As always, it’s been an interesting year for music, but unlike a few previous years, there have been no clear winners or stand-outs. There has been a lot of great music, of course…and this year, we’ve found it very hard to pick favourites.
Our top ten albums, as always, has been restricted to things that actually got reviewed at Real Gone and very much represent our broad musical scope. Hopefully, a couple of our choices will align with yours, but more importantly, we hope our top picks will open your ears to something new.
DAVID CROSBY – Sky Trails
Pretty much everyone reading this will know who this man is. An early member of The Byrds and a pivotal member of Crosby, Stills & Nash (& Young), the Croz knows his way around a melody or six. This album – his second in under a year – isn’t just one of the best albums of ’17, it’s also one of the finest of David’s long career. From the Steely Dan inspired opener, through to the last notes, Croz and his band work hard to ensure the quality levels remain high. The songwriting is thoughtful, but the way the smooth vocals deliver the songs is perhaps most impressive. Now in his mid seventies, David has been lucky to retain a voice that sounds as rich as it did some four decades earlier. A masterpiece. [Full review here]
KING BLACK ACID – Twin Flames
The first of two King Black Acid releases for ’17, ‘Twin Flames’ sounds like an underground psych rock band channelling ‘Zuma’ era Crazy Horse jamming with prime 70s Pink Floyd. Hazy and wandering, this three tracker cuts deep to become the poster child for “cult classic”. [Full review here]
WORRY DOLLS – Go Get Gone
Americana, folk, bluegrass, travelogues and a dose of country…this first full length release from Worry Dolls has it all. Zoe Nichol and Rosie Jones have taken the promise of their earlier EPs and released an album of which they should be very proud. Just one of many reasons why the UK Americana/country scene is on the rise and constantly gigging in support of this great record, we’re hoping Worry Dolls will make a huge breakthrough in ’18. [Full review here]
HOUSE ABOVE THE SUN – Five Hours North
Blending light blues with roots rock and a touch of Americana, House Above The Sun are one of the UK’s most overlooked bands. This first full length follows the promise of an earlier EP with something of a slow-burning gem. If you have any interest in Americana or rootsy melodic rock, this album should appear somewhere on your radar. ‘Five Hours North’ is the kind of album that won’t burn itself out quickly – its old soul means it’ll sound just as good in five years time. If you’re about to discover this band for the first time and like what you hear, tell them we sent you… [Full review here]
NATTERERS – Toxic Care
Ah, man. This one’s a genuine classic. In terms of originality, you might be left wanting, especially since this band wears their influences on their collective sleeve. However, exactly how achievable is originality within hardcore punk by 2017, anyway? It’s surely better to take a style and perfect it. This Yorkshire based outfit mix Black Flag, Circle Jerks and a touch of Dead Kennedys with female vocals and sound as if they could take on the world. This is easily the most impressive punk disc of the year. We’ve got this band marked for future greatness. [Full review here]
THE MAD DOCTORS – No Waves, Just Sharks
Over the past few years, the King Pizza label has released various lo-fi cassettes which have caught our attention, but this record by The Mad Doctors (featuring label founder Greg Hansen) is one of their best yet. The guitars are distinctly fuzzy, the echo-drenched vocal fuzzier still, this is a beast of a record that needs to be played at maximum volume. [Full review here]
TOM BAKER AND THE SNAKES – Lookout Tower
Regular visitors to Real Gone will undoubtedly be familiar with the Run Bar Records roster. This year, the label has really found its feet with some great records, but this second offering from The Snakes is definitely their best. If you dig The Replacements and ‘Sticky Fingers’ era Rolling Stones, this slab of swaggering bar-room rock is asking for turntable time. [Full review here]
THE WHITE SWAN – The White EP
There’s a misconception out there that Real Gone is a “metal site”, or at least most of the PR companies seem to think so. We like metal, yes, but as our top picks for the year shows, there’s more going on here than just metal. That said, this is our favourite metal based release of the year. It’s got long, heavy and doomy riffs, weighty songs and a genuine desert rock attitude– perhaps best of all – it combines those with a clean, ethereal vocal that is closer to something from a dreampop record. The push and pull between doomy and angelic really makes The White Swan stand out. If you like a riff, this release – and their previous EP from 2016 – will never get old. [Full review here]
THE RAFT – Orion EP
The Raft have been making dreampop albums for over a decade, but on the basis of this Lush and Sundays obsessed work, their love of all things retro shows no signs of abatement. If you love jangly sounds that are resolutely nineties, you’ll love this. Enough said. [Full review here]
JENNIE VEE – Suffer EP
Jennie Vee will be familiar to some as the bassist with Eagles of Death Metal. This solo release trades in noisier rock aspects for some very 80s shoegaze and neo-goth sounds. Fans of The Cure, Lush et al will love this. Among Jen’s own compositions, you’ll also find an absolutely spot-on Cure cover… [Full review here]
Just outside of our top ten: the second release from Bullet Proof Lovers – a devastating mix of punk and rock ‘n’ roll attitude that finds Kurt Baker and friends in top form; a couple of other great Rum Bar releases from Justine & The Unclean (a mix of punk, hard rock and power pop promoting good times and Shanda & The Howlers (an old-school rock ‘n’ soul review); ‘Absorption Lines’ – a space-themed, largely instrumental piece of ambient prog from Jet Black Sea and ‘As Good As Gold’, the 2017 EP from the UK’s As The Sun Sleeps, proving that classic pop-punk is not dead. An honourable mention must also go to Saint Etienne whose ‘Home Counties’ would have definitely had a place among our top ten…had we reviewed it. Blending gentle and thoughtful narratives with some superb retro-pop, it might be the band’s best album to date.
Without doubt, the year’s biggest disappointment was the Roger Waters album ‘Is This The Life We Really Want?‘. At Real Gone, we’ve been hardcore Floyd-heads for years, but this album was lazy, predictable and pretty much tuneless. Rog merely recycled bits of old Pink Floyd songs with things that sounded like a poor relation to the quarter-century old ‘Amused To Death’ and passed it off as new work. Combined with a limp, junior school level political commentary, this album was a waste of plastic. We’d long suspected as much, but David Gilmour has a hundred times more talent than this washed up whiner.
On a positive note, we got to meet Kurt Baker and have a lengthy chat over a couple of drinks. He’s one of Real Gone’s favourite cult artists and it was a relief to also discover that he’s also one of the nicest guys ever. Also spectacular was the opportunity to see Dearly Beloved and Tommy Stinson’s band Bash & Pop in a very intimate setting. Tommy is one of our heroes and the very idea we’d get to watch him perform from less than eight feet away was…magical. The greatest event of all, though, was the return of Britpop legends Sleeper. At the beginning of 2017, nobody would have put money on a Sleeper reunion – not least of all Sleeper themselves. However, Louise Wener and friends came out of musical retirement, initially to play four shows on the Star Shaped Festival bill, but wound up booking a London headline show to follow and a 2018 tour. This is a huge cause of celebration…and their London show in August ’17 was without doubt our best gig of the year. In decades of live shows, we’ve never seen a band get such a reaction.
As always: To all the bands who’ve sent stuff out this year and everyone who is still reading, thank you – truly – and we hope we can keep you just as entertained/informed next year. Here’s hoping that ’18 will be as good – and hopefully as much fun… Stay tuned.