It’s that time of year again, end of year lists. Keeping with tradition (well.. I did it last year), I am going to be counting down my favourite albums of the year. These albums aren’t the albums I believe to be the best of 2017, but the albums that touched me in some way, that I connected with, or listened to the most. If you don’t know some of the albums on the list, please give them a listen, and make sure to share your favourite albums with me too!
8) BLUE LIPS (lady wood phase II) – Tove Lo
Tove Lo’s third album BLUE LIPS (lady wood phase II) is the second half of the story the Swede was telling on Lady Wood. Chronicling the rise and fall of a relationship through the lens of sex, alcohol and drugs, it’s bold and brash and unapologetic. There’s no lack of sex in music today, especially when it comes to female pop stars, but when it comes to Tove Lo it would be hard for anyone to say it’s done for the male gaze. Oh and I’ll give you a second just to think about the album titles there now. Got it? Ok let’s continue.
The first half of the album (LIGHT BEAMS) is mostly fun and uptempo with highlights such as dance number ‘Disco Tits’ and ballsy banger ‘Bitches.’ Part II (PITCH BLACK) begins to chart a downward spiral with ‘Struggle’ (“Fuck, fuck, fuck some sense into me/ gold for loneliness, I will pay”), closing with ‘hey you got drugs?’ (“Just need a pick-me-up / only for tonight / don’t tell anyone I was with ya”). It’s a fantastic pop album with just enough grit to land it a spot here.
“Blue Lips feels like the end of a night, when everything that once sparkled under the disco ball is now revealed under brash and unforgiving lights as rock bottom.” (The Irish Times)
7) Dua Lipa – Dua Lipa
If you could create a female superstar in a lab, perfectly moulded for 2017, it would be Dua Lipa. The Kosovo-born, London-based singer-songwriter has skyrocketed to the top of the charts this year with a number of pop bangers and a host of “best newcomer” awards under her belt. Her brand of confident, sassy, empowered womanhood is resonating, best seen on the cheeky ‘Blow Your Mind (Mwah)’ and on ‘Hotter Than Hell’ where she muses “you probably still adore me” and promises to give you “the pleasure of heaven / and I’ll give it to you / hotter than hell.”
Tracks like ‘IDGAF’ (‘Cause if you think I care about you now / Well, boy, I don’t give a fuck’) and ‘New Rules’ (“Don’t pick up the phone / You know he’s only calling ’cause he’s drunk and alone”) will aid in leaving fuckboys behind in the dust, while ‘Begging’ and ‘Last Dance’ are euphoric releases for some lusting after love. It could be just another pop record, but Lipa’s ability to sound relatable and genuine in her lyrics combined with sultry, seductive vocals gives her the goddess like edge you need to truly make your mark as a woman in pop today.
“She’s the real deal.” (NME)
6) OK – Otherkin
The only Irish album to feature on my list (I am definitely doing something wrong..), is Otherkin’s debut. The Irish rockers had teased us with the massive ‘Ay Ay’ previously, and OK lives up to expectations. Shake up a coke bottle before popping the lid and you’ve something akin to the listening experience of this record. If you’re a fan of indie-rock but are looking for something a bit grittier to get your teeth stuck into, this album is for you.
Screeching guitars, smashing drums and commanding vocals make for 39 minutes of hyped-up energetic chaos. ‘Feel It’ is an absolute earworm, ‘Yeah, I Know’ is pulsating and ‘So So’ is a grungy closer. There’s a nice bit of social commentary to be found amidst the rock’n’roll, on ‘Ay Ay,’ they take a stab at the music industry while on ‘React’ they ask “are you going to resist?” in reference to the shift to right-wing politics in recent times.
“Who is Dublin’s next great band?” Is there a band out there that possesses the same energy and thoughtful songwriting of U2’s youthful days […] in Otherkin, the Fair City has found its heir apparent.” (Revue)
5) What Do You Think About the Car? – Declan McKenna
Declan McKenna is still a teenager and already being heralded as the voice of a generation. Perhaps that’s a bit ott, but with brilliant hooks, interesting lyrics and an obvious love for experimentation, it seems inevitable this young man is certain to be a star. From start to finish, there’s no filler songs to be found on What Do You Think About the Car?
‘Humongous’ has a marvelous hook and the kind of chorus you could yell out at Glasto, ‘Make Me Your Queen’ is a relationship song McKenna style (the subtext being the patriarchal society we live in, in which a ‘queen’ is lesser to a king) and’Why Do You Feel Down?’ is one of my favourite tracks of the year. Politically charged songs like ‘Brazil’ and ‘Isombard’ are examples of the grit beneath the glitter. Concluding the album is the lyric ‘trust in me’ on ‘Listen To Your Friends’ – that we do Declan, that we do.
“On an album full of brash, fun indie-rock songs, McKenna wants to remind us that he is standing for something here. Forget about Brazil being the pinnacle of his success; he’s only just getting started. ” (noripcord)
4) The Search for Everything – John Mayer
John Mayer’s seventh album has had both critics and fans alike stating that Mayer is “back in his groove.” Personally, I have genuinely loved every record he’s put out, from the show-off Continum to the country/folk of Born & Raised and everything in-between. On The Search for Everything, Mayer takes it back to his earlier days whilst maintaining some tracks that have that country-blues sound of his most recent releases. Those earlier days means we’re dealing with a bit of cockiness (the album opens with “the prettiest girl in the room, she wants me”) but overall, the lyrics reveal a much more mature Mayer than previously seen.
‘In The Blood’ is the highlight for me, where the now forty-year-old reflects on nature versus nurture and asks “what about this feeling that I’m never good enough? Will it wash out in the water, or is it always in the blood?” ‘Never On The Day You Leave’ is another show of growth, a pining ballad without the usual snark or cringe. There’s also fun, groovy numbers like ‘Still Feel Like Your Man,’ and ‘Helpless’ which see the return of some classic Mayer riffs. To be honest, John Mayer could release an album where he sings the alphabet amidst some guitar riffs and I’d probably be happy out, but this album is pretty good if you ask me.
“The Search for Everything succeeds because he’s not donning a new costume: instead, he’s settling into a groove he can claim as his own, and it feels like he’s at home.” (AllMusic)
3) The Loved Ones – Flyte
One of my favourite albums of this year, and one I can see myself returning to many times in the future, has to be Flyte’s debut. The London four-piece made up of William Taylor (lead vocals), Jon Supran (drums), Nick Hill (bass) and Sam Berridge (keys), are doing something that feels both fresh and familiar. Comparisons to The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel among others is obvious and inevitable, but this does the band a disservice.
Flyte are no copy cats. The Loved Ones is a nostalgic release from the present day, but hidden beneath delicious, effortless harmonies, are darker themes and beautiful, astute songwriting that gives the Hackney boys an edge. Suicide is contemplated on ‘Sliding Doors,’ domestic abuse on ‘Cathy Come Home’ and mental illness on ‘Spiral.’ The blend of vocals is blissful, one of the highlights their stunning cover of Alvvays ‘Archie, Marry Me,’ which transforms a pop song into an acapella delight.
“There are quieter, less immediate moments on ‘The Loved Ones’, but never filler. This is the kind of album that’ll offer up a new favourite track with every single listen. “(Clash)
2) For A Moment, I Was Lost – Amber Run
After a turbulent 2016, Nottingham natives Amber Run returned this year with their silver lining – their sophomore album. After being dropped by their record label RCA and losing their drummer Felix Archer, the record was composed during a time when it was unclear whether there would still be an Amber Run in 2017. In spite of all this, or maybe because of it, this record combines all the best elements of their debut record 5am and builds on them to create Amber Run’s masterpiece.
At times they’re mellow and muted (Haze, Machine), at others they’re energetic and powerful (No Answers, Perfect), but there’s not a moment where they aren’t good. Lyrically, the record is much stronger than it’s predecessor with lines like “I’ll be the shadow that you see at night / That shred of doubt in the back of your mind” (No Answers) and “We started as a fever / we turned into an ache that never goes” (Wastelands). On For A Moment, I Was Lost haunting harmonies and vulnerable vocal moments combine with crashing drums, smashing keys and glorious guitar riffs to create something that is all-encompassing, atmospheric, and never fails to deliver a sonical release nearing perfection.
“Amber Run hit the nail on the head with this album; they show originality in all of the places they lacked before, they took all of the emotions that were swirling around them and channeled them into one beautifully crafted record, and above all they persevered when they thought they couldn’t.” (Atwood Magazine)
1) Melodrama – Lorde
There’s few that will leave out Lorde when compiling lists of the best albums of 2017. The New Zealander’s second album is a masterfully crafted piece of art. In the Spotify era, the art of the album has been all but left behind. On Melodrama, Lorde picks up a paintbrush on opening track ‘Green Light’ and doesn’t leave it down until closer ‘Perfect Places,’ mixing colour and texture, shadow and light, to create one cohesive sonical story.
“God, I wonder why we bother,” Lorde sings out on ‘Sober II (Melodrama)’, “all the glamour and the trauma and the fucking melodrama,” summing up an album that speaks to the haze of the highs and heartbreaks of early adulthood, just as likely to soundtrack your nights drinking too much and dancing without inhibitions in crowded places, as the ones spent in depressive episodes in dark rooms alone.
“At once immediate and layered, massive and minute, thoughtful and instinctual, Melodrama fully solidifies Lorde as the leading voice of pop and an artist, thinker, and capturer of reality beyond comparison.” (Consequence of Sound)
Other albums I adored this year;
- reputation – Taylor Swift
- Wake Up Now – Nick Mulvey
- Harry Styles – Harry Styles
- More Life – Drake
- hopeless fountain kingdom – Halsey
- Something’s Changing – Lucy Rose
- Only When We’re Naked – Zak Abel
- Heiress – Novo Amor & Ed Tullett
- A Blaze of Feather – A Blaze of Feather
- midnight – Lewis Watson