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Albums of the Year 2017

In 2017 Mount Eerie broke our hearts. Bark Psychosis finally reached the audience they deserved, Richard Dawson released his epic, and Kara Lis-Coverdale dissolved us using an organ. Also Godspeed You! Black Emperor kept us very, very busy.
1. Album Of The Year!

Mount Eerie
A Crow Looked At Me

Here is something very special indeed. A new Mount Eerie album is always something to be cherished but this one deals with the grief and loss suffered by Phil Elverum following the tragic passing of his wife. To put this sense of loss into his art ....well I just hope in some way it was cathartic for him. The results are almost unbearable - a tear-drenched simply recorded music on love and loss that is sure to be one of 2017's most important albums.  
2.

James Holden & The Animal Spirits
The Animal Spirits

Electronics expert James Holden has expanded his Animal Spirits for a bold set of synth led folk opuses that fuse bits of psychedelia, kraut-rock, world jazz to create a genre blending opus that is also accessible. Sax, cornet, recorder and percussion have been introduced to the sonic maelstrom with Holden acting as band leader on an album that is sure to be highly anticipated. 
3.

Grizzly Bear
Painted Ruins

Grizzly Bear have been away for about five years now and have now returned with their first since the wild and windy ‘Shields’. Early tasters of their new material give the impression that they are heading in a well constructed synth pop direction with their unique take on harmony and melody intact. Bound to be much anticipated. 
4.

Kara-Lis Coverdale
Grafts

First new material in a while from Kara-Lis Coverdale! Grafts is an impressive stretch of semi-abstract music that taps into the magical psychedelia of greats like Terry Riley, with sweet electronic patterns constantly twirling away into the distance, underpinned by organ, pipes, and much else. Single-sided LP, released in a limited edition of 300 black vinyl copies.
5.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Luciferian Towers

Post-rock collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor return to another world phase of political turmoil and humanitarian crisis, with a record of their usual oblique serenade. Following the format of the two records of their modern era, it features four songs in sum and continues to rebrand them as God's Pee (make it happen). Luciferian Towers is inspired by a long list of inequalities -- "an end to foreign invasions, borders, the dismantling of the prison-industrial complex, healthcare" -- and will likely factor in as much quiet meditation as it does grandiose rock action.
6.

Colin Stetson
All This I Do For Glory

Windblower and earch-scorcher Colin Stetson returns for a new record of original solo material, his first since the finale in the New History Warfare trilogy. The core of his sound, developed through bass and alto saxophones, is pushed through with his signature circular breathing and cracked vocals, with additional percussion coming by way of mics capturing his frenzied fingering movements. After a stunning Norman Records Album of The Year™ with violinist Sarah Neufeld and an ensemble black metal reinterpretation of Gorecki's Sorrow, this could be seen as a roots record. It's a no frills edition of Stetson, capturing his sparse, largely one-take approach at its most intense, and arguably its most rhythmic. Influenced by Aphex and Autechre -- which isn't that big of a jump, when you think about it -- we happen to think it's quite brilliant.
7.

Mario Batkovic
Mario Batkovic

Mario Batkovic does for the accordion something like what Colin Stetson does for the saxophone: he opens everyone’s favourite wheezy-bag instrument up to new sonic possibilities. Solo statement Mario Batkovic uses extended techniques and minimalist structures to create a really captivating of accordion compositions. CD / double LP release on Invada.
8.

Penguin Cafe
The Imperfect Sea

Originally Penguin Cafe Orchestra, after the death of Simon Jeffes, his son Arthur Jeffes took the helm and to mark the new chapter renamed them as just simply Penguin Cafe. In this next step of the cafe, they have moved to Erased Tapes and are encorporating more contemporary influences into their inimitable style. Focusing on dance music and electronica they rework themes with live instrumentation and acoustic instruments. Features remixes of tracks by Kraftwerk and Simian Mobile Disco.
9.

