The high quality of new and emerging musicians never really surprises me, but I’m confident that 2017 has been an exceptional year, and as it draws to a close we reveal our Alternative Friday Awards. So who are the winners?
Best Album (& Male Vocal): Tom Hickox – Monsters in the Deep
Where do we start with this outstanding musician and album? Returning after a break, the early teaser releases from Monsters in the Deep suggested a new, more upbeat sound for this piano playing Londoner. The Fanfare and The Dubbing Artist are toe tappingly brilliant (the latter will definitely get you dancing, and the true story behind it is remarkable too). Istanbul then raised the bar still further, while the slower but stunning Perseus and Lampedusa, & Korean Girl in a Waiting Room, also contain some wonderful horns and percussion. An added treat was to see these tracks performed live, not once but twice this year. Impressive songwriting, rich vocals, and outstanding musicianship… across a whole album!
Best EP: San Blas – Draw, Win, or Lose
There have been some great EPs this year, and I was torn as to which might win this award until San Blas released this EP in November. There are 6-tracks that are all outstanding in their own way, and reveal different aspects to the songwriting and musicianship of the band. From the vibrant Morgan to the slow building Drive, all are led by the ukulele, while adding guitars, drums, and some wonderful horns too. For a little more check here.
Best Female Vocal: Eloïse – California
This track from London teenager Eloïse struck a note when I first heard it in the Fresh on the Net inbox back in May. The atmospheric and dark-pop melody is full of orchestrated strings and rhythmic percussion, and with its strong production and Eloïse’s rich and velvety vocals it grew on me more and more each time I heard it. Not bad for a song, during which she “feels about as exciting as tap water”.
Best Hypnotic Gem: Super Best Friends Club – Super Destruct
This London 5-piece will soon need a new cabinet, as they also picked an award up in 2016 for the equally brilliant Humans. Super Destruct is the opening track from the album Loveblows, and is an intoxicating 5-minute masterpiece that builds slowly, almost carrying you into an hypnotic trance. It also contains the wonderful lyric “I want to cook you dinner”, which I never sing out loud at home (just in case!). Genius.
Top Soulful Rock Tune: The Pure Conjecture – No Ghosts
It’s not easy to pin this wonderful track down as it seems to draw its influences from so many areas, but I loved it from the first listen back in the balmy evenings of summer 17. It mixes soulful vocals and rhythms, softer-rock sonics (get your air guitar out for the solo!) and melodic harmonies that could have come from 1970s San Francisco. The warm production is then the icing on the cake. Superb.
Best Indie Earworm: Mosley Bar – Two Apart
There have been some excellent ‘indie guitar’ tracks released this year (see the Best Of 2017 Mixtape for further evidence), so when it’s done this well it is outstanding. From its accessible lyrics & melodic riffs, to the all powerful finale, it’s easily one of the tracks of the year. It is also a encore favourite (as we found out in our Q&A with them), which isn’t bad for a song originally intended as a set filler!
Best Electronica Dance Track: Mieux – Shenzhen
This is a killer experimental/EDM piece by the Viennese duo Chrisoph Prager and Felix Wolfersberger, aka Mieux (French for ‘better’), and is an ambitious instrumental that mixes brass and percussion influences with rhythmic synths to create an energy burning gem. One to fill any nightclub floor.
The Song of Summer 2017: Abhi The Nomad – Somebody to Love
This infectious and sunny alternative hip-hop gem by the well travelled Abhi the Nomad, who is Indian born, but has ended up in Thousand Oaks California (via numerous detours), was perfectly pitched when it came out this summer. The video also captures the track just perfectly, as we highlighted here. I’ll bet you’re whistling in no time too…
Outstandingly Raucous Rock Track: Himalayas – Thank God I’m Not You
Arriving with a whirlwind of distorted guitars and an avalanche of drumming, Cardiff 4-piece Himalayas have struck gold with this 3 minutes of furious garage influenced rock, which also includes enough of a melodic undercurrent and headbanging vocals to hook you in quickly. We also featured this young band earlier this year, in both Emerging artist and Showreel video articles, and I can vouch they’re impressive live too. Superb if you love an uncompromising racket!
Best Crossover track: Ashley Henry – Deja Vu
We’ve featured numerous artists from the wider world of musical genres this year, and fitting nicely into this arena is south London pianist & composer Ashley Henry. The track itself is a seven minute fusion of animated jazz influenced piano and exotic drum ‘n’ bass flavours, which (along with other Afro, Latin, & jazz related musicians) highlights why London is seen as a melting pot of great sounds at the moment. One to savour in a late night bar!
To hear some early contenders for next year’s awards, do keep a close watch on the Evolving Tunes playlist in 2018!