Indiecation Top 20 Indie Rock Albums of 2017

It’s that time of year when everyone’s lists are rolling out. And while most are a mish-mash of pop, hip-hop, electronic and rock, Indiecation’s top 20 lists only “indie” rock and some electronic music.

In the 2017 indie scene, reverberating, dreamy sounds and rhythms ranging from ultra-minimal to jazz-inspired and complex reigned supreme. In some cases, vocals took a bit of a back seat, allowing for the instrument compositions to really shine through.

We saw some really great lo-fi pieces come center stage too, with Jay Som and Hoops coming to mind. But at the same time, we saw some of our favorites like Beach Fossils and Alex G really come into their own and take some damn risks.

These albums, in my humble opinion, are all incredible in their own way. Just ordering them was though enough! And while I’m sure there’s a lot more out there I just didn’t even have a chance to listen to, I believe that these well represent what’s great about the indie rock scene today.

Would love to hear your thoughts! What were some of your faves this year? And what do you think of this list? Please comment below.

xo,

Ilana

 

 

Sondre Lerche - Pleasure

20. Sondre Lerche – Pleasure

This ’80s pop forward number is certainly a pleasurable listen. “Siamese Twin” is devastatingly stunning, and easily one of my favorite tracks of the year. While there are certainly some skippable tracks on this one, the hits far outweigh the misses. And regardless, each song has it’s own “goodness” about it.

hand habits

19. Hand Habits – Wildly Idle (The Humble Before the Void)

This dark, folk-y album is permeatingly soft, and is structured with varied minor arpeggios with the vocals in a strong whisper floating above. Listen to standout tracks “In Between” and “Demand It,” which feature devastatingly relatable lyrics like “can you even stand it / being all alone.”

tops

18. TOPS – Sugar at the Gate

This indie-pop album will transport you to various decades. Incorporating soul and disco elements, ’80s sounds and dream-pop, Sugar at the Gate is pop-y enough to appeal to fans of Haim with tracks like “Further,” while guitar-centric tracks like”Petal” and “Dayglow Bimbo” will get indie rockers out on the dance floor as well.

mac d

17. Mac Demarco – This Old Man

Goofball Mac Demarco came out with a pretty solid album this year, opening up about his tumultuous relationship with his father and how he’s beginning to see himself as his old man more and more. Standout tracks like the fuzzy, folky number “This Old Dog” really showcase DeMarco’s soft, breezy vocals. He also masters sultry comedy with “One More Love Song” and keeps it cool with the electro-forward “On the Level.” Again, we see more jazz (or jizz-jazz) influences in this indie-forward album.

j brekkie

16. Japanese Breakfast – Soft Sounds from Another Planet

The 6-minute dreamy opener, “Diving Woman” will hook you into this album instantly. And when you get to the second track “Road Head” you’ll be convinced that Soft Sounds from Another Planet is worth diving into fully. While ultimately a dream-pop album with elements of indie rock, several songs like “Machinist” are straight up danceworthy.

hoops

15. Hoops – Routines

I hadn’t heard of this group before I was given an assignment to review Routines this past summer, and I must say I was delightfully surprised. This is a lo-fi summer staple, crafted with dreamy guitars and hazy vocals, and mostly upbeat tracks. “Suns Out” is by far the first thing you should listen to this summer — or even for a day at the beach here in sunny so Cal this “winter.”

surf curse

14. Surf Curse – Nothing Yet

This one is probably the wild card, local band that’s not on anyone’s radar quite yet. But Reno-based punk group Surf Curse are making quite a name for themselves in the L.A. punk shows, landing themselves opening acts with The Drums and sold out shows. Nothing Yet is brilliant lo-fi, imperfect, raw and rusty. Check out tracks like “Doom Generation” and “All Is Lost” for your dose of millennial angst.

alvvays

13. Alvvays – Antisocialites

There were so many standout hits in this album — from feel-good tracks like “Pimsoll Punks” to the more heartbreaking “Now That You’re Not My Baby,” Alvvays never gave out on crafting unique melodies and bridges to go along with each track. And though their sound can be a little pop-y for me at times, their songwriting in this album was absolutely on point.

