2016 was so bad people started to blame the things that happened on the year itself.

2017 however, will be remembered as the year we began to grow tired of wheeling new bins outside to set on fire. The year we settled into technology that allows us, whatever we believe, to lay blame solely at the feet of people that believe something different. It’s the year in which the venn diagram of our varying subcultures became a large page filled with lots of separate circles. In music, politics, even down to the OS choice on our smartphones; our niche interest groups coexist now without us ever having to step outside the feedback loop of their own validation. It's easy to feel like an island. Despite that, we don’t exist alone; for example every artist on this list is supported by at least ten more working hard in that scene, propping each other up, inspiring progression. It’s just harder to make our circles overlap in the fog of availability, there is so much to look at all at once it’s impossible, and the full time gatekeepers of old are all corrupt.

This is a list of albums that came out this year. Albums that I think deserve more love than they got from the writers and content farms that informed us, as fans of music, in 2017. I purposely didn't try to pick out the most obscure bands in the world - I just picked albums that I really love listening to that didn't get the attention I felt they deserved. No agenda, just a filter that is based on artistic merit and my own humble opinion.

As you (hopefully) wind down for a few days off at the end of this horrible year, I hope that you can find some time to explore and discover something new, that you can love, that inspires you. This world won’t make itself better. We need you inspired.

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Duct Tape by Pregnant

Duct Tape is all of your favourite indie bands intelligently patch worked together. Sometimes a little out there, sometimes familiar like an old friend, always accessible. Always fun to listen to, whether it’s loud through your speakers or taking you over through your headphones. Sacramento’s Pregnant have been releasing albums for a decade or so and it shows in their craft. There are levels to it if you choose to get lost.

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We’ve All Been Swimming by Fieldhead

We’ve All Been Swimming strips electronica down to the essentials. What remains, captivates. Listeners are propelled through it’s ten tracks. The pulse of synthesised sound is beautifully complemented by Elaine Reynolds violin, which adds depth and interest in the quieter moments. It should be on all playlists called “songs to work to” or “songs for your commute that stop you from wanting to die and oh look doesn’t the other side of the glass look pretty”. In a year when immersive electronic artists have gained critical acclaim it’s a shame that Fieldhead has remained under the radar. This is a slick and easy listen that enhances your experience of the world around you.

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Nektyr by Demen

Claude Debussy said “music is the space between the notes” and he was right. The most compelling thing about Nektyr is it’s space; melody becomes a lurching reverberation, layers are built beneath the surface. Demen has come from nowhere (Kranky released this album on the strength of her demo) and made an entire world of sound. It’s bleak, atmospheric and beautiful, operating similarly to how a bright blue sea appears black when the depth increases.

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Drool by Nnamdi Ogbonnaya

When I first heard Aesop Rock I felt my life was changed, or at least my perception of what was possible in hip hop, he seemed to operate in complete contrast to the world as painted by the New York legends I adored. Flow turned upside down, scattered beats that kept you on your toes, poetry I could aspire/relate to as a product of rural England. I felt the same paradigm shift when I first heard Drool. This is a virtuoso performance by a musician at the peak of their powers, unafraid of using many different instruments, methods and genres to communicate their message. As far as I’m concerned there were three great hip hop albums that came out this year; Big Fish Theory, Damn, and Drool. Only one of those albums needs a signal boost. Tell all your friends.

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Like Author, Like Daughter by Midwife

Like Author, Like Daughter is unreservedly sad, nostalgic, poignant, introspective. It’s undoubtedly all those things but at no point does it ever feel down. Sitting musically somewhere between Low and Port O’Brian, the whole album feels like a classic indie film soundtrack, long grainy shots of the sun breaking through the trees as the lead character lives their biggest scenes. What I’m saying is let this soundtrack your life. What I’m saying is listen to this and get ready to shoot your shot.

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DD Elle by DD Elle

DD Elle is a weird album. It’s clearly a pop album, but it’s so skeletal in composition that it forever shocks, which is rare, because nothing is shocking anymore. This isn’t your usual listening experience, consistently being knocked out of your comfort zone, enticed into opening up, committing to the hook, only to be kicked around some more. This is why it sticks with you, this is why it won’t leave, this is why hooks appear in my brain several days after listening to skewer my thoughts. Highly recommended.

