There’s been plenty to love this year, and we’ve spent a little time assembling a list of our favourite releases of the last twelve months. For your listening pleasure, we’ve also put together a playlist highlighting some favourites from our picks, which you can listen to here. Sit back, press play, and enjoy.

In no order…

Nadine Shah // Holiday Destinations

On her third album, Nadine cuts loose on the decrepit state of the world tackling topics such as the Syrian refuge crisis, institutional racism and immigration. It’s a bristling post-punk record with swaying melodies, punchy guitar and an acerbic wit. Plus, Pete Wareham cutting loose with some low-end honking! Who wouldn’t love that combination?

Alice Coltrane // The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane

It’s really hard to describe this album without using the word “Spiritual”… and it certainly is that, but that doesn’t get close to describing the music within. Yes, it’s music that comes from a religious origin encompassing African-American gospel, Indian raga’s and ecstatic crescendos but it’s also jazz, blues, synth, rock and so much more. Taken from Alice’s private collection of tapes that she circulated to followers of the Sai Anantam Ashram in Malibu, California which she formed in 1983, this album is simply astonishing. We’ll stop trying to describe it because we can’t do it justice, just listen to it. Now!

Gnod // Just Say No to the Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine

Manchester’s greatest ever band (FACT!) return with their latest album which certainly wins album title of the year! It’s a crunching, angry post-punk record highlighting the dehumanizing nature of modern society and our ambivalence towards it. Gnod can do anything…play anything…but the fact that recently they’ve been plowing an 80’s influenced post-punk pathway surely links back to the state of the times and the parallels with that era. Praise be to Gnod!

Chelsea Wolfe // Hiss Spun

Sacramento, California’s Chelsea Wolfe has been producing music rooted in folk, doom & drone for a number of years. And while 2013’s ‘Pain is Beauty’ was probably her experimental peak thus far, 2017’s Hiss Spun is a continuation of the tighter, dense chamber drone-folk she began a few years ago with ‘Abyss’. It’s a great record which reveals itself after multiple listens and no one else quite makes music like it.

SZA // Ctrl

There have been a number of great American Rn’B records this year (Kelela’s ‘Take Me Apart’ deserves a mention too) but this was the favourite in the BagThing office. Punchy but also spacious and melodic at the same time, SZA mixes it all together to create a neo-soul classic.

James Holden & The Animal Spirits // The Animal Spirits

It’s been a synth heavy year at BagThing HQ but this was the surprise record of the year. We’d always thought of James Holden as a straight up techo-producer but when this first came of the stereo we were blown away! Mixing 70’s fusion jazz, deep grooves and a rich palate of synths ‘The Animal Spirits’ is a fantastic record. The kind of record you just want to listen to again and again. And we did…and if you haven’t yet then you should!

Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch // Blade Runner 2049 OST

The Vangelis score for the original Blade Runner is one of the best soundtracks ever created and we never suspected that the latest release would come close. Especially when we realised with a week to go before the film’s release that Denis Villeneuve’s regular collaborator Jóhann Jóhannsson had been replaced with Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch. Well, imagine our surprise when not only was the film incredible but the soundtrack rivals the original for sheer brilliance. Shifting, shimmering slabs of pure synth perfection, this soundtrack is the best music we heard all year (despite us saying “in no particular order” earlier this is definitely number 1).

Kendrick Lamar // DAMN.

More ‘Good Kid..’ than ‘To Pimp…’ Damn comes out of the blocks hard with ‘DNA’ (easily one of the best tracks of 2017) and doesn’t let up. Kendrick keeps raising the bar with his delivery, beats and lyrical content and even a guest appearance from U2 can’t derail this train. A must have Hip Hop record.

Idles // Brutalism

Thatcher era post-punk done properly. So much energy and anger this gets our juices flowing every time we put it on. Slightly slogan-heavy in it’s delivery, we can nontheless excuse this when the lines are as good as “The best way to scare a Tory is to read and get rich!”. Also, there’s a song about British celebrity chef Rachel Khoo, because…well why not? RACHEL KHOO!!

