Wednesday 13 December 2017

The Top 50 Albums of 2017

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Hello, and welcome to the Top Albums of 2017. It is absolutely such a thrill to have reached the end of yet another year without dying, because each one I survive only further contradicts those claims from that voodoo medicine woman who carved her name into my palm. I feel like I’m getting very old now.

So here’s the thing about 2017 music. The whole ride, I was loving it, man. There was a consistency, a constant shovel of coal into the soul train which sped forward as I stuck my head out of the window, slobbering down the carriage, sucking up everything it had to offer. I was having the time of my life!

Unfortunately, when we eventually pulled up into this December station, I looked back through my photos, and realised the ride was perhaps a little better when I was a part of it. In hindsight, 2017 wasn’t that much of a decade highlight, the weight of which grew heavier as I compiled this very list. There were no real game changers, and while the standard was dependable, the lack of turbulence and dizziness resulted in one rather flat timelime. It got so frustrating that I only decided on my #1 whilst writing this very blog, which is a vastly different result to almost every year that has came before, where the Album of the Year walked right up to me and slapped me in the face much earlier on. What's more, the diluted tasting scene left me confused, quality so indistinguishable from one another that I was tearing my eyebrows out just to decide who made the top 50 and who didn’t, so many accepted on to the list with so many cut from it simply because I flipped a mental coin. Once again, maybe this is what getting old is like?

But I fucking did it, and you know why? Because this is the 8th time I've written one of these blogs, and you don’t retire on your 8th time. You retire on your 10th time, which I have full intention of doing. Unrelated fact: I listened to 456 albums this year (at least three times each, I may add), which was a whopping 6 more records than 2016, which I’m sure made all the difference.

If this is your first time reading one of my top album blogs, hello! I do hope you enjoy yourself, but as per always, there are a few important pointers you need to be aware of before we delve into this thing properly. Please give me your full attention, and if there is anything I can do to make your flight more enjoyable, do not hesitate to become more independent in your own life. As follows:

1. The quality assurance process of every single one of these 456 albums has been meticulously documented in this spreadsheet over here. People tend to overlook this valuable asset, and that is their biggest mistake, because it’s fucking amazing, and if nothing else, should give you some idea as to why your favourite record was neglected.
2. The deadline for this year was the 6th of December 2017. No albums released after this date were considered.
3. As per usual, the choices you see below were not selected due to talent or originality or reputation. Some of the albums here are no short of horrific. Rather, what you shall discover below are the albums which stuck most firmly into the crevices my brain, sometimes for all the wrong reasons. Because that is what's impressive is to me. Not the records that are brilliant when you listen to them, but the records you can't forget about even when you haven't heard them for months, and are the first thumbnail you notice when browsing the folders of your mind's OS. That said, I do recommend you check out this Spotify playlist called God I made. By ordering these tracks from date added and giving them a spin, you shall find the very best songs from every single worthy 2017 album I experienced.
4. It would be incredibly tasteless for me to include my own music on this list, mainly because it isn’t actually good enough. But let it be known that I did release an abundance of musical output myself this year, and it would be great if you listened to them, because you're not paying me for this blog, so it's pretty much the least you can do. Anorexic Insect was the debut album by my metal-ish outfit Sectlinefor. I also released two solo EPs under the name Coming Down Happy, the first being the piano rock Let’s Just Be Friends and the second being the far superior experimental hip hop Sex is Disgusting. Give a click, you might not regret it.
5. Finally, I want to be very clear about this: I don’t give a damn.

All done! Have a wonderful time.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 51. Mishkin Fitzgerald - Ten Suitably Melancholic Pieces For The Gothic Piano Player

51. Mishkin Fitzgerald - Ten Suitably Melancholic Pieces For The Gothic Piano Player

Classical Chamber Music
February 10

There is no album from this year which caused an internal war within me quite as upsetting as this one. For starters, I was introduced to it by an advert on Facebook, and something about it must have struck me enough to figure, hey, it’s so early in the year, I have plenty of time to fit this listen in. That fact turned out to be even more true than I anticipated, as at a 17 minute run, could we even call this an album whatsoever? Especially once I found out that this CD was actually meant as an accompanying piece to sheet music, teaching people how to play these little tunes, an educational aid, not a standalone project. And yet... I just could not get it off my mind. Her two hands and one piano performing eerily simple patterns, yet sounding surprisingly full, achieving such a mischievous playfulness around me without needing anything else, so unassuming, so tiny, so bare, so gracious. It was a nimble nap of refreshment during my busy music schedule, dancing in unsettling dreams of glee, only to awake to find that this was unlike anything I’ve listened to this decade, without being anything at all.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 50. Brockhampton - SATURATION II

50. Brockhampton - SATURATION II

West Coast Pop Rap
August 25

Dubbed the “internet’s first boy band,” Californian's Brockhampton were formed during a conversation on the online forum KanyeToThe, and while it took them five years to finally release their debut, two months later, they had already released their second album, and that is what we’ll be discussing today. This rapid firing of content in itself is an impressive flex, as when considering the quality of this sequel, II proves these ample deliveries were not an excessively vain exercise in forcing releases, rather they legitimately had enough material to spread far without spreading thin, densely abundant of care-and-pretension-free verses to trade off with one another, over some of the most instant-stick party pop banging beats this (lifeless!) hip hop year has had to offer. It’s a kooky permanent mark on the rap timeline, a representative of exactly where we are, not old school, not progressive, just the simple summary of what’s trendy right now in the game, yet executed with such an abnormal cheek, that it will forever be theirs. I hear a third one is dropping any day now...

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 49. Pissed Jeans - Why Love Now

49. Pissed Jeans - Why Love Now

Post-Hardcore Noise Rock
February 24

I find it relatively amusing (albeit actually quite depressing) that in order to locate any authentic punk ethics in today’s music bloodstream, you will never find what you’re looking for under that genre’s misplaced umbrella term. For when I crave the distasteful recklessness and stubborn disdain against the smarty-pants prettiness of today’s conceited rock bands, I require to be strenuously force-fed a messy headache fraught with testosterone, as the spite dribbles from my clenched teeth and spills all down my bitter chin. In case you forgot where you were, I’m obviously describing Why Love Now, an unreasonably snide barrage of politically upset growls which unruly mock the whole world whilst staring the listener down, challenging you to submit. The sheer audacity of it all is unignorable, and even if the general critical acclaim does not stand on my side of the opinion wall, fuck you.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 48. Mark Templeton - Gentle Heart

48. Mark Templeton - Gentle Heart

Electroacoustic Glitch
June 20

What is music? An artistic expression of organised sound, right? So in that regard, Gentle Heart is by very definition “music”, but when you hear yourself asking the question, it usually means you’re in a bad neighbourhood. However, what this album lacks in precise melody (it has none) or percussion rhythms (any resemblance to this is more than likely accidental) it amends with slow, tender repetitions, until a vague level of personal acceptance may find peace within these compositions, and connect them to a more therapeutic side of the brain. Mark Templeton makes his music out of withered tape loops, and subsequently, these electronic collages sound like a tired machine, chugging along in the background, attempting to locate something once lost, something it can no longer grasp, as it fumbles around before rerouting itself into a slightly different direction, announcing its intention with a jittery bleep of brief awareness. And each time you run this material through your head, the aimless samples and brief runtime become more familiar and captivating, until you may find yourself growing quite fond of this old tranquility, concluding that, yes, this can be music after all, if that’s what it wants to be.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 47. All Them Witches - Sleeping Through the War

