Half way into each calendar year it seems to be part of the human experience to go "I can't believe it's July already." Every 12 months that we pass through seems shorter than the last, and when you have that disorienting experience of realising just how long ago the previous year was, you might feel a little vertiginous sensation when you look back at just how much time you've already let slip by you. Thankfully there are things you can do to make you feel like you haven't so much wasted your time or to help remind you of the valuable things you've done in the last half year. One of those things, at least for music lovers, is to go about professing love for all the albums that have come out in the last 26 weeks; the records that have brightened the long dark days of winter, accompanied you as the days started to extend, and maybe some that have already established themselves as your soundtrack to what promises to be a glorious summer.

Below are a selection of albums that we at The 405 love, and wanted to talk about, since they've been our companions through the first half of this year, and could make a great new friend for you, as we head into the back half.


Cloud Nothings - Life Without Sound

On Life Without Sound, Cloud Nothings play a sonic and emotional cacophony. The band reached into their arsenal and pulled out all the stops. This album dropped in January, so if you've been sleeping on it, I egregiously implore you to get on it. Musically, Cloud Nothings broke open the encompassing 'garage-rock' genre and highlighted, twisted, and bent those influences to the point of a beautiful destruction. You have these elements of post-punk fuzz, psychedelic layers, emo, post-hardcore, and even power pop. The melodies and riffs burrow into you. The drum fills are as close to perfection as you can get.

Leader Dylan Baldi finds a way to cut to the core. He found a way to take the power usually associated with teenage angst and channel it into a heavily psychological and adult reality. There are brush strokes of death, the snarkiest of cynicisms, and terrifying contemplations on the nature of reality. It is a legitimate version of those late night insomnia hours where your brain just doesn't stop, not even for a second, and it's not your fault; these things need contemplation and Baldi's voice reaches points of personifying that darkness.

To top it all off, this album passes the dynamics test. No, you will not find a ballad here; Life Without Sound is not a series of steps going up and down. This album is an undulating wave (ironically like "sound"). Within each song there is significant push and pull and that arches track to track. This album is proof rock is far from dead.

- Ian Hays

Read our full review of Life Without Sound


Do Make Say Think - Stubborn Persistent Illusions

In amidst the other bands making long-awaited returns this year, it might have escaped the attention of many that Toronto instrumental post-rock legends Do Make Say Think released Stubborn Persistent Illusions; their first album in eight years, and arguably their best to date. In a band that makes music as grandiose and dynamic as DMST, chemistry is important. Rather than seeming to have deteriorated over their hiatus, it seems that the foursome have learned a lot more about their various roles in the band and when recombined seem to have used these new experiences to build the DMST chemistry into whole new dimensions. It only takes hearing the opening 'War On Torpor' to get a clear picture of their extreme synchronicity; creating a plundering soundscape and, skiing down it full-force in convoy, slaloming in and out of unseen markers on the way to a glorious conclusion. Following that is the 10-minute 'Horripilation', which tenses and releases between glistening mounds and oozing puddles; it's a gorgeous exercise in patience and poise that creates a subtle but huge overall picture. Stubborn Persistent Illusions continues through its hour run-time to pick up and put down the listener, to squeeze and release them. Nowhere is this more clear than on the glorious centre point of the album, where the polychromatic 'Bound', buoyed by bubbles of analogue synth refracting the guitars out in all directions, leads into '...and Boundless', where all the stored potential comes gushing out like a suddenly-opened fissure in the Earth. And, at the end of the quaking coda, when they bring their rush back around to the main musical passage that fuelled 'Bound', you realise you're in the very capable hands of some of rock music's all-time greatest instrumental composers.

- Rob Hakimian

Read our full review of Stubborn Persistent Illusions


Fleet Foxes - Crack-Up

It's been a long time since Fleet Foxes put out a record - in fact some other bands have even broken up and got back together for a "reunion" in the 6 years since Helplessness Blues. Therefore it would be naïve, and maybe even selfish, to think that Fleet Foxes would come back sounding rejuvenated, blasting forth with multi-part harmonies on pop-folk songs that immediately brighten your day. From the opening moments of 'I Am All That I Need / Arroyo Seco / Thumbprint Scar', where a close-mic'd Robin Pecknold murmur-sings to a slight and strangely tuned acoustic guitar, we get the feeling this is a more mature, a more ambitious, and more singular album than anything they've put out before. As that opening song then drifts breathtakingly through its three movements, featuring rollicking guitars, fleet woodwinds and Disney strings, you're either swept away in the strong current of Fleet Foxes' abilities, or you're left behind to dry out on the shore.

