20 Mini Album Reviews to Round Up 2017

2017 is nearly coming to an end, and there’s still so many albums left to review. So many in fact, that here Indiecisive is trying a brand new format – the mini review. In one paragraph each, here’s my thoughts on 20 albums released in the latter months of 2017, in alphabetical order by artist. Let’s go.

Alvvays – Antisocialites 

After the critical acclaim and distinctive style of their debut album, Alvvays were prime candidates to suffer from the ‘difficult second album’. Lucky for us, they didn’t. Antisocialites takes the band’s sound and somehow makes it even dreamier than before with some beautiful synths. It’s not all synthpop though – ‘Antisocialites’ contains some of the rockiest tracks the band have recorded, but even through all this variation it’s still undeniably Alvvays, and anyone in need of a fun, nostalgia-soaked album need look no further.

Top Pick: ‘Lollipop (Ode to Jim)’

Other Highlights: ‘In Undertow’, ‘Not My Baby’, ‘Saved By a Waif’

8/10

The Barr Brothers – Queens of the Breakers

Despite forming over a decade ago and releasing three albums, word of The Barr Brothers doesn’t seem to have quite reached the UK yet, and that’s a great shame. Blending bluesy folk with a big, reverb-soaked sound, ‘Queens of the Breakers’ is a truly fantastic listening experience and fans of My Morning Jacket or The War On Drugs will definitely find something to love here.

Top Pick: ‘Kompromat’

Other Highlights: ‘Look Before It Changes’, ‘You Would Have To Lose Your Mind’

8.5/10

Björk – Utopia

On ‘Utopia’, Björk has teamed up with Arca to create a collection of abstract woodwind/voice-based soundscapes which make, as Björk albums often do, a truly dizzying listening experience. At times it feels a little too avant-garde and uncomfortable, but efforts to enter into Björk’s headspace here are well rewarded and you can feel her personal attachment to the lyrics in her highly emotive delivery which commands the full attention of the listener.

Top Pick: ‘Losss’

Other Highlights: ‘Sue Me’, ‘Utopia’

7/10

Four Tet – New Energy

This album feels like a coming together of everything that makes Four Tet so acclaimed – his organic approach to electronic music shines here, and while there isn’t that much cohesion to the album, that’s part of its charm. There’s everything from dancey, ravey tracks like ‘SW9 9SL’ to far more chilled out pieces echoing his earlier album ‘Morning / Evening’ such as ‘Daughter’. If you’ve never listened to much electronic music before, this might be a decent place to start.

Top Pick: ‘Daughter’

Other Highlights: ‘LA Trance’, ‘Lush’, ‘Two Thousand And Seventeen’

7.5/10

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Luciferian Towers

An album of surprisingly hopeful music from Canada’s Godspeed You! Black Emperor, though naturally even ‘hopeful’ sounds like the end of society as we know it when it comes to this band. While it isn’t as cohesive overall as 2015’s ‘Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress’, the four pieces presented on ‘Luciferian Towers’ feel more refined, and each instrument feels more like it has its place in the mix (with the bass being a particular highlight throughout). As there’s only four tracks, picking multiple highlights seems absurd, but I highly recommend giving this whole album a listen.

Top Pick: ‘Bosses Hang’

8/10

The Horrors – V

The Horrors are back with a blend of everything from shoegaze to industrial on ‘V’ and they may well have crafted their best, most varied and most accessible album yet all at once. Faris Badwan sounds more like an indie Jim Morrison than he ever has on ‘Press Enter to Exit’, and his crooning vocals make this album dream-like in places. Though it isn’t a perfect collection, ‘V’ shows a surprising versatility to The Horrors and presents the best of every facet of the band.

Top Pick: ‘Something to Remember Me By’

Other Highlights: ‘Machine’, ‘Press Enter to Exit’

8/10

The Killers – Wonderful Wonderful

The Killers return with their fifth album ‘Wonderful Wonderful’, and while it polishes and improves that Americana-echoing Killers sound we heard on ‘Battle Born’ (and adds a bit of a disco flair and a pinch of 90’s U2 in places), it feels a little like the band are caught between the indie rock of their past and a yearn to try something new and subtle. Despite the confusion on the direction they want to go in on ‘Wonderful Wonderful’, the lyrics throughout are some of the most personal that Brandon Flowers has ever written, and there’s no doubt that he’s still a fantastic vocalist and frontman. Sadly though, this is no ‘Hot Fuss’ when it comes to consistency.

