fri 24/02/2017

New Music reviews, news & interviews

The Best Albums of 2017


Disc of the Day reviews new albums, week in, week out, all year. Below are the albums that our writers gave four or five stars, the ones they think are a cut above the rest. Click on any one of them to find out why.

CD: Alison Krauss - Windy City

Liz Thomson

An album to please old fans and make new ones, Windy City is a peach – even at first playing it feels like slipping in to a worn-in pair of jeans or boots, a comfy ol’ fit. And that’s because the songs are country classics and in our musical DNA.

10 Questions for Musician Kevin Rowland

Thomas H Green

After 27 years away, band leader Kevin Rowland (b 1953) successfully relaunched Dexys as a recording unit in 2012. The album, One Day I’m Going to...

Lost in France

Lisa-Marie Ferla

Pulling together a music documentary strikes me as a simple enough concept. Gather your talking heads in front of a nice enough backdrop, splice with...

CD: José James - Love in a Time of Madness

Matthew Wright

At least you always get something different from José James. Originally sprung to fame for blending jazz and hip-hop, this album has little of either...

CD: Brian Jonestown Massacre – Don’t Get Lost

Guy Oddy

Anton Newcombe’s psychedelic rockers try a range of flavours and come up trumps

Reissue CDs Weekly: Bizarre

Kieron Tyler

A respectful acknowledgment of Estonia’s post-independence musical pioneers

Josh Ritter, St Stephen's Church

Liz Thomson

Solo appearance from artist inspired by desire to 'play messianic oracular honky-tonk'

CD: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - The Tourist

Russ Coffey

Can Alec Ounsworth's hipster outfit justify a fifth outing?



Win tickets for London or Manchester shows by Finnish cello metallers Apocalyptica

CD: Vera Lynn - Vera Lynn 100

Jasper Rees

New versions of old tunes from the World War Two songbird as she reaches her century

Hevisaurus, RFH

Katie Colombus

Decent rock riffs from Finnish dinosaurs. What's not to love?

CD: Right Said Fred - Exactly!

Thomas H Green

1990s novelty hit-makers return with their ninth - yes, ninth! - album

CD: Aurelio - Darandi

Joe Muggs

Honduran Garifuna songwriter and surf guitar stylist revisits his career best

Listed: How I Do Love Thee


Let theartsdesk count the ways with our romantic favourites from all over the arts

Barbara Dickson, Union Chapel

Liz Thomson

Folk songstress provides a transport of musical delight to her native Scotland

CD: Six Organs of Admittance - Burning the Threshold

Kieron Tyler

Ben Chasny’s venerable vehicle eschews musical strategies in favour of focusing on the song

Reissue CDs Weekly: New Order

Kieron Tyler

Revelatory collection of the Mancunian innovators' extra-curricular activities

CD: Dreadzone - Dread Times

Mark Kidel

A rousing Dionysiac journey of liberation

CD: Ryan Adams - Prisoner

Liz Thomson

Divorced prolific singer-songwriter channels his inner Boss

CD: Sherwood & Pinch - Man vs Sofa

Thomas H Green

Brit bass heavyweights do themselves proud with second album

CD: Joel Culpepper - Tortoise

Mark Kidel

Black British talent in the making

CD: Thievery Corporation - The Temple of I and I

Guy Oddy

Chill-out veterans roll up some high-grade ambient dub

Reissue CDs Weekly: Erasmo Carlos

Kieron Tyler

Surprise reappearance of hip early Seventies albums from the Brazilian popster

CD: Tinariwen - Elwan

Tim Cumming

The Desert Blues masters in reflective mood

Martha Wainwright & Ed Harcourt, Roundhouse

Katie Colombus

A captivating set from the Canadian chanteuse and her songwriting partner

CD: Rag'n'Bone Man - Human

Matthew Wright

Debut from already-famous Brighton soul star presses the right buttons

CD: Devlin - The Devil In

Thomas H Green

Grime prodigy returns from the wilderness

CD: Elbow - Little Fictions

Russ Coffey

Garvey and co serve up some winter warmth

Footnote: a brief history of new music in Britain

New music has swung fruitfully between US and UK influences for half a century. The British charts began in 1952, initially populated by crooners and light jazz. American rock'n'roll livened things up, followed by British imitators such as Lonnie Donegan and Cliff Richard. However, it wasn't until The Beatles combined rock'n'roll's energy with folk melodies and Motown sweetness that British pop found a modern identity outside light entertainment. The Rolling Stones, amping up US blues, weren't far behind, with The Who and The Kinks also adding a unique Englishness. In the mid-Sixties the drugs hit - LSD sent pop looking for meaning. Pastoral psychedelia bloomed. Such utopianism couldn't last and prog rock alongside Led Zeppelin's steroid riffing defined the early Seventies. Those who wanted it less blokey turned to glam, from T Rex to androgynous alien David Bowie.

sex_pistolsA sea change arrived with punk and its totemic band, The Sex Pistols, a reaction to pop's blandness and much else. Punk encouraged inventiveness and imagination on the cheap but, while reggae made inroads, the most notable beneficiary was synth pop, The Human League et al. This, when combined with glam styling, produced the New Romantic scene and bands such as Duran Duran sold multi-millions and conquered the US.

By the mid-Eighties, despite U2's rise, the British charts were sterile until acid house/ rave culture kicked the doors down for electronica, launching acts such as the Chemical Brothers. The media, however, latched onto indie bands with big tunes and bigger mouths, notably Oasis and Blur – Britpop was born.

By the millennium, both scenes had fizzled, replaced by level-headed pop-rockers who abhorred ostentation in favour of homogenous emotionality. Coldplay were the biggest. Big news, however, lurked in underground UK hip hop where artists adapted styles such as grime, dubstep and drum & bass into new pop forms, creating breakout stars Dizzee Rascal and, more recently, Tinie Tempah. The Arts Desk's wide-ranging new music critics bring you overnight reviews of every kind of music, from pop to unusual world sounds, daily reviews of new releases and downloads, and unique in-depth interviews with celebrated musicians and DJs, plus the quickest ticket booking links. Our writers include Peter Culshaw, Joe Muggs, Howard Male, Thomas H Green, Graeme Thomson, Kieron Tyler, Russ Coffey, Bruce Dessau, David Cheal & Peter Quinn

Close Footnote

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

latest in today

Farewell, Stanisław Skrowaczewski (1923-2017)

Bruckner conductors improve with age: Haitink, Blomstedt, Gielen – octogenarians all. But Stanisław Skrowaczewski went further, conducting his...

DVD/Blu-ray: Train to Busan

With its familiar scenario of massed zombies on the offensive against the living, South Korean blockbuster Train to Busan stands or falls...

Twelfth Night, National Theatre

Everybody’s a little bit gay in Simon Godwin’s giddy new Twelfth Night at the...

America After the Fall, Royal Academy

It may be a cliché to say that this is a “timely” exhibition, but America After the Fall invites irresistible parallels with...

The Girls, Phoenix Theatre

Why? That's the abiding question that hangs over The Girls, the sluggish and entirely pro forma Tim Firth-Gary Barlow...

Roots, BBC Four

Those of us who saw the first, 1977 TV adaptation of Alex Haley's Roots in our teens still remember the shock and horror at its handling...

Patriots Day

Patriots Day is a patriots’ film. It dramatises the grievous day on which American values were threatened on American soil like no other...

Mirjam Mesak, Kristiina Rokashevich, St Bartholomew the Grea...

Treasure our young continental European musicians in London while you can. Only last week I learned that so many of the overseas students at...

The Best Albums of 2017

Disc of the Day reviews new albums, week in, week out, all year. Below are the albums that our writers gave four or five stars,...