VH 2017: ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

It’s no easy task to condense a whole years worth of quality records into such a small list. It’s even harder when you consider the amount of love VH has for an eclectic range of genres. The truth is if we were all about metal we would have slapped the #1 tag on Brutus months ago (or Glassjaw if they hadn’t so inconveniently decided to release their new album 3 weeks out from the end of the year). However, there’s a lot of love to go around a wide range of music, so our top 10 really managed to do something special.

Within there are two debut albums, and a handful of sophomore efforts, some triumphant returns, and a few that turned out exactly how we expected…

10. AFI – AFI (The Blood Album)

AFI have transitioned comfortably from goth punk outfit into stadium filling rock band. Davey Havock’s voice sounds as sweepingly tortured as it ever had. There are few performers who manage to tread the line between insecurity and bravado with such ease. Some complained The Blood Album went to heavy in on the electronics – certainly opener ‘Dark Snow’ is synth heavy, but when a band as accomplished as this is using them why not?

‘White Offerings’, ‘Hidden Knives’ and ‘She Speaks the Language’ are as grand as anything on ‘Sing For Sorrow’, while ‘Dumb Kids’ allows them to exercise their old thrash muscles. The Blood Red Album works as both a tie in to the band’s heritage and is musically forward facing. Featuring some of their most memorable lyrics and music in several years it’s a strong addition to the catalogue and a great entry point for new fans ~ Michael Dickinson

9. WHY? – Moh Lhean

Not only do we find Yoni Wolf back in the comforts of a home studio, we find him with a newly found sense of acceptance. Gone is the open ‘door therapy session’ feel of albums like Alopicia (2008) and Mumps, etc. (2012), instead Yoni is exploring and expressing more worldly thoughts. It’s definitely bought a calm to proceedings.

However, despite the lack of heart racing, indie/hip-hop hybrid musings, there is still plenty to be excited about; there simply isn’t a weak moment to be found. Yoni and brother Josiah, work from an autumnal musical pallet that benefits from being recorded in their homely surroundings. Tracks like ‘This Ole King’, ‘Easy’, and ‘George Washington’, roll along with warm, pop precision, while in ‘One Mississippi’ and ‘The Barely Blur’ we get two of the greatest songs the band have ever written. ~ Dan Withey

8. Björk – Utopia

On her latest album, Björk strives for a sense of utopia after particularly heart breaking time in her life. With production help from Arca she finds a lightness missing from her pervious release along with a new sense of love and loving for the world around her. Flutes, harps and even bird noises soundtrack these lovely songs and highlight just how close nature has always been to Björk’s music.

Since the dawn of man this attempt to find a ‘utopia’ has been at the forefront of our minds and actions. But, rather smartly, Björk knows that finding a solution for everyone is impossible. She’s just happy digging in that cave of hers striving to find the light to a new world.

This is a gorgeous album that finds Björk healing, and in turn inviting the audience to come along with her as she does. ~ Jacob Doolin

7. Wolf Alice – Visions of a Life

One of the most anticipated albums of the year certainly did not disappoint.

First came ‘Yuk Foo’, a fiery rage that provided an appropriately rude awakening, only to be followed by the sweet haze of next release ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’. There really was no telling what direction this album was going in. This lack of order is all part of the charm. It is all about the unexpected, elegance entwined with chaos as bliss reels into fury and all the way back again.

Visions of a Life is remarkable in its wild essence, an exciting journey with unknown treasures around every corner. Wolf Alice have gone on to prove themselves beyond belief with their unshakable nerve in this delightfully articulate album. Visions of a Life is graceful; it is the coolest kid in town, but also a humble beauty; it is everything. ~ Samantha Mae

6. Converge – The Dusk In Us

When it comes to Jacob Bannon, Kurt Balou, Nate Newton and Ben Koller – the collective better known as Converge – they rarely put a foot wrong when it comes to what they produce in the studio. So, when new record The Dusk In Us dropped in November, the anticipation was already through the roof – but oh did it deliver.

As well as being hardcore pioneers, Converge have never been scared to dabble into different realms of their music and test the waters elsewhere. And once again the four-piece show no fear in experimenting with their sound, and expanding on those jilted rhythms, broken drum patterns and a unique under layer of guitars, even on full-length number eight. ~ Tim Birkbeck

5. Creeper – Eternity, In Your Arms

This record was a total smash. The songs form a perfect roller coaster ride of emotions beginning with ‘Black Rain’, a song with the fast, throbbing verses and slow, giant choruses execute with My Chemical Romance like perfection.

Other highlights include the contagious ‘Hiding With Boys’, the nostalgic punkiness of ‘Down Below’, and the heart-wrenching emotions of ‘Misery’ and ‘I Choose To Live’.

