Best of 2017 – Albums

  1. Sparks “Hippopotamus”
  2. Hauschka “What If”
  3. Kolsch “1989”
  4. Carl Craig “Versus”
  5. Sasha “Refracted Live”
  6. Jacques Greene “Feel Infinite”
  7. Future Islands “The Far Field”
  8. Blanck Mass “World Eater”
  9. Fujiya & Miyagi “Fujiya & Miyagi”
  10. Bicep “Bicep”
  11. Curtis Harding “Face Your Fear”
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Curtis Harding “Face Your Fear”

Deliciously old-school soul album from one-time Gnarls Barkley backing vocalist. The retro vibe and occasionally dark subject matter propels the album from start to finish and makes for very rewarding repeated listen. Excellent. 8/10.

Fujiya & Miyagi “Different Blades from the Same Pair of Scissors”

Apparently originally written in 2008 (for a Nike “running track”) and released in 2011, “Different Blades from the Same Pair of Scissors” has finally been fully re-released in 2017. It’s a glorious 37 minute krautrock indebted affair with plenty of clever rhythmic refrains and gear changes along the way. And it’s one of the finest pieces of music the Brighton four piece have produced. Superb. 9/10

Lindstrom “It’s Alright Between Us As It Is”

We love Hans-Peter Lindstrøm, the Norwegian space-disco veteran with a penchant for the extended electro-groove wig-out. However, let’s be frank, he hasn’t released anything in the last 10 years which comes even remotely close to the genius that is “Where You Go I Go Too“. Joyously, “It’s Alright Between Us As It Is” plays to his strengths with plenty of melodic build, fearless arpeggios and robust percussion. It’s designed as a continuous piece and requires listening from start to finish – and worth the entry price alone for the Frida Sundemo assisted “But Isn’t It”. Largely brilliant. 8/10.

Sasha “Refracted Live”

First foray into live performance for UK dance legend. Accompanied by numerous musicians and a string section, Refracted is a glorious journey through old and new tracks (often merging into one another). The whole shebang ebbs and flows building to often memorising climaxes. In fact, it’s so good, we’ve booked tickets for his dates next year. Did we say it also sounds incredible? Wow. 9/10.

Jane Weaver “Modern Kosmology”

Jane Weaver continues her ever-more enthralling journey into leafy folk and indie electronica (with a healthy dash of motorik beats). Modern Kosmology requires your attention to avoid it merely passing you by. The sound and vocals could at times be a little fuller, but this is a tight album of ten songs (not short on fabulous pop hooks) which, once absorbed, stay with the listener long after the needle has risen. Rather lovely. 8/10

Beck “Colors”

Album number 13 from Beck is possibly his shiniest most-pop record to date. It’s big and full-on with bass and percussion to the fore. It’s a bit of a shame that it has been released in October, as in some ways it’s a perfect summer record – bright and colourful with nothing too taxing for the listener. One final thought: we are a little confused, as brilliant as it is, why “Dreams” appears twice? 7/10

Kolsch “1989”

Final part of his autobiographical “growing-up” trilogy (following “1977” & “1983”) from Danish producer Rune Reilly is the best yet. 1989 melds precision electronics, melancholic chords alongside classical flourishes (courtesy of The Heritage Orchestra on four tracks). It’s very much dance music for the head, but with a strong atmospheric vibe. A soundtrack for lost youth. 9/10.

Bicep “Bicep”

Overdue debut album from Belfast duo is very much a love-letter to 80’s & 90’s dance music. The production is exceptionally precise/crisp (in fact very trebly) and thankfully sounds fantastic loud (respect: analogue synths aplenty). A handful of tracks verge on the generic, but the homeward stretch in particular (“Opal” onwards) is frankly joyous. Recommended. 8/10.

Sparks “Hippopotamus”

Glorious 23rd album (or so?) from the brothers Mael. “Hippopotamus” consists of 15 concise vignettes of perfectly formed Sparks. Almost distilling their unique art-pop raison d etre in a single long player, it feels like a career spanning best of. Witty, and bursting with melody, it is little wonder that the album has hit no.7 in the UK (first for 40 years) and has garnered huge reviews. Occasionally an album feels like a potential classic on initial listens. This is one such album – utterly wonderful. Embrace them while you still can. 9/10

Sunsonic “Melting Down On Motor Angel”

Mildly obscure, very early ’90’s pop/rock hybrid album which bombed even with reasonable publicity, top remixer (Oakenfold’s mix of single “A Kind of Loving”) and fab single/album artwork. It’s very much of its time, but an interesting curiosity nonetheless (with a faultless first half/side A and an increasingly guitar-driven second half). For those with an eye for a banger, the 808 State/Graham Massey remix of “Driveaway” is a work of genius (ebay the 12″ or CD single). 7/10

Erasure “World Be Gone”

Such is the inconsistency with later-day Erasure albums, you never know quite what to expect. 2014’s “The Violet Flame” was wonderful, whilst 2011’s “Tomorrow’s World” has long been consigned to the pop-dumper. World Be Gone is certainly informed by today’s global troubles and is a largely sombre slow-tempo affair. Musically, it’s fairly sparse too, with Andy Bell’s vocals front and centre. Unfortunately it’s a little too earnest and lacking any real bite or killer chord changes. Not awful, but way to workmanlike. 5/10

Saint Etienne “Home Counties”

It’s been a five years since the excellent “Words and Music”, so album number nine is warmly received from the pop institution that is Saint Etienne (Bob Stanley, Pete Wiggs and Sarah Cracknell). Home Counties is very much in the mold of their early releases – 19 sprawling tracks interspersed with soundbites and all feeling very British. In fact, the whole album is an ode to English suburban life and casually flits between styles in a somewhat laid back fashion. It’s a difficult album to criticise, but we can’t help feeling it is a little too pleasant and is certainly lacking killer tracks (see any Saint Etienne singles collection), although “Whyteleafe” is really rather good. Nice. 6/10

Carl Craig “Versus”

Detroit legend adds classical elements to a selection of his techno cuts (and remixes). Paris-based Les Siècles Orchestra (directed by François-Xavier Roth) and pianist Francesco Tristano provide the classical flourishes. It’s a flawless marriage which brings to mind the essential “Recomposed” project with Moritz von Oswald. Highly recommended. 9/10

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