Exeposé Music’s Best Albums of 2017: #20-11

Over halfway through our annual countdown, here are the records just outside of the Top 10


20. Marika Hackman
      I’m Not Your Man

Bold, sharp, and cuttingly honest, second album I’m Not Your Man sees Hackman move away from the outwardly folkier sounds of We Slept At Last and towards something truly her own. Whilst backing instrumentals provided by The Big Moon provide the backbone of I’m Not Your Man, it is Hackman’s lyrics – beautifully sung, exploring the artist’s sexuality and weaving between boisterous (‘Boyfriend’) and sorrowful (‘Cigarette’). Hackman’s flexibility is perhaps best captured on ‘Time’s Been Reckless’, which blends all elements – cheerfully enunciated verses balance with a grungey chorus, topped off by a particularly brooding bridge section. I’m Not Your Man showcases Hackman’s aptitude as an artist, and particularly highlights her lyrical capabilities. With this refreshing and exciting second album, Hackman exhibits her willingness to change and explore different styles, whilst retaining her distinctly personal character. Future albums will, therefore, be hotly anticipated. Graham Moore

19. Mac DeMarco
      This Old Dog

Two years ago I saw Mac DeMarco at Benicassim festival – within a 30 minute set he managed to drink a whole bottle of Jameson whisky and still managed to sing all of his songs (vaguely) correctly. I think that sums him up perfectly, and This Old Dog is a prime example of that chilled out vibe that Mac DeMarco has nailed down. His music is distinctively his, but there is little to differentiate the songs themselves. In fact, I accidentally shuffled all the Mac DeMarco albums whilst writing this review and it took 20 minutes for me to notice. Despite some tracks, like ‘For the First Time’ and ‘On the Level’ being beautiful examples of how to blend chilled acoustic with sparkling synths, This Old Dog is like a Sunday afternoon; incredibly relaxing but you aren’t quite sure where the time has gone. It’s unfortunate that his eclectic performance style hasn’t transferred into his music. But, if you wear dungarees ironically and drink pale ales un-ironically then this is the album for you. Phoebe Davis

18. Four Tet
      New Energy


Four Tet’s New Energy is a laid-back affair. ‘Atmosphere’ is very much the focus of the album, with songs flowing into one another and fewer of the jarring, interrupting rhythms and textures that punctuated some of his earlier releases. Four Tet steers his sound in fascinating directions, using finely-textured instrumentation, alongside different modalities and scale patterns, to create a sprawling album that straddles a line between dance music and ambient soundscapes. Despite this interesting combination of sounds and an admirable attention to detail, it can sometimes feel a bit monotonous as songs fade in and out and certain tones, textures and patterns are repeated or not always developed as far as they could have been. Nevertheless, New Energy is a well-thought out and carefully developed album, with a wholly cohesive sound, and holds plenty of appeal for both existing fans of his music, as well as newcomers discovering him for the first time. James Turner

17. Open Mike Eagle
      Brick Body Kids Still Daydream

California based rapper Open Mike Eagle released made his contribution to 2017 with his sixth studio album Brick Body Kids Still Daydream. Mike isn’t exactly the largest name in rap today, and in a year with a large Kendrick release, BROCKHAMPTON bursting onto the scene, and Tyler, the Creator making easily his best album to date, Mike had his work cut out for him if he wanted to make an impact this year. Yet he did it, coming through with one of 2017’s best hip-hop albums. The album is very lowkey, with the production throughout is very mellow, yet catchy, with songs like ‘Legendary Iron Hood’ and ‘Happy Wasteland Day’ exemplifying this. However, I’m not going to reduce this album ‘background music’ because this is easily Mike’s most intimate album. Throughout, Mike reflects on growing up in the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago following their demolition in 2007. I am quite sad that this album overall has been ignored by a lot of people, yet very few albums have had more to say. I would say that this is easily better than DAMN and for anyone into artier hip-hop should listen to it. Jamie Moncrieff

16. Paramore
      After Laughter

Paramore’s fifth studio album sees the band’s remaining members, Hayley Williams, Taylor York, and the returning Zac Farro, radically departing from the group’s signature angsty pop punk sound, incorporating new wave and synth pop influences into their most accessible album yet. Far from selling out, the new direction propels the band away from an arguably dying genre and into exciting territory. Singles like ‘Hard Times’ and ‘Told You So’ mask sorrowful lyrics with light catchy hooks, creating a bittersweet atmosphere which elevates the superficially fun sound on display. York’s guitar work and Williams’ vocal performance sound more polished and confident than ever, particularly on ‘Rose-Colored Boy’ and ‘Pool’. Closing track ‘Tell Me How’ ends the album with a heart-breaking confessional ballad, contrasting the positive vibrancy most of the other songs project. While not quite as accomplished as its masterful and versatile self-titled predecessor, After Laughter is pop at its finest, showing Paramore can evolve their sound in new and interesting ways and maintain their well-deserved place in the spotlight. Alex Wingrave

