We asked you, our loyal readers, what your favourite albums and songs of the year were, both from here and from elsewhere. Oh, and your favourite shows, your reflections on the year, and predictions for next year. This is what you told us.
Okay, list season is underway. The arms race is escalating and best of the year lists are arriving earlier and earlier. (Shit, the Rough Trade list is more than a month old already.) But, here at the Spinoff, we’re traditionalists and sticking to our mid-December guns. So, in the hope you’re not burnt out on this stuff already, here’s the best music of the year according to (the collective) you.
Best local album
1. Lorde – Melodrama (41.2%)
2. Aldous Harding – Party (15.7%)
3. Fazerdaze – Morningside (7.2%)
4. Nadia Reid – Preservation (6.2%)
5. SWIDT – Stoneyhunga (5.8%)
I know I’ve said this before, but 2017, to my ears, was the strongest year in local music in a looooong time. Maybe ever. (Two of these five albums were released on Flying Nun so all you nothing-was-better-than-my-80s/90s-youth traditionalists can relax a little okay?) All of the top five local albums in our poll could go on to become New Zealand classics of their genres. Melodrama is, of course, not just the best New Zealand pop album of the year, it’s the best pop record of the year from anywhere. It’s a historic achievement artistically, commercially and critically. I’m confident it will be considered one of the best New Zealand albums for at least a generation. Something similar could be said, in a folk context, about Aldous Harding’s Party, one of the most distinctive voices of the year and an album that could last forever.
Morningside and Preservation were also amazing and successful albums that transcended our ocean-borders and found audiences all over the world. Rap and hip-hop tend not to travel as well as pop and guitar music, but SWIDT’s Stoneyhunga is a masterpiece of geographic specificity, a 17 song story of growing up and living in Onehunga, an Auckland suburb which is seeing the impact of gentrification, rising house prices, and development as much as any neighbourhood in the country.
Best global album
1. Kendrick Lamar – Damn (17.4%)
2. SZA – CTRL (8.8%)
3. St Vincent – Masseduction (6.0%)
4. Paramore – After Laughter (5.0%)
5. The National – Sleep Well Beast (4.6%)
The top of our list is pretty much the same as the top of the aggregated end of year list, except Melodrama, which I decided couldn’t be in two categories because… just because that’s what I decided. Damn is pretty much the consensus critical pick of the year – both the best-reviewed record of the year and the album with the most 1st place spots on lists around the globe. And, while critical consensus is boring, it’s hard not to see why. Damn is, perhaps more than any other, the record for the year. It’s personally tormented and politically fervent, upbeat and aggressive. After the beat-jazz of How to Pimp a Butterfly, Lamar has made his most accessible album for surface listening but one that rewards whatever work you want to put in. (The SZA and St Vincent records were also much-played favourites of mine, and I will take this as a sign I should give After Laughter and Sleep Well Beast more time.)
Best local song
1. Lorde – ‘Green Light’ (21.3%)
2. Aldous Harding – ‘Horizon’ (17.2%)
3. Lorde – ‘The Louvre’ (13.8%)
4=. Fazerdaze – ‘Lucky Girl’ (5.8%)
4=. Marlon Williams – ‘Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore’ (5.8%)
I’ve written about both ‘Green Light’ and ‘Horizon’ so recently that I won’t put you through all that again (read about my Spotify top ten thing here). ‘The Louvre’ is just a jam and contains probably most talked about lyric on the album: “But we’re the greatest, they’ll hang us in the Louvre / Down the back, but who cares, still the Louvre.” (Some enterprising fan tried to do just that, taking the Melodrama artwork on a tour of the Paris museum.) ‘Lucky Girl’ was the gateway into Fazerdaze’s Morningside and remains its catchiest song. ‘Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore’, a duet with Aldous Harding, seems to be Williams’ response to both their break-up and, maaaybe, her album Party. A sign of great things to come in the year 2018.
