Noel sees the whole of the moon
National: Sleep Well Beast. Great album, great band. As Pitchfork’s contributing editor Jayson Greene put it of the stately drama of Sleep Well Beast: “It is full of abandon and quiet contemplation as Matt Berninger sings not about how to enjoy life, but how to simply endure it.” And then some. “Why are we still out here holding our coats? We look like children. Goodbyes always take us half an hour. Can’t we just go home?” sings Mr Berninger on Nobody Else Will Be There from one of the best albums of 2017. Or any year.
Gallagher’s High Flying Birds: Who Built the Moon? His detractors really had the knives out for him this time around, on what was NGHFB’S third album — but Who Built the Moon? was a brave, even radical sonic shape-shift from the former Oasis man.
It was such a musical departure in parts — for Holy Mountain think not Ricky Martin’s She Bangs but glammed-up heyday David Bowie, for It’s a Beautiful World think Spiritualized, for Wednesday Part 1 think Quentin Tarantino, for She Taught Me How to Fly think something decidedly un-noel. In total, you had to take your hat, or your parka, off to him.
This was inspiring stuff, courtesy of collaborator David Holmes, and with help from his friends. (Paul Weller and Johnny Marr — or Uri Geller and Har Mar Superstar, as Liam dubs them — both make appearances on Who Built the Moon?).
“I’m at a peak,” Noel told me last summer in London. “Some kind of peak. And peaks are only relevant to the troughs, right? So you’re down here one minute and up here the next. So I’m at some f ***ing kind of peak. How high that peak is, I don’t know, but it is the first time in my life that I feel that I have come to that conclusion.
“And how I react to it from here on in,” Noel added, intriguingly, “is going to be fascinating.”
Plant: Carry Fire. Carry Fire, with his band the Sensational Space Shifters — and his first release since 2014’s Lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar — sees the Wolverhampton Wanderer draw inspiration from the roots music of Mississippi, Appalachia, Gambia, Bristol and the foothills of Wolverhampton and beyond along the way.
His 11th solo album has everything from Chrissie Hynde duetting on a psychedelic cover of Ersel Hickey’s 1958 classic Bluebirds Over the Mountain to Carving Up the World Again … a Wall and Not a Fence, the master singing about “emperors and sultans, kings and presidents/ Dictators and ambassadors engaged in our defence”.
He once declared that his desire to sing as he does came from a moment in his youth.
“When I saw Sleepy John Estes and heard that voice —part pain, part otherworldly — I went, ‘I want that voice’.” And “singing like a girl never seemed so masculine”, as Rolling Stone magazine put it.
Not least on the title track where the old lemon squeezer himself sings: “I carry fire for you/ Here in my naked hands/ I bare my heart to you.”
More Life. Twenty-two tracks and 82 minutes; not an album... a mixtape, begorra. The George Clinton/pFunk of his generation propels into outer-space with a galaxy of diverse, even kaleidoscopic grooves: everything from Giggs (the UK grime artist was outstanding at Electric Picnic last year) to Skepta to Kanye West and back again.
On Lose You, Drake sings “Winning is problematic/ People like it more when you workin’ toward somethin’/ Not when you have it.” And then: “I’ll probably self-destruct if I ever lose, but I never do.” All this, and his dad on the cover too.
Waterboys: This Blue. Up there with 1984’s A Pagan Place or 1988’s Fisherman’s Blues. Mystic Mike. Magic Mike. The Live Mike.
Out of All
Barry Egan completes his Top 10 best album list of 2017, featuring everyone from The National to Drake and Noel Gallagher…
Clockwise from below, Noel Gallagher, Mike Scott of The Waterboys, Robert Plant, Drake and The National