15. Sampha

Sampha’s success has been a long time coming, and the Mercury Prize winning Process is a vindication of the faith. Few debut albums have the privilege of a Kanye West production credit, yet few artist have built their name as Sampha has: after show-stopping features on Solange & Kanye’s last albums, Process is where he announces himself to the general public. No song sounds quite like the other, nor like much else around: from the paranoid kinetic energy of ‘Blood on Me’, to the straight ballad of ‘No One Knows Me (Like the Piano)’, to the powerful drop in ‘Reverse Faults’, there’s signs of how eclectic and significant Sampha is. His heavenly voice is the powerful draw, but the production (mostly by himself) is what elevates this piece, as he challenges and surprises you with every track and every listen. He took the brake pads out the car. He flew. Sam Reid 

14. Thundercat

Fresh from winning a Grammy last year for his work on Kendrick Lamar’s ‘These Walls’ from To Pimp a Butterfly, Stephen Bruner, perhaps better known as Thundercat, has dazzled listeners of various genres this year with his latest LP. Of all the lyrics on Thundercat’s Drunk, perhaps one of the most memorable is ‘I feel weird – comb your beard, brush your teeth’. Few artists could pull a lyric like this off, and yet it sits perfectly among the tracklist of Bruner’s soulful and electric third album. It’s a noticeably different record for this year’s ‘best of’ lists, but it sits high on the lists of various publications regardless. Each second of this album is peppered with rhythm, and features several sparkling guest appearances from the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Pharrell. A jazz-fusion reflection of Thundercat’s mind and musical ability, the song names are almost as charming as the tracks themselves, with ‘Lava Lamp’ and ‘Jameel’s Space Ride’ among highlights; yet whimsical names aside, some of the album’s most cutting lyrics appear on these, with the latter calling out racism among US police officers. At twenty-three songs long, Drunk proves there are no limits to Bruner’s creativity on a genre-bending album overflowing with fresh instrumentals. Recently unveiled as BBC Radio 6 Music’s Album of the Year, it’s not surprising this record has hooked listeners this year with its smooth and experimental signature. Chloë Edwards

13. Moses Sumney

Moses Sumney’s compelling debut album is the culmination of several years of single and EP releases. Adopting elements of jazz and soul, Sumney combines more traditional instrumentation with synthesisers and
ambient sounds to create a powerfully atmospheric collection of songs, providing an effective setting for lyrical themes concerning love and loss. It is a well-paced album, striking a good balance between its sparse, reverberating textures and dense, percussion-heavy sections. As someone who has followed Sumney’s EPs and singles over the past few years, my only complaint is that the album sometimes relies too much on this past material to the point of sounding overly familiar at times, but for those who are new to his sound this won’t be a problem, and if doing this helps expand his audience past the relatively small following he currently has then that is all the better. Aromanticism is definitely worth repeated listens – Moses Sumney is an exciting new talent and it will be interesting to see how he develops his sound from this point onwards. James Turner  

12. Wiki
No Mountains in Manhattan

Wiki got his front teeth punched down his throat a couple years ago. It was probably the best thing that could have happened to him. With his cracked grin, Wiki’s image as New York’s resident dirtbag genius can’t get called into question. A lot’s happened since that fight, of course – his noisy rap trio Ratking became a duo, he featured on Earl Sweatshirt’s I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, and now he’s produced the best album to come out of NYC this year. By swerving away from the noisy bangers of 2014’s Ratking debut So It Goes and moving toward traditional grimy New York production, a lesser artist would have just cloned 90s boom bap. Wiki’s style is fresh enough to subvert the trappings of 90s rap, though – even on more traditional songs like ‘Made For This’, dripping in soul samples and Ghostface Killah features, he’s less likely to brag about moving coke and more likely to rap about metro cards and bodega food. No Mountains in Manhattan is a paean to New York as Wiki sees it – rough, grimy, but really the only place that feels like home. There might not be any mountains in Manhattan, but there sure are landmarks. Alex Brammer

11. Wolf Alice
      Visions of a Life

Wolf Alice have been one of the breakout UK bands of this decade, following the release of 2015’s My Love is Cool, which featured on numerous albums of the year lists. They also played a major set at Glastonbury, and the track ‘Silk’ also featured prominently in both the trailer for Trainspotting 2 and the eventual film. As a result of this, many had high expectations for their second release Visions of a Life‘Heavenward’ is a strong opener, adequately showing off Ellie Roswell’s strong vocals. Second track ‘Yuk Foo’ is a crazy song with plenty in common with grunge or post punk bands, and is reminiscent of Nirvana in places, being short but to the point and very rocky.  This can be contrasted with ‘Beautifully Unconventional’, a perhaps poppier song which sounds like it could have been released by a different band. However, this shows they have plenty of strings to their bow.  The album is strong from start to finish and shows Wolf Alice’s star is on the rise, and that in a few years they may well be one of the biggest stadium acts in the UK. Chris Connor 

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