My album of 2017:

Brand New – Science Fiction

Eight years in the making, Brand New’s follow up to 2009’s Daisy had immense pressure upon it. Despite being overshadowed by allegations of sexual misconduct against singer Jesse Lacey, Science Fiction remains my album of last year.

Science Fiction was released with little bombast. Pre-orders for a vinyl went live with no title, no track list or artwork. Two days later, a CD in a brown paper wrapping arrived on a fan’s door, numbered out of 500. On it was a 61-minute track titled with co-ordinates to the filming location of ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’: the tracking being Science Fiction. The fanbase exploded.

Across 12 songs, Brand New put down their swan song. From the opening tape of Lit Me Up, through Could Never Be Heaven’s candidness, Same Logic/Teeth’s atmospheric build, the solo in 137 and Southern Rock belter 451 to Batter Up, Brand New made clear why their mythical status was built. Possibly their greatest album, it cements a musical legacy whilst reflecting the acts of the individual who abolished their personal legacy. Bittersweet in context, but musically brilliant, Science Fiction is a must-listen.

What I’m waiting for in 2018:

The Dangerous Summer – The Dangerous Summer

This was a hard choice, so I’ll start with my honourable mentions: Norwich locals Ducking Punches, Icelandic post-rockers Sigur Ros and American emo-rockers Pianos Become the Teeth.

The Dangerous Summer fell apart in 2014, publicly and uncivilly. In July 2017, their Twitter went blank. Most fans felt this was them deleting the past. When my phone buzzed with a notification that the band had posted a short video which read ‘Hello’, I went crazy. At 11pm at Kings Cross Station, I screamed audibly with joy. That the band would be reuniting and recording together again (albeit without guitarist Cody Payne) was unthinkable at the start of 2017. Yet only a few weeks into 2018 they will return with album four.

The band’s self-titled drops at the end of the month and, if the lead singles are anything to go by, it will continue on from the band’s third album ‘Golden Record’. If gravelly vocals, candid lyricism and atmospheric instrumentation is your thing, don’t sleep on this album.

– Nick Mason

My album of 2017:

Tove Lo – Blue Lips (Lady Wood Phase II)

The lead single from Tove Lo’s latest album was called Disco Tits. In the accompanying music video, she punches, then gets high with, then makes out with, a puppet. If you’ve never heard of her before, I can imagine that gives you a pretty good impression of what kind of artist she is. Her latest offering, the ‘sequel’ to 2016’s ‘Lady Wood’, and her third overall, is an amalgamation of blood, sweat, tears, and a lot of glitter.

Tove Lo has helped write songs for a variety of artists, including Lorde and Ellie Goulding. But she brings to her own work an incredible and powerful honesty that pop music often lacks. The Swedish pop star is no stranger to sex. At a time when cases of harassment seem to be surfacing every other week in the entertainment industry, Tove Lo continues to embrace and express her sexuality – in both her song-writing and in her live performances – empowering herself and others in the process. Like its predecessor, Blue Lips is divided into two halves: the loud and fast Light Beams against the emotional, introspective Pitch Black. What the two parts have in common is Tove Lo’s raw, passionate lyricism. From the swaggering confidence of Bitches, to the hopeless desperation of 9th of October, it’s clear that when she feels something, she feels it hard.

2017 was a rough year for everyone. But I was able to find some solace in getting drunk and singing about sweat and nipples, thanks to Tove Lo.

What I’m waiting for in 2018:

Black Honey – TBA

I first saw Black Honey in 2015. I travelled to London with my best friend to see Superfood, and they just happened to be the support act. The show was so captivating – and anyone that has seen Black Honey can confirm this – that we had no choice but to fall in love with them. Fast forward three years. They’ve released six singles, three music videos, two EPs, and my friend and I have seen them seven times. But still no album. So, you can imagine our excitement when they announced on New Year’s Eve, via Instagram, that 2018 would in fact be the year of the debut Black Honey LP.

It is quite the testament to their ability that the Brighton quartet were able to gain such a strong following without releasing an album – racking up almost 100,000 monthly listeners on Spotify – but it’s not surprising. Their brand of 60s psychedelic-meets-grunge-meets-Tarantino indie is simultaneously fresh and familiar, and atmospheric as hell. Sure, there’s a lot of pressure, given that they’ve been building up to this for three years, but they’ve never let me down before. And I doubt they’re going to start now.

– Jacob Chamberlain

My album of 2017:

Pictures – Promise

My favourite album of 2017 has to be PICTURES’ debut Promise. The German four-piece has an interesting backstory, led by Maze Exler, formerly of cult rock groups Jonas and Union Youth.

Promise, however, sees a clear divergence from Exler’s grunge roots, with some warm indie tunes interspersed with more contemplative tracks.

The best thing about Promise is its variety of styles. We go from Here I Come’s raw riff acting as a real statement of intent from the band, to Emily, a tender, melodic acoustic ballad. The evocative Not the Only One and Come On contain some virtuoso keys and guitar from Ole Fries. The sprightly Fall and Beatles-influenced Love are the biggest growers, bolstered by some interesting backing vocals. However, the best track of the album comes when Exler stirringly bears his soul on Save My Heart, implicitly reflecting on the ten year gap since the dissolution of Union Youth during which time he gave up music and later suffered from the resurfacing of a heroin addiction which threatened to end PICTURES before they even started.

The fact I’m enjoying Promise as much now as in the spring speaks volumes for its longevity and quality both in terms of lyrics and production. It’s even encouraged me to look back into the members’ careers (PSA: Darkness/Killers fans, check out bassist Markus Krieg’s old band Profession Reporter)

In a year when pop continued to dominate, Promise demonstrated that there’s still a place for old-fashioned guitar-based indie and enigmatic frontmen with a story to tell.

What I’m waiting for in 2018: 

Rae Morris – Someone Out There

An early highlight this year will be when Blackpool singer-songwriter Rae Morris’ second LP Someone Out There comes out at the start of February.

Morris really came to prominence last year with the perfectly formed pop single Do It, which will feature on the album. The groovy tune is quite sparse in terms of instrumentation, allowing the natural melody in her voice to shine through.

The second single from the album, Atletico (The Only One), is Morris’ best song to date, a delicious blast of electropop laden with synth bursts and multi-tracked vocals. Lyrically, Atletico tackles the perennial pop theme of regrettable tongue-tiedness in a far more upbeat way than most. If the rest is as good as this, we’re in for a treat.

Opener Push Me To My Limit was recently released, a much more understated tune which exhibits Morris’ trademark sweet twang. One Twitter user accurately (and hilariously) described it as “Björk… but intelligible.”

Despite the understandable focus on her superb vocals, Morris appears to genuinely enjoy her job, evidenced by her quirky music videos.

If 2018 is going to be the year of the great female vocalists, alongside the likes of Sigrid, Rae Morris will be blazing the trail.

– Tony Allen