Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Best Albums and Gigs of 2017

Fix yourself a cup of eggnog, throw another log on the fire and crack open one last box of chocolates because it’s time for my Top Ten Albums of 2017. As usual it’s been genuinely difficult to whittle the contenders down to a mere ten. There’s a lot of albums I’ve heard this year that, on a different day, could have ended up in the final list.

So besides the one’s I’m about to go on about, I’d also thoroughly recommend albums by The Bug vs Earth, Laura Marling, Bjork, Alvarius B, Mogwai, Boris, Run the Jewels (OK, technically this one was Christmas 2016 but close), Flogging Molly, Earthen Sea, James Murray, Six Organs of Admittance, Grails, Jessica Moss, øjeRum , Melvins, Euros Childs, Action Beat and Tunabunny.
2017 really has been a great year for new music.

Anyway, here’s my top ten!

1.       Pissed Jeans- Why Love Now
One of my favourite bands of the last ten years, Pissed Jeans can always be relied on to provide an intelligent, fun and scuzzy take on punk rock. Why Love Now is one of their strongest records to date. Matt Korvette’s lyrics still go places others don’t while the band has never sounded better. Riffs, humour and 21st Century anxiety. 

2.       Piano Magic- Closure
It’s somewhat frustrating to finally discover a band only to find out that they’re calling it a day. Closure is one hell of a closing statement though. Sprawling, melancholic indie with some of the finest songwriting I’ve heard in recent years. The title track is nothing short of breath taking.

3.       The Fall – New Facts Emerge
It’s very sad to hear that our beloved Mark E Smith hasn’t been too well recently. He is, however, sounding on fine curmudgeonly form on this cracker of an album. Hard to say if it would win round any doubters but New Facts Emerge is a fresh, muscular and noisy highlight in a discography littered with great LP’s.

4.       Nadah El Shazly- Ahwar
Nadah El Shazly provided one of the year’s most unique and startling musical statements. Ahwar may require patience and a few listens before it starts to really make sense but persevere and you’ll be rewarded. It’s an album rich with invention, experimentation and inspiration. Here’s my review.

5.       Sophie Cooper & Julian Bradley- The Blow Volume 3
Vibracathedral Orchestra’s Julian Bradley teamed up with fellow sonic adventurer Sophie Cooper to create one of the year’s finest experimental releases. 40 minutes of avant-garde soundscapes comprised of ambient drones, ethereal voices and hypnotic sounds. Undeniably strange and unquestionably beautiful.

6.       The Cribs- 24/7 Rock Star Shit
For a while there I think I lost touch with The Cribs. 24/7 Rock Star Shit pulled me right back in though. Ticking all the boxes my inner teenager would demand; engineered by Steve Albini? Check. A raw, catchy and uncompromising return to their roots? Check. A really enjoyable album of fuzzy indie-punk? Check. Here's my review.

7.       Colossloth- Heathen Needles
On one of my trips to The Golden Cabinet night in Shipley I was lucky enough to catch a set by Leicester’s Colossloth. Heathen Needles replicates all the intensity while taking us on an intriguing, densely layered sonic journey of twisted electronica, drone and noise. An album that balances the ambient with the unforgiving; expect the unexpected. 

8.       Crystal Fairy- Crystal Fairy
I was lucky enough to see the Melvins again this year yet despite releasing a rather brilliant album of their own I have to go for this collaborative effort. Recorded with Omar Alfredo Rodríguez-López of Mars Volta fame and the irrepressible Teri Gender Bender from Le Butcherette’s, Crystal Fairy is a non-stop riff ride. Bender’s performance is magnetic throughout.

9.       Sleaford Mods- English Tapas
Everyone’s favourite sweary East Midlanders Sleaford Mods have continued to plough their own furrow. Williamson’s lyrics mix social commentary with a healthy dose of surrealism while Fearn’s beats take us into hypnotic and strange places with the likes of ‘Time Sands’. English Tapas couldn’t have been made by anyone else. Here’s my review.

10.   Gnod- Just Say No to the Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine
The album title alone could secure its place in many a top ten list. Thankfully, Manchester’s Gnod back up the bold statements and iconic album artwork with something genuinely powerful. With a host of bludgeoning riffs and an axe to grind, Gnod have never sounded so vital.

OK, so if you’ve made it this far you may be interested to hear a little about my….drum roll please...

Top Ten Gigs of 2017

I’ve spent most of my year hanging out in my favourite venue, The Brudenell Social Club but have still found time to venture elsewhere. Including a couple of arenas. So many great shows to choose from but this is what I’ve decided on. Click to get the review. See what you think:

3.       Iron Maiden- Leeds Arena

I also managed to see Swans, Hookworms, Goat Girl, Sunn0))), The Mountain Goats, Julian Cope, Cherry Glazerr, Nadia Reid, Jeffrey Lewis, Wolves in the Throne Room, JK Flesh, Part Chimp, Demdike Stare, Hawkwind, Girl Band, Six Organs of Admittance, Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers, Blood Sport, Bong and…well, all the others too. Thanks to Soundblab I really do get to go to a lot of gigs. Here’s to going to more in 2018!

  And if all that still isn’t enough. Here’s a YouTube playlist I’ve made for 2017.

Have a Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year

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