The Wave’s top albums of 2017

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‘Tis the season of annual reflection and it is with great pleasure that The Wave UCA staff bring you our very favourite musical endeavours and escapades. Whether it’s a Soundcloud rapper, a pop-punk comeback or a death industrial masterpiece we assure you there’s something that will delight your delicate eardrums amongst this list.

 

Alexander van der Weston-Noond (Editor)

Pan Daijing – Lack惊蛰

“Noise helps me to confront problems… Noise is something that’s so brutal and it cracks me open, so that I have to face everything.”

The acceptance of one’s body and desires is the most important moment of young adulthood. It takes people in different manners, leaving them unable to explain what they are feeling at all. Whether it be body dysphoria, the conclusion of homosexuality, or even, simply, contemplating modern living. Pan Daijing’s LACK惊蛰 is a piece of self-reflection that can reach everyone. Although the album does crack open areas of your psyche you would prefer forgotten, there is a strange sense of calm to it. Swathes of pure white noise contort and deform into something paradoxically sexual. It’s infatuation with the human body leads to uncomfortable places –  it’s second track, A Loving Tongue 恋爱之舌, an uneasy exploration into the act of cunnilingus. Practice of Hygiene 洁净之用 – a look into the socio normative expectations on a woman and body hair. It’s devastatingly personal.

GAS – Narkopop

Techno is perhaps the epitome of a human genre; it’s rigid rhythm and stabs of noise encapsulate what it means to be alive. Concrete and steel. Technological spirituality. The transference of spirit to machine.  Or, as Ken McLeod says in his article ‘Space Oddities: Aliens, Futurism and Meaning in Popular Music’ – ‘techno dance music defeats what Adorno saw as the alienating effect of mechanisation on the modern consciousness’. So, what would techno be if it took all of its cues from nature, instead of high rises? Forests instead of carparks. Rivers instead of tube networks. Essentially, you end up with GAS – ambient techno in its most formless incarnation. Music like escaping gas. A constant hum. Muffled kick drums underplay fugacious loops layered on top of one another. Hearing the party that is happening next door and not quite being able to make out the music. Or perhaps more aptly, hearing music from the next village across in the forest.

Alex Cameron – Forced Witness

“The worst part about being homeless,

Is waking up from a dirty wet dream,

With a lap full of cum and a head full of steam”

I love BBC Radio 2 and I love indie. I love saxophone solos and I love guitar solos. I love saucy lyrics and I love lanky, long haired Australians. I love blue jeans and I love cowboy boots. I love people called Alex and I love parody albums.

 

Laviea Thomas (Deputy Editor)

Marilyn Manson – Heaven Upside Down

From graphic music videos to x rated lyrics, Heaven Upside Down, is Marilyn’s tenth album that echoes light to dark scorching vocals, and is drenched in theatrical controversy. With it being just two years since his previous album The Pale Emperor, it’s hard to believe he has managed to create this masterpiece in such a short period of time. The mystic undertone of the album creates an overarching gloomy impression as each sound violently pleads for understanding. It is without a debate that Marilyn has cemented his place at the forefront of American metal with this genius album. Opening the album is Revelation #12, this track opens with a solid juddering intensity of piercing scratches of varied instruments. The track sets a powerful blend of chaotic noises. With splashes of police sirens merging in the background it sets a scene of constant distress. The type of Manson song that we are all used to. We Know Where You Fucking Live, has a basket of inflamed guitar riffs that accelerate throughout- overlapping are the frantic screams of Marilyn’s vocals. Blood Honey is the only slow paced track on this album, and experiments with emotive lyrics, as he says, “you only say that you want me when I’m upside down.” The cut sends you into a drowsy hypnotic trance and gives you a glimpse into his psyche. Instrumental driven Kill4ME vibrates softer vocals and isn’t as chaotic as the other numbers. There is a slight pop influence to this track as the crescendo drifts into the mainstream with its overuse of repetition. Thrashing industrial rock with alternative metal, Manson experiments wildly with this album. Heaven Upside Down warns us that Marilyn is back and better than ever.

Roy Woods – Say Less

On 1st December Roy Woods published his newest album Say Less via OVO Sounds. The album consists of 16 hazy, playful, soul tracks. The Canadian R&B singer collaborates with PARTYNEXTDOOR for drub inspired, juddering track Back It Up. Little Bit of Lovin incorporates jazz inspired beats whilst flinging across funky loops. Roy experiments with a range of sounds, brining a captivating taste to the album as a whole. Although Roy tampers with both energetic cuts, he also dabbles in passionate soul as he demonstrates through his emotive delivery in Say Less. Say Less suggests a softer and more poetic tone to the album. There is a repetition of liquid beats and piano synths throughout the whole album. It is clear that Roy has interpreted a chilled sound throughout the album. The soundscapes highlighted in BB are bubbly yet diverse. It plays hypnotically and sounds silky from start to finish. It’s inevitable that the track is a strong love song.