47. All Them Witches - Sleeping Through the War

Stoner Rock
February 24

Sleeping Through the War, as a title, sums up this record in a much more poetic fashion than I would even dare to compete with. These riff-centric rhythmic grooves are in no hurry to deliver their fuzzy disturbances, but they always get there in the end, stirring the drowsy desert monster to near aggression, before soothing it back down with yet another slinky psychedelic jam. This is stoner music for those who like their highs to be humourless. Blues rock for those who take their kaleidoscopic reassessments seriously. And alternative country for those wanderers who prefer the crunch of grit in their otherwise euphoric vibrations. All Them Witches will never get praised as a band for rewriting the rule book, but their cigarette ashes will occasionally singe the pages and you do often get the feeling like they didn’t read the whole thing to the end anyway.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 46. The Big Moon - Love in the 4th Dimension

46. The Big Moon - Love in the 4th Dimension

Indie Pop Rock
April 7

If you nostalgically daydream about the sugary squat scene from your alternative youth, don’t look towards your old heroes who insist on attempting to recapture their former magic by continuously churning out a repeat of their outdated catalogue, and rather ask the youth themselves to keep this spirit alive. The Big Moon’s debut does just that, like a secret club where all you do is get ready for the party, not bothered whether you actually leave the house or not. It achieves this simple gratification by mixing three equal parts interchangeably: the singalong hooks of commercial pop trickery; the dirty indie of the UK noughties haphazardly painted over with a cheap coat of artistic glamour; and the apathetic rock attitude complete with just enough of the standard noisy crunch to inspire that deliberate face you pull when you want people to know you approve of a certain sound. In all honesty, I struggle to explain albums like this, because while it doesn’t own a contemporary thought in its head, it makes up for it with a confident presence which adamantly fuses itself into my most immediate memory, and honestly, that is the only type of music I care for.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 45. Full of Hell - Trumpeting Ecstasy

45. Full of Hell - Trumpeting Ecstasy

Powerviolence Grindcore
May 5

Reviewing grindcore albums is always a load of fun because they tend do a pretty good job at describing themselves. Full of Hell’s third album is that thing, an unstable destruction of murder music, scorching straight through you, stressfully raping your eye socket to the point of migraine, abandoning you on the side of the dirt road, all cut up. But while it is important that you mentally brace yourself for the ruthless outbreak that “powerviolence” demands by its very genre name, Trumpeting Ecstasy may not be as inhumane as initially anticipated. Occasionally, the hyper speed riffs which burst behind nihilistic shouts of painful death are slown down, heavily burdened by the additional weight of sludge on its back, forcing itself onto the ground as it crawls along with its determined eyes still fixated on you, leaving a trail of gunk and fire behind. Truth be told, Full of Hell are not the messianic disciples promising to lead the whole extreme hardcore scene into some modernised pastures, but they are incredibly proficient at making 23 minutes feel a fuckload longer, perfect for mealtimes as well as putting the kids to bed.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 44. Nelly Furtado - The Ride

44. Nelly Furtado - The Ride

March 31

What surprised me the most about The Ride was not that commercial pop treasure Nelly Furtado had released an album good enough for my sacred list, but rather, that hardly anyone else on the planet seemed to get it. Fundamentally, this is an upbeat driven party slanted by minor peculiarities (an electro art indie pop record very akin to St. Vincent) with the explosively colourful production needed to justly serve these excitable ideas (executed by John Congleton, St. Vincent’s producer). But for all its modern cheeriness, this album is not messing around, as one tenacious (borderline urgent) effort towards generating a hit record, placing all of its chips on every song whilst each hook is meticulously designed to be as sticky as musically possible, landing delightfully satisfactory chorus after delightfully satisfactory chorus after delightfully satisfactory chorus. It may not be altogether perfect, but for every one misstep, there are five kicks to the face, which is why I consider this to be the year’s most underrated pop representative, to such a dishonourable degree that I’d like to speak to Nelly personally about the injustice, thanks.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 43. Alexandra Savior - Belladonna of Sadness

43. Alexandra Savior - Belladonna of Sadness

Indie Pop
April 7

After rereading my original draft of this applause, I realised that I had not applauded whatsoever, and rather, expressed more qualms than congratulations towards Belladonna of Sadness. Produced by Alex Turner, this is musically the same old dreamy Arctic Monkeys/The Last Shadow Puppets styled art piece, except gracefully replacing Turner’s words with Alexandra Savior’s luxuriously silky and monotonously disinterested vocals, which sound utterly identical to that of Lana Del Rey. It’s an imitation piece, sonically restricted by the talent behind the sound desk, and seduced by its own intoxicated haze of black and white Del Rey cinematics, as if closing time at the most dignified of nightclubs, the last remaining tragic souls alluring you from the darkest of corners, because they are lonely, and you will simply have to do. Sincerely, it’s not fair when this happens, but with so few romantic Lana-esque glamour brands on sale, the competition is weak, the market is untapped, and this cheap replica is more value for your money than Lana’s own album this year.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 42. Hundred Waters - Communicating

42. Hundred Waters - Communicating

Indietronica Art Pop
September 14

On Hundred Waters’ third contribution to their unique exploration of skewing pop as subtly as their placid gestures will allow, Communicating is less of a conversation and more of a whispered monologue of encouragement, like a mother to its child. It cloaks you in layers of lavishly sympathetic blankets braided by love, and with caring arms wrapped around you, it lightly sways your protected body into an anaesthetised wave of dance. It sings these lullabies just for you, drifting you off into a safe place of soothing euphoria, helping you forget that this voice doesn’t have all of the answers, and is in reality just as scared of the world as you are, except hiding its pensive anxiety beneath a hushed mood of melancholic optimism, refusing to upset this fleeting moment of peace. Granted, in such a desperate pursuit to pacify you, it does exhaust its most convincing moves all too quickly and the immediate impact gradually tends to trickle down as it moves forward, but even when the chill sets in, it’s still a magical chill all the same, and on par with any of the work they’ve blessed us with before.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 41. Code Orange - Forever

41. Code Orange - Forever

Post-Hardcore Metalcore
January 13

Forever is the type of record that gives you everything you want without giving you anything you expected. Metalcore as a style has gradually worn its tired legs down into stale stumps, which is why it requires a certain special strategy of unorthodox manoeuvring to ensure the genre’s dated angry blows don’t strike fatigued ears. And this is how Code Orange did it. Their primary technique was one of fearless disregard to continuity, where songs will suddenly propel themselves into completely illogical directions in the middle of seemingly nowhere, cutting from one filthy screech into another minimal industrial meltdown and even sometimes into complete silence, as if a defective machine has fucked up the ordering somehow. It’s an intentionally devious assault, one which may not make immediate sense, but will always prove unpredictably invigorating. And while I consider the female vocals to be under-utilised as they could have further intensified the conflict substantially, the 34 minutes of high speed pacing doesn’t leave much opportunity for objections. Rather, it ditches you abruptly in a state of upset disorientation, ready to try again.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 40. SZA - CTRL

40. SZA - CTRL

Alternative R&B
June 9

After building the reputation as a prolific big name guest writer (Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna) and composing over 200 songs for herself, SZA withstood the persistent release date delays to finally reward us with her debut record, CTRL. And here we are, with a relaxed collection of soulful downtempo jams, musically refined to lean into the background as mere passive decorations, allowing her sensual vocals and intimate reflections to dominate the stage. And this is where CTRL’s principal assets thrive: SZA’s freestyled sincerity, contemplating her feminine sexuality whilst standing tall as herself without being combative about it, proving that a vulnerable human does not have to deflate any of their empowerment. Perhaps its slow casual deliveries can serve as its own detriment, and the album’s immediate strengths do trail off near the end, but she is unquestionably the real deal, as we watch her working out her artistic and personal place in the world, the private process exposed publicly, and I can’t wait to see what happens when she eventually works out that answer.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 39. Manchester Orchestra - A Black Mile to the Surface

39. Manchester Orchestra - A Black Mile to the Surface

Alternative Indie Rock
July 28

Manchester Orchestra are one of the most shamefully overlooked bands currently in the working world, consistently delivering the highest quality of goods, unfairly distributed to so few listening ears. I disgracefully admit that even I, as a long time fan, have always patted them on the head and placed them aside with each release, my yearly musical broadcastings invariably absent of their name, albeit admittedly with some undisclosed pang of guilt. But here, now, on A Black Mile to the Surface, they have screamed far too loud for us to close our eyes any longer, and what’s more, they’ve done so in an extraordinarily different way, losing the desperate grip of instantaneous sing-a-longs, preferring to creep into darker, more artistic territories, defenseless and naked, solemnly cowering beneath layers of emotional textures, and growing up into a much needed mature adult shape of their indie. It’s rare thing, this. When one of the most gifted groups in the genre took 13 years to create their greatest work, where every song stands crooked yet as tall as their contemporaries, collectively gathering together as one more creative victory in a catalogue of nothing but creative victories.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 38. Iglooghost - Neō Wax Bloom

38. Iglooghost - Neō Wax Bloom

Wonky UK Bass
September 29

Slot your coins in and get ready for the most mentally insane audio assault of cartoon video gaming you’ve ever locked ears with, featuring frenzied chipmunks speeding around bubblegum landscapes without getting anywhere at all. It’s a super electro rush of overenthusiastic restlessness and overpowering spazz-outs, imaginatively packed so tightly that it comes with the warning “may explode and permanently stain your clothes with bright colours”. And yet, it never takes itself too seriously, each sugar surge designed by a cheerful smile and an exaggerated wink until your brain cogs turn mechanical and spin into hyper gear. Such an invigorating raid bursting into your skull without knocking will always win, sticking its vibrantly flashy flag into your attention gland, claiming full ownership of your concentration, then leaking uplifting neurochemicals out from the puncture, refusing to let go until the roller coaster has come to a complete standstill. And, personally, I couldn’t be happier. Not bad for a debut album, eh?

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 37. Stabscotch - Uncanny Valley

37. Stabscotch - Uncanny Valley

Experimental Avant-Prog Noise Rock
January 13

The greatest pity of Uncanny Valley is that the Album of the Year is lost in here somewhere. Its boundary pushing and offensively indeterminate genre is the ultimate fuck you to absolutely everything, coarsely renouncing the regulations with unintentional (?) humour jarred by an appalled animosity. Unfortunately, this continual mockery of where the noise threshold lies is a dangerous game, as it can wear the listener down rather quickly, which is why when Stabscotch chose to challenge this notion for the disrespectful length of 1 hour and 44 minutes, it does eventually lose me in a troubled bog of raucous unpleasantries. If only it had been condensed (featuring primarily the first half of the album) we would have a much more reasonably eclectic mess on our hands, but instead, it's the unnecessary waffle which spoils it, stretching miles of pointless audio clutter between the more tolerable moments, fashioning one boundless struggle which will sicken even the most seasoned of veterans no matter what their already acquired levels of distress-stamina may be. It’s dreadful. Amazingly dreadful. Please let it be known that I don’t support this type of thing whatsoever.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 36. Der Weg einer Freiheit - Finisterre

36. Der Weg einer Freiheit - Finisterre

Black Metal
August 25

Black metal is not a genre famous for playing outside of the rulebox, and consequently, even the most creative of its disciples struggle to (or are at least disinterested in) breaking any new ground. Which is what makes an album like Finisterre so difficult to argue a compelling case for, because by all accounts, they perform well within the regulated boundaries. The rapid frenzy of drum onslaughts mercilessly punch without hesitating to breathe. The despair of the vocalist’s lonely screams are immovable in their anguish, unwilling to explore any alternate routes of variation. And the unhurried guitarwork emits a gloomy overcast of atmospheric mist, encircling an incessant pain which strictly abides by the genre’s trademarks. Shamelessly so. But somehow, the specific brand of tragedy that Der Weg einer Freiheit manages to emit is a fog that floats above the trite of its rivals in an emotional torment so desperately beautiful, that I don’t posses the profound adjectives to accurately illustrate what it is that makes this record so exceptional. However, what I can tell you (at least on a personal level), is that this is the most moving black metal I’ve endured in years.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 35. Residente - Residente

35. Residente - Residente

Latin Alternative Art Pop Rap
March 31

When Residente (best known as the co-founder of Puerto Rican hip-hop group Calle 13) partook in a DNA test, he was proudly surprised to discover that his genetic makeup spanned 10 different countries. Inspired by this revelation, he embarked on a journey, where he visited each and every one of those 10 nations, and then collaborated with their local (generally undiscovered) musicians, composing songs to celebrate his heritage, which eventually developed into this very record. Such an intricate backstory should already give some indication as to how diverse Residente’s debut solo album has turned out to be, while he raps in English, raps in Spanish, and raps in French, at times banging your face with aggressively hard percussions, at other times allowing the songs to organically grow softly beneath your head, but always one corner away from a surprising move without ever allowing the variation to stray too far away from the core flavour. The flavour of unity. The dream of a borderless society. And in today’s scary world where intolerance has suddenly grown a much louder voice, this is exactly the type of art we need.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 34. Chino Amobi - PARADISO

34. Chino Amobi - PARADISO

Post-Industrial Electronic Sound Collage
May 5

PARADISO is the radio station for the apocalypse. You are lost and confused, cold and scared, threatened and in definite trouble. You wander aimlessly through the crowded industrial meltdown, never quite sure of where you are, but forever marching forward to nowhere, anxiously searching for a quiet place to hide and rest. But you will never find it, as even the occasional relief of a guiding stranger’s smile will reveal nothing but rotten teeth and enticing traps. The concrete is crumbling around you, the machinery is on fire, all the while these prophetic urban witch doctors theatrically dance around the anarchy, thrilled as we are reduced to our native animal instincts, because they always warned us that this was going to happen. The ruined city is aware of you, whilst your radio—your only friend—disagrees with itself, interrupting its own poetic spoken words with abrasive synth lines of torture and a clamour of tribal panic, like one long climatic amplification of sickening peril. And this goes on forever.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 33. Exquirla - Para quienes aún viven

33. Exquirla - Para quienes aún viven

Post-Rock Flamenco nuevo
February 17

Special brownie points to whoever’s idea this was. Spanish instrumental post-rock band Toundra had already assembled a prominent reputation for themselves in the country’s alternative scene, but when they explored the idea of a project which included a vocalist, they didn’t predictably abduct a voice box from a neighbouring metal competitor, yet rather requested that established traditional Spanish flamenco artist Niño de Elche would be so kind to take the microphone. The result is an ambitiously optimistic magic of truly unique fusion, to the likes of which I have never heard before. The progressive music is only progressive in the forward-thinking sense, quickly building you up with reluctant trepidation before gently placing you down again, then pushing you away on jammy atmospheres of euphoria. All the while, Elche’s devotional praises are soothing yet strong, like that excited feeling before a fight is about to kick off and you get in the middle, the inspired tone of hopeful reason, calming everyone down despite your own soaring adrenaline, somehow sedating the violence in the centre of a very dangerous buzz. It’s almost holy.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 32. Mensvreters - Die Gevaarlikste Bende

