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.

 

 

 

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