By JACK LEONARD and THE MAVERICKS
It’s nearly the end of another year, and for the internet, that means one thing and one thing only: It’s list time. Here’s ours.
Fazerdaze – Morningside
by ERICA MCQUEEN
Back in early 2014, Amelia Murray played a backyard gig at my friend’s flat. She introduced herself and mentioned she was thinking about calling her project ‘Fazerdaze’. Fast-forward a few years and she’s a household name when it comes to Kiwi indie songstresses. Since releasing her debut self-titled EP, Amelia has gone from strength to strength. She has attended the Redbull Music Academy in Montreal and toured extensively. This year we were graced with her enthralling album, Morningside.
Recorded in her bedroom, the dreamy surf pop album is full of sparkling guitars and airy vocals. Her songs are catchy, but not annoying like I often find pop. Lucky Girl is an obvious hit, Little Uneasy my personal fav, and Jennifer a lyrical highlight. Whether it’s turned up loud as you sing along on a road trip, or played softly in the background as you study; you’ll want to have this one on repeat. Morningside is a beautifully crafted album that’s well worth your time. Listen to it here.
Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!”
by FAGA TUIGAMALA (FANG)
Alright, you got me! Technically this album was released right at the end of 2016, but 2017 was the year it exploded, so of course, we couldn’t help but include it in this list. Childish Gambino’s “Awaken My Love!” saw the multi-talented artist experiment with different sounds and genres, tastefully weaving together elements of funk, R&B, rock, and psychedelic soul.
His third studio album opens with the single Me And Your Mama, characterised by dreamy sections wherein Gambino’s insane vocal abilities layered over relatively heavy instrumentation bring the climax of the song to life. This is followed by Redbone, arguably the most popular song on the album. It’s a song which showcases the versatility of Gambino’s vocals, as he sings in a falsetto that is raspy, airy, and seductive all at once. Though it’s a slower, more relaxed track, it’s dripping with 70s funk and an addictive riff that’s groovy in its own right. This album also included an instrumental piece, The Night Me And Your Mama Met, which sounds heavily inspired by Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain. For almost two minutes, we only hear a looping chord progression but soon enough, a wrenching guitar solo overpowers it. What I love about the solo is that though it wasn’t lightning fast nor did it incorporate every guitar technique under the sun, you can hear the burning urgency in every note picked.
Though these were the three stand out tracks for me, the rest of the album complements them beautifully. Each song is an experimental and daring work of art. Though there were many great songs from other artists this year, it was always the generic, unoriginal, and mundane ones which dominated the radio stations. Then this came out and took 2017 by storm as it drew the line between art and hits that will fade away in a matter of weeks. “Awaken My Love!” is purely in a league of its own. Stay woke. You can do so by listening to this album here.
The Correspondents – Foolishman
by AZARIA HOWELL
Electro-swing-meets-pop-group The Correspondents, came out with an amazing album this year. Foolishman was released on 22nd September 2017, and I haven’t stopped listening to it since.
The album starts with the song Tonight, which is accompanied by a music video that just makes you dance. The pop-sounding vocals mixed with electronic music and jazz create a combination of sounds that work surprisingly well together. My favourite song on the album is Inexplicable, which has a chorus that I can’t help but sing along to, and music that makes me feel a bit less embarrassed about dancing alone in my room.
The album focuses on life stories such as a spouse cheating in Hold Her Tight and being on the fence about going to a party in the song Tonight. The songs are mostly upbeat-sounding with an underlying message or theme. So you. Yes, you. Listen to it here, right now. You can thank me later when your feet are sore from dancing.
Weezer – Pacific Daydream
by ELLIOT DAWSON
Weezer’s music has been constantly under criticism ever since they came back from their hiatus after Pinkerton. Often a prime example of a band that’s ‘lost it’, Weezer has completely redeemed themselves. From 2014’s Everything Will Be Alright In The End as well as 2016’s White Album, Weezer got their flow back and then some. This year Weezer released Pacific Daydream and it was top to bottom an amazing album.
The first single from the album was Feels Like Summer, an appropriately-titled, feel good, summery song instrumental-wise. But the song cleverly hides dark lyrical undertones about the death of lead singer Rivers Cuomo’s wife. These kinds of contrasts perfectly capture what makes Weezer so great.
Opening track Mexican Fender– as well as other singles, Weekend Woman and Happy Hour– all, provide the classic Weezer summer vibes with catchy hooks, melodies and riffs. Pacific Daydream represents Weezer coming back to their absolute best. It was a genuine surprise to me that the album didn’t do very well commercially, but that doesn’t hinder the fact this was a delight of an album with one of the coolest album covers of the year. Allow your ears to be blessed by checking this album out here.