Blaenavon- That’s your lot

London based indie trio, Blaenavon recently dropped their new album, That’s Your Lot. Featuring some of their most popular tracks, Orthodox Man, My Bark is Your Bite and Lonely Side. The album also features their eight-minute track Swans, which first appeared on their YouTube in 2015, however was later removed from their account to be retouched. I will be the world swells, swoops and soars frantic guitar riffs which thrash violently at the point of the crescendo. The album experiments with bold loops and flings glitchy melodies throughout. Alice Come Home moves softly with lead singer Ben, poetically whispering “when I heard there’s a sound, that piles in the ground, go up to my eyes and up to my mouth.” In falsetto. The chorus roars chaotic noises which follow alongside Ben’s strained vocals. Closest towards the end you feel the cut is over, until they add a slow tab which escalates faster and harder. Each track throws dense, disruptive sounds. It’s clear the aim with this album was to create an album which was noisy, chaotic and showed a bluster of indie rock sounds. And that they did.

 

Aimee Armstrong (Editor-at Large)

Arca – S/T

Alehrandro Ghersi’s work as Arca exists as an anomaly, his intricate compositions spearheaded with synthetic caterwauling flourishes have always pricked up the ear of the modern day futurist. His music has never bound to static limitations – propulsive and vivacious like a Carrà or Boiconici painting. On his self-titled Arca encapsulates his sonic extravisties into an off-kilter yet easily digestible pop record. Perhaps Ghersi’s most complete project Arca does not bare the weighty length and lack of focus of Mutant or Xen and is bolstered by his operatic vocals that and harrowing Spanish sang words.

Pharmakon – Contact

It only takes a lengthy stare into the sea of sweaty fingers immersing Pharmakon’s face on the cover, to grasp a thematic gage of her volatile third record. Lust for touch and emotional manipulation are explored, however, Contact’s lyrics are barely digestible above the gnarly zaps and explosions of power electronics. Instead Pharmakon moulds music for the inferno through mechanical onslaught and ear torture porn in what is perhaps the most terrifying project of 2017.

Klein – Tommy EP

Klein’s Hyperdub debut is as jarring as it is hypnagogic and. A formless collection of dissonance and capricious detours. While Tommy’s sound craft turns its trajectory even further away from typical genre tropes then her self-released projects, the presence of R&B a pop lurk like a phantom in the shadows. Klein takes infectious melodies and hooks and destroys them with pitch shifting, modulation, and off-key gloomy atmospherics. Welded together by the rudimentary sound programme audacity, the amertusih flair of the EP combined with the former makes for one of the most unique projects of the decade.

 

George Kennedy (Reviews Editor)

Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

King Kendrick followed up the 2015 classic ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ with ‘DAMN’ in April this year, and despite the heavy weight of expectation, he more than delivered. Greatness and reputation are the dominant themes in the world of a rapper, and according to Kendrick himself, he ‘makes it look sexy’. ‘DAMN’ is a narrative of human emotions manifested in the names of the tracks, which discuss the turbulence of American politics and blend various musical styles. Apparently, listening to ‘DAMN’ in reverse allows the listener to better capture the feel of the project, according to the man himself. Appearances ranging from Rihanna to U2 give the album a cultured overtone which is nothing less than we expect from the modern era’s musical linchpin. ‘HUMBLE’ was one of the biggest songs of the year on what was definitely one of the biggest albums of the year – going platinum after just 3 weeks.

Sampha – Process

London artist Sampha’s debut studio album ‘Process’ was an artistic body of work, proving his capabilities as an album-maker as opposed to a mere guest on other people’s music. Blending electronic, alternative R&B and neo soul, it’s clear to see why this won the 2017 Mercury Prize. Co-production by Kanye West also boosts the album into stardom along with excellent lead singles ‘No One Knows Me Like the Piano’ and ‘Blood On Me’. The project is adventurous and builds on his potential to become a genuine favourite amongst many. Covering specific issues such as his mother’s health and wider ones like humanity’s capacity to engage in meaningful relationships, ‘Process’ is a unique vision of delicate vignettes, perfectly executed to create a timeless sound. Sampha has the entire package – singing, writing, producing, connections…but his solo career has only just begun. Now he can attack it with even more conviction and a very personal sense of intensity.

