Best Albums of 2018

A momentous thing occurred, I got my laptop back, I missed it so much. As a result I am finally getting around to my list of the best albums of 2018. As in previous years I have to have listened to them. Im sure there are a load of great albums out there that I just haven’t heard, but all those in the list below I have and, in most cases, own a copy of my own. Now you can just quickly scroll through if you like, I don’t mind, but there’s an accompanying track to listen to for each album, and they are worth a listen. Feel free to disagree or point out something I may have missed or that I really should be listening to.

37 – Poliça ft s t a r g a z e – Music for the Long Emergency

I’m a big fan of Poliça and have another collaboration of theirs that they did with s t a r g a z e, although it was an instrumental re-imagining of a Steve Reich piece. I prefer the tracks with the more aggressive distorted vocals than the cleaner more melodic vocal tracks but it’s a decent release. The track below is the more melodic side of things developing into a rather avant-garde instrumental.

36 – Jimi Hendrix – Both Sides Of The Sky

The Hendrix vault is surely now empty, but this is a rather good way to bring it to a close. His version of ‘Mannish Boy’ is fabulous and the production trickery that has been used to make the tracks sound somewhat more contemporary work very well indeed, and it’s
a previously unreleased recording which was the first ever studio session by the group Hendrix would christen as his Band Of Gypsys.

35 – Thom Yorke – Suspiria (Music for the Luca Guadagnino Film)

This is Yorke’s first full length film soundtrack and he decided it would be pointless to replicate or reference the soundtrack of the original Suspiria by Goblin, instead, he cited inspiration from the 1982 Blade Runner soundtrack, musique concrète artists such as Pierre Henry, modern electronic artists such as James Holden, and music from the film’s 1977 Berlin setting, including krautrock acts such as Faust and Can. There’s only one vocal performance on this soundtrack, but that is sort of what one would expect.

34 – Gabe Gurnsey – Physical

I have the 1200 limited Rough Trade copy of this, and I didn’t buy it by choice as such, it was part of the monthly record club subscription, but I really like it. This is his debut album and, supposedly, is meant to represent a night out in a club. I’m too bloody old to know if that works or not but the whole thing is very listenable while sitting in my armchair as well, so perhaps it doesn’t, who knows? Not me.

33 – Mogwai – Kin (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Another soundtrack, from a film I’ve never seen, but it’s Mogwai and I like Mogwai a lot, so not having seen the film isn’t really a problem for me.
KIN is a movie about a futuristic bazooka that can blast walls out of buildings and instantly turn people into dust, sounds fun, though the soundtrack is seemingly somewhat understated for that plot line. I can listen to Mogwai on a loop for days and for me this is just more of their music to listen to, which makes me happy.

32 – Ólafur Arnalds – re:member

Arnalds is the guy who did the music for the TV series, Broadchurch, which is quite marvellous. If you get a chance to watch the show listen out for his soundtrack. This album of 12 tracks is utterly beautiful to listen to and experience. It’s what classical music, so named I suppose for its timeless nature, is today, using electronic instruments and programming to create what is almost the bottled essence of beauty.

31 – Eels – The Deconstruction

I’ve been meaning to buy a copy of this for quite a while, though I’ve listened to it a lot. There’s a a double 10″ yellow vinyl in my local record store, soon it may be mine. This album reminds me a lot of ‘Daisies of the Galaxy’, which is probably my favourite Eels album, in that the songs are instantly likeable and, to quote pitchfork, “It feels like a career-straddling greatest hits collection in which all the ‘hits’ are brand new.”

30 – Suede – The Blue Hour

I came late to Suede, although I knew many of the earlier tracks from hearing them on the radio. My charity shop trawl for cheap CD’s have turned up 3 or 4 Suede CD’s and I’ve given them a good listen, and there was a good documentary on a couple of months ago as well. As a result I came at this album from a different angle than I previously would have. It’s an album of lush songs and quirky flourishes and it harks back to the past while remaining contemporary.

