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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.