The rest of the album holds up the same levels of craft and idiosyncrasy as its multi-part opening suite. There is the ebbing and flowing couplet of 'Cassius, -' and '- Naiads, Cassadies' that slot together like the most complex puzzle pieces you could imagine - but it's a snug slide from one to the next. There's the other multi-part monolith 'Third of May / Ōdaigahara', where rambunctious melodies whisk us away, before Fleet Foxes throw us in a net of self-reflection, then release us into the wild again. Beyond that is the epic self-reflective rainstorm of 'On Another Ocean (January / June)'. Slotted in between all this grandiose expression are also some genuine folk rock pearls, though they too come wreathed in expertly selected instrumentation that may at first obscure their accessibility; 'Kept Woman' shifts over quicksand-like pianos as Pecknold and co. harmonise cunningly, painting the precious moment between lovers in slow motion; 'Fool's Errand' comes packed with their most powerful hook, Pecknold cruelly examining his wasted labours and breaking forth with a self-searing lead vocal that dictates both frustration and acceptance; 'I Should See Memphis' glides like a plane slowly breaking through clouds as it makes its descent into a glorious new landscape. And at the centre of it is 'If You Need To, Keep Time On Me', the simplest and most heartfelt song on the album, with Pecknold pledging his dedication to someone, promising to be their rock in their time of need - as long as they'll do the same for him when he needs it. It's the ultimate reminder that there is a large, swelling human heart at the centre of Fleet Foxes' music, just as there always has been. The modern world, aging and their growth in cynicism may have coloured Crack-Up in slightly greyer and more blustery shades than their previous releases - but the main feeling when walking away from listening to this album is one of pleasure at all of life's challenges and rewards, which is something Fleet Foxes do better than any other band.

- Rob Hakimian

Read our full review of Crack-Up


Foxygen - Hang

If Foxygen's previous album, 2014's ...And Star Power, chose expansion and decay as its unifying musical principles, the band's latest takes the opposite approach: compression, urgency, density. Eight songs in thirty-two minutes and enough musical ideas to fill many more. There are shades of Gershwin and Copland, Jagger and Van Morrison. And there is a remarkable approach to structure which suggests a mind in a manic state, racing through sounds and grasping onto them with a fanatical intensity. But these songs are not empty displays of technique. There is intelligence in the arrangements, great crescendos that locate moments of clarity and discovery, delivered with an energy that suggests chaos. The chaos is an illusion. The energy, audacity, and invention are not.

- Mark Matousek

Read our full review of Hang


Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.

After being crowned this generation's greatest rapper with 2015's sprawling, jazz influenced To Pimp a Butterfly, it was difficult to see where Kendrick Lamar would go on this year's DAMN.. Would he choose a more commercial direction or would he keep making dense records that produce more online think pieces than radio spins? Turns out he was able to do both. DAMN. is by far his most mainstream album to date and yet there are so many moments on here that can only be described as breathtaking in a literal sense, leaving the listener momentarily gasping before catching up to what Kendrick is doing. There's the chaotic beat change-up on 'DNA.', the heartbreaking second verse on 'FEAR.', where a 17-year-old Kendrick lists the various ways he could easily die over the most trivial things, and the entirety of 'XXX.', which can only be described as one of the most creative songs in hip-hop history.

These moments are counterbalanced by tracks like 'LOYALTY.' and 'LOVE.' - some of the most blatantly radio-friendly songs of his career. But they don't just work on their own as infectious pop records but serve to counterbalance the denser moments on the album and at the same time underline the conceptual theme that runs throughout: the duality of human nature. And perhaps that's the most truly brilliant aspect of DAMN.: lyrically, this theme is everywhere for the listener to wrestle with as shown by the song titles themselves--'LOVE.' and 'LUST.'; 'PRIDE.' and 'HUMBLE.'--but even musically, this theme of duality dominates the album, as it goes back and forth between impenetrable, difficult moments and joyful, catchy anthems. Sometimes Kendrick sounds like he's drowning, and sometimes he sounds like he's soaring - and that's the entire point.

- Matthew Reyes

Read our full review of DAMN.