29 – David Byrne – American Utopia

An album that received mixed reviews on its release but I like it, it has plenty of Byrne oddness and some pretty good tunes as well. “Everybody’s coming to my house” with Brian Eno is a highlight but the whole thing hrks back to Talking Heads to a degree without actually being them.

28 – Neneh Cherry – Broken Politics

Neneh Cherry has never really seemed to me to have been taken as a serious artist, in general terms at least, but her work with Four Tet on this, and her previous release, are a long way from her hits of the 80’s. There are some misses on the album but when it woeks it really works. Side note: Cherry sang the backing vocals on The The Slow Train To Dawn by THE THE in 1987.

27 – Idles – Joy As An Act of Resistance

I’ve had so much trouble deciding about this album. Do I get it? Do I actually like it, is it any good? Well here it is at number 27 in my albums of the year so the answer is self evident, sort of. It’s bullish, aggressive and angry but that is exactly the sort of thing I was listening to in the late 70’s, and since to be honest, though not exclusively. While I find Sleaford Mods somewhat one dimensional, and there is a fair comparison between them and Idles I think, this album is at least 2D, drifting occasionally into 3.

26 – Gorillaz – The Now Now

A surprise release really, so hot on the heels of Humanz. For this album there are less guest spots, limiting themselves to only two tracks this time, with opener ‘Humility’ containing the unmistakable guitar work of George Benson and Snoop Goog & Jamie Principle on ‘Hollywood’. There was soe criticism of Humanz for the number of guest spots but I was OK with it, on the other hand, this release works really well with jut a few.

25 – Here Lies Man – You Will Know Nothing

I have the Indie Stores release of You Will Know Nothing, and though I loved the previous debut album, this is even better than the debut. It has much more light and shade, much more variation between tracks to keep the listener interested and, perhaps, provide for more repeated listenings. The Indie Only release is a blue splatter vinyl, and very nice it is too. Officially it is, according to the record company:-  “very limited u.k ‘light blue clear’ exclusive indies only lp”. I’ve no idea how limited, they don’t say.

24 – Sons of Kemet – Your Queen is a Reptile

This album was nominated for the 2018 Mercury prize and while I have nothing against winners ‘Wolf Alice’, this is a better album, and more relevant as it celebrates women of colour (their words not mine) who may not be all that well known, such as Nanny, queen of the Maroons, who presided over a spectacularly successful guerrilla force of escaped slaves, or Yaa Asantewaa, an Ashanti queen who resisted the white colonialists, Boudicca-style. It is also rather anti-monarchy, which is something I personally struggle with, seeing pros and cons of our current set up. Regardless, give it a listen, its really very good. Oh, and the album title is a reference to David Icke i think.

23 – The Shacks – Haze

I happen to be rather pre-disposed to a whispered female vocal so that was a plus from the start, think Stina Nordenstam if she was shouting, so very whisperery is she, and that is close to Wise’s vocal throughout the album. To make comparisons, or perhaps more bits that made me think of other bands, I felt bits of The SundaysThe Cranes and the aforementioned Stina Nordenstam. I’m also reminded of Death & Vanilla at times, and I love Death & Vanilla so there are elements of several bands/artists that I really like popping up throughout the tracks on this album.

22 – SRSQ – Unreality

This one is still fairly new to me having seen it mentioned on a youtube video I was watching a month ago, but I’ve listened to it an awful lot since then and that says a lot as if I thought it crap I wouldn’t. It’s fair to say that there are quite strong influences from early 4AD bands and I hear Cocteaus, This Mortal Coil, Dead Can Dance floating around, but I love them so I’m going to be predisposed to like this album.

21 – Poppy Ackroyd – Resolve

Neo Classical is a thing nowadays, which is fine by me, as a genre I like it. Poppy Ackroyd, who is also a member of Hidden Orchestra, uses piano and other instruments differently to most, using them as a percussive element and incorporating looping at times as well as other devices to produce some sublime music. I have all her solo work so I am completely biased, but it doesn’t mean I’m wrong, listen for yourself.

