Top 20 Albums of 2017

20. Ride – Weather Diaries

The Oxford quartet’s first album since 1996’s ‘Tarantula’ saw them on mixed form. At it’s best though, ‘Cali’ and ‘Lannoy Point’ deliver their brand of melodic shoegaze.

19. Cast – Kicking Up The Dust

The Scouse legends deliver their best album since the 1995 classic ‘All Change’. Flitting between their free flowing blues and spritely pop numbers, John Power has hit a purple patch of song writing once more

18. Noel Gallagher – Who The Built Moon

The old mongrel shed a few coats for his latest album. When he nails it, as he does on ‘Holy Mountain’, it’s magnificent. It’s big bold and new. Alas, when he doesn’t, its because the leaps are not big enough or he doesn’t remain in his big key change comfort zone. Nevertheless, with plans to make another record with David Holmes, this could be the start of a glorious journey.

17. Public Service Broadcasting – Every Valley

Those clever clever bastards have churned out the goods once more. Getting to grips with pit life in Wales this time round. The guest vocals from Camer Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell and Manics’ James Dean Bradfield were welcome additions to their sound. However, the standout track comes from the rage

16. GospelbeacH – Another Summer of Love

The West Coast veterans channel their inner Byrds spirit and deliver exactly what it says on the tin. As the cold sets in and all that’s left to eat is cold meat, this blast of sunshine will see you through to your next holiday.

15. Alvvays – Antisocialites

Molly Rankin’s sublime vocals should be saved for a long journey staring out windows at vast landscapes. Everything this band do sounds life changing or affirming.

14. Girl Ray – Earl Grey

With the single of the year ‘Touble’ on its books, Girl Ray were always making this list. Brilliant melodies, unique vocals and a sense of humour unrivalled, they are band with magic at their fingertips.

13. Tom Williams – All Change

History has always proven the poet can achieve far more than social comment. Nevertheless, the social commentary here is smothered such warming pop music vibes, it’s hard to picture this not reaching even those who disagree.

12. Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band

There is nothing we can say, that the genius John Dorman hasn’t about Michael Head already: https://noisey.vice.com/en_uk/article/3ka349/the-british-masters-michael-head Nevertheless, we love this album, we love that Head is in a good place and long may it continue.

 11. Liam Gallagher – As You Were

To quote Jurassic Park, “clever girl”. Did anyone see this album coming? All the money was on a flailing Beatles via psyche album. What we got was, big emotive albums with remarkably honest and humble lyrics from the icon.

 10. Shed Seven – Instant Pleasures

Sixteen years was well worth the wait. All the pain and bitterness felt by band and fans alike when they were shunned by the industry has dissipated. Emerging from the fog are the unsung heroes of Britpop. This new offing is packed with great choruses, wit, and a charming underdog spirit. Business as usual!

 9. The Moonlandingz – Interplanetary Class Classics

This supergroup was always going to deliver wasn’t it? Whether it’s the Mary Chain inspired ‘The Strangle of Anna’, the Gary Numan-esque ‘The Rabies are Back’ or Earl Brutus via The Horrors ‘Black Hanz’, everything sounds so fresh!

 8. Idles – Brutalism

Wry, sarcastic and effing hilarious. This pitiless body of work will stop at nothing to take the piss and provide punk rock nirvana.

7. Johnny Flynn – Sillion

The one true genius of the nu-folk era returned from acting to prove he is still the master. No one in the folk world can touch him for sincerity of song writing. Everything he delivers has a warmth and depth of emotion to be admired.

6. British Sea Power – Let The Dancers Inherit The Party

Is this the first ‘Remainer’ album? Quite possibly. It has overarching sense of together is better and, inevitably, a sense of loss.

Forever consistent, BSP have risen their pop sensibilities to ‘Open Season’ standard and, on leadoff single ‘Bad Bohemian’, surpassed it. Despite the “half glass empty” and “what’s done is done” lyrics, it’s as defiant single your likely to hear. Effortlessly free, it tumbles and swirls with abandon.

Elsewhere, ‘Don’t Let The Sun Get In The Way’ is a sauntering rock behemoth which will stop you dead in your tracks to ponder life as you know it.

5. Daniel Wylie’s Cosmic Rough Riders – Scenery For Dreamers

Proving age is but number, Wylie, 59, as delivered a masterpiece. No one thought it was possible for him to ever reach the heights of the Cosmic Rough Riders’ ‘Enjoy The Melodic Sunshine’ but, this Teenage Fanclub via Neil Young offering just does that.

4. Theatre Royal – And Then It Fell Out My Head

Comfortably the pop record of the year. Smart, funny and always brave in its song writing topics. The heartfelt ‘Standing in the Land’ just grows in resonance the more the British press turns away from atrocities of Syria. To wrap such a subject in a achingly beautiful acoustic number is the very reason why so many people think Ed Sheeran is shit. This is the pinnacle of a simple song!

