[sic] Magazine

Editor’s Albums of 2017

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Another year, another round up.

Sometimes my own personal list is punctuated by new or obscure acts. 2017 felt, to me like the year of the returning heavyweights. Maybe not heavyweights in the overall industry sense (some) but in my world at least. I was stoked for the latest records from The National and The Afghan Whigs. Slowdive returned. Mogwai…. well Mogwai had never really gone away and some real legends were back in the ‘hood. Wire never seem to put a foot wrong. OMD threatened another Dazzle Ships with their ‘La Mitrailleuse’ teaser. Sadly that didn’t come to fruition on the patchy resultant album, The Punishment Of Luxury. The Liverpool synth legends comeback remains valuable only for the odd track here and there.

Actually The National album is worth discussing. For a band we’ve called ‘the new REM’ a seventh album could have been their breakthrough. Not to commercial success (which they already have) but to the stratospheric, ‘biggest band in the world’ levels that Out Of Time took REM. Not so. For a band that doesn’t change that much, Sleep Well Beast was ambitious with its electronics and filthy rock licks. It was also…. a bit of a mess. Its as though the Cincinnati act jumped the ‘massive’ REM period and landed on New Adventures In Hifi. I still included it. A misfiring Matt and Co remains valuable to me.

Here’s a top ten rundown, followed by some bubbling under. I’ll put some music samples at the foot of the article.

Keep in mind that this is my personal, ‘listening pleasure’ list not a [sic] Magazine aggregate. Not the ‘finger on the industry pulse’ which is actually Rob Gannon’s exhaustive article (link below)

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Enjoy the list.

10) Cigarettes After SexCigarettes After Sex (Partisan) Dreampop

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The most sultry collection of perfect little dreampop ‘hits’ since Hope Sandoval’s bra. Not sure whether this is lucky to get in or fully deserving. Cigarettes After Sex are undoubtedly, at this point, a one-trick pony but man that’s a good trick. This is Beach House for grown ups and you can tell exactly what these adults have been up to by the musky aroma.

Oh and yes, it’s a guy! Watch the video.

9) MogwaiEvery Countrys Sun (Rock Action) post-rock

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I’d always pegged Mogwai as making wonderful compositions but never fully successful long players. Since Rock Action it feels as though the Glaswegians slipped into ‘two genius tracks per album’ mode. That’s actually okay. The two are always worth the admission price themselves but Every Country’s Sun is far more coherent and satisfying as a whole.

I saw Mogwai in Brussels recently and their set felt like a greatest ‘hits’. It actually contained seven cuts from the new album. Says it all.

8) ChildhoodUniversal High (Marathon Artists) pop, soul

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Shedding the indie leanings of their debut for fresh, breezy pop, Ben Romans-Hopcraft’s Childhood re-emerge as ‘funk soul brothers’ of the highest order. Universal High feels like an instant classic. It’s hard to imagine Universal High not existing.

Just a wonderful, throwback record.

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7) Gang Of YouthsGo Farther in Lightness (Sony) Alt Rock

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Anyone else partial to some Australiana?

When the fledgling Gang Of Youths announced their first Australian National tour I had to laugh at the unintentional pun. That’s what they were, an Australian National. Except of course, not quite. They have their own style, admittedly. Yes David Le’aupepe‘s rich baritone is comparable to Matt Berninger. But Le’aupepe is bell-clear and sonorous. Where Bernigner is muffled and muted, Le’aupepe soars. Occasionally the drum patterns are a little on the nose but Go Father In Lightness sees the group spreading both ambition and wings.

The deal sealer? It’s just so playable.

6) HammockMysterium – (Hammock Music) Ambient, downtempo post-rock

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Hammock topped my 2016 list with Everything And Nothing. Mysterium is more subdued. The Nashville duo have returned to the Oblivion Hymns template. I think Mysterium works better than Oblivion Hymns though. It is equally as minimal and downtempo but avoids some of the bombast which blighted Hymns somewhat. Tinged with great sadness (there is genuine family tragedy at the heart of this release) at times it is so cinematic at times that it is almost like listening to Max Richter or Ólafur Arnalds. Much like Departure Songs most of the tracks here have had an accompanying video.

Hammock have magic in their fingers.

5) The War On DrugsA Deeper Understanding (Atlantic) Rock, Americana

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This one is almost against my principals. Reeking of Dire Straits, the late Tom Petty, Springsteen and, indeed all the Dylan acolytes I shouldn’t engage with this in a million years. Trouble is, its just so good. So well done, yes but so good. You’d need a heart of stone to deny it. Adam Granduciel’s nasal coos are across every bands pre-gig mix and many peoples year lists.

They’re taking over the world, baby. Sorry Mark Kozelek. We love you too.

4) Wolf AliceVisions of a Life (RCA) Grunge

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Everyone likes Wolf Alice, right? From more understated beginnings the North London act are now amping up their ‘power pop’ angle. Forget ‘Alice’, Ellie Rowsell is the true, feral wild child of the band. I wouldn’t want to be locked in a darkened room with Ellie.

Then again…..

Scratch that.

3) Aldous HardingParty (4AD) (folk goth)

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“Hey”

Anyone who’s been on the Flying Nun label must have something going for them. To progress onto 4AD – alarm bells should be ringing. Not bad bells. Rather, ‘you must hear this’ bells. Party is hypnotic and beguiling. Hardings fluttering vocal is somehow both ‘star of the show’ and ephemeral spectre haunting her own music.

The Art…of Party. Splendid stuff.

2) bvdubHeartless (n5MD) Ambient IDM

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Brock Van Wey has made around 30 albums and I’ve listened to most. He always includes something that just floors me with its brilliance. I found Heartless to be more holistic. There were fewer ‘standout’ tracks but only because the whole release was quality from start to finish.

A rising tide lifts all ships and Van Wey is set fair to out-sail most of his peers.

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1) Black Swan LaneUnder My Fallen Sky (Wanderland) post punk/shoegaze

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As a critic and writer you get to spot certain things early. I call it ‘placing a bet’. I knew Black Swan Lane were the real deal from the get-go and their debut album, A Long Way from Home. They have (come a long way), in fact. Under My Fallen Sky is the bands seventh collection and quite possibly best. After some weightier previous output Under My Fallen Sky takes a turn back towards the light. The result? One gorgeous slab of post-punk/dream-gaze with nary a duff track to be found. The new album is therefore vindication both for the band and for champions of the band like myself.

I put all my chips on Black, spun the wheel and Black most certainly came in.

They deserve a bigger following, these lot. This will appeal to fans of Manchester acts such as The Smiths, James, The Chameleons as equally as it will delight listeners of Slowdive, House Of Love and Kitchens Of Distinction. Our full review is linked below.

Black Swan Lane album review

bvdub album review

Hammock album review

Sub-Ed’s Albums & EPs Of The Year 2017

My 2016 round up

Some……music:_

Bubbling under

Some of the ones unlucky to miss out on the ten. In no particular order:_

The Afghan WhigsIn Spades
AlvvaysAntisocialites
DemenNektyr
Ella AtlasThe Road to now
JFDRBrazil
Mark Lanegan BandGargoyle
Last DaysSeafaring
The NationalSleep Well Beast
NutopiansRewind
Oskars DrumA Cathedral Of Hands
Out LinesConflats
Pale SeasStargazing For Beginners
ProtomartyrRelatives in Descent
Max RichterThree Worlds: Music From Woolf Works
RideWeather Diaries
SlowdiveSlowdive
Sonic JesusGrace
WireSilver/lead
Wolf ParadeCry cry cry

Did we get yours?

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