Laura Marling - Semper Femina

Laura Marling arrived at her sixth album in a mood to reflect. As its Virgil-quoting title suggests (it references a line that translates as "a woman is an ever fickle and changeable thing"), the record tackles the categorisation that has been bestowed upon her as an assertive feminist writer. It is, for the first time, her reaction to that status, as best evidenced by the album's key track 'Nouel', a tale of platonic love to a friend of Marling's that does not shirk the male effect but spits in the face of the male gaze. It follows on from her own podcast which explored the role of female creativity in the music industry, which makes her declaration that this album marks a "masculine" period of her life as particularly striking.

It is also an album that sees Marling spreading her wings musically. Lead single 'Soothing' features a distinctive, unfamiliar strut, and 'Don't Pass Me By' sees her first venture into experimentation with electronically looped percussion. 'Wildfire' is her most soulful vocal to date, while album climax 'Nothing Not Nearly' is a frantic, Crazy Horse-flavoured electrical storm. It is her most musically diverse album to date, and perhaps her most personally unguarded too.

- Max Pilley

Read our full review of Semper Femina


London Grammar - Truth Is A Beautiful Thing

The Nottingham trio London Grammar deliver a second album that is both satisfying and self-indulgent. Rather than recreating their debut, they identify its strongest moments and magnify them with impressive execution. From the moment the radiant tones of 'Rooting For You' permeated the nation's collective New Year's day hangover with its crippling emotional swell, I knew this album was bound to be something special. Through self-assuredness in each other's skills, the band have crafted an album that is distinct in sound and structure. Hannah's ground shaking vocal demonstrates power and restraint in beautiful balance throughout. With a combination of luscious bass, expansive production courtesy of Paul Epworth and impeccable R&B influence, the trio tackle the expectations amounted from their early success in their understated, yet no less affecting manner.

- Sean Ward

Read our full review of Truth Is A Beautiful Thing


Lorde - Melodrama

"I do my makeup in somebody else's car."

Those are the eight words that open one of the biggest musical juggernauts of the year. 'Green Light' met rave reviews upon its release, and for good reason: it's an utterly bombastic piece of pop perfection. It's percussive builds, simple piano riff and the hopelessly candid lyrics are all ingredients the Lorde's recipe for a faultless pop song.

But as the dust eventually settled around the stratospheric musical meteor that was 'Green Light', the anticipation for Lorde's second album Melodrama began to grow. And did it live up to expectations? Absolutely.

The record is a masterclass in songwriting; from the cantering electronics of 'Supercut', full of hope and brimming with teenage passion, to the venomous, trap dusted 'Sober II (Melodrama)', Lorde conveys emotion in a way well beyond her twenty years. Whereas debut Pure Heroine was snappy and succinct, Melodrama is its big sister - the kind of big sister you always wanted to have: elegant, witty and far cooler than you. It's a sprawling thing; melodies are brought back like leitmotivs, outros are extended with stylish orchestral arrangements and lyrics are sincere, honest and sharp. Whilst Pure Heroine was an assortment of songs that could feel disconnected, Melodrama is a collection of intertwined anthems.

"I'm nineteen and I'm on fire," the young popstar purrs; well with an offering like this, I don't think anybody would disagree.

- Hannah Mylrea

Read our full review of Melodrama


Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked At Me

Since his first project with The Microphones in 1996, Phil Elverum - AKA Mount Eerie - has illustrated melancholia in an extremely specific manner. However, on his most recent record A Crow Looked At Me, Elverum finally has something to be sad about. Following the passing of his wife Geneviève Castrée to a treacherous battle with pancreatic cancer, Elverum recorded A Crow Looked At Me in his Anacortes, Washington home with his two-year-old daughter in the other room. A concept album of sorts, A Crow Looked At Me is an emotional venture into the overcast world of Elverum, with minimal production - or instruments, for that matter - and a voice so ridden in sadness that it's capable of making the listener tear upon the first listen. Elverum's initial goal wasn't to turn tragedy into art, but what came about after A Crow Looked At Me could only be considered a masterful work of art, one that resounds not only with those who have suffered through a tragic death in their life, but to anybody who has ever felt lost in the world they're living in.

- Timothy Michalik

Read our full review of A Crow Looked At Me


Pallbearer - Heartless

Metal is currently seeing a level of popularity that it hasn't in a long time, largely due to the many different factions that the genre can now be split into, and the difficulty this has caused in people who want to pigeonhole bands who make that kind of music. Pallbearer don't really do themselves any favours in trying to avoid the stereotypes that haunt the genre; their previous albums have been called Foundations Of Burden and Sorrow and Extinction, hitting home heavily on the olde-style woe that detractors often use to make fun of such bands, but the Arkansas band are clearly paying homage to their forebears, while also pushing the genre into new territories.

