20. Sløtface – ‘Try Not To Freak Out’
What We Said…
From their early days as Slutface to the wiser name change of Sløtface, these Norwegian pop-punks have spent the last few years delivering powerfully entertaining pop-rock. And now after a swathe of single releases and previews, the band share their highly-anticipated debut album 'Try Not To Freak Out', and thankfully it is all we were hoping for and then some.
The band have had this DIY approach to their sound since their infancy, and while that aesthetic was very popular amongst bands a decade ago, it seems to have become a lost art these days. But 'Try Not To Freak Out' manages to perfectly execute that rough-around-the-edges feel the band have looked to create. The record's opener 'Magazine' is one of those instant earworms and sets up the rest of the album with a flurry of fast pace and memorable hooks.
They may not have received the buzz they deserve so far, but with this new record now out, we can probably expect that to change. The energy of this release is incredible infectious and certainly sets them up for a promising career ahead.
19. Bleachers – ‘Gone Now’
What We Said…
While his days in the band fun. may be over, producer and songwriter Jack Antonoff is far from giving up the game on the music industry. Since his 2014 debut album 'Strange Desire', the frontman has written songs for the likes of Lorde and Taylor Swift, showing that he knows how to make a pop banger or two, and this new record is filled to the brim with overzealous energy and joy.
With a clear fondness for the 80s sound, especially the Bruce Springsteen influence on the tracks 'Let's Get Married' and 'I Miss Those Days', and nostalgic techno ambitions on 'All My Heroes', 'Gone Now' seems to split the songwriters attitude between full power-pop anthems and a more diverse avenue. While each track is produced in a very commercial way, he likes to experiment within that realm and results in an extremely eclectic collection of ideas.
While there are still some very clear standout singles on here, much of the rest of the record still manages to hold its own, making it a very fulfilling listen from start to finish. Antonoff clearly has a flare for creating ambitious-sounding records and this is just another full-on dose of his talent.
18. Run The Jewels – ‘RTJ 3’
What We Said…
When Run The Jewels released their second album 'Run The Jewels 2' back in 2014, they were greeted as a great return to the quality era of US hip-hop. With over forty years experience between them already, the united front of veteran MCs El-P and Killer Mike had become the new benchmark for the world's underground rap scene. Now after months of hype and teased material, the pair have surprisingly released their third album almost a month before its due date, giving us a Christmas never to forget.
What is most noticeable about the sound of 'RTJ3' when compared to its predecessors, is its evolution of its aesthetic. Rather than simply try and mimic their previous works, the pair have gone back to the drawing board throughout this new record and returned with something as equally fresh and unique as any of their other albums. With guest appearances from the likes of Danny Brown, Trina and BOOTS aiding the record's variety, this return has managed to cap off the end of 2016 in the most glorious fashion.
Professional, powerful and engaging throughout, 'RTJ3' would have easily made it into any Albums Of The Year list from last year if it wasn't unexpectedly dropped on Christmas Eve, but given the physical release is yet to come out, we are still counting this as a 2017 album. One that will certainly kick this year off to a flying start.
17. King Krule – ‘The OOZ’
What We Said…
Following on from the critical success of his sophomore full-length 'A New Place 2 Drown', crooning frontman King Krule aka Archy Marshall returns with his third studio effort 'The OOZ'. And after spending much of the last couple of years collaborating with other artists, the singer has delivered a diverse and interesting release that suits all the hallmarks of a great poet and storyteller.
Mixing a trip-hop style production and psychedelic guitar hooks, 'The OOZ' plays almost like a nightmare in the head of Tom Waits. Marshall's instantly identifiable voice melts through each and every track, creating this fusion of disturbing menace and intense energy. Those who are familiar with the singles so far may be surprised at how dark the record is as a whole, but still manages to create a succinct and cohesive body of work.
'The OOZ' may be the chalk to the cheese that was 'A New Place 2 Drown', but with his superbly on-point vocals navigating the listener through this brooding underworld, it proofs to be a likeable release with plenty of ebbs and flows to keep you engaged.
16. Sampha – ‘Process’
What We Said…
It was 2011 when we first got to hear Sampha's voice. His collaborations with SBTRKT on the producer's debut album were so transcendent, it wasn't long before Sampha found himself collaborating with everyone from Kanye West to Frank Ocean. But now after six years in the spotlight, the singer has released his long-awaited debut album 'Process'. And thankfully, he has opted to create ten brand new tracks just for this release, rather than rely on anything from his back catalogue.
Like its title suggests, 'Process' plays like a journey of discovery and inspiration. Placing Sampha's incredible voice at the centre of this record really accentuated the connection he has with the music surrounding it. Rather than his usual place as a supporting player, each track has been written to bring out the full power in his subtle singing style. Whether it be quick pace of 'Blood On Me' or the minimal flow of '(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano', Sampha takes it all in his stride to deliver a powerful performance throughout.
While the record was certainly a long-time coming, it feels like he wasn't in too much of a rush to make it happen. The record has this very laid-back approach to songwriting, and never really likes to make much of itself. It seems Sampha likes to dwell in the subtlety of his music, and create something as diverse and it is exciting.
