fbpx

THE X-PRESS TOP 20 ALBUMS OF 2017

What a year 2017 has been for long players. Our top 20 is a quarter made up of comebacks five years or so in the making, more than half feature women in key roles, there’s three homegrown WA outfits, six sophomore records and perhaps surprisingly, just one debut album. With seven of the acts having toured this year already, and at least nine already locked in for shows next year (and no, we’re not including Chelsea Wolfe on that list), we’re feeling lucky. Bring on 2018!

20. Wavves – You’re Welcome 

An album to rock out to or chill to as you see fit. Wavves’ seemingly effortless and carefree punk rock tunes, fuelled by scuzzy psychedelic riffs and catchy lyrics, offer something different when that’s what you’re after. Sound wise, it’s not only a rehash of the past but an expedition of exploration at the same time, a taste of old and new. Full of killer tunes to form the backdrop for summertime partying or chill’n with mates, whether early in the day or late into the night. You’re Welcome. – Ryan Ellis

19. Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up

After hearing Robin Pecknold unpack the evocative Mearcstapa on an episode of the Song Exploder podcast, I knew I had to immediately investigate mother album Crack-Up. Hailed by critics universally as a beautiful maturation after a six year drought, it’s hard not to agree. Fleet Foxes are still very much ‘themselves’, yet they are selves that are more enlightened than ever. – Eloise Parks

18. Mount Kimbie – Love What Survives

This album raised the question: is this a band, or music by electronic producers? The answer is moot when the tunes are as good as on Love What Survives. Mount Kimbie take their atmospherics and production skills to infuse a collection of tracks that showcases considerable songwriting talent only hinted at in previous albums. The songs inhabit their own miniature pop worlds, and feature a group of outstanding guest vocalists, including King Krule and James Blake. Not to be overlooked, the fine instrumental tracks give the album a relaxed pace that also sets the table for the more emotionally charged vocal tracks. – Paul Doughty

17. Dirty Projectors – Dirty Projectors

As reflected in the album’s self-title, David Longstreth reinvents the Dirty Projectors sound by making use of studio effects such as auto-tuned vocals and electronic drum sounds, even including some footwork beats. The tracks have a restless energy to them, bending, twisting, changing time and starting off in different directions, as if trying to shake the songwriting habits of albums past, with the lyrics plainly speaking to his breakup with former band member Amber Coffman. Cool Your Heart is the uplifting number, but Little Bubble is one of the most melancholy songs of the year (in a good way). – Paul Doughty

16. Perfume Genius – No Shape

From the moment it begins, the fourth Perfume Genius record builds in anticipation, shattering into existence like the ecstatic relief of a first kiss. No Shape perfectly describes this collection of songs, which form a complex dance; shedding layers in constant movement to defy a fixed state. Even at its quietest, this is an overwhelming work. The decadent compositions successfully capture the themes of joy, love, death and transcendence; breaking away from the darker focus of earlier releases. Nevertheless, it still manages to send a shiver up your spine and makes you hold your breath. Because real love hurts. – Q

15. Chelsea Wolfe – Hiss Spun 

I am ashamed to say that it was only this year that I heard of Chelsea Wolfe and that was thanks to Queens of the Stone Age’s Troy Van Leeuwen (a guest on this record). I told him I would listen and I was not disappointed. Her music is dark, visceral, grungy, heavy and is in sharp contradiction to her almost angelically ethereal voice. Latest offering Hiss Spun is pure brilliance and will only serve to cement her spot in our hearts. If you only have time to listen to one song today, check out 16 Psyche. It’s the perfect embodiment of her work. – Karen Lowe

14. PVT – New Spirit

New Spirit was one of the most rewarding and progressive releases of 2018. Going for a more analogue and natural approach to their very electronic and machine-centric sound resulted in the band creating a spirited, human and hugely effecting album. The album is an ode to Australia, celebrating the good and the bad, but ultimately, it is an uplifting salute to the great nation we can become if we open our hearts and minds. – Lara Fox

13. Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me

Equal parts depressing and beautiful, Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked At Me, hits you in the feels hard. Recorded in the six months after the untimely death of his wife, Phil Elverum explores the deepness of his grief. Similar to Sun Kil Moon’s Benji, A Crow Looked At Me stays constantly literal – there’s no need for metaphor when grief makes life seem so absurd. Elverum described it as “barely music”. His voice, soft and tender, his spirit sounding broken. It’s a tough listen, but his realisations about death and grief are incredibly rewarding. Death is real, and this was the realest album of 2017. – Neil Solace

12. Julien Baker – Turn Out the Lights

Memphis artist Julien Baker writes songs about self doubt, her faith and a fragile mental health. On second album Turn Out The Lights, Baker is often vulnerable, and yet always fierce and defiant. Only just in her 20s, she has an ever expanding audience of punters and musicians alike who are singing her praises. Have no doubt – Julien Baker is a superstar. – Chris Havercroft

11. Wolf Alice – Visions of a Life 

Visions of a Life never settles into just one genre, which is exactly what many loved about Wolf Alice’s debut My Love Is Cool. The band’s sophomore effort keeps all the best bits from their debut and makes them bigger: grunge-y songs are grungier (Yuk Foo), love songs are lovelier (Don’t Delete the Kisses) and it still has its small bit of obscurity (Sky Musings). Singer Ellie Rowsell’s voice only gets better, and guitarist Joff Oddie’s work is still amazing. Heavenward is an excellent opener, the title track is an epic closer, and everything in between just grows around you. – Kierra Pollock

