The DIY List 2017: most notable first steps of the year
All this week, we’re travelling through our favourite moments of the year that’s been 2017 - here’s our list of our favourite debuts and breakout moments from the new crop.
It’s bloody Christmas time again. A time, we agree, for unholy amounts of mince pies and wine, and more repeats of Love Actually than you can shake a red and white sugary stick at, but it’s also a time to reflect on the musical year that has been 2017.
From Oh My God debut albums making new British bands massive, to the year’s most anticipated returns being everything we wanted and more, to incredible acts of defiance against hatred, and, as always, healthy servings of bands doing things that simply made us say: ‘Errr, Say That Again Mate?’.
There’s been some pretty amazing moments this year. So many, in fact, that we’ve collated a hundred of them. We’re going to be sharing them across this week, highlighting some of our favourite festival moments, absolute bangers of singles, political moments that gave us hope, legends of the year and more, before ending up with our ten Big Ones of 2017: the bands and acts that made us laugh, cry, smile and dance the most this year.
Follow everything in The DIY List 2017 here.
Don’t call it a comeback.
The ‘i was there’ live moments of the year.
Errr, say that again mate?
Sound the horns, it’s an absolute banger.
In our Class Of 2017 - released just about this time last year - we previewed the bands and artists we thought we were going to absolutely smash it this year. And lo and behold, they followed suit. From cover star Loyle Carner getting a Mercury nod and a sold-out Brixton Academy on the back of debut album ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ to Sløtface, Pixx and more surpassing expectations with fantastic debuts, and IDLES providing the sleeper hit of the year with ‘Brutalism’, there’s been some utterly fantastic first steps taken this year. Here they are.
Sløtface’s brilliant, blindingly fun debut album
“The five star-rated album showed Sløtface to be one of the most exciting new bands in Europe.”
Photo: Jonathan Vivaas Kise / DIY
The potential of Sløtface was clear at the start of 2017. At its conclusion, however, they’ve completely smashed expectations. Supporting their heroes Los Campesinos! and The Cribs on UK tours before a huge festival season topped off with packed sets at Latitude and Reading, the band then released ‘Try Not To Freak Out’ in mid-September, one of the debut records of the year.
Taking all of the promise of the band’s early singles (and, in a show of confidence, leaving them all off the record), ‘Try Not To Freak Out’ is bundles of fun without losing its social conscience, equally concerned with both hedonism and its consequences. Helmed by blistering highlight ‘Pitted’, the five star-rated album showed Sløtface to be one of the most exciting new bands in Europe. Will Richards
Read: DIY meets Sløtface in Oslo to talk all things ‘Try Not To Freak Out’.
Pixx coming good with ‘The Age Of Anxiety’
“Pixx has surpassed all expectations this year and the sense that there’s even better things to come is unavoidable.”
Photo: Phil Smithies / DIY
There was more than a handful of promise from Hannah Rodgers’ early singles as Pixx but things picked up immeasurably this year with the release of the singer’s debut album ‘The Age Of Anxiety’. Singles ‘Grip’ and ‘I Bow Down’ saw Rodgers able to balance floaty, instant alt-pop with booming left-field turns perfectly, making ‘The Age Of Anxiety’ an uneasy but brilliant beast.
““Everyone is in a rush to have some fun, but times are tough”, she continues on ‘Waterslides’, and it’s not hard to see how ‘The Age Of Anxiety’ was forged out of memories of childhood insomnia; it’s an album that belongs in dark, difficult places and endless sleep-deprived nights,” we wrote in our review of the album. “Through these internal battles though, Pixx has created a debut record that shows her to be a fascinating prospect, and though significant turmoil informed the record, the pay-off is equally as great.”
Taking the album on tour and to slews of festivals, Pixx has surpassed all expectations this year and the sense that there’s even better things to come is unavoidable. Will Richards
Read: DIY’s feature-length interview with Pixx from back in June.
Diet Cig’s sweet, powerful ‘Swear I’m Good At This’
“‘Swear I’m Good At This’ is a debut which makes empowerment out of a heap of trash.”
Photo: Emma Swann / DIY
April might be known in certain circles as “the cruellest month,” (cheers, T.S Eliot) but in 2017 it delivered more piping hot musical goods than the distinctive whir of a pizza-bearing moped. A big thank you is due to whichever otherworldly spirit managed to scheme in such a way that SHEDLOADS of our favourite bands released their debut albums on the 7th day of that month, when The Big Moon, Blaenavon, and Diet Cig all unleashed their first full lengths at the same time. Our ears are still grateful now.
‘Swear I’m Good At This’ - Diet Cig’s rip-roaring piece of the 7th April debut puzzle - is a bullshit-busting statement of intent. “A lightning combustor that takes all of life’s slights, crumples them up, and spews out the whole bundle out the other side in an entirely more positive form,” we wrote in our album review, “‘Swear I’m Good At This’ is a debut which makes empowerment out of a heap of trash.”
Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman don’t just raise empowerment high on their record, either; all year they’ve put their ethos into IRL practice. They’ve pulled gigs several times this year for good reason, cancelling a college show in light of its discriminatory LGBT policies and another because fans alerted them to an unsafe venue. They’ve also worked to shine a light on valuable causes - Black Lives Matter, Trans Lives Matter, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood - at shows and in their music videos. “Not everyone has the microphone we have,” Alex told us earlier this year. “It’s great we can show solidarity with those causes. I think that’s a really important example to set.” El Hunt
IDLES become the sleeper sensations of the year
“Having started the year as virtual unknowns, IDLES end it as one of the most important bands in the country.”
Photo: Lindsay Melbourne / DIY
Contrary to what column inches might suggest, IDLES aren’t a particularly new band. But, having toiled away on the toilet circuit for years, 2017 was the year the world finally woke up to the gut-punchingly raw joy of the Bristol punks.
Releasing debut LP ‘Brutalism’ back in March, the band took several giant leaps forward from their post-punk beginnings, cementing a sound that was as witty and playful as it was raging and, well, brutal. “I think we were just trying to please everyone else [before], but when we started having fun with it - literally taking the piss - then it worked,” said singer Joe Talbot to DIY ahead of their show supporting the Foo Fighters at the O2 Arena (oh yeah – they did that too).
An undiluted blast of pain and anger, it was a record whose sheer weight of emotion and conviction propelled it to the top of 2017’s pack and soon the crowds came surging in. In June, the band were personally invited to open up for The Maccabees on their final ever shows. In September, they hooked up with Mr. Grohl. Their headline show at London’s Village Underground last month sold out in five hours; their next stop off at Heaven sold out five months in advance. Having started the year as virtual unknowns, IDLES end it as one of the most important bands in the country. It couldn’t have happened to a more worthy bunch. Lisa Wright
The brilliant emergence of Maggie Rogers
“It’s hard to name a newcomer more enthusiastically embraced than Maggie Rogers this year.”
Photo: Emma Swann / DIY
Impressing the discerning ears of Pharrell Williams - closely followed by everyone else and their dog - it’s hard to name a newcomer more enthusiastically embraced than Maggie Rogers this year. Her London debut show (sold out and packed to the rafters) showed that all the buzz and anticipation is richly deserved, too. “Maggie’s live show belongs to an artist beyond her level,” we said in our review. “She oozes confidence but not arrogance, her show is clean and hits every mark, without losing heart.”
Beyond that, the moment-forming sets just kept coming in quick succession, with Maggie’s standout show at Glastonbury - complete with purple ABBA-esque jumpsuit - becoming the most whispered about gig of the weekend.
Currently taking a well-earned break to gather her thoughts for her next steps, 2017 is surely just the beginning for Maggie Rogers. El Hunt
Sheer Mag reigniting a generation of air guitarists
“Sheer Mag’s debut is an album to strut and feel invincible to.”
Photo: Robin Pope / DIY
Introducing itself with a gnarly riff more than a little reminiscent of the Hollyoaks theme tune, Sheer Mag’s debut album has the air guitars within seconds, and they’re not put down across its entire length. The band’s extremely promising, riff-loving early work was given a little polish and tweak on ‘Need To Feel Your Love’ and it made for a debut album that’s life-affirming and bundles of fun.
Crowned with a hysterical London show at Islington Assembly Hall back in July, a gig that felt like an untamed ‘80s throwback, ‘Need To Feel Your Love’ saw classic rock brought firmly into the 21st century with generous helpings of social conscience and unabashed fun. Sheer Mag’s debut is an album to strut and feel invincible to. Will Richards
Superorganism playing their sold out first London show to 600 people
“Their Village Underground show [was] the most buzzy debut of the year by a mile.”
Photo: Phil Smithies / DIY
The trajectory usually goes like this: form a band. Try and get a gig. Play a load of shit slots on the toilet circuit, earning yourself approximately £4 per band member each night. Hopefully get yourself on some better slots once word gets around. Work your way up to a headline show, which will be 70% filled up by your mates. And so on, and so on.
What isn’t normal, however, is to bypass steps one through nine and play your first ever hometown show to a sold-out, 600-capacity crowd who are all there for you. Such is the story of Superorganism – the intercontinental septet whose mix of meme-friendly visuals and squelching, Avalanches-esque pop made their Village Underground show the most buzzy debut of the year by a mile. Spoiler alert: it lived up to the hype, too. Lisa Wright
INHEAVEN writing one of the guitar albums of the year
“It was the full-length that saw them properly stride out as torchbearers for a new, vital era of British guitar bands.”
Photo: Phil Smithies / DIY
The ‘guitar music is dead’ debate has never really been a talking point here at DIY - from where we’re standing, young bands from Britain and beyond have never stopped making brilliant guitar music, but 2017 especially has seen a host of hugely exciting debut records from fresh, passionate bands, not least INHEAVEN.
These four Londoners had been terrorising venues up and down the country for a good few years before ‘INHEAVEN’ dropped at the start of September, but it was the full-length that saw them properly stride out as torchbearers for a new, vital era of British guitar bands.
“Everyone wants a ‘scene’ to latch onto, and for this to be 2007 indie all over again, and obviously it’s not, but there’s definitely something happening,” the band told us in a DIY feature around the release of the album. “There haven’t been this many great new British bands in a long time.”
They’re right, and it looks like the momentum is only going to keep growing. Will Richards
Loyle Carner’s revelationary 2017
One of the most important new artists we have.
Photo: Phil Smithies / DIY
Releasing his debut album ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ back right at the start of the year, Loyle Carner has gone on to have an absolutely massive 2017. “I’m very impulsive with writing,” he told us in our Class Of 2017 interview with the star, released at the end of last year.. “I get a chance to think about what I’m going to say.
“Me writing words and poems and whatnot is the only time I have space where I can think about what to say, and say the right thing. I always say the wrong thing in interviews. In my songs, I say the right thing, or at least, I say how I really feel. It’s here to clear up all the things I said wrong, or did wrong. I’m going to right this wrong by writing this right.”
An unwaveringly honest record, ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ took Ben Coyle-Larner to a sold-out Brixton Academy (on his birthday no less), Glastonbury, Reading & Leeds and even a Mercury nomination, and put him to the forefront of UK rap, becoming one of the most important new artists we have.
MUNA penning one of the pop records of the year
“An unrelenting banger-led compendium taking apart love, loathing, joy and sadness with pronoun-shunning aplomb.”
Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin, and Naomi McPherson - collectively known as the world’s best new pop band, MUNA - have been single-handedly responsible for some of this year’s greatest musical moments. It all started with their debut ‘About U’, an unrelenting banger-led compendium taking apart love, loathing, joy and sadness with pronoun-shunning aplomb.
“Melding slick production with arresting honesty, MUNA’s debut album ’About U’ is a human record,” we reckoned in our review. Toying with the various intricacies of heartbreak, friendship, queerness and regret with a no-frills incisive wit, very little escapes this L.A. band.
They didn’t escape Harry Styles, either, who promptly rang the trio up out of the blue and invited them on his first solo tour following his split from One Direction (casual). Naturally MUNA accepted, their love-championing, empowering pop finding a home amid Hammersmith Apollo’s sea of rainbow flags. They also made the most of being in the UK for Halloween, too, covering ‘Thriller’ in a ghostly takeover of London institution Heaven. El Hunt
Stormzy igniting a generation with ‘Gang Signs & Prayer’
“He’s put in the work this year and our eyes remain peeled for more from Stormzy in 2018…”
“First things first, I’ve been putting in the work”. So says Stormzy on the opener to his album ‘Gang Signs & Prayer’ and boy did it pay off. In DIY’s review of the album, we said: “If Skepta’s ‘Konnichiwa’ was grime’s breakthrough, ‘Gang Signs & Prayer’ is its blockbuster – an all-encompassing ride through human experience that’ll stand tall for decades”.
The record went to number one in the UK album charts and earned a Mercury Prize nomination, but Stormzy’s had a pretty stellar year besides too. He’s played at Pukkelpop, Wild Life, Parklife and Boardmasters, not to mention a huge UK tour. He also reigned supreme at his Glastonbury set, where aside from playing tunes such as ‘Shut Up’ and ‘Big For Your Boots’, he even chucked in a (sort of) cover of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’.
And guess what? After a bit of a wait for ‘Gang Signs & Prayer’, there might be a follow-up sooner than expected. Well, if you believe his ‘4PM in London’ freestyle anyway. “I’ve been working fucking hard, the second album’s coming soon I swear,” he concludes with. Like he says, he’s put in the work this year and our eyes remain peeled for more from Stormzy in 2018… Eugenie Johnson
Alex Lahey’s fun, thoughtful ‘I Love You Like A Brother’
Photo: Guilia McGauran
On last year’s ‘B-Grade University’ EP, Alex Lahey marked herself out as a songwriter capable of writing hooks that are as fun as they are thoughtful. This promise was furthered (and blown out of the water, if we’re honest) by her 2017 debut ‘I Love You Like A Brother’. An album with more hooks than an issue of Angling Times, Lahey’s first full-length is an album for endless summers and pretty poor air guitar attempts.
“We can’t get married even if we want to,” she sings on the album’s closer ‘There’s No Money’, and though, thankfully, her native Australia has resolved this problem by passing their recent marriage equality bill, it shows that Lahey’s got plenty more to sing about than was immediately apparent on ‘I Love You Like A Brother’, and album two is an extremely exciting prospect indeed. Will Richards
Get your copy of the latest issue
More like this
Sløtface - AWAKE / ASLEEP
The winner here is definitely ‘HAPPY’: there’s no way it won’t be a future live favourite.
Sløtface share new track ‘Nose’
Their new EP ‘AWAKE / ASLEEP’ is out next month.
Sløtface share new single ‘Happy’
Lifted from an upcoming new EP due next year.
Tracks: Lizzo, FKA twigs, Biig Piig and more
It’s time for another weekly roundup of the biggest and best new releases.