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Albums of the Year 2017

December 9, 2017

 

I thought picking my ten favourite albums of 2017 would be an easy task but that’s not how it turned out. In the end there was just too much good stuff and some had to be cut from the final list. Those that came close but didn’t make it include Midnight Milk by Adam Holmes (perhaps just too much reggae?) and Hey Sammy by Bella Hardy, which I think is an excellent album but it will take more than a couple of plays to be sure.

Anyway, on to those that did make it and here are they are. I have tried to say a few words about each but some need more than that.

Number 10 is All We Have is Now by Elephant Sessions. Their place in the top 10 was probably cemented by their outstanding performance at Ceol Cholasa. This album has a fine mixture of tunes from the laid back Lament For Lost Dignity to the manic strains of I Used To Be a Nice Boy.  The closing track, Doofer, is the Elephants at their best and is one I had on constant play during the summer.

Number 9 is Strata by Siobhan Miller. This was one of the first albums I got this year and it is a wee gem. Siobhan’s voice is outstanding and the song choices are varied and well performed. The outstanding tracks for me are In the Month of January with its superb vocal and The Unquiet Grave which is just beautiful.

Number 8 is The Seventh Wave by Skipinnish. This is another one from early in the year but it still gets played and enjoyed regularly.  Great tune sets mixed with fine songs make this a typical Skipinnish album and that’s no bad thing. There is not a bad track on it but Cro Chinn t-Saile is outstanding.

Number 7 is A Day a Month by Mairearad Green & Mike Vass. A collection of old and largely forgotten tunes are brought to life again by some superb musicianship. The Earl of Hyndford’s Reel is a staggering piece and I liked the slow air Dhomhuil so much, I used it for my Colonsay Memories 2 video.

Number 6 is Bere by Saltfishforty. This is a cracking album of tunes and songs from the Orkney duo and is well worth a listen. The track called Waltzes is beautifully played and the song Woe is great. The album also takes a trip into the jazzy blues with Tired. It is a fine album.

Number 5 is Vere Her by Sigrid Moldestad. This is undoubtedly the surprise of this list. A few months ago I had never heard of this lady. I had my Spotify Release Radar playing while I was doing other things and was suddenly captivated by this voice. A few minutes later I had downloaded the album and played it, then played it again and again. I have no idea what she is singing about but the quality of the songs and the purity of the voice shine through this remarkable album. It is packed with utterly gorgeous songs and is a truly great listen.

Number 4 is Dreams We Never Lost by Tide Lines. As debut albums go, this is a cracker. The songs range from traditional Gaelic to pop-tinged sing-a-longs. Add in the two cracking pipe sets and it makes for a thoroughly enjoyable album. This is probably another one that is cemented onto the list by some excellent live performances, especially at Oban Live where, despite an early slot, they blew the place apart. If you get a chance to see them live, grab it!

Number 3 is Roam by Heron Valley. Heron Valley have been gigging around the area for a few years but this year they seem to have made the leap from a pub band to full blown festival favourites. Abigail Pryde has one of those voices that is immediately recognisable and fits perfectly with the beautifully crafted songs. Home, Adore and Hold On (for Meghan) are excellent songs and Another Day is beautiful.  If the songs were all this album had to offer, it would still be high on the list but it is the remarkable tune sets that make it an unmissable one. They are expertly played but the real triumph is the choice of tunes. The set called Where I’m Heading, which kicks off with the excellent Wee Michael’s March and then proceeds through a range of increasingly manic tunes, is an absolute belter. The Road is another mind-blowing set. All in all, this is an epic album.

Number 2 is Strangers by The Young ‘Uns. I was only vaguely aware of this band through their Radio 2 Folk awards but I hadn’t paid them much attention. After I heard Pedie had given them a rave review for their Shrewsbury set, I decide to have a closer listen and thank goodness I did. This album is a masterpiece from the opening track, A Place Called England to the closing Hartlepool Pedlar; the songs are superb and performed with joy and immense talent. Most songs are a Capella, with the perfect blend of the three voices but on songs like the emotional Be the Man and the ultimately uplifting Dark Water the addition of instruments works a treat. Sean Cooney’s song writing is masterful. I must have listened to this album a hundred times but I still get chills when I hear the opening strains of Cable Street. It is a truly wonderful album and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Number 1 is Between the Earth and Sky by Lankum. Now we come to the difficult bit. I have to find the words to describe this amazing album. The opening track What Will We Do If We Have No Money is stark, simple and absolutely beautiful. The vocal by Radie Peat is accompanied by a simple drone backing with the boys adding harmonies to the refrain. It is a stunning piece of music. Sergeant William Bailey is next with the Lynch boys taking lead vocals this time. This is genuine Irish folk music as it should sound and I could list each track as a highlight because they are all excellent. I know this album will not be everyone’s cup of tea but I absolutely love it. Radie Peat’s vocal on Willow Garden and The Granite Gaze seems to reach in and grab your soul. All the voices blend perfectly on Peatbog Soldiers and the boys are to the fore on the epic Turkish Reveille. This album has something magical about it and is a thing of beauty to be treasured for ever.

 

Well, that’s it for 2017. 2018 has a lot to live up to but with new albums from I’m With Her and First Aid Kit due in January I say bring it on!

 

Hughie

December 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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