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My Best Albums of 2017 – Chris Marks

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That’s it! I’m done! No more music please! 2017 has been such a big one for great music that I have aural-pleasure induced fatigue.

When the editors said ‘pick 10 albums’ I thought that would be an easy enough task but NO, with each day more albums of note came forward. I’ve not even had time to properly explore the new Bjork record yet as not ruin this final list of ten.

How many of these will make the final mega-list – probably not many! But that doesn’t matter, these are the best ten albums of 2017. FACT.*

*Disclaimer: They might not be, but I think they are. And for the purposes of this list I am right!

Enough rambling, these are the ten:

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs - Feed The Rats

Everything about this band is over-the-top! From the frustratingly long band name to their raging vocals and crushing, relentless riffs. “Onslaught” is the best way to describe the sound of the Geordie band’s debut Feed The Rats.

Opening with the 15 minute plus ‘Psychopomp’ they are straight in with the face-melting psycho-rock.

At just three tracks long the ‘short’ number ‘Sweet Relief’ is another full-pelt rocker before closer ‘Icon’ works its way slowly into a massive stoner-jam. At 17 minutes long this final track shows Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs are carrying basic rock ideas into prog-rock realms.

This album is relentless and a real endurance test in the best sense of the word.

Noga Erez – Off The Radar

Electronic styles are so ubiquitous in modern pop music that when something that manages to push boundaries, but maintain its pop sensibility, appears it needs embracing.

Noga Erez’s debut is an incredibly accomplished record that tackles heavy subjects (although largely in a frustratingly oblique manner) with a constant air of playfulness and fun.

It is not the lyrical content that makes this a vital protest record but the constantly surprising production that takes the more conventional elements off into many different areas including techno, trap, dubstep and experimental electronica. 

The first half of the record is bass heavy and danceable while the latter half takes the listener into more downbeat, contemplative sounds.

With some of the most forward-thinking pop singles of 2017 Noga Erez has released a record that deserves huge accolades for doing something different in the cookie-cutter world of pop.

Oh Sees – Orc 

Another year, another Thee Oh Sees album (we’re on 19 now!) They dropped the Thee to be become just Oh Sees and with it came an aural change as well.

Sure, the garage punk energy is still intact but John Dwyer’s every-changing band veer off in a darker krautrock, psychedelic direction. It could, at times, even be called ‘prog’.

It lacks some of the immediacy of their best garage rock jams but slowly creeps under your skin and into your psyche.

The most exciting live rock band on the planet, with each year and each album Oh Sees deliver the goods. Orc is no exception, it is just more incredible rock music.

This is The Kit – Moonshine Freeze

This Is The Kit have had a slow-burning career, but quite rightly their latest record Moonshine Freeze has gained them more recognition.

It is the most hypnotic of alternative folk albums, taking the genre tropes and moulding them into songs that should move any rock fan.

As the second and third tracks on the release ‘Hotter Colder’ and ‘Moonshine Freeze’ collectively sit on the list of best songs released this year, such is their encompassing brilliance.

Moonshine Freeze is the perfect album to float into and lose yourself.

St Vincent – Masseduction

Five albums in Annie Clark shows no sign of settling into one style or sound, she increasingly joins the select body of ‘legendary’ artists, one that will be still receiving accolades in 50-years-time for the sheer wonder of her work.

Moving on from her image as a new-age guitar hero St Vincent completes another transformation into an experimental pop Goddess capable of moulding the world around her to fit her artistic vision.

With a new tenderness to her vocal delivery, but with the wry and witty lyrics intact she has forged a genre-bending pop masterpiece that is on a par with anything Prince ever realised.

Masseduction is a near masterpiece in which each note, each word is perfectly in place. It is hard to think what you would change. The best thing to do is embrace it. It is what pop needs to be in 2017.

Sampha – Process

The Mercury’s this year picked a blinder. Sampha has been sneaking into the public consciousness for a while, mainly through his vocals propping up the work of SBTRKT.

Process, his first solo, full length album expands on the work heard before delivering a hypnotic work of soulful electronica and fragile RnB, combined with Sampha’s soul-baring vocals and lyrics.

Accessible but innovative this album should make a massive star of Sampha if there is any justice in the world. If this is not what people are looking for, what is wrong with the world?

Wolf Alice – Visions of Life

Braver and more dynamic than ever, Wolf Alice completely side-stepped that difficult second album syndrome with a twisted beast of an album that dredged the bed of 80s and 90s punk and indie with incredible results.

In the first three tunes we get floating dream-pop, snarling punk and anthemic indie. Throughout the record the band dabble with synth-pop, acoustic rock and alt-rock as they become confident that they can mould any number of styles into their own sound.

Ellie Roswell comes across as more confident, bolder and more powerful than on the debut record which helps carry Visions Of Life into the realms of essential releases. This is another step to setting Wolf Alice up as one of Britain’s best rock bands.

Sinkane – Life & Livin’ It

With his fifth, self-produced album Sinkane has again proven that he is a seriously overlooked artist.

Life & Livin’ It inventively takes a wide-range of African pop-music influences and packages them up in a manner accessible for Western audiences. Packed with the Afrobeat rhythms and melodies of his past work the key influence on this new album is clearly William Onyeabor with the cult legend’s jittery, electro-Afrofunk style flowing throughout.

All in all this is a fun album that breaks down borders and speaks a truly universal language of music. Plus you can dance to it, which is never a bad thing.

Rapsody – Laila’s Wisdom

With her second album, and her first for Roc Nation, Rapsody dropped an instant classic and raised the game. Laila’s Wisdom is not only her best work but the best work amongst her peers, putting her in the same league as Kendrick Lemar.

For the amount of styles and ideas condensed into its smooth beats and jazzy melodies it is an exceptionally coherent album. Rapsody’s effortless flow and adept storytelling demonstrates a real mastery of the craft.

While there is no standout track anthemic enough to call a standout this an album that remains as good throughout.

If that is not praise enough, how could you not be interested in a release that attracts Kendrick Lemar, Busta Rhymes and Anderson Paak as collaborators?

Kelly Lee Owens – Kelly Lee Owens

It’s easy for electronic music to appear soulless and inorganic but the debut from Welsh artist Kelly Lee Owens is packed with soul and, at times, even ‘charm’.

Owens is a natural at forging layered, atmospheric tracks that while maintaining her aural aesthetic journey through dream-pop, minimal techno, krautrock and ambient drone in their creation.

This is an album that is both meditative and danceable and is 100% a standout electronic release for 2017. 

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