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Suno Deko by Suno Deko

David Courtright conceived and birthed Suno Deko whilst touring hard with the inimitable Julie Byrne. A work of freedom, it’s ten songs navigate the breadth of human emotions with a vulnerability that is rarely shown, let alone shared. It is that vulnerability that becomes the source of the albums power. The strings and synths that surround these songs add a rich, lush quality. Which when combined with the freedom of his voice, and how the arrangements unravel, unfurl, and evolve in our ears; feel alive in ways that most music can only aspire to.

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Kickinit Alone by Kiefer

Kiefer plays with the flawless Mndsgn, Kickinit Alone is his first solo record and he takes the opportunity to show his dexterity on the piano over dusty breaks that make your head move. It’s part ultimate hip hop beat tape, part virtuoso jazz pianist set free in his spare time, expressing himself in the best way possible. It’s an understated, complex album that takes no time at all to overwhelm your brain.

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The Shameless Years by Rafael Anton Irisarri

The Shameless Years is 44 minutes of perfection, intense ambient music to transport and help you process the world we live in. Like a weaponised version of Stars of the Lid turning the gun on themselves. Personally, this years most existential and revealing epiphanies have been provoked by this album. Which feels like the whole point, changing the world, one brain at a time. You could call it claustrophobic, but I think it’s necessary. You could call it bleak, but I think the journey feels joyous. There’s no escaping it, you're already moving, you might as well let it guide you.

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Heba by Lowly

Lowly are a good example of why I write this list every year. They’ve made a solid 8 to incredible album that somehow ended up being critically overlooked in the end of year coverage. I should explain, there are two types of album in this list, ones that deserve more love in list season, and ones that have deserved more love all year long. Heba qualifies for both categories. It’s a perfect pop album, like a warmer, richer version of Braids. It’s dream pop/shoegaze but it's not forgettable, it has substance. More than anything else, it's an album that keeps dragging you back for more. Heba is an album that should have been heralded a whole lot more. If we don’t shout about these bands we’ll lose them.

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東方不敗 by Tzusing

Tzusing is a Shanghai based producer of exquisite (trust me) and innovative techno. 東方不敗 refers to a novel about swordsmen battling for a scroll that would make them the most powerful person in China, but the scroll requires you to cut off your genitals to gain that power. The idea that negating power (or at least the symbol of masculine power) makes you the most powerful of all is a metaphor for how Tzusing has approached this album, defying typical techno tropes throughout, his songs are all the more powerful for taking their own route.

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Guitar Module 2017 by Upper Wilds

Dan Friel was in Parts and Labor, one of the most underrated and exhilarating rock bands of recent times. Now, after releasing a couple of solo synth albums, he has again formed a band. Upper Wilds debut album Guitar Module 2017 burns brightly for 25 minutes, with the knowledge that anything longer would probably cause lasting damage. It’s the most melodic and enjoyable album of horrendously wonderful noise that I have heard in forever. When the world seems so overwhelmingly fucked, it’s albums like this that you can play loud enough to strip paint, albums that fire up your natural adrenaline and get those endorphins flowing, that become vital. A healthy dose of Upper Wilds shouldn’t be optional.

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The Kid by Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith

A couple of days ago I stumbled upon a hot take on twitter dot com which I’ll bastardise here because I like clunky segways. It read something like “why are we always training AI to beat us and not work with us to overcome mutual obstacles”. Which is a thought that can be applied to a lot of electronic music, we often use technology to create environments that are entirely at odds with everything that makes us human, when we could be using technology to enhance our humanity. This becomes abundantly clear as you listen to The Kid and realise just how much better things could be. It's one of the best examples of progressive thinking electronica to be releases in recent years. Smith manages to push things forward whilst also making music that is easy and enjoyable to listen to; the rarest of treats.

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If all that wasn’t enough, here's a playlist of songs that you might have missed from this year, listen below: