2017 was a kind of weird year musically for me. I didn't buy anywhere near as much music as I once did as Spotify got its hooks into me. That along with the fact that I'm just not in town (or near a record shop - sorry Monorail) so much these days.
That said, through Spotify I possibly listened to more music than ever. I discovered bands and albums new and old and in some cases this prompted me to also buy the vinyl.
A look through the 30 odd albums that have made an impression on me this year evidences a pretty eclectic selection; ranging from self-released and DIY indie labels in Scotland, through to long term faves like The Charlatans, Flaming Lips and BMX Bandits, with comebacks from Ride, LCD Sound system balanced with falling for bands like The Courtney's and then discovering albums by the likes of The National, Kelly Lee Owens and Michael Head towards the end of the year
I fell for The Courtney's during a Spotify browsing session armed with a couple of Arran Blondes. Their song with the title 90210 took my eye in some recommendations and I checked it out. It blew me away. I then discovered they had released their second album earlier in the year, checked that, fell for that too and also bought the vinyl.
Last year I said that any one of the top 5 in my end of year list could be my (favourite) album of the year. This year I'm not so sure what my favourite album is, I like a lot and have loved a lot at various points of the year.
A special mention must go to Mark W Georgsson who kicked off 2017 with his beautiful Faces and Places album. Knowing Mark as I do, I knew that this was a labour of love and everything about the album highlighted that love - from the songs, the playing and the production through to the artwork and sleeve notes. The fact I had the album for over a year in digital form made me appreciate it all the more when it finally came out on vinyl. Check it out HERE
I obviously have a special affinity to local label Last Night From Glasgow and the 6 albums the label has released through 2017 (one jointly with Scottish Fiction) have all given great pleasure. In addition to Mark, LNFG released;
- Medicine Men's Into The Light LP and it is a real melting pot of influences with bubbling synths matched with guitars and beats, taking off on lengthy and trippy grooves.
- Stephen Solo worked his iPhone magic again with Pii 2, homemade psychedelia with raw soul throughout and also dashes of humour, intelligence and stark honesty.
- Sister John's Returned From Sea is exquisite, pretty perfect from start to finish.
- Annie Booth's is remarkable for someone so young and hints at a great deal to come.
- while Sun Rose's The Essential Luxury is rich in layers, beats, synths, melodies and harmonies.
The amount of quality (and diverse) music that the label has released since forming in March 2016 is quite breathtaking. It highlights the gap there was and the need for the label in Scotland. I've not been able to offer much time to the label this year which is a shame, but a growing number of people are involved in helping CEO/Chair Ian Smith with the running of the label and each release. There is much more to come in 2018.
Please take the time to check these fine artists out. You can stream them all on Spotify, download from iTunes or buy physical copies from www.lastnightfromglasgow.com
So without wishing to show any favouritism, I'll keep the LNFG artist above, here are my 5 favourite albums from 2017 with the rest in no particular order listed below.
Top 5 from 2017
1. Adios Señor Pussycat - Michael Head and the Red Elastic
God damn it, I only discovered this album after Michael's Oran Mor show in October when loads of people I follow on Twitter went into overdrive regarding how good the show was and the album is. I agree - melodic stories, a great band, a singer in rich voice, a choice cover of Wild Mountain Thyme and an album that gets better with every listen. SPOTIFY LINK
2. How The West Was Won - Peter Perrett
I blogged about this incredible album in August and described it as the sound of chiming guitars, a tight rythm section and the sound of Perrett pouring his heart out. It is pure, soulful and true.
Catching Peter and his band at King Tut's made me appreciate it even more. A love letter to his long suffering wife, self help for himself - this is special. SPOTIFY LINK
3. The Courtney's II - The Courtney's
As above, the second LP from The Courtney's is direct guitar punk/new wave pop. There is a groove to some songs, others show humour, they all brim with excitement and energy. SPOTIFY LINK
4. Every Valley - Public Service Broadcasting
One of my favourite bands from recent years, they really know how to take the listener on a journey through the incredible sounds they create and their innovative use of samples; ranging from old BBC recordings, to NASA and to their recent album documenting Welsh Coal mining. The way they create music around the samples is extremely clever and I wonder how much the samples inspired the music, or if they had to search for samples to fit. SPOTIFY LINK
5. Erratic Cinematic - Gerry Cinnamon
What a year for Gerry! Heis rounding it off with 2 sold out nights at the Barrowland Ballroom and they are set to be pure celebrations of his honest, soulful storytelling songs. Keysies is one of my songs of the year. SPOTIFY LINK
Others albums I enjoyed
Sleep Well Beast - The National
This could easily have made my top 5. An album with real depth, an album clearly displaying real care and soul. I've never reached for The National before, but a number of friends urged me to check this album out. My only disappointment is that I didn't go and see them live.
New Energy - Four Tet
Stephen Pastel recommended that I check this album out. Recorded in a sparse home studio looking out a window, New Energy has a beautiful feel to the sounds and production. It sounds very fresh and natural despite its electronic origins.
Different Days - The Charlatans
The band that keep on keepin' on. Guest appearances from Marr, Weller, Rankin and more inspired The Charlatans to swiftly follow the incredible Modern Nature with another gem. Many journalists deemed this their best album since Tellin' Stories - but that is doing a massive dis-service (yet also highlighting the consistency of the band) to the aforementioned Modern Nature, You Cross My Path and the wonderful Us and Us Only. I reviewed the album in this BLOG highlighting a sense of freedom, confidence and fun.
Kelly Lee Owen - Kelly Lee Owen
I only discovered this album a couple of weeks ago on a train to London and enjoyed it so much that I listened to it twice on the way down and twice on the way back. A gorgeous album that really fitted with my sunny train ride to and from the big smoke. Trippy, laid back, dreamy and with stunning effected vocals throughout.
Oczy Mlody - Flaming Lips
The Lips produced one of the most memorable musical highlights of my year with their Barrowland Ballroom show that featured Wayne Coyne riding round the hallowed ballroom on a unicorn. Psychedelic with pulsing electro, fantasies, dreams, nightmares.... The Lips continue to push boundaries and imagination to the limit and beyond.
Antisocialites - Alvvays
Loud melodic guitars, a guest spot from Norman Blake and the sound of a band playing with confidence and fun. Alvvays are on the rise.
American Dream - LCD Soundsystem
Back, but they weren't away for long, James Murphy and co keep on keepin' on with songs about ageing, death and dreams accompanied by all kinds of grooves and beats
Weather Diaries - Ride
Ride returned with guitars set to stun and lots of talk of the sun.
Morningside - Fazerdaze
I discovered this album through a tweet by Gold Flake Paint; falling for the real charm in the guitars, production, vocals and lyrics.
Forever - BMX Bandits
I blogged about the Bandits recent number HERE and it is a gem of heart-breaking, heart-aching, warm and reflective pop.
Stellular - Rose Elinor Douglas
Kelvingroove - Fnuf and the Fairylights
Colours - Beck
Permo - Spinning Coin
Earl Gray - Girl Ray
Last Place - Granddaddy
Who Built The Moon? - Noel Gallagher
Another Summer of Love - GospelbeacH
Saved by Metal - Broken By Rock
Friday Night The Eagles Fly - The Bar Dogs
There Are No Saints - Siobhan Wilson
Waiting On A Song - Dan Auerbach