It’s that time of year when all of your favorite blogs and music publications are releasing their best albums lists. Keeping up with our tradition, we hand over the year-end duties to some of our featured artists to get their perspectives on this year’s best music.
We asked our artists to share their 3 favorite albums released this year, from well-known to underground acts. Did your picks make their lists? Read on to find out what your next favorite artists were listening to in 2017, in the 4th Annual Albums According To Artists.
“It’s only a matter of time before you’ll hear the name Ambar Lucid everywhere. It’s incredible that such a powerhouse indie solo-artist doesn’t have more exposure and fame with her level of immense talent. With infatuating and uniquely-textured vocals that support her deep & bilingual songwriting … Ambar has a somewhat pained, misty and soulful quality to her vocals, but with witful rhythm in her turn-of-phrase.”
The top three albums of 2017 for me are The 1st by Willow Smith, Is Everything Okay In Your World by Yellow Days, and La Trenza by Mon Laferte.
The 1st – Willow Smith really hit me emotionally, I strongly felt the honesty in her music. The instrumentals are very beautiful that make listening to the album overall a very pleasant experience. It has a very raw feeling to it. There is a variety of sounds in each song, with each all having much meaning within the lyrics. The songs “Boy,” “Israel,” and “Warm Honey” stood out to me the most, all very beautiful and filled with meaning left for your own interpretation.
Is Everything Okay In Your World – Yellow Days is also a very beautiful album. It’s a very jazzed influence album filled with obvious passion within the vocals. It’s very calming and has a hint of a psychedelic compliment to it. His pain is felt through his powerful lyrics. “Holding On” is a beautiful song.
La Trenza – Mon Laferte was beautifully created. Her 50s influence, along with samba within the album, compliments her soulful vocals. She truly left me breathless. “Mi Buen Amor” is definitely my favorite song from that album.
“I’ve been lying on the floor listening on repeat to the four songs that make up the debut EP from Los Angeles’ Deep Breaths—Daniel Berkman’s new project. His music features a unique blend of dream pop, synthpop and folk rhythms … each song seems carefully made to create a simple yet intimate, introspective atmosphere.”
Painted Ruins – Grizzly Bear: I’ve loved Grizzly Bear since first seeing them live supporting Yellow House a decade ago, and I think this record is up there with their best. Mesmerizing melodies, lush textures, transportive songwriting.
Antisocialites – Alvvays: After the bars have closed, it’s the perfect soundtrack for your cinematic late night pity party. I love Molly Rankin’s voice and melodic choices. It’s great pop songwriting drenched in mood…and a lot of reverb.
Capacity – Big Thief: Beautiful and poetic. The songs are evocative and vulnerable, laid bare by moments of imperfection and understated production. Adrianne Lenker’s hushed vocals and delicate fingerpicking are so affecting. You know she means it. If a record can break my heart, I’ll love it forever.
“As we’re reminded of “olden times and ancient rhymes, of love and dreams to share,” this version [of “Christmastime Is Here”] fits well among all of Depressica’s classic songs of grounding caught-in-the-moment reflection filled with that hope that everything will work itself out soon. “Oh, that we could always see, such spirit through the year.” Luckily, Depressica’s music is always around to give us that spirit in the air and joyful memories there.”
Stranger in the Alps – Phoebe Bridgers: I anticipate that many people are writing about this album. In fact, John Mayer sang his praises to Phoebe Bridger’s debut. The songwriting on this record is emotional and raw, and is relatable while detailing specific vignettes. Good for driving in the rain.
Melodrama – Lorde: I remember stopping in my tracks when I first heard “Please could you be tender and I will sit close to you.” Melodrama is a wistfully well-produced coming-of-age story that I’m glad is in my arsenal. Good for feeling melancholy and being in love at the same time.
Karaoke EP – Jodi: Everything about this album is cool. “Remember” in particular is beautifully textured, which might sound familiar if you know where to look, and each track is emotional without being overbearing. This album gave me warmth through the autumn. Good for walking near a body of water on a crisp day.
“Throughout each song on the album, there’s a constant mutation; Güttinger plays with diverse sounds and beats which evolve constantly over themselves. At times, I had the sensation of being at a live gig, as if every song was put together right there in the exact moment I was listening to it. This rawness is where the most interesting part of his work lies, his music makes for a closer experience between artist and listener.”
