Live4ever’s Best Of 2017: The Albums

Live4ever EOY Album 2017

Live4ever’s 2017 retrospective concludes today with the Albums, with the ‘warmth, joy and emotion’ of The Barr Brothers, Prisoner’s ‘raw earthy, almost live feel’, ‘one of Britain’s most articulate, dexterous bands’, Lotta Sea Lice – ‘an album made of a genuine friendship’, and much more included in this year’s rundown.

Season’s greetings to all our readers, and the very best for 2018!

The Moral Crossing

20: Autobahn – The Moral Crossing

“As its title suggests, The Moral Crossing is about choices and consequence; the six-minutes-plus of the title-track featuring the lines, “The will of every man/Who dies by the sword”, whilst Johnson’s reverb soaked voice is full of melodrama and sanctity, a man given up to proclamations over cascading, relentless drum fills and a bleakly epic backdrop. Whether he’s deliberately attempting to sound like Sisters frontman Andrew Eldritch is up to debate, but the similarity is there…Far from isolating people, Autobahn’s mission paradoxically is to indirectly bring joy.”

Home Counties

19: Saint Etienne – Home Counties

“The main course is unquestionably Sweet Arcadia, a love song to the prefab dormitory towns that sprang up around post-World War II London, concrete friezes where Wiggs and Stanley would frustratedly adolesce…its lush cinematics score near eight minutes during which she and they channel their very essence, at once longing and belonging, hopeless romantics full of boundless cynicism. The centrepiece of a record which defies easy categorisation, St. Etienne have again made yesterday’s music for tomorrow, a sound that on this evidence is here for a good time.”

Swansea To Hornsey

18: Trampolene – Swansea To Hornsey

Trampolene are seemingly looking at the point when life’s tragedies and victories meet. It seems to dominate the record, and nowhere is that better summed up than on Artwork Of Youth, a potent reminder of why music is so important not only for the audience but for the musicians themselves. And this theme echoes throughout the record. Whether Jack Jones is tearing into something or reflecting on something, it’s invariably the grey areas that form most peoples lives and what makes this record so fascinating.”

Mark Lanegan Gargoyle

17: Mark Lanegan Band – Gargoyle

“The slightly by the numbers feel might be down to work with long time co-producer Alain Johannes or a recording process which took less than a month to wrap up, but either way, there’s a pervading sense of a songwriter trying to bolt some disparate ideas together whilst simultaneously honouring his roots. This halfway house makes for some utterly fascinating threads, especially the shoegazey-esque indie chirp of Beehive, the mildly psychedelic tones of First Day of Winter and the amen breaking intro to the otherwise melancholic Drunk On Destruction.”

Pure Comedy

16: Father John Misty – Pure Comedy

“Depending on your perspective, you’ll be either offended or enthralled, or perhaps both. At times the thick sheen of irony is impossible to wipe off; the sparkling waltz of The Memo is a lyrical cautionary tale about how much of a prisoner we are, in hock to our phony belief systems until a stranger on the internet calls in the debt: ‘Cameras to record you and mirrors to recognise/And as the world is getting smaller, small things take up all your time/Narcissus would’ve had a field day if he could’ve got online’.”

American Dream

15: LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

“Overall, American Dream is a compelling album on so many levels, one that manages to send a boundary-pushing band over the edge. And somehow instead of recording an un-listenable ambient, noisy mess like a post-dance generation equivalent to Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, you get something very different, something feels more like Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here; it takes the band’s sound and former success to a new level by challenging what they did previously, yet without ever losing sight of the songs.”

Prisoner

14: Ryan Adams – Prisoner

“The standout moment must go to album opener Do You Still Love Me?. It’s highly charged and electrifying, almost uncomfortable so. Like being stood in the middle of a personal argument and not knowing what to say. Its fractious pounding rhythm paints a picture of real passion and loss. Throughout, Prisoner has a raw earthy, almost live feel, never feeling over-produced. Track by track you fall deeper under its spell and with each listen it becomes more compelling, more fascinating and more beguiling.”

Visions Of A Life

13: Wolf Alice – Visions Of A Life

“Whilst most artists treat politics like kryptonite to avoid alienating factions, Wolf Alice openly have a lot on their mind…It’s becoming worryingly traditional to mock their generation as emotionally hollowed out, virtue signaling caricatures whose sincerity only extends to a fashionable pick and mix of identity politics. For Wolf Alice, Visions Of A Life is ample proof that they have no case to answer there. Now one of Britain’s most articulate, dexterous bands, ferocious and tender, their pack is coming for us.”

Death Song

12: The Black Angels – Death Song

“There’s also a need to consider the closer, Life Song… Tonally, it takes Young Men Dead’s epic, Ennio Morricone-esque style to a new extreme. It’s immense, beautiful and complete with a solo Gilmour would be proud of. Scale is what defines Death Song. The Black Angels have taken what they know, and instead of retreading or refining it, they’ve instead decided to launch it into space. Everything is dialled up; the power, the terror, the riffs, the attitude and more. It takes guts, but more than that, to get an album that sounds this good, it takes brilliance. Death Song is dripping in both.”

Strange Hymns

11: Neon Waltz – Strange Hymns

“Fans of the new might point to Strange Hymns’ catch all, rear view aesthetic and make some noises about it being either too clever or not intelligent enough, but Shearer and co. are best when they care less…the self prescribed pandemic of the soul on Heavy Heartless is a doubtless unnecessary key change away from thunder. A long way away from us, on Strange Hymns Neon Waltz prove that distance and time are both relative. Young enough to know better and with taste makers far down the road, prepare to hear exactly what they want you to hear.”

