Though I primarily blog about bookish things, I also love music, and so as with the last couple of years, I thought I’d do a top albums of the year post. As per my usual tastes, all of them are by women, few of whom are ‘chart’ artists, and several of whom are Nordic, but I’m more than okay with all of that.
Does it bother me slightly that I’ve ended up with an odd number? Sure, and though there were definitely other albums I enjoyed this year, adding more to the list would have been getting into the realms of listing nearly every album I liked, so in the spirit of singling out the cream of the crop, I decided to be harsh and ended up with just 7 albums. Without further ado, let’s just get started.
- Endless Summer by Sóley
Sóley’s songs are like fairy tales in sonic form. There’s something utterly ethereal and transporting about her work, which coupled with her delicate vocal delivery is just fantastic in creating a very specific mood and atmosphere. Though this album didn’t necessarily grab me on first listen to the extent that her first two did, it was a grower, and it is indeed a great development of a style she has clearly mastered.
- Lust for Life by Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey is one of those unusual artists that manages to sit on the boundary between being both mainstream in her level of success and yet somewhat alternative in her musical style, and because of this, her music often splits opinion. I loved her latest offering, however, and I find her moody delivery and lush orchestration a breath of fresh air in comparison to much of the generic up-tempo pop that her work sits alongside at the top of the charts.
- The Architect by Paloma Faith
I’m definitely a big Paloma fan; I’ve loved all her albums and am due to see her live for the 5th time next year. Her distinct voice, catchy melodies and blend of modern pop and more old-school jazz and soul-style influences are all still present, but this time she takes a much wider reaching look at the world, with bigger political and societal themes explored in many of the songs, without the album feeling bogged down or preachy because of them. It’s a fairly recent release, so I’m sure my appreciation for it will only grow as I listen to it more.
- Okovi by Zola Jesus
Dark and powerful, the latest album from Zola Jesus is easily her rawest and most honest lyrically, drawing much on her own mental health struggles and both a cancer diagnosis and an attempted suicide amongst her loved ones during the writing of the material. These themes lend the album a gothic and urgent tone, but one that is still incredibly listenable, with much hope and light injected to counteract the darkness.
- Fake Sugar by Beth Ditto
Beth Ditto has been around on the music scene for a while, thanks to her time fronting the band, Gossip, and so it’s hard to believe that this is her first solo album. What a debut it is though, with insanely catchy hooks showcasing her powerhouse vocals to great effect. Pop-rock blended with the best of soul and dance, it’s a musical step forward that will not alienate her existing fans, but which announces her as a fresh, exciting solo artist in her own right.
- Slør by Eivør
The first version of this album was technically released in 2016, though I’m talking here about the largely English reworking of the original Faroese edition that came out this year. Whether you listen to her in her native tongue or in English, however, I implore you to try her out. Easily my favourite new discovery of 2017 (and I’m having a great time going back to explore her previous releases), her voice soars into the 21st century, but echoes with the spirit of her Nordic ancestors, sometimes even incorporating her own twist on traditional throat singing to form beats better than any computer could produce.
I’ve shared clips of her singing in both Faroese and English to give you a proper feel for what she does.
- Utopia by Björk
If you know me, you’re not surprised at all to see Björk take the number one spot. Her constant musical reinvention and refusal to ever be pigeonholed are unparalleled, as is her visual prowess, which for this album sees her blend motifs of nature and femininity with abstract modernism – hence the bold artwork that admittedly takes some getting used to. Thematically, this album sees her moving on from the devastation of her last album, and in a time of great uncertainty presents the Icelandic artist’s visions of what her future Utopia would look (and sound) like, meaning there are themes in here such as humans collaborating with nature, embracing the healing power of music, and the importance of a greater matriarchal/feminine influence. Musically, it’s rich and complex, making heavy use of a flute choir (orchestrated by Björk herself), vocal layering, and real-life birdsong to create otherworldly soundscapes that are more about mood than hooks, with few songs even adhering to the classic verse-chorus structure.
Is this necessarily the best place to start with Björk’s music if you’re new to her? Probably not, as her earlier albums are far more instantly accessible. But is this up there with some of her most interesting, considered and thought-provoking projects? Absolutely. It’s a very recent release, but already I’ve found myself discovering new depth and loving it all the more with each listen. And even by her own standards, the videos released so far have been feasts for the eyes; works of art in their own right that are well worth checking out.
There we have it! What are some of your favourite albums of 2017?