As the year hits the halfway mark, in the latest issue of Music Week we ask a selection of the biggest names in the biz to answer a very tough question: What is your favourite album of the year so far? It turned up answers including London Grammar, Stormzy, The xx, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, Royal Blood, Laura Marling and Gorillaz. Here the Music Week staff weighs in on the debate...
AFTER LAUGHTER (FUELED BY RAMEN)
"There are two types of people in this world: those who fear change, and those who embrace it. The former brought us Brexit, the latter brought us the new Paramore album. P-mo, of course, had no need to recalibrate their sound: their emo-rock anthems were already treasured by millions across the planet. And yet fifth album After Laughter, the follow-up to their monstrously successful 2103 self-titled album, chose to strike out for fresh new territory. Lead single Hard Times might have shocked some with its vibrant, funk-drenched sound, but once you’re used to such Technicolour strokes, songs such as Rose-Coloured Boy, Fake Happy and Grudges emerge as the perfect fusion of old Paramore’s core strengths (deep emotional resonance, banging rock anthems) and new Paramore’s bold pop smarts. Proof that a change is better than the rest."
MARK SUTHERLAND, EDITOR
“Not quite country, not exactly punk, Jade Jackson’s mesmeric music exists in the dreamy, noirish space between. I first discovered her intoxicating songcraft via her moody single Motorcycle and her debut, Gilded, delivered on that promise and then some. There’s been a lot of great albums this year that have distracted me from engaging in meaningful conversation with real people – shout out to Rise Against, Life Of Agony, Kendrick Lamar, Lorde and Willie Nelson – but the haunting lyricism and beautiful vocals on this record keep drawing me back, day in, day out. Bridges sounds like four lifetimes’ worth of regret distilled into four minutes. Better still is Finish Line, and its gorgeous accompanying video - it's a big song about a small town that proves Jackson is one of the brightest new stars to emerge in 2017.”
GEORGE GARNER, DEPUTY EDITOR
COMMON SENSE (BLACK BUTTER LTD)
"Right now, there aren’t many things I’d rather in life do than listen to J Hus’ Did You See. Or Closed Doors. Or Plottin. Or Bouff Daddy. Or Common Sense. Or… Hus’ debut, Common Sense, is brilliant. Admittedly, part of that is down to how perfect it sounds blaring from a car, let’s say a Peugeot, while you’re walking in the city in blazing sunshine, nostrils full of the scent of pub gardens and bus fumes. Alongside that, I like how this record seemed to wrongfoot the industry. The bucket-hatted Stratford rapper didn’t quite pull a Stormzy, but 481,484 sales of Did You See and 53,816 (and a No.6 peak) for the album is pretty mega. Who was expecting that? Black Butter and Sony, probably, and what they’re achieving with this album is great to watch. Mostly though, Common Sense succeeds because of the pacing, character and strength of the music. Pretty much every one of its 17 songs is rock solid, and the lyrics come with their own vernacular. The whole thing is packed with personality, looming from the record like one long, brilliant cartoon. As an introductory portrait of a new artist’s character, Common Sense is extraordinary."
BEN HOMEWOOD, SENIOR STAFF WRITER
"Not the most original choice yet, in many ways, the only choice: 2017 has belonged to Ed Sheeran, completing his transformation from one man and his guitar™ into the biggest pop star in the world. Third albums can be troublesome beasts - just ask Oasis - but the ÷ campaign knocked it out of the park right from the get-go. The ingenious decision to drop its first two tracks on the same day - the radio-friendly Castle On The Hill and the cutting edge Shape Of You - generated a momentum that is yet to subside, six months on. Every song on ÷ could be a hit single. Every song on ÷ is a hit single, in fact, clogging up 16 of the Top 19 chart positions in one crazy week on its release in March - a display of dominance so complete that it prompted a change in the rules to ensure it's like can never happen again. Oh and for full disclosure: Yes, I even like Galway Girl."
JAMES HANLEY, SENIOR STAFF WRITER
You can read the biz's answers in the latest issue of Music Week.