Daniel Caesar – Freudian

Toronto has a knack of producing excellent crooners and R&B gems, and Daniel Caesar might be one of the best in the bunch. In August, he released his debut LP, and ‘Freudian’ is a synergetic bond between gospel and rhythm, with tracks like ‘Get You’, ‘Hold Me Down’ and ‘Best Part feat. H.E.R’ showcasing his often flawless vocal delivery and stunning duets. It’s clear that Daniel knows gospel and he knows it very well. The lines between these two styles can be quite thin, but the interchangeability allows for complexity in writing and allows for vast ranges in subject matter and instrumentation. Synths are swapped out for classical pianos and traditional guitars, giving way for a platform upon which Caesar’s willing to use all his tools. ‘Freudian’ might not convert you to Christianity, but it’ll have you believing in the depths of human emotion.

 

Jordan Fann (Social Media)

Thundercat – Drunk
This album has a lot going on. The frantic dissonant notes and the silky soul filled voice juxtapose lyrics like, ‘Beat your meat / Go to sleep’ along with some childish sound effects and even some meowing. This wildly complex album sums up the year for Thundercat (real name Stephen Bruner). Among his 2017 accomplishments, Bruner is credited on Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN, which could be proof that everything Bruner touches is gold.  The synth sounds complements the bass tone beautifully, with Bruner’s soft vocals being the pièce de résistance. The compositional insanity is spurred on by a range of featured artists, including Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell Williams, Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald and The Isley Brothers. This album is pure technical wizardry, but still retains a groove and rhythm unlike any other music out right now.
Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory
Vince Staples is capable of beautiful things. His past work has included stellar examples of his ear for catchy chants, hip-hop that isn’t afraid to experiment with sound and incredibly funky grooves and rhythms in both his vocal delivery and his instrumentals.  Big Fish Theory is no exception. Each track is loaded with little hooks and surprises. From the offbeat drum rhythms in Crabs In A Bucket, the hard bass and the call and response calls in ‘Yeah Right’ to the soft sung melodies of guest artists, this album is full of golden moments. Speaking of guest artists, each guest artist has had their style subtly infused into their respective songs. Whether it’s the signature synth of Australian producer/DJ Flume, or house producer/DJ duo GTA, this album is pure gold from start to finish.
King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard – Flying Microtonal Banana 
This album is spectacular. As someone who very rarely dips their toe in the hot bath of psychedelic guitar music, this is a thoroughly enjoyable album with tons of varied ideas.  In the past, although I have enjoyed King Gizz’s music, I’ve found their albums to be somewhat repetitive, with each song blending into one, with few unique or standout qualities. However, the compositional wizardry on Flying Microtonal Banana was ridiculously creative, with the central theme around instruments capable of playing microtones – notes between the normal 12 notes in the Western music scale – which gives us a wonderful exotic sound with the familiar King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard touch.  One of many King Gizz albums released in 2017, this album is the cream of the crop.

Melissa Kasule

Wiki – No mountains In Manhattan

The New York rapper lets loose on this piece of art, with the layered and textured production, and a constant shift of flow creating a jumble of good music. The experimental piece is a blend of smooth jazz, trap, and of course, old-school classic East coast hip hop from the days of Biggie and Jay-Z. Wiki has your head bopping to the groovy beats, and ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ at his witty lyrics. The album’s gritty tone and chaotic nature truly capture that essence of the gritty underbelly of New York.

Soap – Rainy Sunday

Like it’s title ‘Rainy Sunday’ is a perfect listen for rainy days when all cosied up and warm indoors with its chilled and heartfelt production. The Vancouver based singer reveals the beauty of simplicity, as he strips it back on the production with only the guitar and the stunning instrument of his voice holding the whole piece together. The spiritual ep is delivered like a prayer with its intimate quality in the soft, soothing melodies intertwined with Soap’s enchanting vocals. Despite keeping it minimal on the project with only four tracks, its wistful lyrics and rich harmonies create an alleviating record.

 

Sampha – Process

After being known for his various collaborations with Drake, Beyonce, and SBTRKT, Sampha finally came out of the shadows and rose to the surface with the mercury-prize winning album ‘Process’. The emotionally powerful project’s gorgeous melodies and majestic harmonies are one to be greeted with at heaven gates. It’s intense yet dazzling production overflows with different elements, textures, and instruments from the piano, the harp, and the drums. But it’s really the singer’s soulful crisp vocals that carry the whole piece, echoing throughout the record. The album’s angelic tone and serene nature make the listen to a therapeutic process.

