14 Jul 2017

Another Li'l Mid-2017 Post: Our 16 favourite songs of 2017 so far...

I don't have the strength to write another introductory paragraph, but you know what this is. Read the title. You've seen them before. Unordered list of songs what are good. Read list. Listen songs. Go forth and prosper.

HMLTD - To The Door
A band whose pompous spectacle, insane live performance, and obnoxious dedication set them aside from the rest, HMLTD are the most exciting band in the London/country/world at the minute. And give it a few more singles, they'll be the most important as well. This is their first perfect studio recording, a crazed concoction of yee-haw Tarantino guitar clangs, trap beat meltdowns, and Bowie-esque vocals caws, To The Door crams so many different musical things in one place that it's hard to keep up; like a ballistic fist fight that sees the two combatants hurling each other through interdimensional portals, or a toddler cramming various musical square blocks into different sonic round holes, the bombastic beauty of HMLTD lies in the fact that everything makes so little sense yet forges its way forward on such a coherent trajectory.

Meatraffle - Brother
Like you, I hated this at first; "it sounds like the bloody blimey Pigeon Detectives", I tweeted in fury. But this is a track that balances brilliance with naffness perfectly. Musically, naff is the apposite word, but the band sculpt this quality in something that makes the song not just endearing, but beautiful. It's a ballad of platonic love, with a noughties guitar lick that would make an Enemy 'deep' cut seem avant-garde and a trumpet part that sounds funny juxtaposed with the rest of the instrumentation. The chorus is simply "you're like a brother from another mother!", which again does have a naff quality to it, but the verses which detail why are wry, deadpan and genuinely hilarious; a highlight being "paintings by pre-Raphaelites, you like that sort of thing/We've got lots of things in common, like staying off heroin!"

Circle - Terminal
This Scandinavian band combine a heavy influence of The Stooges, Can, and Suicide to make something that's not just dangerous, ravenous and bloodthirsty, but bombastic and fun as well. Eight minutes of this primal, splintered gutter-stomp, it's confrontational noisy rock 'n' roll at it's finest, but combined with this operatic cry, this siren of hell caterwaul, that makes it as wacky as it is satisfying... Twenty odd years into their career, these Finns remain brilliant.

Queen Zee and the Sasstones - Raise Your Sissy Fists
Reptilian raw garage rock straight from the banks of the Mersey, the Sasstones' raw, raucous sound is rough and violent, whilst charismatic frontperson Queen Zee's lyrics and delivery inject this with so much character that you'll be singing it to yourself for days. A call to arms, a battlecry, this is a strong, confrontational voice of queer alterity.

Madonnatron - Headless Children
Witchy vocal harmonies meet thudding organ-driven nightmare rock; haunting mystical vocals entwine with the animalistic wiccan howls of the backing vocals to make for something that sounds truly bewitching. Throughout the songs duration, this darkly shamanic group create a mood of unease and dysphoria as the songs winds on and on throughout the darkest realms. The singer's howling, muddy basslines and this almost shrill organ drone are a constant, as the song all but confirms Madonnatron are gonna release a reyt good album of the year contender this month.

Sorry - Drag King

Sorry's ferocious work ethic and penchant for writing great songs has seen them rise to the top of London's furiously creative music scene. Drag King might be a mere demo, but it's a fine nugget of hypnagogic grunge, a visceral track that sees frontwoman Asha Lorenz sing "I wish I was a boy, so I could dress up in drag". Lorenz has a fantastic, gritty voice that sounds like the product of a lifetime smoking 40 cigs a day and drinking whiskey, the perfect accompaniment to the scrappy, acid-washed guitar lick. Sorry are going to be fucking massive, and you can't help but look forward to a big 'indie' guitar band being this good.

Ibibio Sound Machine - Give Me A Reason
You can read much more about this band in our albums of the year so far post from yesterday, where they're obviously the number one. This is the opening track from the album, a highly danceable number that combines their trademark groove, a disjointed synthesiser and bombastic horns ripped straight outta the seventies. One of many great tracks on the album, give it a whirl now, and see why I'm so infatuated with the album.

The Black Lips - Crystal Night
In an era clearly defined by the Fat White Family being the best and the most important band there is, maybe it's not a surprise that the darkest song of the year so far is also the prettiest. A morbid, twisted love song about love lost to the 1938 Nazi pillage of Jewish businesses known as Kristallnacht, this track is the crowning glory on the best Black Lips album. Twinkling Phil Spector-esque production combines with these macabre lyrics of a love that has gone missing... with backing vocals from the aforementioned FWF to boot.

Gaygirl - Dirty Grace
A Brixton band that combine the guttural fury of Sabbath with the dynamic mastery of the Pixies, Gaygirl's Dirty Grace is an eerie alternative rock tune that frequently breaks out in pining nefarious riffs. Frontwoman Bex Morrison's voice almost a battlecry atop inimitable sonic assaults. Earth shattering riffs and a wailing call to arms; what more could you want?

Bo Gritz - You Just Cover
You Just Cover is the latest track by London's most exciting upcoming noise-rock band. Notorious for their obnoxiously loud, confrontational live shows, the gushes of gristly guitar assaults come thick and fast here with very little room to breathe. Keep 'em peeled for an interview what we have gone and done with this band, in the coming days.

Hotel Lux - Envoi
Another great band from London, Hotel Lux are a five piece originating from the South Coast (like us, Vapour Trail). They combine the confrontational garage groove of The Monks, with a taut claustrophobia resembling that offered up on The Fall's This Nation's Saving Grace. Grizzly social commentary and vivid narrative come from frontman Lewis Duffin's mouth in a depraved bark; the venomous refrain of "you ruined his life!" on this track symptomatic of just that. Definitely a band to catch live, they're one of the best bands on the rise at the moment.

EMA - Aryan Nation
EMA is a fantastic artist, whose fuzzy poiltical rock is - to use a much Hackneyed phrase - what the world needs. An American artist whose songs combined fuzzed out riffs with narrative political commentaries, Erika M. Anderson is a fantastic songwriter whose songs are brilliant too. Her narrative tone is that of both the downtrodden working class (of America) and the marginalised voice of feminist alterity, asking us “if you can’t see yourself in a famous man, is it because he’s a man, or because he’s famous?” Straight up with her political leanings, Anderson's lyrics are straightforward and catchy, perfectly putting what we're all thinking into words. Understandably, with everything in the world turning more and more into a shitstorm by the day, we need more guitar-wielding artists like this, as increasingly punk is getting more and more self indulgent, whilst indie music seems to be by and large getting more apolitcal by the second.

Melt Dunes - Flesh
The chimes of a dark organ greet you into the cripplingly oblique neverworld of Melt Dunes, before the band's two guitarists greet you with an occultist wall of noise, invasive to the extreme. Every second of Flesh's six minute runtime teams with urgency: cosmic organs, punchy, whirring guitars, and a command of dynamics allow Melt Dunes to really make the darkest guitar driven noise you'll ever here. In fact, listening to it, you half expect satan to rise from the floorboards and buy your soul. The first great song by one of the country's greatest live bands.

LICE - Human Parasite
I got into Loud and Quiet earlier this year, when they repeated in quote marks my not so hyperbolic statement that Human Parasite is one of the great things to happen to Western art. Maybe they agreed. They should. This stomping art-punk number is ravaging in instrumentation, galumphing along with the muscle and bravado of Beefheart whilst frontman Alastair Shuttleworth's offbeat vocal delivery smatters the song with gruesome social commentaries. Piff.

Lorde - Green Light
Aimee wrote a (probably way too) glowing review of the new Lorde album last month, and whilst it's far from the usual stuff that smatters the Vapour Trail pages, the fact of the matter is that Lorde is probably the most exciting big pop star in the world. I'm excited about her, and I don't really care for big pop stars. Or small ones really. This track though, is her crowning glory. The Kiwi overcomes some truly awful lyrics in the intro ("she says you love the beach, you're such a damn liar") to power into one of the most astonishingly euphoric pop songs you'll ever hear. This song is a masterpiece, and even if (like me, Calum) you only really love this one from the album, Lorde has earned her place among all the other names here.

Matt Maltese - As The World Caves In
I interviewed this singer-songwriter for the latest issue of So Young (the best magazine in the world, read it here), and without rehashing too many cliches, he's cut from such a different cloth to the rest of singers of his ilk about that you can't help but fall in love. Sat at the piano, he weaves sultry narratives of dystopias and apocalypses together, in his elegant croon. As The World Caves In is his greatest track to date. It pictures two dictators together on their last night on Earth, as the red button has been pressed. Human, yet bleak, it's a perfect example of political consciousness leaving a (fairly) subtle imprint on beautiful songwriting; see also: No One Won The War.

(Words: Cal Cashin)