It’s been another banner year of full-length releases, and it’s never been easier to access incredible LPs from all over the world. Here are my 50 favourite albums of the year just gone by – maybe you enjoyed them too? Maybe I missed out on some? Maybe something shoulda been higher? Let me know what you think. See you in 2018!
– DJY, December 2017
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: ’68 – Two Parts Viper, Allday – Speeding, Citizen – As You Please, Cloakroom – Time Well, Death Bells – Standing at the Edge of the World, Filthy Friends – Invitation, Full of Hell – Trumpeting Ecstasy, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Polygondwanaland, Michael Crafter – Mince for the Recently Retired, Miguel – War and Leisure, Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked at Me, Noel Gallagher’s High-Flying Birds – Who Built the Moon?, Perfume Genius – No Shape, Polaris – The Mortal Coil, Priests – Nothing Feels Natural, Queens of the Stone Age – Villains, Quicksand – Interiors, Ratboys – GN, RVG – A Quality of Mercy, Sleaford Mods – English Tapas.
Jonathan Boulet and Kirsty Tickle were key players in the late 2000s/early 2010s indie-pop boom here in Australia. With those days now behind them, the duo conspired to create something unlike anything they’d ever worked on previously. The end result was Party Dozen – which, antithetical to its name, is neither user-friendly nor maximalist. It’s part noise-rock, part jazz, part soundtrack. The Living Man starts as a totally blank canvas for both Boulet and Tickle, and subsequently has paint cans hurled at it in joyful abandon. There’s only one rule when it comes to Party Dozen: There are no rules.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Food Play, Straights, Sports Authority.
49. N*E*R*D – NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Pharrell Williams became a family-friendly global phenomenon with the release of “Happy” a few years back. Now, he’s ready to be despicable again – and not Despicable Me, either. Reuniting with the crew that made him famous at the turn of the century, N*E*R*D made their triumphant return in the closing moments of the year. And without a second to spare, let it be said. It’s the biggest sonic risk of Williams’ career – experimental, progressive, bordering on the avant-garde. As he chants in “1000,” though: Holy shit, it’s working.
THREE TOP TRACKS: 1000, Kites, Lemon.
Yes I’m Leaving are a softly-spoken trio of Sydney musicians – you seem them sifting through records at Beatdisc, quietly observing up the back of DIY shows. If you didn’t know they were in a band, you’d never guess about the Jekyll/Hyde complex all three members have when they take up their respective instruments. Pure Joy is loud, brash and belligerent garage rock. It’s gnashed teeth and discordant guitars, seething and radiating while the pulse of the rhythm section wallops the ear-drums. Not many bands can still maintain the rage after five albums. Yes I’m Leaving are just getting started.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Wrong, Davey Bowie, Pure Joy.
A lot has been written about New York duo Diet Cig, but they’re more of a ‘show’ band than a ‘tell’ band. Case in point: Their oft-shared NPR Tiny Desk Concert, which finds vocalist/guitarist Alex Luciano – hyperactive, high-kicking, literally bouncing off the walls – as the central focal point. While hopping around the room, they’re also firing off blunt confessionals “You can keep all of your shitty friends,” “I don’t need a man/To hold my hand” et al.). Swear I’m Good at This is a sugar rush with a sour aftertaste – pure bubblegum with a harsh, unforgiving blowback.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Tummy Ache, Sixteen, Barf Day.
46. Harry Styles – Harry Styles
The Libertines once asked what became of the likely lads. To date: One became a horny bore, one became a WGWAG, one became a bland club-bro and one just turned out to be a prick. Only one has gone above and beyond the call of duty in life post-1D: the likeliest lad of all, Harry Styles. Few could have predicted the progression Styles would make on his debut. Then again, that’s partially what made it such an intriguing, compelling listen. Directioners were contractually obliged to love it, but there was plenty on offer for outsiders as well. Style and substance.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Sweet Creature, Sign of the Times, Meet Me in the Hallway.
45. NAIF – PLZ ALTER THE ANIMAL THAT’S INSIDE OF ME
H A N N A H B A N D’s Quitting Will Improve Your Health was perhaps the best rock album of 2016 – nationality regardless. It also ended up being bittersweet, ultimately serving as the band’s farewell. Not that Naif Martin – the band’s singing, guitar-playing half – was about to retire or anything like that. Far from it – instead, 2017 proved to be their most prolific year yet. Among their many releases was a trilogy of solo LPs, dealing with loss, regrowth and rehabilitation. ANIMAL was the first, and absolutely the most captivating – rarely does an artist voluntarily paint themselves into such a vulnerable position.
THREE TOP TRACKS: nostalgia, no thnx, two microphones start feeding back, plz alter the animal that’s inside of me.
The last few years have seen Clowns turn into one of Australia’s must-see live acts, taking on all comers from dive bars to open-air festivals and everywhere in-between. By their own admission, however, they’ve never quite been able to capture that lightning in a bottle for their studio recordings – that was, of course, before Lucid Again entered the picture. With an expanded line-up and broadened horizons, Clowns boldly went where few skater burnouts had gone before. The end result was a record equal parts ambitious and punk as fuck. This ain’t no lucid dream – goddammit, this is real.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Pickle, Destroy the Evidence, Lucid Again.
There are a couple of ways to interpret Good Nature as a title. There’s the personality trait – a good-natured person – and the literal sense of embracing Mother Earth. Both are strongly reflected in the music and the lyrics of Turnover’s third studio album – easily their most accessible and sharply-curated work to date. Removing a lot of the reverb and shoegazing elements of 2015’s Peripheral Vision, the trio instead explore further elements of sun-kissed indie-rock and new-wave pop. While it lacks the immediacy of Peripheral Vision, it’s testament to slow and steady winning the race. It’s only natural.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Sunshine Type, Super Natural, Nightlight Girl.
There’s something immediately warm and homely about Jess Locke’s music. Part of it has to do with the fact it’s quite literally home-grown – recorded across bedrooms and apartments in her native Melbourne with her long-serving backing band. There’s also an intimacy and humanity to Locke’s songwriting. Universe, her second LP, is simultaneously a direct and personal entryway into her own psyche as well as striking in its honesty and relatability. Whether you’ve followed her work for years or have only recently been introduced to her work, her bright, jangly indie evokes passageways and connectivity. Call it a universal feeling.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Universe, Drive to Drink, Border Security.
The debut album of Sydney emo-revival hopefuls Oslow has been building for several years. With it came their biggest platform – a signing to iconic Aussie punk label Resist Records – and a retooling of their already-expansive palette. Tellingly self-titled, Oslow takes in everything their blossoming fan-base has come to love about the four-piece – yelling choruses, their dizzying fretwork – and pushes them. Not aggressively – it wouldn’t suit their style – but just enough to wind up in new corners of the sonic spectrum. A reflection on the evolution Sydney DIY has undergone – entirely for the better.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Separate, Cold Dark Space, Sewing.
Thanks for reading! Part two will be up soon. You can follow along with the hashtag #DJY50 on Twitter.