2017 has been a very different year in contrast to 2016. Last year came plagued with the deaths of some of the biggest legends in the history of popular music. We’ve been mostly spared this time around, maybe because there’s darker cloud hovering over us following the election. There’s also been fewer high profile releases, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as it has allowed for smaller releases to shine a little brighter. Run the Jewels dropped their third and possibly best record right at the tail end of 2015, after the bulk of year end lists were old news. Hurray For the Riff Raff made a major artistic leap with The Navigator. Slowdive put out their first album in over two decades and it’s another masterpiece. We got another massive collection of songs from The Magnetic Fields. Two of grime’s very best talents came through with some of their best work. And Arca dropped one of the strangest, most beautiful records you’ll ever hear.
Here below, you’ll find a random number of alphabetically ordered records released in the first half of 2017 that have left a lasting impression on me.
I Came To Sing the Song
Breathtaking folk as sung by an angel.
Greg Dulli’s continuous reign as one of the world’s greatest rock vocalists.
The Underside of Power
Soul music for a future apocalypse.
The Painters EP
Animal Collective covers “Jimmy Mack”. Need I say more?
An extraterrestrial opera from a disturbing yet seductively beautiful place.
Ariel Pink & Weyes Blood
An unusually perfect match of the oddball outsider and otherworldly siren.
Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche
Pas pire pop, I Love You So Much
A funky post-rock/krautrock hybrid that defies categorization.
The sound of intimate reflection.
Freedom is Free
Psychedelic Latin rhythms tied to contemporary social issues.
Christopher Paul Stelling
Timeless folk weathering the burden of life.
Cigarettes After Sex
Cigarettes After Sex
Late in the night, in a dimly lit room, drifting off into a haze with a lover.
Perfected jangle pop songs about everyday life.
Romano continues to refine his cosmopolitan psychedelic pop country sound.
A high energy pursuit for explanations of how we got here.
Left on his own, Dave Longstreth shifts gears and reflects on the breakup while soaking up contemporary alt-r&b sounds.
Do Make Say Think
Stubborn Persistent Illusions
Do Make Say Think remain one of post-rock’s most overlooked giants.
Leave it to The Drums to make broken-heartedness sound like such a joy.
The combined forces of Colin Stetson, Greg Fox, Shahzad Ismaily and Toby Summerfield create a jazz record so heavy that it’s metal.
Father John Misty
Channeling a bit of Nilsson, Tillman remains indie rock’s clever funnyman, even if this record is a bit top heavy.
The long-anticipated follow-up of Helplessness Blues is a strong continuation of the band’s epic anthemic prog-folk.
Flotation Toy Warning
The Machine That Made Us
It took them over a decade, but Flotation Toy Warning finally released another album of their unique psych pop.
A masterful, witty collection of predominantly spoken songs from the former leader of Saturday Looks Good to Me and City Center.
The Far Field
Not a big stylistic leap, The Far Field keeps Future Islands in their comfort zone, which is no problem at all.
Sounding like a modern indie version of The Roches, Girlpool improves on their second record.
The Last Place
A very welcome return for one of the all time great indie psych pop groups.
Pictures of Saint Paul Street
Former psych rocker allows a stripped down singer songwriter approach to showcase his great lyrical capabilities, heavily influenced by the likes of Cohen and Reed.
The sound of a mysterious, colorful dream, plus the Harry Nilsson cover is incredible.
Hurray for the Riff Raff
Hurray for the Riff Raff explores her past roots and takes a giant leap to the forefront of the greatest contemporary songwriters.
Jacaszek explores a mysterious electronic world that evolves within each second.
Jake Xerxes Fussell
What in the Natural World
Country music with a hell of a soul.
Jane Weaver’s British psych folktronica is an intoxicating melancholia.
Together At Last
Jeff Tweedy plays stripped down Wilco covers.
Memories Are Now
An incredibly lovely folk album with some unexpected turns away from traditional sounds.
The Jesus and Mary Chain
Damage and Joy
The best thing the highly influential noise rock band has done since Automatic.
Joan of Arc
He’s Got the Whole This Land Is Your Land in His Hands
It’s a Joan of Arc album, so it’s not for everybody but it’s also one of the most fun records they’ve ever recorded.
It’s not the funky masterpiece that TPAB was, but keeps Kendrick in a league of his own as one of the premiere voices of his time.
The World Is A Loud Place
Imagine Randy Newman caught in a swirling whirlwind of proggy psychedlia.
Les Amazones d’Afrique
The work of a Malian supergroup featuring Kandia Kouyaté, Angélique Kidjo, Mamani Keita, Rokia Koné, Mariam Doumbia (of Amadou & Mariam), Nneka, Mariam Koné, Massan Coulibaly, Madina N’Diaye, Madiaré Dramé, Mouneissa Tandina and Pamela Badjogo.
This Old Dog
Mac steps away from the dreamy synths that helped define previous records, but his strong songwriting remains intact.
The Magnetic Fields
50 Song Memoir
Stephin Merritt’s latest prolific act takes us on a tour of the first 50 years of his life.
I’m Not Your Man
Hackman’s first album with Sub Pop sounds like a fresh take on Liz Phair’s best work.
A Crow Looked at Me
Where Nick Cave’s Skeleton Tree felt like an attempt to come to terms and overcome tragic loss, A Crow Looked at Me is pure human sadness and misery.
Sweet folk rock with an unassuming adventurous spirit.
The New Pornographers
With Dan Bejar missing, AC Newman proves as capable as ever at writing infectious indie rock tunes.
Following up Too Bright was a tough task, but Perfume Genius’ latest record picks up right where that record left off. The balance between tender fragility and fearless exploration is a perfect complement for his lyrical themes.
The catchiest indie band alive further embraces their love for 80s synth pop.
Nothing Feels Natural
With the arrival of our reality tv president, we were promised an American punk revival. Priests came through with a record along the lines of Wire and Bikini Kill.
Run The Jewels
Run The Jewels 3
Dropping right at the tail end of 2016, Killer Mike and El-P third Run The Jewels record improves upon the first two without changing too much.
Life & Livin’ It
Sinkane’s synthesis of afro-funk, krautrock, jazz, and prog grows more seamless on Life & Livin’ It, resulting in one of the year’s feel good records,
Over two decades since Pygmallion, the shoegaze greats sound as fresh as ever.
Gang Signs & prayer
Stormzy’s debut album announces the arrival of the next great UK MC with an unpredictable and fearless collection of perfectly produced tracks.
Sufjan Stevens / Nico Muhly / Bryce Dessner / James McAlister
Sufjan may never return to the 50 states project, but on Planetarium he takes on the entire galaxy for one of the most beautiful records he’s ever recorded.
Sun Kil Moon
Common as Light and Love are Red Valleys of Blood
Mark Kozelek remains prolific as ever with his first double album, growing more adventurous if also less focused.
Ought frontman goes solo for a Jonathan Richman type combo of raw rock & roll and witty lyrics.
Sincerely, Future Pollution
Timber Timber’s experimental noir sound gets a little bit funkier.
The original grime MCs have come back in 2017, hitting with some of their best work ever. Wiley is no exception.
Possibly Xiu Xiu’s most danceable record without sacrificing any of the uneasy tension.