Top Pick: ‘Life To Come’

Other Highlights: ‘Some Kind of Love’, ‘Tyson vs Douglas’

6.5/10

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Polygondwanaland

With their fourth album of the year, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard create dizzying psych soundscapes that blur the lines between time signatures effortlessly. Despite how prolific the band have been in 2017 (this is their fourth release of the year of an expected five), this album feels like a polished masterwork and is probably shadowed only by 2016’s ‘Nonagon Infinity’ when it comes to quality and cohesiveness in the band’s back cataogue – the effortless flow from track to track here is brilliant, and the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts, though 10 minute epic ‘Crumbling Castle’ is a highlight of its own. Bring on album five.

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Top Pick: ‘Crumbling Castle’

Other Highlights: ‘Loyalty’, ‘Polygondwanaland’

8/10

Liam Gallagher – As You Were

Liam’s first ‘true’ solo effort since the breakup of Oasis takes the very best of the band’s sound on their final album ‘Dig Out Your Soul’ and brings it into 2017, and while this album fails to capture a lot of the excitement and youthful confidence of Oasis’ work, it’s likely one of the better solo albums released by either of the Gallagher brothers. It sounds a little too clean at times and could do with roughening up around the edges, but this should satisfy any Oasis cravings for a few more years.

Top Pick: ‘For What It’s Worth’

Other Highlights: ‘Paper Crown’, ‘Wall of Glass’

6/10

Mynth – Parallels

Austrian synthpop band Mynth remain surprisingly undiscovered overseas after the release of their second album ‘Parallels’, which uses swelling synthesisers and vocal sampling wonderfully throughout. Fans of any of the big indie synthpop bands should find something to enjoy here, and while this isn’t the most original album of the year, the potential shown by Mynth here gives some serious hope for the future of the band.

Top Pick: ‘Release’

Other Highlights: ‘Mirrors’, ‘Smog’

6/10

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built The Moon?

As much as Noel Gallagher has become a bit of a national treasure along with his brother, this new album from his High Flying Birds sadly doesn’t quite hit the mark. There’s the bones of many good Noel Gallagher songs here, but they’re thinly spread and distressingly sanitised. Though the brushes with psychedelia and glam rock are a nice addition, it feels at times like Noel is trying to be someone he isn’t on ‘Who Built The Moon?’ and while Liam’s ‘As You Were’ is definitely superior, one gets the feeling that they’d be better off writing together again to balance each other out.

Top Pick: ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’

Other Highlights: ‘Interlude (Wednesday Part 1)’, ‘She Taught Me How To Fly’

5/10

Nothing But Thieves – Broken Machine

Landing somewhere between pop, hard rock and alternative, Nothing But Thieves have something that could appeal to fans of just about any genre. In an era where there are so few new rock bands doing anything of note, ‘Broken Machine’ is an astonishingly strong sophomore album that is truly addictive, and for once not only are the riffs killer, but Conor Mason’s vocals are perhaps some of the most versatile and powerful of any rock band on the UK scene.

8/10

Top Pick: ‘Broken Machine’

Other Highlights: ‘Soda’, ‘Sorry’

Robert Plant – Carry Fire

On his eleventh solo album, Robert Plant has created something wonderful. At the ripe age of 69, he’s likely one of the few rock giants left not only releasing material, but material of such high quality. Echoing some of Led Zeppelin’s folkier numbers, ‘Carry Fire’ as an album is somehow simultaneously traditional and experimental, understated and epic, and it even slips into something distinctly more modern and unusual on ‘Keep It Hid’ and ‘Bluebirds Over the Mountain’.

Top Pick: ‘Carving Up The World Again’

Other Highlights: ‘A Way With Words’, ‘Keep It Hid’

8.5/10

Sparks – Hippopotamus 

Their first traditional album in nigh-on a decade, Sparks return refreshed and just as witty as they ever were. The years between albums appear to have been spent reflecting on their back catalogue, because there’s a little bit of everything from Sparks’ past here, as well as a couple of new twists to show that even after 45 years in the business, the Mael brothers aren’t slowing down. An absolute must for Sparks fans, this will go down a classic entry in the band’s vast discography.

