Best of the year so far

I was over the Uncut website and I came across John Mulvey’s list of his favourite albums of the first six months of 2017. I like John Mulvey and his writing. This time, though, I was struck by the fact that the list included 60 albums, now increased to 66. With 26 weeks in the first six months of the year or just over 180 days, he has included on average about 2.5 favourite albums per week or one about every three days. Now, let’s assume that he has left the same number of albums off his list. This means he has devoted quality listening time to about five albums a week, or one for every day and a bit. In fact, this figure is a little generous, because there aren’t very many releases in the first couple of weeks of January. Now, John Mulvey is a professional music journalist. He listens to music for a living. It’s his job to spot good music quickly and he’s good at it. All the same, my guess is that he has devoted at most about a day’s listening to the albums he’s calling his favourites of the first half of 2017. That’s not very much.

Here are my top five albums of the year so far. They are all cherished listens. And quite some time has been spent with them. What’s more, last weekend saw the release of three albums – Fleet Foxes, Jason Isbell, and Kevin Morby – that are all candidates for a top five spot. But I’m still getting to know them. So, I’m not going to include them here. Maybe they’ll feature in December’s end-of-year list? In the meantime, here’s my summer solstice favourites.

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Conor Oberst – Salutation

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Ryan Adams – The Prisoner

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Holy Holy – Paint

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Frontier Ruckus – Enter The Kingdom

Jesu & Sun Kil Moon - 30 Seconds To The Decline Of Planet Earth

Jesu & Sun Kil Moon – 30 Seconds to the Decline of Planet Earth

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Best of 2015 … The Antipodes

Here’s my best-of-the-year Pt 2: The Antipodes

Once upon a time Liverpool, or San Francisco, or Seattle was at the centre of all that was good musically. Now, everything has gone south. Australia and New Zealand are currently where it’s at. So much so that they’re worthy of an end-of-year list all to themselves.

The Phoenix Foundation – Give Up Your Dreams

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This was a band that sounded like they were enjoying themselves. Loaded with irony, it didn’t come much better than ‘Bob Lennon John Dylan’. On the Pono version you can even hear a reference to Han Solo. How topical.

Holy Holy – When the Storms Would Come

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An instant classic. The four songs at the heart of the album – ‘A Heroine’, ‘History’, ‘If I Were You’, and ‘You Cannot Call …’ – should be played on repeat to anyone who thinks that guitar-based rock is a thing of the past. Au contraire, Holy Holy are a band of the future.

Nadia Reid – Listen to Formation, Look for the Signs

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There’s an unassuming quality to Nadia Reid that belies the confidence of the songs on her recent album. Moving through various styles, the constant presence is her voice, which is clear and lovely.

Lost Ragas – Trans Atlantic Highway

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Packed with slightly mournful, but beautifully played songs, Trans Atlantic Highway was a revelation. Think of The Byrds relocating to modern-day East Nashville. Well, it’s even better than that.

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

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What best-of-2015 list does not feature Slacker Barnett, you may ask? Well, there’s a good reason why. Great hooks and erudite observations of everyday and not-so-everyday life from the clever one who always sits at the back of the class. And all delivered in a refreshingly local accent.

Holy Holy – Making History

Holy Holy are almost unsearchable. You can imagine what turns up. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that their latest single slipped through the net. It shouldn’t have. It’s called ‘You Cannot Call for Love Like a Dog’. Believe me, the track is better than the title. It follows on really nicely from their great EP The Pacific, which was reviewed ecstatically here. Here’s the video from the Tube that is You.

The bearded ones are readying for a short tour of Europe, but not Ireland unfortunately. So, in the meantime here’s a really nice live-in-the-studio version of another great track ‘History’. When will that album ever be out?

 

Holy Holy – No pressure

Holy Holy – The Pacific EP

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Holy Holy released one of the best songs of 2013. Now, they’ve released one of the best EPs of 2014. The bad news? At the moment, it’s only available in their home land, Australia! Last year, ‘Impossible Like You’ came out of nowhere. Improbably infectious, it built up from a simple guitar line to reach a sweeping chorus and a great guitar break, finally winding down to end where it began. It was like The Fleet Foxes with balls. Earlier this year, they released another single, ‘House of Cards’. Full of passion. Yet another great chorus. And with enough twists and turns in the narrative that you’d swear Kevin Spacey was about to pop up at any time. Finally, they’ve released an EP, but with just two new songs. What does it reveal? Well, ‘Slow Melody’ has a title so misleading it’s worthy of litigation. After the breathtaking energy of the previous releases, this one sounds like they’re about to channel their inner Kevin Johnson. Instead, when the keyboards kick-in mid-song, we’re heading towards arms-raised, crowd-swaying, stadium-headlining territory. Not so much The Fleet Foxes with or without balls. More like Kasabian or The Kaiser Chiefs. And to round things off, ‘Cincinnati’ keeps up the mood. Another great hook. Another great song. Soon, Holy Holy will be everybody’s favourite new band. In the meantime, you just have to pick up this EP. Emigrate to Australia if you have to, so you can download it from the iTunes store. Use your favourite VPN and buy it from Getmusic.com.au. Hell, even order a hard copy. Though by the time it arrives, Holy Holy will be headlining a stadium near you.

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