The standout track on the record has to be ‘Suzanne’ with its Jim Steinman influences and glam-rock swagger. Evoking both Meatloaf and Elton John, this song is a perfect example of the flamboyant diversity this exciting band are capable of. Creeper are exactly what we need right now; a theatrical band entirely unafraid to push boundaries and to be themselves and since a certain beloved band split up in 2013 there has been an empty space just waiting for a band like Creeper to come along and fill the gap. ~ Rai Jayne Hearse

4. Algiers – The Underside of Power

The Underside of Power might just be the most powerful and important album you’ll hear all year.

It’s no over exaggeration to say there are few albums that can come close to matching the ferocity and pointed rage of an album that is heavy with the weight of revolutionary struggle and anti-colonialism. Tracks like ‘Walk Like a Panther’, ‘Cry of the Martyrs’ and the title track, ‘The Underside of Power’ are rally cries; carrying a rage that is inexplicably missing from most of what 2017 had to offer.

This is a defiant album of ‘finger pointing’ – drawing attention to the systemic racial atrocities woven through the history of America. But don’t just assume it’s all about looking back – this is an album for the here and now. If the last 12 months have shown us anything it’s that sometimes the wrongs of the past don’t always communicate themselves to the present. This is something Algiers is trying to put right. ~ Dan Withey

3. Brutus – Burst

Belgian trio Brutus are the punk band you never knew you needed in your life. As far as debut albums go, Burst is unapologetically unrestrained as the name aptly sums up this concentrated sonic energy ball pretty god damned well.

We use the term punk in its purest form here, because there’s simply nothing that resembles a singular influence that defines Brutus justly or 100% accurately. A furious ‘fuck you’ mash-up of hardcore, black metal, post-rock and an insanely heavy dollop of pure, unrestrained rawness that would send Gordon Ramsey into a donkey dick of a rage.

You simply cannot deny their biting conviction, nor their stomping boot mark they’ve indented on the underground. Brutus will have you screaming, flailing, and if you’re like me, tearing-up with blissful joy. Burst is both parts chaotic beast and vulnerable beauty. Their sound should be celebrated as much as their importance should be embraced. ~ Hywel Davies

2. Julien Baker – Turn Out The Lights

Julien Baker has a way of constructing songs that hit you right in the gut. Turn Out The Lights arrived with more of that emotional lyrical punch and haunting guitar work that made her debut, 2015’s Sprained Ankle, such a special piece of work.

We get a full spectrum of a relationship breakdown here. From the initial hurt, to the feeling you’ll never completely understand what’s going on. Tracks like ‘Sour Breath’, ‘Everything To Help You Sleep’ and ‘Shadowboxing’ all give you a realistic viewpoint on suffering. Yet despite the hurt, Baker does allow a light to shine through, even if it’s just a little bit.

Emotive, hopeful and honest, Baker can easily hold her head high walking into 2018 safe in the knowledge she made one of the best musical contributions 2017 had to offer. ~ Tim Stockwell

1. The Horrors – V

Ah, V. The album to tell all critics of previous release, Luminous where to shove it. The Horrors have made a huge return with their fifth album, teasing us not only from start to finish, but over and over again within each track. This year has served us well for excellent music, but no album has stood out as much as V, with all its stand alone tracks and fluid movement, it is quite simply THE album.

From the moment it starts with the synth meets industrial ‘Hologram’, V soars into a supersonic realm of glory, all while the lyrics whirl us into existential crisis, seriously, “are we hologram?” From here we get classic Horrors sounds awash a far more polished production than we’ve ever seen from the band.

V is superbly poetic, but the big seller is this exquisite production. Every sound is significant; there is absolutely no waste. Previous albums have comparatively been a blur of excellence (and we really have loved every moment), but this is the clear-cut precision we never realised we’ve been waiting for.

One moment we are in a flow of gentle rock n roll, the next we’re thrusted into an unsettling bridge, all the away across to a dynamic throw into delightful turmoil; and that’s just in one track. The album as a whole takes us everywhere, a strong industrial tone ever present, just every now and then plunging into gothic sensuality and charming synth pop.

‘Point Of No Reply’ is a particularly masterful contrast of sombre tones overcast with pop. It really is astounding how one track can be so multifaceted; from mystical sounds and soothing strings, to throbbing with club vibes. Overall an ethereal piece, but there is so much to be found underneath.

A particular favourite is ‘Ghost’. Opening with a sense of vulnerability, and filled to the brim with emotion through the strain of guitar. A somehow romantic take on industrial; vocals as deep whispers, propelling into an ecstatic synth display towards an electrifying second half.

Later in the album we are treated with a lick of psychedelia, as well as pop and grunge, rock and rolled into something fantastically delectable. Closing track ‘Something To Remember Me By’ is a poignant message to all the critics. It is as pop as The Horrors go, ending the album in wonderfully high spirits. V is truly unforgettable, album of the year and then some. ~ Samantha Mae

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More end of year lists, here: TV, Film, Music.