Top 5 Album Releases of 2017

Shout Louder’s favourite picks from a year of brilliant new albums.

Article by Sarah Williams.

By sticking to the classic Top 5 format for our end-of-year round-up, I’ve really made a rod for my own back. It would be easier to write a Top 10 or a Top 40 with all the amazing releases this year.

As a result, there are some surprising absences from my Top 5. Propagandhi’s Victory Lap has received a lot of repeat play at Shout Louder HQ, but I’d still take any of these smaller bands over it. Bear Trade, Matilda’s Scoundrels and 88 Fingers Louie have all put out brilliant full-lengths. I’m a huge fan of The Smith Street Band, but for me More Scared of You Than You Are of Me just doesn’t have the sheer gut-wrenching emotive force of their earlier releases. I feel similarly about The MenzingersAfter The Party.

Shamefully, I’ve not given enough time to Iron Chic’s You Can’t Stay Here or Hard GirlsFloating Now to include them, although I know I’m going to become obsessed with both. I only recently heard Hateful Monday’s Unfrightened but that would definitely be on the Top 5 if I had got to it sooner! There are also plenty of less punk releases that I have enjoyed. If you’re into Canadian hardcore then You’re Not You Anymore by Counterparts will be a highlight. One of my other favourites has been Thundercat’s Drunk – it’s fabulously eclectic stoner/soul/nu-jazz stuff.

I have one final thing to mention before I get on with it: the new Only Strangers album. The release has been pushed back to 2018, but had it been released in December as planned there is no doubt that it would be in my Top 5. I’ve been rinsing a pre-release copy on repeat for weeks. If you like gruff melodic punk like The Burnt Tapes, Hot Water Music or Iron Chic, keep an eye out for the release in the next few weeks.

Finally, here are my Top 5 Albums of 2017:

#5: Aerial Salad – Roach

Aerial Salad Roach Cover

Aerial Salad are a refreshing suprise. There is something exciting about their debut album that I can’t explain; it has a modern-classic air to it. Songs like Habits and Problems are instantly memorable and relatable. The bassline on Check My Mind is as comforting as your pulse. The opening line to 97, ‘I just told my Mum I’m gonna kill myself, it’s so easy now,’ is so raw it burns. Roach is an album with guts.

It’s even more suprising that the album sounds refreshing, because in many way it’s copy-cat familiar: Aerial Salad’s sound is reminiscent of bands like Greenday, PUP, Gnarwolves, Jawbreaker and Nirvana. The is a raw quality to the production and rough delivery that makes the album sound fresh, unique and special. Discovering Roach is like finding £50 discarded and trampled in the street. Give it a listen and get ready to become obsessed.

Check out our 2-part interview with Jamie Munro here and here, plus our review of Roach here.

 

#4: Gnarwolves – Outsiders

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Gnarwolves are a somewhat marmite band within the scene, but for me Outsiders is merely further proof that they can do no wrong musically. From the warm, plaintive opening of Straightjacket I am completely and utterly hooked. ‘I found love at the bottoms of bottles, the edges of twilight where my Sunday slips into my Monday,’ is a fitting introduction to Thom Weeks’ evocative and memorable songwriting. The album then cascades through equally dark and uplifting tracks like Wires and Paint Me A Martyr, full of appealing melodies, hooks and infectious refrains. Continue reading “Top 5 Album Releases of 2017”

Gig Review: Might As Well Fest III (07/10/2017)

An exciting London charity all-dayer featuring Kamikaze Girls, Almedia, Eat Defeat, The Burnt Tapes, Sombulance and more.

Photo credit: Awesome pics courtesy of Roberto Gasparro @ LivePix.

Now in its third year, Might As Well Fest is socially-responsible all dayer split across two tiny London venues: The Macbeth in Hoxton and the infamous Old Blue Last in Shoreditch. If the cracking line-up isn’t enough to coax people down, the promoters are also using the forces of music for good, raising money for two worthy causes: CALM and SANDS.

When I hurriedly stumble into The Macbeth at 3.20pm, I’m concerned that I’m late but turns out that I needn’t have worried: they’ve had some troubles of their own. Don Blake and Sweet Little Machine have pulled out last minute, and You Know The Drill’s van has broken down outside Birmingham. As a result, they’ve had to shift timings, drum kits, amps and expectations. The change in the set times is actually a positive: the opening bands will now have a bigger crowd and the heel-draggers like me, who couldn’t make it earlier, won’t be missing out. Nonetheless, I’m reminded that we ought to be extremely thankful to anyone with the resilience to put on DIY shows!

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A handful of early-birds assemble to watch Thirteen, a Scottish group who’ve joined the bill at the last minute. They play old school punk with a rock ‘n’ roll flavour, which is good, but slightly out-of-sorts with the rest of the line-up, which is a combination of fast-punk and pop-punk. It’s good pub-punk and not a bad way to kick things off for the day.

As I reviewed their EP recently, I have been very excited to catch Our Lives In Cinema live. This is only their 8th gig and their freshness shows: they look a little awkward on stage at the beginning of the set, settling in after two songs.

They open with Cut and Run – an awesome throwback to a lot of energetic early noughties punk. You can hear a strong Jeff Rosenstock influence in Mark Bartlett’s frantic, emotional singing which is conveyed better live. Bartlett has a unique style of performance: he packs as many words into a bar as possible while shaking around the stage. Currently it looks a little awkward, but with more practice I expect it to become an integral part of their act. Otherwise, they’ve got a good, solid rhythm section, strong drumming and great backing vocals. They close on their most anthemic song, I Got This, leaving the audience happy. Once they’ve got a few more shows under their belt, I look forward to seeing a much more confident and comfortable band.