The Horrors – V
by ALEX LYALL
When lead single Machine was released back in June, the thuggish guitar strains were not just obvious, but a surprise as well. It has been years since the Southend-on-Sea band gave up the campy theatrics reflective of their name. They used to be fascinated with parasites and Jack the Ripper, then they became obsessed with writing good songs instead. Can camp and sincere songwriting be reconciled? The band’s fifth album, V (go figure), shows that reconciliation is actually very easy.
V‘s strength lies in how seamlessly it merges the spirit of their earlier material and the song-writing merits of their later output. Machine sounds spiteful and bitter, but the bulk of V showcases the marriage of sweet and sour. Press Enter to Exit takes a soft melody and colours it with jittery piano and lurching bass while on Ghost, the band build a wall of eerie electro-pop. One of the album’s stand-out tracks, It’s A Good Life, buries its message of hope underneath a choking synth. Frontman Faris Badwan’s advocates making the most of now – his band meanwhile, sound like they’re playing at a funeral. You can listen to this album here.
The Killers – Wonderful Wonderful
by DANA TETENBURG
In late September this year, The Killers released fifth studio album Wonderful Wonderful, and it’s exactly that; so nice you gotta say it twice. It’s been a five-year wait for new content from this great American rock band, the longest hiatus the group has subjected us to since the four-year gap between previous albums Day & Age and Battle Born. Fortunately, it proves to be worth it.
Things are kicked off with Wonderful Wonderful and The Man. These are songs that qualify as stadium ballads, but not so much in the charismatic way the band has produced before. The album then slides into songs that express a more predominant sense of pleading and exposure. Rut, Life To Come, Some Kind of Love, and Out of My Mind are more or less classic rock heartbreak ballads, while Run For Cover and Tyson vs. Douglas produce a bit of political discourse. This kind of combo is a strong statement that pokes a stick at the band’s previous personas, making Wonderful Wonderful probably the first self-aware piece the band has ever produced. This is made obvious through the album’s closing track, Have All The Songs Been Written?
Wonderful Wonderful feels more about showmanship than anything else, as frontman Brandon Flowers oozes confidence even when he’s oozing vulnerability, giving that bit of added shameless rock and glamour to an album that makes you long to see The Calling live. Seeing as this experimentation with something a little more glossy was rather brushed under the carpet with the band’s previous work, it’s great to see The Killers respond to the pressure of making something fresh rather than letting their formula get stale. Wonderful Wonderful is a 2k17 masterpiece, and it’s going to be great to see live at Spark Arena next year. Listen to it here.
Ulver – The Assassination of Julius Caesar
by JACK LEONARD
Despite being the infamous veterans of unexpected twists and turns throughout their career, it was hard not to be surprised when the press release for Ulver’s latest album was sent out. The text within the announcement informed us that this was to be Ulver’s ‘pop album’, and that the song that opens the album, Nemoralia, is simultaneously about the death of Princess Diana, and the myth of the Greek goddess Artemis. Considering that Ulver are defined by their ambition, this was promising news. Once The Assassination of Julius Caesar was released, it was clear that this promise had been delivered on in Ulver’s most cohesive release in a decade.
It is important to note that ‘Ulver’s pop album’ is not exactly radio material. It’s a strange, pulsing, dark, danceable, and sometimes anthemic album. The prevailing aspects of all of the arrangements are the throbbing kick drums, distorted synths, and Kristoffer Rygg’s clean, dominating vocals. Just about every lyric on the album is some form of historical reference, with perhaps the most obvious and twisted example being 1969‘s barrage of song, movie, and book references from that year, all tied together by their relevance to Charles Manson. The most effective use of this lyrical approach is showcased on the aforementioned Nemoralia, wherein the imagery of ancient Roman festivals, Nero lighting ‘human torches’ and burning down Rome, and Princess Diana’s fatal car crash collide in a seamless and evocative manner.
The Assassination of Julius Caesar‘s subject matter is mostly morbid and the overall tone is dark, yet this album is infectious in a way perhaps best displayed by So Falls The World. This track serves as a lament to the inevitable fall of Rome and is suitably slow and sombre. Yet in its final moments, it warps into a thumping dance track that goes hard. That’s what this album’s all about; taking another sharp turn into unfamiliar territory, and flourishing in unexpected ways. See for yourself by listening to it right here.
So there you go! Do you agree with the albums included on this list? Were there any others that deserved to be mentioned? Share this article or let us know in the comments below!
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