Top Pick: ‘Scandinavian Design’

Other Highlights: ‘Edith Piaf (Said it Better Than Me)’, ‘So Tell Me Mrs. Lincoln Aside From That How Was the Play’

7.5/10

St. VincentMasseduction

While the style of ‘Masseduction’ feels like a logical continuation of her previous, self-titled album, the balance between synthetic sounds and emotional lyrics that made her last album so endearing hasn’t quite been struck here. When the balance is struck though, ‘Masseduction’ contains some of the best tracks Annie Clark has released yet, and the honesty and sexuality of her lyrics here make this feel like a very honest snapshot of her life over the last couple of years.

Top Pick: ‘Pills’

Other Highlights: ‘Hang On Me’, ‘Savior’, ‘Slow Disco’

7/10

Superfood – Bambino

On ‘Bambino’, Superfood are bouncing from the walls with unpredictability – you never quite know what they’re going to do next from track to track. It’s bouncy and carefree in a way that few albums are. The real highlights here often come from when the band dabble in sampling, such as on ‘Where’s The Bass Amp?’ and ‘Double Dutch’, which are both playful electro tracks a million miles away from the band’s sound on their debut album – this isn’t the second album anyone expected from Superfood, but it’s definitely one we can all enjoy.

Top Pick: ‘Need A Little Spider’

Other Highlights: ‘Double Dutch’

7/10

Taylor Swift – reputation

Taylor Swift returns after much anticipation with her sixth full-length album ‘reputation’, which is perhaps her most daring and varied yet. While some tracks feel a little like they’re trying to hard to pander to the charts, Taylor is finally foraying into electropop on ‘reputation’, and it suits her voice fantastically, be it on the bold, fun ‘Gorgeous’, the Lorde-channeling ‘Call It What You Want’ or the stunning ‘King of My Heart’ which features some Imogen Heap-esque vocoder that juxtaposes Taylor’s emotive vocals perfectly. As always with Taylor, you can expect some masterfully written pop songs on ‘reputation’, even if it feels a little overproduced at times.

Top Pick:King of My Heart’

Other Highlights: ‘Call It What You Want’, ‘Dress’, ‘New Year’s Day’

6/10

U2 – Songs of Experience

While there’s very little to technically dislike about ‘Songs of Experience’, it feels far, far safer than the album’s 2014 counterpart ‘Songs of Innocence’, and one can’t help but wonder if it ended up becoming a little overcooked after all its delays. There’s flashes of U2 magic throughout, and even some truly beautiful moments to be heard, but sadly a lot of this album feels like the band were trying to go with the flow rather than making the music they wanted to make.

Top Pick: ‘The Little Things That Give You Away’

Other Highlights: ‘The Blackout’, ‘Red Flag Day’

6.5/10

Wolf Alice – Visions of a Life

After the critical acclaim of their debut ‘My Love Is Cool’, Wolf Alice are one of the many bands tasked with the pressure of a second album in 2017, and they’ve pulled it off. They’ve managed to refine and mature their sound while maintaining that wonderful variance of style that we heard on their debut. Flirting with just about every genre from synthpop (‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’) to post-rock (‘Visions of a Life’), everything they touch seems to turn to gold here, and along with a huge headline show at Alexandra Palace they’ve cemented themselves as one of the biggest indie bands of the decade.

Top Pick: ‘Visions of a Life’

Other Highlights: ‘Formidable Cool’, ‘Heavenward’

9/10

YONAKA – HEAVY 

After first discovering them at Truck Festival 2017, I’ve been eagerly awaiting YONAKA’s debut release and praying that they manage to capture some of their incredible live energy when they enter the studio. They succeeded. ‘HEAVY’ is a set of 5 songs that give a brilliant introduction to the range YONAKA have, from their loud, high energy rock (‘Bubblegum’) to their brooding, more subtle tracks (‘Heavy’). Absolutely and without a doubt, YONAKA are one to watch in 2018.

Top Pick: Bubblegum

Other Highlights: ‘Gods & Lovers’

7.5/10

 

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