20 – Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer

Prince comparisons will always be made for Monae, she’s got The Purple One’s punk, mad-scientist approach but creates a world all of her own with rap, soul, pop, R&B, space-rock and whatever the hell she wants really. This album pretty much dispenses with her alter ego and she presents songs as herself, and a very interesting self it is.

19 – Aphex Twin – Collapse EP

Technically an EP, by virtue of the fact that it is one, however, I’m including it anyway, because I can. There is an intricacy to the tracks that make them perhaps more interesting than some of his other recent releases and, I think it fair to say, he is in a class of one when it comes to this genre, to the point I’m not entirely sure what the genre is.

18 – Bodega – Endless Scroll / Witness Scroll

The band are from New York and the album was recorded and produced by Austin Brown of Parquet Courts and if you like them, you might well like this, although there are a 100 different influences seemingly informing the music, some I can’t quite identify, while others are easier to spot, such as The Fall or Wire. It’s an amalgamation of post punk, contemporary pop, hip-hop, krautrock, and folk-derived narrative songwriting which congeal into a rather pleasant mess, of sorts.

17 – The Future Sound Of London – My Kingdom Re-imagined

A re-release for record store day 2018, I have the original from 1996 and this is quite different even though it i the same. I’m aware that makes no sense but it’s true. A mini album more than a 12″ inch single, the tracks are updated, in both production and arrangement to give something recognisable but new, there, that makes more sense.

16 – Public Image Ltd – Concert: Live At The Brixton Academy 27.5.86

Another RSD 2018 release which I added to my now quite extensive P.I.L collection. As with any live album, it captures a moment in time and this particular moment was when P.I.L where actually impacting the singles charts with tracks like Rise, included in this set. I could be wrong, I could be right, I like it though.

15 – Daniel Blumberg – Minus

Blumberg is an English artist, musician, songwriter and composer who has released music under a variety of names, including Yuck, Hebronix, Oupa, Heb-Hex, and Guo, of which I have heard of exactly none. He has also collaborated with musicians including Low, Silver Jews, Lambchop, Neil Hagerty, Seymour Wright, Terry Day,  Jad Fair and Norman Blake, of whom I have heard of exactly some. This is an album of fingernails down the blackboard and tiny, fragile beauty, each perfectly placed. I saw the title track performed on Jools Holland, a wonderful performance, and it was rather nice knowing who the hell he was having already received and listened to the album.

14 – Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 – Black Times

I think it reasonable to state that if you hear a song and it makes you go out and buy the album it came from then you are on to something good. This is exactly what happened for me with this. Seun Kuti, youngest son of late and great Fela Kuti, if you don’t know him look him up, Fela died in 1997 and Seun, then only 14 years old, became the lead singer of Egypt 80, continuing his fathers human rights activism through music. This is his fourth album and I’m recommending it to everybody, even if I don’t think they will like it!

13 – Rosalía – El Mal Querer

I like modern flamenco, who knew? Not me for sure, until I was told what genre this actually fell into. Apparently the album is based on a Occitan novel from the 13th or 14th century and documents a toxic relationship where the mans jealousy drives him to imprison a woman. This was part of her degree thesis I believe and the whole album was under her complete control, delivered to the record company for distribution only. It is a triumph.

12 – The Amorphous Androgynous – The Isness (The Abbey Road Version)

This is not a choice based on sales as only 1000 copies were made for Record Store Day 2018 on 180 gram vinyl. I have one, hooray for me. This is basically The Future Sound of London again and the original of this is quite scarce and is relatively expensive because of it. This is a different version but still magnificent.

11 – Fever Ray – Plunge

Swedish singer Karin Dreijer is completely bonkers, which is why I like her. Previously best known as one half of The Knife, alongside her brother, Olof, Dreijer, she has changed quite dramatically from her first solo record, the one which contained the opening music to The Vikings, and this is much more in the pop spectrum at times while still retaining that certain something that shrouds everything in strangeness. It is no understatement to suggest that at some point in the future she will be talked about in the same way that Bjork has been up until now.