Soul Jazz Records Presents… // Space, Energy and Light – Experimental Electronic and Acoustic Soundscapes 1961-88

Soul Jazz Records are our favourite record label. They produce incredible compilations documenting a specific scene and we would happily listen to every single release in their discography. This collection is no exception and as mentioned earlier, 2017 has been the ‘Year of the Synth’ at BagThing towers, so this arrived at the perfect time. Proto-synth work outs, quasi-spiritual dirges and even a touch of new-age, if you are remotely interested in electronic or ambient music then this album is for you. It’s a masterpiece.

Thundercat // Drunk

Bass maestro Stephen Bruner, or Thundercat to you and me, has had an impressive year. Bursting into the mainstream with ‘Drunk’, the record boasts and impressive line-up. Snoop Dogg, Erykah Badu, Pharrell Williams, Wiz Khalifa and Kenny Loggins to name a few…

Ariel Pink // Dedicated To Bobby Jameson

‘Dedicated To Bobby Jameson’ is the record that sees rock’n’roll underdog Ariel Pink grow up. Gone are the sound experiments, the jingles and the skits. Not bad thing, to be honest, but in their place are accomplished and intimate ballads, laced with Ariel’s signature hooks, production and humour, making for a very special record. ‘Another Weekend’ is probably Pink’s finest track to date.

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith // The Kid

Following her critically acclaimed ambient electronica masterpiece ‘EARS’, KAS wasted no time following up her debut with difficult second album, ‘The Kid’. Her most accessible album to date, ‘The Kid’ sees Smith once again return to her Buchla modular synth. We quickly run out of superlatives when talking about Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, so we suggest just listening to the album yourself if you haven’t already.

Lana Del Rey // Lust For Life

Combining her affections for cinematic compositions, moody strings, her weakness for 1950’s Americana and elements of hip hop, Lana came back in 2017 at her best with ‘Lust For Life’. The album is elevated by collaborations starring The Weeknd and in particular the almighty Stevie Nicks on ‘Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems’. It’s like Lana’s let some light into her usually dark state of mind, she’s even smiling on the record cover.

Soulwax // From DeeWee

The Belgian outfit’s unique sound has evolved over the years from grunge to electro clash to perfectly precise synthpop on ‘From DeeWee’. It’s a tour de force in never ending electrifying synth, punchy beats and sleazy disco notes throughout. Once you start the record you have to see it through to the end for full audio pleasure. File under: ‘Play at maximum volume for maximum impact’.

We asked our staff to pick out their top tens for the year. And finally, some notable mentions go to…

Tom says…

Miley Cyrus // Younger Now
Björk // Utopia
Soulwax / From DeeWee
Lorde // Melodrama
Yaeji // EP2
Beth Ditto // Fake Sugar
Lana Del Rey // Lust For Life
Allie X // ColliXition X
Betsy // Betsy

Faye says…

Princess Nokia // 1992
Spowder // Health Palm
Dog Date // Flying Fortress
Dounia // Intro To
SZA // Ctrl
Naked (On Drugs) // This Gift
Wedding // Mania Whatever
Wand // Plum
Buggy // Bring On The Bad Guys
Cherry Glazerr // Apocalipstick

Kezia says…

LCD Soundsystem // American Dream
Red Axes // The Beach Goths
The Brian Jonestown Massacre // Don’t Get Lost
The Drums // Abysmal Thoughts
King Krule // The OOZ
Father John Misty // Pure Comedy
Four Tet // New Energy
Bicep // Bicep
Jay Z // 4:44
Drake // More Life

Jonny says…

Four Tet // New Energy
James Holden // The Animal List
Special Request // Fabriclive 91
Bjork // Utopia
Thundercat // Drunk
Lone // DJ Kicks
GAS // Narkopop
Steffi // World Of The Waking State
Peverlist // Tesselations

Chris says…

Pallbearer // Heartless
Idles // Brutalism
Elder // Reflections of a Floating World
Converge // The Dusk In Us
Arca // Arca
Fleet Foxes // Crack Up
Prurient // Rainbow Mirror
Brand New // Science Fiction
Under // Slick
Brockhampton // Saturation I-III


Fancy listening to some of the best artists performing across Manchester in the coming months? Listen below for our latest playlist previewing those in town for this month’s best shows!

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