32. Mensvreters - Die Gevaarlikste Bende

Comedy Death Horrorcore
March 1

With a genius (fictional?) backstory extending beyond their debut album, Mensvreters are the obscene nightmare no one asked for. Donning burn victim masks whilst eating babies, mutilating genitals, and playing with poo, these are just some of the type of repulsive themes which classify this theatrical Afrikaans outfit as a “comedy act”. However, I feel said cartoon offensiveness can, at times, distract from the deeper levels of talent beneath the disguises. Without mashing hybrid ideas together, the variation of Die Gevaarlikste Bende can bludgeon with the brutality of death metal one moment, then have a playful old school hip hop party the next, even at times introducing commercially softer songs to lure the listener through an easy entry point, only to savagely molest us all afterwards until we die. And as they vomit out surprisingly catchy lyrics over terrifyingly well-produced beats (complete with convincingly acted skits which really unify the album together as one singular unit), you realise this is no gimmick. Rather, this is a horrific violation packaged up as joke otherwise no one would be able to accept it. I only wish I understood the language, but I’m sure it’s full of nothing but positive messages for the kids around the world.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 31. Oxbow - Thin Black Duke

31. Oxbow - Thin Black Duke

Experimental Art Rock
May 5

If this is your first time, please meet Oxbow. They’ve lived through an almost three decade career, Thin Black Duke being their seventh album, first in 10 years, and by all means, a remarkably ideal introduction point. It is important to not turn your back on the avant-garde bluesy noise of the abundantly inventive musicianship, for as you can hear, there’s a lot going on in between the harsh rock bites and fluctuating angelic melodics, forewarning these collective instruments as dangerous organisms all by themselves. However, it is truly Eugene S. Robinson’s distressingly versatile vocal deliveries that disturb Oxbow into the scary threat that it is. He growls and grunts like an animal, before slurring his words like a delirious drunkard, then falling into confused neurotic whispers, suddenly interrupted by a skyrocket of desperate pleas, proving he could hit those notes all along. Such a disorganised unbalance of lawless artistic expression provokes my defense systems into high alert, but no matter how far out there this manages to go, it always plays on the outskirts, never crossing the threshold, and ultimately concluding as one wonderfully grandiose display of visionary arrogance which shimmers as bright as the unfairly ignored precious stone they are.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 30. Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory

30. Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory

Experimental Hardcore West Coast Hip Hop
June 23

Sophomore slump? Nah. In fact, when connecting Big Fish Theory to 2015’s Summertime '06, you’d struggle to sonically draw relevant comparisons to even elaborate on. And yet, while this inventive progression is immeasurable, it still sounds like an organic step, intentionally compressing some newfound upbeat thrills into a very tight box, one where a casual contradiction between the beats and the flows are taking place. The unusual production nods its respects towards danceable electronic club music, as if a night out in a very current scene, paying sharp attention to what’s hot in order to avoid what everyone else is doing, leaning in a subtly unorthodox manner with just the right amount of flair, never overburdening itself with any excess of frills. While this is going on, Staples takes a backseat, his disinterested demeanour detaching itself from the bigger picture, working as an asset to enhance the focus rather than dominate it, frequently allowing the beats to meander and explore other sounds without him. All of which conspires to birth a vibrantly reserved rarity in the game, stabbing another hole in Vince’s belt and further constricting the hips of hip hop, as Staples quickly becomes one of the most unignorably creative rappers on our planet right now.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 29. Algiers - The Underside of Power

29. Algiers - The Underside of Power

Post-Punk Industrial Gospel
June 23

The Underside of Power is made from two equal parts; one part SPIRIT, and one part SPITE. SPIRIT: Listen, as the pastor booms, preaching his virtuous semon loud and clear, for he has a message, one of political unrest that we need to address together. Oh, but SPITE: listen again. Do you agree that something is not quite right with this demonstration? These do not seem to be words of peace, rather a venomous call of upset antagonism, as if possessed by an agitated demon who cries for blood. And that’s the best I can do to describe it. Hope that helps, but you’ve really got to hear it, because Algiers are one of the few genuinely original bands right now who achieved such distinct innovations without even considering any wheel reinvention. Instead, they took established contrasting genres, shook them together and then shoved them forward as furiously as possible, creating a post-punk post-industrial post-gospel post-blues post-soul post-fucking-everything clamour, as it smoothly smashes down all the little people in its path. And yet... it works so well as a singular unit that you’ve really got to wonder... why has nobody done this before?

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 28. Primitive Man - Caustic

28. Primitive Man - Caustic

Doom Sludge Metal
October 6

To describe Caustic as “heavy” is a misjustice to the album as well as the general term itself. Rather, Caustic is the musical equivalent of sloooowly yet ceaselessly pilling mammoth chunks of crumbling debris and stone upon your body until it's too heavy. An impenetrable, agonising torment of heavy. An unreasonably inhospitable muck of heavy. But it goes on. And it goes on. Repetitively rubbing your face dull into the concrete, dismally dragging you through the sluggish monotony of grim suffering, violently beating you until you feel sick. And it does this, for 77 minutes. The utter audacity of this almost unbearably stagnant pattern of barbaric destruction will be far too burdensome for any honest, non-masochistic person to genuinely relish as some enjoyable maltreatment, but as it is handsdown the most brutal record I’ve heard this year, I was far too scared to turn my back on it.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 27. Gas - Narkopop

27. Gas - Narkopop

Ambient Techno
April 21

This is Gas’ first album in 17 years, and for a record like this to be so critically acclaimed gives me full hope in the general music listening community. Narkopop is a living, breathing atmosphere, one which secretly allures you deeper into its natural lush until you are completely lost and terrified. You fumble motionlessly in the darkness, and yet find nothing to hold onto within this endless sparseness of desolated space. The minimal drones of Eno-esque ambience sedate you as you gradually doze off, whilst the monotonous swooning build-ups of classical strings expand your reflective dreamstate, only to be stirred by the throb of a kick drum, your protector, pulsating one continuously lifeless thud from a distance so far away, part of something else, part of something over there. It may be a very long time before you get out the other side of this place, but just don’t fall asleep, because Narkopop's environment may very well ingest you completely, the last sounds you ever hear, never to come back, your family spending the rest of their lives trying to find you, crying over how much they miss you, confused about what actually happened that day.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 26. Converge - The Dusk in Us

26. Converge - The Dusk in Us

November 3

In the most flattering of ways possible: The Dusk in Us is exactly what a Converge album is. They know what they do best, and they know what their fans like, so they force feed it to us. In addition, any solid Converge record (and there are a lot of solid Converge records) is never a repeat of previous attacks, rather a dangerous push which inches outwards, artistically slicing at the edges of mathematical intricacies whilst avoiding the (oft standard metalcore) banality of comfortable melodics. Certainly, there are some quieter junctures here, but even these creep with a dark intensity, crisply produced for breathing space so that when the fierce punches come, there is a nice clear path from the violence straight towards your face. Look, the thing is, Converge have been in the game for a long long time. They’ve already achieved what they came to do (conquer the scene, smash the world up, etc), and now albums like this one simply serve to remind us that they still maintain a firm grip on the leash, one handed, eyes closed. As if we needed yet another verification of their legendary prominence in this genre with yet another one of their best records. How many best records do they even have now?