10 – Belle & Sebastian – How To Solve Our Human Problems (Part 1 – 3)

Here we are at the top ten, which opens with an album that was released as three 12″ E.P’s, sold separately, or in a box all together. I didn’t know there was a box, I bought them individually which is lovely from a marketing perspective as they were £11 each, so £33 for the album, bit steep but I don’t have regrets. If you like witty, tuneful indie-pop then you will find it here.

9 – Suuns – Felt

I stumbled across Suuns quite by accident a few months after a record store day a couple of years ago. There was a remix album still in the racks so I streamed it in the record shop and bought it, because I liked it. I then bought their next album and then this one. There is something slightly off kilter and dark about Suuns that I can’t adequately articulate, but it makes me like them.

8 – Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

I’m not particularly a fan of Artic Monkeys, not that I dislike them, I just don’t normally pay them very much attention. Radio 6 played a track from this album that I heard in the car and that afternoon I saw it for sale in a supermarket, so I picked up a copy. As Tranquility Base Hotel is a lounge-pop concept record set in a casino piano bar on the moon I think I was quite right to be intrigued by it and though it has had mixed reviews, I salute their desire to try new directions and, personally, I think the songs on it are great.

7 – Lump – Lump

Lump are Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay (founding member of Tunng) and they may, or may not, release another album as Lump, but this one record they’ve put out I absolutely love. It came as part of a Rough Trade subscription so it was a complete surprise but I’ve played it, and enjoyed it a lot since it arrived and that, I think, is the best way to decide if an album is actually any good or not. Decide for yourself.

6 – Jack White – Boarding House Reach

As I have all the White Stripes Albums, plus some Dead Weather the Raconteurs and some Jack White solo albums there was a pretty good chance I was going to like this album, and I do. It’s not all hits, ‘Why Walk a Dog/’ leaves me a little cold but otherwise it’s solid. ‘Over & Over’ must have been, to my ears, influenced by Frank Zappa because I hear him all over & over it.

5 – S U R V I V E – RR7400

This was a Record Store Day release 2018 and limited to 1600 copies (I have one). Apparently, according to the hype sticker ‘S U R V I V E pays homage to the Peel Sessions with nine new studio recordings of songs from their live set. In case you aren’t aware 2 of the guys from S U R V I V E created the Stranger Things soundtrack. So, for complete transparency, I absolutely love S U R V I V E, not just the music but becasue of all the analogue synths they use and how, even though it is quite creepy at times, I find it comforting.

4 – Mogwai – Ten Rapid (Collected Recordings 1996-1997)

Another RSD 2018 release, and the last on this 2018 list. Limited to 2000 copies (yes, I do have one) and technically a re-release, although it’s never been easy to get. I do love Mogwai, and they appear in this list twice as a result. This one is a compilation originally released in 1997 that brings together various songs recorded and released between 1996 and 1997. “Tuner”, for example, is a rerecorded version of the band’s March 1996 debut double A-sided single, “Angels versus Aliens” is a rerecorded version of the July 1996 split single with Dweeb. “A Place for Parks” was given away free to attendees of a show in Camden. “I Am Not Batman” was given away free to attendees of the Ten Day Weekend Festival in Glasgow, so none of these are tracks that would easily be found and when I first played it I hadn’t heard them so it is just like a new album to me.

3 – Kamasi Washington – Heaven And Earth

In many ways this album is ridiculous, 5 discs, one of which is hidden, 10 sides of music. Fortunately, it is great music. It can be a little overwhelming as a package but it gives the whole thing longevity when there is so much to discover. Some traditionalists consider his sound derivative, but almost everything is in some way and it feels like elitist crap to me to suggest it. The one true measure of whether music is good or not is made by the individual listening to it, if they like it they like it. And I, and many others, love this album. Opening with ‘Fists Of Fury’, a cover from the soundtrack of the Bruce Lee film is just brilliant, and referencing the video game Street Fighter (video below) is somthing I’m pretty sure traditionalists wouldn’t approve of, but who cares? Not me. It’s an expensive package on vinyl, but get CD’s, stream it, listen and love it.

