“Stuff You Might Have Missed”
A 2017 musical guide
words by gold flake paint
illustration by robyn mclennan
Welcome to another edition of GFP’s End Of Year Content™ – something we’re never quite sure how to navigate, and something we’ve routinely re-shaped as each year comes and goes. This year we’ve decided to bring you two in-depth features that, we feel, best represents GFP as it stands in 2017. So firstly we have this; a mammoth collection of albums that we think have flown under the radar either through sheer bad luck or because that’s where they started from in the first place. There’s an oft-repeated notion that if music is good enough it’ll get heard. In an internet world dominated by algorithms and corporate monopolisation there’s no way that holds true and I think this list is testament to that, and we sincerely hope you find something new here to cherish.
Tomorrow we’ll share our ten favourite records of the year, and unveil GFP’s Album of 2017. Each of the ten records comes with an accompanying essay and we’re very excited to share it with you; be sure to check back in when you get a chance.
Finally, a quick note to say thank you for just being here at all. In a world that is increasingly slumped under the weight of terrible people taking terrible actions we remain very humbled to provide some kind of escape and aside to that. We feel it very much too, and often struggle with navigating simple pleasures in an ocean of wretchedness, but there will always be value in art as long as people are around to take something from it. Thanks to all the artists, labels, and PRs we work with on a day-to-day basis who allow us to share their work and thanks, to you, readers and listeners, for giving us a reason to do so.
You can check out a Spotify playlist featuring everyone on the list – and here are a few records that stuck with us, we hope you enjoy…
by Coma Cinema
Reference Points: Elvis Depressedly, slow sad pop songs
Buy: Joy Void
Proof, seemingly needed, that incredible records can be released in December as well as the other eleven months, the final album from Mat Cothran’s Coma Cinema project plays out like a wilting but undeniably apt soundtrack to a year that has offered so little to cheer about, from so many different perspectives. (Side note: ‘Judas hung himself in America’, released under his own name, is also one of our favourite releases of the year. Listen here)
Sad, mournful, gut-wrenching pop songs play out like faded hits from a broken radio, quietly seeping out in to the world whether anyone’s paying attention or not. Cothran’s signature vocal and lyrical style is fine-tuned perhaps better than ever before, lending a wholly personal touch of defeated magic to one of the most poignant accounts of nothingness we’ve heard in a long time. A touching and wonderful departing gift that cuts right to the core of human longing and endeavour.
the yunahon mixtape
by oso oso
Reference points: 00s indie/punk, early Death Cab, good nostalgia
Probably the closest any other record came to creeping in to our ten favourite records of the year list, the yunahon mixtape is a remarkably solid, ever-endearing chunk of meaty indie-rock songs and the first great record of 2017; snuck out via oso oso’s Bandcamp page on January 13th. Such is its charm and longevity, however, that we’re still finding new things to love about it as the year pulls to a close. Heartfelt, fearless, nostalgic, and fun, the yunahon mixtape is the year’s quintessential emo record; a dizzying escape from the mess of world with just enough to remind us what we’re escaping from. Bless this goddamn record.
Reference Points: Aching hearts, searing poignancy, Owen Pallett
Buy: Joyful Noise
Few records made such an immediate impact, from such a delicate position, as Tomberlin’s wholly heartbreaking mini-album, At Weddings. Self-released via Bandcamp, with a limited vinyl run via Joyful Noise (WHY?, Kishi Bashi), the seven tracks here make for a mesmerising account of quiet reflection that linger for far longer than there somewhat fleeting actuality.
Blessed with one of those pure and beautifully affecting vocals, with just enough tremble for you to know that it all really matters, At Weddings is plaintive but remarkably powerful collection of songs, led by a very special voice indeed.
Reference Points: Slowdive, shoegaze, midnight drives
Buy: Other People Records
There’s a comment left by a purchaser over on Gleemer’s Bandcamp page which simply reads “Gleemer just GETS me, you know?” – and it’s a sentiments I’ve often tried to expand upon when reviewing any of their previous records but, you know what? Gleemer just gets me. New album ‘Anymore’ follows much the same blueprint as what’s come before but it remains one of music’s most compelling concoctions: those dense swathes of guitar, that night-soaked, nostalgia-tinged voice, the stirring, gently nauseating feeling that everything is getting away from you; the rough and the smooth; the light quietly swallowed by the dark. The most underrated band on the planet? Quite possibly, yup.
by Katie Von Schleicher
Reference Points: Frank O’Hara, Sharon Van Etten
“Now I am quietly waiting for the catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful again, and interesting, and modern.” Frank O’ Hara wrote with gushing fragility, sixty years before this particular album would similarly immerse its creator in the stark clarity of such frank perception. Katie Von Schleicher’s Shitty Hits captures the unbeknown sparks of tangible feeling from everyday life that we don’t even acknowledge until the moment has passed. With each unflustered exhibit of imposing pop, Von Schleicher embraces the intense happiness, sadness, toil and ecstasy that is embroiled within every turn of the corner.
our lady star of the sea, help and protect us
by Tica Douglas
Reference points: Waxahatchee, Gnarly/beautiful guitar-pop
Buy: Team Love Records
Despite our tragic surroundings, Tica Douglas is an artist that is able to pull the beauty from our desperations, weaving them into narratives that feel reassuring and real. Douglas gives us something to hold on to; acknowledging the ambiguity of the world with thoughtful prose and an unhurried, delicate structure that allows their ruminations to sink into our own perceptions of the world. Our Lady Star of the Sea, Help and Protect Us is a collection of lyrically-driven, sincere songs of comfort.
Reference Points: Big Thief, exquisite country-rock
Buy: Keeled Scales
One of three records in this list which came out via the ever-excellent Keeled Scales label, Twain’s ‘Rare Feeling’ musters just that; the kind of stupefying reaction that comes from hearing a voice so piercing and true you wonder how it exists in the underground, such is the exquisite magic it possesses.
A wilting, lilting country-rock record, Twain is the working project of one Mt. Davidson, a creator of terrifically moving songs, with a name like a mountain and a voice that could move them from their very foundations. A rare and genuine find; a gleaming nugget of gold in a barrel of silt.
Shock Out Of Season
Reference Points: Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, Lee Hazelwood
Buy: Orindal Records
A quiet, stomach-churning shock no matter what season you find yourself listening to this very special record in, like being haunted by a memory you just can’t place, Friendship’s new album deals in the intangible sadness of relationships, such an oft-tread subject, in ways that feel acutely distinct, and overwhelmingly poignant. It’s in the language he uses, fractured and unfinished, in the quiet space he leaves between the words, in the inspired melodic shifts that are as tangible and moving as the sentiments spoken, in the way it so subtly changes the shape of the world around; the day so steadily fading in to night you barely notice it at all.
by Suno Deko
Reference Points: Perfume Genius, overwhelming romanticism
Buy: Elestial Sound
“There’s a moment I’ll never forget when Jake Falby (who plays with Julie Bryne and Mutual Benefit) sent me his string arrangements for “Swan Song.” I was driving home from work at a restaurant in Atlanta, where I was toiling in misery and battling an anxiety disorder that was grinding me into the ground, and played it in my car with the windows down at night, I think it was autumn. I immediately burst into tears and saw the potential and vision for this record really expand but also solidify.”
If the above quote (taken from our interview here) doesn’t give you some indication of how special and meaningful this record is then the music itself surely well. Poetic, pronounced, and beautifully detailed throughout, this is pop music in its most personal and powerful form. Very special indeed.
Sitting with Sounds and Listening for Ghosts
by Sun Riah
Reference Points: Bjork, Joanna Newsome, the sanctity of life
Buy: Keeled Scales
A record so deeply personal that it doesn’t always make for the easiest of listens, but in the right mood, at the right moment of the day, Sun Riah’s debut record – a lamentation of the passing of her Grandmother and the house she lived in – is perhaps 2017’s most poignant full-length efforts. “I am listening deeply for you, in the cracks and crevices of this room,” she sings in the record’s opening lines, beautifully setting the scene for the stirring melodrama that then rolls out with captivating gracefulness – all led by the kind of enrapturing voice that will stop you in your tracks, no matter how much you’re rushing.
by Small Leaks Sink Ships
Reference Points: Inventive 90s emo, Modest Mouse
Buy: Lefse Records
This record very nearly passed us by, until a couple of our readers suggested it in reply to our question regarding the year’s most overlooked records. And how right they were. A thrilling, stirring mix of emo sentiments and freak-outs, coupled with a restraint and inventiveness usually reserved for far grander concepts, Golden Calf is a swelling and sumptuous adventure, the kind of record that draws you instantly in to its warped and wonderful world and then spits you out, some forty-odd minutes later, dazed, confused and utterly desperate to do it all again.
by Human Leather
Reference Points: Depeche Mode, sad 80s disco-pop
Forget Depeche Mode. Salt Lake City’s Adam Klopp (Choirboy) and Chaz Costello (Sculpture Club) upcycle dark 80’s synth pop and John Hughes movie soundtracks into something fresh and defiantly unique. Taking turns in the vocal spotlight, Klopp’s adorable, aching vampiric swoons are a contrast to Costello’s grainy gothic style. Dip into ‘Sense of Decay’, ‘Astral Pain’ or the seductive ‘Cherry Death’ and you’ll be hooked instantly.
by Los Campesinos!
Reference Points: The Beautiful South, knock-out football tournaments
Buy: Wichita Recordings
If a single moment is capable of defining Los Camp, it occurs during a brief passage halfway through Sick Scene’s “I Broke Up In Amarante.” A fly-on-the-wall document of frontman Gareth Paisley’s mental health struggles during the recording of their new album, the track is rattling towards its heartening conclusion when Paisley’s voice suddenly drops away, as he says, “Nah, you’re going to have to help me out here” and the gang-like vocals of the rest of band take up the mantle. It’s the aural equivalent of dragging someone through the final few meters of a marathon, a very human moment that encapsulates the spirit of togetherness that has pushed Los Campesinos! through hurdles that might have finished off other bands. They remain a tremendous, heartening pillar for many of us – and long may it continue.
by Fred Thomas
Reference Points: Ought, Talking Heads, existential life crises
Fred Thomas – of indie-pop champions Saturday Looks Good To Me – released Changer at the beginning of the year and his slacker-rock affirmations have only become more relatable as the months have dragged by. A master of character-driven, atmospheric stories, Thomas’ self-awareness and knack for a hook has established Changer as an album of nostalgic melodies and rich, evident imagery. He’s able to pull us into his view of the world by navigating the value of mundanity, producing a retrospective that celebrates all the messy stuff that makes us human.
by Strange Ranger
Reference Points: Hovvdy, saturated post-punk
Buy: Tiny Engines
There’s an acute awareness of loneliness and solitude at the heart of Strange Ranger’s Daymoon. It holds an immersive, unshakeable grip over its 15 generous tracks, providing an almost uncomfortable intimacy as they speak of the kind of fears we all try to keep muted. It’s sluggish and sometimes despondent, as lethargic instrumentation backs lyrical despair but by doing relaying such a truthfulness, there’s an exhilarated aftermath. Daymoon is a veracious work that pinpoints the unsettling every day that comes with young adulthood.
by Out Lines
Reference Points: Kate Bush, The Twilight Sad
Buy: Rock Action Records
A collaboration between The Twilight Sad’s James Graham, Scottish Album of the Year award winner Kathryn Joseph, and producer/instrumentalist Marcus McKay was as suitably dramatic and despondent as we hoped it would be; channeling the grey, prickly undercurrent of city life with the bleak Scottish weather in to something wholly intriguing. The pairing of Joseph and Graham’s vocals is magnetising, mesmerising centre-piece, their haunting intonations drifting over the electronic-tinged instrumentals like a dense blanket of fog. Here’s to hoping this is more than a one-off.
by Us and Us Only
Reference Points: Alex G, Duster, slowcore
Buy: Topshelf Records
Another year, another wonderful of array of talent drip-fed in to the world via Topshelf Records unquenchable tap. We could have picked any single one of their releases, to be quite honest – and would highly recommend checking out the full-length efforts from Prawn, Ratboys, Wild Ones, People Like You, Gingerlys et al – but we’ve plumped for Us and Us Only’s ‘Full Flower’ LP – both as a contemplative gem of a record in its own right, and one that seemed to slip somewhat under the radar. Twinkling guitars, slumped but thoughtful vocals, and all wrapped up beautifully inside its own little world – one you’ll be wanting to revisit again and again.
Reference Points: Sorority Noise, restrained pop-punk, killer hooks
Informed by the playful but emotional indie-rock of yesteryear, Weller’s self-titled record has become our go-to collection this Autumn, their restrained take on emo-rock making for an endlessly endearing collection of songs to wrap your wide arms around. Sometimes sweet and succinct, other times moody and melodic, the songs here are beautifully immediate, the choppy hooks leaping out of the stereo from first listen, grin-inducing in the warm-hearted glow at the core of each and every track – one of the most wholesome records and discoveries of the year.
by Great Grandpa
Reference Points: Johny Foreigner, really really smart songs
Buy: Double Double Whammy
Half a year down the line and Plastic Cough still feels wildly, exhilaratingly of its own time and place; the words, riffs, odd little fragments of this odd generation packaged together under an umbrella that never once does what you’re expecting but still manages to feel warmly endearing. Whether hurtling through its various personal set-pieces and dizzying set of guitar-plays, or suddenly flipping the entire pace/mood/tone of the song with a sumptuous about-turn, this is a record that steps up to the plate time and time again, whether that be via a spit in the face of the patriarchy, a plain-stated chronicle of the mundanity of modernity, or the gang-vocal exultation about zombies attacking at an inopportune time, as found on the soaring, stupendously colossal closing track.
by Wild Pink
Reference Points: Pavement, Wilco
Buy: Tiny Engines
Another record that was released very early on the year and also came mightily close to creeping in to our Top Ten list, Wild Pink’s self-titled effort is a thing of quiet restraint and occasional temperate flourishes, the kind of heavy-hearted guitar record that sits like a soundtrack to attempted personal growth, both relatable and convincing. Wild Pink is the sound of a band trying to internalise the world that surrounds them, to contextualise their erratic city (the band reigns from Brooklyn) and make something peaceful or, at least, liveable.
Kiss and Tell
Reference Points: Francois & The Atlas Mountains, Cybmals
The addition of John Baillie Jnr (Bossy Love, Dananananayroyd) realigned Babe’s signature sound somewhat, adding extra production dexterity as well as a depth of flavour to Gerard Black’s striking electronic pop songs, resulting in huge leap forward from a band that had previously excelled on the live stage. Dark and cryptic in all the right places, and never afraid to let loose with a scintillating display of gleaming pop hooks, Kiss And Tell sits as one of 2017 most under-rated full-lengths; a smart, soulful, scintillating collection of songs underpinned by a magic you just can’t place. Listen to it immediately.
A Hairshirt Of Purpose
Reference Points: Speedy Ortiz, Pissed Jeans
There’s an unofficial debate between Pile fans about whether they’re better as a live band or a record band. The Boston rock act excel at each, hence why the question is fun to ponder, but A Hairshirt of Purpose felt like an unexpected response to that question. Instead of leaning into the misaligned duelling guitar riffs and inimitable drums of the band’s past catalog, Pile tried their hand at segue songs and lush viola parts, giving the album a sense of cohesion that doesn’t try to mimic their live ricocheting. It’s an intense, emotion-spanning listen of a record, all carried by frontman Rick Maguire’s cryptic lyrics that, once again, teeter near the edge of insanity — which means outbursts of mania, like those on “Fingers” and “Hairshirt”, come with an even bigger payoff.
Please Be Mine
by Molly Burch
Reference Points: Patsy Cline, love on the great plains
Buy: Captured Tracks
Texas’ capital sits like a hot, dense little gem, in a quadrilateral setting of arterial highways. Hand painted signs in coffee shops urge its inhabitants to “Keep Austin Weird“, and it has long provided the perfect landing pad for musicians like Molly Burch, who made her way to the celebrated cultural hub after finishing college studies in jazz vocal performance. Burch’s tender-toned, smoky vocal approach quickly landed her in the creative swing of Austin’s live performance scene, and those ingenuous steps towards penning her first songs eventually culminated in her debut LP; a ten song journey that harkens back to the lovelorn stylings of Everly Brothers, Phil Spector beats (à la “Be My Little Baby“) and the tinkling piano garnish of Patsy Cline-caliber pining.
Reference points: Flying Nun discography, Jay Som, J Brekkie
Buy: Flying Nun
Arriving in that special, sun-drenched month of May, Fazerdaze’s debut Morningside quickly became a soundtrack to nights that never really got dark, its soft bedroom beats blending with Amelia Murray’s airy pop magic. Each song perfectly matches its emotion: luminous, shuffling guitars are the shoegaze breeze over which Murray sings her lush and lilting reveries, sharper riffs hitting hard the pain.
Comforting synth bleeps, drum clicks and soft arpeggios paint a rhythmic landscape of lost connection: fields disappearing through moving windows, friendships floating apart like dust motes. Life feels at once cinematic and intimate, nostalgic and immediate: “We came soft, we came soft / Fading into focus”. It’s the soundtrack to summers that came before, but relishes also the ones before us.
No Luscious Life
by Golden Teacher
Reference Points: Afrobeat, house, electro
Released via Optimo Music, Golden Teacher’s debut LP captures the label’s enduring qualities and more: a kinetic, eclectic and eccentric sound that blends Afrobeat, house and electro with a bunch of crunchy, 808 kicks and body-whipping ESG-style disco. Occasionally, a band actually earns their Arthur Russell credentials. As with Russell’s music, there’s a hunger for variety and experiment, an openness to shifting styles, that brings the pleasurable drama of their live show to the record.
Throughout, it’s the sharp, dub-drenched melodic energy, coupled with the effortless rapport between Cassie Ojay and Charles Lavenac’s vocals, that makes the arc of these songs so seductive—whether they’re offering nebular takes on love (‘Spiritron’) or musing on the futility of everyday labour.
Reference Points: Television, Preoccupations, art-punk
Buy: Citrus City
The second album by Montreal art-rock group Corridor smashes through both artistic and language barriers to a place in this list. A colourful collision of technical ingenuity and emotional harmonies, you’ll find it a compelling listen even if you don’t understand Quebecois French. There’s maybe shades of Preoccupations, The Byrds, Television et al, but ‘Supermercado’ definitely marks out its own space. Try out ‘Data Fontaine’ and ‘Coup D’epee’ and wonder at why this album passed you by.
by Fake Laugh
Reference Points: Intricate and elegant DIY pop
Buy: Headcount Records
For what seems like forever, Kamran Khan has been poised to bring his solo project Fake Laugh to a wider audience. Four years in the making, this debut is packed with free-and-easy, romantic pop tales to hold your hand and squeeze your heart. Songs like ‘Short of Breath’, ‘Kinda Girl’ and ‘You Will Find Out’ sound light and effortless, yet they conceal sophisticated inner DIY-workings. Give Fake Laugh some love and it’ll return it, times ten, forever.
by No Thank You
Reference points: The Crutchfields, visceral pop-punk
Buy: Lame-O Records
At just nineteen minutes in length, the debut mini-album by No Thank You is a transportive masterpiece. Led by Kaytee Della-Monica’s hushed vocals, the record presents a mesmerising blend of delicacy and power, underpinned by disarmingly pained lyrics. ‘Jump Ship’ evokes a sense of sprawling landscapes and flowing tides, crashing and gently retreating with each note. Its eight songs are without doubt some of the most beautiful compositions of the year.
by bonny doon
Reference Points: Rolling Blackouts, The Walkmen
Buy: Melodic Records
A timeless collection of warmly spun songs intwined with dead-pan nonchalance and a distinctively modern delivery, Bonny Doon arrived apparently out of nowhere and immediately presented an album of true personality. Their record was made to sit back with a beer and watch the world burn to, all the while trying to grasp why at the back of your mind a pensive sense of mourning for old friends, previously trodden paths and the indeterminable nature of the future still sticks since returning home after all this time.
by Dead Sullivan
Reference Points: Elliott Smith, Chad VanGaalen
Self-released on Bandcamp back in March, this was another suggestion by one of our readers which has grown to be one of our favourite recent discoveries. Distinctly lofi, the record is imbued with real-world sounds, nasal breaths, ambient noise plucked from the surrounding space, and they come together with the songs themselves to craft something beautifully sincere and compelling; gentle acoustic songs that add little flashes of colour to that otherwise solemn voice at its core; a faded but fascinating weaving of whispers and wonder.
Like Author, Like Daughter
Reference Points: Grouper, Kranky (label), drifting through space
Buy: Whited Sepulchre
When death is a tempting pathway, there’s no use speaking in tongues about it. That’s why Madeline Johnston bears her lo-fi ambient moniker Midwife like an artist who isn’t trying to hide behind anything. On her debut album, Like Author, Like Daughter, she floods reverb over its opening track and gets lost in the gloomy, minimalist post-rock repetitions during its back half. Though it doesn’t hide the cloth from which it cut itself, Grouper, the album finds its individuality with repeated lines like “I’m ready to die.” Johnston frames them as hesitant observations, not melodramatic battle cries. And yet, as sad as Like Author, Like Daughter is, the record leaves enough space for listeners to wade in, finding comfort and room for themselves in a world that can suggest otherwise.
by Emma Gatrill
Reference Points: Bjork, Rachel Dadd, ambient-pop
Buy: Flau Records
A wondrous orbit of tranquility and exploration, Emma Gatrill took a leap and floated breathlessly into the unburdened spaciousness of Cocoon. Each track blossoms unsuspectedly, brief instrumental collages coalescing and fluttering amongst Gatrill’s capacitating and arresting voice. Gatrill explores weighty and broad matter, and does so with only her own authoritative discernment and organic nature, as if reaching a mountain peak, letting the task of grasping such confounding sights wash over you and piecing each puzzle piece of life together on the careful stroll back down. A beautiful progression in sound.
Don’t Be A Stranger
by Nervous Dater
Reference Points: Swearin, Hop Along, Camp Cope
“It’s fine” I said, I’ll bash my fucking head through the wall
So I don’t have to call you before I go to bed
“Alright” I said, won’t hold my fucking breath while you’re gone
But I feel it in my lungs
Before I go to bed
One of the best opening tracks of the year, and one of the most euphoric singalongs to-boot, Nervous Dater’s ‘Bad Spanish’ immediately, wonderfully sets the tone for a vociferous and thrilling collection of spiky, spunky guitar-pop songs that bristle with energy and fortitude, unraveling with the kind of wide-eyed desire that churns your stomach in new, ambiguous ways like all your very favourite records do.
by Angharad Drake
Reference points: Laura Marling, finding love in dark places
“I’m still waiting in this corner that you put me in” Angharad Drake repeats on ‘Every Little Thing’; perhaps in keeping with its name, her second album ‘Ghost’ somehow managed to be completely missed by most people, while having a deep spiritual impact on those who actually came to hear it. A whispering, wandering soul, mourning the loss of love, ‘Ghost’ is the sound of a rising talent grappling a sense of identity amid a frantic, material world. With a following now starting to spill out of her native Australia, Drake’s refined yet fragile folk could soon easily occupy the same confident space as Laura Marling or Feist. Find some time for ‘Ghost’ and then tell all your friends.
by Eerie Gates
Reference Points: Experimental folk, ambient soundscapes
Buy: Tiny Engines
The solo project of Wild Pink’s John Ross – who’s more prevalent day-job also features in this list – Bridge Music is an utterly charming collection of guitar instrumentals that feels readily out of time and place and all the more enchanting for it. Influenced by “long drives over bridges and his love of American folk music” the seven songs here are contemplative and enchanting, tender compositions that play out like the perfect soundtrack to the aforementioned inspirations, gentle moments of textural, occasionally ambient, escapes that make for one of 2017’s great hiding places.
by Sinai Vessel
Reference Points: Sorority Noise, The Hotelier
Buy: Tiny Engines
In a year chock full of big, bold guitar records – from TWIABP to Sorority Noise – Sinai Vessel carved out their own space with a thick-edged record that seemed to reveal a little more of itself with each passing listen, its roots digging a little deeper as the year wore on. Lead track Ramekin is indicative of both their craft and spirit; a band that carry their heart on their sleeve, and able to channel such things in to big rock and roll songs that are as raucous and meaty as they are refined and melodic.
by Thunder Dreamer
Reference Points: Whiskeytown, the bleak midwest
Buy: 6131 Records
There’s a refinement and dreamlike quality to Thunder Dreamer’s latest record that sets it apart from other records of its ilk; namely rough-edged guitar-led indie anthems forged from small-town isolation and restlessness. Beautifully constructed, Capture bristles with both intensity and authenticity, like there’s nothing else this group of musicians could do better. Dense, direct, with occasional hooks that hit like a hammer, it sits as one of they year’s most immersive indie-rock statements.
by Molly Nilsson
Reference Points: Dark 80s disco, Depeche Mode
Buy: Night School Records
Following on fro one of our very favourite records of both 2015 and the preceding decade, Molly Nilsson crafted yet more brooding, hazy magic on her latest full-length effort, the stirring, biting Imaginations LP. While the blueprint remains somewhat the same – beautifully crafted electronic backbones from yesteryear; Nilsson’s deep, intriguing voice – her brand of dark disco always carries a fully captivating sense of dizziness and intrigue, with occasional peaks that lift’s her work in to something absolutely vital. One of a kind.
by Julia Lucille
Reference Points: Tender folk music, scented summer songs
Buy: Keeled Scales
As we said at the time, “whether it was intended to be such a thing, Chthonic is a record to get lost in; you might not be able to get a full grasp on it but it shouldn’t stop from you trying.” A strikingly tender collection of folk songs, delivered with the kind of voice that will find you edging closer and closer to the speakers, trying to pick out the one phrase that will unlock the magic here.
Ambiguous and shaded it might well be, but Chthonic might well be, start to finish, the most beautiful record of 2017. A voice and record to cherish for a long time, and one that will surely find more and more admirers over time.
Reference Points: Swooning guitar-pop, lazy summer days
Buy: Forged Artifacts
Another label who have had an inspiringly strong year, Forged Artifacts might have excelled on the EP front (go and listen to Calgrove and Bill Waters now), while also releasing another brilliant LP this month in Alexei Shishkin’s glorious new effort, but they still left a lasting impression with Stanley’s self-titled effort. Beautifully laid-back but with the kind of charm to make it all the more meaningful, this is the summer peach personified; a gorgeous slice of life that we’ll be playing for years to come.
by Little Star
Reference Points: Elliott Smith, Of Montreal
Buy: Good Cheer Records
Merging playfulness with poignancy, not to mention a big splash of ingenuity, the self-titled record from Little Star is a glowing collection of bedroom-pop songs, brought to life by a distinct vision that instantly and consistently compels. While many of the moments here feel bright and buoyant, there’s an underlying darkness that skirts around the entire edge, suddenly appearing and changing the whole shape and feel of it at random moments.
Swim Inside the Moon
by Angelo De Augustine
Reference Points: Sufjan, Elliott Smith, swimming through Space
Buy: Asthmatic Kitty
Sufjan Stevens’ protégé Angelo de Augustine crafted a perfect set of psychedelic folk song for his sophomore release “Swim Inside the Moon”. Self-recorded creating the reverb effect playing besides the porcelain tiling his bathtub wall on a reel-to-reel recorder, De Augustine’s Californian vibes sing the effort of finding a logic within circumstances made ungraspable by altered states of the mind ––A lucid dream one would never wake up from.
Mise En Place
by Alex Napping
Reference Points: Half Waif, Vagabon
Led by Alex Cohen, Mise En Place marked the follow-up to Alex Napping’s glorious 2014 debut album This Is Not a Bedroom. Full of charming resonance, the record sees Cohen and her bandmates build on their abilities to interweave emotive lyricism with dream-pop aesthetics.
Sonically, the album is illustrated through soars of lush, captivating layers and juxtaposing, melancholic saunters – as heard on stand out track “Wife & Kidz” – marking Mise En Place as a reflective, tender-hearted re-examination of life and all the bewilderment that comes with it.
by Peter Silberman
Reference Points: The Antlers, black and white dreams about movies
Forced for a while to silence by a hearing impairment he developed, Peter Silberman found himself reconsidering his relationship with sound, a life-changing experience for a musician. The result of this period of reflection is “Impermanence,” his first solo record. A marvellous human and philosophic voyage into the mind and the ears of a composer rebuilding step by step his music around the void. You can read our interview with Peter here.
Dead And Loving It
by Bad History Month
Reference Points: Scrappy guitar songs about the meaning of life
Buy: Exploding In Sound
The momentous new album from Bad History Month was inspired by a personal revelation, a sudden grasp on the idea that, within reason, nothing really matters. Or, at least, that death is inevitable no matter how or what we spend out time here doing. With this moment of inspiration came a new outlook for Sean Bean and while the concept is nothing new, especially when it comes to popular music, he began digging at the cracks that papered over this idea, framing it around the people and places within his own life and world and what it meant in actual terms. Simply put: one of the year’s most individually engrossing records.
Ed Buys Houses
by Sidney Gish
Reference Points: Suzanne Vega, Liz Phair
Sidney Gish elevates the ordinary with tales of life in dead-end suburbs where the rites of passage are things like not looking dumb in Math lessons and getting a job in a plastic dinosaur toy factory. ‘Ed Buys Houses’ is semi-sardonic, but wholly enjoyable thanks to Gish’s sharply-observed wit. We said her style “skates figures of eight around around Luka-era Suzanne Vega, Liz Phair and, at times, Julien Baker”. Revisit the socially misadjusted misery of school on ‘Hexagons and other Fun Materials’ and ‘Homecoming Serf’, or wonder at who is the titular ‘Ed’ on ‘Ed Buys Houses’.
by Tall Ships
Reference Points: Widescreen pop songs; “Doubt, fragility and lessons learned”
Buy: FatCat Records
Though we didn’t know it upon release, Impressions is to be Tall Ships final album and it’s a suitably dynamic and epic pop record that underlines the band’s simmering potential; one that we always assumed would take them to whatever heights they deserved.
