After a couple of fallow years, I've finally listened and bought enough albums this year to do a runthrough on this thread. I've tried to give a bit of a description for each of my choices, though I openly admit my music review skills could do with a fair bit of improvement
. There may be some controversy and arguments afterwards, but here we go. Londoner's Top 10 Albums of 2017.1. London Grammar – Truth is a Beautiful Thing
I somehow missed London Grammar during their debut album cycle, so when “Rooting For You” was released on New Years Day I was straight on it. And my word, what a special band this is. The trio have clearly evolved from “If You Wait”, and the songwriting on show here illustrates that greatly, through the likes of “Big Picture” or “Hell to the Liars” . This is the perfect soundtrack to the troubled times we live in. Hannah Reid's voice draws you in, soothing and cleansing your ears and soul. You can never get enough of it.
Best tracks – Rooting for You, Hell to the Liars, Truth is a Beautiful Thing2. Wolf Alice – Visions of a Life
It's been a honour to watch this band evolve since early 2013, and their second long player illustrates the fruits of this. Once again, there's a huge variety of styles and genres. Opening track “Heavenward”'s shoegaze fuzz takes us directly into the anarchic post-punk of “Yuk Foo”, which then deposits us in the straight-up indie pop of “Beautifully Unconventional” - and that's only the first three tracks! “Don't Delete The Kisses” has a monologue that could easily fit in on a Pulp album, while “Formidable Cool”'s rhythm section could teach baggy bands a few new tricks. Vision of a Life perfects sets Wolf Alice on course for long-term success.
Best tracks – Yuk Foo, Formidable Cool, Sadboy3. Kasabian – For Crying Out Loud
Tom and Serge promised us a party album, and they didn't disappoint. “Ill Ray (The King)” is the most immediate opening track they've laid down since Underdog, and the pace does not let down from here. “Comeback Kid” and “Wasted” see Kasabian add new elements to their gameplan, while the eight minute long “Are You Looking For Action” is their most ambitious song yet, melding together saxophones, disco beats and a filthy bassline. It's an album which gives the Leicester lads a new set of weapons in their live arsenal.
Best tracks – Ill Ray (The King), Twentyfourseven, Are You Looking For Action?4. Maximo Park – Risk to Exist
Newcastle's finest return with probably their best album since 2007. Paul Smith's ever-engaging lyrics take on a political tone, dealing with the fallout from 2016. “Get High (No I Don't)” builds a filthy groove, while “What Equals Love?” is the most immediate thing they've recorded in years.
Best tracks – What Equals Love?, What Did We Do To You To Deserve This? 5. The Sundowners – Cut The Master
This five piece are related to fellow Merseysiders The Coral, as two of the band members are younger relatives of Coral frontman James Skelly, who also handles production duties on this, the band's second album. What we get is a fantastically woozy album, drawing on elements of late-60s and early-70s psychedelia, enhanced by the harmonies of Niamh Rowe and Fiona Skelly.
Best tracks – Ritual, Great Beauty 6. Shed Seven – Instant Pleasures
16 years after their last album, Britpop stalwarts Shed Seven have finally brought out a new collection of tracks, and it's been worth the wait. There's no reinventing the wheel here, just pure, classic Sheds. “Room In My House” is a rousing guitar anthem, while “It's Not Easy” and “Better Days” are younger relatives of the band's classic singles “Going For Gold” and “Chasing Rainbows”.
Best tracks – Room In My House, Nothing To Live Down7. Queens of the Stone Age – Villains
Josh Homme's merry men took a risk by appointing Mark Ronson as producer, but it's a decision that's paid off. Villains is a nimble, uptempo record, perhaps not as good as ...Like Clockwork, but containing some great songwriting.
Best tracks – Feet Don't Fail Me, The Way You Used To Do8. Amy Macdonald – Under Stars
It's been nearly half a decade since Glasgow's finest singer last dropped an album, and while thematically there's nothing new to write home about, Amy's melodic touch remains deft, giving her voice a good workout on the likes of “Dream On” and “Leap of Faith”.
Best tracks – Automatic, Leap of Faith9. Paloma Faith – The Architect
There's a much more political tone to Paloma's fourth long player, and to her credit she largely pulls it off (if we ignore the spoken word piece by the Guardian cockwomble, sorry, columnist Owen Jones
), melding big pop-soul tunes with a conscience. “Guilty” could easily be the next Bond theme.
