Best Albums of 2017
selected by Martyn Pepperell

Aldous Harding <BR> “Party”

Aldous Harding

Viewed as a body of work, New Zealand singer/songwriter and sonic experimentalist Aldous Harding’s “Party” album takes it cues from the likes of Scott Walker, Kate Bush, Joanna Newsom and Vashti Bunyan, letting evocative piano figures, dirgey woodwinds, and strident rhythms rise around the minimal psychedelic folk landscapes of her previous work.

Song by song, Aldous explores the powers of metaphor and theatre, taking on a variety of roles that includes folk singer, balladeer, and chanteuse, in the process evoking her past and exploring her future by remaining firmly rooted in the moment.

Leading into, and following the album’s release, Aldous has tirelessly toured throughout Europe, the UK, the US, Australia, and New Zealand, packing venues night after night.

♪♫ Listen: “Horizon” + album stream

Aldous Harding on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

Dion Lunadon <BR> “Dion Lunadon”

Dion Lunadon
“Dion Lunadon”

As of late, New Zealand-born, but New York-based singer, instrumentalist and producer Dion Lunadon has been thrashing out his own fiercely unapologetic and energized take on noise rock, one informed by the fuzzy Auckland garage bands he grew up around, and the visceral potential offered by post-punk.

This all comes through loud and clear on the self-titled album he released halfway through 2017 via Agitated Records. It’s a fierce statement from a musician in his early 40s, who will not, in any way, shape or form, go quietly into the good night.

When he isn’t working on his own music, or sessioning, Dion plays bass with longstanding American noise-rockers A Place To Bury Strangers, a gig that tells you everything you need to know about his prowess.

♪♫ Listen: “Move” + album stream

Dion Lunadon on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Fazerdaze <BR> “Morningside”


For 24-year-old Auckland singer/songwriter, guitarist and producer Amelia Murray, the dreamy indie pop artist better known as Fazerdaze, 2017 was a victory lap of sorts, and the culmination of several years of hard work and focus. Extensive international touring, and worldwide media accolades notwithstanding, nowhere was this more apparent than throughout her debut album “Morningside,” named in homage to the suburb she lives in.

In reviews, “Morningside,” has been sonically compared to the genius era run of 80s/90s releases from seminal New Zealand record label Flying Nun (one of the labels through which she released her album). Although it certainly shares qualities with the melody-heavy, D.I.Y releases of that era, it’s also imbued with a sometimes breezy, sometimes anxious feel that could only come the internet generation, and stories that sit in the here and the now. Remarkable work from a talent on the rise.

♪♫ Listen: “Lucky Girl” + album stream

Fazerdaze on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Fis & Rob Thorne <BR> “Clear Stones”

Fis & Rob Thorne
“Clear Stones”

Released worldwide through Bristol/Berlin experimental music label Subtext Recordings, “Clear Stones” exists within a mysterious, misty liminal zone.

Informed by Māori sound artist Rob Thorne (Ngāti Tumutumu)’s engagement with Taonga pūoro (traditional Māori instruments) and Christchurch-raised electronic music composer Fis’ musical explorations of the relationships between man, nature, and technology, “Clear Stones” is a dense and powerful dialogue where the duo find common ground between their respective musical worlds.

Rob Thorne and Fis began working towards this album in Berlin in 2016, around the time they performed together at CTM Festival. Since then, they’ve toured through Europe as a duo.

♪♫ Listen: “Tor 201” + album stream

Fis on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter.

Rob Thorne on Facebook, Twitter.

imugi 이무기 <BR> “Vacasian”

imugi 이무기

Criminally under discussed, “Vacasian,” is the debut release from unhurried Auckland dance pop act imugi 이무기. The duo have been on a slow boil since 2015, marrying singer Yery Cho’s smooth pop vocals with sunkissed electronic production from Carl Ruwhiu.

Throughout “Vacasian”s five song running time, hues cribbed with classic boogie funk, vintage R&B mid 2000s Californian glo-fi, luminous mid-atlantic beat music, and perhaps even yacht rock and city-pop, bleed in and out of each other, threaded together by ascendant falsettos, swirling synth pads, and tales of lust and yearning, and the odd spoken word section.

I don’t have a lot to say about imugi 이무기 right now, but I’m hopefully I’ll have a lot more to say about them over the years to come.

♪♫ Listen: “Dizzy” + album stream

imugi 이무기 on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook.

Nadia Reid <BR> “Preservation”

Nadia Reid

Over the last seven years, emergent singer/songwriter Nadia Reid, has become one of the most significant voices to emerge from New Zealand’s burgeoning modern music scene.