The music industry is a cruel beast, as we well know, however, and so the band remain something of a cult hit, an inventive, passionate, propulsive trio-come-quartet who expanded their sound with each release, resulting in two full-length records that will, for those of us lucky enough to be along for the ride, will leave and lasting, prominent, and important impression. Fare thee well, lads.
by Adult Mom
Reference Points: Frankie Cosmos, Alex G
Buy: Tiny Engines
Embracing tenderness and vulnerability with a melodic brightness, Adult Mom’s second album ‘Soft Spots’ is a reassuring, gentle opening up of inner emotions and exploration of self-acceptance. Purveying a considered wistfulness in Steph Knipe’s intimate lyrical musings alongside the band’s glistening, graceful guitar-pop, Knipe narrates poignant, introspective details by way of their carefully enunciated, lilting vocals. In conveying, so beautifully, their own personal struggles Adult Mom offers a certain comfort and solace in the fact that life is difficult and uncertain, yet amidst this there are the moments of radiance too.
by Dana Gavanski
Reference Points: Laura Marling, exquisite sadness
Buy: Fox Food Records
‘Spring Demos’ was written after Gavanski had been temping on the set of a horror movie, but don’t get the wrong idea. The Canadian songwriter spins timeless, magical folk with a voice steeped in serenity beyond its years. The tiny imperfections and artefacts of the recording process also give it vivid realism and immediacy making this one of the most accomplished and moving demos of the year.
by Breakfast Muff
Reference Points: Thrilling, energetic pop-punk
Buy: Armour Foo
Irresistibly, Eurgh! is a whirlwind tour through various millennial pleasures and perils. It’s as much a celebration of sexual fluidity and friendship, the freedom to just scream in rage or joy, as it is a frustrated retort to judgmental baby-boomers and hypocritical male feminists. Jagged, hungry tracks ‘R U A Feminist’, ‘Feast’ and ‘Birthday Party’ sit breezily aside dreamier, escapist numbers like ‘Magic Carpet’ and ‘Waving Cat’; the record is as much a sugar rush as it is a squeeze of citrus in the eye. Balancing shouts, fresh intellect, catchy melodies and gender-swapping leads, this is DIY pop-punk at its sharpest, wittiest and most fun.
by Shannon Lay
Reference Points: Nick Drake, Sibylle Baier
A startling, isolating and all together homely record, Shannon Lay’s second album breathes with the unwavering focus and intention of it’s design, as beautifully incisive arrangements are but an element in the overall conciousness of Lay’s subtle and unyielding compositional delivery. Ringing with a meditative atmosphere throughout, each track of Living Water lingers to it’s very need, the innate nature of such a slow-burning collection resonating even deeper with each repeated listen than something more immediate and conclusive. An album of tangible emotions channelled into stunning percipience “Full of hope, of possibility, the odds of good and bad are matched, it either creates, destroys or delivers.”
Reference Points: The Breeders, noisy/jazzy melodrama
Buy: Wax Nine
With obvious Breeders comparisons, some might say that the raucous Chicago foursome have broken the bank of 90s nostalgia. Yet they also share a rich vein of influences including jazz, folk rock and experimental noise/thrash (they met their drummer at a Lightning Bolt gig) which all converge superbly on ‘Nothing Valley’s. Miranda Winters’ vocals make the foundations tremble with both their biting wit and a raw screaming power that’s sometimes still not quite enough to be heard over the band. Headphones on, hit up ‘Cawthra’, ‘Kid Kreative’ or ‘middle of’ and turn up the volume.
by Spinning Coin
Reference Points: Teenage Fanclub, Postcard Records
Whimsical, pastorally-inclined, just a little bit out of time, Spinning Coin’s debut effortlessly nails that sweet spot between slacker rock, intelligent indie and jangly guitar pop. If ‘Permo’ is an indiscreet reference to being on a permanent drug trip, then this record is destined to take you somewhere warm and hazy: “It’s so soothing when the sunlight bleaches your head” . With its lush Pastels vocals, hooky and dazed refrains and art school lingo (“deconstructing everything today”), Permo lulls you into the surreal space just under the surface of reality, all sugary licks and vintage kicks. Drifting around in this rhythmic limbo, this ‘Metronome River’, it’s easy to see through the capitalist mundanity of everyday life. In true DIY spirit, Permo is political without feeling political; it builds a world of being free, wears a drunken youthful dazzle on its sleeve.
by Mega Bog
Reference Points: Cat Power, misty jazz soundscapes
Buy: Nicey Music
Erin Birgy’s Mega Bog project has always offered a thrilling concoction of wild musical adventures and considered, dextrous skill, and latest album Happy Together might well be her most compelling and consistent record to-date. Always a fascinating live prospect, her latest studio work, this beautiful eleven-song collection, drifts between misty and playful jazz interludes and magical pop rabbit-holes of discovery. A truly singular artist who has never sounded more vital.
by Nate Scheible
Reference Points: Sonic rabbit-holes in someone else’s dream
Eerie manipulations of tape loops, piano, Sax, organ drones and primal vocal howls create an ambience on ‘Fairfax’, which in itself is an unsettling and immersive experience. The real achievement here though is the emotional entanglement and humanity felt deeply throughout, thanks to Scheible’s extensive use of spoken word samples lifted from a thrift store cassette he found in Fairfax, telling a fragmented story of love, separation and confusion. Experimental electronic music has never sounded so relatable or beautifully executed.
Exposure & Response
by Mo Troper
Reference Points: The Boss, Teenage Fanclub
Buy: Good Cheer Records
Humbly launched on these very pages with the breathtaking, barnstorming lead track ‘Dictator Out Of Work’, Mo Troper’s Exposure & Response lived up to that early, jubilant promise with a collection of gleaming, thrilling guitar pop songs that made you fall in love with the good ol’ power of rock and roll music all over again.
That aforementioned song is indicative of his spirit and skill, led by a colourful burst of brass, Dictator unravels with beautiful gusto, Troper’s charming voice leading it through three-and-a-half minutes of bold pop progressions and wonderfully charming hooks. Song of the year? It’s certainly right there.
