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Albums of the Year 2017

It’s that time again.

Top Albums Top Reissues Bestsellers Top Stiffers Near Misses

Album of the Year 2017

Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked At Me

Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked At Me

It feels wrong to celebrate a record created out of such tragic circumstances, but good music generates an emotional response and no album released this year comes close in that respect.

If you have listened to A Crow Looked At Me already then you'll know the punch it packs.

With Phil Elverum's blessing, all profits from sales until the end of the year will be donated to Candlelighters - a Yorkshire-based charity supporting the families of children with cancer.

Buy it now
2.

James Holden & The Animal Spirits
The Animal Spirits

I’m gonna go ahead and say it: this album is tied with Kara-Lis Coverdale’s Grafts as my record of the year. James Holden’s brand of frolicking electronic sound has always been a favourite of mine, but upon hearing that he’s got some buddies involved the excitement was hard to conceal. So really, this amazing flu...view item »
3.

Grizzly Bear
Painted Ruins

Praised ahead of schedule, I’ve always felt that Grizzly Bear’s best record has been growing in secret, waiting beyond the treeline. ‘Yellow House’, their loose, freaked out debut proper, gave way to a band of constant refinement and careful detailing, proof of Ed Droste’s and Daniel Rossen’s commitment to a s...view item »
4.

Kara-Lis Coverdale
Grafts

Kara-Lis Coverdale is so fucking good. That’s literally all I had worth saying after soaking up this twenty-two minute fuzz rainbow from Boomkat Editions, one side of music so immaculately beautiful I’m happy to just spin it twice and forget there’s an empty flipside. Having wowed us both in her own right on ‘Aftertouches...view item »
5.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Luciferian Towers

I can’t believe I’m doing this but I am. This, in the grand scheme of things, is just another Godspeed humdinger. forty minutes instead of a cinematic hour plus. Plain rock music with no political self-sabotage -- no all-seeing preacherman, no devastating conspiracy. What Godspeed have been, from Allelujah to the now, is a steady ban...view item »
6.

Colin Stetson
All This I Do For Glory

Nothing showy, this time: just a roar. Through his now well-travelled career, saxophonist Colin Stetson has weaved just about every narrative you could ask him to.  He has always had friends by his side, be it on the feature-length trilogy ‘New History Warfare’, chock full of characters and paens ...view item »
7.

Mario Batkovic
Mario Batkovic

Drone accordionist Mario Batkovic faces a world glaring at him on this self-titled record that posits his instrument in realms of experimentation it has perhaps never before experienced. We’ve seen minimalists strain their record beyond comprehension a few times before, most notably in Tony Conrad’s ...view item »
8.

Penguin Cafe
The Imperfect Sea

Right, this is a bloody lovely record and also a feel-nice story in that it's headed up by Arthur Jeffes the son of Simon Jeffes who ran the original Penguin Cafe Orchestra who made exuberant neo-classical throughout the 80s and 90s until his untimely death in 1997. Penguin Cafe, though containing no ...view item »
9.

Piano Magic
Closure

The neatly box tied closing of twenty years of Piano Magic is almost the total opposite of their sprawling career which has seen the band go through several line ups, a multitude of musical styles whilst flying through several different record labels. 'Closure' though is a dramatic closing statement both grandiose and intimate, both heart-w...view item »
10.

Richard Dawson
Peasant

“A dank and dreary song”. This is how Richard Dawson describes “Hob”, a tail-end track on new record ‘Peasant’, and he isn’t totally wrong. Picks meet strums like someone shaking at their shackles, the song eventually marrying a droning string morgue to a misty, never-ending verse of shimmering gloom. It...view item »
11.

Mahatma X
A Mobtown Suite Vol 1

Pretty much any half decent hip-hop producer who has a way with a stoned beat and adds a stutter to a loop gets comparisons with Dilla. It is simultaneously a tribute to the lasting legacy of James Yancey who passed over a decade ago now; a poor reflection on genre that someone who passed over a decade ago is still seen as ahead of th...view item »
12.

