By Tony Inglis
Every year, like the regular tick of a metronome, it can be heard said: “What a year it’s been for new music!” As if last year, and the one before that, was any different. Of course, 2017 has seen the release of some excellent new music.
From the seismic rush of shoegaze on Slowdive’s new self-titled album, through the raw emotion of Big Thief’s Capacity, to Kendrick Lamar’s third consecutive masterpiece DAMN. – there is quite enough to get stuck into.
But, there is also an overwhelming amount of chaff to wade through and, even for the most dedicated of music nerds, it’s easy to miss out on something essential. The following records weren’t ignored, or not written about, but they are far more deserving of your attention than was first suggested.
Strike a Match – SACRED PAWS
This first entry is a bit of a misnomer, as Strike a Match has finally received proper recognition – at least in its country of origin – by winning the Scottish Album of the Year award. But SACRED PAWS’ debut album is still criminally underappreciated. The duo, consisting of Rachel Aggs and Eilidh Rogers, formerly of Glasgow band Golden Grrrls, have crafted a bright and immediate indie pop record. Their twisting and intersecting vocals leaping and bounding into your ears with a joy and effortlessness that is infectious. Strike a Match is a deserved winner of the SAY award, and hopefully being presented with the honour persuades more people to give it a listen.
On the Echoing Green – Jefre Cantu-Ledesma
I’ve been a regular, unofficial, Twitter promoter of Jefre Cantu-Ledesma’s dreamy ambience for about a year now, after first listening to his A Year With 13 Moons from a high rise hotel in a final few days in Tokyo. Not everyone can experience music at such heady heights, or in such bustling locations, but there’s no need – Cantu-Ledesma’s music evokes blissful places through experience alone. His instrumentals move from gleaming sun-kissed guitar tones which wash over you like a wave, to harsh, degraded noise. On this new album, he skews as closely to conventional songwriting as he is likely to get, incorporating cooing vocals from Argentinian singer Sobrenadar, which resemble Bilinda Butcher on My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. This is music to escape through.
You’re Not As ___ As You Think – Sorority Noise
Emo is a much-maligned genre, but we are living in a new golden age and it is folly to miss out on its riches. Bands at the forefront of its resurgence, like The Hotelier, grew up listening to bands like Brand New and Taking Back Sunday, who people in their mid to late 20s now adored in their adolescent years, and have been inspired by their wider musical interests to create something new. Another band whose sound is unabashedly borne from emo is Sorority Noise. On their new album, which is one of my favourites of the year, lead vocalist Cameron Boucher speaks earnestly about death, depression and loss in a moving way that is never overbearing, backed by careful and imaginative arrangements that crest and trough. It’s hard not to be affected by such meaningful music.
form/a – Half Waif
When I listen to Half Waif I think: this is ultimate pop music. Everyone listens to Half Waif, right? She’s on Radio 1 constantly, blasted from car stereo speakers, she has ten songs in the top 40. This is a heavenly alternate reality. Half Waif is Nadia Rose Plunkett, a fiercely independent, singular artist and entrancing stage presence. Her electro-pop can be winding and hypnotic, like ‘Nest’ from Probable Depths; it can pulse forward with catchiness, as on form/a opener ‘Severed Logic’. This is a record of such assuredness and beauty, it is difficult not to be drawn in.
Steve Lacy’s Demo – Steve Lacy
Steve Lacy is a wunderkind. He is one fifth of former Odd Future affiliates The Internet and mastermind producer behind a portion of 2017’s best record, Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN., and work by rappers J Cole and Isaiah Rashad. He is only 18. But, his first collection of solo material consists of six jazzy, lo-fi soul songs made on an iPhone. And yet it remains an impressive showcase of his considerable talents. The EP revolves around Lacy’s desperate “don’t go” appeal on centrepiece ‘Dark Red’, with its sickly sweet melody and queasy Mac Demarco-esque guitars. These may be demos, but they’re as good as anything released this calendar year. Big things are in the offing for Mr Lacy.