Their third album comes with the most straightforward name, Heartless, and from the muscular opening chug of 'I Saw The End', unfolds as their most accessible album to date. So while they're still leaning into some of the tropes of the genre ("oceans of blood" are mentioned in the first few lines), they're standing on that platform and using their intimidating musicianship to elevate themselves into something bigger and better. From the sky-searing guitar solos on the opening track, we move through to 'Thorns', where the cascading force of the band at full-tilt ejects singer Brett Campbell's stories about "an ever-present wound/ spill words that flow tomorrow," into a new stratosphere where they can take shape, carried by monolithic riffs. What makes Heartless extra special is Pallbearer's ability to combine destructive and dominating rock sounds with truly strung-out, desperate, human emotions. This has a lot to do with the melodicism that they carve into their rock face, and the painstaking patience they take in doing it. The finest songs on the album are the longest ones, with 'Dancing In Madness' as the album's tentpole centre, where we hear Campbell's desperation at the world around him being both amplified and drowned out by the pure cathartic energy of the band. And then the finale, 'A Plea For Understanding', mines a similar vain, where again you feel the sharpness of Campbell's emotions as his vocals crest and soar over the guitars. Heartless is an album that sits firmly in the metal genre, but has ambitions and abilities that push its tendrils far beyond it; this is the kind of album that could suck you into a whole new world of appreciation.

- Rob Hakimian

Read our full review of Heartless


Perfume Genius - No Shape

Mike Hadreas' music is undeniably dramatic, touching on heartbreak and childhood trauma, but it also possesses an innate sense of intimacy that would be spoiled by a surplus of misplaced flourishes. On Perfume Genius' fourth and possibly best album, No Shape, Hadreas masterfully balances soaring anthems ('Slip Away', 'Wreath') with songs that are comparatively hushed but no less engaging ('Valley', 'Alan'). It's the kind of album that might require you to take a moment or two to collect yourself once it's over, but that will have you itching to replay it soon after. The only thing that rings misleading is the title. This is a fully-formed work of, well, genius.

- Brody Kenny

Read our full review of No Shape


Richard Dawson - Peasant

Political unrest and civilian dissatisfaction is no new thing. In fact, comparing the ways we show our discontent nowadays to the middle ages, we look pretty tame. Richard Dawson knows this, and he also has the kind of ever-curious, ever-creative mind that can weave a story, full of details both gory and glorious, in an Anglo-Saxon Medieval land that reflects the emotions of what it's like to be alive on the same Isles today. The Newcastle songwriter has done it 10 times in a row on his epic new album Peasant, his sixth to date, but first with a fully-realised folk-rock sound. Taking up the role of a nervous fighter on the eve of battle in 'Soldier', he might be thinking about "marching across the sea to the sunken monastery/ to face our faceless enemies," it can be taken on any number of levels, from the purely magnificent images, to the metaphors one could apply to it. There is a real earthy ruggedness to the band's sound and Dawson's voice, that takes you deep into this land, where people sing in praise of the sun, babies have whooping cough, and where raiders roll through on flaming carriages. Peasant is a trip into the dank and dirty nightmare of Medieval Britain, and you might just learn something about the modern day from it.

- Rob Hakimian

Read our full review of Peasant


Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels 3

Jaime and Mike knew we were going to need a Christmas fucking miracle, y'know, to make up for the events of November 8th and the fact that January 20th was just a short hop, skip and collective suicidal leap around the corner; so they let us have Run The Jewels 3 a couple weeks early. And what a gift it was, wrapped in barbed wire and bloodied bandages, El-P and Killer Mike's hot streak as Run The Jewels, the fiercest, most vital duo in contemporary hip-hop, continued unabated. Except, where RTJ1 was wall to wall shit-talk, and RTJ2 was shit-talk with a rising political conscience and copious references to clitori, RTJ3 is, erm, of all things, emotionally nuanced. Oh sure, El-P's beats still hit with the force of a sledgehammer covered in more hammers, and our beloved jewel runners can still throw shade like no one else, but RTJ3 veers closer in spirit and sound to El-P's disillusioned and hyper-paranoid 2012 album, Cancer 4 Cure. It's an album made for these uncertain times and reflects the global sense of paranoia, sadness, fear, and anger that combine to exhaust us into paradoxically enraged apathy. But RTJ3 is also a fist-pumping call to arms, a demand for action. As the final, (spoiler alert!) Zach de la Rocha-featuring track, drills home: it's time to kill our masters. And there's no better soundtrack for master killing than RTJ3.

