Presenters’ Picks 2017

Phoenix FM presenters choose their favourite albums and tracks of the year …

Aaron Heanue

Album: Mura Masa – Mura Masa

For me, Mura Masa’s self-titled debut studio album has to be my choice. An album I enjoyed because of the real variety of genres – alternative hits like Helpline which features up-and-coming vocalist Tom Tripp, electro tunes such as Who Is It Gonna B and Firefly featuring Nao and finally pop anthems like Second 2 None (featuring Christine and the Queens) and Nothing Else! (Featuring Jamie Lidell).

Track: Portugal. The Man – Feel It Still

My chosen track for this year’s presenter picks comes from American rock band Portugal. The Man. This song – released back in March – samples the Marvelettes’ track Please Mr. Postman. Although chart success in the UK wasn’t achieved (the song reached no 39), the track did get to number 1 in the US Mainstream Charts.

Alan Johnson

Album: Dua Lipa – Dua Lipa

Based on her debut album Dua Lipa is one of those artists whose music doesn’t seem to belong to any particular genre more than another, with plenty to please lovers of EDM and even hip-hop as well as those who prefer ballads to have a bit more of an edge to them than many that have dominated 2017.

Tracks like Hotter Than Hell and Blow Your Mind are more my thing than the collaboration with Chris Martin, Homesick, but what they all have in common is the thing that really makes Dua Lipa special – her voice.

Track: Camila Cabello – Crying In The Club

I’ve always been fascinated by songs that sample others, of which there’ve been a fair few in 2017, such as James Hype’s take on En Vogue’s Don’t Let Go in the fast-paced More Than Friends, or the slightly more subtle reworking of Maria Maria by Santana on DJ Khaled’s Wild Thoughts.

My favourite though has been the former Fifth Harmony member’s song co-written with Sia, which skilfully weaves elements of the 1999 worldwide chart topper Genie In A Bottle into an original but no less catchy melody. The echoes of Christina Aguilera’s debut hit are by no means the highlight of Crying In The Club.

Amy Deller

Album: Harry Styles – Harry Styles

The album I’ve probably listened the most to this year is Harry Styles’ debut album, which surprised me greatly, dismissing my pre-conceived, One Direction-esque ideas. The album includes such a range of different songs, which are catchy and easy to listen to, and have a lot of depth and meaning behind them.

Track: Lady Gaga – The Cure

Following my love for Gaga’s 2016 album – Joanne, her single The Cure didn’t fail to disappoint. The song was debuted at Coachella (in my opinion, one of Gaga’s best performances to date), and the meaning behind it – a tribute to her late friend – is portrayed in a somewhat upbeat, joyous way, making the song seem even more worthwhile.

Antonia Jones

Album: Paloma Faith – The Architect

Paloma has made a fantastic comeback with her diverse retro-soul sound on her new album The Architect. This has got to be one of my favourites featuring Crybaby, and as many would say Paloma Faith invites us to see the world through her eyes and her unique style yet again.

Track: Sam Smith – Too Good At Goodbyes (Galantis Remix)

When I first heard the original track I knew that somewhere in the pipeline a remix would be coming. Within a few weeks the Galantis remix was out and from that moment I knew Too Good At Goodbyes had to be my favourite single of the year – once you listen to the production you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Bob Simpson

Album: Rag n Bone Man – Human

Released in February, Human contained the title track that had been a huge hit in 2016. Throughout this year Rag n Bone man has been a regular on the Phoenix FM A List with several tracks taken from the album all highly suitable for radio play.

With his very distinctive voice and these classy songs Rag n Bone Man should be around for many years to come. Not your typical manufactured pop star and a blessed relief from all those female nose singers around this year!

Track: Kasabian – You’re In Love With A Psycho

Just because it makes me laugh every time I hear it. Another track for Peter Kay’s Misheard Lyrics routine – “You’re in Love With a Cycle …”

Brian Ager

Album: Fireroad – Flesh Blood and Bone

If anyone had said to me that my favourite band, Dan Baird and Homemade Sin, and one of my all time music heroes, Robert Plant, both had new albums out and neither would be my album of the year, I would’ve laughed. That though, is what happened in 2017 when Fireroad, a little known band from Wales, released a wonderful album of pure rock music in June.

