KUBE’s Top Albums of 2017

KUBE’s Top Albums of 2017

2017 has been an exceptional year for music. In fact, it was so good that Stormzy was presented an award by Jeremy Corbyn personally. As we start the New Year, members of the KUBE Committee look back at the last year of music and pick out the very best albums of the year. Expect a wide variety of genres from a wide variety of people, this is KUBE’s Top Albums of 2017. Feel free to comment with what you think were the best albums of this year.

 

Honourable Mentions: Enter Shikari- The Spark; Foo Fighters- Concrete and Gold; Eminem- Revival; Kasabian- For Crying Out Loud; David Garrett- Rock Revolution; Divide– Ed Sheeran

 

Sundara Karma – Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect

By Jeff Wiltshire

Sundara Karma

Indie music can sometimes be seen as a waste ground, with dozens of up-and-coming bands failing to reach the potential of their early EPs. Sundara Karma break through this trap with one of the most enchanting debut albums of 2017. The Reading based quartet, perfectly blend synth-pop and indie-rock to create an album full of sing-a-long anthems such as ‘Flame’, ‘Loveblood’ and ‘She Said’. But the stand out track from Youth is Only Ever Fun in Retrospect has to be ‘Vivienne’ which encompasses the best elements from Peace and The 1975. ‘Youth is Only Ever Fun…’ is a sensitive, thoughtful and poetic album which never loses energy or purpose. If you’re looking for a riveting and exciting album from one of the UK’s brightest talents then look no further!

Recommended tracks: She Said; Vivienne; A Young Understanding

 

Matisyahu- Undercurrent

By Tayla Dickinson

Matisyahu

Jewish reggae legend Matisyahu came back this year with something a bit different! Undercurrent represents a style of reggae infusion music, combining pop, blues, rock, dub and many more styles that crescendo into something beautiful. Another crowd funding success story here, with most tracks being no shorter than 8 minutes the album produces some enchanting soundscapes that really tickle the earbuds. Standout tracks include Step Into The Light, Coming Up Empty and Tell Me – Undercurrent has really allowed Matisyahu to experiment and the results are an outstanding success.

 

Stormzy- Gang Signs & Prayer

By Aaron Godfrey

Stormzy

Stormzy is a brand in himself. He crashed onto the scene in 2013/14 featuring in Radio 1 Xtra’s Cypher 2014, and progressing on to become one of the biggest grime artists in history since. Gang Signs & Prayer went gold in just two weeks; a testament to the appeal and relatability of the album, which is Stormzy’s debut. What makes this album so accessible to those who wouldn’t listen to grime usually is the balance of musical genres it transcends. The album is part grime anthems, and the rest melodic, R&B, soul infused worship; oozing with catchy melodies and poignant lyrics. Stormzy has succeeded in introducing an entirely new generation to Grime, and he’s furthered grime’s brand into those who wouldn’t have even considered listening to him previously (even my Mum likes ‘Blinded by your grace pt. 2’!). We cannot forget that this is only Stormzy’s debut album; 2018 looks exciting for him, and we can only assume that big things lie ahead.

Recommended Tracks: Cold; Blinded by Your Grace Pt.1 & 2; Bad Boys; Gang signs and Prayers.

 

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra- Classic FM presents: Pop Goes Classical

By Christopher Jones

Pop Goes Classic

Classical Crossover music features strongly in my list, both albums coming under that umbrella genre. Pop pieces performed as classical arrangements is a big love of mine and there is no shortage of artists crossing the divide. Classic FM, that bastion of classical music presents one such album here. In terms of pure listen-ability, I can’t justify this album not being placed on this list; the piano playing in the cover of Whitney Houston’s hit from The Bodyguard (Does it need any introduction?) is frankly sublime; and the woodwind solo in (Everything I do) I Do It For You; 2 great songs made new in 2017.

Recommended Tracks: I Will Always Love You (originally by Whitney Houston); (Everything I Do) I Do It For You (originally by Bryan Adams); Unchained Melody (originally by the Righteous Brothers).

 

Arcade Fire- Everything Now

By Ryan Hutton

Arcade Fire

No one album had me more excited for its release this year than Arcade Fire’s Everything Now. I recall watching the promotional campaign surrounding fake corporation Everything Now unfold with great curiosity and holding off listening to any singles until the album was released in full. And, boy, did it deliver. The album oozes melancholic undertones and tackles the 21st century with full force, confronting themes such as corporate greed and suicide with unhinged force that manages to remain focussed. Yet the album never fails to be energetic and bursting with life. As always, Win Butler and Régine Chassagne’s voices absolutely dominate the album, adding a cold edge to the warmth of some of the tracks. Even though you could argue that it is their weakest album to date, Everything Now is proof that it may well be impossible for Arcade Fire to make a bad album. NME could not have said it better: it might be the end of the world, but Arcade Fire are still going to throw a party.