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 25. Max Richter - Three Worlds: Music From Woolf Works

25. Max Richter - Three Worlds: Music From Woolf Works

Modern Classical
January 27

Virginia Woolf drowned herself at age 59. She's remembered as one of the twentieth century’s most important writers and pioneers of the feminist movement, which is why her inspiration lives on with strength through other artists. One recent example would be choreographer Wayne McGregor who, in 2015, produced a ballet celebrating three of her novels, and armed with his educated taste, he hired modern classical hero Max Richter to deal with the score. Richter was no stranger to challenging concepts (having reimagined Vivaldi's The Four Seasons in 2012, and releasing an eight hour album designed to mimic the neuroscience of sleep last year), which meant his contribution to Three Worlds would never be strained for ideas nor eager to please anyone, even when critiqued apart from its visual associate. Rather, it's a deliberately uncomplicated breeze through three unique novels/acts/movements, never bragging yet always certain of the way, sewing together the bare essential fibres of classical emotions with electronic ambience, punctuated by heartbreaking readings from Virginia’s own suicide note. You can use it in the background to eat or sleep or work to, or you can go deeper and use it to reflect in sadness over a genius’ fatal mental illness. Either way, all somber effects will be immediate and long lasting, because it’s a pretty long album.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 24. The Smith Street Band - More Scared of You Than You Are of Me

24. The Smith Street Band - More Scared of You Than You Are of Me

Folk Punk
April 7

Down under, man, what’s in the water over there? Nick Cave, The Drones, Courtney Barnett... there is a coarse string of troubled understanding which runs through all of them, a certain snarl with a sardonic smirk, of which these representatives sincerely include The Smith Street Band. Frontman Wil Wagner’s introspective lyrics find nothing inside of his chaotic mind except bitter wounds of self deprecation, which may be fascinating to witness and even an amusing demonstration due to their hilarious pessimisms, and yet I find myself profoundly saddened by how relatable all of these cynical ponderings are. So disorientating and heartfelt. So intellectually hostile against the struggles of everyday life. So fucking depressing. Contradict this sarcastic bleakness with the enthusiasm of shouty pop punk anthems, and you have a record which nears perfection; from eye-catching artwork, to the frequently interesting song titles, to the particularly outstanding lyrical phrasings, and ending it all off with a jab of boisterous music which is determined to drag even the most unhappy of us out of bed.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 23. Ex Eye - Ex Eye

23. Ex Eye - Ex Eye

Progressive Avant-Garde Metal
June 23

When last did you identify the saxophonist as the dominating force behind a metal band? I just did it right now. But, of course, when talking about Colin Stetson, you’re talking about the most recognisable sax player of modern times. His solo albums (including one from this year) are always masterful spazzout perfections, and I would never say anything on the contrary, but it’s when he partners up with other artists that his true magic seems to flair up and tighten in a style that he never seems to quite grasp alone. Which brings us to Ex Eye, Colin’s first invasion of the “metal” genre, and never has his signature dying animal noises sounded so in their natural habitat, as if this genre collaboration was always meant to be, even if no one knew it. These sludgy free jazz instrumentals confuse the borders between calculated repetitions and intricate improvisations, forever building up until you feel dizzy, and yet, no matter how chaotic it may get, they never lose control nor fall too deep in the indulgence hole. Rather, they calm it down by a few degrees, place a child proof cap on top, and then label it with a warning which reads “relatively intense but still a lot of fun”. Oh, and Greg Fox is an insane drummer.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 22. Chloe x Halle - The Two of Us

22. Chloe x Halle - The Two of Us

Alternative R&B
March 16

When Chloe and Halle (17 and 18 year old sisters) were featured on Beyoncé's Lemonade visual album in 2016... and were then promptly snapped up by Beyoncé’s record label, Parkwood Entertainment, for a modest $1million multi album deal... it’s no surprise that this mixtape sounds just like... Beyoncé. But all sleeve influences recognised, there are some very significant differences between these artists. When comparing the Queen’s grandiose overly-conceptual multimedia experiences to The Two of Us, what we have here is a far simpler affair, running at a mere 25 minutes as if one long song, the titles only working to indicate where one burst of a beautiful idea ends and another one has begun. Curiously, any of these segments could have been so easily fleshed out into a standard pop song formula, expanding the project into a full-length effort, but then it would lose some of that magic charm where cheeky experimentation misdirects without alienating you, giving just enough of what you want, then abruptly stopping, offering nothing more. Thanks to exciting new outfits like this one, R&B continues to comfortably survive the decade, and once the duo find their own unique footing style, we’re all fucked.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 21. Hauschka - What If

21. Hauschka - What If

Post-Minimalism Modern Classical
March 31

Hauschka really plays his instruments. And I don’t mean “really plays”, as in some accomplished musical performance value (although Hauschka effortlessly slots into this criteria too), but rather, that he plays with them, in a mischievous manner, teasing his compositions all the while subtly prodding at our ribcages until it becomes a little bit creepy. The primary strength of said prod is birthed from the modern electronic repetitions, clicking and hissing like the froth from an insect’s mandibles, minute sounds which attempt to wander off and escape the sync, only to be tightened back into a central position by the more conventional methods of classical piano rhythms. And it is here that we find the very line which runs down the center of electro-classical itself, the most rudimentary definition of the genre, where the seemingly contradictory term makes complete sense, taking the traditionally smooth textures of minimalistic keys and then taunting them with the jagged triangles of the ever intrusive robotic glitches, both mismatched parties anticipating an anxious war with one another, waiting to see who makes the first move, dancing around the conflict, but never invading the enemy’s soil. Evidently, Hauschka found some good grounds to harvest.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 20. Glassjaw - Material Control

20. Glassjaw - Material Control

December 1

15 years. It’s been a long wait, which naturally birthed an army of concerns, all chanting the same nightmarish phrase "what if Glassjaw suck now?" Thankfully, Material Control was aware of these worries, and confronted them head-on with a fully charged battery of caffeinated destruction and the unmistakable Glassjaw mess of beautiful noise. The production is smeared on thick as the Beck/Palumbo dynamic pushes through as complementary as ever, with lethal basslines, acceptable simplistic drumming, and a song ordering so pedantically calculated that it verifies their deeper artistic understanding of a systematic attack. This is Glassjaw doing Glassjaw, losing no energy, remaining loud, remaining clever, yet not being predictable, and that’s what we needed. Proof that we weren’t dedicated to this band for reasons of sentimentality. Proof that their sound has never dated, as any one of these songs could sit comfortably wherever they wanted in their back catalogue, and yet here they were right now, shoving out the same quality style that is still dominantly relevant in today’s post-hardcore scene. But... is it 15 years wait good? I mean, could anything be that? However, from an unfairly critical fan who is as fickle as me, it is everything I had prayed for, and I could not bow down any lower. Let’s just hope the next one comes a little bit sooner, hey boys.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 19. White Reaper - The World’s Best American Band

