Exeter, Devon UK • Jun 15, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Music Exeposé Music’s Best Albums of 2017: #40-31

Exeposé Music’s Best Albums of 2017: #40-31

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40. Migos Culture

Migos swaggered into 2017, riding high on the success of scorching, club banger “Bad and Boujee” branded “the best song ever” by Donald Glover. In January, the North Atlanta trap trio charted at number one on the US Billboard cementing their place at the heart of mainstream hip-hop. With production from Metro Boomin’ and Nard & B Culture is packed with fresh instrumentals created by the genre’s hottest beat makers. Quavo, Takeoff and Offset’s chemistry is truly unparalleled. Migos distinct triplet flow is layered seamlessly throughout the record, as trademark barked ad-libs fuse effortlessly with the trio’s tight vocal deliveries. “T-Shirt” is a delightfully savage trap anthem. Contemporary hip-hop’s premier hook crafter Quavo pulls no punches, targeting the appropriative “culture vultures” biting on the group’s flow. Migos may fail to transgress mainstream hip-hops problematic themes of drug abuse and materialism but this doesn’t stop Culture from overflowing with blistering beats, catchy hooks and nimble wordplay. Tom Murphy

 

39. King Krule The Ooz

Since his 2013 debut, 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, King Krule fans have been waiting with the patience of, well, a Frank Ocean fan. Aside from a few projects under other monikers – most of which were met with luke-warm critical reception – Archy Marshall has kept quiet under the King Krule name. 4 years later, we have The Ooz: a sprawling, jazzy foray into industrial, trip-hop-esque soundscapes that infect the listener like a virus. Opener, ‘Biscuit Town’ sets the tone, opening with a sinister Fender Rhodes that evolves into a lurking jam, with Marshall’s usually abrasive vocals taking on a softer timbre. Album highlight, ‘Dum Surfer’ evokes a grittier, post-punk sound, opening with a filthy bass tone that complements the hoarse, throaty vocals well. Lead single, ‘Czech One’ has the sensuality of a Portishead song, accompanied by a Lynchian music video that plays into Marshall’s narrative of “it’s all about the gunk”, as he claimed in a recent Pitchfork interview. The majesty of The Ooz is in its sheer grotesqueness. It’s been a while since I’ve heard an album this depressingly grim that doesn’t wear thin in the first few songs. A world away from the indie rock/hip-hop hybrid of 6 Feet, The Ooz is in a league of its own. George Stamp

38. Father John Misty Pure Comedy

“Oh great, that’s just what we all need, another white guy in 2017 who takes himself so goddamn seriously.” This isn’t my own criticism. Josh Tillman – the man behind the Father John Misty persona – sings it himself in Leaving LA. He says this through an impersonation Mara, a demon in Buddhist history, and later likens himself to the original Buddha. Despite the stereotypes, despite the mockery, Tillman still aims to enter into Nirvana. While I Love You, Honeybear was romantic, an exploration of self and affection, Tillman’s 2017 album is far more large-scale. The instrumentation itself is also huge, with numerous tracks building from a guitar-piano ballad to an epic, brass-band led finish. Not only is Pure Comedy 74 minutes long, but his lyrics have a larger scope: he places all of contemporary humanity under his cynical microscope, ready to humiliate and eviscerate. He doesn’t care if you hate him, because he knows he doesn’t matter, and he knows that you don’t matter either. This is Tillman at his most nihilistic. Ryan Allen

 

