2017 was yet another really good year for music (but then when isn’t?), so (as last year) here are some brief thoughts on my musical highlights of the year.
Albums of the year
My top 5 albums of the year are (probably):
The Mountain Goats: Goths (their sixteenth album, inspired by life as a teenage goth)
The Magnetic Fields: 50 Song Memoir (Stephin Merritt’s 50-track song cycle as he reached 50 years of age that has something for everyone)
Fake Laugh: Fake Laugh (this year’s best new indie jangle pop debut)
Gigs of the year
Conor Oberst at the O2 Academy – my first time seeing the Bright Eyes man, bringing me a new appreciation of the many records of his I own, which I’ve tended to like more than love. See my review here.
The Magnetic Fields at the Phil – the second half of 50 Song Memoir, as reviewed here.
Bubbling under: Tinariwen at the Invisible Wind Factory (see here), Slowdive at the Arts Club (reviewed here), Los Campesinos!, also at the Arts Club (see here), Pretenders at the Phil (reviewed here), Chic featuring Nile Rodgers at the Echo Arena (more here), and Martha Reeves & The Vandellas at the Cavern Club (read more here).
Songs of the year
Every year I compile a ‘best of’ CD for friends. I set a few rules – only one song per band/singer, and only songs released that year. If you want a copy, give me a shout.
This year’s track listing is:
- Seán McGowan – Gag Pt 1. A very brief, spoken-word track from the Southampton-born Billy Bragg-a-like, who I saw supporting the Bard of Barking.
- Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band – Working Family. His first album in any guise since Shack’s On The Corner Of Miles And Gil in 2006. Up to his usual tuneful standards.
- The Feelies – Turn Back Time. The best track off the album is probably the nine-minute closer In Between (Reprise), but that’s just too long as I want to squeeze as many great bands onto my disc as possible.
- Bash & Pop – Unfuck You. Tommy Stinson’s first album under this name since 1993, and nearly as good as the classic Friday Night Is Killing Me.
- The Mountain Goats – Unicorn Tolerance. Sadly, this track doesn’t name check The Sisters Of Mercy or Gene Loves Jezebel, but it’s another great track off my just-about record of the year.
- Sneaks – Hair Slick Back. This year’s angular post-punk-sounding find.
- The Bats – No Trace. Possibly my favourite Flying Nun band return with their ninth album – as consistently good as ever.
- Peter Perrett – An Epic Story. Comeback of the year, if not the decade or (hype alert) millennium. The Only Ones are one of those largely forgotten post-punk bands who released a slew of great tunes in the late 1970’s and main man Perrett released his first solo album this year, and first long player of any kind in more than two decades after a long history of drug abuse.
- Guided By Voices – Cretinous Number Ones. A track off one of two GBV albums released this year, How Do You Spell Heaven. Allegedly the 101st studio album released by Robert Pollard.
- Fake Laugh – You Will Find Out. One of those one-man bands that abounds these days, this is the project of Berlin-born, London-based Kamran Khan.
- Chuck Berry – Big Boys. A short-lived comeback as the rock ‘n’ roll pioneer died shortly before the release of Chuck, his first album in nearly thirty years. Without doubt one of the ten or twenty most important people in the genesis of ‘pop’.
- Lee Southall – Iron In The Fire. Formerly something of a bit-part player in The Coral, his first solo album is a low-key, folk-influenced lovely thing. And I got to interview him for Getintothis.
- Fazerdaze – Lucky Girl. Another one of these one-man bands, in this case a young woman from New Zealand. ‘Their’ sound is described as dream pop, which means shoegaze to those of us on this side of the pond. Yet another winner from Flying Nun.
- The Fall – Gibbus Gibson. As there was a new Fall album this year, so there is a Fall track on my best of the year CD. As with every album in the past ten or twenty years, it was hailed as their best record since [insert writer’s favourite classic 80’s or 90’s album]. And of course, that wasn’t true. It’s simply another Fall album, with all the ups and downs that brings. Rumours abound that it might end up being their very last due to Mark E. Smith’s ill health, but I sincerely hope that’s not true. The greatest band to emerge since the 1960’s, to my ears. Long live The Fall.
- Her’s – Marcel. I made this band my ‘tip for 2017’ for Getintothis and their album didn’t disappoint. For lovers of 80’s 4AD sounds.
- R. Ring – Cutter. Let’s be honest, the Deal twins really cannot do any wrong. This time it’s Kelley with Ampline’s Mike Montgomery, and is a fine addition to her under-the-radar canon.
- The Dream Syndicate – Filter Me Through You. Another wonderful comeback, this time the first album since 1988’s Ghost Stories. A rarity in that I pledged for it ahead of time, and was not disappointed.
- Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog. An artist I only knew by name at the start of the year, but one I quickly snapped up a few records by, including this year’s release that featured this title track, as I decided to go and see him live (see review here).
- Nathan Hall & The Sinister Locals – Everybody’s Burning Effigies. Side project from the Welsh psych-popsters Soft Hearted Scientists.
- Dizzee Rascal – Ghost. Token urban track? No, this is a really, really good album – another I picked up largely because I had a ticket to go and see him live (see here). Surprisingly, Stormzy’s album didn’t manage to contribute a track to this year’s disc, as that’s another great record.
- The Regrettes – Juicebox Baby. A punky band I discovered through the Live Ledge podcast
- Chuck Prophet – Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins. I’ve loved Green On Red’s records since first getting into them in the early 1990’s, but I’d lost touch with Prophet’s solo records until I was inspired by the love shown for this one on the wonderful Trust The Wizards podcast.
- Willie Nelson – Still Not Dead. A wry track off God’s Problem Child, an album that belies his 84 years.
- Hoops – The Way Luv Is. Melodic indie band from Indiana on Fat Possum.
- Pere Ubu – Funk 49. A band I have loved for nearly thirty years, whose albums these days obviously cannot match the peerless likes of The Modern Dance or Dub Housing, but which are still well worth investigating.
- The Magnetic Fields – ’96: I’m Sad! Just one of many highlights from this wildly eclectic record.
- King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard – Anoxia. A band I’d neglected to investigate until earlier this year, put off slightly by their extensive output. This comes off Flying Microtonal Banana, one of five (!) albums they are due to release in 2017. Eat your heart out, Robert Pollard!
- Sacred Paws – Nothing. A surprise choice as Getintothis’ album of the year, but a band fronted by Rachel Aggs (whose Shopping are one my favourite bands of the past five years) is bound to be a good thing.
- Midnite Snaxxx – No Time To Spend. Another punk find courtesy of the Live Ledge podcast, this track from the Californian outfit featured on the Typical Girls Volume 2 compilation.
Early recipients of the CD had a thirtieth track on their discs, Bob Dylan’s I Guess I’ll Have To Change My Plans after King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard. However, switching supplies of my blank CDs meant I couldn’t squeeze every track on, so something had to give.
Again, only a few of these artists have featured on my Best Of CD’s in the recent past – Guided By Voices return for the first time since 2014, while The Fall have been on five of the last eight (i.e. every year they have released anything…).
Event of 2017
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Here is most of my 2017 CD on Spotify: