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Top Ten Albums of 2017

In previous years I have bothered to put my selections into order of preference but this year I can't be bothered. Hey, it's all good.

Dutch Uncles - Big Balloon

I've been following and enjoying Dutch Uncles for some time now and every album has been a delight. I feel with this album they've really hit their stride and come out with an album that is confident and effervesent. Much of it borrows the spirit of eighties pop without quoting anyone in particular, which is a neat trick.

Joanna Wang - House of Bullies

Joanna Wang appeared to me out of the blue, and I'm very glad she did. The over riding influence here is Danny Elfman's soundtrack to Nightmare Before Christmas alongside Cardiacs and They Might Be Giants. Those are some pretty strong falvours, and this may put some people off, but don't let it. Wang synthesises all of these influences seemlessly and with charm and confidence.  Her voice veers from ice maiden, to bratty teenager, to Rex Harrison half-singing, to effortless lounge bar jazz all without sounding like she's trying too hard. One of the most enjoyable discoveries of this year.  

Interestingly if you look up Joanna Wang on Apple Music or Spotify you will find the album above but you will also find some smooth jazz artiste doing light covers of MOR classics. This sort of thing happens all the time when two artists have the same name. Interestingly in this case they are one and the same and she has had a rather extreme career change. You can read her story here. Good for her! 

Richard Dawson - Peasants

I loved Dawson's previous album Nothing Important and thankfully his latest doesn't disappoint. While this album has a more convential approach than the previous album which had four epic songs unaccompanied, the strange sound of Dawson's voice and twanging guitar remains the same as always. The songs are as melodic as anything Paul McCartney might concoct but retain a Whicker Man style paganism that makes them sound other worldly and unsettling.

Idles - Brutalism

Punk will never die but at least it has moved on from lazy three chord rock and honking sloganeering. Or at least it has for some. Idles are genuinely exciting. They're smarter than the average punk but feel no need to prove it - they just settle for witty lyrics and sharp inventive music.

Spoon - Hot Thoughts

Spoon are almost part of the furniture these days but they always manage to sound fresh and inventive. This album is probably their most energetic effort for a while.

Sparks - Hippopotamus 

Everyone loves Sparks. Quite right too. Unfortunately their output of recent years has been admirable but not especially exciting but this all changes with Hippopotamus. They seem to have found a way to reference their past without being enslaved by it, creating an album that is constantly inventive and energetic. It's good to have them back at full strength - we need Sparks now more than ever.

Hundred Waters - Communicating

A few years ago Hundred Waters came out with a tremendous album, seemingly from nowhere. Apparently with this album they've joined Skrillex's record label which I guess has reinvigorated them because it's a fantastic return to form.

Venn - Runes

I don't remember where I heard about this album but I'm glad I stumbled upon it. It's a black clad, gothic, krautrock, singalong - a perfect new blend of old influences.

Penguin Cafe - Imperfect Sea

A year or so ago I discovered Penguin Cafe Orchestra and was delighted to find these rather odd albums that didn't really fit into any particular category but somehow felt ahead of their time. Somehow I had also missed these new albums from the son of the creator of PCO. This album is quite beautiful, full of looping, fractal melodies.

Snapped Ankles - Come Play The Trees

I discovered this via snooker player Steve Davis' Interesting Alternative radio show. Roughly speaking it's motorik rhythms and rock and roll riffing. You can't go wrong.

Everything Else

And the other stuff that I enjoyed this year:

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