Piano Magic
Closure

Piano Magic album have declared that this will be their final album. The suitably-titled Closure, released for the band’s twentieth anniversary, is a subtle and carefully considered set of what the band call ‘ghost rock’. It is sad in places, as one might imagine, but it is great to hear a band able to consciously make a final statement. Closure is released on CD and vinyl by Second Language.
10.

Richard Dawson
Peasant

The new album from Richard Dawson is a notable new epic from the Tyneside master, featuring more guest musicians than ever before. Peasant’s songs are all set in the pre-medieval north-east, with each title naming a figure: ‘Weaver’, ‘Herald’, ‘Beggar’. It’s the most fully-fledged work yet by Dawson, and it's out on Weird World.
11.

Mahatma X
A Mobtown Suite Vol 1

If the new A Tribe Called Quest record has reignited your fire for new sounds straight out of rap’s golden age you could do a lot worse than A Mobtown Suite. The Dilla and Jay Rock comparisons are obvious, but the subtly evolving live instrumentation gives these 17 instrumentals consistent interest that sets them apart from the beat-tapers and nudges them into the space occupied by BadBadNotGood when they worked with Ghostface Killah. The Roots stalk ‘citycide’ and ‘MurdaUS’; ‘Mahatma and the White Devil’ recalls Madlib’s best excursions into Bollywood. Includes download in a choice of formats - wav, mp3, aiff etc.
12.

The Green Kingdom
The North Wind and the Sun

With a steady stream of releases over the past decade through Dronarivm, SEM, and Tench Michael Cottone has delivered a huge and diverse catalogue of sun drenched, heartwarming ambience as The Green Kingdom. His first release on Lost Tribe Sound sees them convince him to strip back the electronics and focus on more acoustic instrumentation. Find a tree to sit under in the shade and forget the big bad world.
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13.

Daniel Brandt
Eternal Something

As co-founder to Germany's electroacoustic ensemble Brandt Brauer Frick, it wouldn't be surprising that pioneering whizz Daniel Brant's latest offering is highly intricate. His jittering debut solo release, Eternal Something, is both the antithesis to and introverted take on clubland dance music.
14.

Phoebe Bridgers
Stranger In The Alps

We've already had Sinatra's Strangers in the Night now US singer songwriter Phoebe Bridgers brings us Strangers in the Alps. This is her first record for Dead Oceans following on from a 7" on Ryan Adams label Pax Am and has also been on the advert for the I Phone singing 'Gigantic' by the Pixies.   
15.

Do Make Say Think
Stubborn Persistent Illusions

The first album in eight years from this long running Toronto collective. Now in their third decade, the group have created a critically acclaimed back catalogue and have become one of the most venerated names in the post rock canon. Stubborn Persistent Illusions is another example of the bands DIY ethos all recorded and produced themselves balancing guitar based compositions with electronic influenced production.
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17.

Lee Gamble
Mnestic Pressure

Lee Gamble’s first full-length in three years is a record of nuanced edge-of-the-dancefloor music that finds a fitting home on Hyperdub. Gamble describes Mnestic Pressure as a record that seeks to find order in an increasingly chaotic world and regain a sense of self separate from the images one is constantly subject to in 2017. This manifests itself as an album of aquatic electronica and Burial-esque post-rave stylings.
18.

Justin Walter
Unseen Forces

Justin Walter plays the EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument) ‘wind-synth’ that is mainly seen in the hands of the Sun Ra Arkestra’s Marshall Allen these days. But Unseen Forces doesn’t hide the instrument in a large ensemble: it puts the EVI out there solo, in a set of semi-improvised and sometimes re-sequenced performances. A pretty unique record, out on Kranky.
19.

NHK yx Koyxen
Exit Entrance

This is most welcome news: lopsided dance miscreant Kohei Matsunaga is back! His new record for the NHK yx Koyxen record is also his first for DFA, offering the usual medley of melody, abstraction and frantic programmed drumwork. With his love of pitching anything and everything, it's hard to know what to predict beyond an unabashed foray into dance experiments.
20.

