Earlier this year The Future Heart published a survey called “Best Music Of 2017, So Far…” It was a joke, or at least the title was. Yes, the post really was the best music to date according to various music journalists, bloggers, columnists but the gag was it was published the first week of February. (Get it? It was a January recap.) Similar monthly recaps have been posted by The Future Heart every month since. The intention is to share the music that stood out that month to various people involved with music media. Click through for the February, March, April and May editions. With half of 2017 now behind us many sites have recently published their own variations of “Best Of 2017 (So Far)” lists. These really are “best” of the year lists, mid-term reports so to speak of the music most worthy attention in the judgment of the list’s creators.
One of the best sources for keeping track of new music of all styles is albumoftheyear.org. The site offers multiple ways to sort through releases and keeps a running tab of the albums with the most critical acclaim in every genre. Since these are constantly updated, The Future Heart took a snapshot of where several of these lists stood at mid-point 2017. The most acclaimed psych, psych rock and psychedelic pop albums are listed here; the most acclaimed alternative rock, indie rock and indie pop albums are listed here; the most acclaimed art pop, dream pop, synth pop and electronic albums are listed here; and the most acclaimed folk, indie folk, singer-songwriter, Americana and alt-country are listed here.
Numerous other sites are weighing in not with verbiage about the music that stood out, but with playlists to hear for yourself. Check out Brenna Ehrlich’s playlist for Tidal of “The Best Indie & Rock Songs of 2017 (So Far)” for instance:
- Rhinoceros – Juliana Hatfield
- Bus Ticket – Cayetana
- Everything Now – Arcade Fire
- 5° on the Inside – Guided By Voices
- Witness – Benjamin Booker
- Mad Shelley’s Letterbox – Robyn Hitchcock
- No Known Drink Or Drug – Japandroids
- A Wall – Downtown Boys
- Lost Boys – The Courtneys
- Boring Girls – Daddy Issues
- Black Hole – Charly Bliss
- Carnations – Palehound
- Birdie – Father John Misty
- 123 – Girlpool
- 3WW – alt-J
- I Will Spite Survive – Deerhoof
- Cold Apartment – Vagabon
- Million Enemies – Wavves
- Nightcrawler – Aye Nako
- Hard Times – Paramore
- Fire – Beth Ditto
- Brick – (Sandy) Alex G
- Andy Warhol’s Dream – Trevor Sensor
- City Music – Kevin Morby
- Smoke Of Dreams – Thurston Moore
- Mourning Sound – Grizzly Bear
- Pleasure – Feist
- Hair Slick Back – Sneaks
- Machinist – Japanese Breakfast
- Black Hanz – The Moonlandingz
- Army Nights – Sleaford Mods
- Another Weekend – Ariel Pink
- The Louvre – Lorde
- call the police – LCD Soundsystem
- Blood Under My Belt – The Drums
- Living In The City – Hurray For The Riff Raff
- Hot Thoughts – Spoon
- Everything Now – Arcade Fire
- Hug Of Thunder – Broken Social Scene
- Man of War – Radiohead
- The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness – The National
- Bike Dream – Rostam
- Alan – Perfume Genius
- Goose Snow Cone – Aimee Mann
- Pretty (Ugly Before) [Live at Largo] – Elliott Smith
- Sugar for the Pill – Slowdive
- Rain in Soho – The Mountain Goats
- Mythological Beauty – Big Thief
- No Coffee – Amber Coffman
- I Am All That I Need / Arroyo Seco / Thumbprint Scar – Fleet Foxes
There’s a lot of overlap on these round-ups, the usual suspects that have been praised throughout the year (DAMN., A Crow Looked at Me, Slowdive, Big Fish Theory, etc). Fans wanting to dig a bit deeper, specifically psych fans, are recommended to check out Psych Insight Music’s “Half-Year Review 2017 (20 Essential Albums)” – chock full of masterfully trippy rock you probably haven’t heard.
As for the distinguished music in June, The Future Heart once again surveyed various people involved with music media for what albums, songs, videos, live performances or whatever else stood out to them. Here’s what they said:
Independent Ethos co-founder Ana Morgenstern
“‘Stay Happy’ by Broken Social Scene is the third track the band shared ahead of their new release. ‘Stay Happy’ is an easy-going breezy tune perfect for summer. It starts softly but quickly picks up to a happy pop tune auguring, maybe even announcing that happy state often associated with youth.
‘Still Counts’ by Polica is heavy on the synths, thumping to a beat that builds to a dancy tune. The contrasting sounds sometimes veer to industrial music, in all it’s an upbeat tempo for Polica.
‘Baybee’ by newcomer Jay Som is a heartfelt, warm song written by singer songwriter Melina May. A soft shoegazing melody envelops the message of not quitting on somebody, even beyond the games and plays. It’s a relatable and realistically romantic soft song that happens to be wonderfully bright for a lo-fi production.”
Washington, D.C.-based researcher Ana Morgenstern studies the intersections between art, politics and the human experience and has had her work published in academic journals Nature and IEEE. She also writes about music and theater in DC Metro Theater Arts and her own Independent Ethos. Follow at twitter.com/Indieethos.
Psych Insight Music founder, Simon Smith
Summer Loop by Radiation Flowers
“It somehow succeeds in having a common vibe throughout, holding together an eclectic series of track that will variously have you up on your feet jigging like there’s no tomorrow and down on your haunches in contemplation that sadly there is a tomorrow. It’s an album for the summer, the whole summer in all its wonder and woe. It’s going to be my soundtrack for sure.”
Remoria by Heroin in Tahiti
“Listening to this superb album I cannot help thinking about how Heroin in Tahiti have used this idea of an alternative history as a cipher for our current world. Through it they have reflected the darkness of our times and shone an ominous mirror upon it. Yet there is also another message here, a message that this does not have to be the only way. There are alternative approaches to politics, to economics and in the way that we treat and associate with our fellow humans. This then, for me, is a powerful album that is reflective of our times that, despite its dystopian foundations also offers hope to those who seek to effect change.”
Ascent to Godhead by Earthling Society
“Here is an album that manages to confound expectations, and deliver something that is significantly different from the previous release, exploring new and familiar musical areas and genre. Again it is the way that these influences are melded together that make the album special and while the inclusion of a track from eight years ago doesn’t fully cohere with the later work here it does provide evidence of a continuing path of consciousness by the Laird and in no way detracts from the new material. Rather it underlines the increasing maturity of the band’s output. With this album you get to rock out, think, wonder and experience; and that surely is the Earthling Society way.”
Psych Insight Music is the essential reference for staying up to date with the current psych scene, particularly the new releases overlooked elsewhere on the web. Follow Simon’s favorite new listens at bandcamp.com/psychinsightmusic and twitter.com/psychinsightmsc and read his aforementioned reviews of Summer Loop by Radiation Flowers, Remoria by Heroin in Tahiti and Ascent To Godhead by Earthling Society.
Simon is also walking 3000 miles this year to raise £3000 for a cancer charity. Details on how you can help him reach his goal are here.
The Owl Mag’s Wayne Jessup
“Psych is where you find it, and San Jose, Costa Rica is not necessarily the first place one would think to look, but that is where Las Robertas fly their flag. You might have run across them at the esteemed Levitation Festival or perhaps SXSW. The trio ply their trade in a basic garage psych style with echoes of girl-group glory. And if a reference to girl groups raises an eyebrow, remember the pinnacle of heaviness that was the Shangri-La’s ‘Remember (Walkin’ In The Sand).’ On new LP Waves of the New, Las Robertas’ opening one-two punch of ‘Dream’ and ‘Not Enough’ is enough to achieve ecstasy. The long-awaited followup to their 2014 breakthrough Days Unmade hews to a similar consistency, with the soaring title track and “The Fool” as additional standouts. All said, a welcome return to action for the band.”
Read Wayne’s pieces for The Owl Mag here (including his June musings on Alex G, Peaking Lights, Palehound and others) and his personal blog at bamnwgan.blogspot.com. Follow him at twitter.com/waj1. Stream or buy Las Robertas’ Waves of the New at lasrobertas.bandcamp.
IndieNugget co-founder, Maria Lopes
“The music that stood for me in June is Holy Hum, ‘White Buzz.’ I only have one word to describe her and it’s ‘staggering.'”
