New kid on the block Rhys Phillips does us the distinct pleasure of continuing our Top 10 series with a rundown of his favourite albums from the grand old year of 2017. Be sure to catch up on the rest of our series here, which features delightful lists from 730 veterans Elliot and Stevie. Less about them, though – here is Rhys’ Top 10 Albums of 2017.
10. This Old Dog – Mac Demarco
Ever woken up on a Sunday morning and struggled to find an album that’d soothe you back to life? Here’s your album. Mac will sort you out and stop you being a sad sally through his calming life advice, and soothing sing-whisper. But hey, you don’t have to initially be glum to listen to this one, it’s just the best option.
However, there is a catch to this feel good album, which is the track ‘Sister’. ‘Sister’ is a real kick in the heart for a good minute before Mac realizes he’s not doing his job cheering you up, so he quickly changes the track to ‘Dreams of Yesterday’, and thank God for that, I was about to cry.
In all seriousness, Mac’s songwriting on this record is fantastic; he’s honed his sound to the point that he can even use what sounds like Christmas bells at the end of ‘One Another’, and they don’t feel out of place. Mac knows what he wants to do, and does it with some real finesse.
9. Process – Sampha
I can’t write a review about this that’s as good as our editor Tom’s, and I’m pretty sure that is a fact, so you can go and read his review from earlier in the year here. Despite my reviewing capability, here’s a few things I like about Process.
Sampha really knows how to use his voice in so many ways, whether it’s the lonesome voice accompanied by the choir of mirrored voices on ‘(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano’ or the whooping and other oral variations we hear in ‘Plastic 100°C’ and ‘Blood On Me’.
Sampha has such a knack for creating a broad soundscape, making his tracks seem spacious and so full of content, that he has seemingly packed more than one song into each allotted track. The contrast between soulful piano melodies with futuristic samples and effects give this album so many textures for the listener to find throughout the length of the LP.
8. A Fever Dream – Everything Everything
I was sceptical leading up to the release of this album. As is the case with a number of bands that I listened to when I was 18, a 4th release tended to initiate the start of a downward spiral musically. This is not the case with EE, and latest release A Fever Dream has cemented them as a consistently brilliant band. Through all of the turmoil we endured through the disastrous year of 2016, EE crafted an equally emotive album that heavily reflects on the existential crisis we had.
The title track of the album, ‘A Fever Dream’, moves through several phases sonically, feeling like it encompassed all of the year with the haunting lyrical hook anchoring rest of the song so that it was not lost in the crashing wash of emotion. This album felt like another step in any right direction with regards to the style of the band’s sound, finely balancing indie rock with their more electronic side.
7. Yesterday’s Gone – Loyle Carner
As debut albums go, this is a cracker. Coming storming in with ‘Isle of Arran’, Carner puts his foot down straight away, letting us know this ain’t some bedroom mixtape shit, this is (almost) mercury prize material. Carner’s vocal style and flow do make him stand out, but the confessional nature of his lyrics really allows the listener to take a close look at the issues he holds within his mind, whether they’re personally important or not.
While mental health in rap lyrics is becoming pretty prominent, Carner’s way of expressing these issues within the album sets him apart. The way he describes encounters with anxiety quickly jump from bar to bar, his ability to spit quickly but casually allow empathy with his situation, his bars feeling like the thoughts within your own mind. Solid instrumentals and heartfelt lyrics make this an album you will probably cherish, just like I have.
6. AZD – Actress
I didn’t know who Actress was until I heard this album. It was a bit strange acclimatising to, tracks felt like they were made then put inside a VHS tape and then exported out of that. I didn’t quite get the reason for fading in to the start of tracks, rather than forming a more structured start. However, I think this was all part of the shock factor having not encountered something like this before. While at first glance the album may seem like a loose collection of tracks to someone not familiar with Actress, the album really shows itself to be decisive and formed with the intention of being an album.
The fade ins and outs serve as a way to slip from one idea to another, moving through Actress’ distorted and static-heavy soundscapes, not allowing the listener to sit and dwell on a mood for too long, so as not to get lost in this alternate reality which feels like it’s reflecting real life through warped mirrors. As dissociative as this album made me feel on almost every listen, it wasn’t uncomfortable. The feeling like I was being enveloped by the sounds and ideas that were being put forward was strange, but very enjoyable.
5. Colundi Sequence Volume 2 – Aleksi Perala
Yeah, I’m not going to stop talking about it, Colundi is the future. It does make sense though: why do people tune their instruments to a specific standard and just stick with it? I mean fair enough, there are a lot of possibilities with the standard tuning system, but why not try something new? Trying something new has really paid off for Aleksi Perala; through Colundi he’s made a distinct sound for himself, and without Colundi, his tracks may not have had the certain mystical nature that finds itself in each of the 3 albums he’s released, this year alone(!!!).
Colundi Sequence Volume 2 is a refined float through space, encountering signals and synths that speak their own foreign languages, enticing you to try and understand what they are communicating. Tracks like ‘UK74R1409107’ fit the mould of techno, but they still hold true to the idea that you’re being guided through the vast expanse of the cosmos, except this time, with some rhythm.
Whether I’m chatting some rubbish metaphors or not, this album needs to be experienced, and preferably alone, in a quiet room.
4. Arpo – Call Super
Certain producers can make tracks that sound like they didn’t make them at all; Call Super is one of them. What I mean by this is that when I hear Call Super’s work, I can’t really understand how it was crafted. Sonically, it seems like this couldn’t be created, only discovered, like hearing something in a dream and being able to pin it down and bring it out of your subconscious. However, we all know this isn’t what happened when Joe Seaton presumably sat down and made this thing.
Much like how I described Aleksi Perala’s work before, this album takes you on an aural journey through seemingly unknown textures, to concoct a certain feeling of originality in what you’re hearing. In parts of the album I was questioning what a sound was and then realising that, oh, it’s just a synth. And that’s not just me being stupid, Seaton’s ability to scramble familiarity into something foreign and seemingly new is what gives this album it’s flare. Early tracks introduce you to how the show is going to run, with tracks like ‘Ekko Ink’ and ‘I Look Like I Look In a Tinfoil Mirror’ running longer, showing themselves to be the stars of the album, emoting what Seaton wants to show you, his way.
3. Belief System – Special Request
Paul Woolford is any number of positive adjectives at once, and one of the leading artists within electronic music. Belief System shows off just how intelligent and decisive Woolford can be. Quite a few of the tracks from this album were released on Soundcloud by Woolford when the company had a crisis and almost died, I listened then and songs were obviously indicative of Paul’s studio prowess but not of the fact that when put in the correct order, these tracks elevate themselves to another level.
What I gathered from this album was that it was a musical chronicle of Paul Woolford’s journey from the start of his career, through the birth of Special Request, up to the point in his life now. The big idea that I missed was the idea of the religious mural in the album, ‘a triptych homage to rave culture and dance music’, something which was pointed out to me by Tom.
Even if you were to completely disregard the possible meanings within the album, the tracks stand up for themselves, spanning several genres and seamlessly blending others, the album makes for an hour and a half of lucid electronic fun.
2. Flower Boy – Tyler, The Creator
There’s no hiding how much of a Tyler fan I am, I even had a blind affection for Cherry Bomb, Tyler’s previous LP which got a bit a bit of hate for being noisy or something, I don’t know, I didn’t read the reviews. I love Flower Boy too, but is my opinion warranted this time? I think so – the production on this album is on point but still has that signature Tyler/OFWGKTA sound.
This album doesn’t seem to have the overarching storyline between Tyler’s alter-egos that we have seen in previous albums, so maybe that idea has made its way out of Tyler’s work, but that’s not to say it’s necessarily a bad thing. Through losing the subplots of characters within Tyler’s mind, Cherry Bomb and Flower Boy have stepped out into the mainstream, rather than being products of Tyler’s bedroom.
Flower Boy is still instilled with Tyler’s new(ish) found optimism and positive outlook on life, Tyler even drops hints within this album that part of this happiness may be due to getting to know himself better. The track ‘Garden Shed’ seemingly comes across as Tyler’s attempt at coming out of the closet, or in this case, a garden shed. This is Tyler’s best album yet; he’s found a balance in his production which keeps that OF vibe whilst still being able to show him off as a mainstream artist with an image that’s all his own.
1. The Night Land – Talaboman
When it came to actually picking my albums of the year I was surprised that when each album was being pitted against other this one came out on top. Going by which album I would rather listen to, The Night Land seemed to be the one I wanted to listen to every time. John Talabot and Axel Boman said that with this album they were trying to reach their subconscious and document their dreams, and it certainly feels like they accomplished that. Without knowing that, on my first few plays of this album, I felt like the music I was hearing was serving as the soundtrack for my own dreams/daydreams.
This album filled me with the weird sense like I was a passenger watching the motion picture of my life.
The Night Land isn’t perfect for dancefloors, even though at some points it feels like it could be. Even though it feels like a soundtrack, it’ll make you groove in your seat. The fusing of the two personalities on this album come through so well as the two producers enhance each others positive traits so much so that it’s strange to think of them as two separate artists.
This album doesn’t have a bad song, every track is sublime. Oh, and by the way – if you listen to ‘Safe Changes’ and feel like you haven’t been transported to a better state of mind, then there might be something wrong with you.
Image: Capture Tracks, Young Turks, RCA Records, EMI, Ninja Tune, DUB Recordings, Houndstooth, Columbia Records, R&S Records