It has been another eventful 12 months. With neverending political strife, major celebrity scandals and the untimely passing of some of rock’s most beloved names, you could consider 2017 to be a year to forget.
Nevertheless, there has been a ton of superb records that have pulled us through these troubled times. As we look optimistically towards 2018, like many, the Already Heard team has picked out their favourite records of the past 12 months.
With all the votes counted, the following is our cumulative list of 10 albums that we believe defined our site in 2017.
10. Brutus – Burst
When ‘All Along’ arrived in our inbox last Autumn, we knew this Belgian trio had something special. Fast forward to February and ‘Burst’ arrives and goes beyond meeting our expectations.
Creating frantic ferocity on songs such as ‘No Chaos’ and ‘Crack / Waste’, the combination of Stefanie Mannaerts impassioned, domineering vocals and impactful drum work, Peter Mulders’ pulsating, rumbling basslines and Stijn Vanhoegaerden’s stirring guitar made ‘Burst’ an intense, and occasionally reflective, listen.
As it gained momentum throughout the remainder of the year, Brutus would go on to showcase their equally energetic live side with impressive outings at festivals such as 2000 Trees. Their mix of compelling hardcore punk, black metal and post-rock looks set to win over more admirers in the coming months, with a return to the UK supporting Arcane Roots lined up. (SR)
9. While She Sleeps – You Are We
Building upon what came before has always been the mantra of While She Sleeps’ back catalogue. Just as the relentless metallic hardcore of ‘This is the Six’ expanded into the grand mountain of riffs on ‘Brainwashed’, third album ‘You Are We’ is the Sheffield quintet’s most concise album to date. This isn’t just another metalcore album, it’s an album of anthems.
With its creation funded entirely by fan’s donations via a PledgeMusic campaign, ‘You Are We’ is a testament to fans from While She Sleeps which pushes the idea that they are as vital a part of the band as the musicians themselves. There’s a real sense of unity throughout these songs, like they were made with the thought of thousands of voices being able to sing the words back at them when they play.
‘You Are We’ is an album that turns While She Sleeps from participators into leaders of this generation’s metalcore movement. It’s a step up from the band in terms of vocal performance, instrumentation and crafting memorable songs. As a band who have been on full charge since day one, ‘You Are We’ is the masterpiece we all knew WSS were capable of making come to life. (AD)
8. Alvvays – Antisocialites
Proof that lightning can strike twice, Alvvays more than matched the brilliance of their self-titled debut on the kaleidoscopic ‘Antisocialites’, an album of audacious colour and dazzling light that is as exciting as it is sincere.
Driven by a host of excellent pop songs, the likes of ‘Plimsoll Punks’, ‘Lollipop (Ode To Jim)’ and ‘Saved By A Waif’ are frenetic delights, sure to buzz around your head for hours on end. Yet the depth and subtlety – not to mention the brilliant storytelling of Molly Rankin – makes ‘Antisocialites’ an album that rewards even in its quietest moments.
Consequently, the likes of ‘Dreams Tonight’ and the monolithic closer ‘Forget About Life’ are show-stoppers; big, bold numbers where even the most introspective moment feels like a widescreen cinematic blockbuster. Likewise, ‘Already Gone’ – ‘Antisocialites’’ quietest moment – is a masterpiece in miniature, an end-of-summer lament of distance and longing. It’s gracefully poignant and every bit as powerful as the more forceful numbers.
‘Antisocialites’ is an album of opposites, its personal nature buried by its pop sheen. It’s both perfect headphone music, affording you the opportunity to get lost in Rankin’s world, and ideal for road-trip sing-alongs. It’s the perfect marriage of pop and poetry – and it’s a winner from start to finish. (RM)
7. Julien Baker – Turn Out The Lights
When Julien Baker announced the follow-up to 2015’s ‘Sprained Ankle’ this past summer, there was a gentle sense of expectation. Having crafted a set of emotionally raw songs with her debut, album number two, ‘Turn Out The Lights’, saw her tug the heartstrings once again with stunning results.
Over the course of its 42 minutes, Baker delicately took you on a mesmerizing journey of mental health struggles and damaged relationships. Its title track alongside ‘Appointments’, ‘Claws In Your Back’ and ‘Everything That Helps You Sleep’, are haunting, beautiful and heartbreaking. Throughout her vulnerable and honesty shines a light of hope above the beautifully bleak songs she has written.
A pure, relatable songwriter like Julien Baker is a rarity. Her talent and ‘Turn Out The Lights’ should be cherished. It’s a special record that transcends the confines of any genre or scene. (SR)
6. Counterparts – You’re Not You Anymore
Counterparts aren’t just the kind of band you listen to casually in the background. They’re not even just a hardcore band you could use to get you pumped in the gym. Ever since their breakthrough record ‘The Current Will Carry Us’, the Canadian metalcore collective’s music has been a source of catharsis for its creators and fans alike. And in 2017, they produced their finest work to date on ‘You’re Not You Anymore’.
On ‘YNYA’, Counterparts play by their own rules. Their songwriting techniques draw in shades of Victory Records’ screamo, Bridge Nine hardcore, and an understanding of creating an impact that can’t be tied to any label. It’s all brought together by dynamic frontman Brendan Murphy, who always presents as a man battling his inner thoughts of despair from bearing down on him.
