Overseas adventures meant 2016 was a bit of a leaner year in new sounds than ideal, but 2017 was better. 35 new albums passed these ears, which is of course a drop in the ocean of what was released and decent. Tender Prey can but try. It must have been a solid year as it was pretty tough to decide what to leave out. So without further ado here, for posterity, is a Top 10 of 2017.
10. Miranda Lee Richards ‘Existential Beast’
LA songstress' fourth album has songs. It’s fairly easy these days to mimic the Laurel Canyon/psychedelic soft-rock sound, as so many do, but getting under the skin is often harder. Fortunately MLR does it with aplomb on this tour de force, featuring many talents of an ensemble cast, including Northants man Joe Wooley (him out of The Lords Of Thyme).
9. British Sea Power ‘Let The Dancers Inherit The Party’
The Kendal/Brighton troupe had gone a little wayward over the past two albums, with pretty forgettable songs. So this sixth album proper finds them once again with the bit between their teeth, gunning for the ideal dramatic peaks and troughs. It’s a grand ride.
8. The Routes ‘In This Perfect Hell’/ ‘Dirty Needles And Pins’
Releasing two albums in one year is impressive, and it felt here like they were two parts of a whole, so it doesn’t make sense to choose one over another. They slowed things down on the first one, and the droning suits the trio just as much as their more frenetic R&Beat of the follow-up. If they lived in Europe they’d be worshipped like Gods. Let us hope they tour the UK soon.
7. Oh! Gunquit ‘Lightning Likes Me’
The second LP from London’s rumble-bop collective was the funnest record heard this year. It’s like The Cramps let loose with a box of Fruit Shoots following a marathon CBeebies session. Energy levels are continually in the red; the songs swoop, crash and never let on what they’ll do next. The sonic embodiment of the London Hipsville club perhaps: sleaze, garage, surf, rockabilly, and punk all blended into one glorious whole. Have a listen and drink it all in.
6. The Darts ‘Me.Ow’
The first of two debut records on this list is a real doozy. Garage rock is a hard beast to make work in 2017 - hasn’t it all been done before? Well these four ladies give it the adrenaline shot it needs, with organ-heavy fuzz rock that’ll have you asking “is that Jack White’s backing band, or something?”. Sexy and dangerous rock’n’roll that should soon be getting promoted to the premier league.
5. The Schizophonics ‘Land Of The Living’
The second debut on this list. Outside of the US this trio were relatively unknown until 2017: one LP and one all-conquering European tour later and suddenly the secret is out! Their take on garage rock is part intense-MC5 ramalama and part block-busting soul revue. The live show is so outstanding you cannot imagine they have the songs to back it up. Turns out they do. If you can stand yer fuzz turned up to 11 then you’ve found your new favourite band right here.
4. Paul Draper ‘Spooky Action’
This return had long been promised, but never seemed likely to happen. Thankfully it’s here and it hasn’t disappointed one bit. This is the fourth proper Mansun album to all intents and purposes, with the prog of ‘Six’ back in the foreground, but married to some electronic pop hooks Depeche Mode would kill for. The music world is a much better place with him back in it.
3. Fleet Foxes ‘Crack Up’
Let’s be honest now, Helplessness Blues was a stinker. The magic of the first album had truly deserted them, and calling it quits - at least temporarily - was a wise move. They came back six years later with all the requisite bits and pieces back in the right place. Spines tingled from beginning to the end, from the very first play. Hallelujah.
2. The Len Price 3 ‘Kentish Longtails’
Distilling all their best bits into one wholesome sitting. Biting guitars, acerbic witticisms and lovely harmonies everywhere. It’s no wonder they are finally getting the recognition their winning Medway garage/power-pop has always deserved. You can sing along at home to it and you can mosh down the front too, the choice is yours. A band for life.
1. Temples ‘Volcano’
Inauspicious beginnings - lurid DayGlo artwork, rather subtle melodies - meant the first couple of spins of the follow up to Sun Structures were an underwhelming experience. But by the end of a week on the turntable it was clear the Kettering quartet had created something extra special. A prog-pop masterpiece full of twists and turns, and actually an improvement on that shiny, deck-clearing debut. ‘Roman God-Like Men’, indeed.
BY PHIL ISTINE
A blog to pontificate upon music both new and old: mostly reviews, some news, interviews, thought pieces, and exclusive content.