Friday, 14 July 2017

40 Favourite Albums of 2017 so far... (21-40)

This is part 2 of my favourite albums of the year so far. Go and read part one first if you haven't. Although saying that, they're only in alphabetical order.

Albums that closely missed out include Hot Thoughts by Spoon as well as Snow by The New Year. I've let their people know they were so close to blog immortality, and I'm told they're devastated. Frank Ocean's 2017 singles as well as LCD Soundsystem's new EP would have made the list, but you've got to have rules to follow, and they're definitely not albums. Tough shit.

Justin Walter - Unseen Forces
Favourite Tracks: Unseen Forces, Sixty, Soft Illness, Red Cabin

I've only just noticed this, but that's a great bit of cover art. A late entry, but some of the most enjoyable minimalism I've heard in a long time. 

Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.

Kung-Fu Kenny, King of Hip-Hop. Obviously it's here, you can stop worrying - easily within my top 40 in fact. Naturally, he drops 'b***h' and the n-word left, right and centre, so be careful how you sing along ('HUMBLE' a particular challenge). I think it might be more consistent than To Pimp a Butterfly, and I've played it just as much. It hasn't hit the zeitgeist in quite the same manner, but that surely is the fault of Bono, rather than K-dot. Either way, his name now brings a seal of consistent quality. I thought there would be two albums, I was disappointed.

Laurel Halo - Dust
Favourite Tracks: Sun to Solar, Koinos, Moontalk

Quite different to her previous albums, this is experimental-pop rather than electronic dance music. The production on the album, and synths in particular, are mesmeric and dreamy. One of my favourites of the year so far.

Les Amazones d'Afriques - Republique Amazone
Favourite Tracks: Dombolo, Doona, Anisokoma

When you google their name the first sentence returned is 'Les Amazones d'Afrique are an all-female collective of west African musicians campaigning for gender equality'. Hopefully that sells it. 'Dombolo' is second to 'Chanel' by Frank Ocean for my favourite song of 2017. 

Mac Demarco - My Old Man
Favourite Tracks: Still Beating, This Old Dog, On the Level, Moonlight on the River

Return of the Mac. It's probably not one of the best albums of the year, but I love Mac Demarco. His lyrics are still sweet, with more introspective here than his previous efforts. However, sometimes he knows the perfect mixture of jangly, noodling guitar and synths, and sometimes he doesn't get the instrumentation right. I just want to be his mate mostly.

Man Forever - Play What They Want
Favourite Tracks: You Were Never Here, Twin Torches, Catenary Smile

Driving, pulsating, modern drum-jazz, with appearances from Yo La Tengo and Laurie Anderson to boot? Yes please. (Note for Jazz-ophobes: It's not too jazzy, I promise).

Marco Shuttle - Systhema
Favourite Tracks: Adrift, I Fail. You Fail., Eris

There's huge variety on this album, so it's quite hard to pigeonhole. At times it focuses on melody, other times it's happy to lose melody completely and focus on noisey rhythms and abstract soundboards. But pigeonhole we must. Ambient Techno. Next!

Moiré - No Future
Favourite Tracks: Secret Window, Casual, Bootleg

Piss-poor cover, almost as bad as Babyfather's BBF (I seriously don't get this Union Jack thing at all). However, this is full of bass-driven UK dance/techno tunes. Good stuff.

PAN [label] - Mono No Aware
Favourite Tracks: Fr3sh, Held, Second Mistake, Exasthrus (Pane)

This is actually a compilation album, but all of the artists are on the label PAN - who have also put out records by Keith Fullerton Whitman, Oren Ambarchi, Rashad Becker, Objekt and Aaron Dilloway. The title of the album is actually Japanese, and it means 'an empathy towards things' apparently. I thought it was meaningless English. Anyway, it's a great collection of Ambient pieces. 

Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked at Me
Favourite Tracks: Real Death, Ravens, Forest Fire, Swims, My Chasm, Toothbrush, Crow

Christ. Phil Elverum (of the The Microphones fame) has recorded some good albums as Mount Eerie. This is very different though. It's a very real, detailed, heartfelt and immediate meditation upon the sudden illness and subsequent death of his wife, and the mother of their young child, Geneviève Castrée. Most of the tracks were recorded in the room in which she died, one of which was only 11 days after.  Even though this is one of my favourite albums of the year, I've only managed to listen to it through about 5 times. Have some tissues at the ready, because it will probably make you cry. 