Best global song
1. Kendrick Lamar – ‘Humble’ (18.4%)
2. Dua Lipa – ‘New Rules’ (9.0%)
3=. Cardi B – ‘Bodak Yellow’ (7.0%)
3=. Carly Rae Jepsen – ‘Cut to the Feeling’ (7.0%)
5. Frank Ocean – ‘Chanel’ (6.6%)
‘Humble’ is an amazing song, with a video to match. Dua Lipa’s ‘New Rules’ lead her to be one of the most streamed artists on Spotify (currently 8th apparently). Cardi B became a bonafide star this year, going from dancer to Instagram star to reality TV star to rap star in little more than a couple of years. ‘Bodak Yellow’ was her first US #1 single and is a song which makes people go insane. (In her review of the Migos show from earlier this year, Madeline Chapman mentions the audience going harder for ‘Bodak Yellow’ playing over the PA than they did for Migos.) And shit, isn’t ‘Cut to the Feeling’ the catchiest thing you’ve ever heard, and isn’t ‘Chanel’ just the best?
The most votes went to Lorde at the Powerstation, though not that many people could go to those shows so apparently a pretty high percentage of those people voted for it. But, yeah it was amazing so that’s understandable.
Also a slightly smaller bunch of people said Aldous Harding at the Civic (and a few more lucky people said Harding at Pah Homestead, which I think was slightly better than the Civic show. But then I like, where possible, to be able to see the whites of a singer’s eyes after a youth of being obsessed with extremely unpopular bands)
Other local acts with multiple mentions: Bic Runga’s Drive shows, Marlon Williams’ recent tour, Kane Strang, Nadia Reid and Disasteradio.
International highlights included: Harry Styles, PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, Drake and Stormzy.
And these people didn’t quite get it: Curb Your Enthusiasm, Stranger Things, Big Little Lies, and “TV is capitalist propaganda”.
“Best year of New Zealand music in history. Nadia Reid, Troy Kingi, Aldous Harding, Kane Strang, Fazerdaze and Tiny Ruins are all world-class acts.” “Melodrama is an incomparable achievement.” “Great year for global recognition of NZ women artists – Lorde, Aldous Harding, Nadia Reid, Amelia Murray.” “A bit shit music-wise. Particularly locally.”
“I would remember more of the gigs I went to if I chilled it on the pre-loading.” “We all should do a little more for someone else.” “Dua Lipa’s ‘New Rules’ is an incredible pop song, but even better for all the boys doing YouTube covers without flipping the gender pronouns.”
“Auckland has mostly terrible venues.” “An overabundance of great gigs – but with the end of the Kings Arms what are we going to do about inner-city mid-size venues?” “It went way too fast.”
“She’s been a bloody stunner for tunes. Even from unexpected places, there was some pure gold this year (Selena Gomez).”
“It may not have been filled with wall-to-wall massive releases like 2016, but this year has seen solid records from critical darlings, welcome returns to form, and many debut albums that have been well worth the wait. The redemption arcs (Kesha’s triumphant album to SZA’s record seeing the light of day and racing up the best of lists) have been wonderful. To those who say the Kiwi music scene is not what it used to be, you have to ask – have you bothered looking?”
“Confusing, lots of good, lots of overrated, and the endless rise of streaming beginning to see playlists kill albums.” “Felt like almost every Friday a major album came out which burned brightly for a few days then got replaced by the next one.” “There is too much music. That has been the case for some time but it finally feels like the point where the constant churn makes it very hard for many new things to truly set in. This harms some genres (rock, R’n’B) more than others.”
“Logan Campbell Centre is shit and should be burned down.” “Millennials wear ugly 90s clothes to gigs that are even worse than what I wore to fourth form mufti day.”
“A great year for most genres (except maybe rock!). I feel sorry for most NZ artists – couldn’t really not vote for Melodrama, surely an album that will stand the test of time. Thanks for the Best Songs Ever (and keep it up!), been some good finds there. Highlights: Melodrama, Kesha – Rainbow, David Bowie – New Career In a New Town, Bob Dylan – Trouble No More, Reputation (yes despite the hype), U2 – Songs of Experience (haters and critics: not every album has to be Joshua Tree), Arcade Fire, RIP Tom Petty, Liam Gallagher – As You Were, and his bro, Jessie Ware, Miley Cyrus – Younger Now/Malibu. Underrated? Lana Del Ray Lust for Life.” [Best Songs Ever will return with new life, vigour and regularity in the new year, I promise – Ed.]
