Staff Picks CDs: The Best of 2017, Part 1

John, Neil J., Jackson and Alex select their favourite CDs of 2017 from our collection. There is a wide variety of music here and you might find something interesting or missed. Part 2 is coming soon so keep checking.

John’s Picks:

Real Estate – In Mind
Indie hipster heroes, Real Estate, deliver another portion of their gorgeous laid back jangle pop and it’s exactly what fans will expect –tremolo heavy guitars, lovely harmonies and bitter sweet songs, all delivered at a relaxed pace by musicians so tight as to appear telepathic.

Grandaddy – Last Place
Granddaddy were always singer/songwriter Jason Lyttle’s band and it’s great to hear his esoteric, slightly melancholic slacker take on existentialist angst once again.

 

Gas – Narkopop
Wolfgang Voigt follows up his 2000 ambient masterpiece ‘Pop’ and dives deeper into the original template, focusing on texture and reverberation and introducing sub bass pulses to create stunning symphonic electronic chamber music that is as meditative as it is unsettling.

Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble – Find Me Finding You
The demise of UK post rockers Stereolab left a gap in contemporary music, but vocalist Laetitia Sadier continues to create her surreal sensual pop informed by the harmonies and lush instrumentation of exotica, easy listening and tropicalia.

 

Laurel Halo – Dust
On ‘Dust’ her music remains as unclassifiable as ever and, as much jazz as electronica, has attained a new found warmth and softness with her treated vocals woven through absorbing and often playful sound textures and beats to create a collection of tracks as original and beguiling as anything you will hear this year.

Thurston Moore – Rock ‘n’ Roll Consciousness
Sonic Youth fans are in for a treat here as that legendary NY band’s guitarist, Thurston Moore, explores five lengthy, textural, guitar centred songs that are reminiscent of his playing on the groundbreaking Sonic Youth album, Daydream Nation.

 

Shirley Collins – Lodestar
84 year old Shirley Collins, the “faerie queen” of UK psych folk, was finally coaxed back to a microphone by devoted fans and recorded live to laptop in her rural cottage accompanied by members of the next generation of folk musicians.

 

Dauwd – Theory of Colours
Electronic producers often find it difficult to maintain an entire album and it is nice to be able to report that UK artist Dauwd, bucks that trend with most of the seven tracks here maintaining a lovely rolling chilled rhythm with deep bass lines and skittering hi-hats pushing it all along.

LCD Sound System – American Dream
Seven years after they disbanded, we get the fourth LCD album and it’s as good as anything they have done. Anything but a cynical cash-in this album confirms James Murphy as a major artist.

 

Kraftwerk – 3D: The Catalogue – Box Set
German electronica pioneers, Kraftwerk, release their entire catalogue of eight discs once again, but the difference is that these are all recently recorded live versions, capturing the band using modern state of the art equipment with pristine clarity.

 

Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins
The highly anticipated follow up to 2012’s ‘Shields’ from the darlings of the NY hipster scene doesn’t disappoint featuring all of the band’s distinctive touches – excellent musicianship, great arrangements, gorgeous melodies and inscrutable lyrics. They are here in Wellington for the NZ Festival in March.

Grayson Gilmour – Otherness
Wellington based multi-instrumentalist Grayson Gilmour plays everything but the drums and strings on this sophisticated, beautifully composed album that brims with heart while avoiding sentimentality.

 

Peaking Lights – The Fifth State of Consciousness
US husband and wife duo, Peaking Lights, gain more confidence with each release and with this, their fifth album, they effortlessly explore their relatively unique world of ‘80’s influenced cosmic dub/synth pop.

 

Washed Out – Mister Mellow
Released on the US Stone’s Throw label, Ernest Greene’s third record is an intoxicating blend of downbeat, free jazz, hip hop and lounge with spoken word samples thrown in to keep things interesting.

 

Kate Tempest – Let Them Eat Chaos
This is an intensely political record that harks back to the early days of hip-hop as the fiery UK poet directs her fine honed literary tirades at capitalism, gentrification, climate change, war, disconnectedness, isolation and more.

