So here we are, another year over and a chance to look back on all that 2017 has brought us. Thank you to all of you that have supported Belwood this past year; our readers, industry colleagues and all the wonderfully talented bands and artists that have shared their music. Before we look forward to all that 2018 has to offer, lets take a moment to cherish some of the most memorable music from the past twelve months:
Album of the Year: The National – Sleep Well Beast
One of the few bands that seem to get better with every release, The National have outdone themselves yet again with their latest effort. Their trademark bittersweet sound is in full force here, in what in many ways feels like a culmination of their life’s work. Sleep Well Beast is one of the finest indie albums of the decade and a worthy winner of this year’s album of the year.
Song of the Year: Evening Darling – Another Long Drive
Their self-titled debut album had a few songs that ranked highly amongst the best songs I’ve heard all year, but ‘Another Long Drive’ was the cream of the crop. Just picture the scene: golden sun streaming down, wind in your hair, nothing but endless skies, the open road, and Evening Darling blasting at full volume. Absolute bliss. This track was the soundtrack of my summer and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
EP of the Year: The Dear Hunter – All Is As All Should Be
After discovering The Dear Hunter last year they have quickly become one of my all time favourite bands. Biggest fans are also the biggest critics, and while expectations were high for this new release I can safely say it delivers. It carries the same flawlessly slick production found on Acts IV and V but also plays around with some interesting new ideas, both musically and lyrically.
Music Video of the Year: OK Go – Obsession
OK Go are just on a whole new level when it comes to music videos. When they decide to release something it’s like a premier league team turning up to the local school’s five-a-side tournament. ‘Obsession’ is just as jaw-dropping as their previous work, as it shares an impossibly intricate routine featuring a wall of printers… and I can’t even keep one from jamming!
Soundtrack of the Year: Baby Driver
My all time favourite film is The Blues Brothers; you’ve got a great soundtrack and a massively over the top car chase. With Baby Driver however you have both rolled into one. The music is the life and soul of the film, all the action is perfectly timed to the beat. The attention to detail is astounding and with tracks like ‘Radar Love’, ‘Hocus Pocus’ and ‘Brighton Rock’ it’s the perfect movie for music fans.
Discovery of the Year: The Glass Child
A new award for this year, but one that I felt the need to make. Although I make a point of championing new music, sometimes you are a bit late to discovering an artist, dive into their back catalogue and in doing so find something that you love. With life moving so fast, and so much new music constantly being released, I don’t always get chance to show my appreciation (and let’s be honest, Charlotte is worthy of an award just for being her wonderful self!).
The Forgotten Gem Award: Caligula’s Horse – In Contact
Another new award that felt like a very important addition. Music writers are not nuclear powered reviewing machines, we’re only human and as such we miss things. For instance the long-awaited debut from Meadowlark and the stunning Clairvoyant from The Contortionist never got reviews as life simply got in the way. The most glaring omission however was the new album from Aussie prog rockers Caligula’s Horse. It’s their finest work to date, one of the most electrifying records of the year, and an album that I will keep on coming back to for a long while.
The White Feather Award for Disappointment of the Year: Holy Holy – Paint
I’d argue that Holy Holy’s When The Storms Would Come is one of the strongest indie debuts of the decade, and so following on from it was always going to be difficult. With Paint however the band seemed to abandon almost every aspect of what made the first album so enjoyable. I’m all for bands changing and exploring new things, but their headfirst dive into synthpop was too much too soon. It had its highlights, like the above ‘True Lovers’, but for the most part was a major step down.
The Spotlight Award for Best New Artist: Ailbhe Reddy
This was a hotly contested category this time around, but with her stunning new EP Attach To Memory, a couple of fantastic singles, and some of the most memorable videos of the year like the above ‘Fingertips’, this Irish singer/songwriter has done more than enough to deserve the title. Ailbhe has crafted her own unique signature sound and I can’t wait to see her grow as an artist and share her music with wider audiences the world over.
Best Male Solo Artist: Ryan Adams
Ryan has had a real renaissance this year with the release of Prisoner. With not a single bad track in the bunch, it stands as one of the best break-up records ever released alongside his beloved debut Heartbreaker. It feels like a culmination of his life’s work and contains some of the finest examples of his sublime songwriting. It’s a classic album from another time.
Best Female Solo Artist: Julien Baker
I was torn who to give this one to for the longest time, but when Julien Baker dropped Turn Out The Lights it was like the fog lifted. There are so few artists that put every fibre of their being into their creations the way that Julien does. The record is like a glimpse into her soul, easily one of the most moving records of 2017. Her talents have come on in leaps and bounds since her debut. She hasn’t just beaten the second album curse, she’s shattered it into a thousand pieces… much like my heart.
Best Band: Amber Run
This is the first time that the winner of album of the year hasn’t also taken away the respective best band/artist prize too, and for good reason. Amber Run have been like a band possessed this year. Not only did their second album completely exceeded all of my high expectations, but after seeing them both on one of their many headline tour dates as well as at Barn on the Farm Festival, I know that they completely smash it in a live setting too. Britain’s best indie band ladies and gentlemen, and what a year they’ve had.