WE’RE over three months into 2017 now, already an eventful year, but the music side of it is just getting warmed up. We’ve had some high profile releases, but also some great albums from some smaller acts – including some BRILLIANT debuts. But on top of that there’s also been some big name albums that didn’t quite live up to the hype, such is life. Here’s SCM Music’s take on the releases from January to March.
We’ve handily included links to samples of these records – just click on the album title for a taster!
Yes! Here they are! The 12 best albums (Editor’s note: in my humble opinion) to be released from January to March! If you haven’t heard these, it’s near imperative that you do. Enjoy!
Blanck Mass – World Eater
With clear influence from Noise Rock and Vapourwave, World Eater goes down avenues you would never expect. It glitches and pulsates its way through seven tracks that at times feel tender and ethereal, and at others feel like the world is falling to pieces. With the idea of creating a soundtrack for the current state of this planet, Blanck Mass certainly did a good job. If you enjoy your Electronic music loud, blistering and gutsy, this is for you.
Neil Cicierega – Mouth Moods
Denizen of the internet Mr. Neil Cicierega returns with the third installment of his Mouth series; the mash-up albums that take the most cliche tracks and turn them into something beautiful. Moods is very similar to its predecessors, once again creating mash-ups that shouldn’t possibly work, but keeps it fresh with new ideas, and even some skits (if you can call them that) thrown into the mix. This thing is free to download, so there’s no excuse not to get your hands on it.
Johnny Flynn – Sillion
Sillion is a good ol’ Folk album that brings all the best elements of the genre through Flynn’s cracked voice and beautiful story telling. With it’s influence linked to the likes of Sixties Folk, there’s an dated quality to the sound that Flynn performs, which only adds to the charm of this album. If you enjoy the likes of Bob Dylan, or the work of Fleet Foxes, this may well be for you.
Goldfrapp – Silver Eye
There’s a hint of cheesiness to Goldfrapp’s latest release, Silver Eye, but above this are layers and layers of enjoyable Synth-Pop that is just undeniably enjoyable. A lot of people might over think the instrumentation, but at the end of the day, Silver Eye is just a pumping, infectious Pop album. It doesn’t try and make a statement, and with beats like this, it doesn’t need to. It’s sexy and mesmerising; just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Jesca Hoop – Memories Are Now
Jesca Hoop came through with a sincere and tender record with Memories Are Now. Working with vocal layers and hooks, Memories Are Now continues Hoop’s agenda of combining Folk influence with subtle Electronic touches that really bring the crowning details to these songs. While it doesn’t radically change Hoop’s style, her knack for writing really good songs is never clearer than on this concise album.
Hurray For The Riff Raff – The Navigator
The Navigator sees Hurray For The Riff Raff expand on their Folk-Blues agenda with some influence from Americana and Indie Rock. Using colourful language and equally colourful instrumentation, The Navigator feels metropolitan and wise; in tune with the modern world and all the issues it can create. It’s swagger is instantly catchy and will win over those not familiar with the group’s sound. A must listen.
Idles – Brutalism
Brutalism is an album that lives up to it’s name. Bristol Hardcore Punks Idles have produced one of the most relevant albums to come out of the UK so far this year. Taking pot shots at the government and satirising is second nature for Idles as the clever lyrics are spat over furious guitars and bass that don’t hold back in the slightest. In an age where every one and their mother are writing protest songs, Idles raise the bar considerably in terms of quality.
Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me
So heartfelt and personal is A Crow Looked At Me, that some people may find it difficult to listen to. Written and recorded during the height of grief, Phil Elverum’s latest effort under the Mount Eerie name will nearly reduce you to tears. The wordplay does not hold back, delving into the realities of losing someone, while the instrumentation, while stripped back, still holds that trademark Elverum sounds that will haunt and mystify you.
Nadia Reid – Preservation
Preservation is wonderfully touching record. Reid’s tender and occasionally warbled vocals are attached to equally tender and reverberated guitar work, evoking something deep inside that might almost be mistaken for feelings. On top of that, Reid’s lyrics feel deeply personal and moving; they tell stories, relate to love, and generally bring elements of both warmth and sadness. This is not an album that can be put on repeat, but one that will deeply move you.