10. Lorde – Melodrama 

9. Boat Show – Groundbreaking Masterpiece

In the year that women took front of stage and raised their hands in solidarity, no one told it like it was better than Perth locals, Boat Show. Not at all modestly named, Groundbreaking Masterpiece isn’t a polished product – it was recorded in a mere three hours – but the lo-fi quality only adds authenticity to that real punk sound. The catchy lyrics give equal amounts to stomp your feet and sing along to. This is a sweary, outspoken, massive “fuck you” to the patriarchal machine both in the music industry and life in general. About fucking time. – Q

8. Fever Ray – Plunge 

Fever Ray, the solo project of Karin Dreijer from The Knife, finally returned with her first album in 8 years in 2017. Called Plunge, it’s a fitting title for a piece of art that delves into someone’s world and mind with such fierceness. Listening to the album you can feel the living and growing that has happened over those eight years. At times personal and confessional, the album is also a social and feminist beacon in the world of Weinsteins and Trumps. The driving and unrelenting electronics and off-kilter samples are done with a manic kind of finesse, which happens to sum up the album nicely. – Lara Fox

7. Slowdive – Slowdive 

Shoegaze, dream pop, call it what you want, but it’s back in a big way. And so are one of the old English masters of the sound, Slowdive. Shimmering, effects-drenched guitars, deep, driving rhythms and understated vocal harmonies fill Slowdive’s self-titled fourth album – their first since 1995. From the blissful opening strains of Slomo, whose vocals take a good two minutes to kick in, through the lush harmonics of Sugar For The Pill, to the fading, melancholic beauty of Falling Ashes, their triumphant return is epic in its sweep, and right up there with their best work. – Alfred Gorman

6. St Vincent – Masseduction

The fact her big, bold pop play alongside Taylor Swift/ Lorde producer Jack Antonoff turned out to “just be another St Vincent record” is proof that the weird and wonderful Annie Clark, aka St Vincent, remains very much the master of her own destiny. Turns out she’s just going to have to keep being one the most unique, inventive and creative songwriters – not to mention guitarists – on the planet. Moreover, the fact this is largely a break up album about supermodel ex-girlfriend Cara Delevingne does induce a little morbid voyeurism, on her most personal album to date. – Harvey Rae

5. Pond – The Weather

With all the incredible local music in 2017, perhaps it’s surprising that one of our biggest international exports, Pond, turned in the most ‘WA’ album of the year. The lyrical concerns about living with the past are as Australian as white guilt and Lateline. From monster opener 30000 Megatons through epics Edge of the World Pt. 1 and Pt. 2, Nick Allbrook and co’s admirable social conscious and fascination with everything from Gina Rinehart to the Roe 8 highway made us feel right at home. –  Harvey Rae

4. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

DAMN. was one of the few records of 2017 that unified people and that’s because Kendrick Lamar said what’s relevant in 2017 and went hard at it. As Kendrick says, “If I gotta go hard… I’ma make it look sexy”. The album is a wondrous mix bag, HUMBLE. smarts due to its simplicity, DNA. due to its complexity. There’s the collabs with Rhianna and U2, and the diss track ELEMENT. (that may or may not be for Big Sean). At the end of the day, the scariest thing about DAMN. is the fact that while it may not actually be one of Kendrick’s best, it’s still so damn good. – Michael Hollick

3. King Krule – The OOZ

Bossa nova, hip hop, punk, jazz. King Krule’s long awaited sophomore album The Ooz delivered on every front, presenting Archy Marshall’s development as an artist and ability to indulge in various genres. From spacey, distant sounds on songs like The Locomotive, to big sounding tracks with his recognisable, violent growl, Marshall succeeds in making every track on this album significantly different from the next. Each tune experiments with a new genre, backed with a different story and insight into the artist’s mind. The rich, genre-blurring, soul-engulfing album has succeeded in being one of the year’s best. – Charlotte Saxon

2. Methyl Ethel – Everything is Forgotten

The pop hooks might have gotten your attention, but there was so much more to Methyl Ethel’s second album that refused to let it go. The Perth trio stepped things up on Everything is Forgotten, with frontman Jake Webb’s creative vision blossoming under the guidance of super-producer James Ford and their new label 4AD. Drink Wine and No.28 share the finest moments on the release, but it was the perpetual earworm Ubu that knocked down the walls to an international audience. Passionate, original and addictive, it’s simply one of the best albums to come out of WA in years. – Brayden Edwards

1. LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

American Dream is not the year’s best album simply because it was a triumphant return for James Murphy and co; American Dream is the year’s standout because it’s a fucking brilliant record that stands head and shoulders over everything else that came out in 2017 (according to our writer’s poll, at least). Brilliantly produced and containing some of the best songs that Murphy has produced to date, American Dream doesn’t put a foot wrong from beginning to end, delivering pretty much everything one could wish for from a new LCD Soundsystem album – ideas, energy, killer grooves, words of wisdom – the whole nine yards. Rather than fall back on their tried and tested formula, Murphy and crew decided to take the risky route and push things forward into new, unfamiliar territory, making for an unpredictable and utterly thrilling listening experience. Murphy could so easily have played it safe and produced an album full of crowd pleasing, dance punk bangers for the masses. Instead, he opted to stay true to the original spirit of LCD Soundsystem and push the envelope with a set of brilliant but less immediate songs that ultimately succeeded in adding a new dimension to the band’s sound without alienating their hardcore fanbase in the process. – Zack Yusof

Comments are closed.