‘Locked Together on the Lines’, ‘Port Bou’, and ‘Will Somebody Please Write Me a Song’ ooze a carefree spirit that demands instant affection.

3. Ryan Adams – Prisoner

Mr Prolific is back, and his back with the most brutal of break up records. This is the sound of a crushing divorce and searing unseen pain. Channelled through big rock riffs and dream pop production, Adams is at his scintillating best. 

2. Wolf Alice – Visions of Life

The hottest property in the UK right now, and rightly so. They’ve combined a sense of experimentation with punk and pop immediacy on an album that is forever shape shifting in sound. Rock music might not be dominating the charts right now but, Wolf Alice have taking a big stride towards making it relevant again and, they’ve done it with the utmost integrity.

1. Trampolene – Swansea to Hornsey

What a year these boys have had. As if supporting The Libertines and Liam Gallagher wasn’t enough, all the promise from the early EPs has been followed up with an instant classic. There's the aching beauty of ‘Gangway’ and ‘Beautiful Pain, the vitriolic social comment of ‘Dreams So Rich, Life So Poor’ and William Blake poetry scattered throughout, it has it all

Shiiine On the Underdog

"The fact of being an underdog changes people in ways that we often fail to appreciate. It opens doors and creates opportunities and enlightens and permits things that might otherwise have seemed unthinkable."

David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell, 2013

Shiiine On 3 was a glorious display of David vs Goliath. Every act seemingly should never had made it but did. A fervent reminder that belief can be all, especially when its in the art of our working class.

Headlining Friday night were the indestructible Levellers. Could a group of Marxist folk-cum-punk rockers ever be considered mainstream anymore? Nevertheless, the fire of 'Liberty', rueful melody of 'Fifteen Years' and the togetherness of 'The Road' are a stark reminder that pop music can be full of love, socialism and make a difference.

The examples of the underdog just kept on coming over the weekend. Clint Boon, an organ player from Oldham, now an icon of the industry Dj-ed to adoring fans. The criminally unknown Theatre Royal continued their good run in 2017 in the Inn on the Green pub. Recent single 'Locked Together On The Lines' drew the crowd, but the power of 'French Riviera' will place them in hearts forever.

Amidst the big choruses lay two beautiful. Firstly, celebrating their 30th anniversary, The Orchids played arguably the most angelic indie set known to man. 'Something for the Longing' will ring in the heads of anyone who watched until they next see this remarkable band. The jingle jangle of 'Bemused, Confused and Bedraggle' brought on a freeness that would have had Arthur Lee beaming from his multicoloured cloud and 'Peaches' was, is and always will be a classic.

The second came from a man, without who, this festival simply could not exist, Steve Lamacq. He was this generations John Peel, shining light on anyone who dared record a demo. His set covered his 30 years but more importantly, it gave little indie nights their dignty back. It became about the people in the room singing the 'Size of a Cow' chorus as one, feeling every bit of angst of 'Mis-Shapes' and, as Lammo stopped to tell all, it was about what John Peel fought so hard to give us, 'Teenage Kicks'.

A conclusion is usually appropriate at this time but, Shiiine On 3 can only be summed up by The Orchids' 'A Kind of Eden'. See you all next year!

Grace and No Favour

For those who don’t know, and far few do, Grace Petrie is solo artist with agift, not seen since Billy Bragg’s formative years to write anti –Tory protest songs and love songs with wit, charm and often, heart-breaking emotion.

Petrie, hailing from Leicester, is four albums in to her career now, and whilst she has a small band of loyal fans, we are certain this should be more. So, in 2017, could Grace Petrie ever be played on daytime Radio 1? It would appear not, so, why not?

Can it be that her blend of punk, folk and pop music is not what they are looking for? Well, loathed as we are to mention Ed Sheeran, he ticks two of those boxes. As for punk, their daytime playlist currently hosts Foo Fighters, Enter Shakiri, 30STM, and Royal Blood so it’s not that.

Maybe it’s her song ‘Ivy’, a loving tale of friendship and kindness as she sets off to meet the new born protagonist. The sense of hope and the swelling of love as Petrie and her friend drive all night from Glastonbury is so unifying, so ready made to tug on heart strings for the millions of us who have been in similar situations. Does it matter, should it matter that she came from left wing Left Field stage? The press love a media spat so, when she decrees “who gives a fuck about Kasabian”, isn’t this just another tick in the box for airplay?

If that wasn’t enough, there are name drops for Billy Bragg and Phil Jupitus and an ode to Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’ in the closing moments.

