What a year, it’s been. I found it difficult, to pick these 10 records that literally made my 2017, but hey, I had to do it and here is what I have been spinning on my turntable in the past 12 months.
10. St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION
Annie Clark has been labeled as the female Bowie, not sure if for her music, for her gender-tweaking image or for constant re-invention and exploration. Deserving or not such a praise, what is clear is that Clark has immensely evolved in the space of five albums, from the steady debut ‘Marry Me’, to the expansive pop confessional masterpiece ‘MASSEDUCTION’. A truly inventive gem of an album.
Essentials – ‘Pills’, ‘New York’, ‘Los Ageless’, ‘Happy Birthday, Johnny’
Lyrics – You are the only motherfucker in the city who can handle me [New York]
9. Vagabon – Infinite Worlds
Laetitia Tamko is the underdog of this list. “I feel so small”, sings the Cameroon-born singer on the opening line of her debut album, but Tamko is anything but small. ‘Infinite Worlds’ is the reworked, polished and extended revision of her EP ‘Persian Garden’, an eclectic take that establishes Tamko as an indie maverik.
Essentials – ‘The Embers’, ‘Fear & Force’, ‘Cleaning House’, ‘Cold Apartments’
Lyrics – I know it’s my fault / I gave up on everything [Cold Apartments]
8. The XX – I See You
The London trio looks more expansive and brighter than ever before. Probably due to Jamie XX’s solo album hype, ‘I See You’ includes more up-beat and joyful sounds if compared to its predecessors. The XX stamp of stripped-back, dark, and moving arrangements, though, does not disappear in this third album. After all, they are masters on the iconic signature sound they crafted in the 2000s.
Essentials – ‘Say Something Loving’, ‘On Hold’, ‘A Violent Noise’, ‘Brave For You’
Lyrics – You’ve been staying out late / Trying your best to escape [A Violent Noise]
7. Feist – Pleasure
On her follow-up to the underrated ‘Metals’, Leslie Feist proves again that she is keen on exploring new paths and not on resting on her laurels after the world-wide success of ‘The Remainder’. ‘Pleasure’ was written in difficult time for the Canadian artist, hence the raw and dark feeling across the LP. It’s emotional and unexpected, heartbreaking and grand. Another evidence of the indie icon’s skills.
Essentials – ‘Pleasure’, ‘I Wish I Didn’t Miss You’, ‘Any Party’, ‘Century’
Lyrics – I’m getting tired of these clowns and balloons, honey / You know I’d leave any party for you [Any Party]
6. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
Father John Misty is a talented entertainer. You just need to go to one of his shows to be left open-mouthed in front of his charismatic stage presence. Above that, though, Josh Tillman is an outstanding songwriter in the shape of an enfant terrible, who has shift towards a bitter criticism on his ‘Pure Comedy’, and the move has turned out “gold”.
Essentials – ‘Pure Comedy’, ‘Total Entertainment Forever’, ‘Things it’d Be Helpful To Know Before The Revolution’, ‘So I’m Growing old on Magic Mountain’
Lyrics – And how’s this for irony, the idea of being free is a prison of beliefs [Pure Comedy]
5. Aldous Harding – Party
‘Party’ finds Harding in her darkest and grandest work to date. Produced by John Parish (PJ Harvey’s collaborator) and aided by Mike Hadreas (aka Perfume Genius) Harding serves one of the most interesting and intriguing works of the entire year. Compared to many artists, ‘Party’ proves that the New Zealander is like no one else.
Essentials – ‘Blend’, ‘Imagining My Man’, ‘Party’, ‘Horizon’
Lyrics – Every now and then I think about when you’ll die, babe [Horizon]
4. Hurray For The Riff Raff – The Navigator
‘The Navigator’ grows from Navita – Alynda Segarra’s alter-ego -, an immigrant who fights for the future of those who have been marginated. It’s a highly political concept album, wrapped up as a sci-fi musical conceived in Segarra’s head, which is surprisingly easy to listen and digest. A huge step forward for this talented woman.
Essentials – ‘The Navigator’, ‘Rican Beach’, ‘Pa’lante’, ‘Fourteen Floors’
Lyrics – To all who had to hide I say pa’lante! To all who lost their pride I say pa’lante! [Pa’lante’]
3. Perfume Genius – No Shape
It’s exceptionally surprising to see how Mike Hadreas (Perfume Genius) grows bigger, bolder and riskier with his ‘No Shape’, when we all thought that his previous album (‘Too Bright’) had reached the peak of his capability. His art-pop is stylish, vulnerable and explosive, all at the same time, in a heterogeneus album at its best.
Essentials – ‘Slip Away’, ‘Wreath’, ‘Run Me Through’, ‘Otherside’
Lyrics – Burn off every trace, I wanna have no shape / I wanna feel the days go by, not stack up [Wreath]
2. LCD Soundsystem – american dream
After the band’s split up in 2011 there was no much hope for the New Yorkers to re-unite, unless David Bowie asks you to do so. Jame Murphy could not say no (thanks again, David). ‘American dream’ is infused with influences from Bowie, U2, not to mention New Order. It’s a dance-rock masterpiece.
Essentials – ‘how do you sleep?’, ‘tonite’, ‘call the police’, ‘oh baby’
Lyrics – You hate the idea that you’re wasting your youth / That you stood in the background until you got old [tonite]
1. Julien Baker – Turn Out The Lights
Baker’s sophomore album deals with pain and rejection, with some of the saddest and deepest feelings, in a truly haunting atmosphere which relies on her voice, piano and guitar with superb choices of arrangements. It’s a bold step forward from ‘Sprained Ankle’. She is, without any doubt, one of the greatest songwriters of her generation.
Essentials – ‘Appointments’, ‘Turn Out The Lights’, ‘Televangelist’, ‘Sour Breath’
Lyrics – And when I talk, just taste regret / You’re everything I want, and I’m all you dread [Sour Breath]