3. Mental Illness – Aimee Mann: Aimee Mann sometimes feels like a veteran of the music industry, but she’s one of the few that can still deliver an impactful body of work that can outlast today’s music fads. Mental Illness puts her back to her most basic and effective production, using almost entirely acoustic instruments with little else. This album sounds like a late summer sunset, just the hint of cool fall air coming in.
2. Aromanticism – Moses Sumney: Moses Sumney’s debut album has compositions that walk the line between falling asleep and insanity, and a voice that soars and dips to incredible lengths. Many of Aromanticism‘s songs sound as if on the verge on collapsing, but Sumney has such commanding presence and grasp on beautiful songwriting that keeps you wanting more.
1. No Shape – Perfume Genius: When I first heard No Shape‘s lead single “Slip Away,” I knew I’d found something special. Mike Hadreas has such a prolific catalogue already, but this is clearly him at his most confident and comfortable. The joyousness in No Shape‘s sexuality and tenderness is so empowering for me. I’ve turned to this album so many times already this year for daily and musical inspiration.
“There’s a thoughtfully refined and defined nature about Lost Film’s latest record Broken Spectre. It’s introspective, even having a sort of introverted gloom, but with a pensive charm in the way that guitar melodies unfold and ground each song with a sense of hopeful vibrancy and devotion to the craft–not unlike the inspiration behind the album title, the Brocken Spectre.”
Stranger in the Alps -Phoebe Bridgers: I assume/hope this album ends up on a lot of people’s lists this year. I don’t remember the last time I felt so moved after hearing a song as I did the first time I heard “Smoke Signals” and it still fucks me up every time I hear it. Such a great album, start to finish which is especially impressive as a debut and easily has the best voice I’ve heard in years. Also top 10 twitter acct of the year too.
Life After Youth – Land of Talk: LOT have been one of my biggest touchstones as a musician since the beginning and I was so excited when I heard they were coming back with this one after being away so long. Liz’s guitar playing is perfect. It’s fun and poppy, but gritty and raw. I really appreciated how the album went a bit minimal at times and you almost feel like you’re going through Liz’s catharsis with her while you listen through.
Sleep Well Beast – The National: This was probably the album I listened to the most this year. The attention to detail start-to-finish of every song and the album as a whole is so impressive. You can tell there wasn’t a second on the album that wasn’t thought-through and pined over. Obviously the production is perfect and it’s hard to think of a more compelling drummer to listen to than Bryan Devendorf. SWB sums up 2017 really well and no matter how many times I hear “The System Only Dreams in Darkness,” I’ll never get tired of it.
“With the help of Corinne Magin of Liquid Velvet on vocals, and production by NRH, we’re treated to a fuzzy, distort-heavy and amazingly energetic cover of “Actor Out of Work.” I think this version amplifies the mood into more of a fun daze, with growling vocals that make the whole song feel just as disorienting and invigorating as the lyrics … The rocking electric-fade is simply badass in this track, and we’re excited that we got to partner with Bone Police to release it.”
Ctrl – SZA: Practically the only record I’ve listened to since it’s release. I care for it more every listen.
Big Fish Theory – Vince Staples: Sounds like listening to the future.
Loshloss – Asking/Bearing: Favorite local release. Almost feels too personal to hear, at times. Love a lot of the sounds on this.
“There’s a witty sense of humor in his lyricism, as all his songs are riddled with dead-on cultural references that pair well with the intriguing production effects layered throughout … charming boy-next-door vocals, as well as the interesting turn of phrase and cadence that those vocals carry … [it’s] quaint, guitar-driven commentary of modern human behavior … this year’s best kept indie secret.”
Shadow Expert – Palm: Palm has made some of the most unique music I’ve heard in a long time. What it sounds like to me, is if aliens listened to The Beach Boys and said ”sure, we can do that too!” So much energy and dynamic, I find something new every listen.
Enjoy The Great Outdoors – Spencer Radcliffe & Everyone Else: This album is a little bit of a departure from Spencer Radcliffe’s previous work. It shows a lot of growth and thoughtfulness. Super lax and breezy front to back. Plenty of summer jams.
A Place I’ll Always Go – Palehound: Ellen Kempner has never stopped amazing me with thoughtful lyrics. So many of Palehound’s songs speak to me in a big way, that I can’t help but get lost in their catalog. This album explores deep interpersonal development and maturity.