Our main suspicion lies with her left leaning politics. Perhaps R1 are concerned with balance? Something I’m sure they agonised over when play listing Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ or every time Eminem’s peroxide French crop comes to town. If it is acceptable for Thicke to sing “I tried to domesticate you” and “Me fall from plastic / Talk about getting blasted” then surely it’s fine for Petrie to objectively sing about Edward Woollard throwing a fire extinguisher of the roof of Tory HQ in 2011:

“Well how quickly thrown, Was all your judges stone / Oh how quickly the obliteration of your reputation / So detested so deplored so unyieldingly appalled /  By elected officials who, had recently committed fraud”

Maybe the beeb enjoy being systematically dismantled by the privateering party but, if they don’t, may we suggest playing some tunes that might provide the ballast against a predominantly right wing press.

Hell, Coldplay are first name on the team sheet for R1. Where do they think they stand on immigration, gay rights, the EU and austerity? They’re not exactly skipping through fields of wheat despite how boring they are.

Yes music is subjective, so maybe they just don’t like her. However, it stinks of something more than that. It took Frank Turner, a straight white middle class male, selling out Wembley Arena in 2012 for R1 to pay attention his blend of folk and punk. Is this answer for Petrie, and anyone else who has an image and sound beyond grasp of Simon Cowell?

The Crookes Top 10

“if we’re gonna try / lets go all the way”

The Sheffield outfit, frustratingly, have been one of the UK’s best kept secrets since their debut ‘Chasing Ghosts’ in 2011.

The Sheffield outfit, frustratingly, have been one of the UK’s best kept secrets since their debut ‘Chasing Ghosts’ in 2011. Despite support from Steve Lamacq early on, they just didnt catch that big break.

A month out from their final 3 tour dates (http://thecrookes.co.uk/tour-dates/), we take a look at our top 10 favourite moments:

To prove out point, here is our top 10:

1.       Outsiders

2.       Before The Night Falls

3.       Just Like Dreamers

4.       Backstreet Lovers

5.       Echolalia

6.       Bloodshot Days

7.       Maybe In The Dark

8.       Sofie

9.       The World Is Waiting

10.    Afterglow

Absolute Radio’s Final 5: Shiiine On Weekender

Shiiine On Weekender was one of TT’s biggest highlights in 2016. So, to whet our appetite before we venture west, we take a look at the 5 contenders in Absolute Radio’s competition. The winner will open the main stage at this years shindig and win a £1000:

Shakedown Stockholm – Silence

No longer are female twins scaring the shit out of audiences riding tricycles or bullying human scarecrows in the League of Gentleman. Joanna and Davina front Shakedown Stockholm, a seven piece band from the northwest.

‘Silence’, is a classic piece of brooding rock music. Their intense entwined vocals are the stuff of hedonistic sweat ridden nights.

Deja Vega – Eyes of Steel

The Cheshire three piece won many a fan at last year’s Shiiine On Festival, opening for Eddy Temple Morris’ closing party. It would be only fitting for them to step up to the main stage in 2017.

Especially based on ‘Eyes of Steel’. Guitar playing this dangerous demands big stages. Not a big leap from motorik, but, with far more on the line. You’d be forgiven for imagining yourself as Jon Snow charging into the battle of the bastards.

Gypsy Fingers – Hey Maria

Gypsy Fingers are comprised of Luke and Victoria Oldfield, Luke being the son of legendary composer Mike Oldfield.

‘Hey Maria’ sees Victoria take on the vocal duties and delivers a sultry cross between The Bangles paisley era and early Lily Allen.

The Keepers – Here Comes Spring

The Keepers are British psyche-pop band from Northampton. ‘Here Comes Spring’ follows in the footsteps of fellow Northampton band The Moons and Temples.

This slice of haze, melody and big key changes pay homage to Syd Barrett era Floyd and the pop sensibilities of Noel and Ashcroft. While they are steeped in English heritage, lyrically there is more than enough to carry this in the present day.

Iridesce – Rise

Camden was once the epicentre of all things Britpop so, it’s only fitting that a Camden band form part of this competition.  

The Camden four piece are clearly onto something with this epic effort. The simmering vocals saunter through a cascade of guitar riffs seamlessly. They are but one killer hook from delivering something truly remarkable.

Head over to Absolute Radio here to listen and vote now:

http://absoluteradio.co.uk/competitions/shiiine-on-voting/index.html

5 Days of Richard Ashcroft: These People

Day 5 - These People

Has a song been more needed in recent years more than ‘These People’? Rather than attack the Tory divide and conquer tactics with an angst ridden punk polemic, Ashcroft delivers s slide guitar lead ballad.

The message of survival and rising above stacked odds is that bit more inspiring when, one look around Brixton displays thousands of people arm in arm, together and few things are more powerful than that.