37. Declan McKenna What Do You Think About the Car?

Infectious, youthful melodies flirt with Declan McKenna’s mature writing on this impressive, remarkably consistent debut effort. Named after a whimsical conversation between McKenna and his sister from a home video, the album boasts buoyant indie-rock standouts (‘Isombard’, ‘The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home’) and slower, intimate indie ballads (‘Make Me Your Queen’, ‘Listen to Your Friends’). With influences ranging from Bowie to ABBA, McKenna journeys through genres and styles on this 11-song debut, and is clearly keen on proving the extent and range of his musical talents. His lyrical prowess shines most bright, flitting between cutting political analyses and far more personal vignettes. You’ll reeled in by the lively riffs, but it’s the surprisingly serious, painful lyrics that steer the album to its success. This delicate balancing act feels most finely tuned on ‘Why Do You Feel So Down’, a track that shrewdly studies modern dealings with mental health underneath ironically bouncy, jangly instrumentals. At just 18, Declan McKenna has proven that he’s far beyond his years – he has the exceptional ability to churn out catchy crowd-pleasers that possess actual substance and individuality. Ultimately, the contextual significance of the album title is a marker for what this record is about: beyond the gallery of socio-politically driven lyrics and sentiments, it’s an album that feels deeply personal. Even after McKenna inevitably produces further impressive work, What Do You Think About the Car’s significance and relevance will not waver. Ben Faulkner

36. Slowdive Slowdive

Slowdive is the fourth album from the Reading-based band Slowdive, and their first record since their reunion in 2014. After a 22-year gap, one would expect a fairly lengthy album, but Slowdive’s tracklist is surprisingly short at eight tracks long. Bookending the album are more extended songs – ‘Slomo’ is contemplative in tone and sweet in sentiment, while piano-driven ‘Falling Ashes’ is moody and intense, bringing a sombre ending to the record. The balance of the sound is unexpected in that the vocals are much quieter than is traditional, meaning that sometimes the lyrics are difficult to distinguish (for example in the chorus of ‘Don’t Know Why’), but in some ways, it’s an effect that adds to its overall dreamy atmosphere. The sharing of the vocals between Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead is very fluid and results in an album that feels very consistent, as well as being at a consistently high quality. Being eponymous, it’s difficult to avoid the assumption that Slowdive is meant to establish the new direction of the band, and it seems like fans are going to be very happy with where they’re heading. Maddy Parker

35. Elbow Little Fictions

This year has been stellar for Elbow. As well as achieving their second number one album with Little Fictions, their rendition of the Beatles’ ‘Golden Slumbers’, made for the John Lewis Christmas advert, is in the running for 2017’s Christmas number one. Little Fictions diverts from the band’s sublime 2014 effort The Take Off and Landing of Everything with a more upbeat tempo on a few of the tracks, such as lead singles ‘Magnificent (She Says)’ and ‘Gentle Storm’.  ‘All Disco’, inspired by Black Francis from Pixies, is for me one of the most beautiful songs Elbow have recorded; up there with tracks such as ‘My Sad Captains’, it highlights the strength of Guy Garvey’s melodic vocals. The album is lyrically inspired by Garvey’s recent marriage and this carries strongly throughout the record.  The reworking of ‘Kindling’ with John Grant is as beautiful as one would expect and shows the diversity of Elbow’s catalogue. While there isn’t a ‘Grounds for Divorce’, ‘One Day Like This’ or ‘Open Arms’ on the record, however Elbow have shown they can continue to deliver quality records. Chris Connor

 

34. Public Service Broadcasting Every Valley

Public Service Broadcasting’s third album, after having worked on the race for space and the first expedition to Mount Everest, focuses on Welsh mining communities, using a mix of archival and new recordings to create a curious blend between history and music. The album uses contributions by a variety of artists – James Dean Bradfield, the frontman of Manic Street Preachers, sings a rendition of Idris Davies’ poem ‘Gwalia Deserta’ on ‘Turn No More’; Lisa Jên Brown sings the only Welsh-language lyrics of the album on ‘You + Me’. While the band’s research shows in their use of a variety of texts, the album feels maybe too much like Kraftwerk for my personal taste in the first part, but its last three songs pull together a certain poignancy as it transitions to three much more emotional final songs, pulling together a less historical and more nostalgic image of the Welsh coal industry.
It seems unclear whether Public Service Broadcasting realise that these are not simply historical events, and that they still affect Welsh communities today – but for some boys from London, they make a valiant effort. Megan Davies