The Green Kingdom
The North Wind and the Sun

Sometimes record company interference can be a good thing. Michael Cottone (aka the Green Kingdom) continuing on his own merry electronic way when one of those industry big wigs at Lost Tribe Music suggested he concentrate on the organic and acoustic side of his music. My word has it paid off. 'The North Wind and The Sun' is a gorgeous album....view item »
13.

Daniel Brandt
Eternal Something

Actual good album alert. German composer Daniel Brandt had an idea  - a totally ridiculous one  - that he was going to make an album using only cymbals. Luckily he changed his mind and instead uses all kinds on instruments to make 'Eternal Something'. It's brilliant  - right from the very get go when 'Chaparral Mesa' uses a two no...view item »
14.

Phoebe Bridgers
Stranger In The Alps

This one’s perfect right now: good for grumpy mornings that elicit zero good feelings, good for cold quiet walks to cold quiet work, even good for when it gets dark way too early for a social life to feel like a viable thing. Phoebe Bridgers’ ‘Stranger in the Alps’ is my favourite discovery of the autumn-winter border cro...view item »
15.

Do Make Say Think
Stubborn Persistent Illusions

Barnyard post-rockers awaken from their decade-long hibernation and realise that the world is kinda not so much what it was. People don’t get free passes for making the sounds they do anymore; you can’t be Explosions In The Sky and get away with it. Still, what DMST have always had against ...view item »
16.

Ekin Fil
Ghosts Inside

Devastatingly beautiful, introspective, ethereal avant dream/drone-pop from Istanbul’s Ekin Üzeltüzenci. ‘Ghosts Inside’ is the Turkish artist's sixth full-length, and her second for The Helen Scarsdale Agency, following 2016’s &lsq...view item »
17.

Lee Gamble
Mnestic Pressure

Here is the UIQ label head and champion of cracked electronic sounds Lee Gamble, making that sweet music for the Hyperdub family. He recently premiered acoustic music in a cave with the great Eliane Radigue, an occasion that I will forever regret not going to. I half expected this to be sonically related to that, but don’t you worry yourse...view item »
18.

Justin Walter
Unseen Forces

He plays the wind synth. What in the hell is a wind synth, you ask? Well, as far as I know, it’s an instrument beloved by Sun Ra’s masterful friend Marshal Allen. Its name suggests something once futurist now coated with dust, a sci-fi antique of the music world. Since its original use in the ‘70s, ...view item »
19.

NHK yx Koyxen
Exit Entrance

Hey look it’s that one-man duo NHK yx Koyxen doing one of the Norman office’s favourite electronic thingies of the year. The latest record from Kohei Matsunaga’s blossoming project has probably made the cut as most played at Norman Towers this year, and there’s a good reason for that - it’s #^&$%@! incredible....view item »
20.

Esmerine
Mechanics Of Dominion

Oh, this is lovely. From the opening strains of bowed, vibrato cello and fluid tinklings of piano all the way up to its dramatic coda. Continuing their trend of a new and remarkable record every two years for I-can’t-tell-you-how-long, are Esmerine -- the set-up of members from GYBE...view item »
21.

Mark Van Hoen
Electronic Music (1982 - 1987)

Mark Van Hoen is the guy that went on to create such things as Seefeel and Locust but here we have an excellent collection of his home recordings from the 1980's when he was nobbut a lad living in Staffordshire. The tracks are from '82 to '87 vintage and they seem strangely out of time&n...view item »
22.

Porter Ricks
Anguilla Electrica

I used to think nautical German techno was all about U96 - Das Boot. Then I switched to Porter Ricks. I’ve waited seventeen years for this record, and so to celebrate, I’ve climbed into my wetsuit, ripped open a packet of prawn cocktail flavour crisps and put my Finding Nemo DVD on with the volume m...view item »
23.

Aaron Dilloway
The Gag File

One day I received a text message from friend and former Norman Records employee Brian who was at the time at the great Tusk Festival in the North of England. It read “Aaron Fucking Dilloway! It’s like a fucking Francis Bacon painting coming to life”. Laughed my ass off. I’ve still not been...view item »
24.

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
The Kid

The bearer of Norman Records’ Album of the Year 2016 returns just over a year later with a follow-up, and by the looks of it she’s more of a cosmic traveller than ever. I’m sure you’re all wondering what’s changed since EARS, and don’t worry, this ain’t no acoustic interlude album. It’s full of tho...view item »
25.

Laurel Halo
Dust

This record is an absolute gift. It’s the kind of record you make when you’re one of the greats and can make every one of your releases sound like a fantastic birthday party. Celebrating by playing, Laurel Halo’s ‘Dust’ is a [crying-while-smiling emoji] collection of sideways baked ...view item »
26.

Sandy (Alex G)
Rocket

Reading the early reviews of this record by prolific lo-fi guy Alex G has given me another example of how I feel totally isolated by the opinions of 99% of the worlds population. It's been getting sniffy sixes or sevens citing its all-over-the-shop experimentalism as being something of a failure. I do accept that there are skippable moments but ...view item »
27.

Jen Cloher
Jen Cloher

This is Jen Cloher’s sophomore, self-titled album; I’m into track 2 now and I like it. I like it a lot, in fact. A member of Melbourne’s fertile DIY scene, and sharing a label with the much-admired Courtney Barnett -- as well as a couple of split singles over the last 5 years -- Cloher’s mu...view item »
28.

Ex Eye
Ex Eye

Some records just decide they’re going to blow you away, and ‘Ex Eye’ is chief among them. Predisposed to its magnitude via an indelicate combination of brutal saxophonist Colin Stetson, experimental drummer Greg Fox, plus legendary artists Shahzad Ismally and Toby Summerfield, this record be...view item »
29.

Craven Faults
Netherfield Works

Well...what do we have here? A two track EP of pulsating synth instrumentals that seem to explore the lost and hidden underbelly of West Yorkshire. The ideal cross mesh of a bank of vintage synths and walking the towpath between Cross Flatts and Skipton. I only have one side  -the 16 minute 'Eller Gyll' to explore at this point but this is ...view item »
30.

Actress
AZD

You’ve got me out here at the review station reviewing electronic music? You idiots. You stupid idiots. It’s like when you see that one shit guy in the platoon of a war movie. Let’s hope I can ride this thing out on enthusiasm alone, though, because this Actress record is very interesting and extremely lovely -- I’ll say ...view item »
31.

Drew McDowall
Unnatural Channel

Despite the fact that Drew McDowall has been releasing records since the early 80’s, ‘Unnatural Channel’ is only his second solo album. For the uninitiated, he’s stepped through the Psychic TV revolving door, was an official member of ...view item »
32.

Fleet Foxes
Crack-Up

The office folks thought it would be a good idea to get me to review a popular ethereal folk rock record, but they should have known it would be a fool’s errand. I mean, it’s been 6 years. Fronthuman Robin Pecknold has been to uni and scored a couple of theatre shows since then, and his ex drummer has gone on to become music’s ...view item »
33.

The Bug vs Earth
Concrete Desert

Those who were tantalised by that recent collab 12” from these two are about to start drooling little doom-dub pools onto the floor, cuz they’re back with a full set of heavy music to jiggle your innards, on Ninja Tune, which I still find very weird. Oh it’s got a kick drum on it? We’ll take it. You’re gonna be the ...view item »
34.

Memory Drawings
The Nearest Exit

Memory Drawings are such a wonderful conundrum. A band of grayscale shadow-makers, they’re complemented with colourful musical timbres, their sound something like a heavy fall of snow coating itself over green grass. Their two previous records were melodic meditations that never got too grandiose, instead ruminating on compact post-rock me...view item »
35.

Oneohtrix Point Never
Good Time (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Just got to get this off my chest: I’m having a Good Time. But judging by the grating intensity of some moments from OPN’s new score, something tells me the characters really aren’t. Just had a look and indeed, it’s a crime drama film (that I haven’t seen, of course), and the only peo...view item »
36.

Ulrika Spacek
Modern English Decoration

A band famously similar to Deerhunter, Ulricka Spacek made good on the time they were given in ‘The Album Paranoia’ to weave a record of retro-futurist guitar sparkle, mirroring some of indie rock’s best bands in wide open spaces. Being its target audience -- krautrock dads, satisfied by nothing...view item »
37.