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12. Wolf Alice – Visions of A Life

This punk-forward, dark album hooked me in pretty quickly, and after the first couple listens, I became a big fan. While harder tracks like “Yuk Foo” will appeal to your angst, dreamy, belting songs like “Don’t Delete the Kisses” will do just the same to your softer, emo side. There’s a doom-like feel to each track, whether it’s more punk or electro-forward, or even pysch-centric like “Formidable Cool.” “Sadboy” is a doom-y, distorted favorite with a really incredible breakdown. The best way to describe Visions of A Life would probably be “the bright side of doom.”

real estate

11. Real Estate – In Mind

While we didn’t see a whole lot of innovation from Real Estate this year, the band did what they do best — produce well-thought-out, jangly indie rock. They played around with rhythm changes too in the hit “Darling,” and threw in a classic jam sesh at the end of “Two Arrows,” which was quite possibly my favorite screeching jam I’d heard all year. I thought Real Estate put together a really pleasant, cohesive album that gave me a break from the depressing shit I tend to gravitate to.

beach fossils

10. Beach Fossils – Somersault

I know Beach Fossils’ latest probably had mixed reviews both from fans and publications, but I found Somersault to be quite a strong listen. They played a lot more with strings and brass, adding some richness to tracks like “Saint Ivy,” which was basically a post-election ode to the Beatles. But in “This Year” and “May 1st,” we heard that familiar hazy, reverberating Beach Fossils sound. My absolute favorite from the album though was the faster-moving “Down The Line.” With lyrics like “These days I feel like I do nothing right / so come with me and we’ll go down the line,” it had me singing along, feeling every single lyric.

chastity bel

9. Chastity Belt – I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone

I really think that if I were to ever be in a band, I’d want to make the kind of music Chastity Belt does. It’s crisp, unpretentious, and the lyrics are super-relatable, particularly if you’re a woman. Just based on the opening song “Different Now,” which was one of my top listened to this year, this album was already a great contender. The counterparts in the guitars, low, resonant vocals, and of those lyrics… “You’re hard on yourself / but you can’t always be right” are so easy to really feel as you sing along, as the melodies they come up with are simple but so stunningly natural. Another great lo-fi, post punk number for the books!

jay som

8. Jay Som – Everybody Works

So I really loved Jay Som’s Turn Into and was also pretty pleased with this latest release. Everybody Works could be found on just about every major music publication’s top 50, but since it’s indie only, I say it’s top 10 material without a doubt. The popular “Bus Song” is catchy and well-written, but I favored the Wild Nothing-esque tracks like “One More Time, Please” and the even dreamier “Baybee.” This was absolutely one of my favorite lo-fi albums this year.

7. (Sandy) Alex G – Rocket

The young PA native Alex G has yet again released a stunning album with Rocket. The addition of strings, folk and jazz influences really make each track come alive in its own way. “Proud” has a bit of a ragtime feel with the jazzy keyboards and simple melody. “County” and “Guilty” are perhaps my favorite — the former with a dreamy, hazy feel about the vocals, and each with their blatant jazz-inspired licks. And while he probably is so over being referred to as the “modern-day Elliot Smith,” the line between the two is so clearly drawn.

grizzly bear

6. Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins

In their latest album, Painted Ruins, Grizzly Bear show how their sound had evolved, incorporating more electronic influences than their previous albums. Droste and Rossen equally lead the vocals in the group and give us new stunning hits like “Three Rings” and the radio-popular “Mourning Sound.” This album was a really stellar comeback for the group, who hadn’t released any material really since 2012’s Shields.

the ooz_king krule

5. King Krule – The OOZ

19 tracks can be a lot to take in, but King Krule’s sophomore debut is beautiful and deliberate. With stunning, heart-wrenching songs like “Lonely Blue” and “The Ooz,” and jazzy, electronic numbers like “Czech One,” The Ooz is a non-stop savor.

