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Hailing from Canada, Lavender Child is Caitlin Comeau-Jarvis. Her new EP/album is entitled Reflections. It came out in early December and it’s available on Spotify. The single is called ‘Happy Illusions‘. For the most part, it’s a wonderfully serene piece with more than a little sense of musical mindfulness about it. But it has big finish that makes you ready to stand up and face the world again. Perfect for the season that’s in it.

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Holy Holy have twice my made best-of-the-year list, including their fine sophomore album, Paint, which came out in February of this year. Fellow Aussies, Letters to Lions have a Holy Holy vibe about them, at least by the sounds of their new single, ‘Come Around’. It’s a wonderful, upbeat song about overcoming adversity. Uplifting.

There’s always a gap between the end-of-the-year, best-of music lists and the first releases of the new year. It’s a time to catch up on some songs that deserve to be shared. First up is Anthony Ruptak, an artist who has been featured here before. Here’s a new song. A gentle song. A classic-sounding song. And, no less for any of that, a song from the heart. It’s from an EP that’s available over at Bandcamp. ‘Vulture & Dove’ is a particular favourite.

Anthony Ruptak – I’ll Go Where You Go

 

There was a top 20 and then @danmumbleson released an album on 8 December. So, 20 became 21.

St Vincent – Masseduction

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The promo campaign did nothing for me, neither did the outfits, nor a couple of the über-pop tunes, but, fundamentally, behind all the post-modern irony and the major-label production values, this was an old-fashioned St Vincent album in all its glory.

Lana Del Rey – Lust For Life

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Lana Del Rey is one of my favourite artists. A woman who has beaten corporate musicality and has been able to make the music she wants. Respect. Don’t tell anyone, though, but without the collaborations this would have been an even better album.

Ryan Adams – The Prisoner

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Maybe it was the Flying V, but from the very first chords Prisoner hit the spot.

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound

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My gig of the year. But Jason Isbell didn’t just deliver a fantastic show in 2017. He also delivered a top-class album with songs about beating alcohol, managing anxiety, and living in Trump’s America. All the more remarkable when you think that you’d need the first to manage the second caused by the third.

Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile To The Surface

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Truly a mad-cap project. But an album that at a certain point of the year I simply could not stop playing. And it had the effect that all great albums have. It made me reacquaint myself with the back catalogue. Revisiting Simple Math was an almost equal pleasure.

Holy Holy – Paint

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Holy Holy delivered their ‘difficult’ sophomore album with great panache. Better even than their debut, Paint was full of good old fashioned rock songs (but for a modern age).

Japanese Breakfast – Soft Sounds from Another Planet

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I couldn’t stop listening to the Soft Sounds of Japanese Breakfast over the summer. Expecting some wonderfully Proustian moments in years to come.

Dan Michaelson – First Light

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Dan Michaelson’s first solo album was built around a plaintive piano. His second features a string section. Plaintively, of course. With the sound perfectly complementing the sentiment, “Don’t dwell on old kisses you’ll always regret”, First Light is scarcely a blast of Christmas cheer. But released only a few days ago, it proves there really is a Sanity Clause.

Frontier Ruckus – Enter The Kingdom

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Sounding like songs of innocence, these were more like songs of a certain type of suburban experience. “Everyone’s home in sweatpants for the series finale of their discontinued fall prime time”. For sure, the neighbours may be slightly passive-aggressive, “And if I am not mistaken, You still owe me, 27 dollars”, but the air is thick with tender melodies and exotic instrumentation.

Widowspeak – Expect The Best

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There’s a density to the sound of Widowspeak, but there’s also a sensitivity to melody that keeps the tunes in your head long after the record has stopped.

Robyn Hitchcock

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Sparky riffs. Erudite lyrics. Robyn Hitchcock rolled back the years and delivered one of his finest albums in years. Meanwhile, therapists are still pouring over the lyrics. “I’m naked in the water, In the amniotic sea, Inside my real mother, She opens up for me”. Oh boy.

Pitchfork tells me that my preferred genre is Contemporary Adult Indie. And Pitchfork should know. So, here are five albums from some of my favourite purveyors of Contemporary Adult Indie that were released this year.

The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

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It was tough to follow Lost In The Dream. And A Deeper Understanding was always likely to be received as Lost In The Dream Pt. 2. Was it less thrilling? A little perhaps. Was it slightly mellower? The chances are. Was it a deeper understanding? Undoubtedly.

Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins

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Five years between albums is a long time. And Grizzly Bear returned to a very different world. For that reason if no other, Painted Ruins didn’t have quite the same impact as Yellow House or even Veckatimest. But there were some great tunes and some great titles. ‘Systole’, that point in the heartbeat process when the heart is contracting.

Iron & Wine – Beast Epic

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From The Creek That Drank The Cradle through to Ghost On Ghost, Sam Beam’s trajectory seemed perfectly linear. From spare and plaintive songs through to rich, multi-tracked arrangements. But with Beast Epic there was a return to somewhat simpler musical times. The result was a real gem.

Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up

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The anticipation is always better than the event. And Crack-Up conformed to that general rule. But this was still a fine album. The figurative Crack-Up was perhaps taken a little too literally on some of the tracks, notably the opener, whose whole was not the sum of its parts. Yet, rejoice nonetheless. For Fleet Foxes are back.

Conor Oberst – Salutations

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In more ways than one, Salutations was Ruminations plus. With the welcome addition of Ian and James Felice among others, Conor Oberst transformed 2016’s stripped-down set into a full-on band experience and added some new tunes for good measure. Next year, expect the arrival of the version for orchestra and massed choir.

2017. It felt like a lifetime. Roll on 2018. In the meantime, here are five of my favourite albums of the year.

The Weather Station

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There are elements to Tamara Lindeman’s fourth album that bear comparison with her fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell. The music is folky, but the themes are complex. And so too are some of the song structures. It could have ended up a wilfully challenging listen. But a string of lovely melodies keeps everything nicely in balance.

Michael Nau – Some Twist

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Formerly of Cotton Jones, this is Michael Nau’s second solo album. It’s a collection of late-night wonders. So, if you’re feeling slightly woozy and liminality is fast approaching, then Some Twist is the perfect companion. Rest assured that it can be enjoyed at other times of the day too.

Kacey Johansing – The Hiding

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The cover may suggest a concept album about the perils of getting up slightly too early in the morning. But the songs are confident, strong, and far from dishevelled. Made with the help of members of Real Estate and Vetiver, The Hiding is a collection of sublime pop songs. If they make you think of mid-1970s Christine McVie, you wouldn’t be far off.

Hand Habits – Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void)

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Hand Habits is Meg Duffy, who is originally from upstate New York. Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void) is a beautiful album, which is full of gentle songs with lovely melodies. But don’t be fooled, though. There’s a determination to this set. “I don’t need to be set free. I already know”.

Richard Edwards – Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset

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May Margot and [Her] Nuclear So and So’s Rest In Peace. But arise Richard Edwards.  Always the guiding force behind the greatest-band-that-never-quite-was, this is the first solo album from the Margot’s front man. Turns out, though, it’s a Margots album in all but name. O happy day.