Ty Segall – Ty Segall
Segall’s second self-titled solo album sees the musician move away from the insanity of Emotional Mugger and into several different areas and genres. While the Psychedelic aspects were still there, Segall ventures into elements of Folk and Alternative Rock, even throwing in some tracks which sound like love songs. It’s easier, less intense listening, which doesn’t compromise when it comes to the song-writing.
Sun Kil Moon – Common As Light And Love Are Red Valleys Of Blood
On Common As Light… Sun Kil Moon took the blueprint he created on Universal Themes and expanded it to within an inch of it’s life. This thing is over two hours long, and sees Mark Kozelek speaking about tours, family, death, conspiracy theories, prejudice, politics, film… pretty much any topic you could think of. Some people will find this tedious, there’s no avoiding that, but those who don’t will find weird beauty in Kozelek’s ramblings.
Xiu Xiu – Forget
Forget sees Xiu Xiu return to producing original material, and while there are points on this record which hark back to their Twin Peaks covers, there are also plenty of steps away. Forget utilises elements of Synth Pop, Drone and even Hip Hop, creating a wonderfully diverse and often catchy record. Hell, there are even hooks on this thing, perhaps not what you would have envisioned after last year’s hellish tribute.
Of course if you’ve made your way through those albums, here are some others that might peak your interest. Despite not making it into the coveted ‘Best’ section, these are certainly entertaining records, and come with wholehearted recommendations.
Austra – Future Politics, The Courtneys – II, Tinariwen – Elwan, Tim Darcy – Saturday Night, All Them Witches – Sleeping Through The War, Thundercat – Drunk, Laura Marling – Semper Femina, Freddie Gibbs – You Only Live 2wice, Spectres – Condition, Jay Som – Everybody Works, Sampha – Process, Alison Crutchfield – Tourist In This Town, Sacred Paws – Strike A Match, The XX – I See You, Emma Gatrill – Cocoon, Los Campesinos! – Sick Scenes.
Unfortunately, some big names dropped albums this quarter which didn’t quite meet expectations. While not necessarily the worst albums to appear in the last quarter, these big names failed to deliver on albums which had such promise.
Ryan Adams – Prisoner
Adams’ latest effort following his stunning Taylor Swift cover album felt surprisingly bland. Not that his vocals lacked any of his trademark passion, but very little of the instrumentation on Prisoner felt refreshing or inspired. While the album wasn’t terrible, it certainly lacked a charm that can be found on Adams’ past releases.
Dirty Projectors – Dirty Projectors
While it was clear what the Dirty Projectors were trying to do on this self-titled record, especially considering David Longsteath’s work on the latest Solange record, the results felt messy, leading to this album feeling bumpy. Random lines of lyrics that didn’t feel thought through, odd vocal melodies which clashed with the instrumentation; all this and more made Dirty Projectors a disappointing record.
The Shins – Heartworms
While The Shins at one point may have represented the cutting edge of Indie Rock, Heartworms is upbeat yet hollow. While the excitement these tracks bring may be your foot to a tap, it’s not enough to justify the lacklustre feel of the record as a whole. Not only that, but Heartworms feels out dated and out of place, especially considering the state of Indie Rock in 2017.
Japandroids – Near To The Wild Heart Of Life
Much like The Shins, Japandroids latest release had a few infectious moments, but on the whole felt outdated and underwhelming. While acts like Car Seat Headrest are producing some heartfelt Rock albums, Japandroids comeback record felt stuck in the past; something that would have been perhaps slightly more relevant back in 2005, than in 2017.
Drake – More Life
Even after the terrible Views, there was a glimmer of hope that Drake’s next project would bring him back to relevance. Alas, More Life is not that project. Marketed as a ‘playlist’ rather than an album, More Life does contain some highlights, mostly due to Sampha and Skepta, but drags on through 22 tracks. The instrumentation is bland, and Drake’s contributions mediocre at best, feeling more like a compilation of reject tracks. Oh, and Drake puts on an English accent. Seriously.
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