Albums Of The Year 2017


We've had a great year for music, I know we say that every year, but it's still true. It's always interesting to hear what others have liked throughout the year, and I love to hear from customers about their favourites, and it seems clear there's been no one unifying record in 2017.  There's been so many different albums mentioned, which speaks volumes for the quality of what's come out this year. 
A lot of magazines and shops did their lists at the beginning of November, but that's when we put our head down and listen back over our favourites for the year and listen to recommendations from customers, friends, etc, in case we've missed any gems.  So, here are our favourite 20 albums of the year.  If you're not familiar with these, you can check them out on our Spotify playlist HERE, or even better, pick a copy up and take a punt (click on the artist names for more info and to order).  We've also got contributions from Kelly Lee Owens and our friends at Tough Love, Erased Tapes, Plug Life, etc, scroll down to see what they've picked
Up until now I've admired, rather than loved, all of James Holden's releases and so was interested to hear this new one, but not exactly chomping at the bit. Putting it on for the first time it again struck me as another really good James Holden record. But I found myself putting it on again later in the day, and again the next day, and that carried on for weeks. It quickly became my most listened to album of the year, despite only coming out at the beginning of November. It's an astonishing, all-encompassing album that touches on psychedelia, Krautrock, spiritual-jazz, folk and, of course, electronica. If your musical interests lie somewhere in the middle of Boards Of Canada, Sun Ra and Cluster I think you'll probably love this record. If those things don't do it for you, give it a go anyway, there's so much going on you might just fall in love with it too
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Kelly Lee Owens' albums of the year (in no order):
Four Tet - New Energy
Sevdaliza - ISON
Björk - Utopia
Differ-Ent - It's Good To Be Differ-Ent
Talaboman - The Night Land
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Stephen Pietrzykowski - Tough Love (in no order)
Lowlife - Dogging (reissue on Alter)
Dry as post-punk nihilism that originally came out ages ago on great Aussie label, RIP Society, but got the reissue once-over by Alter a few months back. A negi-vibes Oasis for those that don't wanna like Oasis for whatever reason, and a genuine scream of masculine crisis. There's a song about Rihanna called 'Dream Machine'. Total Lad Life. 
DJ Seinfeld - 'I Saw Her Kiss Him In Front of Me and I Was Like WTF' from Time Spent Away From U
Can't be doing with the wacky names, and the album taken as a whole is a little saccharine, but this one song is worth the admission alone. That kind of emotional dancefloor futurism that the British do so well. Tears in the rain. Rush hour in the technocracy. 
Ariel Pink - Dedicated to Bobby Jameson
Ariel does it every time, so there's no surprise he's done it again. One of the few albums from this year i could listen to front-to-back no skipping, so it's a bit weird that this one feels like it slipped under the radar a bit. It's AP in a more obvious Pop mode, with IMO, career-high moments in Feels Like Heaven and Time To Live that stand toe-to-toe with Round and Round. And no-one stands toe-to-toe with Round and Round. Let's not wait until he's gone to miss him.  

Rat Columns - Candle Power
You either love David West or you're wrong.

AMOR - Paradise/In Love an Arc 12"
12" of the year. A near-endless groove. That favourite song in the bar in heaven, but two of them.
Hand Habits - Wildly Idle
A true wonder of a voice and guitarist so effortless you forget this kind of thing only comes around every now and then. Meg Duffy plays in Kevin Morby's band, which is crazy to me - when a talent like this performs, there's no-one else in the room.