Esmerine
Mechanics Of Dominion

Esmerine are one of the finest of the several acts that have grown out of the peripheries of godspeed you! black emperor. New album Mechanics Of Dominion is a diverse collection, with marimbas, amplified music boxes and horns all appearing in both brand new recordings and unheard material restored from the archives. Released by Constellations in CD and lovely LP-with-art-prints editions.
21.

Mark Van Hoen
Electronic Music (1982 - 1987)

Deluxe collection of Mark Van Hoen tunes, Electronic Music: 1982-1987 does what it says on the tin and gives you Van Hoen’s work from that period, an expansive range of early instrumental pieces influenced by his growing up in the Midlands. Double LP on snazzy blue vinyl, featuring original 35mm pictures of his recording equipment and processes so you can see how the magic happened.
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23.

Aaron Dilloway
The Gag File

The tape-loop maestro Aaron Dilloway properly follows up major statement Modern Jester with The Gag File. Our hero goes deep here, with fuzzed-out loops and inhuman vocalisations, but also a fiendish recording of some kind of party and some demented jumps and cuts. A lot to take in here. The Gag File is released by DAIS.
24.

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
The Kid

Winner of our Album of the Year competition in 2016 with EARS, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith now serves up a new selection which is nothing if not ambitious. She has now produced a four part album which chronicles the for defining segments of life exemplifying Smith's deep thinking ability to delve further than the average composer. 
25.

Laurel Halo
Dust

Oh good: a new full-length album from Laurel Halo! Dust started out with recordings made by Halo along with Eli Keszler and Lafawndah, which were then cut-up and augmented by Halo’s genius electronic processes into the sleekly experimental digital pop we hear here. Additional guest appearances from Diamond Terrifier, Julia Holter and more! Out on Hyperdub.
26.

Sandy (Alex G)
Rocket

After doing many self recorded, produced and released records and cassettes, Philadelphia’s Alex G has rightly been snapped up by Domino for 2015’s Beach Music, and now they bring him back for his eighth full length. Rocket brings gorgeous suburban logfire songs, folk pop with a city backdrop. On vinyl and CD.
27.

Jen Cloher
Jen Cloher

As a leading pioneer within Melbourne's rich DIY scene, Jen Cloher offers a self-titled ten-track which easily justifies her burgeoning reputation. Rubbing shoulders with the likes of Courtney Barnett and Fraser A on Milk! label, it's onwards and upwards for this bold, witty and punk-tinged songwriter.
28.

Ex Eye
Ex Eye

Hey, cool idea, just throwing it out there -- how about a metal band with Colin Stetson's sax and Greg Fox on drums? Sounds wacky, let's do it. The definitely cacophonous Ex Eye are an instrumental quartet dual wielding its member's signature mix of elegiac and aggressive compositional work, and their debut is exceedingly likely to stomp down on your heart.
29.

Craven Faults
Netherfield Works

Right, this is really something special. A cloaked Yorkshire based producer unfurling two long form pieces of pulsating vintage synth to soundtrack journeys across the post industrial landscapes of West Yorkshire. 'Netherfield Works' perfectly encapsulates the barren but beautiful landscape yet will appeal to fans of the Deep Distance label, XAM Duo and of course the original movers and shakers in Koln and Dusseldorf.   
30.

Actress
AZD

It’s been three years since Actress released his last full length Ghettoville, and after what seemed to be a farewell press release drawing a line under the Actress project I’m sure we’re not the only ones who will be glad to receive this news. Seemingly playing round the ideas of language and incoherence his 5th album AZD is incisive and forward pushing as ever.
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32.

Fleet Foxes
Crack-Up

Fleet Foxes like to take their time with this just their third album since their 2008 debut. They also spawned Father John Misty onto the world but let's not blame them for that. This meticulous approach to their song craft generally yields good results as was proved by the excellent 'Helplessness Blues'. Expect a dense, lush and ambitious album, lead track the eight minute ‘Third of May / Ōdaigahara’ is certainly all of these things.   
33.

