Thursday, 13 July 2017

40 Favourite Albums of 2017 so far... (1-20)

I felt bad for posting such a boring second piece, so I thought I'd write something more fun, and much more self-indulgent for the next. Now an egomaniac after writing one blog piece, rather arrogantly I thought I'd list my top 40 favourite albums of the year so far. I'm sure you're desperate to tell me which Uruguayan psych-jazz and Icelandic ambient scat-house albums I've missed. That's why the list very much falls into the category of 'reckons'.

That being said, making the list - which mostly just involved scrolling through Spotify - made me rediscover music I'd forgotten about. If you get a chance, it was more fun than I thought it would be.

Here is the first 20, in alphabetical order. The second 20 will follow later. What a tease.

Actress - AZD

Favourite track: Blue Window, X22RME, Dancing in the Smoke

Raised in Wolverhampton, Actress has tapped into something special. Subdued dance music, that's great to work to.

(Sandy) Alex G - Rocket
Favourite Track: Bobby, Proud, Brick, Powerful Man

Full of great songwriting, this is Alex G blending genres, left and right. It truly pains me that he is so prolific at so young. I just love Alex G, and this is one of his better albums.

Arca - Arca

Favourite Track: Piel, Desafío, Anoche

Quite different to his previous two albums, Mutant and Xen, Arca deciding to sing on the album really changes its focus. I have no idea what he's saying, but I'm sure it's light, happy-go-lucky and playful (It's definitely not - listen with caution).

William Basinski - A Shadow In Time

Favourite Track: For David Robert Jones

There are only two pieces on the album, but 'For David Robert Jones' (Bowie to the rest of us) is my favourite Basinski piece I've heard since Melancholia.

Bing and Ruth - No Home of the Mind
Favourite Tracks: The How of it Sped, Starwood Choker

Minimalist ambient music all acoustically recorded, and released by 4AD. This is really really lovely.

Blanck Mass - World Eater
Favourite Tracks: Rhesus Negative, Please, The Rat

Dumb Flesh was good, but I think this might be better. It's ever so slightly more accessible, but still all consuming. Listen with headphones.

The Caretaker - Everywhere at the End of Time (Stage 2)

Part 2 of James Leyland Kirby's project as The Caretaker, in which he documents the experience of dementia taking hold through the medium of turntable music. Part 1 is great listening, but the distortion of memory is beginning to really take ahold in Stage 2. Listening to this piece becomes quite disconcerting by the end, at least it makes me feel uncomfortable. I haven't listed a favourite track as I really think you should listen to the whole thing (Stage 1 included).

Colin Stetson - All This I Do For Glory

Favourite Tracks: Spindrift, In the clinches, All this I do for glory

Not Stetson's best, but not every album is Catch-22 (or New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges in this case). If you've never heard him play I suggest listening to an album first, and then watching him play on youtube. It still impresses me that all parts of the pieces can be played simultaneously.

Blue Iverson - Hotep
Favourite Tracks: Soulseek, Brown Grrrl

A free release by Dean Blunt, this isn't much more than noodling at times. It's short and sweet, and I've listened to it quite a lot - so something must be good about it, right? I'm bending my own rules here as it's more of a mixtape, but this should still be available to download for free online. He released this alongside another project he recorded in 2014 with Joanne Robertson, called Wahalla, check them both out.

D. Glare - 4 Oscillators & 130 Samples at 130bpm
Favourite Tracks: 1, 2, 4

Of course sampling has always been closely linked to live-performance, but I think to record your first attempt must be some kind of nod towards E2-E4 by Manuel Göttsching. The end result is nothing like that, but there are real moments of brilliance here. There's also a fair amount of filler, but squeezing variation out of such tight restrictions must be difficult. I suppose the clue is that oscillation is central to the piece.

Demdike Stare - Wonderland
Favourite Tracks: Curzon, Hardnoise, Fulledge (Empty-40 Mix)

This really taps into the breakbeat-techno groove I've been in recently. Combines American Footwork influences with British Jungle. Good beard too.

Forest Swords - Compassion

Favourite Tracks: The Highest Flood, Raw Language, War It

I don't really know what genre this album would fall into to be honest. I've seen it described as 'wordless protest music', and that seems apt. How very 2017.

GAS - Narkopop

Favourite Tracks: Narkopop 2, Narkopop 7

The king of Ambient Techno is back. and now it's on Spotify so you can listen all the time. It's not Königsforst, but what is?


Favourite Track: Bodies for Money, Real Man

It really promises a lot with a title like that, doesn't it? It's full-on, so listen when you want to let off steam.

GP Hall - Industrial Blue

Favourite Track: Fahrenheit 451, Charmouth Beach

I can't remember how I found this, but you'll have to go here for this one. As soon as I heard the first track I knew I'd like it. Industrial soundscapes, with all the sound created on guitars. Not recorded this year, but only just issued.

Happy Meals - Fruit Juice

Favourite Tracks: Lá Lábas, Fruit Float, Suivez Moi

Fun, bleepy-bloopy poppy dance. Which is exactly what the fantastic cover-art promises I suppose.

Ibibio Sound Machine - Uyai

Favourite Track: Give Me a Reason

I dare you not to have a dance. British born, West African influenced. Lots of fun. Pretty much here on the strength of the first two songs alone.

Jane Weaver - Modern Kosmology

Favourite Tracks: H>A>K, Slow Motion

I'm going to call this 'Cosmic Pop'. Very easy to listen to, with some lovely lyrics I'm told (I don't know, I rarely take them in). I'm just a sucker for synth pop really. 'H>A>K' really is excellent though.

Jay Som - Everybody Works
Favourite Tracks: The Bus Song, Baybee, Everybody Works, 1 Billion Dogs

This is indie-rock at it's best. It's catchy, and it has strength in depth. Apart from the first track, which I'm not a big fan of, every track is at least quite good. It's very NME, and I don't even care.

Jlin - Black Origami

Favourite Tracks: Kyanite, Holy Child, Nyakinyua Rise, Hatshepsut, Never Created Never Destroyed

One of the best of the year so far, I've probably listened to this at least 20 times. Jlin has cemented herself as the rallying point for her genre. Even though it has Holly Hearndon and William Basinski on, I don't think it's better than Dark Energy - but just go and listen to them both as soon as you can.

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