2 – Solomon Grey – Human Music

I stumbled across Solomon Grey quite by accident when browsing in a record store and finding their debut album, a double, discounted to £6, I took a chance and it paid off massively. Sometimes there a artists who just speak to you and through repeated listenings they just somehow get into your bones, Solomon Grey are one of these artists for me.

Many of the tracks have a cinematic quality, listen to Clouds for example, it really is quite beautiful. I think CultureFly sum it up in this sentence: symphonic electronic indie that sits somewhere between M83, Damien Rice and the Stranger Things soundtrack. If you like your jams as cool and hefty as an iceberg, this is the music for you.

1 – Spiritualized – And Nothing Hurt

And here we are at my number 1 album of 2018. I’m always excited at a new Spiritualized release and this time i got the special edition, which comes in a 2-piece card box containing: Orange 140g vinyl, 24 page book & download card. I can’t remember when I last used a download card though. Jason Pierce is Spiritualized and this album is his eighth under that name, but he claims it is the last, if so it’s a damn fine album to end on.

I did see Spiritualized a couple of years ago and it was equally unlistenable and beautiful, 7 minutes of dissonance followed by 7 minutes of joy, and so it went on. It made the overall experience less than satisfactory, unlike this album, which has track after track of greatness. The sognwriting seems to have improved over the course of his career and there is a fragile tenderness evident which tells more than perhaps was intended. Just go and buy it.

Albums of the year – 2017

It is that time of year again where everybody does their albums of the year, even though the year isn’t over yet. Do any of these list makers include December 2016 releases in their year, or maybe they discount it as it is filled with Christmas releases. So here are the 30 albums that I think are the best of the year, and every one of them is on my record shelf, if I don’t own it then I can’t really think it the best can I? I don’t think so.

30 Gary Numan ‎– Savage: Songs From A Broken World

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I saw Gary Numan this year, between the release of the first single taken from this album and the album release. I was also part of the Pledge Music campaign thing so I saw a lot of it being made and heard the songs develop. I thought they were great live and good on the album, but that is most likely because I heard everything the wrong way around. It’s a dark album, but a very good album.

29 Poliça and Stargaze ‎– c: Re imagining Steve Reich’s Music For Pieces Of Wood

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On record store day I picked up the LSO version of Steve Reichs Music for Pieces of Wood, and then this came out. It is really very good and is a completely different version with instruments being used and it has some vocals. It is only about 20 minutes long so some may not agree that it is an album, but they don’t make the rules here. It is well worth a good listen.

28 Arca – Arca

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This album came as a complete surprise to me as it is nothing like the last release, it has vocals from Arc, they are semi-operatic perhaps? Probably much of it is in Portuguese, I don’t know, it’s difficult to describe so have a listen and decide for yourself. It has some really nice textures and effects and despite hating it on first listen it quickly grew on me and I rate it very highly now.

27 William Basinski ‎– A Shadow In Time

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A two track album, one side each, is quite short for Basinski after his Disintegration Tapes that were spread out over several volumes, but the comparative brevity is not a problem, the loops carry you off and only on a couple of occasions do they snap you out of your ponderings. The first track is a twenty minute tribute to David Bowie complete with underlying saxophone and, for both tracks, the way the music fills space makes it almost tactile.

26 Richard Pinhas ‎– Reverse

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Described as guitar drones but this album delivers much more than that. The live drumming is fantastic and really fills out the sound of the great guitar work from Pinhas. It runs to four tracks totalling just under 50 minutes and spending that time listening to this is time well spent.

25 Tinariwen – Elwan

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This is the seventh full-length release for the Tuareg blues-rock band and features guest appearances from Alain Johannes, Mark Lanegan, Matt Sweeney, and Kurt Vile. It is a great listen from start to finish and has often kept me company on the long drive to work as it is quite uplifting rhythmically and not knowing what all the words mean matters not at all.

24 Mondkopf ‎– They Fall, But You Don’t

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On the evening of November 13th, 2015, Paul Régimbeau began making music in his Paris studio as Mondkopf for the first time in over a year. It was the night of the coordinated suicide bombings and shootings that killed 130 people across Paris and the nearby suburb of Saint-Denis. What resulted was the opening track of the album, setting the tone for the tracks to come. Each of the tracks is prefixed with ‘Vivere’, which is Italian for ‘To Live’ . This album took repeated listening, but it really pays off.

23 Brian Eno – Reflection

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Brian Eno released Reflection, the latest in a series of ambient albums that started with 1975’s Discreet Music, on Sunday, January 1, 2017. The title and conspicuous release date seem to suggest his intentions for the 54-minute recording. Reflection doesn’t unfurl so much as ripple and resonate with a measured pace, keeping its pensive tenor constant. Eno calls it “thinking music”—or, more specifically, “provocative spaces for thinking”—and says he initially hadn’t intended for it to be released. Perhaps after a year that he described as “pretty rough,” he thought the world could use something made for self-reflection. https://www.residentadvisor.net/reviews/20298

22 Sampha – Process

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An album that is probably in many best of lists for 2017, and rightly so. It is a quite beautiful series of songs whose genesis was surely in the years building up to its release after 10 years in the music industry and the passing of his mother after a long illness. It is heartfelt and real, which may be why it was the worthy winner of the Mercury Prize for Music, the panel chose right.

21 Jlin – Black Origami

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The second album from Jlin, Black Origami” is driven by a deep creative thirst which she describes as “this driving feeling that I wanted to do something different, something that challenged me to my core. Black Origami for me, comes from letting go creatively, creating with no boundaries. The simple definition of origami is the art of folding and constructing paper into a beautiful, yet complex design. Composing music for me is like origami, only I’m replacing paper with sound. I chose to title the album “Black Origami” because like “Dark Energy” I still create from the beauty of darkness and blackness. The willingness to go into the hardest places within myself to create for me means that I can touch the Infinity.”  Fair enough.

20 Sufjan Stevens • Nico Muhly • Bryce Dessner • James McAlister ‎–Planetarium

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I have been listening to Sufjan Stevens for a lot of years now and always find his releases to be interesting. Planetarium is an album co-composed with Bryce Dessner (The National), James McAlister ( Ester Drang, Aqueduct) and Nico Muhly (Composer).  Flanked by a string quartet and a consort of seven trombones, this collaborative ensemble has assembled an expansive song cycle that explores the Sun, the Moon, the planets and other celestial bodies of our solar system (and beyond) through soundscape, song, science and myth.

19 Actress – AZD

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This is the fifth full-length studio release for electronic artist Darren Cunningham and was inspired by such things as Blade Runner, Rammellzee, and Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem. I bought it on a whim and have liked it since the first play. It’s not the easiest of albums but I like lots of albums that aren’t easy listens, which is often the appeal. The album has been described as retro-futuristic, which is a bloody stupid label. A better guide would be sort of left field garage, electro and house, probably.

18 Public Service Broadcasting – Every Valley

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The first I remember hearing of Public Service Broadcasting was the single taken form this album, They Gave Me A Lamp, on Radio 6 while in the car. I absolutely loved it from the first listen, and not just because the subject matter was very dear to me relating as it does to the coal mines of South Wales, but because it felt to me like a lot of the post-rock I listen to but with interesting vocal samples over the top for a different texture. A great album in my opinion .

17 Hidden Orchestra  – Dawn Chorus

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Odd one this as I bought a previous release, Archipelago, and didn’t like it all that much at the time but since listening to this current release I’ve revised and am happy to admit that I was wrong, first impressions are not always right. As the current album unfolds you’re drawn into the world it creates through its atmospheres and textures, complete with birdsong, and it is a lovely thing to experience.

16 Oneohtrix Point Never ‎– Good Time (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

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Another album that first came to my attention via Radio 6, this time from the non-representitve of the rest of the album single featuring Iggy Pop, which I think is so good it warrants the album purchase on its own. What you get as well though is all the context leading up to this final track, through samples, rather unsettling echo chamber ambience, Vangelis and Moroder influenced synth sounds and a rather tense atmosphere. It’s intense and brilliant.

