10. Formation – ‘Look At The Powerful People’
What We Said…
For the last couple of years now, we have been keeping a keen eye on the output of the London-based outfit Formation. Since first discovering one of their initial singles 'Hangin' back in 2015, the band have gone on to hone their sound into a full-fledged party package. Yet despite being their official debut album, much of their material to date is absent from the record, creating a release that is just as fresh and interesting as their previous EPs.
While the comparisons to the likes of LCD Soundsystem still remain apparent, there is still a very British sound running through much of this record. With the dub influence on 'Powerful People' and the 'Screamadelica' stylings of 'On The Board', 'Look At The Powerful People' aims to create an extremely diverse dancefloor record that brings back the traditional production methods of old disco records, and reinvents them for the 21st century.
Yet despite its modern sound, there is still a lot of nostalgia in this record. Maybe it's from all the clear inspirations throughout, but there is just something unforgivably intriguing about each of these tracks. If we could say the commercial scene has been missing one thing in the last few years, it would be fun. And this has it coming out of every crevasse.
9. Kite Base – ‘Latent Whispers’
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Despite having been actively sharing music since 2015, the bass-playing duo Kite Base, aka Ayşe Hassan of Savages and Kendra Frost, have only really made their musical intentions known in the last few months with the announcement of this debut album. Comprised of pretty much everything they have released so far, as well as plenty of new material, 'Latent Whispers' is a dark and brooding collection that aims to push the boundaries of electronic music altogether.
Being a pair of bass players has clearly had an influence on their direction, mainly as it seems to be the only analogue instrument on this record. Their style of minimal electronic beats wrapped up in a haze of distorted bass notes and riffs remains consistently engaging throughout each track, delivering something that may appear harsh on the outside but is filled with emotion and euphoria in equal measure.
It is fair to say that 'Latent Whispers' sounds very different to almost anything coming out at the moment. An experimental intention but with so much to enjoy within each composition, it is hard to deny how brilliantly well these two work together.
8. Spoek Mathambo – ‘Mzanzi Beat Code’
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Since first releasing his landmark debut album 'Mshini Warm' back in 2010, South African producer Spoek Mathambo has always maintained a clear and concise direction. His attitude towards a strong African influence over a contemporary Western dynamic has always served him well, both in his homeland and abroad. And now as he returns with his fifth full-length in just seven years, this prolific producer has given one of his most enjoyable releases to date.
From the start, 'Mzansi Beat Code' has nothing but the core intention of making you dance. With the catchy riffs running rampant throughout opener 'Want Ur Love', to the galloping house beat of 'Black Rose', this album seems to holler back to the diverse and eclectic nature of other electronic producers like The Chemical Brothers and Groove Armada. Yet his clear afro-beat inspirations still hold themselves as the backbone to this release, giving it a very natural flow and pace.
Despite its almost hour-long length, 'Mzansi Beat Code' is such an interesting and engaging release, you'll find it difficult to notice the time that passes when it plays. Each track is a masterful wealth of superb production and should no doubt go down as one of the best records of the year so far.
7. Queens Of The Stone Age – ‘Villains’
What We Said…
After they released their previous album 'Like Clockwork' in 2013, it felt like Queens Of The Stone Age were hanging up their power rocking days. While it was still a great record, it had this tone of retirement about it, moving more into the realm of laid-back grooves more and more than before. But that feeling is long gone as they return with their seventh full-length 'Villains', an album that literally oozes great riffs from start to finish.
When you first switch on to 'Villains', you know you are in for a great time from the very start. Opener 'Feet Don't Fail Me' starts with an ominous soundscape which ever so slowly merges together to bring out what is possible the greatest riff the band have ever managed. From there, it is nothing but fun and frolicking. 'The Way You Used To Do' shows off their irreverent and loveable side, while 'Fortress' serenades us with its soft yet ear-peeking licks to give their most well-rounded release in years.
Many will say that the best days of Queens Of The Stone Age are now behind them, but this record is truly something else to admire in their catalogue. With ambition and intent, the band have reenergised themselves and delivered one of the most likeable albums of the year.
6. Slowdive – ‘Slowdive’
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It seems like every other week we are seeing a new album from a band once thought consigned to the past. Comebacks have proven to be all the rage in 2017, yet for the most part, these bands are failing to live up to the expectations their returns are leading to create. Except when Slowdive returned at the beginning of the year with this record's lead single 'Star Roving', it was clear that these guys were back and on spectacular form. Thankfully, their new self-titled full-length doesn't disappoint at all.
It may have been 22 years since their last studio album, but if you were to play their last LP before this one again, you would think that nothing had changed. Not only has the band's style of ambient post-rock managed to revitalise itself, they have proven to be just as exciting and creative as they ever were. With its tranquil opener 'Slomo' through to the soaring sounds of 'Sugar For The Pill', this 8-track release is everything fans of the band would have wanted and more.
It may have taken more than two decades to get here, but 'Slowdive' is stunning and wonderful piece of work that manages to go against the grain of older bands making comebacks , and show that age needn't mean tired and uninspired.
