try out: “In Undertow” & “Not My Baby”
4. Brockhampton – Saturation I, II & III
One year, forty-eight songs, three genius albums and a whole load of other creative projects somehow squashed into just twelve months. 2017 will be remembered as the year of BROCKHAMPTON. Taking their cue from Frank Ocean or Tyler, The Creator, this self-proclaimed American boyband is re-shaping our vision of contemporary hip hop by questioning hegemonic ideas of masculinity in popular music. Saturation I is the first part of a trilogy that is bound to become one of the most celebrated musical phenomena of the 2010s. These releases have been a hugely enjoyable introduction to the fascinating world of a group of artists willing to shatter our conceptions of rap music for good. With potential to be remembered as one of the greatest, get listening now and you won’t regret it.
Try out: “SWEET” & “GOLD”
3. IDLES – Brutalism
This is the punk album that post-Brexit Tory Britain has been waiting for. Full of feverous discontent, Brutalism is an onslaught of Conservative Britain, backwards values, ignorant idiocy and modern life. The anger is authentic and stinging. But at so many points, that anger is delivered with a wonderfully sharp cynicism and sarcasm. Frothing at the mouth, furiously powerful, frankly political and at times very funny. I can’t remember the last time a British punk record felt as brutally honest and effective as this.
Try out: “Stendhal Syndrome” & “Well Done”
2. (Sandy) Alex G – Rocket
Rocket is an album of extremes and rich diversity. Alex takes influence from country and folk more than ever, but often also dives into dark, heavy punk. The transition from “Brick” to “Sportstar” for example feels like a transition from Death Grips to Elvis Depressedly. He isn’t afraid to go personal with his lyrics, but his storytelling remains as oblique as ever. The ever interchanging mood is at times a little frenzied and discordant, but it’s this sense of internal conflict that makes this record feel so recognisably human. Another great album in an ever-growing list of brilliant records, (Sandy) Alex G yet again takes us on a blustering tour of his head.
Try out: “Bobby” & “Proud”
1. LCD Soundsystem – american dream
It’s fair to say that american dream was met with as much apprehension as excitement upon its initial announcement. Many fans were understandably concerned that LCD Soundsystem’s reunion project wouldn’t live up to past juggernauts. But LCD’s first studio album in seven years not only lived up to exhilarating dance-punk expectations, it took a step beyond previous releases in terms of its arresting vulnerability and untempered emotion. Their most richly varied record thus far, Murphy combines darker, haunting songs about endings and loss (e.g. “black screen” & “i used to”) with characteristically infectious dance pieces (e.g. “tonite” & “other voices”). If all of that isn’t enough, LCD Soundsystem bless us with two of their strongest tracks to date in the preposterously great “oh baby” and “how do you sleep?”. Silencing and reassuring all of the original doubters, american dream is without doubt one of the best reunion albums of our lifetime.
Try out: “oh baby” and “how do you sleep?”
Words on albums from: Joe Horsman, Jake Crossland, Elli Brazzill, Sharissa Lee, Sam Liddicott, Callum Sheppard, Alberto Andrés, Joe Smith, Iain Fox and Max Pilley.
Listen to our playlist here, or below: