December 30, 2017

HCTF's best of 2017 (10-6)

HCTF's annual list of the 20 albums that will be in regular rotation for many years to come. The long list of memorable releases boasted about 50 albums. Tough decisions were made narrowing it down. As per usual it's a mixed bag of genres: rock in its various incarnations (garage, hard, post, prog), avant-garde, jazz, pop, folk, funk. Also of note: four live albums made the cut.

Today: countdown from number 10 to 6.

Please keep in mind to shop at your local record store, buy directly from the artist, attend live shows. And shut the fuck up while the band is playing.

10 Lavalu: Solitary High

A great mix of classical music and jazzy piano pop, executed flawlessly.

Her touch matches her vocals, leaving tiny space between notes. Her fluid dexterity fills those meaningful spaces. the album is a study in contemplation and soul-searching, but it it can be enjoyed as tribute to the grand piano, that gentle beast that now is purring like a contented cat

» Full review

9 Jumble Hole Clough: Nutclough & Elsewhere

Six albums in 2017. All good ones too. Calling him prolific is an understatement.

Unlucky Man received the most extensive treatment and was turned into freak funk fusion meets metal guitar, with help of his Big Block 454 band mate Mark Joell on keyboards. Long time followers of Robinson will know that he loves a good guitar loop and there are plenty of those in free-flowing ambient funk workouts like Lines In The Landscape and the gentle, almost pastoral Notes In The Margins. His avant-garde inklings are put in perspective with titles like The Mixenden Monkey and He Laughed At Bryan Ferry. Robinson is serious about his music, but that doesn't mean you can't have a laugh

» Full review

8 Cybernetic Witch Cult: Troglodithic Trip

Loud power trio with a wicked sense of humour. What's not to like?

All the arcane imagery can't hide the fact that they are a serious lot who are setting their sights on reaching the bigger stages. Stoner rock will never be as huge as trash metal or hard rock - the progressive element gets in the way, but Cybernetic Witch Cult deserve their band name in big letters on the posters of the metal festival circuit.

» Full review

7 Shawna Virago: Heaven Sent Delinquent

Male? Female? Who cares? This artist is one of a kind.

Virago's songwriting is a means to change things. She stands tall, brandishing her guitar, daring you to make a move. She calls herself "a queer folk punk princess songwriter", but first and foremost she is a superb lyricist, a balladeer who can please and accuse. Zealots and bigots will hate her, but the transgender community could haven't asked for a better spokesperson to sing about their plights and good times.

» Full review

6 Gunther’s Grass: Bastille Day & Other Lullabies

Avant-garde should be challenging, right? Try this one for size.

This is not the kind of music that comes to mind to pop in the player of a rented car en route to visit the sites. The trio builds structures that appear to be impregnable or even unscalable at first, but on closer inspection offer handholds and hidden routes. Surrender to the flow with an open mind and the soundscapes unfold. It's like making your way to the jungle to find the structures that have been overgrown with dense vegetation.

» Full review

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