slowdive

4. Slowdive – Slowdive

Slowdive came back in a big way this year, releasing the most stunning shoegaze album. After 22 years, this group proved that they haven’t missed a beat as they resurfaced with an impeccable album that has suited the likes of fans both old and new. Songs like “Star Roving” fit beautifully into the current dream-pop, post-punk scenes. While it takes a few listens to fully appreciate, the first song “Slomo” will make you want to dive right in with it’s 7-minute, ethereal sounds.

cigs after sex

3. Cigarettes After Sex – Cigarettes After Sex

This minimal yet beautiful album will pull at your heartstrings. The lyrics are so devastatingly relatable, all pertaining to relationships. Songs like “K.” and “Apocalypse” give you a glimpse into singer Greg Gonzalez’s intriguing love life, but “Each Time You Fall In Love” is sure to hit you where it hurts, as he sings “each time you fall in love / it’s clearly not enough.”

pirests

2. Priests – Nothing Feels Natural

Priests’ debut album came in strong this year. Upon the first listen, I was instantly hooked — singer Katie Alice Greer’s vocals remind one of the powerful belts of X-Ray Spex’s Poly Styrene. And with hit title track “Nothing Feels Natural,” we catch a glimpse of everything that’s great about post-punk. This album instantly came to mind when building my top 20 this year.

lovewhatsurvives

1. Mount Kimbie – Love What Survives

While several albums were deserving of this spot, none quite came together as well as Mount Kimbie’s Love What Survives. A beautiful collection of electronic, post-punk and krautrock, this album is full of sonic variety. Each song, whether it includes vocals or not, simply shines in it’s unique way. Songs like “Marilyn” and “T.A.M.E.D.” are instant hits with singable lyrics like “I’m looking up at you / are you looking up at me” and “think about me every day / forever,” and have this minimal/repetitive style that manage to be super intriguing, never tiresome. With featured artists like James Blake and King Krule, the project is taken to a whole new level.

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Enter the Enchanted Forest of Jen Gloeckner’s VINE

Iowa-Based Bedroom Pop artist Jen Gloeckner released VINE just earlier this year, and the result is hauntingly stunning. The bedroom-recorded dream-pop album, released on Spinning Head Records, evokes hypnotic, reflective emotions.

The album opens with “Vine,” setting the mood with harp-like synth minor arpeggios and dark atmospheric sounds. Gloeckner’s vocals echo in a simple, eerie melody in which she declares she’s “all right without your love.” “Firefly” swells in a trance-inducing instrumental soundscape. “Breathe” is dreamy yet danceable with an industrial hypnotic vibe. What makes this track stand out is the avant-garde instrumentation — some electronic strings wail just before the halfway point of the song, and the “ahs” in the chorus pair perfectly with the rhythm of the synths. “Ginger Ale” could be straight out of Lana Del Rey’s repertoire with drooping vocals set to an ethereal backdrop. But the instrumental with piano and strings take the track into more complex territory, in a good way.

“The Last Thought” has a dreamy retro-vibe featuring a folk inspired tune, a steady drum beat and swelling strings with cascading guitars. “The last thought of my day / was kissing you goodbye” she sings in a hopeless romantic kind of way. “Blowing Through” has just about the most pronounced vocals Gloeckner will give in the album. She sings a winding tune over dreamy soundscapes and sliding guitars to a ballroom tempo. “Counting Sheep” will certainly get you ready for bed with heavenly harp arpeggios and angelic backing vocals. “Prayers” stretches time by utilizing a quick dance beat and slowing down in the chorus. “Colors” is ambient in nature and share a glimpse of Gloeckner’s despair — “Fill me back in,” she pleads, mourning a lost love. “Row With the Flow” channels the Twin Peaks theme and is another true standout. “Somebody’s sinking way too low / Somebody simply rows with the flow / I know it’s not that easy,” Gloeckner sings undoubtedly about following her passion. “Sold” closes the album on a dreamy yet moving folk note.

Both the lyrics and ambient nature of VINE give the album an art-song, poetic feeling. Listening to it is like stepping into Gloeckner’s enchanting bedroom — a forest-like place to reinvent yourself while you soothe your soul.

Take a listen to the full album here, or purchase VINE on iTunes:

Shoegaze in Slomo: a Slowdive Review

Slowdive is the shoegaze legend’s newest album since their last release 22 years ago and after emerging on the scene in the ’80s. Compiled of 8 dreamy tracks, Slowdive reveals they haven’t missed a beat in the music scene and also the massive influence they’ve had on emerging bands over the years. Dream pop and post-punk still dominate the indie scene when it comes to quality, and clearly this is where it all started. Continue reading

Happy Cinco de Marco!

It’s a blessed day indeed as Mac Demarco released his fifth album from via Captured Tracks today titled This Old Dog.

The overall theme appears to be growing older and maturing – something Mac-y’s probably not quite ready for as he gives himself a long look in the mirror each morning. But his willingness to “go there” and reveal to his fans what keeps him up at night has really culminated into something special. What he deems as “jizz-jazz” is coming to life with the occasional jazz-influenced chords and the integration of the synth in several of his tracks.

Here are my top five songs from the album: Continue reading

Album Review: Surf Curse – Nothing Yet

If there was an anthem for millennials, this would be a front runner. With driving tracks clocking in at no longer than 3 minutes and track titles like “Doom Generation” and “All is Lost,” Nothing Yet caters to its disengaged youth.

Reno-based lo-fi, surf rock duo Jacob Rubeck  and Nicholas Rattigan’s music captivate and inspire from open to close in Nothing Yet. Sure, there are plenty of groups like this around, but Surf Curse has a rawness and tenderness in its tracks that can only be uniquely described. Continue reading

Black Marble – It’s Immaterial

Fans of dark wave and dream pop will unite over Black Marble’s sophomore album, Immaterial. Self-Described as “just New Order played through a trashcan,” it’s clear that these guys don’t take themselves too seriously and are truly humbled by their following.

I first heard Black Marble while watching the movie, Men, Women, and Children, in which “A Great Design” really struck a chord with me. I immediately Shazam’ed it and proceeded to spend the next month listening to A Different Arrangement in it’s entirety.

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Wild Nothing, Life of Pause

I’m seeing Wild Nothing perform three times this year. I saw them recently at the Constellation Room in Santa Ana, will be seeing them this Friday, May 20 at the Regent in L.A., and finally at Primavera Sound in Barcelona. I was also able to catch their free show with Roses at the Echoplex last year. So, it’s been established that I’m a fan!Wild Nothing

When tracks like “Reichpop and “TV Queen” were leaked preceding the highly anticipated release of Life of Pause in February, it was clear that Wild Nothing would be staying true to their ’80’s inspired indie-rock sound, just more composed and evolved. Reichpop is a nod to  minimalist composer Steve Reich, as it begins with a marimba counterpoint which carries through the entire syncopated song. One of my favorite moments in the album in the moment where Reichpop drops to just bass, marimba, and wailing synth around minute 4.

The album cover suggests a keyhole look into a ’70’s inspired, semi-surreal home, as the Wild Nothing website currently features “To Know You” with Jack Tatum walking endlessly through said room. Continue reading

Porches, Pool

 

homepage_large.577ea3bdPool was released earlier this year by New York-based electro-indie band, Porches. When listening to this album, I’m amazed at how much this artist has evolved since the folky-indie-garage rock style of his first album, Slow Dance in the Cosmos.

Pool definitely embraces Porches’ indie-electronic side, as all the tracks are heavily synthesized. The album crafted by frontman Aaron Maine also features frequent supporting vocals from singer/songwriter and girlfriend, Frankie Cosmos. Maine’s distinctive soft and low voice is at times auto-tuned, although personally I prefer his uninhibited voice. Continue reading

High Highs, Cascades

 

AHH_FA_ITUNES-640x640ustralia native and Brooklyn based band, the High Highs released their latest album, Cascades late last year.
Filled with dreamy-pop tracks and ethereal male voices, Cascades is very similar to their previous album, Open Season. The first few times I listened to this album, I didn’t find it quite so captivating. I went to see the High Highs live, and that’s when I was able to appreciate the level of musicality it requires to produce an album of such subtle qualities.

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