Honorary mentions: Horse Jumper of Love – Self-Titled; Hovvdy – Tastel J.E. Sunde – Now I Feel Adored; Dr. Dog – Abandoned Mansions; Blonder – Blender.
“Miss Geo share an effortless and world-music inspired album that reminisces production in the style of Kraftwerk, YACHT, and Brian Eno records, but with more accessibility through effervescent pop hooks and addictive dance beats. Abby’s airy vocals makes listeners feel comforted as the song tries to find balance between Miss Geo’s old sound, and this new more textured released which feels like a defined aesthetic home for the trio. Abby & Paz are writing intelligent indie-pop that’s simply inviting.”
Infinite Games – Zola Blood: The darkness, intensity, and beauty of every track drives the emotions of the listener so high that they will never feel the same anymore. A special weakness for the song “Good Love”. The chords are haunting.
Dead and Loving It – Bad History Month: A wonderful Boston based songwriter, also a member of Fat History Month. The album is nihilistic and hopeful at the same time. The lyrics are so honest and effortlessly clever. It’s very special to see him live. It feels like taking a journey into the album and the stories he tell come to life.
Masseduction – St. Vincent: It feels more edgy and pop than her previous albums. MASSEDUCTION focuses on drum machines, synths, and mostly uses guitars as textural elements. The lyrics are direct. The songs make you feel vulnerable and remind you how lonely romantic adventures can be.
“Los Angeles’ The Yorks give us groove-dependent indie rock with a rejuvenated 70s edge. The 5-song record carries many inflating rhythmic lines in their memory-inducing psych rock, reminiscent of Temples, Peter Bjorn & John, and at points, early Phoenix … showcasing the driving groove in the arpeggiated frenetics of the bass line, a soft haze that encapsulates their feel-good daze, and subdued pensive breakdowns that sparkles at the right moments.”
No Shape – Perfume Genius: Mike Hadreas comes through with a captivating and emotionally diverse record. The instrumentation and production on this thing is top notch. We particularly love the way the percussive quality that some strings and synths take on for some of the tracks. Mike’s voice is very distinct and filled with diverse emotion; on this record, he delivers both confident and vulnerable performances. Finally, the jams are great and contain some awesome hooks.
Masseduction – St. Vincent: Ms. Clark has proven time and time again that she can bring everything I didn’t know I needed into my life. This album really grew on me the more I listened to it. I loved the theming and flow of it all. I’m sure I received a few eyebrow-raises as a quietly sang “Pills” to myself like the addict I am. St. Vincent proved she can still dial it back in songs like “New York” and “Happy Birthday Johnny,” and I really loved that.
hang – Foxygen: Classic to an extreme. I think we can both agree that the sounds that this album makes at times are absolutely timeless and are almost endlessly pleasant to listen to. The amount of love and care put into this album is apparent and you can’t help but admire such an endeavor. The songs are catchy, structurally eclectic, and full of hooks. The performances are also a highlight. And it’s the best sounding Foxygen record to date. It’s a bit on the shorter side but it only leaves you wanting more.
“LaCore [is] an indie-pop project that is just vibing with a fresh Cali-nightlife energy. With addicting vocal rhythmics that are filled with hooks, combined with loose and intertwining jangling guitar, scratchy guttural bass lines, and glistening synth ornamentation, it fits into today’s revived 80s-inspired fascination but with enough modernity to make it sound forward and advanced … [LaCore creates] well-layered scenic pop-rock music with his defined, unassuming, feel-good vision.”
Villains – Queens of the Stone Age: “The Evil Has Landed” is one of the best rock and roll songs I’ve heard in a long time. It pretty much sums up 2017 for me. Spent many nights blasting this record for as long as as possible until the neighbors would tell me and my roommate to turn it down.
Concrete and Gold – Foo Fighters: Some of the tracks on this record remind me of early Foo Fighters and I couldn’t be happier about it. I’m also a bit partial because I work for their keyboard player.
4:44 – Jay Z: It’s my favorite Jay Z record since The Black Album. I love discovering new music, but this year I really enjoyed listening to older artists reinvent themselves. I think it was a good year for that.
“Sundog brings us another dose of vibing, genre-bending rock in their debut LP All My Love. They aim to create “classic sounds with modern sensibilities,” and they accomplish that with an album that integrates southern rock and brass-soul tendencies into the band’s timeless and crisp sound aesthetic … This is a band you’ll definitely want to unwind to, as they tease out your frustrations and incorporate them into visceral, scratchy & swelling jams. This is what bona-fide old-time rock-n-roll should feel like.”