Across two albums, 2014’s “Listen To Formation, Look For Signs” and 2017’s “Preservation,” she’s cultivated an evocative soundworld where the tender closeness of bedsit folk and the expansive dreamscapes of gothic neo-psychedelia intertwine like crisscrossing rivers; truth pushing against metaphor as their currents collide.

If “Listen To Formation, Look For Signs,” was what set her up to take her music overseas, “Preservation” has been the record sustaining her through recent European and US tours. Intricately detailed, and heart stoppingly felt, whether at quiet whisper, or loud raw, it’s undeniable.

♪♫ Listen: “Richard” + album stream

Nadia Reid on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

Noah Slee <BR> “Otherland”

Noah Slee

With Otherland, Berlin-based Tongan New Zealand singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and beatmaker Noah Slee and his producer Ben Esser crafted an intoxicating and vibrant soundworld underpinned by stories from Noah’s youth and the adventures followed.

Rendered in tones and rhythms borrowed from his beloved Neo soul, the Future R&B sound that’s gained popularity in recent years, and the euphoric house and techno music he was introduced to in Berlin, it’s a record that hits you in the hips and the heart.

Although Otherland features a star-studded cast including Hiatus Kaiyote’s Simon Mavin and Paul Bender, American future-soul icon Georgia Anne Muldrow, Nigerian singer Wayne Snow, and New Zealanders Melodownz, Rachel Fraser, and Jordan Rakei, top billing belongs to Noah and his exquisite vocals.

They’re the vehicle for his introspective lyrical explorations of the stories behind his late sexual awakening, journey of self-discovery, and the freedom and spiritual progression hanging it all on the line has afforded him.

♪♫ Listen: “Radar” + album stream

Noah Slee on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Surly <BR> “Trip To Warsaw”

“Trip To Warsaw”

Drawing on the influence of post-war Polish jazz, “Trip To Warsaw” sees New Zealand-based electronic music producer and DJ Surly recast the creepy, folkloric aesthetics and harmonics of that cult European jazz tradition into cinematic footwork music also informed by UK bass culture (from jungle to dubstep and beyond), and US hip-hop.

Fittingly released by Loz, Poland-based record label Polish Juke, it’s one of the understated masterworks of 2017. For proof of impact, just check the ballroom ambiance of ‘Thirteen,’ and ‘4Q 510-511,’ simple piano, double bass, brass and woodwind figures bubbling up into vigorous dancefloor workouts for the open-eared and fleet of foot.

This year, Poland’s Astigmatic Records will re-release “Trip To Warsaw: on 12” vinyl.

♪♫ Listen: “Thirteen” + album stream

Surly on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Teeks <BR> “The Grapefruit Skies”

“The Grapefruit Skies”

23-year-old New Zealand Māori soul singer Teeks has a voice that will take you places – places steeped in the detail, depth, and observational nuance of a substantially older soul. These qualities are on display throughout his debut EP “The Grapefruit Skies,” a heartfelt meditation on the relationships between love, loss, and reflection.

Articulated through blues-tinged instrumentation, and Teeks aching vocals and lyric writing, it’s 2017 release positioned him alongside a new generation of international modern soul vocalists like Kwabs and Leon Bridges. A new classic has arrived, and as his throwback, Shae Sterling directed music videos so clearly display, arrived with a fully-formed vintage aesthetic.

♪♫ Listen: “If Only” + album stream

Teeks on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

Villette <BR> “Drip Crimson”

“Drip Crimson”

Seven songs long, “Drip Crimson” sees New Zealand songwriter, producer, DJ, vocalist, and rapper Villette collaborating with fellow New Zealand producer Troy Samuela, and Chicago-based beatmaker Kev, in the process crafting a melody-led, RnB and soul informed dreamscape of sound and intimacy.

Powered by a narrative that follows the journey of a relationship from rose-tinted first dates and sleepovers, to a slow creeping realisation things aren’t quite right, frustration and anger, reflection, and a chance at redemption, it’s the result of ten months of intensive effort and introspection.

While it can be pretty dark and heavy-handed at points, “Drip Crimson” is cathartic as well, ascendant vocal melodies and spacious-yet-smoldering grooves dovetailing together into an intimate investigation of what it means to be young, in love, and out-of-love, but looking back fondly as well. It’s a worthy debut from an artist on the cusp of ascension.

♪♫ Listen: “Used To Be” + album stream

Villette on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.