 

33. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard Flying Microtonal Banana

Flying Microtonal Banana is, much like its name, an album full of intrigue. The first of four albums this year released by Australian psychedelic rock outfit King Gizzard and Lizard Wizard, FMB engages in microtonal tuning. For this King Gizz played custom guitars that doubled the number of available playing notes and result in tracks that resemble traditional Eastern music, both tonally and rhythmically, with guitars frequently oscillating in pitch. Such microtonality is inherent to Middle Eastern music and yet the band still delivers an album that is accessible to all. But the outfit don’t stop there in drawing on such influences. The sound of a zurna, a trumpet found in traditional music from Central Eurasian countries pierces multiple tracks to great effect. In all, the results of such experimentation are nine long and meandering tracks that mesmerise the listener. Despite such lengthy wanderings, the tracks never feel boring thanks to the vibrancy of the guitars and the frantic and powerful drums. The vocal performance is equally strong here with Stu Mackenzie’s sometimes relaxed and easy singing providing a perfect counterbalance to the more aggressive backing. Not just an intriguing name, Flying Microtonal Banana delivers 41 minutes of captivating psychedelia from one of the most interesting bands of recent years and proves King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard still have the ability to surprise. James Angove

 

32. Kelela Take Me Apart

Sometimes, urgent new artists explode onto the scene in a flash of technicolour, before immediately vanishing into bargain bin anonymity. Occasionally, the climb is more gradual. After releasing a stunning EP and harmonising with voices as singular as Solange and Damon Albarn, Take Me Apart finally puts Kelela where she always deserved to be; in touching distance of superstardom. It was a debut five years in the making, and each of the fourteen songs thrum with the seductive vim of a born storyteller. On LMK, industrial beats punctuate a delightful lyric about hesitant lovers, so plainspoken that you wonder whether Kelela sampled it from chatter in her local. There’s a remarkable emotional realism here, and not just in her candid vocal, which dives and skyrockets with the elasticity of early Bjork. Gorgeous RnB ballad Enough sees Kelela assuring an ex that their split had nothing to do with betrayal; it just wasn’t working. Great pop and thoughtful explorations of adult relationships aren’t natural bedfellows, but the match is seamless. And then there are the tunes, intersectional blends of electronica, trip and rich jazz phrasing. In a year defined by division, Kelela made unity seem like the most natural thing in the world. We are lucky to have her. Aaron Loose

31. (Sandy) Alex G Rocket

In recent years, Alex G has evolved from a lo-fi cult figure to an eclectic musical mind worthy of the attention of artists such as Frank Ocean. His latest album, Rocket, is a shining example of Alex’s ambition, maintaining his simplistic laptop-recording approach while branching out into interesting sonic territories. He wears his Frank Ocean influence on his sleeve in tracks such as ‘Sportstar’, referencing “Nikes” and singing with a wistful, pitched-up autotuned vocal, while showcasing a more aggressive streak with the intense and industrial, ‘Brick’. Personally, I think the album shines at its softer, folkier moments. Alex has a knack for heart-felt acoustic ballads such as ‘Bobby’ and ‘Powerful Man’, two tracks I feel encapsulate the tone of the album overall. The opener, ‘Poison Root’ is a strange, noisy, Velvet Underground-inspired Folk song with cacophonous violins and layered acoustic guitars creating a near wall-of-sound effect. ‘Witch’ continues the mystical-woodland vibe of ‘Poison Root’ with a strange, harpsichord-driven chord progression. Psychedelia is rooted into the heart of the album, with trippy soundscapes and instrumentals around every corner. Not only is the production both unique and diverse, Alex’s songwriting is far more experimental than his previous work. Though not always watertight in terms of structure, the sheer ambition of these songs is commendable in and of itself. Regardless, Rocket makes for an intriguing and satisfying listen. George Stamp

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