TOP 17 ALBUMS of 2017… SO FAR…

Our top 17 albums of 2017 (so far…), compiled from the hearts and minds of your favourite X-Press writers, have surprised us as much as they might surprise you. There’s four debut albums, no less than six featuring women (including three in the top five), and at least five featuring current or former Perth musicians. In fact, there were loads of other WA acts that just missed the cut too, from Mt Mountain, Cameron Avery, Psychedelic Porn Crumpets and Foam to expats Sodastream and Tim Rogers. And don’t get us started on all the honourable mentions for other great albums from the likes of Spoon, DJ Quik/Problem, Actress, Pallbearer, Aldous Harding, The xx, The Courtneys, The Smith Street Band, Washed Out, Conor Oberst, Jessica Says, Father John Misty, London Grammar, Jlin, Black Lips, Choker, Fleet Foxes, Kirin J Callinan… the list goes on. Best of all, the year is still young!

17. JENS LEKMAN Life Will See You Now

Jens Lekman came onto the scene as the quirky lo-fi guy that released music on CD-R and homemade DVD’s. In the intervening years he has travelled the globe adding colours to his palette with layers of studio tricks for his charming yet bombastic pop songs. Lekman can make the mundane sound extraordinary and Life Will See You Now is absurd, decadent and delightful. – CHRIS HAVERCROFT 

16. RAG N’ BONE A Handful Of Ash

A Handful Of Ash is part complexity and mindfulness, part soul and rawness. It’s a rarity when catchy, angsty, high energy punk songs can give and give and pull your ear over and over again, but Rag n’ Bone do this superbly on A Handful Of Ash. Check out I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore and Tall Ships for starters. But not only does A Handful Of Ash sound good at first listen, it gets better after ten. – LARA FOX

15. LAUREL HALO Dust

The sunny pop tracks on Laurel Halo’s Dust are woven with multiple voices, jazzy percussion and wonderfully warm electronic music – just in time for Perth’s dark winter. Collaborators Klein, Lafawndah, Julia Holter and especially percussionist Eli Keszler infuse the tracks with playfulness for the upbeat numbers and provides a counterpoint for the slower and more experimental tracks. – PAUL DOUGHTY

14. SLEAFORD MODS English Tapas

ENGLiSH TAPAS didn’t stray far from what we’ve come to expect from Sleaford Mods, but the sheer pace at which they get their new material out into the world enhances the relevance and poignancy of everything they do. The English duo’s ninth studio album showcases Jason Williamson’s spitfire wit at its best, starkly depicting a post-Brexit Britain that frankly isn’t looking so good right now. It’s hard to argue with their underdog morality and dismissive take on well… just about everything: “I had an organic chicken, it was shit”. The group’s first full-length for Rough Trade sounds like Billy Bragg on whatever drugs the Happy Mondays were taking – not always pretty but certainly unlike anyone else right now. – BRAYDEN EDWARDS

13. PERFUME GENIUS No Shape

Perhaps the most fragile, confronting and beautiful album this year is Perfume Genius’ fourth studio album No Shape, a piece of scintillating aural bliss that takes aim at the oppression of inherent outsiders and celebrates difference and defiance. The album combines bygone piano ballads with explosive melodic phrasing and ultra-modern issues. No Shape is a schooling in exploring tone, colour, space, and layers in music and also somehow encompassing humour with confessions, personal accounts and purely observational lyricism; all in one tight amazing little package. – LARA FOX

12. SUFJAN STEVENS, NICO MUHLY, BRYCE DESSNER, JAMES MCALISTER Planetarium

There’s an interplanetary adventure to be had in this insanely generous album. The debut from a super-group whose name alone takes on epic proportions, its 76-minute orbit of the sun imagines our solar system with the sci-fi flare of a space opera. Closest in style to the orchestral electronics of Sufjan Stevens’ The Age of Adz on first spin, the experimental interludes woosh like space junk while out-of-this-world epics Jupiter and Earth (all 15 minutes of it) take this to a truly unique place by the time it’s done. – HARVEY RAE

11. FAZERDAZE Morningside

A disarmingly catchy debut album from 24 year old Auckland singer-songwriter Amelia Murray, Morningside is an expansive take on the homespun jangle that has come to define the ‘Dunedin sound’. The new Flying Nun Records signee gracefully flows through different phases of musical styles with an irresistible blend of innocence and melancholy. Lucky Girl might just be one of the catchiest guitar lines of 2017, while the reverb-soaked Jennifer feels like a warm bath in the thick of winter. – BRAYDEN EDWARDS

10. DIRTY PROJECTORS Dirty Projectors

It’s the break up record you’ll never want to break up with. On Dirty Projectors’ first album in five years, mainstay David Longstreth examines the end of his relationship with former band member Amber Coffman in forensic detail. It’s the sort of complexity and intelligence rarely seen or heard in music; cut up samples and twisted R&B brush up against organic horn arrangements as Longstreth laments their Little Bubble, tells Coffman to Keep Your Name and acknowledges that the Winner Take Nothing. – HARVEY RAE

9. THE MOUNTAIN GOATS Goths

On his first tour of Australia, when John Darnielle was being driven through country Victoria, he was keen to know if he was in “Nick Cave country”. Although his music may not have particularly hinted at it, there has always been a little bit of goth at the heart of The Mountain Goats. The new album Goths pays homage to the subculture with a lyrical dexterity that only Darnielle could pull off. – CHRIS HAVERCROFT

8. BONOBO Migration

Simon Green – producer, multi-instrumentalist and all-round musical genius behind the monkey moniker, can do no wrong, evolving with each record. Migration on the whole is more eclectic than most Bonobo albums, still maintaining the immaculate production levels of deep, lush, complex, ambient, yet pulsing, organic electronica of the highest order. He manages to be familiar, but not repeat himself, with sounds and samples from across the musical spectrum. It may be his finest work yet. – ALFRED GORMAN

7. PVT New Spirit

Song titles like Salt Lake Heart, Kangaroo and Spirit of the Plains give away that PVT’s latest studio album New Spirit is a remarkably Australian sounding. For a group that doesn’t physically make music together, they combine their works, thoughts and ideas incredibly beautifully and seamlessly. New Spirit is lush, infectious, soulful, silky, flowing, aggressive and jarring – listening to the album is like listening to music for the first time all over again. It is avant-garde electronic greatness; progressive, modern music at its absolute best. – LARA FOX

6. KENDRICK LAMAR Damn

It would be fair to say Kendrick Lamar is now the biggest name in hip hop, with each album released to greater expectation and hype. But he remains unfazed, taking it his stride, and continuing to blaze his own path. DAMN. has less of a political and more of an introspective, religious edge. Despite headlining Coachella he remains Humble and preaches the rest of us do the same on his massive single, arguably his best yet. It might not be his best album but it’s his most cohesive. Keeping it real and true to his roots, he remains unique in a sea of same; Kung Fu Kenny’s rapid fire rapping and intelligent lyricism remains unmatched. Sit down. – ALFRED GORMAN

5. SLOWDIVE Slowdive

Few bands can lay claim to having spawned a scene, but Slowdive were at the forefront of the shoegaze phenomenon and have been cited as an influence by every band of note from that scene since. 22 years after the band split up and broke hearts, they return with a their self titled full length. The guitars shimmer and the hushed harmonies are still a delight. The world has changed, but Slowdive haven’t missed a beat. – CHRIS HAVERCROFT

4. POND The Weather

Pond may seem a little international these days, but you won’t find a more WA sounding album this year. Point in case, The Weather‘s grand finale Edge of the World part 2. As the lyrics detail unmistakably local issues like the Roe 8 highway extension, Lateline and, ahh, Gina Rinehart, the music swells in truly epic, psychedelic style. It’s perfect Pond, albeit with a slight electronic update, and boy is it grand. It may be produced by Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker, but this record is all about frontman Nick Allbrook and co’s local roots and admirable social conscience. We’ve got the water. For now. – HARVEY RAE

3. LORDE Melodrama

At first it’s hard to pin down what is so likeable about Lorde and Melodrama. Perhaps it’s her honest lyricism done with the most nonchalant of charm, or perhaps it’s her pride in debauchery and hedonism (yes, this is her druggy album). It could be her  harrowing and humble vocal work or her completely off kilter but somehow perfect musical and lyrical timing. Perhaps it’s just her unapologetic love of (melo)drama? But no, it’s not any of that. What makes Melodrama truly great is that it is genuine and real. And no amount of production prowess, writing teams, collaborations or musical masterminds in the world can make something genuine. – LARA FOX

2. BOAT SHOW Groundbreaking Masterpiece

The surprise release of 2017 is from right here in WA: a punk album written by a Mandurah 22 year old best known for fronting a shoegaze band (Dream Rimmy, for newcomers). The title may be meant as a joke, but it turns out a feminist punk outfit is exactly what 2017 needed, and despite a wealth of options around Australia (and the world) to choose from, no one is doing it better than Boat Show. Released just six-months after forming, it’s short but filler free. We wager these rebel girls will still be putting Cis White Boys in their place come year’s end so get around them. – HARVEY RAE

1. METHYL ETHEL Everything Is Forgotten

We’ll probably be judged as Perth-centric for having a WA album as our album of the year to date, ahead of more fancied records from abroad. No doubt having three local acts in the top five will add fuel to the fire. But we just think our writers have good taste. This sophomore effort from Methyl Ethel, produced with Simian Mobile Disco’s James Ford (Florence and the Machine, Arctic Monkeys) took the success of their 4AD debut and dialed it up. The androgynous themes and artwork may have sparked conversation and controversy, but its real success comes from catchy melodies and memorable lyrics that stick. It’s no wonder this release has been receiving huge love Australia-wide. It will not be forgotten. – Q

Keep an eye on all the latest album releases HERE.

One Comment

  1. lol

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