Nicholas Britell - Moonlight OST
Favourite Tracks: The Middle of the World, The Spot, Knock Down Stay Down, Black's Theme

It's the best film I've seen this year, and the best film soundtrack I've heard too (Mica Levi's Jackie soundtrack deserves mentioning, but I think it was released last year). The chopping and screwing of classical pieces, as well as the inclusion of Hip-Hop and R&B classics make for an emotional listen. It's hard to listen without divorcing it from the film, but I think the soundtrack stands up by itself. 

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs - Feed the Rats
Favourite Tracks: Psychopomp, Icon

Is this metal? I hope not. Let's call it rock. Either way, it's groovin', space-y, desert-y and psych-y. I've heard they're great live too. It's like a heavier Kyuss without Josh Homme and his cronies, which can only be a good thing. Also, is their stupid name a riff on the Buffalo sentence thing? Surely not. Surely.

Richard Dawson - Peasant
Favourite Tracks: Beggar, Ogre

At first his voice really grated on me and it's a concept album about the jobs people had in Dark-Ages Northumbria. It does not sound like my type on paper. But, the Quietus eventually ground me down, and I finally gave in. The melodies at times are modal, and typical traditional English folk - think Shirley Collins - but there is experimentalism here too. You might not like it at first, but listen 10 times until you do. That's a good use of time, right?

Rodrigo Amado - The Attic
Favourite Track: Shadow

I could pretend to know about the Lisbon Jazz scene, but I don't. Apparently the quartet are all big names. All I know is it's great improv-jazz and Amado is a sick saxophonist. Warning: this is quite jazzy, and possibly not for everyone.

Saagara - 2
Favourite Tracks: Uprise, Daydream

Wacław Zimpel, alongside an Indian orchestra. Takes from lots of genre's, and Zimpel always seems to hit the mark for me.

Shit and Shine - Total Shit!
Favourite Tracks: Chklt Shk, Excess Laziness Egotism, Dodge Pot

Turn it up loud and treat yourself to a little dance. I have no idea how you're supposed to say 'Chklt Shk', but it's a great track. It's noisy, rock-influenced electronica, that's all about fun. It doesn't take itself seriously at all.

The Moonlandingz - Interplanetary Class Classics
Favourite Tracks: Black Hanz, I.D.S, The Rabies are Back, Neuf de Paps, Glory Hole

Half of Fat White Family team up with some guys from the Eccentric Research Council to present The Moonlandingz. I like the former and had never heard of the latter, but I prefer this to both of them. Yoko Ono is on the album, as is Philip Oakley from the Human League. I feel like the cover conveys exactly how it sounds. I hope they tour more, I think it would be great.

The Necks - Unfold
Favourite Tracks: Rise, Overhear

It is quite long, but it can go by quickly. Even thought it's percussive multi-instrumental jazz, it creates a lovely soundscape to dip in and out of. In fact, you could listen to it on loop several times without realising it. Dare I say it seems to be circular in structure - perhaps even folded? Reign it in, Loughlan. Reign it in.

Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory
Favourite Tracks: Crabs In a Bucket, Big Fish, 745, Yeah Right, Homage, Party People

Looking over my choices, there's much less Hip-Hop on this list than I expected there to be. This, alongside Kendrick, is the only 'rap' from this year which makes my cut - Loyle Carner, Wiley and BROCKHAMPTON just lost out, whilst RTJ and the new Tribe album was last year. Vince Staples is funny on and off the mic, but this is goofy and easy-going in a way his last project wasn't  - true of the lyrics, and true of the excellent production too. It's more mass-market in focus than Summertime '06, and without the chaff of the '06' half.

Visible Cloaks - Reassamblage
Favourite Tracks: Bloodstream, Terrazzo, Moon

Japanese inspired ambient music. Lots of bleeps, bloops, hums and hisses, packed around wonderful, meandering, clicks and melodies. I'm running out of adjectives. 40 is a lot.

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40 Favourite Albums of 2017 so far... (21-40)

This is part 2 of my favourite albums of the year so far. Go and read part one first if you haven't. Although saying that, they're ...