The top 7 albums of this year, as decided by LDOI.
#1 – Hypersonic Missiles – Sam Fender
The hard-hitting debut from the Geordie singer tackles tough topics of politics, homelessness and suicide, whilst retaining a warm cosy feel – with moments of euphoria and optimism juxtaposing the dark lyricism.
Kicking off with the title track, ‘Hypersonic Missiles’, the record is explosive from start to finish, packed with blazing riffs, broad vocals and some sweet saxophone solos. Fender’s string of singles released across the past year make up the majority of the album, whilst little room is left for newer tracks such ‘Call Me Lover’ and ‘You’re Not The Only One’.
Much of Hypersonic Missiles was debuted live – ‘The Borders’ became a fan favourite long before a studio version came out. Fender’s brutally honest lyrics, along with lengthy guitar solos and the addition of a saxophone, the track is one of the heaviest on the album.
The quieter tones of ‘Two People’ and ‘Use’ compliment the earlier released ‘Leave Fast’ – whilst the anthemic feel of ‘Saturday’ feeds into Fender’s presence on the live stage.
Hypersonic Missiles has everything a debut record needs – and with Sam Fender about to embark on his biggest UK tour yet, he’s only just getting started.
Top tracks: ‘Hypersonic Missiles’, ‘Saturday’
#2 – Fine Line – Harry Styles
Although only released a mere two weeks ago, the sophomore record from Harry Styles secured itself a spot in the EoY list with ease.
The opening notes of ‘Golden’ sparkle effortlessly, before rippling into the vibrant colours of ‘Watermelon Sugar’.
Singles ‘Adore You’ and ‘Lights Up’ take their rightful places on the album – but it’s ‘She’ that sounds out as the spotlight track. Adorned with an everlasting guitar solo, soulful piano notes, and hazy vocals; it’s a six-minute venture through paradise.
The painful heartache in ‘Falling’ is brought to life through Styles’ anguished vocals and emotive lyricism: “And I get the feeling that you’ll never need me again”, whilst title track ‘Fine Line’ brings the record to a perfect close, ending on the line ‘We’ll be alright’.
As far a second albums go – they aren’t always the easiest. But Styles has gone above and beyond – establishing himself as a highly creditable artist for years to come.
Top tracks: ‘Falling’, ‘She’
#3 – Lucid – Raveena
From the soft twinkling piano of ‘Hypnosis’, straight into the honey-like soul of ‘Nectar’. Raveena’s debut album stands out as one of the best records released this year.
The collaboration with Hope Tala on ‘Floating’ brings in delicate harmonies, backed by sailing instrumentals and gentle beats. Meanwhile, the pensive notes of ‘Still Dreaming’ rise into longing vocals and sparkling keys, cementing itself as a standout track on the LP.
The production on the album deserves a mention too – the perfect layering of sounds transcends into a gorgeously sunny soundscape, destined to be played by the poolside.
Characterised by soulful vocals and cosy instrumentals, Raveena’s debut record places her two steps ahead of other emerging R+B artists – and sets her up to be one to watch in the next few years.
Top tracks: ‘Nectar’, ‘Still Dreaming’
#4 – This Time Next Year – The Trust Fund Kids
Drifting between elements of rock and pop, and almost verging into psychedelia, ‘This Time Next Year’ takes you on a journey through different genres – Connor is unafraid to experiment with both his production and writing.
From the bright, fuzzy melody of ‘Hello My Friend’, to the heavier, murkiness of ‘Orlando Gloom’, the unstoppable energy of each track is towering.
‘Growing Up’ is the perfect end to the album. Subdued guitar notes building up into something seemingly euphoric, yet equally matched in melancholy. A lengthy eight minutes long, yet it’s impossible to skip a single second. With lyrics surrounding the pain of growing older, and the feeling of longing to be a kid again – it’s easily the highlight of the album.
Top tracks: ‘Loving You (Is Such A Waste Of Time’, ‘Waiting On You’
#4 – Future Dust – The Amazons
Moving on from their chart-hitting debut, the sophomore record from the Reading four-piece takes their music from radio-friendly festival anthems, to arena filling rock and roll.
A 40 second drum intro forces its way into the opening track ‘Mother’, meanwhile the racing heartbeat of ‘Fuzzy Tree’ takes you on an adventure of blood-pumping riffs, distorting and fading before erupting into a final 7-second guitar lick, leaving you with a yearning for more.
Subtly led in by interlude track ‘The Mire’, ‘Doubt It’ surrounds every corner of the room, tearing the walls apart and propelling through the roof. Exceeding the boundaries of headphones and stereos, it’s destined to be played live.
The calmer notes of ‘All Over Town’ and ‘End Of Wonder’ are a welcome lull in the storm – before the winds pick up once again into the tornado of ‘Dark Visions’. A barrage of thundering riffs, pelted with roaring drums and resounding vocals, it’s a reminder of just how far The Amazon’s have advanced since their debut.
In a world of formulaic riffs and lyrics, ‘Future Dust’ is a breath of fresh air. The Amazon’s have proved ‘second-album syndrome’ clearly didn’t affect them.
Top tracks: ‘Georgia’, ‘Doubt It’
#5 – Van Houten – Van Houten
Short, but sweet, Van Houten’s debut drifts between swirling fog and radiant sunshine, layering mellow vocals upon dulcet guitar tones and soft piano, whilst infusing subtle hints of melancholy.
Throughout the album, lead singer Louis Sadler reflects on personal mental health issues; projecting sincere lyricism onto a background of dreamy piano notes, subdued drums, and delicate guitar. The contrast of the seemingly upbeat melody of ‘Running Scared’, against the pensive lyrics “I’m looking for a happy ending // But it seems like everybody’s got their own” displays the juxtaposition between the darkness of one’s own struggles, and the apparent happy lives of others.
Van Houten’s debut album may not be lengthy in duration, but its quality and potential longevity far surpasses the records of more high-profile indie-pop artists.
Top tracks: ‘Ever Changing Light’, ‘Running Scared’
#7 – Beauty of Youth – Pretty Vicious
The storming riffs of ‘These Four Walls’ bring the album off to a splintering start, before exploding straight into lead single ‘Move’.
‘Something Worthwhile’ has a hopeful youthfulness, laced with a bright, anthemic spirit, whilst ‘Force Of Nature’ takes a more commanding approach. The euphoric melody ‘What Could Have Been’ raises your pulse, before dropping down into the slightly calmer notes of ‘Playing With Guns’.
The band recently announced the end of ‘Pretty Vicious – however their individual talent is undeniable, and their growth over the past few years shows just how far they could voyage in the next decade.
Top tracks: ‘Little Molly’, ‘Something Worthwhile’
Listen to the end of year playlist here: