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Albums of the Year 2017

It’s that time again.

Top Albums Top Reissues Bestsellers Top Stiffers Near Misses

'Near Misses'

Bubbling just under the Top 50, here's a bunch of records we definitely rate but couldn't quite squeeze in to our Top 50.

William Ryan Fritch
Behind The Pale

Hey, everybody, it’s Fritchy time! So yeah, I’m excited but any more than two exclamation marks would’ve been excessive. So we come to another in a long line of tortuous, labyrinthine, circuitous routes taken by that William Ryan Fritch for the most rustic, monolithic touchstones of post-modernist, bookish labe...view item »

Rips
Rips

Is this familiar because it's really good or because we've played it in the office at some point and it's infected my soul? Anyway let me tell you about the tracks I have available to me. Initial reports would suggest that this will appeal to fans of late '70s New York sorts like Richard Hell and ...view item »

William Basinski
A Shadow In Time

It turns out that William ‘crumbler’ Basinski loves David Bowie. I mean it’s not that surprising that a consistently great pop star is loved by someone who takes ‘normal’ music and forces it down it’s own throat, but still. This droney album right here is dedicated to the man ...view item »

Selffish
He She Them Us

Just look at that sleeve photo. Bathers in the Med having a whale of a time. Or perhaps it’s the Baltic… in the height of Summer. I say that because Selffish -- aka Andrejs Eigus, for it is he -- hails from Riga. Latvia’s capital is but a short train ride from some nice beaches (I know because I have been there and it was noth...view item »

Ibeyi
Ash

Sisterly duo Ibeyi made something truly fantastic with their self-titled debut for XL, a record of deeply personal and perplexingly filtered electro-pop that revelled in its many subtle complexities. They’re following up on it now with ‘Ash’, which improves on the formula rather than taking any drastic measurements against it; ...view item »

Pierre Mariétan
Rose Des Vents

Described by Clint as “the most annoying album of all time”, I’ve assigned myself to this one in the name of counterpoint. Full disclosure: he was concentrating very hard and I think this record of sonic geography took him too far away from our Holbeck office and too far into French suburbia. Understanding what Pierre Mari&eacu...view item »

The Moonlandingz
Interplanetary Class Classics

The Moonlandingz are a kerrrazy side-project band, comprised of two members each from Fat White Family and Eccentronic Research Council. Oh, and members of The Village People and ...view item »

A Winged Victory For The Sullen
Iris

The boss-approved Winged Victory brigade produce their latest sequel of cinematic bliss, continuing a victory lap of film scores for “frontman” (in so far as drone collectives can have frontmen) Adam Wiltzie. Between producing the gorgeously serene soundtrack for Solaris and asking for deadline extensions for the next ...view item »

Hauschka
What If

Volker Bertelmann has been churning out his prepared piano works as Hauschka for well over a decade now, and after a dozen or more solo albums (I’ve actually lost count) he’s upping the ante once again. I haven’t even counted his many collaborative projects and film and documentary soundtracks. Anyway, here he has added pianola...view item »

Julie Byrne
Not Even Happiness

First up: full disclosure. I once said 'hello' to Julie Byrne. I'll try not to affect my judgment of her new record but I just thought I'd throw it in there in the interests of fairness. Despite my 5 second interaction with her I've managed to keep a sensible distance from her music and so have enjoyed listening to her latest album. ...view item »

Run The Jewels
RTJ3

Much grumbling has been made in office about how we’ve never managed to review a record in the Run The Jewels discog until now. Me, making excuses, I think that probably speaks to their staying power: Mike and El-P have largely spoken for themselves since they released their first mixtape, a free victory lap that came after their one-two p...view item »

Noveller
A Pink Sunset For No One

So excited was I, a month ago on hearing of a new Noveller album, that I actually asked Clint in advance if I could review this one. I’m so glad I did. Filmmaker and musician Sarah Lipstate has been blessing us with her gracious solo guitar project for just over a decade now (there are two or three early CDr and cassette ...view item »

Thurston Moore
Rock n Roll Consciousness

Ok here's the thing. Why has he not aged? Does a life spent skewing screwdrivers into guitars somehow help reverse the ageing process? Or has the fact that he shed his Sonic Youth bandmate Kim Gordon for a hip young replacement helped keep him young? Whatever he's doing Thurston Moore neither looks nor soun...view item »

Slowdive
Slowdive

Well here I am again, resident Norman Records shoegaze expert settling myself down for a once every twenty odd years review of the new (yes new) Slowdive album. I slammed my name down on the desk to review this for two reasons, 1) I'm obviously a huge fan and 2) the rest of the whiny know-it-alls in the office (whom I love dearly of course) prob...view item »

Big Walnuts Yonder
Big Walnuts Yonder

Records Make You Laugh Out Loud Episode 1  This is as comical as watching an animal tumble off a worktop. It's a collaboration between Mike Watt (Minutemen), Nels Cline (Wilco), Greg Saunier (Deerhoof) and Nick Reinhart (...view item »

Thundercat
Drunk

It's "be nice" day today at the towers, people are emptying bins and dishwashers for each other and even Li'l Biz popped in to join in the fun. Maybe it's all because we were listening to this silky smooth release from Thundercat who Li'l Biz insists is still only 23 (he's actually 32 - fact checking guy). Those chops! Sure to bring good vibes t...view item »

Jarvis Cocker & Chilly Gonzales
Room 29

How about this for a team-up: witty Pulp man Jarvis Cocker and multi-faceted German entertainer Chilly Gonzales (and on Serious-Proper-Classical-Music-Label Deutsche Grammophon too!). Room 29 is a theatre piece the two devised about a certain famous Hollywood hotel room, complete with s...view item »

Waxahatchee
Out In The Storm

Ever since Phil Collins wrote 'Against All Odds' great music has come from terrible romantic break ups. Thank God we don't live in the 1950's where everyone met a partner then stuck with them miserably until one of them died. Waxahatchee aka Katie Crutchfield has had a recent such awakening and has poured all h...view item »

Damaged Bug
Bunker Funk

Castle Face founder and member of one of now’s biggest rawk bands John Dwyer is back from his latest studio cave to deliver a collection of softly wild scurrying songs with many electronics going haywire around him. All presented on a choice of black vinyl or a limited clear with multicoloured splatter version. Totally trippy, man. ...view item »

Broken Social Scene
Hug of Thunder

There was never a more appropriate album title. Never once. Seven years out of the game, and several more out of relevance, you might have forgotten indie rock supergroup Broken Social Scene actually had any existing left to do; this record is a stellar reminder of their unfathomably loud grand gesture sound, their ability to turn ear-b...view item »

Chad VanGaalen
Light Information

Grotesquely gentle, Chad VanGaalen’s handcrafted records have always dealt with tensions of the self, arguing over aggressions and kindnesses in different musical hues. Slime guitars marked ‘Diaper Island’, electronics metamorphosed the grit of ‘Soft Airplane’ and country music prettied up the sonic burps of ‘...view item »

Omni
Multi-task

We drank some particularly strong coffee today; so it goes, Omni would say. Jumping about the place like an over-piqued collective of office drones mid mass-walkout, their guitars work themselves into a frenzy and thrive on it. Their last record, the snarkily titled ‘Deluxe’, was a fine blueprint to riff-spangled indie rock. This one...view item »

Ian William Craig
Slow Vessels

“Go on: defend this” were the words of my cattishly picky editor Clint upon listening to ‘Slow Vessels’ in office. Reworks make him squirm; acoustic music that isn’t exactly to his taste is apparently bad. Fine, I’ll defend it: this is a very good droner coming to terms with being a very good songwrit...view item »

The Clientele
Music for the Age of Miracles

Guess what I did last week? Broke out my warm autumn jumper. It was a lovely moment. It had a few extra frays around the edges, was a little tighter round the midriff but was otherwise as snug and perfect as I'd remembered. Rather like this Clientele album in fact.  The autumnal London based band are back in action and are as m...view item »

Jlin
Black Origami

Gary, Indiana’s undisputed queen of footwork is back with her second album, following her widely praised, critically acclaimed debut back in 2015. An album which topped many end of year lists. Since then she’s given us a coupla great EPs on Planet Mu and been busy puttin...view item »

Demen
Nektyr

Fresh from Stockholm, it’s time for Demen to shine with loveable indie pranksters Kranky records. Nektyr is the debut album from Irma Orm, who hails from a city rated high on both the ‘quality of life’ and ‘clean air’ scale. So she’s made an album of depths-plumbing, spooky...view item »

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band
Adios Senor Pussycat

I can't be the only one to be worried that Michael Head's newfound soberness and happiness (just look at that smile!) would somehow negatively impact his music. The singer has a long history of drug and alcohol abuse and a way of somehow derailing his career just as it all seems to be going right. Still, being the perpetual nearly man of British...view item »

Rolando Simmons
Yuo're Life

So, Rolando Simmons then. Swedish producer. Richard D James is a fan. Sounds like… hmmm, I dunno. Squelchy acid basslines, razor-sharp hi-hats and generally fluttering percussion, plenty of micro-edits and chopped up vocal parts floating around. Anyway, Aphex Twin is a fan -- “as played by Aphex Twin...view item »

Kendrick Lamar
DAMN.

Under no circumstances do you need Norman Records dot com to tell you that there’s a new Kendrick record, nor that we feel any way in particular about it. The rundown is that his half-time of ‘Untitled Unmastered’ is over and he continues to stagger down the grandiose path that the massive, encompassing and pretty amazing ...view item »

Full Of Hell
Trumpeting Ecstasy

You spend your whole life trying to be metal and doing metal bands and being a general metal guy and you finally get to the point where you think you might just have made the most miserable metal record in existence and then Full of Hell come and shit a sample of Werner Herzog talking about misery all over your hard work. ‘Trumpet...view item »

King Krule
The OOZ

Just when I thought I was getting a bit sick of his voice (check it on the recent Mount Kimbie) along comes 'the Ooz' to remind me that this bloodhound aping slobbery snarl works so much better with his own material. Despite sharing a manager with Adele, King Krule (aka fire haired mi...view item »

Lab Coast
Lab Coast

Thank you Dan.  Lab Coast have been releasing hook-filled lo-fi for over a decade now and that nice man at Faux Discx has handily collected the best bits onto one catch all LP which will help you make head or tail of it all. Opener 'For Now' sets the stall perfectly  - a lovely rocking bargain basement number with melodies that...view item »

Nick Hakim
Green Twins

Right, I've only got a few songs to go on but this is sounding gorgeous. Opener 'Green Twins' sounds like what I'd hoped the Thundercat album might sound more like. Aching, hazy jazz influenced songwriting that is one part Shuggie Otis and one part ...view item »

Ian Hawgood + Wil Bolton
Transparencies

Aah, this is just what I needed to hear before I pack up for the week: a lovely new full-length CD of tender instrumentals from the always reliable Ian Hawgood and Wil Bolton. The Tokyo-based Home Normal stable do like to remind us occasionally of how much they love us. Well, they love us a lot and the feeling is mutual. Transparencies makes all...view item »

The Heliocentrics
A World Of Masks

Overwrought with a bunch of things we’ll call stuff, the Heliocentrics have moved the planets together here for a record of cosmic experiments that happen around songs. ‘A World of Masks’ was mostly improvised, as can be seen in its languishing droning moments and the occasional vocal mantras of new singing addition Ba...view item »

This Is The Kit
Moonshine Freeze

Sorta-folkie Kate Stables has been plugging away at This Is The Kit for a very long time now, so it’s kinda elating to see her dues paid with this big, bold release for Rough Trade. Listening to ‘Moonshine Freeze’ is a treat largely because of how confident a songwriter it presents, one unafraid to mix their clear, emotionally ...view item »

Love Theme
Love Theme

By the end of his tenure as experimental outfit Dirty Beaches, you could tell Alex Zhang Hungtai knew his way around drone. Having piloted the project as a lo-fi rockabilly crooner, he divested into sepia-toned ambience, using the latter half of ‘Drifters/Love Is the Devil’ to detail dusty soundsca...view item »

