40. Grizzly Bear – ‘Painted Ruins’
What We Said…
Having spent a large amount of their time in the last few years being extremely vocal about the election of US President Donald Trump and launching a new restaurant, New York natives Grizzly Bear have somehow managed to find the time to write and record a brand new album. Their first since 2012's 'Shields', album number five 'Painted Ruins' sees the band take on a more progressive direction, opting more for big productions and a driven disposition.
While previous Grizzly Bear records have always had this mix of quaint sounds and larger than life percussion, 'Painted Ruins' likes to think of it more as the latter. Summed up brilliantly by the single 'Mourning Sound', the record seems to have this engine running through it, keeping not only a steady pace but also managing the flow of the release in order to create this cohesive body of work that doesn't really shift too violently off-course.
While it does have a slightly different feel to it than some of their previous full-lengths, 'Painted Ruins' still has a lot of that glorious majesty that fans of the band will love to hear again. Sharp and poignant in places, it really does give all it can from start to finish.
39. Everything Everything – ‘A Fever Dream’
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To say that Everything Everything are more of an acquired taste would be a slight understatement. The band, now onto their fourth studio album, have had a difficult time convincing the mainstream market of their brilliantly unique sound since their conception. But after battling through the inquisitive looks, Everything Everything have now returned with what is most likely their most accessible record to date, delivering one belter after another.
If the album's lead single 'Can't Do' didn't give you an idea of the direction of this release, then not much else on here will. A progressive and interestingly produced pop-rock record, 'A Fever Dream' sits comfortably as a full-length with large ambitions yet still maintains that suitably irreverent vibe the band have always had. It keeps itself in check by creating a strong balance between the more radio-friendly cuts and their tendency to bedazzle the listener, creating something that really keeps you on your toes throughout.
In all, 'A Fever Dream' likes to think of itself as the band's more proficient release. Merging their classic sound with this more contemporary edge not only leaves them in a better place sonically, but also gives them room to grow as they continue their career.
38. Charlotte Gainsbourg – ‘Rest’
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While it seems that some actors who also have a singing career are able to juggle both at the same time, for Charlotte Gainsbourg, it seems that acting is her main passion whereas singing is her release from the stresses of the world. So after a six-year hiatus from her musical career, the frontwoman has returned with 'Rest', and unlike much of her back catalogue to date, this new full-length sees her writing the bulk of the lyrics, making this far more personal than anything else she has presented so far.
Since her previous LP 'Stage Whisper' was released, she sadly lost her half-sister Kate Barry in 2013, dedicating the beautifully crafted 'Kate' as a homage to her. But as a result of this tragedy, death seems to have become a regular theme of this new release. With many humbled moments about her musician father, such as on the track 'Lying With You', this new album definitely shows a side to her music we haven't seen before as she lets her guard down to the vulnerability she feels.
'Rest' certainly manages to rekindle a lot of the fire she had for music during the bulk of her releases, but this new album sees her in a completely different light. Letting herself sing about the losses in her life has definitely sparked something in her and the results give us a truly memorable experience as we listen.
37. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – ‘Who Built The Moon?’
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Earlier this year, Noel Gallagher's little brother Liam released his debut solo album, and from the start it was clear he was looking to rekindle the magic of Oasis within its direction and sound. And since Noel began his High Flying Birds project, that has also been his disposition so far. But not one to bow to sibling rivalry, this third effort from the HFB is not only a step away from their formative sound, but one that shows incredible promise for the new project.
On both his previous records, 'Chasing Yesterday' and the self-titled debut, Noel's songwriting remained pretty consistent with that in his days in Oasis. But 'Who Built The Moon?' shows itself as a completely different animal. With an upbeat energy and vast indulgence of instrumentation and production, this new full-length is quite possibly the best we have seen from him since he began his solo ambitions.
Not only are the tracks brilliantly written and performed, but it seems that evolution has hit Noel Gallagher like a slap in the face. No longer one to be typecast to one particular sound, 'Who Built The Moon?' is an exciting and much-appreciated new adventure for the frontman, and one we can all get behind.
36. Feist – ‘Pleasure’
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To say that Feist has been largely silent since her last studio album would be an understatement. While 'Pleasure' marks her first full-length release since 2011, the frontwoman has spent the last few years keeping extremely busy with numerous collaborations and even a rumoured return to her formative band Broken Social Scene in the near future. But while her solo material in the past has always felt more like a fully-rounded musical outfit, this new work sees her more central to her own endeavours.
In the past, Feist has always been the voice at the front of a band. Whether it be guitars or strings, she has always propped up her own contribution with big, bold productions. Yet this new release sees a far more stripped back approach, with usually just a voice and guitar holding down the bulk of the sound. This more minimal direction from her doesn't seem too out of place though, as she displays great comfort and prowess with little backdrop, giving us a far more intimate listen than we have heard from her before.