Full of great riffs and stories of the working man, it never lets up from the opening chords of Fall From The Skies to the anthem to Wales and Welsh people closing track All We Have. There are no filler tracks on this album, every song, all written by singer and rhythm guitarist Richard Jones, is powerful enough to stand on its own merits.

Ably supported by the rock solid rhythm section of Anthony Evans and Matthew Whitney, and fabulous lead guitarist Gavin Davis, the band have supported Stereophonics on several recent arena dates and have been gaining the recognition they deserve. What’s so special about the album is that the whole thing is self funded, and sounds absolutely huge. They have no right to sound this good, but they just do. If you’re a fan of Stereophonics or AC/DC, you’ll love this. Please buy it, it deserves a place in everyone’s record collection.

Track: Massive Wagons – Back To The Stack

Released in April this year, this track was both a charity single with all proceeds going to Teenage Cancer Trust, and a tribute to one of their main musical influences, the sadly departed Rick Parfitt of Status Quo. You can hear the spirit of Rick in the song, with the opening riffs reminiscent of Caroline.

It’s a fun song that just puts a great big smile on my face when I hear it. Another little known band building up a reputation as a great live act, they’ve just signed a record deal with Earache Records and a new album is due in Spring 2018. One to look forward to.

Charlie Davy

Album: Either Liam Gallagher or Noel Gallagher

I’ve never been an album person as I’m not especially loyal to any particular artist/group. People whose songs I *really* like have also released some absolute pap. I’ll give honourable mentions to the Brothers Gallagher: Liam for “As You Were” – the singles thus far have been worthy of my money. Noel for “Who Built The Moon?” – being a kid of Brit-Pop and still seeing those 2 having bun-fights 20+ years later brightens up an otherwise dull day.

We are leaning on Charlie to make him choose one or the other

Track: Portugal. The Man – Feel It Still

It’s been a good year for songs, though. Honeyblood’s Walking At Midnight along with Kasabian’s Ill Rey, The King and Noel’s Holy Mountain are my runners-up to Feel It Still from Portugal. The Man. A bit more dancey than my usual taste, but perhaps a way of clinging onto my rapidly diminishing youth!

Chris Hood

Album: Iron Maiden – Book of Souls Live Chapter

I was really torn picking the album of the year, with the choice split between two live collections, with the excellent motion picture soundtrack of Pearl Jam’s Let’s Play Two highly recommended.

But, album of the year has to go to a band that I had the honour of seeing live this year and – shock horror – was actually disappointed with. However, this collection of live tracks from the Book of Souls tour goes some way to making up for the poor audio quality of the show I attended, with the boys on fine form playing a mixture of classics and material from the most recent studio album.

Needless to say I’m still going to see them in 2018!

Track: Dorja – Far Gone

Single of the year goes to a band who I have actually seen twice in 2017, the second gig of which was well worth paying £5 for a small can of beer – and that’s saying a lot!

Seriously, Dorja have got a massive 2018 coming up for them with their debut album currently expected to drop in the first half of the year, and this single is a perfect taster with a fabulously heavy riff, pounding bass and drums and soaring vocals. (Not to mention that it also got an exclusive first play on Phoenix FM).

If you get the chance, go and see this band in 2018, they are even better live. I’ll see you there…you’re buying!

Courtney-Lee Collins

Album: Steps – Tears On The Dancefloor

This year my favourite album has got to be the long-awaited comeback album of one of my all time favourite bands, Steps. Tears On The Dancefloor is a collection of brand new songs by Lisa, Faye, Claire, Lee and H soon to be added to their hall of fame of their many hits of the past.

My favourite track from the album has to be the first single released, Scared Of The Dark. In my opinion it was the best song to kick off their return to the world of music; very reminiscent of their unforgettable style. I was also lucky enough to see them in concert recently and I have to say they were equally as fantastic there.

Track: Charlie Puth – How Long

As soon as I heard this song I was instantly drawn in to its catchy beat and I really loved the fact it is so easy to sing along to. This is just one song from his brand new album with more singles to come very soon. Another great hit from Charlie Puth and I can’t wait to see what else he comes up with in the next few years.

