Snail Mail – Lush

https---images.genius.com-e1357de9e8cb1221267f703886475d86.500x500x1

“Do you dream about the people that wrong you? Do you see those faces again and again?” Oh yes. Do you dream about the songs that speak to you. Do you hear those chords again and again. Sure do. Lindsay Jordan has released probably the best album of the year so far.

Soccer Mommy – Clean

a1223441986_16

Soccer Mommy can sometimes sound a little like Snail Mail, but with a lot more swearing. “I don’t wanna be your fucking dog, That you drag around, A collar on my neck tied to a pole, Leave me in the freezing cold”. Sophie Allison has released pretty much the best album of the year so far.

Dream Wife

DW

Fresh out of art school, Dream Wife can sound even angrier than Soccer Mommy. And they know how to swear in both English and Icelandic. Doubleplusgood. Rakel Mjöll and friends have released maybe the best album of the year so far.

Jess Williamson – Cosmic Wink

a0048118380_16

With a nod to a deeper consciousness that flows from the love of each other and humanity, Cosmic Wink is an antidote to some of the pervasive negativity of the age. So, no swearing. Jess Williamson has released arguably the best album of the year so far.

The Men – Drift

men

To ensure some gender balance, it’s time for some token men. And who better than The Men. Drift is a gloriously eclectic album with far more hits than misses. In fairness, Mark Perro and Nick Chiericozzi may not have released the absolute best album of year so far, but it’s been on repeat for months. And that’s fine by me.

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

St Vincent – Masseduction

SV

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

LdR

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

Ryanadamsprisoner

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

JI

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

220px-Manchester_Orchestra_-_A_Black_Mile_to_the_Surface

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

Holy+Holy+PAINT

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

a2628204520_16

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

DM

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

frontier-ruckus-enter-the-kingdom

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

a3234087548_16

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

robyn-hitchcock

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

TWOD

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

GB

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

IW

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

FF

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

CO

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.

Grizzly Bear have just put out a new album, Painted Ruins. It’s their first in five years. On first listen, it sounds as good as anything they’ve done before. To celebrate, here are the ten best Grizzly Bear songs prior to the new release. The only caveat was that there had to about a roughly equal number of Daniel Rossen and Ed Droste songs. Here’s what the algorithm returned.

While You Wait For The Others

Yet Again

Ready Able

On A Neck, On A Spit

Little Brother (Electric)

Knife

Sleeping Ute

Two Weeks

Alligator (Choir Version)

Plans

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.

Untitled-1

Conor Oberst – Salutation

Ryanadamsprisoner

Ryan Adams – The Prisoner

Holy+Holy+PAINT

Holy Holy – Paint

frontier-ruckus-enter-the-kingdom

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

Oh happy day (potentially). Neil Young has announced a new album. It’s called Peace Trail and it’s primarily acoustic, or so we’re told. In anticipation, here are Neil Young’s five best primarily acoustic albums to date, live albums excluded.

5. ) Silver and Gold

neil_young_silver_gold_cd

This is a strong set, but there’s a nagging sense that it’s trying to be Harvest 3. Nonetheless, ‘Razor Love’ and the title track itself are worth the admission fee. And it was good to see ‘Red Sun’ being resurrected on a recent tour.

4.) Comes A Time

neilyoungalbum-comesatime

Some classic tracks, yet an album that somehow ends up being slightly less than the sum of its considerable parts. But Nicolette Larson’s vocals are always a joy. And listening to ‘Human Highway’ makes you wonder just how good that lost CSNY album would have been.

3.) Prairie Wind

neilyoungprairiewind

It’s usually the long electric songs that are hypnotic enough to get totally lost in, but ‘Prairie Wind’ has the same effect here. Written in the context of family death and personal illness, this is an album that reimagines old times and reflects on uncertain futures.

2.) Harvest Moon

harvest_-_neil_young

Coming after his epic return to form with Crazy Horse, Harvest Moon was an abrupt change of tack. Nothing new there. ‘Unknown Legend’ is one of his best songs, but it’s a great collection overall. Check out the change in the running order on Dreaming Man.

1.) Mixtape of sides 1 of Rust Never Sleeps and Hawks And Doves

screen-shot-2016-10-29-at-10-48-09

These albums followed each other chronologically (Live Rust excluded). In both cases, a number of the songs had been written some years back. And, without exception, all of them still sound great. They make a perfect match. The argument doesn’t generalise, though, because the electric side of Hawks and Doves is a complete dud and under no circumstances should ever be paired with side 2 of Rust Never Sleeps.