GIGsoup Writers’ Best Albums of 2017 : Laura Dean

As the yearly accolades are bestowed for the various ‘Albums of 2017’ GIGsoup have handed over the presenting duties to their top writers. Keen to give artists of various, and sometimes more obscure, genres more of a mention each writer has listed 10 albums that have impressed them and in some cases changed the way they’ve listened to music over the previous 12 months.

Today is the turn of Laura Dean to wow us with her selection…

10 Perfume Genius – No Shape

Produced by Blake Mills, Mike Hadreas’ fourth Perfume Genius album is as expressive and beautiful as its predecessors. ‘No Shape’ is full of sweeping crescendos, heavy synths and soft vocals that are somehow both graceful and rebellious. The fragile piano of ‘Otherwise’ opens the album, echoing the melancholic vibe of his piano based debut album ‘Learning’, whilst leading single ‘Slip Away’ beams with Hadreas’ new found confidence as an established musician.

9 The Maine – Lovely Little Lonely

The aesthetically pleasing ‘Lovely Little Lonely’ is split into three sections; ‘Lovely’, ‘Little’ and ‘Lonely’ before culminating with the powerful and reflective ‘How Do You Feel?’ It’s an album of artistic expression and the combination of immersive melodies, danceable beats and power-punching lyrics evoke feelings of nostalgia within you. Feelings of nostalgia that the band intended to kindle, on ‘Do You Remember? (The Other Half of 23)’ in particular.

8 Arcade Fire – Everything Now

‘Everything Now’ sees Arcade Fire offer their usual critique of society, through a series of dark lyrics (“some girls hate their bodies, stand in the mirror and wait for the feedback”) and infectiously catchy instrumentation that takes influence from various genres; including funk, disco and rock. The explosion of genres on the album gives each track a majestic feel; particularly the emotionally charged ‘Everything Now’ that I deem to be one of the best tracks to have been released this year.

7 Trampolene – From Seansea to Hornsey

After the release of six well received EPs, this year saw Welsh trio Trampolene release their debut album; ‘From Swansea to Hornsey’. Full of indie rock nostalgia, the album wouldn’t have been out of place alongside releases from The Libertines and Arctic Monkeys in the mid 2000s, and it’s refreshing to see a band set themselves aside from most others with the inclusion of spoken word poetry, showcasing front man Jack Jones’ talents as a lyricist as he covers topics from his youth to what appears to be his complex relationship with drugs.

6 Sparks – Hippopotamus

In September, Californian brothers Ron and Russell Mael released the first Sparks album in eight years and their twenty-fourth overall. Though completely different to every release that’s preceded it, ‘Hippopotamus’ doesn’t steer far from the mixed up Sparks style that we’re used to, and it’s a joyous experience to hear them still experimenting; as Russell’s witty lyrics and Ron’s beautifully delicate piano sit alongside funky bass and quirky percussive effects.

5 Morrissey – Low In High School

The ex-Smiths frontman released his eleventh album last month and it gets off to a triumphant start with the intriguing horns and rattling drums of ‘My Love, I’d Do Anything For You’. Tracks such as ‘Home Is a Question Mark’ and ‘I Wish You Lonely’ are some of Morrissey’s most engaging offerings since the release of his solo highlight, ‘You Are The Quarry’, in 2004 and the brooding ‘Israel’ highlights the strength of the 58 year olds vocals. As always, it’s Morrissey’s lyrics that make the album stand out; from his political musings on ‘I Bury The Living’, to the wittiness of ‘When You Open Your Legs’ and ‘In Your Lap’ (“I just want my face in your lap.”)

4 Neon Waltz – Strange Hymns

I first saw Neon Waltz when they supported Noel Gallagher in 2015 – needless to say, I spent the next 2 years eagerly awaiting the release of their debut album. ‘Strange Hymns’ didn’t disappoint and the album boasts ten solid tracks that could all quite easily make it as a single. The juxtaposition of the chiming guitars and crashing percussion right from the first track, ‘Sundial’, is stunning and vocalist Jordan Shearer’s soft vocals are mesmerising. ‘Strange Hymns’ is an album full of passion, ambition and expert craftsmanship; the band are deservedly well on their way to achieving big things.

3 Ryan Adams – Prisoner

Ryan Adams’ first album of new material since 2014 is a melancholic offering that captures the heartbreak of his recent divorce to Mandy Moore. The entire album feels incredibly personal and the emotive nature of his vocals fits perfectly alongside his diverse and intimate lyrics. The albums rawness and the juxtaposition of his use of both shimmering riffs (‘Doomsday’/’Breakdown’) and those of a clunkier nature (‘Do You Still Love Me’) capture the essence of his live shows.

2 Lucy Spraggan – I Hope You Don’t Mind Me Writing

Released in January, ‘I Hope You Don’t Mind Me Writing’ was one of the first albums that I purchased this year and it’s remained prominent in my listening habits ever since. With a heart-on-sleeve approach, the album sees Lucy tackle the importance of mental health and suicide prevention. The spotlight shines brightly on Lucy’s talents as a song-writer as she presents the perfect balance of emotive tracks that bring a tear to your eye and sing-along tracks that are laced with humour. The mind boggles as to why the singles received no radio play but regardless of that, the album deservedly reached #12 in the Official Albums Chart.

1 Blondie – Pollinator

‘Pollinator’ features a selection of tracks from prolific collaborators, including Johnny Marr and Charli XCX. From infectiously catchy tracks such as ‘Long Time’ and ‘Too Much’, to the disco infused ‘Fun’, it’s an album that shows an iconic band that are still at the top of their game. ‘Pollinator’ comes to the perfect end with the sprawling and prog-tinged ‘Fragments’ – well, you think that it does! The rise of digital music has definitely had a negative impact on hidden tracks, so it’s refreshing to see that Blondie included one after ‘Fragments’, titled ‘Tonight’. Penned by Charli XCX and Andrew Armstrong, ‘Tonight’ sees one of Debbie Harry’s strongest vocal performances on the album.