It’s that time of year again. The last twelve months, if a crappy twelve months in many regards, certainly delivered some excellent releases. I trawled through my iTunes library and had a hard time picking one-hundred releases I wanted to highlight as my favourite from 2017. Still I managed it. Let me know where I went wrong. Craig.
100) Head North – The Last Living Man Alive Ever in the History of the World (Bandcamp)
99) Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog (Bandcamp)
98) Deaf Havana – All These Countless Nights
97) ’68 – Two Parts Viper
96) Hot Water Music – Light It Up
95) Circa Survive – The Amulet
94) Citizen – As You Please (Bandcamp)
93) nothing, nowhere – Reaper
92) Smidley – ST (Bandcamp)
91) Diet Cig – Swear I’m Good At This (Bandcamp)
90) Eisley – I’m Only Dreaming (Bandcamp)
89) Decade – Pleasantries
88) Charly Bliss – Guppy (Bandcamp)
87) Slaughter Beach, Dog – Birdie (Bandcamp)
86) The Ongoing Concept – Places
85) Propagandhi – Victory Lap
84) Queens of the Stone Age – Villains
83) Gnarwolves – Outsiders (Bandcamp)
82) While She Sleeps – You Are We
81) A Will Away – Here Again (Bandcamp)
80) Cloud Nothing – Life Without Sound (Bandcamp)
79) PVRIS – All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell
78) Broken Social Scene – Hug Of Thunder
77) Beck – Colors
76) Enter Shikari – The Spark
75) Morrissey – Low In High School
74) Muskets – Chew (Bandcamp)
73) Born Without Bones – Young at the Bend (Bandcamp)
72) Great Grandpa – Plastic Cough (Bandcamp)
71) Captain, We’re Sinking – The King of no Man (Bandcamp)
70) Eidola – To Speak, to Listen (Bandcamp)
69) Tigers Jaw – Spin
68) At the Drive-In – Interalia
67) Have Mercy – Make The Best Of It (Bandcamp)
66) Los Campesinos! – Sick Scenes
65) Lights & Motion – Dear Avalanche (Bandcamp)
64) Sorority Noise – You’re Not As ___ As You Think (Bandcamp)
63) Blis. – No One Loves You (Bandcamp)
62) Hodera – First Things First (Bandcamp)
61) Baths – Romaplasm
60) Turnover – Good Nature (Bandcamp)
59) Us and Us Only – Full Flower (Bandcamp)
58) Maria Hackman – I’m Not Your Man
57) Daisyhead – In Case You Missed It (Bandcamp)
56) Incendiary – Thousand Mile Stare (Bandcamp)
55) Malevolence – Self Supremacy
54) (Sandy) Alex G – Rocket (Bandcamp)
53) Chelsea Wolfe – Hiss Spun (Bandcamp)
52) Comeback Kid – Outsider
51) Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built the Moon?
50) Father Mountain – Apartment Living (Bandcamp)
49) Vagabon – Infinite Worlds (Bandcamp)
48) Sinai Vessel – Brokenlegged (Bandcamp)
47) The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
46) Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm (Bandcamp)
45) King Krule – The OOZ
44) Knuckle Puck – Shapeshifter
43) Isobel Anderson – CHALK / FLINT (Bandcamp)
42) Lucy Rose – Something’s Changing
41) Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory
40) The Dirty Nil – Minimum R&B (Bandcamp)
39) Iron & Wine – Beast Epic
38) Employed To Serve – The Warmth Of A Dying Sun
37) Counterparts – You’re Not You Anymore (Bandcamp)
36) Arcane Roots – Melancholia Hymns
35) Adult Mom – Soft Spots (Bandcamp)
34) Rozwell Kid – Precious Art (Bandcamp)
33) Paramore – After Laughter
32) Palehound – A Place I’ll Always Go (Bandcamp)
31) Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes – Modern Ruin
30) Big Thief – Capacity (Bandcamp)
29) Planning For Burial – Below The House (Bandcamp)
28) Remo Drive – Greatest Hits (Bandcamp)
27) Vasudeva – No Clearance (Bandcamp)
26) The Smith Street Band – More Scared of You Than You Are Of Me
25) Liam Gallagher – As You Were
24) Feist – Pleasure
23) Code Orange – Forever
22) Prawn – Run (Bandcamp)
21) The National – Sleep Well Beast
20) The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Always Foreign (Bandcamp)
19) The Bronx – V
18) Lomelda – Thx (Bandcamp)
17) Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
16) Converge – The Dusk In Us
15) Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
14) St. Vincent – Masseduction
13) Julien Baker – Turn Out The Lights
12) Glassjaw – Material Control
11) Japanese Breakfast – Soft Sounds From Another Planet (Bandcamp)
10) oso oso – The Yunahon Mixtape (Bandcamp) Gotta say, I’m a little surprised I haven’t seen this on more end of year lists, giving how great a record it is. A stellar tribute to all that was good about early 00’s indie and emo, Long Island outfit oso oso nailed it on the follow-up to 2015’s also-pretty-great Real Stories… Packed with big choruses, fun-meets-cute lyrical prowess and an anthemic, breezy nostalgia, The Yunahon Mixtape is a gem.
9) Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up There were few records released in 2017 that I was able to immerse myself in as fully as Crack-Up, the third full-length from the Seattle collective. Gorgeous from the offset, the record is a warm and layered folk masterpiece, complex and exquisitely crafted. Huge in both scale and ambition, the bands third album is a stunning and sweeping work, multi-part songs blending together seamlessly to make for an album both cinematic and quietly grandiose. It’s an absolute joy.
8) Run The Jewels – RTJ3 Technically this record dropped on Christmas day 2016, but I’m counting it as a 2017 release all the same, partly because I didn’t get to gush about it last year. Sharp production and a tight back-and-forth dynamic make Killer Mike and El-P the best in the rap business at present. Their third LP together is at times political, at time tongue-and-cheek, but always pushing boundaries. There’s no stopping them, and hopefully, 2018 brings something new from the high-fiving, genre-championing duo.
7) Alvvays – Antisocialites (Bandcamp) Released in September, Antisocialites has been a fixture on my playlist for the months between then and now. I was a big fan of their debut, as were most, but the Canadian outfits follow-up surpassed it. A much more streamlined, whimsical and atmospheric ride, Alvvays nailed it. Frequently upbeat but dripping in melancholia, it’s as good as indie-pop got this year, accomplished, catchy, and mesmerically memorable. A real treat of a record, and not really one for singles. It works best as a whole, and is immensely enjoyable as such.
6) Wolf Alice – Visions Of A Life As far as British guitar music goes, 2017 has belonged to Wolf Alice, and rightly so. This is a sophomore record done right, branching off in some new directions while maintaining most of what made Our Love Is Cool the genre breakthrough that it was in 2015. Confident, accomplished, and packed with variety, Visions… showed that the North London four-piece could pull off ballsy punk (Yuk Foo) just as well as they could introspective indie (Delete The Kisses). A wonderful record to unravel, Wolf Alice marked themselves as the hottest property on the scene, and every track on Visions is a testament to their rapid and deserved rise to prominence.
5) Brand New – Science Fiction (Bandcamp) It was a long time coming, but it was certainly worth the wait. Appearing almost out of nowhere after seven long years, Science Fiction set the internet alight, partly because it had at long last arrived, and partly because it was so damn good. With the hype surrounding build-up, the record had hit legendary status before it had even dropped, and then it dropped and in doing so solidified Brand New as one of the most important to have ever graced the alternative scene. Vulnerable, charged, and with a highly affecting narrative running throughout, Science Fiction was everything it needed to be.
4) The Menzingers – After The Party (Bandcamp) Looking all the way back to February for this entry, no record has held my attention over the course of 2017 in quite the same way since then. The Menzingers have a special place in my nostalgia-shredded heart, and their fifth LP rightly took its place there alongside their others. Anthemically infectious, lyrically defiant, and everything that is great about punk rock, After The Party was another excellent addition to the bands discography. The record found the Menzingers aging, but aging on their own terms, lacking none of the energy that made earlier releases what they were. Hitting thirty has never been quite so fun. Lyrically weighted but anthemically buoyant It presented a new dimension to the Philly outfit, rife with familiar nostalgia, tattoo-worthy lyrics, big riffs and infectious choruses. Long live The Menzingers, a band who can seemingly do no wrong.
3) Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger In The Alps (Bandcamp) I’ll admit that I’m a little late on this one. Though released in September I only found my way to this record a couple of weeks back, following a sublime NPR Tiny Desk session. In the few weeks since, I’ve listened to virtually nothing else. Phoebe Bridgers and her music have a hold on me, and I don’t anticipate that letting up anytime side. Patient, plaintive, and poetically poignant, Stranger In The Alps is a record which channels the vulnerability and isolation you’d expect of that title. It’s a beautiful release, Bridgers navigating songs about relationships, Dahmer, ex-boyfriends and funerals with the grace of a musician twice her age (she’s only 23). At times powerfully sparse (Killer) while at others jauntily catchy (Motion Sickness), Stranger… is a weighted record which sparks feelings of weightlessness. One for the cold nights and warm mornings, I have nothing but love for this release.
2) Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me (Bandcamp) I like sad records, records which fill a listener up with emotion, and no record this year has left me as hollow as A Crow Looked At Me did. It’s a good thing, it leaves me happy to be feeling something so intensely. You can’t help but feel this record. Written and recorded in the immediate aftermath of his wife’s death, Phil Elverum navigates life without her in a way that is painfully honest and affecting. It chills me, and then it numbs me, and then I leave it with perspective. I leave it wanting to write poetry, and fall in love, and celebrate life. Only a record this absorbing could do that to the degree it does. A haunting, harrowing, and exquisitely impactful record, A Crow Looked At Me is a heart rending, but it’s also a work of supreme beauty.
1) Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile To The Surface I knew this was going to be a good record. Manchester Orchestra don’t release bad albums. I didn’t expect A Black Mile To The Surface to be as profoundly great as it ended up being. I’ll admit that I found the Atlanta four-piece’s last record, Cope, a little underwhelming following the excellent Simple Math, but they got absolutely everything right on their fifth. A sweeping, life affirming body of work, A Black Mile… is a powerful and provocative rock record of the highest quality. Textured, gorgeously layered, and packed with colour the front cover doesn’t suggest, its sublime. Blending darker tones with lyrically introspective songs concerning marriage and parenthood. The birth of frontman Andy Hull’s daughter is the chief narrative arc here, and it makes for tracks full of reverence, while plagued with the doubt and perspective that comes with such newfound responsibility. The record is elevated by the sort of production values you’d expect to find on a mainstream pop record. At times subdued and at others explosive, A Black Mile… swells and crashes, and it sounds divine when doing so. Some of the most extravagant and intricately crafted songs the band have ever released feature here (The Gold, The Grocery) and they carry their hurt just as they carry their heart. It’s a labour of love, a record brimming with life – a real feast for the ears, and it’s my favourite record of the year. It’s Manchester Orchestra at their peak, and goddamn is it brilliant.