Albums of the Year 2017

December 15, 2017 at 5:15 pm 1 comment

Clearly, the less said about 2017, the better. The world is falling apart and it’s hard to remember a time when music seemed less central to the culture in general. And yet, music—though marginal—remained something precious and wonderful that you could cling to. It did! There was even some new music that achieved at least a claim to greatness. There was!

All is not lost. Not quite yet, anyway.

Top Ten Albums of the Year

Crescent - Resin Pockets 500

1. Crescent — Resin Pockets (Domino) LP
This lo-fi ensemble hails from Bristol and is closely related to Movietone and Flying Saucer Attack. Crescent’s discography is diverse and mostly excellent but nothing could have prepared anyone for this.

Probably the band’s most conventionally song-based outing to date, it sounds not unlike a parallel-universe Belle & Sebastian having an early-career “Kid A moment”. In a good way. A great way!

The songs are quite breathtakingly poignant but it’s the grainy, wheezing textures that give the whole affair a W.G. Sebald level of gravitas. A totally unexpected, utterly bewitching album of the year.

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith — The Kid 500

2. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith — The Kid (Western Vinyl) 2LP
Smith is renowned as an expert modular synth manipulator but she’s also an excellent songwriter. On stage, she resembles a starship navigator absent-mindedly doing yoga. She’s almost certainly not joking. If she’s faking the sincerity then she’s an even better manipulator than she’s given credit for. In any case, there’s a great deal to be gained from going along with whatever the devil is going on here.

M.E.S.H. — Hesaitix 500

3. M.E.S.H. — Hesaitix (PAN) LP
A downright explosive volley of neo-IDM beats and cinematically-vivid sound design. In theory, this could all be a little played-out. But it’s delivered with such conviction as to be near-irresistible.

Visible Cloaks — Reassemblage 500

4. Visible Cloaks — Reassemblage (Rvng Intl) LP
The new age/fourth world revival meets cutting-edge DSP magic. This travels far beyond the barren lands of mere pastiche and—as with K.A. Smith—the hype is actually worth believing.

Sleaford Mods — English Tapas 500

5. Sleaford Mods — English Tapas (Rough Trade) LP
Another year, another Sleaford Mods album. This is certainly a move towards being more accessible and conventionally musical. But it works. You can’t just keep ranting over a one-note bassline. English Tapas is the duo’s best-realised work since the career-topping Austerity Dogs.

Roc Marciano — Rosebudd_s Revenge 500

6. Roc Marciano — Rosebudd’s Revenge (Fat Beats) 2LP
Down-and-dirty 90s throwback hip-hop from a true East Coast underground veteran. A deeply unpleasant listen on many levels but with some of the best beatcraft and emceeing available in recent years.

Second Woman — S:W 500

7. Second Woman — S/W (Spectrum Spools) LP
There was a decent amount of Autechre worship going on this year. And sure, it’s basically shoegaze to the real thing’s MBV. But if you’re not quite up to delving into five-odd hours of Elseq on any given day, this is a most superior light alternative, which delivers the requisite depth on its own terms.


8. Piano Magic — Closure (Second Language) LP
Coming from a very similar place to that Crescent album, this is the swansong from Glen Johnson’s long-running indie/post-rock collective. Like the Crescent, it’s a collection of heart-breakingly evocative songs that have more going on under the hood than you might expect.

Mdou Moctar — Sousoume Tamachek 500

9. Mdou Moctar — Sousoume Tamachek (Sahel Sounds) LP
Niger’s Mdou Moctar is effectively the punk alternative to the slick, widescreen desert rock of Tinariwen. That said, this is an intimate, mostly acoustic collection, which reveals its subtle grit and beauty gradually over repeated listens.

Secret Pyramid — Two Shadows Collide 500

10. Secret Pyramid — Two Shadows Collide (Ba Da Bing) LP
Deeply tasty chord cycles, leavened with hypnagogic melodies and seasoned with cinematic dissonance. No big surprises for Secret Pyramid fans, then. The rest of you need to get onboard.    

The Bug vs Earth — Concrete Desert 500

The Next 10

  1. The Bug vs Earth — Concrete Desert (Ninja Tune) 2LP+12”
  2. Crys Cole & Oren Ambarchi — Hotel Record (Black Truffle) 2LP
  3. GAS — Narkopop (Kompakt) 3LP
  4. No UFO’s — NU LP for RS (Root Strata) LP
  5. Oneohtrix Point Never — Good Time (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (Warp) 2LP
  6. Shabazz Palaces — Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines (Sub Pop) LP
  7. Arto Lindsay — Cuidado Madame (Northern Spy) LP
  8. Oto Hiax — Oto Hiax (Editions Mego) 2×12”
  9. Jacaszek — Kwiaty (Ghostly) LP
  10. Actress — AZD (NIna Tune) 2LP

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma — On the Echoing Green 500

Highly Recommended

Biosphere — The Petrified Forest
Brix & The Extricated — Part 2
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma — On the Echoing Green
Fieldhead — We’ve All Been Swimming
Les Filles de Illighadad — Eghass Malan
Lee Gamble — Mnestic Pressure
Godflesh — Post-Self
Hype Williams — Rainbow Edition
Madlib — Bad Neighbor Beats
Stephan Mathieu — Radiance VII: Process, Radiance X: Her Dark Gaze Drowned in Light and Radiance XII: Music with Magnetic Strings
Thurston Moore — Rock’n’Roll Consciousness
Max Richter — Three Worlds: Music from Woolf Works
Tinariwen — Elwan
Yorkston/Thorne/Khan — Neuk Wight Delhi All-Stars

Félicia Atkinson — Hand in Hand 500

Other Albums Worth Hearing

Amadou & Mariam — La Confusion
Siavash Amini — TAR
Félicia Atkinson — Hand in Hand
Shinichi Atobe — From the Heart, it’s a Start, a Work of Art
William Basinski — A Shadow in Time
Sylvain Chauveau — Echoes of Harmony: Early Music Reworked
Cold Beat — Chaos by Invitation
Sarah Davachi — All My Circles Run
Dopplereffekt — Cellular Automata
Errorsmith — Superlative Fatigue
Equiknoxx — Colón Man
The Fall — New Facts Emerge
Forest Swords — Compassion
Hauschka — What If
Hecker — A Script for Machine Synthesis
High Plains — Cinderland
Island People — Island People
Jaylib — Champion Sound: The Remix
Jlin — Black Origami
Nicholas Krgovich — In an Open Field 
Lankum — Between the Earth & the Sky
LCC — Bastet
Robert AA Lowe — Two-Orb Reel
Kelly Moran — Bloodroot
Naomi Punk — Yellow
The Necks — Unfold
Moritz von Oswald & Ordo Sakhna —Moritz von Oswald & Ordo Sakhna
Ariel Pink — Dedicated to Bobby Jameson
Loke Rahbek — City of Women
Porter Ricks — Anguilla Electrica
The Remote Viewer — Us. In Happier Times
Ryuichi Sakamoto — async
Shabazz Palaces — Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star
Sote — Sacred Horror in Design
Tamikrest — Kidal
Mark Templeton — Gentle Heart
Yasunao Tone — AI Deviation
Umfang — Symbolic Use of Light

Malcolm Neon — 1980-1985 500

Top 5 Reissues & Compilations

  1. Malcolm Neon — 1980-1985 (Vinyl on Demand) 2LP+7”
    Totally bonkers Welsh-language minimal synth psychedelia. Don’t sleep on this admittedly obscure gem.
  2. Disco Inferno — In Debt (Rocket Girl) 2LP
  3. Alice Coltrane — The Ecstatic Music Of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda (Luaka Bop) 2LP
  4. Lal & Mike Waterson – Bright Phoebus (Domino) LP
  5. Yoko Ono – Fly (Secretly Canadian) 2LP
  6. Luc Ferrari — Heterozygote and Presque Rien (Recollection GRM) LPs
  7. Akira Rabelais —Spellewauerynsherde (Boomkat Editions) LP
  8. Jaap Vink — Jaap Vink (Recollection GRM) 2LP
  9. Aine O’Dwyer — Gengenschein (Penultimate Press) LP
  10. Neil Young — Hitchhiker (Reprise) LP

And ongoing reissue series of John Bender, Deathprod, J Dilla, The Fall, Flying Saucer Attack, Keiji Haino, Hüsker Dü, Bert Jansch, Loscil, Yoko Ono, Bernard Parmegiani, Popol Vuh, Recollection GRM, Max Richter, Pharoah Sanders…

No UFO_s — MPC Tracks III 500

Top Singles, EPs, Tapes etc.

  1. No UFO’s — MPC Tracks III (cassette)
  2. Brian Eno & Kevin Shields — Only Once Away My Son (download)
  3. Horsetail — Under Heaven (download)
  4. Fovea Hex — The Salt Garden II (10”)
  5. Westside Gunn & MF Doom — WESTSIDEDOOM (12”)
  6. Farmers Manual — fmoto and szwong (downloads)
  7. Burial — Rodent and Subtemple (10”s)
  8. Secret Pyramid — A Pulse in Your Shadow (cassette)
  9. Echo Beach — Where Were You at Night (cassette)
  10. Ian William Craig— Slow Vessels (12″)

Also, lots of releases I forgot to mention and tons and tons that I simply haven’t heard yet. One big oversight is Karl Fousek’s 2017 output. Gotta get on that. There was a Ramzi 12″ too. That was pretty good…

Oh and there were two connect_icut releases this year—a full-length free download album called Rage Coma and a triple-cassette EP called Music for Granular Synthesizer. Go get ‘em and add ‘em to your end-of-year list.


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Albums of the Year 2016 Albums of the Year 2018

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