19. White Reaper - The World’s Best American Band

Glam Power Pop Rock
April 7

You can acquire a lot of information about The World’s Best American Band from the cocky album title alone. Energetically running through a 30 minute celebration, this is one overconfident flash of pure American nostalgia, paying homage to all the great old school sparkly rockers without any urgency to hide their notes. Cheap Trick, Van Halen, Kiss, Ramones... they’re all represented here with the lively arrogance they deserve, and yet while these respectful tributes are shamelessly indisputable, White Reaper don’t come across like some longing novelty stunt. Instead, they have done their homework, read the text books, and sharpened their craft to fashion glamorously catchy refrains armed with a determined egotism, holding their hard rock vision steady, aiming it straight towards the party, and avoiding all the obvious cliché potholes along the way (despite being one big glorious cliché themselves). In our musical world where artsy-smarts studio doodlings rule the podium, it’s refreshing to step back here and recognise that they simply just don’t make it like this anymore. And maybe “this” is exactly what we need right now.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 18. Myrkur - Mareridt

18. Myrkur - Mareridt

Atmospheric Dark Black Folk Metal
September 15

After endlessly suffering from sinister nightmares and sleep paralysis (partially summoned by a charge of online abuse and death threats against her), Danish Myrkur was inspired to write Mareridt (translation: Nightmare, obviously) in hopes of exorcising these demons and then holding them out for us to see. And what we saw, was an intricate weave which frayed at the very ends of what these genre threads could do, revealing the beautiful compassion of grief and death, netted between the fearful eeriness of prayer and slumber. Both angels and devils conjured up to play on these Nordic fields, a ritualistic pagan ceremony of doom, spiritual in all the wrong ways. It sounds like Lana Del Rey fell into a cauldron of virgin blood and tar. It sounds like Grimes was soaked in cold dirty water over night until her colours washed out. It sounds like Chelsea Wolfe is on the record, because she is. Call me old fashioned, but there is something so attractive about a girl who would cut you just to collect your blood. There is nothing more seductive than a Satanic sex spell, I’ve always said that.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 17. Feist - Pleasure

17. Feist - Pleasure

Indie Folk Rock
April 28

This is what Pleasure sounds like. It sounds like a lengthy, unusual project, pruned together with naked songs which are liberated from any ulterior motives. It sounds like a collection of to-the-point low-key compositions which are hushed into a compassionate solitude. It sounds like it’s become detached and self absorbed, yet joylessly lures you in with its lonely intimacy, yearning for consolidation. It sounds like a restless quiet which gradually intensifies within its delicate restraint, building a suspenseful pressure that never quite reaches a climax, like an album full of someone taking a deep breath, ready to scream, but unable to get it out. It’s a rich cream intentionally polluted by lo-fi hisses of dust. It’s one long line of unpredictable side steps, including that time where she walks straight into Mastodon. It’s an empty space of highlights. It’s a depressed floor with no low points. It’s a delayed reaction. It’s got Jarvis Cocker on it and he rambles like his usual snobbish wankery self, but even he can’t spoil the journey. Because that’s what Pleasure sounds like.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 16. PWR BTTM - Pageant

16. PWR BTTM - Pageant

Indie Rock Queercore
May 12

As if you didn’t know already, the cheery buzz of Pageant was completely shattered a mere two days before its release. Member Ben Hopkins was accused of initiating uninvited sexual contact with fans, and was branded as a “sexual predator”, despite his sharp denials. Following this, the duo were swiftly dropped from both their labels, every gig roster kicked them off the bill, and all distribution of the album was terminated, complete with refunds for those who had pre-ordered. And it really is such a shame. Because, if you can exercise a certain blind slice of denial, and disconnect the art from the artist, Pageant is one of the most important pop albums of the decade. They confidently bounced into the public eye as if they were the flamboyant poster boys of the drama queen queer scene, proudly giving the sparkling culture the giddy voice it deserved without exploiting their campy bubbles as some eccentric gimmick. It’s so optimistically aware and mischievously flirtatious that you may find yourself prancing around your room, forgetting about the charges, and then you remember, and it’s like, aw fuck. Regardless, whether you’re boycotting them or not, admit that this is a wonderfully unique collection of exuberant music.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 15. Cigarettes After Sex - Cigarettes After Sex

15. Cigarettes After Sex - Cigarettes After Sex

Slowcore Dream Pop
June 9

Understandably, the most routine disagreement you’ll hear concerning this record is its effortless repetition, barren of any variation, essentially the identical minimal ambience performed over and over and over again. But it is within this uncommon maturity, so indifferent to contemporary flash, that the dignified magic sleeps, wholly aware of its monotonous risk but exploiting your lethargy to comfortably lull you into a slow motion empathy of harmless melancholy. Its thoughtfully soft intimacy requests a nocturnal seclusion, just you and this dependable album, together alone, quietly conversing about smokey romances and sexual subtleties; you admiring its smile which is only visible in a pair of sad eyes, as it gently pours a glass of water for your sedated soul. No doubt that this colourless tone will overstay its welcome one day, but not today, and I personally prefer it over anything that Beach House have ever put out.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 14. Jesca Hoop - Memories Are Now

14. Jesca Hoop - Memories Are Now

Indie Folk
February 10

And here’s what it’s really about: when I listen to Memories Are Now, my eyes become deer eyes and my mouth becomes a fish mouth. There was this one time when an eruption of goosebumps ran so uncontrollably amok upon my skin that I had to put a hoodie on just to try and tame them (it didn’t work). And this is all because of her voice. Jesca knows it’s her strong point, and she handles her natural gift with an unusually eerie creativity, baring her inventive melodies without any clutter or obstruction, ensuring you notice nothing else about her peace offering here. And, with that, her experimental sweetness completely empties you out, proving that you don’t need noise to clear a forest, but can achieve an overwhelmingly ominous curiosity and nervous euphoria by forcing positive earthly inspirations alone. Certainly, it punches far too eagerly in the beginning, and this leaves the rest of the record in an impossible position to follow, but she still makes a noble effort to never wander too far away from the magic path, and I am still wearing this hoodie.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 13. Photay - Onism

13. Photay - Onism

August 11

Onism, as a philosophical concept, is one where the individual becomes aware that their life is constrained by a single reality, trapped inside of their own physical body, with the sense that something is missing. A fascinating title, but when contemplating this strange personal limitation in conjunction with the vibrant mischief of Photay’s third full-length, honestly, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than me listening to this album right now. Reportedly inspired by quiet nature parks in the middle of scurried cities, the sprightly latin grooves and splintered wobbles of digital excitement run rich through every one of these tracks, leading some people to call it “chillwave”, but it’s not as tedious as that colourless category. Others label it “ambient”, but to use such a trite term is to shamefully overlook the pure spirited enthusiasm of this overall atmosphere. Some have even rightfully joined the finicky dots to a form of IDM, except Onism is far less pretentious than that standard, favouring the listeners’ well-being over any unnecessarily hyper-intensive flexing game. Rather, let’s forget standard classifications, and enjoy the cheerful mechanical tongues as they lick the innards of our ears until we giggle with a silly glee, because that’s way more fun.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 12. Brand New - Science Fiction

