Last year I set myself a small goal: listen to 10 or so new albums each month, to ensure I had a decently sized pool to choose from when selecting my albums of the year. This time around I’ve decided to increase that slightly to 15, and every month I’m going to present whichever of those I enjoyed the most. I have six selections here from the first month of 2017, but the number may vary from month to month. So here are the albums I thought were worth mentioning from January!
Neil Cicierega – Mouth Moods
Let’s take a second to acknowledge that a mashup album of meme music is currently holding down the #2 spot on Rate Your Music’s 2017 chart, just above 4chan’s wildly abrasive reimagining of The Life of Pablo. What a time to be alive. Veteran internet content creator Neil Cicierega’s latest mashup project Mouth Moods belongs in its own category of truly unique albums – I went from jamming out to the opener “Starting Line” to laughing uncontrollably during “Floor Corn” and by the time “ACVC” came on – third track, mind you – I had completely lost it. I won’t spoil the contents of these tracks, but needless to say Neil has an incredible gift for merging unlikely pairings to create oddly likeable songs, in a grotesque Frankenstein-ish manner that is somehow an addictive listening experience. It’s also packed with 80s and 90s nostalgia, so make Mouth Moods your go-to party record. You won’t regret it.
Fav tracks: Starting Line, Floor Corn, ACVC, Dear Dinosaur, Annoyed Grunt, Busta, Tiger, The End, T.I.M.E., Smooth, Stand by Meme, Wallspin, Wow Wow, Mouth Pressure
Rose Elinor Dougall – Stellular
One of those delightful surprises that hits you out of nowhere, Rose Elinor Dougall’s Stellular is pure infectious, melodic and dreamy pop goodness with a distinctive Blondie-esque new wave swagger. Apart from the stellar (ahem) songwriting and composition, what really strikes me about this album is its spacey, ethereal soundscapes that beautifully complement Rose’s light, airy vocals, so credit to Oli Bayston for some top-notch production. There isn’t a single forgettable moment or lowlight to be found, and as a result it’s my favourite album of the month!
Fav tracks: Colour of Water, Strange Warnings, Stellular, Dive, Space to Be
Foxygen – Hang
An interesting album to say the least, Hang is the latest release by eclectic pop/rock dynamic duo Foxygen and is almost completely a throwback affair incorporating glitzy glam rock, prancing piano rock, Motown-era pop soul, lavish baroque pop and even campy pre-war jazz. All somehow bundled into a 32-minute experience that whisks by, effortlessly leaping from genre to genre between and within the tracklisting, and courtesy of some slick production it plays like an album that somehow inhabits the past and present simultaneously. I did find the overall pastiche of Hang to wear a bit thin towards the end, but some of the individual moments on here are incredibly groovy and do quite a service to the styles they re-enact, namely the opening tracks “Follow the Leader” and “Avalon”.
Fav tracks: Follow the Leader, Avalon, On Lankershim, Upon a Hill
Apple Music: https://itunes.apple.com/album/hang/id1166210707
Loyle Carner – Yesterday’s Gone
Hip hop in 2017 has been a tad slow out of the blocks, but UK artist Loyle Carner’s debut LP Yesterday’s Gone is the second commendable effort in the genre I’ve heard so far this year. The rousing gospel vibes of opener “The Isle of Arran” segue almost perfectly into the Nujabes-esque soul-jazz affair “Mean it in the Morning”, and separated by a few vocal interludes, this album is wall-to-wall East Coast Jazz Rap resituated comfortably in the streets of South London. Loyle is only in his early 20s but he raps introspectively and weaves storytelling rhymes just as well as his muses – Mos Def, Common, Skepta and Jay Z, coupled with some unique British cadences and slang that give this album so much personality and character, and will almost certainly be one of the standout UK Hip Hop releases of the year.
Fav tracks: The Isle of Arran, Mean it in the Morning, Damselfly, Ain’t Nothing Changed, Stars & Shards
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3
Technically a late 2016 release but I’m including it here because it’s too good to exclude. Killer Mike and El-P are three for three with RTJ 3, it’s their third successively consistent hardcore hip hop release, simultaneously aggressive, political and loaded with cutting-edge, soaring electronic and booming bass beats. It’s also the most emphatic call to arms I’ve heard from any artist yet during the Trump era.
Fav tracks: Call Tickerton, Hey Kids, Thieves! (Screamed the Ghost), Panther Like a Panther (Miracle Mix), Everybody Stay Calm, Thursday in the Danger Room
Ty Segall – Ty Segall
Ty Segall could be rock’s last great hope, and this collection of raucous, noisy and energetic material is proof that guitar music in 2017 still has plenty to offer. The highlight for me is the 10-minute epic extended jam “Warm Hands” that showcases Ty’s versitility and commitment to exploration and experimentation, while retaining that awesome, roaring big guitar sound.
Fav tracks: Break a Guitar, Freedom, Warm Hands (Freedom Returned), Orange Color Queen