 

Eden Tizard (Postman)

The Green Door presents: NEET

Something truly special here. ‘The Green Door presents: NEET’ is a compilation of confounding covers performed by a group of young Glaswegians “not in education, employment or training,” between the years 2009-2017. This honestly sounds as if it came straight out of the pages of David Keenan’s psychedelic post-punk novel ‘This is Memorial Device’, where he wisely observed that in the late 70s/early 80s scene “there were all these people, living it, probably living it harder than their role models. After all, it isn’t easy being Iggy Pop in a small town in the west of Scotland.” Throughout the LP Inept yet ingenious musicianship meets barmy DIY space travel, like flying to the rings of Saturn purely using scraps found in your overgrown back garden.

Richard Dawson – Peasant

From cover alone, you’d assume the new album from Richard Dawson is some whimsical excursion, a fleeing from the ‘trappings of modernity’ to an idyllic woodland haven. As ever with Dawson, nothing is so simple. This is not some romanticised depiction of the pre-industrial age. In his hands, it’s a place made far more ambiguous; no quaint, postcard depiction of the past.Besides, ‘Peasant’ is as much contemporary as it is historical; an album of form defying explorations into Englishness, national upheaval, poverty, and community. That final theme is made immediately apparent due to a stark shift in his work; if previously Dawson was painted as a lone explorer – single handedly pushing the language of folk to its breaking point – then here we find him joined by a whole cast of voices and players, welcoming collaboration with open arms. Working with this ensemble, he has constructed a dense opus, eschewing realism in favour of strange, uncanny parables. It is true that engaging with the thing can be at times like navigating through a thicket of brambles – largely due to his prominent splintered guitar playing – but if any album is worth the struggle, it’s this one.

Laurel Halo – Dust

2013’s ‘Chance of Rain’ was a trip record, techno hijacked by the language of jazz yet still abiding by that rigid propulsion – even if those caustic beats verged on dilapidation. ‘Dust’ may initially sound like a wholly different beast – perhaps lighter in tone, less aurally oppressive – but actually delivers upon the promises of that prior record. This is a truly loose work, approaching rhythm from any which way but the centre, where unannounced jolts become par for the course. The albums concrete poetry seems partially a reaction to 2012’s ‘Quarantine’, as like many female artists, the lyrics were unfairly perceived to be that of the confessional songwriter; a hack misconception which belittles and undermines the work of countless visionaries. Another gross misnomer would be to label Laurel Halo an ‘electronic producer’, which is a limp phrase at the best of times, but in the context of ‘Dust’, almost comically undersells one of the years most uninhibited records.

 

Cal Cashin  (Mayor of South London)

Madonnatron – S/T

Madonnatron are a quartet from the Brixton area, but their sound is more akin to something made by a remote pagan community from the deepest wilderness. Madonnatron utilise howling wiccan harmonies, grizzly organ sounds, and choppy guitars, to make their music sound like a fully formed hex to summon up the darkest spirits. There’s an air of the occult, rural campfire sorcery, to this LP, tracks like Headless Children and Be My Bitch sound simply filthy as the quartet yowl and screech their way to skewered pop euphoria. Indeed, that 8 letter abstract noun is surprisingly prevalent here, as songs like Tron combine the sludgy growls of their guitars with a genuinely heavenly organ sound to brew a potion that blends the beautiful and the ghastly. Quite simply 2017’s most exciting debut album, and indeed my favourite LP of the year.

Ibibio Sound Machine – Uyai

A joyous fusion of afrobeat, funk and LCD-style dance music, Ibibio Sound Machine have well and truly come into their own with their incredible second album Uyai. The London-via-Nigeria band’s music is so rich with grooves that entwine with jagged synth lines; whilst frontwoman Eno Williams’ vocal cries breathe even more life into their invigorating sonic elixir. From the get go of the descending wah-wah-wah of the synthesiser and the emphatic horns that fill up the infectious groove of Give Me A Reason, every second of Uyai stands out on what is truly the most exhilarating release of the year so far. A record that uses its constant, explicit political awareness not to delve in the miasma of how fucked up everything is, but find joy and empowerment within music; the album takes its name from the Ibibio (the native language of South-East Nigeria) for “beauty”, and that’s just what the band have achieved here.

Black Magick SS – Kaleidoscope Dreams

A stonking clusterfuck of psych, metal and military stomps, the Black Magick SS’ Kaleidoscope Dreams is a 27 minute journey into the filthiest realms, into a narcotic underworld. Whilst admittedly, the tasteless and tacky appropriation of the swastika and other Nazi imagery might put people off, but as a gimmick it’s played superbly. The whole of this album is haunting, yet transportative, psychedelic, yet grimly bleak. A real feat in shock tactic psychedelia.

