It’s that time of year again where we look back on all the amazing music the past twelve months have given us and gather together the ten highest rated albums on the site in 2017. This has been the closest year yet for albums, and with some Belwood favourites like Algiers and Wolf Alice missing out on the top ten, it’s also been a year that has offered its fair share of surprises.
10. Cydemind – Erosion
With their stunning instrumental debut, this Canadian progressive metal outfit really caught my imagination with their classically inspired sound. While the elegant and majestic violin really steals the show, the overall musicianship on display here is simply exemplary. It’s the strongest debut the genre has seen in a while, and their innovative sound is sure to inspire others.
9. Embers – Part of the Echoes
Manchester band Embers have shown such incredible promise with their singles and were a very strong contender for this year’s Spotlight Award. It came as a great shock when they announced that they were calling it a day, ending before they had even really begun. Thankfully they left us with this parting gift. Although I’d rather it appeared under different circumstances, it is still everything I had hoped it would be and more.
8. Flyte – The Loved Ones
Here’s one that caught me off-guard. I went in expecting fairly run-of-the-mill indie pop and instead found a mature and vibrant release recalling the likes of The Beatles and The Beach Boys. Putting a modern twist on a classic sound with that elusive universal appeal, Flyte have crafted a potent first album that is all killer, no filler. It is without question the strongest debut of the year and offers a breath of fresh air to the indie scene.
7. Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile to the Surface
It might not be the best album of the year, but it’s the one that I most often find myself coming back to. With its cinematic feel, effortless flow, and the fact that it contains some of the strongest songs of the year in ‘The Gold’ and ‘The Maze’, A Black Mile to the Surface immediately spoke to me and has been on heavy rotation ever since. Both a “grabber” and a “grower”, it catches your attention and makes you fall deeper with each new listen.
6. Ryan Adams – Prisoner
Most artists should consider themselves happy if they can manage just one “classic” album. Ryan Adams nailed it with his debut album Heartbreaker, one of the best break-up albums going, and while he’s a prolific songwriter making some fantastic music over the years, this is the first time he has again reached that accolade of creating a truly classic album. Prisoner is just hit after hit and shares some of his finest work to date.
5. Julien Baker – Turn Out The Lights
There are few artists in the world that can stop you dead in your tracks the way that Julien does, and her new album sees her vocals and overall songwriting come on in leaps and bounds from her debut. The emotional intensity of the record is simply breathtaking, as with each song you feel as though the world has stopped spinning, and all that matters is Julien pouring her heart out. It’s a damn fine album from one of the most compelling artists around.
4. Bent Knee – Land Animal
Boston art rockers Bent Knee are just an absolute force of nature on this record. Land Animal tears up the rule book and sees the band act as a law unto themselves. I defy you to find another album as diverse, as engaging, and as technically masterful as this. Every experiment hits the mark perfectly, and given some of the bewildering sounds explored here that’s quite a feat. There’s simply no one else out there quite like Bent Knee, and on this album they really shine.
3. Amber Run – For A Moment, I Was Lost
With their debut album 5am being one of Belwood’s highest rated albums, the pressure was on for the follow-up. Second albums have a nasty reputation, and can sometimes be a make or break moment, but somehow Amber Run smashed all my expectations and delivered an absolute tour de force. This darker and more mature album eclipsed even their stunning debut, and cemented their place in my mind as the best british indie band going.
2. The Last Dinosaur – The Nothing
This held the top spot for the longest time, and for good reason. Though inspired by harrowing loss and tragedy, The Nothing is a triumphant and uplifting record that can banish the gloom from even the darkest days. With its soaring strings, delicate folk and haunting vocals, drifting by like snowflakes in the breeze, it’s an album that is greater than the sum of its parts and speaks to something deep down within all of us. Elegant and refined, it is the kind of album that I will still look back on fondly many years from now.
1. The National – Sleep Well Beast
I’d argue that The National belong to an exceedingly rare group of bands who somehow seem to get better and better with each new release. I had thought that trend was set to be broken with Sleep Well Beast, both because it introduced more electronic elements into the mix which I was apprehensive about, and because Trouble Will Find Me is one of my all time favourite albums and I simply couldn’t conceive of them improving on it. After much soul-searching I could deny the truth no longer; The National had outdone themselves yet again and had provided their finest body of work to date. Few bands get this close to perfect, so lord only knows what they’ll have in store for us next time, but I look forward to finding out…