His new material, is largely a reawakening of deep seated desire Ashcroft carried to dizzy heights in the 90s. There is a clear ‘fuck you’ attitude to anyone with preconceptions of who he is. While sonically on ‘These People’, this not overt, the power and intensity he garners on the line ‘I know we can survive’ is remarkable.

As he wraps his glorious vocals around this line, it ceases to be about romantic survival and operates on a new plane. He elevates the people to another level where belief is everything. It’s not enough to just sit back and watch bands we love anymore, the standard has been reset again by Ashcroft and its default setting is real, humble and critically, it’s brilliant.

5 Days of Richard Ashcroft: Space and Time

Day 4 – Space and Time

An underrated classic from The Verve’s arsenal is met with a rapturous response at Brixton Academy. The beauty of the release 3 minutes in never diminishes. Neither does the life affirming end ‘keep on pushing cos I know it’s there’.

However, on any Verve track ensconced with trippy guitars, it’s tough to watch live without Nick McCabe and Simon Tong in tow. Yes, Urban Hymns was all but written by Ashcroft alone but, when the 3 combine, fewer things have been that special.

It’s highly unlikely to ever see The Verve together again, but, with hope on the rise politically, and psyche and rock n roll emerging from the shadows of the UK once more, we can dream.

5 Days of Richard Ashcroft: Fighting On Your Own

Day 3 - Hold On

If anyone at Brixton needed the new album sold to them still, 'Hold On' was going to do it. Despite everyone the wrong side of 30, Brixton is transformed from gig watchers to a rave in seconds of the killer strings and piano loop starting.

It’s such a big and hopeful sounding record and consequently, the only track that eclipses The Verve tracks played. It has the unique togetherness of Oasis’ ‘Live Forever’ (‘I feel like we are the only ones alive’) and the defiance of Nicky Wire with the line 'And the truth is on the march again / Wipe those tears away'.

Crucially though, Ashcroft is not so much performing ‘Hold On’ as he is battling it with the audience. He isn’t here to be cherished and will not settle for anyone, let alone adoring fans telling him what they expect of him. Ashcroft clearly see’s performing, especially new material, as a fight where he will be the only one left standing.

Despite the bullishness, his ability to romanticise, to be lost and longing for another to help remains at its best:

“Learning on your own / Can turn your heart to stone”

Oddly, us mortals attach ourselves to this more than his unique ability to lead but, without the two together, you’d be left with something far inferior.

5 Days of Richard Ashcroft: Into The Half Life

Day 2 - Velvet Morning

The Verve’s tale of being munted in the twilight hours and coming up with great ideas only to discover at 6am they are horseshit, is one we all familiar with. So, the moment the gorgeous slide guitar starts, its impossible not to reminisce about said douched nights.

Even after 20 years, the goosebumps still flourish when the big key change and Ashcroft’s incredible vocal hook chime. A feeling of triumph swirls around Brixton Academy as personal memories of the half-life come to the surface far outweigh the songs message of coming down in the second verse.

Despite all the fame and accolades, Ashcroft is still able to paint a picture of loneliness during ‘Velvet Morning’. Like a young William Blake, Ashcroft cuts a figure of the poet wandering the streets of Soho alone. Where Blake was intrigued and excited by it all, Ashcroft was chasing something that was never there.

Perhaps it’s the realisation that this was futile is where the real beauty of ‘Velvet Morning’ lies. Yet again, he shines a light on how to move forwards despite being inherently flawed.  

5 Days of Richard Ashcroft

Mad Rich is, as we all know, a bona fide legend. So, rather than just review he’s epic performance at Brixton Academy this past Saturday, we’re going to focus the next 5 days on 5 songs from his set.

We start with the 2016 comeback single ‘They Don’t Own Me’.

Having already played classics such as ‘Sonnet’ and ‘Space and Time’, there was a danger that anything new would be seen as a piss break for the audience. However, this is Richard Ashcroft we're talking about.

On record, it’s a good Verve circa Urban Hymns track, but live, it’s alternate beast. Many singers feed of the adoration of a crowd, for Ashcroft, he demands that you go with him. As the adrenaline runs through him, he drags people from awestruck onlookers to brothers in arms.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about ‘They Don’t Own Me’ is, it feels like Ashcroft was reluctant to write it. With all the love and defiance to power he has put out already, it must be odd to do it again.

Nevertheless, a lesson to all aspiring bands is on show here, if you’re going to do it, mean it! The anguish in his voice in the opening line is a testament to how much believes in the soul:

“Is it true what they say? / Nothing in life is free / Are you looking this way / Surely this can't be”

It's in the closing moments that Ashcroft unleashes all his frustration and emotion. With every repetition of 'they don’t own me' he becomes that feral behemoth of ‘Rolling People’ and ‘Come On’.

Despite all the success, Ashcroft, with songs like this, remains that unique blend of outsider and flag bearer of togetherness.