Lay It On The Line are up next at The Macbeth. They’re the most hardcore band of the day. It’s a brutal and disordered performance, with frontman Mike spending much of show writhing, crouched or lying on the stage while screaming bloody murder. He gives the impression of a man on the edge of breakdown extremely well. It’s all held together with some warmer guitar backing, adding a more melodic edge to their otherwise extreme sound.

It’s unusual to see bands with two standalone singers (Casual Nausea’s the only one I can think of), but it really works. Mike and Alice and equally adept at screaming and conveying a lot of anger and emotion. It’s hard to make out the lyrics but their explanations of the songs are both surprising and entertaining – one song’s dedicated to fans of the Marquis de Sade (of which they assume there are none in the room), another is about a head teacher who was killed by a rent boy after he failed to pay up…  It’s fascinating to know what inspires people’s song writing sometimes. They pull out a fantastic cover of Rotting Out’s Positive Views and end the set in a wail of feedback.

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Recap are up next, and they are fantastic. That’s the least you can expect from Dave House and Mark Pavey’s latest project – a reincarnation of Pacer and follow-up to The Steal. They jokingly say it’s only their second show, but they’re anything but new to the game. Continue reading “Gig Review: Might As Well Fest III (07/10/2017)”

An Interview with Kamikaze Girls

We talk to fuzzy garage duo Kamikaze Girls about their impressive debut album, ‘Seafoam’, writing about sensitive subjects, frustrations and more.

In early June Kamikaze Girls released their first full-length studio album, Seafoam. The duo from Leeds have previously put out two EPs, a three-track cassette and a David Bowie tribute, so it feels like they’ve taken the long road to this release. I’ve had the chance to enjoy their powerfully atmospheric live shows a number of times over the past 3 years, including recently on tour with Gnarwolves, and I’ve been itching to hear the new album.

Seafoam is the perfect follow up to their last EP, SAD. The new record takes the same emotional themes and infuses them with more grit and maturity. Their unique blend of grungy garage rock and shoegaze pop perfectly complements Lucinda’s dynamic vocal, which flips from delicate melody to raw fury between bars. The lyrics impart a turbulent cacophony of emotions, openly covering suicide, assault, depression and recovery, with a few sweet love songs thrown in. Ultimately it’s a complex, emotional and deeply relatable record, and impressive achievement for a first album.

To celebrate the album release, they recently embarked on a co-headline tour with London indie-punks Nervus. I was fortunate enough to sit down with Lucinda Livingstone (vocals + guitar) and Conor Dawson (drums) ahead of their show at The Smokehouse in Ipswich to discuss their new album, the difficulty of writing such personal songs, and the frustrations and misconceptions they’ve encontered along the way. Continue reading “An Interview with Kamikaze Girls”

Gig Guide: Bands You Need to See in June

June is blessed with staggeringly good line-ups – these are the best of the best.

June has the potential to either be a shining success or a hopeless disaster. Based on recent voting catastrophes, I’m fully prepared for an awful result on June 8th, and I do sometimes wish that shining beacons like Corbyn wouldn’t come along a give us leftie liberal types hope.

So, while you prepare to lose every shred of faith you have in humanity all over again, distract yourself with this splendid array of socially-conscious noise-mongers. There is no doubt that June holds some of the most exciting punk gigs on 2017 so far, and acts will be even angrier, feistier and more politically-charged than usual!

This is how I’ll be ignoring our inevitable doom:

Punx Inna Jungle – The Final Sozzle!

  • Where: Antwerp Mansion, Manchester
  • When: Saturday 17th June
  • Who: INSANELY GOOD LINEUP ALERT
  • Tickets: £7-10 from here

Known for being an absolute mauler of a night out, I’m seriously chuffed to be heading up to Manchester for the last ever Punx Inna Jungle. I can already taste the hangover.

MPF co-captains Anarchistic Undertones have pulled out all the stops with their last line-up, giving something for everyone. Drumroll please!

  • Politically-charged ska-punk from faves Faintest Idea
  • Riotous drunken folk punk from Matilda’s Scoundrels
  • Enjoy a punch in the face from Grand Collapse’s unrelenting melodic thrash
  • Throwing Stuff giving it hardcore thrash
  • Scottish veterans PMX playing melodic punk
  • Chaotic anarcho-ska from Wadeye
  • Tech-metal-meets-skate-punk brilliance delivered by Fair Do’s
  • Energetic punk fun from London DIY kings Wonk Unit

All this chaos will be taking place in the inappropriately named Antwerp Mansion. Apparently it’s never been a squat, but it definitely has that crusty, lived-in air, adequately setting the scene for debauchery that will last into the small hours. I look forward to seeing you all there, although there’s a good chance I may not remember it!

Continue reading “Gig Guide: Bands You Need to See in June”

Gig Review: Gnarwolves @ The Borderline (20/05/2017)

You can taste the anticipation in the Borderline before Gnarwolves take the stage. I’m primed, in position, and I’ve made a tactical effort to finish my drink so I don’t end up wearing it.

Here are 5 things I learned tonight:

  • The revamped Borderline is perfectly designed for stage-diving pandemonium
  • Kamikaze Girls are fucking awesome (okay, I kinda knew that already)
  • Shut Up is destined to be the best song on the new Gnarwolves album
  • Bottle to Bottle has become so close to my heart that hearing it live makes me tear up
  • I have just seen the best show of the year so far

Continue reading “Gig Review: Gnarwolves @ The Borderline (20/05/2017)”