5. St Vincent – ‘MASSEDUCTION’
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Over the last few years, there are very few artists that have managed to balance the perfect pop sound with an experimental intention as well as St. Vincent. On her previous self-titled full-length back in 2014, we were treated to a new version of herself. One with a proficient confidence to try new ideas and the acceptance for her to do exactly what she feels has bled through into this new studio album, creating one of the greatest joys we have heard so far this year.
With a mix of catchy pop anthems and heart-yanking ballads, 'MASSEDUCTION' is quite simply one of the most perfect records we have heard all year. With a touch of social commentary, most apparent on the subtly titled 'Los Ageless', she has managed to write an album that is both unique in its delivery but also shows off her flair for exceptional songwriting that creates a real connection with the listener from start to finish.
We already knew that this album would be something special from the brief number of previews shared in the last few months, but this is definitely more than just special. We would go as far to say that this is her best work yet, and given the momentum behind her, we shouldn't expect her to stay quiet for long.
4. The War On Drugs – ‘A Deeper Understanding’
What We Said…
When The War On Drugs released their third studio album 'Lost In The Dream' back in 2014, the band were met with more acclaim and attention than they ever had at the start of their career. That album became one of the favourites for many music journalists that year, so when creating its follow-up, the pressure to do so would have been more than most could handle. But with the greatest of ease, it seems the Philadelphia band have done it with album number four 'A Deeper Understanding'.
While this release certainly has more power behind it than their previous LP, the energy and engagement with the listener is clear from the very start. The record's opener 'Up All Night' is a six-minute dream-pop extravaganza that sets up more than just what to expect on this new release. It also makes the firm intension of showing how the band have evolved since their last record, mainly in their bold sense of production and drawn out soundscapes that leave frontman Adam Granduciel able to calmly croon his way through each track.
There may be some that see a strong semblance with Bruce Springsteen on this album, and while The Boss is clearly an inspiration, it is more about bringing back the energy and effort to US indie rock music. The genre has been so stale for so long that when something like this comes along, it truly feels like a breath of fresh air. 'A Deeper Understanding' not only follows on 'Lost In The Dream' with great elegance, it sometimes supersedes it.
3. LCD Soundsystem – ‘American Dream’
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It must have taken a lot of persuasion for James Murphy to bring back the LCD Soundsystem project, given how much of a effort was made when the band originally bowed out back in 2011. But he obviously wasn't going to make a comeback unless he had the perfect record to do it with, and from just an initial listen of this new full-length, it seems that Murphy and co. are back with more than simply a bang.
Following on from their third album 'This Is Happening' from 2010, 'American Dream' sees itself more as a curtain call than its predecessor. Filled with a far more sombre direction, the album is constantly reminded you of its finality, whether it relate to youth, friendship, or in fact, the American Dream itself. But the most engaging part of this new release is just how well they were able to step back into the LCD-shoes after so many years out of practise. It has a nostalgic connection to those early releases and manages to rekindle both the energy and sound of their formative years to create a fluid and memorable album.
This is most definitely the best LCD Soundsystem album since 'Sound Of Silver', and without ever trying to push the envelope, creates a forward-thinking ambition through the guise of their own origins. This is the LCD Soundsystem album fans would have expected and it is so relieving to hear them pull out their best for their majestic return.
2. The xx – ‘I See You’
What We Said…
While it has been almost five years since their last studio album, The xx have hardly been twiddling their thumbs in that time. Most notably, Jamie xx released his unbelievably good debut album 'In Colour' back in 2015, and it is clear that the response of that record has had a strong influence on the sound of this new full-length.
While their previous albums, 'xx' and 'Coexist', adopted a very atmospheric and mood-striken direction, it is clear from the off that 'I See You' is aiming to be a far more uplifting and engaging collection of tracks. Rather than look to follow on from their previous sound, the band seem to have taken Jamie's solo album as a template for this new release. With a strong electronic presence and diverse intention, most of this full-length could have easily have been a new Jamie xx release.
While it is certainly very different in style to their previous work, it shows that they have looked to evolve their sound on this latest release. Electronic hooks smother this record in a thick layer of intrigue that helps bring every single track to life in its own way. A beautifully written collection of songs that may just be their masterpiece.
1. Algiers – ‘The Underside Of Power’
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After the release of their self-titled debut album back in 2015, the sound of Algiers certainly pricked up a few ears. Their use of brooding electronics and an impassioned vocal style from frontman Franklin Fisher gave them an edge of raw power and emotion. Now returning to deliver their second studio album 'The Underside Of Power', and having recruited ex-Bloc Party stickman Matt Tong as their full-time drummer, Algiers have moved from a humble outfit straight through to a ball-busting juggernaut.
If this is your first experience of Algiers then prepare yourself for one hell of a ride. While the intent of their debut still remains true on this release, the ante has most certainly been raised as the gospel influences of their previous record is set into overdrive, giving the full-length a truly epic sound. And while the addition of Tong's very unique style of drum play certainly adds a new dimension to the band's style, 'The Underside Of Power' delivers something so brilliant, it is difficult to fully get your head around it on the first listen.
This is most definitely an album you would want to come back to again and again. Each and every track gives us something memorable, whether it be the bellowing vocals or the high-energy exerted in every riff. This is most definitely the band's first masterpiece and we can only hope for more from here.