Lord it’s hard narrowing down any year to 40 or 50 albums, and near impossible to get it down to 30 in a good year. And 2017 was a good year.
Not surprisingly then, in coming up with the 30 best albums of this year there were some quality ones which missed out, such as David Rawlings’ Poor David’s Almanack, Offa Rex’s Queen Of Hearts and Phoebe Bridgers’ Stranger In The Alps.
But the ones which made the cut are strong, varied and rewarding, the top 10 in particular all stunners - any of them capable of being named the best of the year. And you can still buy one or more of them: feed a musician, they’re great around the house.
So many ways to enjoy my pick of the best music of 2017.
1. LAURA MARLING – Semper Femina
Folk rock given a rhythmic, exploratory and brilliant turn with a strong take on what it means to be, and to know, a woman. Album of the year.
2. THE XX – I See You
Sensual and mature, where mournfulness intersects with an ache that’s part emotional, part physical.
3. NADIA REID – Preservation
A gripping, dark but still hopeful exploration of quiet music and turbulent emotions.
4. HOLLY THROSBY – After A Time
Intimacy and pleasure stretching out through acute observations.
5. THE NATIONAL – Sleep Well Beast
Adult rock with the intensity of experience and their usual inventive propulsion, but with new power and anger.
6. AIMEE MANN – Mental Illness
Sublime melodies in muted ‘70s pop full of closely drawn characters.
7. SZA – Ctrl
Slow grooves, need and the power of a woman who won’t accept second best.
8. DRAKE – More Life
Sprawling, circuitous exploration of multiple voices and styles.
9. ST VINCENT – Masseduction
A not-so-silent film-as-album with desire and destruction paired, set to art pop, disco, rock and something else again.
10. ALDOUS HARDING – Party
Haunting and quiet, though anything but ephemeral.
11. OUMOU SANGARE – Mogoya
Reclaiming modern sounds to take Malian music back to the future.
12. THE WAR ON DRUGS – A Deeper Understanding
Elegant mix of classic rock and stoner moves.
13. ALEX LAHEY – I Love You Like A Brother
Fizzing guitar pop that grabs at life.
14. MARGO PRICE – All American Made
Smart, traditional country sounds with soul and politics to flavour it all.
15. JEN CLOHER – Jen Cloher
Vivid, potent lyrics set to music that takes rock and indie pop in hand.
16. COUSTEAUX – CousteauX
Grand pop and dramatic moments melding Scott Walker and Burt Bacharach.
17. BJORK – Utopia
Free roaming melodies, renewed optimism and art put to good use.
18. RUN THE JEWELS – 3
Using anger to great effect over beats as powerful as the lyrics.
19. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM – American Dream
Familiar modern anxieties set to Afro-funk, art rock and downtown disco.
20. VINCE STAPLES – Big Fish Theory
Lean, sinuous R&B carried on distorted instruments and electronica sounds.
21. JULIE BYRNE – Not Even Happiness
Manipulating silence and poetry in songs that mix mysticism and vulnerability.
22. SAMPA THE GREAT – Birds And The BEE9
Funk soul hit up by sharp edged rhymes and some pop tunes.
23. PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING – Every Valley
Found sounds, the voices of Welsh miners, history and fluid musicality.
24. PRINCESS NOKIA – 1992 Deluxe
Wildly varying musical styles and delivery, with exciting energy to refashion hip hop.
25. SONGHOY BLUES – Resistance
Maturity and improved songwriting lift young North Africans from promising to impressive.
26. THE WEATHER STATION – The Weather Station
Neither folk nor rock but a sweet spot between them, with electric sounds backed by strings and emotional complexity.
27. IRON & WINE – Beast Epic
Gorgeous songs returning to a solitary, quietly moving, country folk style but with richer sound and a newfound hopefulness.
28. HOLY HOLY – Paint
Making expressive, traditional rock with just enough restraint to aim for grand rather than grandstanding.
29. THE SMITH STREET BAND – More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me
A view of Australian maleness that is neither macho nor scared to be, powered by vigorous punk/pub rock.
30. SAM OUTLAW – Tenderheart
Relaxed country that nods to ‘70s pop songwriters as much as the traditional names and stays gentle on the mind.