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Beat's Top Albums of 2017

There were many incredible albums to come out in 2017, but the Beat team have cut down the list to pick our favourites. It was tough, but someone has to make the big decisions.

Album Of The Year:

RVG : A Quality of Mercy

Why We Love It: Melbourne’s RVG released an absolute classic earlier this year with their debut album A Quality of Mercy. Taking notes from the likes of The Go-Betweens while sounding consistently original, every minute of this eight song masterpiece is delivered with concision. The taught, raw emotion of Romy Vager’s vocal delivery and lyrics are balanced out by her classic approach to pop penmanship and a band that understand the power of dynamics.

Having formed for a one-off gig, the Romy Vager Group quite wisely decided to become a regular thing. Anyone who has seen them perform over the last year could attest to their power as a live act, so naturally it made sense to record the album not only as a unit, but actually set up in the Tote bandroom. Consequently the songs are delivered faithfully as they are on stage with a generous application of reverb being the only discernible added production. Said effect is a key ingredient, however, helping to align A Quality of Mercy sonically with its ‘80s influences, such as Echo & the Bunnymen and Joy Division, from the first chiming guitar notes of the title track onwards.

Underpinning everything is a concentrated energy and attitude that gives the record a propulsion that feels genuine and exhilarating. The lyrics are literate and socially conscious, but like all great pop music come wrapped in easily digestible, sweet melodies that reel the listener in with hook after hook.

Having initially launched the album at the Tote in March, and pressing 200 copies of vinyl independently, the release garnered significant praise and the group gigged heavily, their popularity visibly building at the shows. By June they signed a management deal with Our Golden Friend, and when the management group became a record label, thanks to a deal with Island Records/Universal, RVG were the first group signed in October. When they played a powerful and emotional set at Meredith a few weeks ago it felt like a culmination of the year’s efforts and the amount of people that stood enthralled the embodiment of how far the band have come since that album launch in March.

It’s genuinely impressive to see a new act come along and make a guitar based rock album in 2017 that feels this fresh. If you don’t have it, you need this album, and then go see RVG live while they are still playing pubs so you can tell your kids about it one day. -Alex Watts

Honourable mentions:

 

Gang Of Youths : Go Farther In Lightness

Why We Love It: Gang of Youths appear to be in total control of their domain with a formidable battle hardened sound. Leader Dave Le’aupepe easily delivers a confident voice to the Australian musical landscape, adopting the role of a rock cavalier. The album covers all points between crushing desperation – ‘Atlas Drowned’to the atmospheric strut of ‘Keep Me In The Open’. The shorter pieces lend a soothing and restorative flavour to the more expansive creations. When songs such as ‘The Heart Is A Muscle’ reach their end, one can sit back and accept that they’ve been privy to a colossal and rewarding listen. -Bronius Zumeris

Gold Class : Drum

Why We Love It: Enter Drum, and said promise and potential has been impacted upon in a sizable way. The dynamics between each of the four members expands here, simultaneously drawing out into wider musical spaces and pulling into head-on collisions at precise moments. Truthfully, it doesn't really matter which of the ten tracks you chance upon. Both as separate entities and a collective force, Drum provides some of the most rewarding listening one will have all year. The beat goes on. -David James Young

Jen Cloher : Jen Cloher

Why We Love It: Throughout the record, Cloher’s lyrics are sharp and incisive. But what's most striking is her evocative depiction of Australian life. 'Regional Echo' acts as a stunning centerpiece for the record; a portrait of unfulfilled dreams, prawns languishing in wheelie bins during a curdling summer, and a heartbreaking acceptance of life trapped within an inescapable social structure. It's more than safe to assume that Cloher has more than hit her stride. But here's where it's different: she's got the world's attention now, and that makes her future releases more exciting than ever. -James Di Fabrizio

Sampa The Great : Birds And The BEE9

Why We Love It: This release is reflective in nature, with barely an ounce of hip hop bombast, drawing upon African rhythms and chanting, down-tempo jazz and a fair amount of singing. Lyrically, these songs see Sampa reflecting on her own life, identity and worldview, with a level of poetic skill only hinted at previously. A rich and rewarding record, Birds and the BEE9 continues to reveal itself over repeat listens. Sampa is a true artist – fearless, complex and great. - Alex Watts

Kendrick Lamar : Damn.

Why We Love It: There aren’t many other rappers who can generate such crisp beats, technical flow, and poignant lyrics. Every bar, every track, is a testament to a prodigy showing his expertise. The production is an equal component to the record, treated with the same regard as the writing, or the flow. Kendrick will certainly suffer some backlash from purists this time around. Anything that generates this level of hype is going to attract invitation for ire, or dismissal from fans.Judge it for yourself, it’s straight fire. - Jimmy Hall

Lorde : Melodrama

Why We Love It: Melodrama’s lyrical rawness intertwined in a livelier pop atmosphere highlights Lorde’s continual musical prowess; she’s a force to be reckoned with. What makes this album different to her first is that it transforms the moody anesthetised pop of ‘Pure Heroine’ into a creation of awakening and liveliness. There’s a slightly more dance feel wrapped around the raw lyrics this time. This creates an atmosphere of celebratory reflection of the moments that reshape our perspectives of ourselves, our past relationships, and lustful indulgences. Melodrama’s reflective and resilient assertiveness is a celebration of all of this. -Rose Maurice