Friday, December 22, 2017

Sweeping The Nation's Top 50 Albums Of 2017: 10-1

10 Jane Weaver - Modern Kosmology
Weaver's ninth album is the one on which she hits full stride, a kind of retro-futurist analogue motorik that's as happy to drift as charge, hypnotic and uncomfortable in equal measure to sound like it's neither tethered to her folktronic past nor a willing part of the psych hordes.

9 Public Service Broadcasting - Every Valley
Using more stories of yesterday, here South Wales mining communities, as a case study for human spirit and community undermined from above. It's a necessary shift forward in their post-rock motorik approach too, where folk is folded in and hierath-flavoured vocals uplift.

8 Los Campesinos! - Sick Scenes
Obligatory. But then they *will* keep mining the territory that sees them grow up and settle into the endless Kubler-Ross cycle of ageing, depression and dark humour, not so much energetic any more as neuroses fighting back with muscle memory at an uncaring world.

7 Protomartyr - Relatives In Descent
Joe Casey is the poet laureate of slow-burning anger, whether against the enemy or in the face of ennui and age, trying to contain the stream of thoughts. The coiled, rumbling post-punk suits it down to the ground, an uneasy proclamation from the growing darkness.

6 St Vincent - Masseduction
Annie Clark's pop album, in that the alien guitarscapes of her last album are in the background of art-Technicolor sheen and beats. Up front, though, we find a knowing intimacy, Clark indulging in identity games and self-destruction within inverted commas, very much under her slippery control.

5 Perfume Genius - No Shape
Mike Hadreas hasn't entirely moved on as much as he wants to move outwards, whether from personal pain or gender roles. There's accordingly a kind of weightlessness in an unashamedly Technicolor shapeshifting approach, a high wire act where the narrator feels nerveless despite everything.

4 Baxter Dury - Prince Of Tears
Ironic that in taking up the Gainsbourg mantle of uneasy character narrator of orchestral litheness Dury has ended up sounding more like his old man than ever before. Dury's adoption of various sides of toxic masculinity that slide away to uncover unvarnished emotiveness.

3 Grizzly Bear - Painted Ruins
The strokes on the first album in five years may be broader but the interplay is tighter than ever, the familiar harmonies and fractured overlapping baroque melodies smouldering and more forceful but still coming on like mid-air acrobatics, heavy on detail and growth.

2 Nadine Shah - Holiday Destination
Shah, a second generation immigrant in northern England, finds herself overtaken by the need to justify and fight, dialling down the dramatics of previous albums for a knowingly uncomfortable gothic clank. Never losing sight of hope, nevertheless it's an album built with something to push against.

1 Algiers - The Underside Of Power
In a year not exactly short on kicking back against the world nobody is doing what Algiers do - retro soul and Pop Group post-punk darkness, distorted gospel and harsh industrial beats, Franklin James Fisher a righteous, urgent preacher against the rush in a glorious, powerful statement of ultimate intent.

"Other" tracks of the year next week, but for now... here's a standout from each of the top fifty in order (apart from Christian Fitness, which is Bandcamp-only):

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