- Andy Johnston

Read our full review of Run The Jewels 3


Sampha - Process

Over half a decade Sampha has been making his name as a heavyweight of the UK music scene. First popping up with SBTRKT and Jessie Ware in the early 2010's, Sampha Sisay became known for his collaborations and remixes.

Now six and a half years on from the 'Valentine' collab with Ware, and after working with the likes of Drake, Solange and Kanye West, he's created a sonic landscape of his own. Process is the best of everything Sampha does. It's rife with lush instrumentals and elegant musical lines, which accompany the crooner's rich, soulful vocals. Impressively varied, stylish production shines on the galloping finale of 'Blood On Me' and throughout the jittering 'Kora Sings', whereas simple piano playing and close-knit harmonies take centre stage on the gorgeous '(No On Knows Me) Like the Piano'.

With Process, Sampha has opened the door and let us catch a glimpse of the magnificent musical tapestry that is his life, and it's quite a sight to behold.

- Hannah Mylrea

Read our full review of Process


Thundercat - Drunk

2017 began with Ryan Gosling's La La Land character decrying the moribund contemporary jazz scene in, of all places, Los Angeles. Wake up Ryan, and take yourself down to Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label. As well as FlyLo's own music, you will find vanguard new records by Kamasi Washington, Daedalus and indeed Thundercat, all moulding history and heritage into original and visionary designs. Hell, even Thundercat's own brother Ronald Bruner, Jr. released a stonking debut record this year.

Drunk is Thundercat's third album and his most accomplished to date. A 23-track, 51-minute odyssey, it cannot be summarised by any one of its constituent parts. At one moment, you have the smooth funk of 'Show You The Way', replete with guest vocals from none other than Michael McDonald, the next you have a 60-second skit about a free space ride, and another moment a sly, playful cry for help named 'Friend Zone'. Thundercat and his band, one of the world's most talented (as anybody who has seen them this year can attest to), rein themselves in for the most part, failing to indulge in any long-form jazz noodling (make your own mind up about whether that is a positive), but their ability oozes out of every track. Whatever you want from a Thundercat album, it's in there somewhere.

- Max Pilley

Read our full review of Drunk


Ty Segall - Ty Segall

Over the span of his nine year career, Ty Segall has become somewhat of a rock n' roll absolutist. Multiple side projects, dozens of solo releases, and his own record label imprint on Drag City Records, and Segall has single-handedly brought himself to be known as an indie rock renaissance man. After a handful of breakthrough albums under his own name and a few under Fuzz, Segall's official self-titled album Ty Segall channels every bit of angst found in his previous projects, but this time around, Segall finds his proper place with an album that's as thrashing as it is oddly melodic. Dropping the art-school glam-rock of its predecessor, Ty Segall is a well-nourished and absurdly accessible entry point into the bizarre world of Ty Segall.

- Timothy Michalik

Read our full review of Ty Segall


White Reaper - The World's Best American Band

The best thing I can probably say about White Reaper is that the title of their most recent LP, The World's Best American Band, is really not hubris. It was undoubtedly chosen as a joke, and a funny one at that, but I'm not sure I could name a better American rock band right now than this gang of Louisville-based punks.

Whereas the band's past few releases, including 2015's terrific White Reaper Does It Again, have slanted toward more traditional punk, The World's Best American Band is full-fledged '80s arena rock. The title track and album opener imagines the band in a huge stadium packed with cheering fans who are going berserk as the band emerges out of the smoke and darkness to bang out one of their biggest hits. It is like White Reaper decided to become the posters that adorned their walls as children. Dreams of rock god grandeur are at the center of TWBAB and that's what puts it over the top.

Lead singer Tony Esposito has a Dazed & Confused-esque charisma about his voice, and the screaming guitars, rollicking bass and thunderous drums all propel the band up further and further. I would truly encourage anyone to try and find a song on this record that they really can't stand. I would argue it can't be done. Not everyone is a surefire smash, but this is one of the tightest records of 2017 -- musically and thematically. I cannot think of a band better suited to hold the mantle of the 'World's Best American Band' than White Reaper.

- William Tomer

Read our full review of The World's Best American Band