The best albums and tracks of 2017: The Music Week staff picks

The best albums and tracks of 2017: The Music Week staff picks

In the new bumper issue of Music Week we take a look back at the incredible year that was 2017. We’ve already heard from the music industry about their highs of 2017 (part one and part two), the lows and their favourite albums. Now it’s time for the Music Week team to weigh in on their favourite music released this year with their picks for best track and album. Feast your ears on these… 

ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

Mark Sutherland, Editor

Taylor Swift - Reputation (Big Machine/Virgin EMI)

"As the Look What You Made Me Do video so lolzily points out, there is more than one Taylor Swift – and Reputation was precision engineered to showcase that. So, whether your Tay Sway of choice is the gossip site clickbait Yass Queen pop megastar (This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things) or the country heartbreak balladeer (New Year’s Day), or any other persona in between, Reputation has the magic bullet for you. Despite Swift’s decision not to do interviews around the album release, Reputation had a metric ton of speculation written about it. But whether people were obsessed with who the targets of her spiky soundbites were, or the implications of her streaming strategy, Reputation’s multi-faceted approach is still beautifully crafted on the principles that have made Swift the greatest pop star of her generation. Reputation is not only an all-encompassing body of work that needs to be heard in full but also one that, despite all the other stuff swirling around in her orbit, succeeds spectacularly purely because of the strength of her songs. And thankfully, when it comes to songwriting that registers on both the pop hurricane Beaufort Scale and the emotional earthquake Richter variant, there is still only one Taylor Swift. Just don’t expect her to come to the phone…"

 

 

George Garner, Deputy editor

Kendrick Lamar – Damn. (Aftermath/Interscope) 

"There is a very good reason Kendrick Lamar’s Damn. has been topping end of year lists everywhere in 2017: more than just one of the finest rap albums of recent memory, it is one of the finest albums period. Even before the revelation came that Damn.’s tracklisting was designed to be played both forwards and backwards, this was already an album to be pored over. Building upon the themes of 2015’s To Pimp A Butterfly, this is Kendrick battling to preserve his very soul against the corrupting influences of fame and ego. Crucially, said battle also moved razor-sharp lyricism back to the centre of hip-hop discussions in 2017. Months after its release, I still revel in Damn.'s lyrical and sonic detail. I fully expect that this will still be the case in years to come."

 

 

Andre Paine, News editor

Wolf Alice - Visions Of A Life (Dirty Hit)

"With British guitar music in the commercial doldrums (excepting certain singers with a Britpop provenance), Wolf Alice's comeback was something to cheer about. While plenty of bands run out of ideas on album two, Visions Of A Life had an abundance of ambition and attempted everything from dreamy shoegazing (Heavenward) to brattish rock (Yuk Foo) and wispy folk (After The Zero Hour). More sophisticated than their grunge-indebted debut, this follow-up even ventured into shimmering synth-pop on spoken-word lead single Don't Delete The Kisses. In a more enlightened age, that track and the unashamedly indie follow-up Beautifully Unconventional would be lodged in the Top 10. With a grim inevitably, Wolf Alice lost out to No.1 in the chart battle with Shania Twain. But this modern classic means Ellie Rowsell and the band will be well placed when the charts shift back to guitars again." 

 

 

Ben Homewood, Senior staff writer

King Krule - The Ooz (XL Recordings)

"Archy Marshall’s second record as King Krule has been out since October 13, and many are surely still lost in it. Perhaps you’re stuck between the brilliant one-two of opening pair Biscuit Town and The Locomotive, or wading contentedly around Sublunary and the wracked, anxious Lonely Blue. Or, better still, you’re lying face down in Czech One or A Slide In (New Drugs). There are raging, pacier track such as Vidual and the peerless Dum Surfer too, but The Ooz is best when it sounds like its title: thick, liquidy and seeping into every crack and crevice. Marshall’s songwriting and production have never sounded stronger, and he litters this record with dark spaces and wobbly motifs. For a record so wilfully strange, it’s incredibly easy to love."