American Dream – LCD Soundsystem: This year I got into LCD Soundsystem. Finally! Don’t know how I was sleeping on this band. I heard that Bowie told James Murphy that he needed to come out of retirement and make more music and American Dream is what he ended up creating. A simultaneously joyful and pissed off soundtrack for the crazy times we are living in. Now I gotta see them live and dance all my worries away!
Pure Comedy -Father John Misty: I was lucky enough to hear a lot of this record live at a small FJM club gig. After that show I was so excited for the record to come out. He is just a great singer. “Leaving LA” is brilliant from start to finish with just him and a guitar to carry it. I remember watching the “Pure Comedy” music video right when it came out. I was laughing and feeling devastated at the same time. He continues to be a powerful artist.
Villians – Queens of the Stone Age: IT IS SO HUGE! I can’t get over the sound of this record. Mark Ronson produced with Josh Homme and it just sounds like a juggernaut. I have blasted “Feet don’t fail me” countless times while driving. Just a kick ass rock & roll record from start to finish!
Everything Now – Arcade Fire: This album picks up where Reflektor left off, expanding on that album’s dub-influenced bass-led dance sound while somehow managing to sound very much like the Arcade Fire that everyone loves. This one keeps my head bobbing and foot tapping from start to finish while I’m trapped in cubicle land.
What Now – Sylvan Esso: Apparently I just wanted to dance my worries away in 2017! This album is an incredible showcase of electro-pop songsmith, and it really took me back to 2003 when I thought The Postal Service’s Give Up was providing a sneak peek into the future of music. Maybe it turns out I was right if you can overlook the intervening 14 years.
Sleep Well Beast – The National: Once again The National have created a perfectly-crafted album that I can’t get out of my head. In keeping with the sound of 2017, Sleep Well Beast incorporates electronic instrumentation and experimental passages not seen in previous efforts by these dad rockers, and it proves once again that sometimes more really is more.
Crack Up – Fleet Foxes: It feels selfish to be upset or disappointed when one of your favorite bands calls it quits or goes on a hiatus, but when they come back with another album, it’s THE BEST. “Oh, hey there old friend, so good to see you!” I guess what I’m saying is, this album felt like a long awaited and much needed embrace that makes me smile for multiple reasons every time I listen to it.
Humanz – Gorillaz: They’re just so fun. Collabs and features left and right. Always so unique and captivating, especially when you throw their music videos in there with those amazing illustrations. Art on art on art!
Hateful Ways – Rain City Ramblers: While I’m biased due to my brother being in the band, this is an unapologetic shoutout to some very talented local musicians who do things their own way and excel at it. They caught such a locked-in sound by recording live with the help of good friends Tom Eddy and Jacob Lundgren of The Dip. Soothing and spirited tunes, but most importantly, SUPPORT LOCAL MUSIC.
Crack Up – Fleet Foxes: I had no idea what to expect from these guys coming out of the hiatus. What we got was, in my estimation, their best work to date. Watching the progression of their sound over the years from Sun Giant/Fleet Foxes to Helplessness Blues, and now Crack Up, has been a treat. “Third of May / Ōdaigahara” is an instant Fleet classic, but “I Should See Memphis” just gets more beautiful with every listen.
Prisoner – Ryan Adams: I couldn’t put this record down once I gave it a listen. My soundtrack to many a road trip, bus ride, or even just a mundane day at the office. I feel bad that he had to go through so much heartache to bring us such a great American rock album. Adams and his band catch fire with exploding guitar and cymbal hits over the droning organ of opener “Do You Still Love Me?” and never look back, mixing crunchy lead guitar licks with acoustic folk melodies and those wailing harmonica parts.
Everybody Works – Jay Som: Just a gorgeous indie rock album. What’s most impressive: Melina Duterte recorded virtually every instrumental part on her own, from the groovy drums to the atmospheric guitars. I’m a sucker for epic finale tracks, and “For Light” might just take the cake for best album closer of the year.
Thanks once again to all of our artists for making it another great year full of indie music. Be sure to check in with us in 2018 to find out more about your next favorite artists. Happy Holidays from all of us here at IndieBeat.