At a time when politics is almost as unpredictable as Liam Gallagher’s mood, it’s now more than ever that we turn to music to keep us sane. Whether you were actually there or watched it from the comfort of your sofa, last week’s Glastonbury proved just that, and has got us thinking about the best albums of the year so far, and what’s left to come in the music calendar for the rest of 2017. So, we took it to our staff to give a half-yearly round-up…
WHAT WE LOVE SO FAR
It’s been a great year so far for music and with every month’s new releases it gets harder and harder to pick a favourite album, with Kendrick Lamar once again producing a punchy and addictive work of art on DAMN., and Forest Swords‘ new album Compassion being truly worth the wait. But so far nothing has captivated me this year like the new Ibibio Sound Machine record, Uyai, a culturally charged house-fuelled masterpiece which sees lead singer Eno Williams invoke tribal chanting juxtaposed with commanding lyricism. Every song is packed to the gills with energy and passion, and if you’ve not yet given it a listen, I highly recommend it. (Josh Kirby)
The album I have found most enjoyable in 2017 far is probably Blondie’s Pollinator. It almost feels like a bit of a clichéd response for me, as they have been my favourite band since I was a tiny child, but I genuinely did not expect Pollinator to impress me as much as it did. I was initially sceptical when I heard that Debbie and Chris had only written two of the songs themselves and heard that the rest had been written by other artists such as Charli XCX and Sia. Despite this, the album has remained authentically Blondie and far surpassed all of my expectations, with the collaborations and covers showing the band’s appreciation and admiration of other artists. (Jesse Casey)
It’s not got much in the way of obvious commercial appeal, but Jlin’s second studio album Black Origami has been the stand-out record of 2017 for me so far. The beats are fidgety and restless in the same way that those amazing Aphex Twin records of the ‘90s used to be, but clearly up-to-date and at the cutting edge of dance like recent records by Arca, Grimes or Holly Herndon. The soundscapes are really eerie and tense like it’s the soundtrack to some horror movie not yet made. (Ed Biggs)
Neo-soul and R‘n’B is progressing beautifully this year, with newcomers Khalid and Denai Moore stepping into the scene with their superb debut albums. Kehlani’s SweetSexySavage was a versatile fifty-eight minutes that stuck within the confines of old-school R‘n’B. Ctrl, SZA’s studio album, took a more eccentric route, seeing her explore a more complex type of songwriting. Both albums are must-listens for R’n’B fans this year though the top R‘n’B album spot for me is Sampha’s Process – 40 minutes of soulful bliss. (Benita Barden)
My distortion-devoted years of teen angst may be forever behind me, but their remnants still rest at the heart of the present. Last year was all about Preoccupations, this year it’s Big Thief. Appearing earlier this month, Adrianne Lenker’s second album Capacity recalls her deepest insecurities whilst unearthing our own. Her fragile account of life’s most significant relationships excavates memories often too close for comfort, escorting us all down its own beautifully wound path. (Ollie Rankine)
I have to say for sheer art, Brian Eno’s latest entry Reflection is a personal highlight, while I was pleased to see Royal Blood and Rag ‘n’ Bone man live up to the hype on their much anticipated LPs.
But, as the well-established, self-respecting ‘metalhead’ of this publication, there are two albums that have made me a very happy man this year. The first is Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes’ sophomore album Modern Ruin where tracks like ‘Lullaby’ and ‘Snake Eyes’ only further captivate the group’s explosive façade. But for me, the greatest album released so far this year is without a doubt Mastodon’s seventh offering Emperor Of Sand. To date, it is their best-selling album and their best record since 2009’s infamous Crack The Skye. Encompassed around the band’s tragedies over the past couple of years, the album’s amazing concept and metal instrumentation is almost untouchable. (Harry Beynon)
There have been so many great albums this year; we’ve been really lucky, but DAMN. is probably the one that stands out to me. A lot of critics seemed to be lukewarm on it, but personally I can’t help but just be floored by Kendrick Lamar on pretty much every track; he sounds so fearless and raw. As his career and music progress it’s becoming clear that each project he works on is going to be different from the last, which I find really exciting, especially when so many artists are concerned about being ‘on trend’ nowadays. Kendrick is just in his own realm. (Woody Delaney)
So far, some of my favourite albums include Landmark, the debut by American band Hippo Campus, which turned out to be surprisingly refreshing and fun. The xx delivered an amazing record with which I simply will never get tired of. There are so many songs on I See You that I love and listen to almost every day. Sampha released one of the most beautiful records of the year, which I think is also likely to stay with me for many years. (Alicja Rutkowska)
Of all the things that you wouldn’t expect to sound as good as they do Dirty Projectors is probably up near the top. Who honestly was like “Yeah, let the guy who’s known for making really weird indie-folk songs go full 2016 Bon Iver and make a thematic sequel to 808s & Heartbreak”. What we got is a break-up album elevated to its highest art form, indulging in both heart-breaking allusions and melancholic trips down memory lane. What a comeback. (Ellie Wolf)
January saw the much-awaited return of The xx with their third masterpiece, I See You. Whilst Coexist didn’t quite provide individual songs as catchy and as iconic as their debut, this album is full of them, with lead single ‘On Hold’ on its way to becoming one of the songs of the year.