12. Brand New - Science Fiction

Indie Emo Alternative Rock
August 17

What happens when pioneers of the obsolete early-2000s emo scene grow up? After an eight year gap since their last offering, Brand New have the answer. By unifying cohesively restrained tracks with a spaciously haunting production, they’ve constructed an album using the ambitious principles of a feature film, where the journey creeps forward like a determined narrative, meditatively crawling towards something which feels very wrong. They have surrendered the customary obsolete emo model for a soft grungy western feel without sacrificing any of the emotion, instead switching it out for a deeper intellect and a closer attention to the craft itself, intentionally generating an enigmatic pit of hopeless solemn and mournful exhaustion. And each time you listen, your spirit is taxed, as fatigued hands gently drag you further down, far below any acceptable line of comfort. I appreciate the artistic dignity of going out on a high note, but if the rumours of an imminent break up are true, then this is legitimately such a shame, as Science Fiction is the sound of a resuscitated group who just discovered a fresh uncharted pasture to set up camp, and somehow justify their otherwise presumptuous band name even after all this time.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 11. Chelsea Wolfe - Hiss Spun

11. Chelsea Wolfe - Hiss Spun

Gothic Doom Metal Rock
September 22

The ever reliable Chelsea Wolfe only seems to get better with each move she takes. For quite some time now, she has been slowly creeping towards a much simplified (and heavier) doom incarnation of her wicked ways, but on Hiss Spun, it feels like she has finally set up convent; a home where she can weave her sinister drones whilst safely hidden in the shadows, until they grow too big for her hands and escape into a blind noise of utter panic. Such a threat of being trampled to death by the hooves of sludge should be anything but compatible with the delicate allure of Wolfe’s vocals, but instead they dangerously scheme together, upsetting our pleasures like a sex nightmare before I get on my knees, at full service to our undeniable modern day Queen of Darkness, paying respects to the evil magic within her because it would be futile to try and stop it at this point. I don’t know what spell she is using, but it’s working. She has leisurely clawed open my rib cage and tied twigs around my spirit, and now I am legitimately in love with Chelsea Wolfe. I want her to know.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 10. Xiu Xiu - Forget

10. Xiu Xiu - Forget

Art Noise Pop
February 24

Forget is what happens when a 15 year old project finally works out what it does best. Jamie Stewart is no longer trying to be anything, the transformation is complete, he is now fully Xiu Xiu. The optimal amount of refined noise has eloped with the putrid pop, and their baby is one terrifyingly sharp freakshow, delivered with so much skill that it doesn’t even sound like it's trying to be weird anymore. It’s just being itself. Like a mentally disturbed introvert dancing at a party, wearing an ensemble made out of nothing but neon lights even though the room is so very cold. He’s just trying to fit in, but is probably going to try and rape you later. How something can be so vibrantly heightened yet inhospitably antisocial is totally fucked to me. Its intentions are disturbingly indecipherable, as if this was meant to be a joyously accessible album except it had no idea how to do that, and instead messed it up into one pleasantly decorated prettiness of hollow despair. But respect to it. To be so unpredictably lovely yet genuinely strange in a world that has already gone too far is a rare complication indeed.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 09. Charlotte Gainsbourg - Rest

09. Charlotte Gainsbourg - Rest

Art Pop
November 17

Forever living in the towering shadow of her mother, actress Jane Birkin, and especially of her father, musician Serge Gainsbourg (side fact: 13-year-old Charlotte’s 1984 duet with her dad about their suggested incestous relationship put her on the map), the now 46-year-old daughter Gainsbourg has struggled to maintain any balance of professional consistency or accolade to prove her worthiness to wear her own surname. Due to this external pressure, her personal life was perpetually burdened by this birth weight, and it spiralled further after the death of both her father and half-sister, gradually escaping into a deep ocean of alcohol. Rest is her artistic statement on these matters, as opens herself up without making a scene so we can observe her inner grievings whilst she pretends not to notice. She dramatically slides over to you, refuses to make eye contact, and whispers sophisticated seductions into your ear over dreamy synth lines and somber disco subtleties, secretly crying that she’s injured, but her classy head is held up so high above you, that she would never even hear it if you offered her any help. Needless to say, I don’t think she lives in anyone’s shadow anymore.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 08. Priests - Nothing Feels Natural

08. Priests - Nothing Feels Natural

January 27

As we can already smell the end of the 2010s, we should rest easy that our thirst for all things post-punk have been adequately saturated this decade. In that same train, however, such an abundance of the genre has come with its own pitfalls, as any band brave enough to tackle this soaked corner of the market are immediately faced with much competition, and the excess of choice has left many listeners fatigued by the whole resurgence, especially when considering how many offerings simply weren’t that good. Fortunately, Priests’ bold debut proves that there is space at the top still, by humorously sidestepping the usual miserable clichés of the genre with a demented self assurance, simplistic hostility, and an arrogant promise that this is only the beginning of a force much smarter than all of its enemies. Whether that previous statement ultimately checks verified or not is irrelevant for this conversation, because whatever Priests’ eventual outcome (or even the genre’s outcome as a whole), Nothing Feels Natural has already earned its place as one of the most essential post-punk records of the decade, patching the boat that is looking less and less likely to sink each year that passes.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 07. Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked at Me

07. Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked at Me

Contemporary Indie Folk
March 24

In 2015, Phil Elverum’s wife of 13 years (cartoonist/musician Geneviève Castrée) was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and after deteriorating rapidly, she died a year later. And that’s what A Crow Looked at Me is about. It’s not about singing in tune, plucking decorative guitar chords, or rhyming clever words together. It’s not about complete compositions, rather songs that end abruptly, perhaps as symbolic allusions to Geneviève’s own life, or perhaps because Phil gives up halfway, what does it even matter? This is not about you. There is no effort to even entertain you here. In fact, this is a particularly monotonous listen, if you don’t listen. Listen: as this record sinks far below any hollow broken heart you're ever likely to hear, weighed heavy from no emotion but a detached grief, sickeningly barren, despondently gloomy, hopelessly sad. It reads like a man’s diary that you have no business reading. Any poetics are lucky accidents, emptied out by a bare catharsis which occasionally describes something you’ve never even contemplated, and in that second, you are right there. Connected to the loss. And you cry. This puts other albums into perspective. This is not really an album at all. This is why art exists in the first place.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 06. Neil Cicierega - Mouth Moods

06. Neil Cicierega - Mouth Moods

Pop Mashup
January 23

Neil Cicierega is more than just an internet cult leader and a Lemon Demon mastermind. He is also a pop enthusiast armed with so much idiotic genius that when he crafts a mashup mixtape, you don’t question whether it qualifies for your list or not, you only ask how high you should place it. This copyright infringement nightmare zaps fresh life into forgotten classics and smashes the mouths of one hit wonders until they are frequently more impressive than (or at least brutally violated beyond) their original forefathers, yet without ever giving into the temptation of obscure hipster flexing. You may never know what is coming, but you will always recognise what comes, as every feature was a massive Top 40 hit, forever satisfying even the most ignorant of listeners. And it ignites so many sparks inside of me that my innards inflame and I jump around my room full of laughs and nostalgic dance moves, which literally happened multiple times during the writing of this review. Novelty album? Sure. But what a novelty! It’s the best mashup record I’ve ever heard. It’s the happiest an album has made me this decade. I just want everyone to hear this.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 05. Blanck Mass - World Eater