Recommended Tracks: Creature Comfort; Electric Blue; We Don’t Deserve Love

 

Collide- Color Of Nothing

By Tayla Dickinson

Collide

Nearly 5 years since their last release Bent And Broken, Collide are back with Color Of Nothing – an album they produced solely through crowd funding. Taking yet another turn in style, the American duo have traded their heavily trip hop con industrial rock sound for a more wavy, psychedelic rock inspired sound with dark wave and grunge leanings. Color Of Nothing combines soundscapes of sheer beauty with dark, drawn out and distorted sounding guitars with Karin’s eerily ethereal voice weaving in and out of the notes as is forever playing a game of chase with the various rising sounds of the strings.

 

Liam Gallagher- As You Were

By Aaron Godfrey

Liam Gallagher

Liam Gallagher once said he would never do a solo album; thankfully though he’s gone back on his word to deliver one of the top British albums of the year. As You Were was easily one of the most anticipated albums of the year. This was far from an Oasis imitation; with the help of some of the world’s top producers, Liam crafted a polished and slick album, dripping in Liam’s signature ballsy attitude. When talking about the album, Liam said “I didn’t want to be reinventing anything or going off on a space-jazz odyssey, it’s the Lennon “Cold Turkey” vibe, The Stones, the classics. But done my way, now.” Some tracks to keep an ear out for on the album are  ‘Wall of Glass,’ a massive emphatic tune featuring clear American country influence; ‘For What It’s Worth’ a lamenting tune beginning with the lyrics “In my defence all my intentions were good,” perhaps hinting to the breakdown of Oasis almost a decade ago; and ‘I’ve All I need’.

 

The XX- I See You

By Olivia “Cap’ain Gribs” Gribler 

The XX

The XX are an English duet who released their first album in 2015. Their first album, The XX, was very subtle, very gentle and explored a lot of different genres and instruments. This set the tone for their subsequent two albums. Coexist was my favourite album for a long time, and I was nervous for the release of this album as when they released their first single it seemed to have moved more towards the charts and away from their own beautiful and original sound. I could not have been more wrong. Their single, ‘On Hold’ was a bit more upbeat and held a place in the charts for a few weeks, but the album itself was just as base-y, just as individual and had the stunning voices that I have grown to love like a child loves the tones of a lullaby. Their songs are based on relationships, but they have never revealed whether it is their own love and troubles they describe. Either way, they single out difficult and real problems that people have in their lives and make beautiful songs with depth, feeling and true emotion. My personal recommendation from this album would be ‘Say Something Loving’. Although, The XX compose their albums as whole pieces so my strongest recommendation would be to listen to it from start to finish. I hope that you will love these artists as much as I have, and will continue to do.

 

The Underachievers- Renaissance

By Tayla Dickinson

The Underachievers

Straight out of Flatbush, Brooklyn in New York is the unique, inspired rap duo The Underachievers. After the massive success of their previous album Evermore: The Art Of Duality many fans were left wondering how they would top this… instead the guys took it to a new level, getting darker, using larger and heavier beats – their sound being reborn, in one sense, but in reality lining up the group’s classic hip hop con cloud rap aesthetic and throwing in a curveball of fat 808 bass hits and trap style high hats. Definitely an album geared at winning over trap fans while bringing in something refreshing to the hip hop scene and still holding true to the UA style.

 

Wolf Alice – Visions of a Life

By Jeff Wiltshire

Wolf Alice

It was never going to be an easy task for Wolf Alice to follow up from their wonderful debut album ‘My Love is Cool’. When ‘Yuk Foo’ was released June 2017 it sounded as if the band were heading in a punky direction, similarly to ‘Fluffy’ from their first album. However, ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’ is a heart-breaking single demonstrating Wolf Alice’s depth. Overall, Visions of a Life is the perfect follow-up album; it’s dark, mysterious and you find yourself loving a new track with each listen. ‘Visions of a Life’ contains all the elements that shot Wolf Alice to fame; with ‘Sadboy’ epitomising their dark yet anthemic sound. It’s a beautifully unconventional (excuse the pun) 12 track epic laced with angst and rhythm; a deadly combination which has made the band so successful over the last 4 years.

Recommended tracks: Sadboy; Formidable Cool; Don’t Delete the Kisses.

 

Broken Social Scene- Hug of Thunder

By Ryan Hutton

Broken Social Scene

Hug of Thunder marks Broken Social Scene’s first release in 7 years, and like hell are they going to let us forget that they existed. Perhaps their most explosive album yet, Hug of Thunder takes all of Broken Social Scene’s previous work and finely tunes it into an album that a year without much of a strong output from the Indie Rock scene needed. It flows effortlessly through the album, making 52 minutes feel like 20, and never leaving a weak track in its wake. After its energetic start, the album takes a slower pace in its second act before riding a crescendo to its finale yet the much welcome slower pace never feels jarring, and the crescendo feels so natural that you will not help but find yourself smiling as the trumpets sound during Hug of Thunder’s final moments. The entire album feels so natural and welcoming that it deserves a spot amongst the greats of 2017.