Elsewhere, the kings of hip-hop have also been busy this year. Drake chilled us out with More Life, whilst Kendrick Lamar got us all fired up again with the political, angry and frankly genius DAMN., that’s inevitably going to have a place high-up on those end of year lists. (Alice Williams)
It’s been a decent year for albums so far, but, for me, it is Arca‘s eponymous record which still stands as the year’s best thus far. I’ve been a fan of Arca (aka Alejandro Ghersi) for years, but it is only now that I feel he has reached his full potential with a wonderfully ambitious record. Distorting and eccentric from the off, Arca works the listener into a frenzy from the opening ‘Piel’, to the effervescent ‘Child’, nothing has delighted me as much as Arca this year. (John Tindale)
WHAT’S COMING UP
As for things to come, Arcade Fire are releasing their fifth album Everything Now, and as a person who believes that the band is incapable of writing a bad song, I couldn’t be more excited. Lead single ‘Everything Now’ is the happiest sounding song I’ve ever heard about technological alienation and I love it. #BringBackAbba2017 (EW)
For many years now, The Velvet Underground has been my go-to “who’s your favourite band?” reply. Although the late Lou Reed will never sing another note, his life-long bandmate John Cale continues to dazzle audiences everywhere. Last year’s M:FANS saw Cale revisit 1982’s Music For A New Society and his rumoured 2017 follow-up rests at the centre point of my attention. Now at 75 years of age, Cale continues to push the boundaries of contemporary music and what is said to be his first primarily hip-hop influenced album attempt is sure to meet his unwavering quality as an artist. (OR)
Whilst there are rumours of a new Kanye West project (when is there ever not?), the rest of this year’s releases seem to be dominated by rock. Following their triumphant Glastonbury set, Foo Fighters are set to release Concrete And Gold in September. We all know Dave Grohl can certainly put on a show, but it is this will reveal whether they’ve still got it in the studio.
Doing it for the bad-ass girls are HAIM and Wolf Alice, both with albums coming later this year, and if Wolf Alice’s recent single ‘Yuk Foo’ is anything to go by, Visions Of A Life is going to be a brilliantly angsty affair. (AW)
Without any doubt, the album I’m most looking forward to for the rest of 2017 is the upcoming LCD Soundsystem album American Dream. Quite aside from his arch lyrics and his position as founder of DFA, one of the greatest labels of the 21st century, James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem were the soundtrack to my undergraduate days back in the mid-noughties, and it’s going to be genuinely intriguing as to whether this can live up to their old standards after so long. Early signs have been extremely promising though! (EB)
In terms of new releases that I am looking forward to, I am expecting big things from the upcoming album from The Horrors, due to be released in September. I thought their most recent single ‘Machine’ was a brilliant track, and with their next release set to channel “dance, trance and ‘80s pop”, I’d be very surprised if they got it wrong this time (not that they ever have). (JC)
Looking forward into 2017, Foo Fighters have announced that Concrete & Gold will be released in September – cannot wait. If each track is as good as run ‘Run’, that album will hopefully be one of their best. As if that wasn’t enough, LCD Soundsystem (American Dream), Living Colour (Shade), Arcade Fire (Everything Now) and even Queens Of The Stone Age (Villains) are also releasing albums! What a year this going to be. But next month, I will be looking out for Marilyn Manson’s new release Heaven Upside Down which bears no room for disapproval as his discography is artistic blissfulness. (HBe)
Wiley’s return to a Grime sound in Godfather, has made me anticipate Dizzee Rascal’s Raskit. Grime is no longer in limbo and has been repackaged, making the whole environment competitive, meaning every MC is releasing something of note. Finally, it seems Mura Masa’s self-titled debut will come later this year. His sound consists of everything from steel drums, computerised drum-loops and harps, which I look forward to hearing in a full-length studio album. (BB)
I feel as though there are numerous obvious choices for which record I’m most looking forward to, with Arcade Fire, The National and LCD Soundsystem still to release their highly anticipated records in the Autumn. But I’m going to go for Sydney native Gordi; I caught her set at Primavera Sound this year and was enchanted by her Bon Iver styled folk. Her singles thus far have been excellent (check out her cover of fellow Australian Courtney Barnett’s ‘Avant Gardener’) and I believe she could be set to release the sleeper record of the summer. (JT)
In the next few months, I’ll be looking forward to hearing Meg Mac’s debut album, Low Blows, which she has been working on for quite some time now. I first heard of the Australian artist and songwriter in 2015 and have always thought that her sound was really special. Declan McKenna is an artist that I have been following since he released ‘Brazil’ and since then he has been nothing but great. I think that his debut, What Do You Think About The Car? will not disappoint. Finally, I couldn’t not mention The War On Drugs, they’ve recently released a couple of interesting singles which I hope A Deeper Understanding can live up to. (AR)
Chelsea Wolfe’s new album Hiss Spunn is due in September, which is a bit of a wait, but judging by the crushing lead-single ‘16 Psyche’ it will be worth it. Her discography is already stunning but this new track teases a really doomy, heavy direction and I’m excited to hear the results, especially knowing that Kurt Ballou is producing too. (WD)
What do you think of our album highlights? Be sure to let us know what you’re looking forward to and what you’ve loved so far by commenting below, or let us know on our twitter where you can follow us for lots of greats content @StudentPlaylist like this playlist of all the tracks featured below. Happy reading!
Tags: albums of 2017, albums of the year, Alice Williams, Alicja Rutkowska, Benita Barden, Ed Biggs, Ellie Wolf, feature, Harry Beynon, Jesse Casey, John Tindale, Josh Kirby, Ollie Rankine, staff lists, Woody Delaney, Writers' Round-up
Reading Music Journalism at Huddersfield University, I have a passion for all things musical. I pride myself on being open minded in music genres and have a love of writing to match. The coolest cat on The Student Playlist, I also support Hartlepool United and am an avid pro-wrestling fan.
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