 

Will Craigie

Gorrillaz – Humanz

Who knew the end of the world could be so fun? Six years after their last record, Gorillaz successfully return with their most danceable album yet inspired but Trump’s election. Gorillaz has always been a madcap project, straddling many genres with guests from across the whole music spectrum but Damon Albarn and co really push the boat out this time. It makes for quite the balancing act; from the funky apocalyptic trap of opener Ascension to the house highlight Strobelite, as well as the the truly bizarre with Grace Jones becoming some kind of batshit crazy robo-ghost (well it is grace Jones after all) on Charger. It’s to Albarn testament that he pulls it all off, producing one of the most interesting and unique albums of this year, making amends with We Got The Power guitar playing ex 90s rival Noel Gallagher. Here’s to the next doomsday.

Wolf Alice – Visions Of a Life

My Love Is Cool was a warning. Visions of A Life is a confirmation. Wolf Alice can now, with their sublime second record claim the title of best band. Bringing in Paramore producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen has expanded their sonic palette rather than hinder it with those shoegazing specks on their first album being more extensive and fully formed; beginning beautifully with Heavenward. Beauty is an accurate word to describe their music. The angsty punk of Yuk Foo (“I wanna fuck everyone I meet/ Fuck all my friends and all the people in the street) is, with the exception of the menacing Formidable Cool, an anomaly with the band instead exploring softer sounds to great effect. Beautifully Unconventional is a Heathers tribute/indie banger, Sadboy meshes dream pop and grunge, After The Zero Hour has choral, gospel inflections. The jewel of the crown is also the best song of 2017; the reflective, hopeful grace of Don’t Delete The Kisses that perfectly captures those initial feelings of being in love with little details (“I’m re-telling jokes you made that made me laugh/ Pretending that they’re mine) contrasted with that of the wider existential questions (“What if it’s not meant for me? Love?”). Wolf Alice’s not-so-secret weapon is frontwoman Ellie Rowsell whose personality in voice (versatile to say the least) and lyrics are always subversive and always interesting.

Tyler, the Creator – Flower Boy

“And if I drown and don’t come back…will anybody know?”

Tyler The Creator doesn’t do normal; rationality is not on his radar. Flower Boy attempts to demystify the character and expose his true self; with all the fears, self loathing and loneliness that entails. It is his most personal record to date as well as his most complete and accomplished. Whilst past records favoured abrasive, dark soundscapes-and that came been heard here as well in first single ‘Who Dat Boy’ and 00s Timbaland reminiscent ‘I Ain’t Got Time’ – the production here is aesthetically beautiful with many shades of warmth and tenderness. It is a sort of synesthesia, recalling youthful summers that often colours Tyler’s production in the same spirit of his idols The Neptunes and Stevie Wonder.

 

Courtney Solloway

Motionless In White – Graveyard Shift

The sixth studio album from Motionless In White features all of the best bits the fans of the band have previously loved them for. From pure heavy music with the melodic and almost eerie keyboard this album was a must have for me, especially after witnessing the live debut of the song Necessary Evil at this years Download Festival. For anyone who’s a fan of heavy, industrial Goth based metal this is the album for you. My top song from the album would be Necessary Evil featuring Jonathan Davis of Korn.

Tokio Hotel – Dream Machine

The 16th album from this German born band Tokio Hotel continue the theme heavily presented in their last album. Almost fully distancing themselves from their alternative rock background the group has gone on to demonstrate that the work of electropop music suits them well. With a number of catchy tunes I would say the most notable track is What If. I’d suggest watching the music video for this just to see how far the group has progressed from there debut album under the name Devilish. You really get to see the multi talented group play with more than just their typical bass, guitar and drums. You get to see more piano, drum machine and synths in this album. Great if you’re
looking for something to dance to.

 

Newton Faulkner – Hit The Ground Running

The 11th album by this multi talented artist features Faulkner going into territories he has not ventured into before. Most notably piano based songs and electric guitar – a far cry from the typically acoustic guitar sets with loop peddle that we are used to. This has most definitely worked well in his favour as this album which was entirely produced by himself cut all of the bits he hated doing and he gets to do what he loves, which is especially noticeable in creating ambience in his songs. A key track for me personally would be the single Hit The Ground Running featuring his new use of electric guitar as well as his usual upbeat self. Not to mention the amazing high note that should be near impossible!

 

 

 

 

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