 

 

James Hanley, senior staff writer

Ed Sheeran ÷ (Atlantic/Asylum)

"The ubiquity of ÷ throughout 2017 could jade even the most ardent of Ed Sheeran fanatics, but that shouldn’t detract from this album’s excellence. In an era when two hit singles from an LP represents a home run, ÷ boasts 16 (S-I-X-T-E-E-N), a Man City-like display of dominance, which prompted a change in the chart rules. Dropping the twin singles Castle Of Hill and Shape Of You on the same day back in January was a masterstroke and a sure sign of things to come. The Marmite Galway Girl split opinion but ÷ is still spawning No.1 singles nine months on, as Perfect takes its rightful place as the heir to Thinking Out Loud. Pop perfection."

 

 

TRACKS OF THE YEAR

 

Mark Sutherland, editor

Pale Waves - There’s A Honey (Dirty Hit)

"There’s A Honey was my song of the year at the halfway stage of 2017 but you know what? Nothing has come along to get close to it in terms of sky-kissing ‘90s-style alt-rock majesty except for Pale Waves’ other brilliant releases, Television Romance and New Year’s Eve. There’s A Honey, however, still just has the edge as the most brilliantly bristling-with-intent debut single in an age, as poppy as it is Gothy and a rare instantly-irresistible song that will stay with you forever. 2017 was, in fact, a quietly great year for indie rock (Wolf Alice! The Big Moon!) but, in 2018, expect Pale Waves to make the world sit up and take notice of the genre again."

 

 

George Garner, Deputy editor

Jamie Lenman – Mississippi (Big Scary Monsters)

"It is impossible to write about Jamie Lenman without first making the following claim: he is one of UK’s most brilliant singer-songwriters. His stellar second solo album Devolver offered incontrovertible evidence. Its arrival was heralded by the monstrous single Mississippi, which paired one of the year's most distinctive and heavy riffs with one of its most moving set of lyrics. The earworm that is its M-I-SS-I-SS-I-PP-I refrain was actually a mind-cleansing mantra taught to Lenman by his father, whose death is painfully recounted in the verses. It is one of the most powerful documents of grief ever committed to song."

 

 

Andre Paine, News editor

The National - The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness (4AD)

"Taken from Sleep Well Beast, their first UK No.1 album in a 16-year career, the campaign's lead single was an audacious comeback that became a chart-topping airplay hit in the US. Unlike other alternative bands who break into the mainstream, The National haven't diluted their angsty, jittery songwriting. Aaron Dessner's epic guitar solo might seem a concession to arena rock. But Matt Berninger’s gloomy lyrics alongside the barbed riffs and electronica textures ensured this was a typically off-kilter anthem from the bookish Brooklyn band."

 

 

Ben Homewood, Senior staff writer

Harry Styles - Sign Of The Times (Columbia)

"Harry Styles has faced a bit of backlash over this song, its parent record and his spangly-suite new rock’n’roll persona. But he’s not professing to be anything other than a guy from a band having a go at a solo career. Either way, you don’t need an open mind to dig this chorus."

 

 

James Hanley, Senior staff writer 

Liam Gallagher, Wall Of Glass (Warner Bros.)

"The demise of his much-maligned post-Oasis band Beady Eye had threatened to put Liam Gallagher on the shelf for good, but any doubts that he was a spent force were swept aside by this harmonica-fuelled stomper. Co-written with Andrew Wyatt and Greg Kurstin, Wall Of Glass was a thrilling return to form - the best track Gallagher has sung since 2002’s Songbird. Crucially, by sounding nothing like Oasis, it succeeded in shaking Britain’s last great rock star out of his late ‘90s malaise, escaping his brother’s shadow to re-emerge as a world-beating cultural icon for the social media age. As you were."

 

 

 

 

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