15 The Future Sound Of London – Archived : Environmental : Views

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I love FSOL, which is all I need to say really, but I’ll add more anyway. This is a triple vinyl with each record specific to a series. The Archived section pulls 8 previously released tracks from the series (which are mostly only available digitally) but in some cases new mixes of these tracks have been created specially for this release. The other 9 tracks are unreleased Archive. Then there is the Environmental series, this time with 16 new tracks and finally , Views which brings together much of the piano work FSOL have done over the years and also includes 2 new cover versions of tracks by Brian Eno and his brother Roger Eno. It’s a winner.

14 Mogwai ‎– Every Country’s Sun

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This album shows that there’s plenty of life in left in Mogwai yet, and they’re changing and developing whilst also addressing the past. Most importantly, they’re still creating interesting, vital albums. If I’d bought enough 7″ singles this year then ‘Party in the Dark’ would be in my top twenty of the year, but I didn’t, I think I probably got three at most, which doesn’t make for a good chart really. Almost went to the Roundhouse to see them live but didn’t make it, which was a shame as I found out too late about their performance of ‘Atomic’ at Coventry Cathedral to go as well, but if you get a chance check out the Radio 6 live performance from this year then do, it’s fab. (You can find it here https://youtu.be/AAVvqWeqgx8)

13 David Rawlings ‎– Poor David’s Almanack

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I really do believe that Dave Rawlings is a master craftsman, it’s not just the harmonising he does so well with Gillian Welch, or the wonderful guitar playing, not even the wonderful song writing, but also the sound and tone of the tracks as they swell off the record and fill the room like a bloody big hug. I’ve seen them both live and their spellbinding live performances are inform how I listen to this album, but regardless, this is Americana, it’s damn near perfect and it’s timeless.

12 Tricky – ununiform

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I think this is the most consistent release from Tricky for a little while now and the return of Martina Topley-Bird, even if only for one track, is a welcome one any the end of the album, after several other guest appearances from Francesca Belmonte, Asia Argento, Scriptonite and more. There’s a really good consistent feel to the tracks and the production which makes for a really good listen from an album that seems Maxinqyuae-esque, and that was a masterpiece.

11 Godspeed You! Black Emperor ‎– Luciferian Towers

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I’ve read some negative reviews of this album, but everybody is entitled to their opinion, even if it’s wrong. I had it on pre-order and was delighted to hear it in full when it arrived. Admittedly, this is far from a reinvention, but sometimes you have to give the people what they want, and I feel they’ve done that and it is strangely uplifting in places, which is not a usual thing for GYBE.

10 Death And Vanilla ‎– To Where The Wild Things Are…..

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I am rather obsessed by Death and Vanilla and now have everything they’ve released on vinyl including a pre-order for their second live improvised film soundtrack. This release is probably the best song related of the two so far, with California Owls being a bonifide single that in an alternate reality where my musical tastes are what passes for pop would have been a hit. Broadcast and Stereolab are the touching points if you need them, and for me they are on a par. I love everything about them.

9 Kelly Lee Owens – ‘Kelly Lee Owens’

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I bought this because I liked the cover, I’d never heard of Kelly Lee Owens before but to me she seems extremely accomplished on this debut album of layered, atmospheric tracks blending minimal techno, dream-pop, Krautrock and ambient drone into an incredibly listenable and interesting album. Quite the find based on nothing more than liking the look of it.

8 Björk – Utopia

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Do I like Vulnicurna? I didn’t at first, but I think I possibly do now. So do I like Utopia, well I like it more than Vulnicurna, I’m pretty sure about that. It is more of a collaboration with Arca than a solo album, and I do really like everything that is going on behind the voice. The album requires listening to differently I think, not in expectation of  anything like the tracks from her first four releases. Do that and it is really very rewarding.