Gareth Williams

Album: Queens Of The Stone Age – Villains

It shouldn’t work – a pop producer with a penchant for cover versions working with a stoner rock band – but the second the beat kicks in in album opener Feet Don’t Fail Me and your feet start tapping along you can tell it does.

Lead single The Way You Used To Do should be seen as an indie dance floor classic already, and the rest of the album provides many high points. The guitars are present and correct, and some of the album feels as dark as previous offerings, but Mark Ronson’s production has allowed them to deliver one of their most coherent collections to date. With the Foos delivering their best album in years as well in 2017, the fact you can dance to Villains is probably what edged it for me.

Track: Bruno Major – Easily

In a year where rock music has unusually dominated my listening habits, it was a jazz guitarist from London that enchanted me most when I saw him live at Latitude Festival, and interviewed him for Phoenix FM. Added to the amazing guitar was a voice like Chet Baker, and the ability to write glorious romantic songs combining pop and jazz.

Easily is a simple romantic slice of that. Bruno and I also share a birthday, which he remembered when I saw him live in London in November, yes, ultra talented and a nice guy to boot. Honourable mentions for great singles this year to Nothing But Thieves and Tom Grennan.

Mel Watson

Album: Ed Sheeran – Divide

This will for ever remind me of all the car journeys I have taken with my daughter this year as she has played it incessantly and I have to say the songs are very happy and vibrant and easy to sing along to. I am now living in Ed Sheeran country in the heart of Suffolk after all, which leads me on to the favourite song which is Castle On The Hill. I live very near to that same castle and the song is played everywhere. I remember when the video first came out and many of my friends were saying they could recognise places in the video and even people!

Michelle Ward

Album: Hempolics – Kiss Cuddle and Torture

A band that is on the rise and getting awesome reviews for their music. The band say it’s an infectious mash-up of Reggae, Electro, Hip-Hop, Soul, Rock and Pop – I say they’re right, it’s bloody good. Do yourself a favour and buy it.

Track: The Condriacs – Voices

The Essex Duo have managed to attract a big following from all over the world and their song Voices is a beautifully crafted track. The song was written for The Mental Health Foundation and featured on Channel 4 mental health awareness week. Voices gives a voice to those who suffer from mental health issues; listen to the lyrics and you will understand.

Mike Jones

Album: Stereophonics – Scream Above The Sounds

Difficult choice this year as there’s plenty to choose from. Loyalty me says Roger Waters but I didn’t like it; Late Night me says Yusuf Cat Stevens and Intrigued me says Passenger. But Playability me says this one.

Track: Harry Styles – Sign Of The Times

Easy choice. If you had told me two years ago that a reality star boyband product impressed you could have knocked me down with a feather. This Harry Styles’ release was anthemic, catchy, singalongable and just downright good. Easy. And then came Elbow’s Golden Slumbers and almost pipped him.

Mike Porter

Album: Rag ‘n’ Bone Man – Human
Track: Clean Bandit feat Zara Larsson – Symphony

I like the singer’s voice.

Naomi Sayers

Album: Pete Tong with the Heritage Orchestra – Ibiza Classics

Following on from 2016’s Classic House, Tongy continues his orchestral arrangements of dance classics with more than a little help from the Heritage Orchestra and conductor Jules Buckley.

This time the likes of Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy, Galvanize by The Chemical Brothers and Armand Van Helden’s You Don’t Know Me (with Craig David providing vocals) get the full orchestral treatment. There are also great re-imaginings of You’ve Got The Love” and Killer featuring original vocalists Candi Staton and Seal.

And there’s something about the power of the Heritage Orchestra combined with these classic dance tracks and the power of Pete Tong that just works! A perfect fusion of my two favourite genres – dance and classical music. I’m really glad we’ve been treated to this – and just in time for Christmas!

Track: Harry Styles – Sign Of The Times

I was prepared to dismiss the most hirsute Directioner’s solo debut without listening, but I’m really glad I didn’t as this is a belter of a ballad. The emotion he gets across gives me goose bumps and it somehow has a timeless feel that makes it seem like it was released years ago. And his voice is incredible on it too. And he’s one of the writers! The whole album is a really impressive debut and this is my favourite track from it. Well done Harry!