 

Machinedrum – Human Energy
Inspired by the California new age movement, Human Energy finds US electronic producer Travis Stewart, coming as close as he has come to the popular arena, featuring very catchy tunes, a range of guest r’n’b vocalists, great beats and excellent production to create a summer record of euphoric glitch pop.

Roman Flugel – All the Right Noises
Roman Flugel’s third album is “about the solitary time in hotel rooms between gigs, and that strange mixture of peace and isolation”, and he has created a collection of pieces that lie between ambient and dancefloor in the wonderful world of electronic listening music.

Brian Eno – Reflection
Brian Eno has finally created a piece of infinite music, via an iOS app, that generates music indefinitely without ever repeating itself. In these anxious times, this hour long excerpt is a welcome respite, presenting a peaceful and calming virtual river to sit beside.

 

The XX – I See You
The London trio’s third release in seven years finds The XX creating their gorgeous and beautifully produced take on pop throughout, arguably, their best record yet.

 

Lana Del Rey – Lust For Life
LA songstress Lana Del Rey matures into a true artist with her excellent fifth album that expands her sound palette and makes real her fascination with modern pop culture via guest appearances from Sean Lennon, Stevie Nicks, the Weeknd and A$AP Rocky.

 

Neil J’s Picks:

David Long, Richard Nunns and Natalia Mann – Utterance
This is a truly remarkable album, it is what great music sounds like, this is a major work in any sphere of artistic endeavour and it’s what many musicians strive their entire lives to achieve and is one of the finest albums in any genre from anywhere I have heard in a very long time . It is the culmination of a lifetime for Richard Nunns who knew from the start of the albums production it would be his last work and it sounds as if he has placed some deep aspect of his very being into the piece. It is a modern beautiful abstract work that is very aware of the deep spiritual and cultural traditions from which it springs and embraces these roots whilst being totally unique and new and timeless. Its powerful, emotional, challenging, spiritual and simultaneously personal and universal.

Blade runner 2049 : original motion picture soundtrack
Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack to Blade Runner 2049 is a startling, original and stunning work that ranges from faint melodic echoes of the original to dark, bleak, unsettling, industrial howls and cries, it’s a fantastic piece. Whilst many soundtracks are just designed as audio cues for events in the film, only the very best create atmosphere and add to a film rather than just compliment it. Wallfisch and Zimmer’s soundtrack joins the esteemed ranks of people like Ennio Morricone or Bernard Herrmann in creating a classic soundtrack that stands up on its own right even when its stripped away from the films visuals.

Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
I love the Fleet foxes first two albums and was intrigued to hear that Crack up their third outing starts exactly where the last track of their second album Helplessness blues ends. No band is attempting to do what they do with their sound. It’s really hard to describe their work but here goes experimental, orchestral, modern folk music with a close affection for music from late 1960s American West coast Scene. People like Crosby, Stills and Nash or Joni Mitchell. Its lush, its gorgeous, its seductive and it has serious intent too one of my favourites of the year.

Perfume genius – No Shape
Perfume genius’s fourth album No shape is a lush, elaborate, decadent shape shifting album of contrasts. Moving effortlessly from haunting delicate fragile melodies that still somehow sound slightly damaged or decayed to uplifting euphoric rapturous elements often in the same piece of music.

Ross Harris – Requiem for the fallen
Ross Harris has had a very busy 2017 and for me this was his finest release and also the best new classical work I heard all year. A deeply emotional melancholic work, that drains the listener with its intensity (as a piece on this subject matter should) Its melodically subtle and is powerfully moving a piece that touches the heart in the saddest of ways. Its beautifully recorded and performed a stunning work in every way and my favourite classical work of 2017. Words by Vincent O’Sullivan.

Jackson’s Picks:

Kendrick Lamar – Damn

 

 

 

Aldous Harding – Party

 

 

 

Jay Z – 4:44

 

 

 

Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love!

 

 

 

Alex’s Picks:

Kendrick Lamar – Damn

 

 

 

Kelela – Take Me Apart

 

 

 

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