Recommended Tracks: Halfway Home; Hug of Thunder; Mouth Guards of The Apocalypse

 

Roy Orbison with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra- A Love so Beautiful

By Christopher Jones

Roy Orbison

When I found out there was a new Roy Orbison album coming out in 2017, in all honesty my first thought was “I thought he was dead?”. Later I found out that, taking cues from the successful Elvis Presley album “If I Can Dream” of 2015, that not only featured the artist but with the instrumentals courtesy of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Orbison was back, and posthumously refreshed. For the purposes of this list, I’d been listening to the album, but I went back to compare with the originals; suffice to say, it’s more than a cosmetic restoration. The music and backing harmonies are nothing short of slick, polished and fantastically well integrated within the vocals of Roy Orbison that suit ballads of unrequited love so well. A greatest hits compilation but with a twist, maybe but a significant refresh of hits with longevity such as Oh Pretty Woman, You Got It, Love Hurts (a cover itself of an Everly Brothers song) and Only The Lonely (Know The Way I Feel). Elvis proved there was a market in the nostalgic tunes of yesteryear, I for one am glad they turned to Roy Orbison.

Recommended Tracks: You Got It; Only The Lonely (Know The Way I Feel); Oh, Pretty Woman.

 

Kendrick Lamar- DAMN.

By Aaron Godfrey

Kendrick Lamar

Hundreds of millions of streams, seven Grammy nominations. Possibly the best album of the year. Kendrick Lamar is at his best in DAMN., spitting verses until the cows come home in a much anticipated follow up to 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly and 2016’s Untitled Unmastered. DAMN. in as few words is mellower, but it holds on to Kendrick’s signature fierceness. Where To Pimp A Butterfly took a scathing look at the political climate, breaking down America’s inherent racism, DAMN. takes a much closer look into Lamar’s own head – we get a small but powerful glimpse into the mind of a genius. Lamar is by nature a storyteller, he masterfully picks apart stories bit by bit, transforming them into seamless flows. On the track “FEAR.” he goes a furious 50 bars or so, without break. He talks about threats from his own mother, from his neighbours, all the while barely taking a breath. It is simply a work of art, and deserves all the recognition it gets.

Recommended Tracks: HUMBLE.; FEAR.; DNA.; DUCKWORTH.

 

The Horrors – V

By Jeff Wiltshire

The Horrors

The Horrors are well and truly back with a possibly career defining album which thrusts the band back in to the spotlight. The aptly named V is their fifth and most well-rounded album to date. V is on one hand soaring and majestic but on another hand claustrophobic and industrial. Previous Horrors’ albums have seemed almost too focused; whereas, V brings together all the strengths of their music: suspense, cascading rhythms and 80s synth pop. ‘It’s a Good Life’ is a beautiful melancholy track and one of their finest releases to date. It can be argued that The Horrors have finally realised their potential from when they first burst on to the scene in 2007 with ‘Strange House’. V may not be the most commercially successful album of 2017, but it is a polished rollercoaster of garage rock, euphoria and sadness.

Recommended tracks: Machine; It’s a Good Life; Something to Remember Me By.

 

The Birthday Massacre- Under Your Spell

By Tayla Dickinson

Birthday massacre

Canada’s The Birthday Massacre make a triumphant return with their unique brand of synth pop infused goth rock. Under Your Spell strikes the perfect balance between grinding industrial sounding guitars and beautiful synth pop melodies all layered under Chibi’s sweet, charming vocals. The title track takes a bittersweet turn led by addictive melodies and catchy lyrics, despite how ear-wormy the track is it takes the lead for the album which is lyrically inspired by romantic deception. This is certainly one for the sad, lonely hearts out there – regardless of whether your heart is in a million pieces or not, you’ll find yourself singing and dancing along in moments.

 

Lorde- Melodrama

By Ryan Hutton

Lorde

Sometimes I sit and think to myself that I truly am blessed to be the same age as Lorde. Where Pure Heroine explored the issues one faces with being a 16 year old, Melodrama continues the lyrical genius of the first album and surpasses it, planting its focus on Lorde’s first years of stardom, especially the break-ups she has faced. Now, Lorde and I may differ in the sense that she is a successful, platinum-record selling star whilst I am a 21 year old shut-away studying Contemporary Literature and Film, but there is a strong sense of relatability to her music and catchy synth pop hooks that many young adults yearn for in their music. It is unconventional pop music at its finest, showing us what Taylor Swift always had the potential to be but failed to live up to.

Recommended Tracks: Green Light; The Louvre; Writer in the Dark

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