15. Laura Marling – ‘Semper Femina’
What We Said…
When you have been producing quality music as long as Laura Marling has, there will obviously times when artists would want to put themselves on auto-pilot when conceiving a new album. Falling back on the formula of success from previous works in order to appease their loyal fanbase. And while Laura's music has certainly found its niche over the years, that hasn't stopped her trying new things as her latest full-length 'Semper Femina' proves.
Opening with the blissfully dark 'Soothing', the record instantly makes you aware that this isn't simply another folk album from one of the country's best, but a branched out separation of ideas and new experiences. Each track seems to be its own self-contained journey, creating not only a diverse listening experience, but also a collection that manages to maintain interest throughout. Which is very impressive when you realise the average length of each song sits roughly around the five-minute mark.
It is clear that Marling has been on the search for a new sound in the process of writing this album, but rather than fixate on one, we are treated to a smorgasbord of style and flair. Giving us a whole new side to her disposition, and witness her evolve from those modest girl-with-a-guitar days.
14. Lorde – ‘Melodrama’
What We Said…
When Lorde released her debut album 'Pure Heroine' back in 2013, we thought that we were never going to hear the end of her. With an almost infinite amount of radio-friendly singles, all wrapped in a bleak and instantly identifiable production, the record propelled her into the international superstar she is today. But now looking to follow up such a massive success, the New Zealander has almost gone back to the drawing board with her sound and returned as an almost completely different artist.
Opening with the uncharacteristically energetic 'Green Light', the record unravels this tangled web of diverse influences that aim to show a more musically dexterous Lorde. While her voice still brings out the identity within her music, this eclectic mix of production has helped her step away from her comfort zone and deliver an album that has exceeded most of our expectations, given the creative mountain she has had to climb in making it.
'Melodrama' sits within that perfect realm of being familiar to her older work but also completely fresh and interesting at the same time. It should be held up as the shining example of how to follow up such a massive debut album without resorting to rehashing the original.
13. DJ Format & Abdominal – ‘Still Hungry’
What We Said…
The irresistible combination of DJ Format and Abdominal goes back as far as each of their careers. After famously working together on Format's debut album 'Music For The Mature B-boy' for the hit singles 'The Hit Song' and 'Ill Culinary Behaviour', the pair have been almost inseparable ever since. Yet despite numerous collaborations over the years, 'Still Hungry' marks the duo's first joint full-length release and just as fans would expect, it is filled the tongue-in-cheek wit and eclectic production they are both known for.
Despite the fact that their brand of hip-hop may not be the most contemporary, the quality and energy within their sound is palpable from start to finish. Mixing swing rhythms, break beats and those classic wind-instrumented samples, 'Still Hungry' shows itself as a positive beacon of light that shows all the new kids exactly want made the hip-hop genre such a formidable force in its initial years.
And with this record arriving mere months after the returning of A Tribe Called Quest's latest release, it is clear that there is still an unquenchable thirst for the genre's retro influences in this modern era. While the duo have no permanent plans to become a two-piece, this release is a perfect example of the chemistry and creative inspiration they both give each other, resulting in a truly brilliant venture.
12. Wolf Alice – ‘Visions Of A Life’
What We Said…
When Wolf Alice dropped their debut album 'My Love Is Cool' back in 2015, there was no denying the influences that spawned the direction they were going for. Inspired by the shoegaze movement of the late 80s, as well as grunge from throughout the 90s, the band's romantic vision of forgotten alternative music was brilliantly well-received. Now returning with album number two, 'Visions Of A Life' sees them take those influences and look to create an even more diverse full-length than before.
While the musical intent of this new full-length remains largely the same, it is clear that they were looking to stretch their creative wings here, adding more eclectic ideas and taking themselves out of their comfort zone. This can be best summed up by the opening three tracks; 'Heavenward', 'Yuk Foo' and 'Beautifully Unconventional', each have their own separate thought process but all manage to display the brilliant talent this band have for songwriting.
This new pick-and-mix sound they have gone for may take a while to get your head around, but once you do, it'll be worth it. 'Visions Of A Life' is the perfect example of how to follow up a debut record, breaking away from their original sound just enough to create something brilliant on its own terms.
11. The Horrors – ‘V’
What We Said…
Being a fan of The Horrors must be one of the hardest things to be in music at the moment. Since their ferocious beginnings as a psychotic garage-rock outfit on their debut album 'Strange House' through the shoegaze ambience on 'Skying', The Horrors have looked to reinvent themselves on every single full-length they have put out to date. And that migration continues through their fifth studio album 'V', but it seems that this time, they may have finally broken through that experimental barrier.
Over the last few releases, The Horrors have stuck mainly to the soundscapes and a haunting demeanour, mostly for the critical-acclaim it brings. But 'V' has something quite remarkably different about it. Rather than fall back into old ways of simple yet powerful melodies, the band have stretched themselves out into new territory, most notably on the single 'Press Enter To Exit'. Taking themselves out of the experimental arena, and adopting a direction with more focus and purpose than we have ever heard from them before.
It seems that 'V' is so much more than just another trippy Horrors release. It shows a more succinct outfit than we have heard from them before, a group finally satisfied in their own skin and making wonderful music in the process. We are not pinning our hopes on this being the band's final form, but it is the closest to perfection we have seen from them thus far.