While it may sound like this record is far removed from her back catalogue, strangely it manages to stay true to her formative sound, but instead moves on from it and evolves throughout. The songwriting is still as masterful as ever and gives us a more homely side the Feist experience.
35. Elbow – ‘Little Fictions’
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Having had a somewhat turbulent time over the last few years, due to founding member and drummer Richard Jupp choosing to depart from the band at the beginning of last year, Elbow have returned to deliver their seventh studio album 'Little Fictions'. And much like their most recent material, aims to create a gentle balance between an atmospheric direction and powerful songwriting.
The spotlight has been shining hard on the band since their Mercury Prize-winning album 'The Seldom Seen Kid' from 2008, but their style since and prior to that release has varied in multiple ways. And while their last full-length 'The Take Off And Landing Of Everything' wasn't what there fans were looking for in a glorious return, 'Little Fictions' certainly sees them take inspiration from their formative years.
Moody, emotional but always trying to look at life through a rose-tinted lens, Guy Garvey narrates this release in stellar form. The band's additional collaborations with The Hallé Orchestra add that extra vigour that the band have lacked on their previous release, and shows us there is still plenty of life left in these old dogs yet.
34. Too Many T’s – ‘South City Court’
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After a year of hype and expectation, South London's latest rap duo Too Many T's finally deliver on their buzz with the release of their debut album 'South City'. And not since the heyday of Beastie Boys, has the sound of gang-rap ever been so instantly infectious.
While the rest of the UK's hip-hop scene either focuses itself on the reemerging grime scene or aims to compete with the trap sound of the US, Too Many T's are more than happy doing their own thing and giving us something fresh in the process. And although their influences can easily be connected to the 80s-90s style of the genre, their approach to production is diverse and eclectic enough to make this album a truly exciting experience.
In all, 'South City' is just a fun record, pure and simple. By removing a lot of the visceral anger of most rap outfits, the pair have managed focus their flow on creating this highly-addictive party record, one that will surely cement them as one of the best new acts in the UK today.
33. The National – ‘Sleep Well Beast’
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Apart from possibly Radiohead and Elbow, very few bands have been as consistently brilliant as The National this far into their career. After six incredible studio albums that have seen them grow from a cult name to one of the biggest outfits in the world, the band are looking to continue their run with album number seven 'Sleep Well Beast'. And from the very start, you can tell that their magic touch has still not gone anywhere.
Between this record and their last, 'Trouble Will Find Me', frontman Matt Berninger took some time out to work on his side-project EL VY, an endeavour that has clearly had some influence on their new release. 'Sleep Well Beast' paints itself as a LP of two sides, one that displays their powerful songwriting and vocal performance of Berninger, and the other that simply wants to have a good time. This juxtaposition of tone isn't rare to The National, but the way it encourages pace within the record makes for a truly engaging listen.
From the sounds of this record, it looks like it'll be a long time before the band ever start to falter. There are so many great ideas on this album it is hard to imagine that they had any trouble putting it together, proving that they remain one of America's greatest exports today.
32. Beck – ‘Colors’
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Following on from a critically-acclaimed and Grammy award winning album would be a daunting task for most artists these days, but as we all know, Beck is hardly an amateur when it comes to reinventing himself. His 2014 full-length 'Sea Change' saw him take on the mantle of a stripped-back singer-songwriter, but now entering his thirteenth LP 'Colors', Beck is back to his older, more adventurous days.
Those that found themselves enjoying the single 'Dreams' when it dropped a few years ago will be the most inclined to give this record more than just one listen. Those super-slick, pop-rock productions form the basis of this new record and ultimately identify the direction of this new release. Mixing up a sense of modern production style but with some nods to the retro 90s rock sound, 'Colors' is a fun and competent release from a frontman that seems to do little wrong.
Most Beck fans may not know what to make of this new style, but considering the shape-shifting he has been doing for his entire 24 year career, it should come as no shock at all. There may be the odd duff track here and there, but overall, this is just Beck having fun, and it is definitely contagious.
31. The Big Moon – ‘Love In The 4Th Dimension’
What We Said…
It has been a long time coming but finally the day is upon us as The Big Moon unveil their eagerly-anticipated debut album 'Love In The 4th Dimension'. Having been releasing material from this record as early as 2015, the two years since have proven exceptionally fruitful for the London-based outfit as they now show off their extensive work on an extremely impressive debut full-length.
While the eleven-track release obviously contains a large number of singles we have heard before, it is only once you hear them back-to-back that you get a real sense of what this band is all about. With a brooding demeanour that likes to playfully knock around with pace and flow, 'Love In The 4th Dimension' still manages to pull some serious surprises out of the bag. Influences from classic bands like Sonic Youth and Elastica are more than apparent throughout their direction, creating a familiar yet diverse release.
It may have taken more than an age to get here but 'Love In The 4th Dimension' is certainly worth the wait. With one great track after that next, The Big Moon have finally settled the buzz on their expectations and delivered something that more than answers the doubting questions.