Saturday 30 December 2017

Even The Stars Top Albums Of 2017 - 10 to 6

Our Top 25 albums of 2017 countdown continues today with the albums that make up numbers 10 to 6 in our list. Feel free to tweet us your favourites and why you think our list is great / predictable / preposterous.

25 : Reverend And The Makers - The Death Of A King
24 : Puppet Rebellion - Chemical Friends
23 : Desperate Journalist - Give Up
22 : Jessica Boudreaux - No Fury
21 : Phoebe Bridgers - Stranger In The Alps
20 : Kelly Lee Owens - Kelly Lee Owens
19 : Arcade Fire - Everything Now
18 : Wolf Alice - Visions Of A Life
17 : Rews - Pyro
16 : Findlay - Forgotten Pleasures
15 : Juanita Stein - America
14 : Shed Seven - Instant Pleasures
13 : Hater - You're Tired
12 : Dana Gavanski - Spring Demos
11 : Trampolene - Swansea To Hornsey


Not Even Happiness is one of the most intricate and intimate albums released this year and a showcase for one of the most charged voices around. Set to mostly minimal instrumentation, a finger-picked guitar here, strings floating in the distance there, silence marking a change in direction of a song in between, it is that voice that takes centre stage, dancing through the music. In just 33 minutes it feels like you've been introduced to Julie and have been taken on a journey through her thoughts, fears and deepest emotional turmoil.

At times Not Even Happiness can be difficult listening, as if you've been invited to a personal disclosure of some of Julie's darkest innermost thoughts and feelings. The haunting qualities of her voice make this even more uncomfortable at times as she sings of solitude and exposes vulnerabilities on songs such as Natural Blue and Follow My Voice. Like all the very best music of this kind though, you connect to her warmth and feel empathy and part of the solution by the end just by dint of having listened.

Julie Byrne's official website can be found here.


Holiday Desitination is Nadine Shah's third album and her most politically and socially charged record yet. It's a reaction to the Western world's response to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Syria and beyond on the refugees' journeys. The title track Holiday Destination asks "how you gonna sleep tonight?" to tourists complaining that those fleeing war zones for their lives are spoiling their holidays. Nadine told The Quietus in this interview - " I think artists need to document the times that [they] live in and what I wanted to do was to humanise the dehumanised by narrating first hand testimonies. I wanted to give people a voice who don’t normally have one. That’s what I wanted to do with the album."

Our review of her recent Manchester Band On The Wall show where she performed the album concluded : "Holiday Destination does what no other album released this year has done. It's taken one major political and social issue of our time and created a narrative that those who believe in it can relate to and which speaks for them. Outside these walls that message might not be one that's universally agreed with, but as Nadine says before Mother Fighter, it's one that we have to keep talking about and changing people's views. The world's moved on from our politically charged musicians arming themselves with just an acoustic guitar and words and this is how it needs to be done in these troubling times where intolerance and selfishness rule the roost and empathy is at a premium."

Nadine Shah's official website can be found here. She is also on Twitter and Facebook.


Misc Muses was an album discovered by happy accident. With a few hours to kill in Glasgow, we headed for Love Music and it was playing in the store. As it turned out, the guy who sold us the record runs Double A Recordings, the fledgling label that put the record out. Barbe Rousse is the musical moniker for Edinburgh-based musical man Alasdair Kelly. This is very much a homemade record and it shows in many places.

It's not polished, but to polish it would possibly destroy the very fabric that makes it such a great record. It's so choc full of ideas, often in the same song such as the near seven minutes of The Beginning Of.., that it's at risk of imploding under the sheer weight of them, but never actually does. There's electronic trickery with all kinds of effects only he could tell you how he created, some of the bedsit maudlin of the likes of Badly Drawn Boy (particularly on the glorious Limbo and Train Of Thoughts) and moments where he seems lost in his own world where you wait for him to realise you're still listening. And you will be because Misc Muses is a genuinely intriguing and involving record that shows how technology can allow music to be created in the most unlikely of places.

Barbe Rousse are on Facebook and Twitter.


Map And No Direction is Beth Bombara's fourth album and her most striking yet. Her Bandcamp bio states "Beth Bombara has a folk singer’s head and a rocker’s heart" and that's a perfect description of what to expect from Map And No Direction. It's cloaked in both folk and country influences, but isn't afraid to deliver more classic rock and roll hooks and let its hair down when the moment suits.

Only clocking in at 29 minutes and eight songs including a cover of Bob Dylan's Blind Willie McTell, it's got a mix of those upbeat rock songs like the album's first two tracks I Tried (Too Late) and When I Woke and the final track Made For Now combined with those where Beth slows things down as she does on the album's title track and the beautiful tear-jerking one minute forty piano-led ballad What We're Giving. We're looking forward to her bringing the album to Manchester in February.

Beth Bombara's official site can be found here and she is on Facebook and Twitter.


Neon Waltz's debut album was a long time coming. A string of brilliant singles over the past three years had simply built up the anticipation for the album that didn't disappoint when it finally was released. The delay meant that most of the songs were known to the band's enthusiastic hardcore fan base, but that mattered not one bit as it delivered everything that was expected of it and more. The band's location, stubbornly refusing to date to move from the very tip of Scotland, means that they're still seen as outsiders, something that's reflected in many of the songs but countered with an uplifting optimism that makes Strange Hymns one of the most uplifting albums of the year.

Our review concluded : "The real beauty of Strange Hymns lies therein, the refusal to throw the kitchen sink at these songs, an easy option for a six-piece of this talent, but instead to use charm, melodies, an insistent unwavering whispering to do its bidding. It's a brave record in an environment that demands "bangers", repeating a formula over again in ever decreasing circles of audience attention spans, but it's a success on every level, more than worth what seemed like the endless wait that's coming to an end."

Neon Waltz's official website can be found here and they are on Twitter and Facebook.

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