The Bug vs Earth
Concrete Desert

This is a total dream-come-true collaboration for fans of pulverizingly heavy music: Dylan ‘Extra Low Frequency Version’ Carson’s Earth project and Kevin ‘Skeng’ Martin’s The Bug, producing together. After two tracks together last year, the pair have now made a full album, and it’s a seething, bristling blast of a listen. The 2LP vinyl edition comes with an exclusive bonus 12” with a JK Flesh remix.
34.

Memory Drawings
The Nearest Exit

Third album from the Anglo/American collective Memory Drawings, featuring members of Hood, Manyfingers, Brave Timbers and Movietone. Pushing their exquisite dulcimer/guitar/violin sound deeper into the heart of post-rock (with nods towards Bark Psychosis and Tortoise courtesy of the polyrhythmic playing of newly-joined drummer Chris Cole) these beautiful cinematic compositions perfectly soundtrack the onset of autumn. All versions include a bonus remix album featuring Isnaj Dui, Edward Ka-Spel, Robert Rich, Leaf Library, and more.
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35.

Oneohtrix Point Never
Good Time (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Oneohtrix Point Never recently provided the original soundtrack to crime thriller Good Time, and the good people at Cannes thought it good enough to give OPN an award for it. Good Time works as a fully-fledged studio album, with lots of arpeggio synths and mutant sounds flying around, as well as an atmospheric track featuring Iggy Pop! CD and double LP editions on Warp.
36.

Ulrika Spacek
Modern English Decoration

They formed when they were 14, two fifths of them are called Rhys and they live in a house called Ken. Ulrika Spacek are truly a unique proposition amongst the glut of Women/Viet Cong influenced tangle rock bands. Their debut self titled record was a hero here at the towers and this follow up record promises to be a collection of woozy and druggy avant rock.   
37.

Cigarettes After Sex
Cigarettes After Sex

This is the debut full-length album from Cigarettes After Sex, following up on a number of EPs. They’ve stepped things up for the occasion, with a sound more widescreen than ever before. The songs are romantic in subject matter and sonic construction: this could well be the soundtrack to your next heartache. CD and LP editions available on Partisan Records.
38.

James Elkington
Wintres Woma

James Elkington returns with his latest album for the Paradise Of Bachelors label this time going it alone (his 2015 collaboration with Nathan Salsburg 'Ambsace' was superb), his gentle fingerpicking folk textures are reminiscent of Nick Drake and Tim Buckley but have a certain virtuoso mathy quality, now a full time member of Chicago americana legends Brokeback alongside Doug McCombs James is starting to make a lasting impact on the american alt-folk scene. 
39.

Happyness
Write In

Happyness return with a second album of fresh-faced alternative rock, titled Write In. They still recall the high years of the US college rock scene, with just the right amount of slacker-swagger to make them charming. That, plus an increasingly bold and melodic songwriting sensibility, makes Write In a winner. LP and CD editions on Moshi Moshi.
40.

Pharmakon
Contact

Margaret Chardiet returns to Sacred Bones under her solo extreme noise moniker Pharmakon for the follow up to 2014’s Bestial Burden. Contact follows along Pharmakon’s previous nihilistic qualities thematically, but with an empathetic twist focusing more on the mind than the body, but musically? Harsh cathartic bliss, as ever.
41.

Dmitry Evgrafov
Comprehension Of Light

Moscovite Dmitry Evgrafov follows his 2015 debut 'Collage' with Comprehension Of Light, also on FatCat's neoclassical offshoot 130701. Richter, Jóhannsson and O’Halloran fans rejoice! For his 1st vinyl LP release, Dmitry upscales from electronics to real strings, courtesy Iskra Quartet. Buddies Abul Mogard and Benoît Pioulard are also present. Often recalling avant-garde film soundtracks, the album follows a through-line of redemption with spectral qualities. Includes download.
42.