Best tracks – Crybaby, Til I'm Done10. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds – Who Built the Moon?
The elder Gallagher brother hooked up with producer David Holmes, who's managed to conjure new sounds and themes out of Noel and co. “Holy Mountain” is a joyous riot of a single, “She Taught Me How To Fly” could easily be a lost New Order track, while “If Love Is The Law” deploys the inimitable Johnny Marr to great effect.
Best tracks – Holy Mountain, If Love Is The Law. Honourable mentions The Sherlocks – Live For The Moment
With a sound clearly influenced by early Arctic Monkeys and Courteeners, this Sheffield band have laid down the gauntlet with an excellent debut. A straight-up indie band getting radio play is a rare event these days, and one can hope they will be able to build a long career.
Best track – Will You Be There?Stereophonics – Scream Above The Sounds
Kelly Jones' mob are like a good pub lunch – you know what you're getting. This is another solid selection of songs to add to their canon, including a heartbreaking tribute to the late Stuart Cable in the form of “Before Anyone Knew Our Name”. While the 'Phonics may never reach the heights of their first two albums again, they keep on motoring.
Best track – All In One NightReverend and the Makers – The Death of a King
The Reverend and company don't follow recording convention – this is their sixth long player in ten years. Following on from their quasi-concept album “Mirrors”, this album is awash with ideas and styles. The only criticism I'd give is that the album feels a bit too short, and that some of the ideas could easily be fleshed out into longer songs, but what we do get is a band that is creatively flourishing.
Best track – Auld Reekie BluesThe Charlatans – Different Days
While a step down from their 2015 masterpiece “Modern Nature”, the baggy veteran's latest features a strong set of songs and an laundry list of guest stars. Tim Burgess' late-career purple patch continues.
Best track – Plastic Machinery Paul Draper – Spooky Action
Mansun were and still are one of the biggest cult bands of the 1990s, so their reclusive frontman releasing his debut solo album 14 years after the band imploded was always going to be a big event. Spooky Action illustrates that Draper's quirky songwriting knack remains intact. Be warned though, if you like your music to sound raw and primal, you won't particularly like this album – it's a production monster!
Best track – Friends Make The Worst Enemies Not cutting the mustardLiam Gallagher – As You Were
I'll admit it, I really liked “Wall of Glass” when it was first released. However, being exposed to it up to three times a day for an entire month on the radio in the office killed it stone dead. Having actually listened to the album, it made me long for the days of Beady Eye, which is perhaps not what Liam had in mind (although I am one of about four people in the world who loved Beady Eye). As You Were feels a bit too safe and calculated, which can be chalked up to the fact Gallagher collaborated with commercial songwriters. The best track on here, “Doesn't Have To Be That Way” is relegated to a mere extra on the deluxe version. Imelda May – Life Love Flesh Blood
Having perhaps taken her rockabilly style to its logical limit on 2014's Tribal, it's understandable that Dublin's finest songwriter would want to change things up a bit on her next album. A dreary, cliched heartbreak album was not the way to go, and honestly it seems she's moved from one rut into another. Which is fairly impressive when you think about it, though dire for her career prospects. Jake Bugg – Hearts That Strain
Nottingham's prodigal son can't be faulted for his work ethic – this is his fourth album since 2012. While on the whole this is a sturdy set of songs, there's a general lack of spark within as most of them are mid-paced plodders. The inclusion of a Lightning Bolt, or a Slumville Sunrise, or even a Gimme The Love would have elevated this album greatly. More worryingly, his once perky and barbed lyrics seem to be drifting into vague country-esque musings. Jake, you're from a council estate in Nottingham, not from the American Midwest, this sort of stuff always sounds inauthentic from a British voice. The one saving grace here is at least he isn't singing about pickup trucks yet. Foo Fighters – Concrete and Gold
Dave Grohl's merry mob got everyone's pulse racing earlier this year with the release of “Run”, which was probably the best song Grohl's written since the 1990s. Sadly the release of second single “The Sky is a Neighbourhood” halted the hype train, a turgid mess of a song which more or less foreshadowed the rest of the material on here. Coming off the back of two decent albums, this was a real shame.Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark?
Probably the biggest disappointment of the year. This album came across like the band were struggling to find their songwriting spark, and overcompensated by making things louder and heavier. “I Only Lie When I Love You” features the most obnoxious and lazily-written chorus in quite some time, while “Hook, Line and Sinker” sounds like a inferior relative of “Ten Tonne Skeleton” from their first album.