7 Four Tet – New Energy
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Kieran Hebdan is a firm favourite of mine so there was absolutely no doubt that I would be getting this latest release which is as consistently good as ever. For a composer who always seems to be looking forward, Hebden unexpectedly revisits previous sounds with a touch of Rounds,  a bit of the free jazz of Everything Ecstatic, a drop of Pink and the sprawl of Morning/Evening. it is a very accessible listen and highly recommended by me.

6 Gorillaz – ‘Humanz’

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The return of Gorillaz after a seven year gap with a host of guest appearances from from Jehnny Beth, Danny Brown, Benjamin Clementine, D.R.A.M., Del La Soul, Peven Everett, Anthony Hamilton, Grace Jones, Zebra Katz, Kelela, Popcaan, Jamie Principle, Pusha T, Mavis Staples, Vince Staples, and Kali Uchis, blimey! It is an album of the now, rallying as it does, indirectly at times, against the current world political situation while still managing to have some top tunes.

5 Forest Swords ‎– Compassion

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Bought on a whim and loved in a moment. I was absolutely delighted with what I was listening to when this first went on the turntable. I knew roughly what I was getting as I’d heard a track online but had no idea that the album as a whole would be as good as it is. This is the second full-length release for the electronic project of Matthew Barnes and for most it is a slow burner but, haunting as it is, it pays off hugely. The Highest Flood is a stunning track that is almost religious in its grip on heart and mind.

4 Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

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Well it’s Kendrick Lamar, who rarely seems to put a foot wrong. It isn’t the best album he’s ever released, but the quality of his previous output was so high that achieving brilliance with DAMN. isn’t quite enough to be at the top of the output pile.  It is an hour of Lamar playing with a varied sonic palette and impressionistic melodies that still somehow to spawn perfectly evolved ear-worms.

3 Slowdive – Slowdive

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Completley ignored by me until 2017, Slowdive are a band I should have been into 25 years ago but for reasons I am unable to explain I never took the time to listen to anything, until this year when I heard, once again, on Radio 6. I bought the album at the record store and have worn out the grooves (I haven’t, it’s just an expression, stop taking everything literally). I love the sound of everything they’ve done, and I now have all their albums, and though I sort of regret missing out, it has been like discovering a new favourite band with 4 albums just waiting for me to listen to them.

2 Mew – Visuals

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There is something about Mew that I just don’t hear from other bands that I really like and I was really rather excited about this new release, it didn’t let me down. It’s perhaps more pop oriented than previous releases, evidenced by hearing a track being played in some women clothes shop I was dragged into for my opinions on blouses (the track was 85 Videos in case you were wondering, no blouse was bought). This album is not going to be high up on any other chart of the year, or even included, but these are all my opinion and I love it.

1 Max Richter ‎– Three Worlds: Music From Woolf Works

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Max Richter’s score for a narrative dance piece, Woolf Works, is a masterpiece of minimalist storytelling. The score opens with “Word”, inspired by Mrs. Dalloway. The second act is based on ‘Orlando’, considered Woolf’s most personal work and concludes with the sounds of waves lapping in the middle of the ocean. It is a stunningly beautiful work that is tinged with melancholy, particularly when Gillian Anderson’s voice drifts in to read Woolf’s suicide letter to her husband, Leonard. An unexpected choice for my number 1 album of the year perhaps but is just too good to be anywhere but at number 1. It doesn’t figure anywhere in other lists of the year that I know of, which is a terrible omission but speaks at least for the ridiculous number of music genres that I like, hoorah for me.

Outside the top 30:

A couple of mentions of albums that. on another day, could have been in my top 30, but not today, maybe tomorrow:

Bonobo – Migration: I just haven’t listened to it enough, my fault.
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Gustavo Santaolalla, Mogwai ‎– Before The Flood: Same reason, I think I’ve played it all the way through once, needs more time from me.

There are, of course, many more records out there that were released in 2017 that deserve to be in somebody’s list of the year, but if they aren’t on my record shelf I haven’t included them. The new Baxter Dury would be one of these, I’ve ordered it but it hasn’t arrived yet, which is a shame as it definitely would be in the top 30.

So that’s me, what would be in your best of 2017?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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