Okay, so when I started this blog it was with the intention of writing about classical music. Which of course it still will be for the most part. That is because I love classical. But music is one of those things that you cannot pigeonhole it. Also if you look at the about page of this blog you will see the quote about music being my aeroplane, which anyone who knows anything about music would know that’s a quote from Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
So to shift gears a little I am going to write about the albums that I really loved from last year, which was really hard because 2017 was an amazing year for album releases.
1: MUSIC FROM BEFORE THE STORM by DAUGHTER
Daughter is easily one of my favourite groups. They are pretty morbid some would say. But I don’t buy it. This is their third long-play album and was released in September last year.
It is the soundtrack to a computer game called Life is Strange: Before The Storm and they relied heavily on the protagonist of the game for the inspiration behind the composition of this album, and you can tell that this is different than their previous albums because of it. The first notable difference is the fact that the album is mostly instrumental.
The songs on this CD are not the typical style one has come to associate with Daughter. But the difference in style comes from having to be written for a soundtrack and not a naturally evolved band project, but none of that matters because this album is gorgeous. Since its release, it has been on heavy rotation on my Spotify. My tracks on the album are Flaws and Witches. But the whole album is just out of this world.
2: RELAXER by ALT-J
This is one of the best albums of the year. Period. The opening track is just out of this world. 3WW is an amazing example of how good contemporary Prog-rock can be.
There is no escaping the folk influences in this album. Their version of The House of The Rising Sun for example and also in Adeline the repeated line about “the auld triangle” is taken from a well known Irish folk song which was made famous in a Brendan Behan play. But there are moments when there are just what you would call out and out pure punk. It is an album that is hard to really categorise due to eclectic nature of the material.
Also, there are some seriously lush cameos in this album from Ellie Rowsell and Marika Hackman which just add to the sheer wonder of this album. Ellie’s vocals in 3WW are particularly gorgeous.
3: TRUTH IS A BEAUTIFUL THING by LONDON GRAMMAR
This album was certainly long-awaited. Their sophomore offering had high expectations which only comes when the first album is so good, and this album was not a letdown but was easily one of the finest albums of the year. Hannah’s vocals are so often praised to the point that it has become difficult to describe it without sounding trite and falling on cliches or hyperbole. But it really is powerful and for me, one of the finest moments listening to a live act comes when I saw this group in Bristol in the fall of last year. The crowd were rowdy and mouthing off at the group and she began singing on her own and literally hushed the crowd in their drunken gobbieness. It was like watch Cohen at the Isle of Wight festival when he subdued a riotous mob.
The album is not much of a deviation from their first record, however, that is not a bad thing and there are many new standards that fans can sing and feel good about it. One of my favourite parts of the album comes in their song Oh Woman, Oh Man with the striking lyrics “I’ve always had a thing for you, but nothing made you want me better. There is nothing I can do. I’d steal the moon, and nothing made you want me better.” Yeats couldn’t have written about unrequited love better than that. Brilliant.
The rest of the album is great too, and for me, one of the highlights is available only on the deluxe version. What A Day is a wonderful track that begins with a very classical piano motif and builds to a vocal crescendo of Hannah’s glorious vocals. But overall this album was definitely a highlight of an amazing year for albums.
4 : LUST FOR LIFE by LANA DEL REY
Now I know there are many who do not like Lana Del Rey, she really has such a dark sound that some would label morbid, but this album was a like a shade of light in the darker mood of her previous albums. Somewhat like when the melody of Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini is inverted, the light comes in and it is beautiful.
This album saw Lana doing what she did best, being edgy like a troubled girlfriend who you didn’t know what she would do. But also being so heartbreakingly vulnerable that you couldn’t ever think of not loving her.
The work swells with a Sixties vibe that so many have tried to do but have failed. Yet she manages to mingle it all with hip-hop beats making it sound not like some lame copy of a Sixties girl group. The title track is gorgeous, although I find the video annoying because The Weekend looks more interested in pouting and looking cool that he comes across as not knowing how to treat a woman like Lana, but the song is amazing. Cherry is a good song, despite the profanity that takes away from it, but the rhythm of the track is catchy and the line “I fall to pieces” just adds to the angst of the song. The whole album is a fascinating listen.
5: STRANGER IN THE ALPS by PHEOBE BRIDGERS
This album has to be included because it got a whole lot of play in my rotation. Pheobe is a dark, dark, girl indeed and there is a massive melancholy throughout the whole album that speaks to those who have a morbid streak a mile long. But there is beauty in the way she sings that makes this album a lot easier to listen to that one would think given the subject matter. Even the song Funeral which begins with her lamenting that she will sing at the funeral of someone who is younger than she is before she begins to sing about her own mental health problems. But then remembers that she has no reason to feel bad about anything, given the fact she is going to sing for some guy who has lost his kid.
I loved this album the moment I heard it, and Smoke Signals and Motion Sickness are two great tracks for anyone’s playlist.
So that is my top five albums from last year which was on heavy rotation as well as the wonderful classical albums and older albums mingled in. 2017 was a great year for music, and this year is meant to be just as hot with the long-awaited album by Lo-Moon, a new one by Black Rebel Motorcycle club, Wolf Alice and the debut by post-punk outfit Shame, and some more music from Art School Girlfriend set to hit the shelves this year. Much to look forward to indeed.