Shockingly, we find ourselves in the second half of 2017 already. In terms of new music, we’ve been hit with some heavy releases from some of pop music’s biggest names, while some of our favourite Australian artists have come out swinging with impressive album and EP releases all their own.
As the first week of July continues to roll out, we bring you our own Top 20 list of the best albums to come out of Australia and elsewhere around the globe…so far.
20 | HORRORSHOW
The fourth album from two of Sydney’s favourite hip hop sons came in February, when Horrorshow dropped Bardo State to widespread acclaim. Equal parts fired up and introspective, the long time fan saw Solo and Adit taking a matured sound by the reins and delivering with finesse not seen on previous releases, while newcomers to the Horrorshow fanbase were met with one helluva album to send them on a journey of discovery back through Horrorshow’s body of work. Where 2013’s King Amongst Many further established Horrorshow as an Australian hip hop act to be well-respected, Bardo State only went and hammered the point home.
19 | POLISH CLUB
As Dylan Marshall wrote in his review of the Sydney duo’s debut in March, guitar and drums ain’t dead. Crafting a well-honed album of blues and garage-soaked rock music, Polish Club entered the radars of many with a blistering message to send. True to form and especially off the back of hectic live shows, Alright Already brought with it a fiery sound and an impassioned musicality that was quick to turn heads.
18 | PERFUME GENIUS
Perfume Genius‘ fourth studio album, No Shape, was released in May – a confident and ambitious effort from one of modern pop music’s driving forces. The music boasted rich production, making the end result simply stunning.
“Here I was thinking nothing would ever beat Perfume Genius’ last album, then in comes No Shape, an experimental and overly grandiose album full of immense production.” – Felix Pocius
“The most ambitious album yet, and yet another great leap forward. Mike Hadreas could easily have pedaled his piano led ballads of his early career to keep the dinner-party audience happy, but has instead gone from length to length to try new things and the results are gorgeous.” – Steven Morgan
17 | ALEX THE ASTRONAUT
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
The debt EP from New York-via-Sydney musician Alex The Astronaut landed with us in April and easily took our attention. Demonstrating lyrical and musical prowess, bundled up with an endearing charm and natural knack for storytelling, To Whom It May Concern presented us (and new fans) with an artist just kicking off. The enthusiasm and earnest nature of the EP wasn’t injected for added twee or charm, they both stood out as natural elements of Alex’s musicianship, and had us excited to see what was still on the horizon.
16 | the XX
I SEE YOU
The third studio album from British group the XX was an incredible release back in January, full of new sounds and new directions for the band. With their Splendour in the Grass appearance finally bringing the XX back to Australia, we are very excited to see the material given a run on stage in this part of the world for the first time.
15 | ALI BARTER
A SUITABLE GIRL
March saw Ali Barter release her highly anticipated debut album, A Suitable Girl – a kick in the dick to the misogynist sectors of the music industry and our culture in general that had previously imagined women purely as objects, malleable and flexible to the whim of others. Barter’s musicianship and fiery confidence shone brilliantly on A Suitable Girl; the surging vocals on “Girly Bits” and “Far Away”, just as two quick examples, set the album up as an impressive debut, with longevity well in the mix too.
14 | ROLLING BLACKOUTS COASTAL FEVER
THE FRENCH PRESS
This highly anticipated release from Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever ticked all the boxes; smart, chaotic and well-crafted, The French Press offers fans a strong and impressive offering that definitely will stand the test of time – an album of substance, musicality and endless life.
“Though wearing their influences proudly on their sleeves, proudly channelling The Smiths and The Go-Betweens with guitars set to jangly, they’ve managed to create an upbeat breezy album that rewards with slight melancholia after each listen. The tempo is consistently upbeat, but those minor chord moments give it an unexpected depth.” – Steven Morgan
13 | BENJAMIN BOOKER
Benjamin Booker‘s June release came in the form of Witness – a smart and soul-drenched album that, while having the hallmarks of a retro presentation, presents itself in an exceedingly modern form. A talent who needs more spotlight and props this year, Booker’s Witness album is a total hit out of the park from an artist who has been on our radar for some time now, but it properly turning up the heat on his presence in 2017.