Cigarettes After Sex
Cigarettes After Sex

Again, why would you call a band that? Terrible terrible name.  I’d be surprised if this album is being talked about in ten years time and it’s all because of that name. The album actually isn’t as good as other similar records by Mazzy Star, Low and ...view item »
38.

James Elkington
Wintres Woma

The fact that our Ian wants the promo handed back to him for further listening suggests it's either good ...or shoegaze. Thankfully it's the former as it's the debut album from Englishman in Chicago James Elkington. You may know him for the album he made with Nathan Salsburg or for being a member of ...view item »
39.

Happyness
Write In

This is the perfect time for Happyness: not quite the second you’ve woken up, but the very moment you’ve surrendered to the long day ahead, allowing it to begin. Having taken up the chill mantle of mixtape-making era Yo La Tengo and countless effervescent slacker bands, these guys know a thing or two...view item »
40.

Pharmakon
Contact

Clinton handed this to me asking if I was about to have lunch, but after a cursory glance at that cover I doubt I’ll be eating for a few days. Slimy, writhing fingers on your face. An oily mass of maggoty digits near your eyes and ears and mouth and nose. I’m gonna barf. Those that know the sound of the Pharmakon won’t ...view item »
41.

Dmitry Evgrafov
Comprehension Of Light

Hey, friends and fellow fans of sad instrumental musics: it's time, once more, to be wowed; by modern-classical label and FatCat offshoot, 130701. Dmitry Evgrafov follows up his ‘Collage’ of recent times with this new, more expansive set of contemplations. If that last disc spake of Evgrafov...view item »
42.

Downtown Boys
Cost Of Living

Wasting a sum total of zero time, Downtown Boys’ Victoria Ruiz jumps in and picks up from where ‘Full Communism’ left off: “How much is enough, and who makes that call?” she asks, before supercharging what seems like a rhetorical question with real life fury: “Fuck it”. As...view item »
43.

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

The ever reliable Astral Industries imprint bring us the first new material in over 20 years from Detroit dub techno/celestial ambient master Rod Modell (DeepChord, cv313) and the elusive Chris Troy operating as Waveform Transmission. The former is a familiar and prolific artist with to...view item »
44.

Thet Liturgiske Owäsendet
Catalina

Have you ever felt totally relaxed? Perhaps you are in a holiday cottage in an attic space with a skylight. Through it you can see the clouds moving across the sky...the odd bird fluttering past. You are almost asleep....you hear nothing except the wind in the awnings. You start to slowly drift off into a deep.........sl........ Ah right...view item »
45.

Jesca Hoop
Memories Are Now

Hot off the heels of a collaborative record with Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam -- which our entire staff roster, one by one, failed to listen to -- the longtime folk-experienced Jesca Hoop returns with another solo record that perfectly shows off her cavernous musical style. You can throw that homogenous singer-songwriter des...view item »
46.

The Last Dinosaur
The Nothing

We're trying. We're trying hard to find you good music amidst the barrels of slop we must wade through each day. Following a morning in which I want to smash my head against the uselessness of it all I get recommended this record by the Last Dinosaur. It's a hushed acoustic based album of confessional autumn hued songs that are played a lovingly...view item »
47.

FIS and Rob Thorne
Clear Stones

Herein do New Zealand super-pairing Fis & Rob Thorne join forces for a record of super-microscopic noise. Fis’ universe-rattling sound design has previously wowed in many a format, but for ‘Clear Stones’ he lays out a lucid production that exhibits the performances of partner Thorne, a Māori sound artist who uses his array...view item »
48.

Snapped Ankles
Come Play The Trees

Occasionally I look up from my desk to peer at what musics might be playing in the office. If I can bear to tear myself away from my Suzanne Vega album I might even ask what it is. More often than not of late the answer has been 'Snapped Ankles'. Firstly they are good because they dress as trees and we like trees but secondly they produc...view item »
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 i...view item »
50.

Jane Weaver
Modern Kosmology

In which Jane Weaver does everything she should do to make a popular album in 2017. Let's run through the checklist. Neu like metronomic drumming? Check. Wibbly wobbly synths? Check. Vocals that recall Stereolab/Broadcast? Check. A cosmic/kosmiche feel...view item »