True Talent Champion
Reference Points: Pavement, Dinosaur Jr, Merge Records
Buy: Community Records
“When we finally had time to finish the album, it was hard to feel as excited as we should have about it because we had moved on and grown up from the songs before they had even seen the light of day. It becomes a game of “no these songs that haven’t even come out are so old, just wait until you hear what we are doing now its so much better” and its a cycle that goes on and on and on. However, after all of it, after experiencing some of the harsh realities of being a part of the music industry and really questioning whether pursuing this dream was even a possibility, whether it was even worth it, we realized that it really is all about the gratification you get from making music.” [Full interview here]
by Western Daughter
Reference Points: Manchester Orchestra, Thrice
Buy: Take This To Heart
Another label who have had a remarkably strong year, via succession of albums and EPs, is Take This To Heart Records, who have cemented their place as one of the most rewarding and solid emo labels currently in operation. Hodera, Jetty Bones, and Future Teens are all worth (just check out everything on the label here) but we’ve chosen Western Daughter’s Driftwood Songs as a gleaming, thunderous example of the label’s framework, all twinkling guitars, hearty vocals, and enough moments of blissful unraveling to make for something wholly captivating.
MAY GOD BLESS YOUR HUSTLE
Reference Points: Earl Sweatshirt, reinvigorating the game
The Leeds based duo twist conventional alternative genres on their head, pulling elements from punk, grunge and riot grrrl to reinvent a trite formula. The result is beyond atmospheric, desperately sad and refreshingly poignant. In vocalist Lucinda Livingstone’s visceral frustration and despondency, ‘Seafoam’ delivers an overt political and social statement surrounding mental health. The entire record builds to the surprisingly liberating surrender of ‘I Don’t Want To Be Sad Forever’; both a list of all that is failing and a declaration of hope.
Reference Points: Flaming Lips, Deerhoof, Julian Lynch
Buy: Lost Map
Always an enigma, tunnelling his way through his own distinctly – often thrillingly – unique world, Monoganon’s John B. McKenna shaped such untethered ideas in to his most gratifying work to-date on the beautiful Killmens LP – a colourful and wonderfully varied collection of psych-pop released just last month via Scotland’s Lost Map label. Taking its dues from experimental pop projects such as Flaming Lips, Deerhoof et al, Killmens manages to exist in that skewed world while also sounding nothing like anything of it. A kaleidoscopic trip through a beautifully singular mind, it’s a record that reveals a little more of its genius with each passing listen. Dig in and dig deep.
by Agent Blå
Reference Points: Makthaverskan, thrilling indie-pop
Like succumbing to a sudden rush of adrenaline, Gothenburg deathpop band Agent Blå are a curious blend of fragility and fearless abandon. Singer Emelie Alatalo, has an uneasy, detached voice that’s also incisively poetic and direct. Like compatriots Makthaverskan, Agent Blå deal in oblivion and their debut album provides a meeting place and momentary escape for life-weary souls.
#1 Hit Single
Reference Points: No-nonsense pop-punk
Though they’ve subsequently announced that the band are no more, Cende’s ravishing #1 Hit Single is some parting note; a full-blooded, no-nonsense burst of guitar-led pop-punk that starts with the mighty ‘Bed’ – a ravishing burst of adrenaline that makes for one of the year’s best opening tracks, née, one of the best things we’ve heard anywhere, by anyone. Farewell lads, thanks for leaving us this gift.
Reference Points: Philip Glass, Erykah Badu, soulful sincerity
L’Rain is a moonlit wonder; an album that offers a breath through its multi-leveled, textural journey. The project of songwriter Tanya Cheek, L’Rain has this sort of magical stillness throughout – it creeps through the crevices, guiding you through the mesh of nightfall, as Cheek’s vocals twist and tangle through shimmering, spontaneous instrumentation. There are almost no specific layers, with each track moulding into the next, each note complimenting its successor. It’s an album that is a true odyssey; an eyes closed, listen from start to finish gem that serves up a patient, soulful sincerity.
Rips One In To The Night
by Petite League
Reference Points: The Shins, The Strokes
Buy: Native Sound
A scrappy youthfulness wraps around Petite League’s third album. Created in their native New York, Rips One Into The Night is messy and disjointed and industrial, evoking all the excitement and spontaneity of the city they call home. It’s an exhilarating burst of garage indie-pop that sees the four-piece touch on heartache, loneliness and the pursuit of self-worth with an articulate and unrelenting lens. It celebrates the small acts that make the everyday worthwhile.
by Kamikaze Girls
Reference Points: Muncie Girls, Gnarwolves
The Leeds based duo twist conventional alternative genres on their head, pulling elements from punk, grunge and riot grrrl to reinvent a trite formula. The result is beyond atmospheric, desperately sad and refreshingly poignant. In vocalist Lucinda Livingstone’s visceral frustration and dispondency, ‘Seafoam’ delivers an overt political and social statement surrounding mental health. The entire record builds to the surprisingly liberating surrender of ‘I Don’t Want To Be Sad Forever’; both a list of all that is failing and a declaration of hope.
words by kezia cochrane, nina corcoran, guia cortassa, trev elkin, tom johnson,
ross jones, sammy maine, maria sledmere, ben tipple