Mono No Aware (compilation)
Infinite horizon music. Great for listening to on planes. Apparently men get more emotional at high altitudes. Here's the soundtrack.
Luka Productions - Fasokan
Incredible synth and vocal arrangements from Mali. Like an inverted eski, somehow. Where there's sunshine, there's shadows.
Future - 'Mask Off'
Reload, reload, and reload again.
Roy of the Ravers - 'Emotinium' from 2 Late 4 Love
This came out last year and i had no idea until Aphex played it at Field Day and the internet went into meltdown. Breaking The Rules including it here, but feels like 2017 was its year. Right now, I think it might be the best song i've ever heard. Should be on best of lists until the end of time.
G.S. Schray - Gabriel
Credit to Cathal from Girls Names/Group Zero for switching me on to this. At once on the same astral plain as Vini Reilly and then cut away music in an episode of Sunset Beach. There's an image.
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Gregory Wells - Plug Life   (in no order)
Tornado Wallace ‘Lonely Planet’ (Running Back)
Michael Nau ‘Some Twist’ (Full Time Hobby)
James Holden & The Animal Spirits ‘The Animal Spirits’ (Border Community)
Laurence Guy ‘Saw You For The First Time’ (Church)
Four Tet ‘New Energy’ (Text)
SZA ‘Ctrl’ (RCA)
Marcel L’une ‘Astral Palms’ (Local Talk)
Washed Out ‘Mister Mellow’ (Stones Throw)
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Blue Kirkhope - Erased Tapes
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - The Kid (Western Vinyl) 
Here Lies Man - Here Lies Man (Ridingeasy Records)
Alice Coltrane - World Sprituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda (Reissue/Luaka Bop) 
EABS - Repetitions (Letters To Krzysztof Komeda) (Astigmatic Records)
Big Thief - Capacity (Saddle Creek)
Kelela - Take Me Apart (Warp)
Gun Outfit - Out Of Range (Paradise Of Bachelors)
Various Artists – The Hired Hands: A Tribute To Bruce Langhorne (Scissor Tail Records) 
Anne Briggs - The Time Has Come (Reissue/Earth Recordings) 
Jake Xerxes Fussell - What in the Natural World (Paradise Of Bachelors)
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Hannah Overton - Secretly Group (in no order)
Laura Marling - Semper Femina
This is up there with my favourite Laura Marling albums. Her song ‘Don’t Pass Me By’ has a guitar part that stops me i my tracks every time.
Jlin - Black Origami
There is so much going on in here, I discover something new every time I listen to it. I also saw an incredible Wayne McGregor ballet she soundtracked at Saddlers Wells a few months ago, it blew by mind. I can’t wait to see what she does next. 
Bjork - Utopia
Perfect bath music. You need to indulge in this album with no distractions
Four Tet - New Energy
This has some gorgeous moments on it, classic Four Tet, 
Sheer Mag - Need To Feel Your Love
One of the best live and uncompromising bands I’ve seen
Stormzy - Gang Signs & Prayer
This is just brilliant, full of surprises, full of energy and independence, very personal. Blinded By Your Grace made me re-think the whole album.
Fleet Foxes - Crack Up
Less obvious than previous albums, this has been a slow burn but got me in the end
Courtney Marie Andrews - Honest Life
She’s a great songwriter, it’s such a sweet record, it reminds me a little of discovering Ryan Adams as Heartbreaker came out
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - The Kid 
There’s a lot of magic in this album.
Sampha - Process
Its so good to hear Sample’s sweet voice on an album after so much time
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Luke Branch – Asylums / Cool Thing Records
1. Lee Ranaldo – Electric Trim This album was a real surprise for me, I’ve never brought a Lee Ranaldo solo album before but am a big Sonic Youth fan. A few days before buying this record I listened to the Kreative Kontrol podcast based in Canada and Lee was interviewed about the process of making this album, it’s very much a collaboration with Ravil Refree musically but also incorporates words from external sources, the whole process sounded fascinating and the results are too.
2. Beach Fossils –Somersault I went to see this band with Jazz a few years back just before starting Asylums and Cool Thing Records, they were a lot of fun live but I have to admit I preferred the support band that night Traams. In September me and Jazz went to see them again and they left a bigger impression on me, they had evolved so much musically and they really captured my imagination. I have listened to this record a lot, it just gets better and better. The Beatles, Wu Tang, DIIV, Brian Jonestown Massacre – I can hear it all in there.
3. The Mountain Goats – Goths I’ve always liked thematic writing, The Magnetic Fields album ‘I’ is a personal favourite for instance. I could see some similarities between The Magnetic Fields and The Mountain Goats when I was introduced to their music earlier this year by John Kennedy. I immediately loved the idea of writing an album based around the rise and fall of the Goth movement…..its musically understated and the words are all powerful……a special album, original and compelling.
4. BAIT – BAIT Even though I played bass and helped with some arrangements on this album I can enjoy it as a music fan primarily. Since launching Asylums and Cool Thing back in 2014 myself and Mike Webster always intended to make an album where we switched roles, Mike is a very different writer to me and it made sense to compartmentalise our work rather that squeeze it all into one band. I really enjoyed being in a supporting role on this album, it’s funny, brutal and experimental…..we knew it was a niche record when we were making it. I love the track MZ so much.
5. ESCAPE-ISM – Introduction to Escape-ism Ian Svenonius is a huge favourite of mine. The Nation Of Ulysses – 13 Point Plan To Destroy America is a complete classic and its so nice to hear Ian’s voice again. This record is minimalist and difficult at times, very Suicide influenced and that’s no bad thing. This album feels like the blueprint for something bigger and I’m excited to see how this project progresses.

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