There have been so many amazing albums out this year, which makes it even more difficult to compile a list of just 10. Some of these came to mind instantly and have been played non-stop since their release. Others took a longer think until the penny finally dropped. After hours of painstaking whittling down, this is the end result. All in all, these are all albums that not only sound great but have real meaning to them. This eclectic selection includes albums that are perfect for shouting-along too, some that make you want to cry, and others that simply put a smile on your face. Wherever they may take you, I’m sure it’ll be good.
10 King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’
The kings of the concept album reaffirm themselves time and time again as the front-runners of the psychedelic rock scene. This album has the classic ‘Sleep Drifter’ which seamlessly blends traditional Turkish instruments and the bands rock aesthetic. You’ve then got the palpable ‘Nuclear Fusion’ with a chaotic Afro-funk feel to it. There’s also the fantastically busy sounding ‘Rattlesnake’ which is undeniably catchy, and the title track which ties together the dazzlingly experimental microtoned instruments and oddball vocals. This transfixing collection is something that can be listened to over and over, without ever getting old.
9 LCD Soundsystem ‘American Dream’
After waiting a painfully long time for it to drop, this album was the best way they could’ve resurfaced post-hiatus. The first single, ‘Call the Police’ is a classic LCD track. The pacing, the instrumental layering and James Murphy’s perfectly imperfect vocals all blend together perfectly to create some pure magic. While ‘Emotional Haircut’ is 70’s style synth-pop heaven, ‘Change Yr Mind’ is a fantastic mish-mash of sounds that all fall into place to form something spectacular. ‘Tonite’ also has a classic LCD vibe to it, with Murphy’s voice layering over 80s synths and a good old cowbell going in the background.
8 Childhood ‘Universal High’
Childhood have grown up. They started as a surfer-rock indie band, now they have re-imagined themselves as a funky, psychedelic group with an Isley Brothers style and 70s look to match. ‘California Light’ just shows off frontman Ben Romans-Hopcraft’s stunning vocals and the band’s new soulful aesthetic. ‘Cameo’ has a groovy juddering bassline while ‘Nothing Ever Seems Right’ is unapologetically danceable. They also move into some old-school soul with ‘Lack of Understanding’ where Ben’s vocals sound like a Marvin Gaye throwback (which is not a bad comparison at all).
7 Homeshake ‘Fresh Air’
Another beautifully cool, chilled-out from Homeshake. Peter Sagar’s use of perfectly jazzy-hip-hop instrumentation combined with his beautifully timid voice results in an album that really feels (for lack of a better word) fresh. ‘Call Me Up’ is catchy and ever so slightly funky with some really cool synth-pop grooves. ‘Every Single Thing’ is another favourite; it feels kind-of 80s with a moping danceability to it. The album proves that since Peter’s departure from Mac DeMarco’s band, that he’s been able to carve out his own style and vibe that is totally unique. This endearingly melancholic synthy collection of songs is definitely a new favourite.
6 Mac DeMarco ‘This Old Dog’
The Mac-daddy was back with his own self-described ‘jizz-jazz’. He’s grown up a little, and you can hear it in this album. With more serious themes, and the stripped-back acoustic guitar and synthy vibe, this album may be a change from his usual style but it is something special. While ‘Moonlight on the River and ‘My Old Man’ are a little bit forgettable, there are many amazing classic Mac tracks on there. ‘Still Beating’ is probably a favourite, with thoughtful lyricism laid over Mac’s simple yet heart-warming guitar riffs. There’s also ‘For the First Time’, which sounds a nod to his long-term relationship with his girlfriend Kiki, it’s just another really lovely track.
5 Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett ‘Lotta Sea Lice’
Courtney Barnett is just too damn cool. She plays guitar beautifully and her lyrics from her first album were so simple yet smart. Kurt Vile is also known for his country-rock-blues guitar riffs and lovable scruffiness combined with witty lyricism and a talent for playing. ‘Over Everything’ is a go-to track for any dreary situation. Its uplifting tone and the blending of two unique voices made for a wonderful experience against my otherwise gloomy surroundings. Courtney’s cover of ‘Peeping Tom’ showcases her unique tone while covering the cleverly written lyrics by Kurt. ‘Continental Breakfast’ is charming and heart-warming, while perfectly encapsulating the feel for the whole record.
4 Pond ‘The Weather’
Yes. Just yes. The Australian psychedelic-rock group really rocked it this time. After successfully proving themselves to be more than just Tame Impala’s spin-off, they pushed themselves out the box again to come out with something truly magical. Nick Allbrook’s wailing vocals in ‘30,000 Megatones’ combined with overlaying synths and wavy guitar riffs make the opening track so promising. Followed by two absolute classics, the groovy ‘Paint Me Silver’ and singalong favourite ‘Sweep Me Off My Feet’. ‘Colder Than Ice’ is unapologetically 80s, and they then wrap it up with the title track, which is just a sublime example of the band’s quirky, psychedelic vibe.
3 The Big Moon ‘Love in the 4th Dimension’
It is so refreshing to see an all-real riot girl rock group reimagined in our era. They combine relatable frustrated in-and-out of love lyrics with ripping guitars, a heavy drum beat and backing harmonies in their debut album. Tracks like ‘Cupid’ and ‘Sucker’ are fantastically catchy and oh-so-cool. Then there’s the melancholic ‘Formidable’ and ‘Hold This’ which sum up the painstaking sensation of being in love. ‘Bonfire’ has a really cool Runaways-style vibe to it, while ‘Something Beautiful’ is stripped-back and really quite touching. As a kind of add-on to the album, their recent release of acoustic tracks is really stunning too.
2 King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard with Mild High Club ‘Sketches of Brunswick East’
The third release from the prolific band this year. This album is just so beautifully chilled out and a far cry from some of their heavier conceptual albums. The gang of eight each showcase their individual artistry, blending jazz and acoustic psychedelic rock in a way that only they could do. ‘Countdown’ and ‘Cranes, Planes and Migraines’ have some really funky basslines and a whole load of soul. ‘A Journey to (S)Hell’ is a more typical King Gizz sounding track, with a big more mania than the rest of the album, however their collaboration with Mild High Club seems to have mellowed them out a bit. All in all, it’s a totally casual, freewheeling collaboration of jazz-tinged instrumentation with psychedelic lyricism.
1 The xx ‘I See You’
This is a band that will always be special for me. The mixture of poetic melancholic harmonies and Jamie xx’s dance influences made the album something truly unique and special. ‘I See You’ not only marks a change in the bands musical style, but they also manage to incorporate each other’s individual music style and blend it together with a stunning result. The name ‘I See You’ also seems reflective of the overall sentiment of the album, which pulls at your heartstrings and reminds you of the complexities of love and loss. Tracks like ‘On Hold’ and ‘Lips’ have a sense of intimacy to them which makes the tracks feel vulnerable still, despite their added layering of electronic beats. ‘Performance’ feels totally stripped back, classic xx style with Romy’s voice at the forefront, and Jamie playing violin behind her. ‘Test Me’ closes the album so neatly, with Oliver and Romy’s harmonies coming together perfectly over Jamie’s Brian Eno-esque background of sound. The album is my favourite of 2017 because of this intimacy it has, the beautiful mixing of electronic and stunning vocals, and the bands ability to experiment with styles while remaining true to themselves as artists.