Downtown Boys
Cost Of Living

The brilliant Downtown Boys made an absolutely monumental record a couple years back in Full Communism, a hardcore record with skronking sax, righteous politics and an abiding love for Bruce Springsteen. Their new record, Cost of Living, sounds like a structural upgrade to their sound, the lead single "A Wall" more dynamic but no less thrilling. A compassionate strike against the racism and Islamophobia present in American life, it continues the band's necessary fight against what they describe as "the whitewashed world of rock".
43.

Waveform Transmission (Rod Modell & Chris Troy)
V 2.0-2.9

The always fabulous Astral Industries label present the first new material in 22 years from Rod Modell (DeepChord, cv313) and the elusive Chris Troy as Waveform Transmissions. Their previous album of drifting, droning ambient came via Italy's Silent label in 1996, and then, nothing... 'V 2.0-2.9' is comprised of four eighteen minute cuts of serene ambient bliss, each luxuriously spread across a full side of vinyl. Housed in a gorgeous gatefold sleeve with artwork by Theo Ellsworth.
44.

Thet Liturgiske Owäsendet
Catalina

The first release on Lobster Theremin offshoot Lobster Sleep Sequence is the record that apparently kickstarted the new venture in the first place. Legend has it LT head Jimmy Asquith was so moved by Catalina after finding it on a Soundcloud binge that he decided to press it onto 180g vinyl, hand-stamp the LSS logo in the centre, screen-print the sleeve, produce an A6 matte postcard insert, and launch a label to bring this droning, waxing and waning slab of ambience to the world’s turntables.
45.

Jesca Hoop
Memories Are Now

Fresh from an Iron & Wine collab and stepping out for a debut album on Subpop, Jesca Hoop’s idiosyncratic brand of singer-songwriterism befits the leftfield turn the label has taken recently. Calling to mind at once the torch-songs of Angel Olsen and the low-key experimental turns of Glasser and Fiona Apple, Hoop’s confidence even in her quieter moments is a real winner on songs like ‘The Lost Sky’ and the eponymous title track.
46.

The Last Dinosaur
The Nothing

An eleven piece record from London’s very own The Last Dinosaur. A collection of songs written about lead singer, Jamie Cameron’s, youth and the struggles he faced as he powered through in his teenage years. The Nothing is possibly the right title for this record as it captures melancholy and sadness at its very peak. A heartbreaking collection of tracks available on Vinyl LP and CD.  
47.

FIS and Rob Thorne
Clear Stones

This first-time team-up of two New Zealand talents is an intriguing one. Maori sound artist Rob Thorne generally has a more approach to sound that is more abstract and more rooted in acoustic instruments than electronics producer FIS, but the space where they meet in the middle on Clear Stones is special territory indeed, each artist working around the other. Out on Subtext.
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48.

Snapped Ankles
Come Play The Trees

Snapped Ankles are a London group making their full-length debut right here and right now on The Leaf Label. The band apparently love to play shows while dressed up as trees, but you can’t really hear the foliage on these recordings. You’ll have to make do with chunky-funky synthesiser lines and fuzzy guitar melodies instead. Come Play The Trees is released by The Leaf Label.
49.

IDLES
Brutalism

Brutalism is the latest thirteen-track release from Idles. A powerfully written and politically driven collection of music that packs a punch aimed at the current political climate in the UK. It is hardcore and punk, so what do you expect? Described as ‘ a deadly serious indictment on popular culture’ that is available Vinyl LP and CD.
50.

Jane Weaver
Modern Kosmology

Sometimes a change is as good as a rest. Jane Weaver's early records (including those by her excellent band Misty Dixon) were lovely under the radar folky affairs but it wasn't until she started to invoke in vogue kraut and psych influences on 'The Silver Globe' that some overground success came her way. Modern Kosmology threatens to continue down that cosmic path (just look at that title). Sure to be one of 2017's more anticipated releases.  
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