05. Blanck Mass - World Eater

March 3

World Eater is a balancing act of contradictions. It runs fierce and bloodthirsty at full charge, packing a rich plethora of jittery agitations into your wounds without leaving any breathing holes, until the stress pops the staples and a frenzy of anarchic shards scatter upright at your feet. But you will not stop dancing. This is because, no matter how hard and scary Benjamin Power’s third solo album may be, it is not executed relentlessly so, electing to generously smear an abundance of peaceful elation straight on top of the chaos, allowing relief and manufacturing inspiration without abandoning any core human element. It’s never intolerable nor painful, but rather the soundtrack to a heavenly rave where we all welcome the end of the world with open arms. As much as it scrambles my thoughts and leaves my body blissfully battered, it always calls me back for a repeat, offering itself as the perfect mechanical donor for my veins, which is always a gift, and never a chore. I don’t even need to look at what’s already there, I simply place this record on top of the highest league of electro albums I’ve ever heard in my life.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 04. Pumarosa - The Witch

04. Pumarosa - The Witch

Indie Rock
May 19

For such a basic title, The Witch could not be named better. It sounds like a wicked pact was struck up somewhere, one which promised an undercurrent of haunting sorcery, holding an array of distinct genres afloat, steadily balancing a dreamy spaciness with post punk artiness as if conjured by a band who were already dedicated veterans of the dark arts ... except this is somehow only Pumarosa’s debut album. What’s more, it’s a dependable dark magic, bewitching your spirit from the moment you first meet, and then echoing into your consciousness, beckoning your return for another potent taste of the alchemy which only strengthens each time you visit, resonating deeper and more intoxicating per every listen. For any band’s initial release to be so self assured with the quality to match it, is an essentially unheard of phenomenon, and I honestly believe that once the devilry touches enough people, we will one day look back on this record as an authentic classic from our decade.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 03. Lorde - Melodrama

03. Lorde - Melodrama

Synth Art Pop
June 16

After the success of 2013’s debut Pure Heroine, Lorde was suddenly a very big star, and she promptly disappeared out of sight for four years. Between that time and now, she endured a hefty bout of heartbreak, reflecting in solitude, stewing in sadness, then ultimately learning how to convert this grief into art. Meet Melodrama, and as you’ve already assumed, this is not fun pop. This is wise pop, where Lorde sees straight through the trendy scene by adding her own odd ingredients to slightly spoil the formula, fashioning awkward hooks to puppeteer emotional dance moves from the suffering. It’s as if she’s alone at the most miserable house party of the year, sitting on a couch, surrounded by lovers, not feeling sorry for herself but not holding onto a brave face either, simply rationalising the loneliness. And it’s authentically hers. The apotheosis of 20-year-old anguish, too old for puppy love, yet too young to disguise the frailty, finding strength in the gradual development of one’s own maturity. Such a rich darkness not only crushes her previous work, but also exposes all other mainstream music as a desolate and obvious product. And while I feel more hollow per every listen, I never stop dancing.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 02. Benjamin Clementine - I Tell a Fly

02. Benjamin Clementine - I Tell a Fly

Progressive Art Pop
September 29

After Benjamin’s debut At Least for Now shone a hot spotlight onto a man holding the 2015 Mercury Music Prize, I (like many) doubted that the immense pressure of such concentrated attention could be conducive to a valuable follow-up. Fuck me, I was wrong. Instead, I am now convinced that Clementine had been holding back on us, his first album a calculated step towards accessibility, and now that he’s reached that intended level of acclaim, he utilised the platform as a tool for a louder voice, calling out to us: “now look what I can do!”. And what he can do, is this: perfectly balance the delicate intricacies of graciously composed piano whirls with a natural aptness for surreal lunacy, one overt talent who fearlessly set his soaring voice free, fueled by enough creativity that it’s audibly spilling all over the place. Without relying on jarring cheap shots of surprise, I Tell a Fly will never break the flow nor let you get comfortable, which may prove too perplexing and “out there” for some, but let me assure you that Benjamin performed these songs with a wide smile, and our opinions didn’t even cross his mind.

The Top 50 Albums of 2017: 01. Julien Baker - Turn Out the Lights

01. Julien Baker - Turn Out the Lights

Indie Folk Slowcore
October 27

Julien Baker is an open book, and her pages are bleeding all over your fingers. She pleads for help, she aches to be loved, she yearns to be fixed, and yet ... she has not let go of hope. She is forcing all of her reserved energy to work this whole life thing out, but, God, she is struggling and she is exhausted, her hand reaching outwards, exposed and defenseless, trembling and frightened. This is real pain. This is the true soundtrack of depression, because she is not begging for sympathy nor is she losing herself in some dramatic display of exaggerated tragedy. Rather, she has cleaned her guts up, presenting a dignified version of emptiness with a straight face, passive backings, and heavenly vocal notes which lift us off our feet whilst the grey overcast pushes her down and leaves her behind. This is the beauty in pain that everyone talks about, but with Turn Out the Lights, you become sorely aware of how seldom you actually hear it, as your long overdue tears join her tale, and you whisper out loud that sorrow has never sounded so magnificent. Maybe you need a broken heart to fully understand this record. I have a fucking broken heart, so fuck you, this is the Album of the Year.


Usually I end these annual blogs with a conclusion. This year, I decided not to.

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Hall of Fame (2010 - 2017)

What's this? This is where I take them special artists that have appeared on my lists more than once, added their two top albums' positions from those particular years together, then divided that result by two, which granted them a score. The lower the score, the more impressive their output has been this decade. Simples! Here are the top 20 according to that formula:

01. Kendrick Lamar (2012’s good kid, m.A.A.d city #01; 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly #01)
02. Frank Ocean (2011’s Nostalgia, Ultra #27 [not counted]; 2012’s Channel Orange #03; 2016’s Blonde #04)
03. James Blake (2011’s James Blake #01; 2013’s Overgrown #09; 2016’s The Colour in Anything #23 [not counted])
04. Sufjan Stevens (2010's The Age of Adz #07; 2015's Carrie & Lowell #05)
05. Benjamin Clementine (2015's At Least for Now #13; 2017's I Tell a Fly #02)
06. Grimes (2012's Visions #02; 2015's Art Angels #14)
07. Joanna Newsom (2010's Have One on Me #15; 2015's Divers #03)
08. The Caretaker (2011’s An Empty Bliss Beyond This World #04; 2012’s Patience (after Sebald) #15)
09. Kanye West (2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy #25 [not counted]; 2011’s Watch The Throne (with Jay-Z) #19; 2013’s Yeezus #01)
10. Beyoncé (2013’s Beyoncé #01; 2016’s Lemonade #19)
11. Bon Iver (2011's Bon Iver, Bon Iver #7; 2016's 22, A Million #13)
12. Björk (2011's Biophilia #18; 2015's Vulnicura #2)
13. La Dispute (2011's Wildlife #09; 2014's Rooms of the House #12)
14. Nigel Cicierega (2016's Spirit Phone #15 [as Lemon Demon]; 2017's Mouth Moods #06)
15. Nick Cave (2010’s Grinderman 2 #22 [as part of Grinderman]; 2013’s Push the Sky Away #28 [not counted]; 2016’s Skeleton Tree #3)
16. Deftones (2010’s Diamond Eyes #10; 2012’s Koi No Yokan #16; 2016’s Gore #22 [not counted])
17. Chelsea Wolfe (2011's Apokalypsis #32 [not counted]; 2015's Abyss #15; 2017's Hiss Spun #11)
18. St. Vincent (2011’s Strange Mercy #10; 2012’s Love This Giant (with David Byrne) #27 [not counted]; 2014's St. Vincent #17)
19. Run the Jewels (2013's Run the Jewels #18; 2014's Run the Jewels 2 #10)
20. Death Grips (2012’s The Money Store #6; 2015’s Fashion Week #23; 2016’s Bottomless Pit #30 [not counted])

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