Crack Up

10: Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up

“It’s the sort of closure which long time fans may find uncomfortable, but Crack-Up after all is both Pecknold’s redemption and purgatory. Some of this anguish is expurgated in the rebuilding of his relationship with Skjelset, a process dealt with on the rolling Third of May/Odaigahara, but the willo-the-wisp subject of Fools Errand remains elusive; ‘Blind love couldn’t win/As all the facts came in/But I know I’ll chase again after wind/What have I got if not a thought?’. Is resolution, knotting of all these threads, possible? The titular ending suggests the possibility.”

Popular Music

9: LIFE – Popular Music

“The title-track is just intensity, bottled and shaken aggressively. Each song is a short, bloody, violent burst of brilliance. Popular Music is the very essence of function over form when it comes to punk rock. Everything hangs off the brilliance of the music, from the excitement to the don’t-give-a-f*** attitude. And that’s what makes it such a great album: because everything is as good as it should be. Popular Music is no hollow threat or empty promise, it’s a simple and brutal statement. And LIFE have delivered on this promise in a powerful way.”

The Nothing

8: The Last Dinosaur – The Nothing

“This tenderness and uncertainty gives us sound without ego, Cameron’s voice barely above a whisper on opener Atoms (which starts with the words “When I die..”), the funeral parlour strings and apologetic strum locked in a condolent hush. It also leads to a conscious duality, a state of mind where the boundaries between dark and light are porous; on The Sea an eerie calm settles, the shadows long, whilst We’ll Greet Death with arcing piano and soulful multi tracked voices is almost euphoric, the strangest of affirmations wrapped in godless, pioneer naivety.”

Relatives In Descent

7: Protomaryr – Relatives In Descent

“The real kernel here is in a trio at Relatives In Descent’s driving core…Up The Tower pounds like revolutionary doctrine, drip drip dripping into the collective psyche. The whole motion is carried through by probably the most orthodox episode, as Don’t Go To Anacita spits and snarls, thrilling and hair pulling as the quartet have ever been, its cautionary tale of technology blindly emancipating some people whilst having no conscience about the livelihoods of others signposting the desolation suffered by many…”

Semper Femina

6: Laura Marling – Semper Femina

“The complexity of ideas on this record, in terms of individuality and artistic expression, are relatable on both sides of the ‘gender fence’. Marling adeptly navigates these subjects with compelling beauty and significance, with the album acting less like a clarion call to female uprising and more a stark and composed analysis of what it means to be truly individual. In a world which currently wants to build more fences both physically and metaphorically as opposed to breaking them down, this is something for which Marling must surely be applauded.”

Adios Senor Pussycat

5: Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band – Adiós Señor Pussycat

“There’s a difference between having the creative freedom to do what you want and producing something that appeals to the world outside of your circle. A long suffering victim of bad luck, bad timing and the short termism of the music industry, Michael Head remains largely a cult concern whether or not we or he likes it. Adiós Señor Pussycat is bold and kind enough to mean, however, that finally his story can be balanced with the future as opposed to a more chaotic past, a direction which as long as the sun is shining on his face, the veteran seems content enough to head towards.”

Lotta Sea Lice

4: Kurt Vile & Courtney Barnett – Lotta Sea Lice

“The cozy familiarity and history of platonic friendship is a topic that often gets regulated to a second-tier trope in songwriting – not necessarily in a lyrical sense, but in genuine feeling. Lotta Sea Lice feels like an album made of a genuine friendship: lyrically the idea of friendship pervades over the course of the album, but what’s more notable and unique is the ardor for friendship the radiates throughout. There’s laughs before tracks start and there’s an all-star cast of friends and lovers playing on it, giving the record an unspoiled, cathartic zeal.”

The Endless Shimmering

3: And So I Watch You From Afar – The Endless Shimmering

“Given the foursome’s commitment to brevity otherwise, it’s the longest excursions here which somehow make for the most satisfying, both leaps that breathe with a fully realised punch and subtlety. I’ll Share A Life is the upbeat, more virtuous of the two, a story with discernible passages, but the centrepiece here is the seven-minutes-plus of Dying Giants, an odyssey which escapes any notion of math-rock gestalt by soaring into the kind of glorious ambience that takes ASIWYFA‘s kindling and turns it into something capable of illuminating the sky for miles.”

A Deeper Understanding

2: The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

“In a sense, A Deeper Understanding is all about relationships – ours with each other, Americans with their own identity, the fractious present with a misrepresented past – so when on Knocked Down the listener hears, “far away there is a star/Raining through the night sky like a drop/Give ’em all a piece of the moon for me”, maybe it’s a call for the human race to seek enlightenment elsewhere. If such a journey is required, The War On Drugs’ fourth album could be its soundtrack. This is an American band making America great again in the truest sense of the phrase.”

Brutalism

1: Idles – Brutalism

“Its humour is often the blackest (and therefore the best). On the scabrous reel of Exeter, the Devonshire town’s cultural abyss is dissected viscerally, from the man who “punched himself in the face to prove he isn’t gay”, to the half a dozen Begbie clones who congregate in pubs on the off chance of self instigated violence. Not much of the things we cling on to are safe here, whether it’s the delusion of organised religion and fatalism (Faith In The City) or the risible locked in syndrome of the consumer on the frenetic opener Heel Heal.”

Live4ever’s Best Of 2017 Series:
The Videos
The Tracks
The Albums

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