‘You’re Not You Anymore’ is an album with growth and change at its heart, and the celebration and heartache that carries with it. The loss of good friends and venting of personal frustration takes a toll mentally, and Brendan’s violent imagery in many of the album’s lyrics is a reflection of the darker side of the human mindset. The payoff of this suffering is an album that clings to you and moves you emotionally and physically (you will be throwing down to this record a lot) throughout its 28-minute run. (AD)
5. Sorority Noise – You’re Not As _____ As You Think
March of this year saw the return of Connecticut’s Sorority Noise with their third full-length ‘You’re Not As _____ As You Think’, an almost uncomfortably open response to the loss of five close friends of singer Cameron Boucher.
Expertly balancing a loud and soft dynamic throughout, the album opens with the frenetic ‘No Halo’, which displays the full spectrum of Sorority Noise: emotionally rich with a DIY punk sensibility to underpin it all. It’s not all doom and gloom though, as Boucher sometimes displays a tongue in cheek approach to dealing with loss.
Ultimately, it’s an album about coping, and the versatility seen on ‘You’re Not As _____ As You Think reflects that there’s no one way to do so. (BM)
4. Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile to the Surface
Having somewhat disappeared into the musical wilderness for a few years, Manchester Orchestra returned this past summer with a record that is on par with their highly admired early work. ‘A Black Mile to the Surface’ saw the Atlanta-based group embrace layered, sonic soundscapes and combined it with Andy Hull’s reliable songwriting.
In a time where it’s all too easy to reach for the skip button on our smartphones, ‘A Black Mile…’ effortlessly demands to be listened to from start to finish. As it ebbs and flows between songs such as ‘The Gold’, ‘The Alien’, ‘The Sunshine’ and the spacious, penultimate highlight that is ‘The Parts’, Hull’s distinctive voice and role as narrator left us truly compelled.
Described in our review as “a career highlight”, ‘A Black Mile to the Surface’ truly is an exceptional record that will certainly add to Manchester Orchestra’s growing influence. (SR)
3. Converge – The Dusk In Us
On their ninth studio release, Massachusetts mathcore legends continued their unbroken flawless streak. How the band have managed to keep up a level of quality this high for 27 years truly beggars belief, but somehow Jacob Bannon and co. have managed it, knocking it out the park yet again with ‘The Dusk In Us’.
As mentioned above, Converge have a spotless back-catalogue, so following 2012’s ‘All We Love We Leave Behind’ was no mean feat, especially given the five-year gap between albums (the longest in the band’s history). As the band get older, they’ve remained balls-to-the-wall heavy and abrasive, as well as uncompromising in their execution. Despite this, they’ve found new ways to push their sound out, adding melodic and post-rock elements seamlessly. The title track on this album, for example, may be their most ambitious to date.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the band that ‘The Dusk In Us’ is another hit for Converge, another fantastic addition to their already impressive repertoire. It’s not often that this far into a band’s career, the listener is left excited about where the band go next. (AC)
2. Creeper – Eternity, In Your Arms
Creeper may have ended 2017 with their biggest headline tour ever, but it will be remembered for them dropping the most dazzling, delightfully theatrical debut in years. Let’s face it, given the killer publicity campaign and stratospheric levels of hype that built up to its release, it was always going to be something special. But few were prepared for the sheer number of superlatives that would be needed to describe ‘Eternity in Your Arms’.
From its wonderfully imaginative narratives weaving bewitching supernatural yarns, to its radio conquering singles and eye-catching artwork, Creeper took ticking every box that defines an iconic debut squarely in their stride. The atmospheric romps of the likes of ‘Black Rain’, ‘Down Below’ and ‘Room 309’ marked this as a record set to dominate album of the year lists with 2017 still in its infancy.
Elsewhere ‘Crickets’ and ‘I Choose to Live’ highlighted EIYA’s grandiose depths, varied instrumentation and potent emotional hammer blows. No other record this year had quite the same ability to entice listeners to fall headlong into it time after time as this gem from Southampton’s finest. (DW)
1. The Menzingers – After The Party
In any form of art, consistency can be hard to find yet with every passing record, Philadelphia’s The Menzingers seem to pull it off with ease. After delivering two stellar back-to-back albums in ‘On the Impossible Past’ and ‘Rented World’, the Philly quartet made it a hat-trick with ‘After the Party’.
Documenting the turning point of entering their thirties, ‘After the Party’ offered a collection of relatable punk songs. While they’re soaked in Americana, songs about long-distance drives, worthless diplomas from worthless universities, everlasting hangovers and playing music from crap laptop speakers are easy to relate to on both sides of the Atlantic.
While in songs such as ‘Lookers’, ‘Bad Catholics’, and ‘Midwestern States’, Greg Barnett once again shows his flair for telling engaging stories decorated with rich nostalgia, despite the bleak struggles he sings of.
From start to finish, ‘After the Party’ marks the realisation of a band that are no longer young and naive, accepting their transition and embracing the struggle of adulthood. All the while wrapped in a rousing, heart-on-their-sleeve skin that makes the album, and The Menzingers in general, one of the most admirable and beloved and bands right now. (SR)
The Menzingers’ vocalist/guitarist Tom May passed on the following comment upon hearing ‘After the Party’ being voted as our Record of the Year. They’re also our first two-time winners, having won the title in 2012 for ‘On the Impossible Past’.
“Years ago when we first came to the UK, the past, present, and future all converged on a novel realization that we were actually doing it. We made it to fucking England! We are so thankful and proud that our album is so loved it was chosen for ‘Record of the Year’ by Already Heard. Incredible! We can’t wait to be reunited with our friends and fans, both old and new when we come back in January!”