“Admittedly, I was a little disappointed when I realised Booker wasn’t going to be making another album of pure scuzzy guitar. But in hindsight, I’m glad he didn’t, because Witness showcases how talented a musician he is.” – Dylan Marshall
12 | HARRY STYLES
No doubt, Harry Styles‘ debut solo release is sure to make many Best Of lists this year; a surprising turn away from the pop origins many have originally associated him with, Styles’ self-titled album has seen the British musician delve into the catalogues of 60’s and 70’s folk-tinged rock musicians for influence in the cultivation of some very 2017 music, primed for a hungry fan base.
11 | VINCE STAPLES
BIG FISH THEORY
Easily one of the best hip hop releases of 2017 (we’ll get to this one again in our end of year release, for sure), Vince Staples‘ Big Fish Theory has all the landmarks of becoming a striking and classic album with time.
“Vince Staples definitely was not scared to take any risks on this album. The EDM inspired hip-hop album is, by far, his best work yet.” – Felix Pocius
10 | LORDE
Melodrama may only be Lorde‘s sophomore album but considering how much territory and pop culture landscape the New Zealand songwriter and performer has managed to traverse since Pure Heroine‘s release, you’d be forgiven for thinking Lorde has been doling out records left, right and centre. A dramatic and gorgeous release of new music, Melodrama is a bright and sparkling snapshot of an artist truly coming into her own.
09 | THUNDERCAT
Experimental, clever, endlessly entertaining and intelligent, Thundercat‘s Drunk album was anything but. Sinking back into its own groove and flair, Drunk is a masterclass in songwriting and genre bending, bringing some great musical concepts to a modern audience ready to take it in.
“Yet again reminding people that jazz doesn’t have to be so po-faced or inaccessible with his most consistently satisfying album to date. Almost impossible to listen to without a big grin on your face.” – Steven Morgan
08 | KING GIZZARD & THE LIZARD WIZARD
FLYING MICROTONAL BANANA
The ninth studio album from one of Melbourne’s best and beloved exports, Flying Microtonal Banana was as thrilling and entertaining as we have come to expect from the one and only King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard.
“The first of five albums for 2017 from one of Australia’s most exciting bands and a relatively experimental collection to kick things off. When most bands make promises like that, you expect a heap of filler, but with a band as creatively on fire as King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, they set things off with an incredible opening statement.” – Steven Morgan
“These guys are music making machines, with the release of two albums to date this year. This album opens with the driving “Rattlesnake”, which is what King Gizz do best – take a word, a thought or a sample and turn it into a full blown song. What you hear is what you get and the recorded album is indicative of their live shows.” – John Goodridge
07 | GIRLPOOL
On Girlpool‘s sophomore album Powerplant, it was clear that the sound the band was pushing was indeed levelling up. They were growing and meeting the demand of the industry and fans in the same breath, even though the music definitely still remains true to Girlpool’s DIY aesthetic. The LA group remains very much to the point with Powerplant – pay attention to the music as it is over as quickly as it begins. Still, the intelligence behind the girls’ music – a brimming discontent beneath otherwise nonchalant presentation or front, is what makes Powerplant such an intriguing listen. An album we’ve come back to time and time again since its release in May.
06 | MIDDLE KIDS
The self-titled debut release from Sydney’s Middle Kids was quick to take global audiences quickly and reap in the acclaim. There was already a high standard set with the release of “Edge of Town” and with the release of Middle Kids, the group proved that they were more than one or two songs. Weaving some gorgeous songwriting and music in together to form a tapestry of music that leaves an impression instantly, Middle Kids brought with them a strength within their music that left music industry heads and fans wanting more.
Did we mention this was still only an EP??
05 | JAPANDROIDS
NEAR TO THE WILD HEART OF LIFE
Album Number Three from Canadian duo Japandroids was another highly anticipated release but trust and believe, we absolutely adored the bursting vibrancy Near To The Wild Heart of Life brought with it. An unmistakeable ferocity matched the trademark enthusiasm Japandroids showcased on the album, quickly putting it in our Top Ten list.
“Though they’ve taken the foot off full throttle slightly, this is still unmistakably the Japandroids. No two piece artist right now can tough their consistency and pure joy in their music.” – Steven Morgan
04 | LONDON GRAMMAR
TRUTH IS A BEAUTIFUL THING
A relatively recent release, Truth is a Beautiful Thing from London Grammar was definitely well worth the wait. Finally being unleashed last month, the record displayed just how far the British trio has come since If You Wait‘s release, the album that catapulted them to fame.
03 | KENDRICK LAMAR
Easter Weekend, 2017. A weekend Kendrick Lamar fans aren’t likely to forget in a hurry. To Pimp a Butterfly‘s highly anticipated follow up album came in DAMN. was angry, vulnerable and brutally honest, all in one composition. As we’ve come to expect from Lamar, his artistry has continued to flesh out and with DAMN. producing hard-hitting singles including “ELEMENT.”, “DNA.” and of course, “HUMBLE.”, all the signs were laid out early on to signify that hip hop’s biggest name was well worthy of the acclaim.
“The biggest name in rap today delivered. While it may not be To Pimp A Butterfly, DAMN. is still a substantial album, which I often find myself replying quite a bit.” – Felix Pocius
“Having released two albums of a generation back to back, the sorts of releases which redefine the entire sonic spectrum of the years to come, it was great to hear Kendrick stop trying to change the world and just show everyone how damn good he can be. Though less ambitious, it’s the most listenable, fun release he’s put his name to and a reminder of why he’s the most exciting artist of his generation.” – Steven Morgan
02 | LAURA MARLING
Laura Marling‘s March release in Semper Femina marked a great milestone for the British songwriter – album number six was dropped to acclaim and further cemented her status as one of the absolute best.
“Everything Laura Marling is brilliant. The stylistic growth she makes from her prolific output of albums is what’s going to make her one of the greats. Semper Femina is no different. While it took me a couple listens to get into it, it’s definitely one of, if not, her best album.” – Dylan Marshall
“An exquisite, romantic, and beautifully complete body of work which explores the relationships, interactions and passionate exchanges between women. It’s a really great return to her earlier sound with a delightful twist of difference thrown in for good measure.” – Laura Kebby
01 | THE SMITH STREET BAND
MORE SCARED OF YOU THAN YOU ARE OF ME
…Which brings us to Number One. For some years now, The Smith Street Band have been cultivating a strong and fiercely loyal fan base around the country; their music has connected with the Australian public deeply and on their latest record, More Scared of You Than You Are of Me, fans everywhere have gained a further insight into the inner workings of Wil Wagner‘s lyrical brain and the band’s still-flourishing musicianship.
“They’re like you’re best mates releasing music; you know it’s going to be great. The relate-ability and vulnerability of Wil Wagner’s lyrics allows you to access the songwriting process and mind set he was in when putting together the Smithies new album. The tracks are easy enough to sing on karaoke too, so that’s also a plus.” -Dylan Marshall.
“One of those albums which is a consistently strong realisation of past ideas into a body of work that acts as a best of. A band at the head of their game. You know what you’re getting with their whiskey-tinged punk, yet they manage to make you want to hear it again and again.” – Steven Morgan
“I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for an album release. Everything about More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me, speaks to everyone brave enough to feel everything, all at once. It’s an album for he broken hearted, for the healing, and for each and every Smith Street Band fan. I feel like I owe so much to this incredible record.” – Laura Kebby