Nigel Fitzmaurice

Album: Buckingham/McVie – Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie
Track: Buckingham/McVie – Feel About You

I came across this album earlier in the year – I am a big Fleetwood Mac fan, and these song epitomise them. It’s a carefully put together album and track 2 – Feel About You – is a winner and it was good to hear it get some radio airplay.

It’s a strange choice of album for me but although I love 70s and 80s soul and funk I love this album.

Patrick Sherring

Album: Various Artists – The Shack

This is an album of music both from – and inspired by – the film The Shack. Though the film had limited showing in the UK, it was a commercial success in the USA, as was the album. With tracks from stars of modern country music and contemporary Christian music, this album stands on its own with many thoughtful and inspiring songs.

Track: Hillary Scott – Still

This track was released as a single from her solo album Love Remains. Hillary is the female lead singer of the country-rock band Lady Antebellum. This is a very personal track and reflects how faith helped her through intense personal difficulties.

Paul Golder

Album: Shed Seven – Instant Pleasures

Britpop was a big deal in my musical life of the 90s, although I tended to gravitate towards the art-pop of Blur, Pulp, Sleeper and Salad rather than the dadrock of Oasis, Ocean Colour Scene and erm, Shed Seven. So what made this album so great in 2017? While many older bands try to update their sound, this album still sounds like 1996. That could often be a criticism, but they’ve nailed everything about it – the production, the vocals, the guitars and the obligatory Britpop horn section.

And the songs are so damn catchy – even after a couple of plays I really thought most of them were Shed Seven tunes from first time round that I’d forgotten about. Great to see it bounce into the top 10 album charts too.

Track: Idles – Mother

An astonishingly powerful track mixing hardcore and art rock with a motorik beat. While this is a little bit heavier than my usual listening these days, Idles are the first band I’ve come across in years with a genuine anger and passion. Amazing live performances at Latitude and Standon Calling only enhances what they put on record too.

Scott Ross

Album: Ed Sheeran – Divide

With songs like Castle On The Hill, Galway Girl and his latest single release Perfect, the album is just pure genius.

Track: Robbie Williams – Mixed Signals

Just a great track which I could happily play over and over again.

Steve Roach

Album: Elbow – The Best Of
Track: Elbow – Golden Slumbers

As much as I couldn’t care less about the advert, I do like this version – not quite the Beatles but still a decent cover!

Steve Robertson

Album: The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

If I’m picking the album I’ve listened to most in 2017, it has to be the 4th album by the Philadelphia band. It’s an 80s sounding album with enough of a modern twist to keep me hooked. An ideal listen for a busy day.

Track: Spoon – Hot Thoughts

Another enjoyable single from the Texan band. The title track from their 9th studio album came out in January and after a year’s worth of new releases, this still remains my favourite single.

Tony Smith

Album: Stormzy – Gang Signs and Prayer

So many great albums released this year so it was a close one! I chose this just over Human by Rag n Bone Man.

Track: Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee feat Justin Bieber – Despacito (Remix)

Wow – 2017 was another great year of singles and albums. Apart from the stand out artists like Ed, Drake etc who dominated the charts with multiple chart entries, there was also some up and coming acts breaking through and looking to make a big mark on this year’s chart,

Dua Lipa had her first UK No 1 on her own and not just as a featured artist, as did Camila Cabello. Maggie Lindemann and Anne-Marie are also looking to score big next year and it was a great year for DJ Khalid also. But Despacito was the best commercial pop single of the year by a mile for me. Apart from it being a catchy tune it was the track of the summer along with projecting Luis Fonsi in to a household name (well, nearly).

Xanthe Bearman

Album: Sheridan Smith – Sheridan: The Album

I fell in love with this talented woman when I saw her in Legally Blonde in the West End. An incredible actress (Cilla, The C Word, The Moorside) and musical theatre star (Little Shop of Horrors, Funny Girl), she commented “It has been an ambition since a child to record my own album so I’m incredibly excited to be recording some of my favourite songs”. The album is full of recognisable musical medleys and I especially love her version of La La Land’s City of Stars.

Track: Harry Styles – Sign Of The Times

The lead single from his debut solo album which went straight to number 1. Rolling Stone commented “his sheer brazen confidence is dazzling” – I agree, I loved the song and the album.s

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