Sheer Mag
Need To Feel Your Love

A generation or two behind schedule, Sheer Mag sound like they could be the cast of School of Rock making music as adults. Having released a slew of fantastic 7”s that proved not only that they could rock, but that they could rock hard...view item »

Triptides
Afterglow

As I put the needle on the vinyl something happened to me that hasn't happened all year- I got genuinely excited. I love Triptides and particularly their previous album 'Azur' and unlike most recent records I'd heard not a note of this music on the internet in anticipation. So no wallowing and muttering that it's not as good as the last record o...view item »

Dälek
Endangered Philosophies

When Dalek returned with 'Asphalt For Eden' I was concerned that they couldn't live up to the incendiary-hop of their earlier 'Gutter Tactics' but despite a slightly more limited sound palette it was still a fantastic assault on the senses once again proving how necessary this band is. The swiftly released follow up 'Endangered Philosophies' sta...view item »

Hannah Peel
Mary Casio: Journey To Cassiopeia

Unique if nothing else, Hannah Peel puts analogue synths and a traditional colliery band together for this concept LP that follows the fictional tale of a Barnsley pensioner and former pioneering electronic music producer who leaves her terraced home in order to see Cassiopeia for herself. The result is kind of like a collaboration between ...view item »

Liars
TFCF

There's a Liars album for pretty much everyone in the world and every occasion. The band veers over so many styles of music that if you don't like one then you can be pretty sure that down the line there'll be one you like.  So initial thoughts would be that this is kind of their R&B album.Not that it sounds like R&B in any ...view item »

Angele David-Guillou
En Mouvement

This is the second full length album from Angele David-Guillou following albums as Klima and as a member of Piano Magic. Right from the get go it's a heart stopping series of prime neo-classical compositions that dig deep into the work of the likes of Phi...view item »

Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement
Green Amulet Crafts Supernatural Qualities

Originally an ultra-limited cassette edition of 63 copies, released back in 2011, ‘Green Amulet Crafts Supernatural Qualities’ is the second edition in a series of vinyl reissues of Dominick Fernow’s (Prurient, Vatican Shadow etc...view item »

Unsane
Sterilize

Not really sure how we missed this one. I’ll go ahead and say it: it’s foolhardiness on our part, considering headache rockers Unsane are fond favourites amongst the lovers of loud in our office. Going slow through the post-90s decades with records coming every five years or so, ‘Sterilize’ follows on from the old-school ...view item »

Converge
The Dusk In Us

I wrote the description for this record and I know I’m getting to write the review. Great stuff.  First things first. The album art is very good. And like a nice plate of your favourite grub, you eat with your eyes and to a certain extent this is true with records, too. What the front of the album art actually is however, is s...view item »

John Maus
Screen Memories

Keyboard goth and bud to Ariel Pink (sigh), John Maus has been gone for a long time, no doubt perfecting his brand of philosophy-seminar synth pop. His last record, ‘We Must Become The Pitiless Censors of Ourselves’, was his best work yet, a tone poem both twilit and machiavellian. Seeing less and less of himself in his own music, Ma...view item »

Golden Teacher
No Luscious Life

Glasgow’s beloved Golden Teacher released an anthology of EPs back in the day (like, recently back in the day), serving up stellar dictionary definitions of ‘playful’ with dance music convened in full-band freakouts and schemed around proper genres. Sometimes groups just forget that the whole making-an-album thing is an option,...view item »

Bibio
Phantom Brickworks

Perhaps we're all living in fear of being found out. In work, in life, in everything. Bibio has made a career out of showcasing a wide array of talents from the sepia slo-mo Boards of Canada vignettes of his first few albums to the J Dilla inspired beatwork on his albums on War...view item »

Laura Baird
I Wish I Were A Sparrow

One half of the Baird sisters, Americana picker Laura Baird is striking out on her own solo project with ‘I Wish I Were A Sparrow’, a record of floaty Appalachian guitar patterns and narratives that sound like they’re crossing through the countryside bit by bit. The traditions of her project with sister Meg are in tact, but on ...view item »

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