“2017 was a pretty good damn year. I feel like the Vaporwave trend is coming to a swift end, though, and EDM likewise in the mainstream. Streaming is changing everything. Communities are everywhere. There are few places where the average person can get an overview of what’s popular right now. Our pop radio stations have no idea what to do – they are programming content based on an old model. Even the Spotify hits playlists are slow to identify viral phenomena. The only way to keep up in 2017 is to submerge yourself in the culture. You have to go out there and jump in because nobody is going to serve it to you.”
“Kendrick’s run of albums is one of the best in pop music history. RIP Bennington, Cornell and Peep (fuck mental illness).” “Indie rock is basically dead and it’s making me very sad.” “It wasn’t a good year for straight, white males in indie rock bands. Long may it last.”
“I love Aaradhna!! And also the Spinoff.” [Love you too – Ed.]
“You’ve got to take responsibility for yourself. The world is getting worse and there’s no one to fix your life but you.”
“Rock looks like it’s dead… so it’s probably just about to come back (see: Acid House and Hip Hop taking over > Grunge; Electronica circa 2000 kills rock > White Stripes / The Strokes / etc.” “Indie in 2017 is fucking dead. Next year, a rock-ish artist will come out with a new sound and change the game.”
“More pop-up venues.” “*HOPEFULLY* a new venue in AKL post-Kings Arrms & Golden Dawn closure, Tiny Ruins album will be amazing & compared to Angel Olsen.”
“No Lorde, no Nadia, no Aldous – but some new female Kiwi singer-songwriter will step forward to claim our hearts.”
“Holding people accountable.”
“We continue to see a rise in youth voice in the music industry.” “The Beths will release the best album of all time.” “Lots of famous musicians will pass away and we will all be sad on Twitter for a bit.” “Six60 will be the only NZ artist to chart in the top 40 but no one will really be all that bothered.” “Cracker year for NZ indie, with several promising bands set to drop EPs or LPs that deliver on that promise wholesale.”
“Lorde will do something controversial AF in like March and people won’t like it.” “Hip Hop everywhere (even more), Apple Music threatening Spotify even more, George Michael – Faith deluxe edition, Rag’n’Bone Man hits the mainstream in NZ, new album from Post Malone is everywhere, Chris Stapleton brings country back into the NZ mindset (outside chance), big new album from Sia, Sigrid chart smashes… whew.”
“Ticket prices for gigs to hopefully come down a bit, when people realise that prices like $176 for a Tuesday night Mt Smart Stadium show for a wig-wearing Aussie who might well have been a mannequin are taking the piss a bit.”
“Marlon Williams will be back.” “Robot overlords will devour us all.” “Tiny Ruins’ new album should do pretty well. SWIDT will blow up.” “Sexual assault allegations will sweep the music industry even worse than film.” “More rap music to hit the charts, but low-key bands coming into the mainstream. Also a more diverse idea of what it means to belong to the pop genre
More funding for local artists from our new arts and culture minister :)”
“Extreme Metal becomes mainstream, and even more extreme, like a hard rain washing the streets clean of insipidness.” “Antonoff piano and synth wizardry become new pop-drop, and by end of year, even James Blunt is doing it. We all bury our heads in our hands and will reminisce about how The Chainsmokers ‘weren’t actually that bad’.”
“Chelsea Jade’s Personal Best will rule.” “Mermaidens get real big.” “People will become more interested in music created by people in their late 30s/early 40s with some real-life experience behind them. Baby boomer dominance of popular culture will diminish. Bands will start using more unorthodox equipment.”
“Harry Styles becomes king of the universe and makes floral Gucci suits the uniform.” “Trump will crash and burn. Brexit will be stopped. Aaradhna and Jacinda Adern will run Aotearoa with help from Ladi6 and SWIDT.”
“NZ music radio quota should come back.” “Not enough electronic music on your survey” [True, but few people voted for electronic music either so… Ed.]
“Keep being you, Spinoff.” “I fucking love The Spinoff.” “Spinoff needs a metal reviewer.”
“Astro Children are really important.”
“This country needs to ban ticket resale sites. Scum of the earth.” “The vinyl revival is wonderful, but a lot of the reissues don’t sound as good as the older pressings you can find in the second-hand bins. Also, a lot of the kiwi pressings from the old EMI plant in the Hutt were really good.”
“Nah bro, have a good day eh.”
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The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.