Our Top 10 Music Discoveries of 2017
Words by Eoin Hanlon
As another year soars by us like a headstrong child on a slip ‘n slide, the “Best Albums of the Year” articles are now beginning to appear in droves. They’re a fantastic source of information to check out on some of those releases you swore you’d get round to, or even to come across a couple of artists you haven’t heard before. However, usually when it comes to the top ranking records there is very rarely any wiggle room between different publications. They tend to choose (and understandably so) the same albums for similar positions, maybe only with one or two ranking differences between them. And let’s be honest, they can get a little repetitive sometimes.
Here at The New Establishment we thought we’d try out something a little different. Instead of ranking incredibly different musicians and pitting them against one another, we wanted to celebrate the discoveries that we came across this year. Some of them may be in those other articles mentioned, however these are the artists that we came across which made us exclaim “holy shit I must tell my friends (you’re our friends) about these guys!”
To avoid any indication of “ranking” these different finds against one another, they’re going to be listed in the chronological order they were found in. So without further ado, here are our Top 10 Music Discoveries of 2017:
Taeko Ohnuki –
Taeko Ohnuki is a legendary singer-songwriter (and relatively successful composer) in Japan. Beginning her career in the 1970’s and still releasing music to this day, Ohnuki is an outstanding songwriter who has traversed jazz fusion to an album of beautiful piano ballads where she collaborated with the internationally renowned Ryuichi Sakamoto (they’ve collaborated consistently throughout the years). Two of her albums, Sunshower and Mignonne have been particular standouts to listen to from this incredible artists dense catalogue, but don’t let that dissuade you from seeing just how much she has to offer which is over twenty studio albums! Mellow without being soporific and with a sound that is pop inflected but handled with maturity, Taeko Ohnuki is dazzling and well worth your time.
Taeko Ohnuki, Summer Collection –
Drugdealer are lovely. That is the easiest way to describe their 2016 debut album The End of Comedy, an album rife with romance and a coy sense of humour while sounding like the best aspects of 1960’s lo-fi pop. A little bit west coast, a little bit psychedelic and with a collaborative list boasting the likes of Weyes Blood and Ariel Pink – Drugdealer are the kind of band you would put on while hanging out with your friends, to resonate the warm fuzzy feeling you get being close to those you hold dear.
Drugdealer feat. Weyes Blood, Suddenly –
Aldous Harding –
Aldous Harding’s second album Party has seen her rise to understated stardom this year and for clear reason. The minimal and stark arrangements throughout the album allow her to vocally embody characters due to her incredibly powerful, distinct and eccentric voice. Imagine the brooding nature of Nico and then combine it with the theatricality of Kate Bush and you’re on the right track. Her dark, intense and intriguing style is filled with sly winks of humour (which is very kiwi), and gives the impression of someone who laughs in the face of the darkness, which her gothic-folk style accommodates beautifully. You may have seen her name floating around a lot this year, so take this opportunity to listen to her now and be welcomed to your new obsession.
Aldous Harding, Imagining My Man –
Mykki Blanco –
Part performance artist, part rapper, Mykki Blanco is glamorous riot grrrl hip hop with streaks of industrial within her rapturous and celebratory sound. Blanco is defiantly queer and has no time for gender politics but instead fucks it into the dirt. If you like your hip hop filthy, sexy and alternative – Mykki Blanco is going to turn you out. Her debut album Mykki fused glittery melodies alongside orchestral drama, but don’t let that understate her belligerence. Mykki Blanco is a revolutionary within the queer rap scene and it’s about time you let her shock, surprise and inspire you.
Mykki Blanco feat. Woodkid, High School Never Ends –
Street Sects –
The experimental, industrial noise-rock duo Street Sects somehow manage to blend the abrasive industrial rhythms of Death Grips alongside almost psychedelic and plunderphonic flourishes akin to The Avalanches (but only if they were from Hell). Their misanthropic and nihilistic lyrics which are incessantly screamed into the void match perfectly with their sample driven punk. In 2016 they released End Position, which is the sonic equivalent of being grabbed by the throat, pinned against the wall and dominated. If you’re not into that within a consensual context, then you’re missing out.
Street Sects, In Prison, At Least I Had You –
The gothic, cathedral-like grandeur of serpentwithfeet’s approach to neo-soul is nothing short of stunning. Imagine if Paganism had the epic influence and power of a contemporary gospel church and that is where serpentwithfeet resides. His EP four ethers blends the ambiguity of the spiritual and the sensual – by portraying the intimate bond of eroticism akin to a religious experience, his music is genuinely transcendental. If you’re a fan of Frank Ocean or ABRA in any capacity then it’s about time you joined the cult of serpentwithfeet (it’s okay Frank stans, you’re allowed to be in two cults).
serpentwithfeet, four ethers –
A House in the Trees –
Residing in South London are the audiovisual collective A House in the Trees, who are revitalising trip hop and blending in slight influences of other genres to create incredibly atmospheric and at times slightly creepy music. This year saw the release of their EP What Am I Supposed To Do?, which is like if Massive Attack weren’t paranoid about getting mugged, but were more indifferent and stoic towards the personal dramas over a summer of friendship and self discovery. Rich, occasionally decadent and with a dreamlike quality that is as hazy as your stoner housemates bedroom. A House in the Trees are well on their way to becoming one of the next big things to come out of London.
A House in the Trees Summertime –
Kelly Lee Owens –
Kelly Lee Owens has dominated this year and credit is entirely due where it’s deserved. Her self-titled debut takes the broody atmosphere and the melodically inclined experiments of Aphex Twin or Pantha Du Prince, creating a seamless blend of cavernous techno and ethereal pop. Kelly Lee Owens has made a beguiling album which is the musical companion to a lucid dream – submerge yourself head first and don’t you dare come up for breath.
Kelly Lee Owens feat. Jenny Hval, ANXI –
Mulatu Astatke –
Considered the father of Ethiopian Jazz (which is only the surface of his diverse musical projects), multi instrumentalist, composer and arranger Mulatu Astatke is a legend in his home country. His amalgamation of contemporary jazz, afrofunk, Caribbean reggae and Latin rhythms is unbelievably ambitious and a testament to his genius. From working with Duke Ellington to The Heliocentrics, Mulatu encapsulates the real meaning of world music. If you’re into Thundercat, Kamasi Washington, St. Germain or are after something that could soundtrack a detective show dealing exclusively with drug busts on boats in the 1970’s, Mulatu’s got you covered.
Mulatu Astatke & The Heliocentrics, Cha Cha (Ethiopia) –
Various Asses –
A peculiar but enticing blend of bass lines and trap music, Various Asses transcends genre definition to the point where her sound has been referred to as “body horror music”. It oozes of the underground scene; pulsating, sweaty and cathartic, her debut EP Loción is hedonistic and joyous. Not only is Various Asses one of the best names for a producer ever, her work is wonderfully eclectic and deliciously hypnotic. You’ll be totally lost in its world, panting and sweating from the dance moves you didn’t know you had in you.
Various Asses, Down Down –
We hope you like some of our discoveries, and if you were aware of them already then you’re clearly much cooler and far more interesting than us. Again, this isn’t to understate the major releases of 2017, as it has truly been the gift that has kept on giving when it came to album releases. So please enjoy rummaging through BBC Radio 6’s, Rough Trade’s and Pitchfork’s and all the other various lists as there’s plenty to be discovered. Now to wait with bated breath as to what 2018 may bring (and be found), but until then have a wonderful winter solstice and enjoy the beats.