Ravin’ Wire founder, Bob Sarles
“I’m listening to the latest album by The Rides Pierced Arrow. The Rides are Stephen Stills. Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Barry Goldberg.”
The roots of The Ravin Wire go back to a mid-1990s e-mail list-service that sent subscribers several articles per day. Since 2009 followers have been updated with a variety of content from across the web shared on the Ravin Wire facebook page by Bob Sarles – a film and television editor and filmmaker based out of San Francisco and Los Angeles – and by following Sarles’ twitter account.
“Dan Auerbach and Jason Isbell both put out dandy albums in June [Waiting On A Song and The Nashville Sound]. Folks will probably hear more about Isbell’s for its earnest, rich personal emotions thing. But I want to wave the flag for Auerbach’s summer collaboration-laden groove. Sweet guitar licks from Duane Eddy; classic wordplay with John Prine.
Jay-Z’s 4:44 is very interesting, too. I need to give it a few more good spins to absorb the ‘mature guy talkin’ about life’ vibe.
Oh! And St. Vincent’s ‘New York’ is a killer track. Personal, profane, beautifully declarative.”
Communications specialist at University of Tennessee Tickle College of Engineering, Randall Brown fronts the band Quartjar, and until recently wrote a weekly column for the USA Today network’s Knoxville News Sentinel. Hear him discuss 1991’s inaugural Lollapalooza on the most recent episode of the Rockin’ the Suburbs podcast and check out his personal connection to the origins of Deerhoof in this profile. Follow him at twitter.com/RandallMBrown.
Jason Grishkoff from Indie Shuffle linked us to his site’s monthly playlist. He notes “there are a few new appearances on here, but more notable is the presence of a couple big names: Arcade Fire (x3), Sir Sly (x2), The National and The Killers. And that’s pretty rad.”
- Camel Power Club – Altaïr
- Sylvan Esso – The Glow
- Sir Sly – Altar
- Arcade Fire – Everything Now
- Oumou Sangaré – Kamelemba
- Beat Vince – Go Go Go (ft. Genevieve Artadi)
- Sensible J – Fire Sign (ft. Remi & Sampa The Great)
- Ashe – Used To
- Oh Wonder – High On Humans
- Bonobo – Samurai
- ANIMA! – Pencils
- Mabiisi – King (Riot Stereo & SURAJ Remix)
- Everything Everything – Can’t Do
- The Killers – The Man
- Arcade Fire – Creature Comfort
- Sir Sly – Astronaut
- Parcels – Overnight (prod. by Daft Punk)
- courtship. – Perfect People
- Vince Staples – Yeah Right (ft. Kendrick Lamar)
- Sir Sly – Change
- Washed Out – Hard To Say Goodbye
- Rat & Co – Soldiers (ft. Liahona)
- Crooked Colours – Plymouth
- The National – Guilty Party
- Arcade Fire – Signs of Life
An essential site for discovering the greatest of the latest new music, Indie Shuffle uses a unique music player powered by SoundCloud to facilitate carefully curated listening. Follow Indie Shuffle at twitter.com/indieshuffle.
- Stack #143 with Jarreau Vandal, Showtime Goma, Belly Squad, Hollow Everdaze
- Stack #144 with Molly Nilsson, Sheer Mag, Chip Skylark, Kinlaw, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
- Stack #145 with PnB Rock, Crumb, Terrace Martin, DJ Sports, Poppies
- Stack #146 with Baba Stiltz, Sudan Archives, Living, Good Sushi + Akeem Mimiko, Coca Leaf
- Stack #147 with Mal Devisa, Alex Cameron, BIG HUSH, Caroline SaysAdesse Versions Au.Ra, Great Grandpa
Since 2005 Hype Machine has tracked the new tunes generating buzz on the countless blogs around the world and allowed an easy way to listen to them all. Subscribe to Stack by e-mail here and follow Hype Machine at twitter.com/hypem.
Fingertips’ Jeremy Schlosberg
Coincidence Bizarre – “Invisible Man”
“Even just the way it starts, with something resembling a jazz guitar noodle, gives me a good feeling. As a bonus, my ear notes not one but two hooks, one with lyrics (the “Skip along, Sam” part) and one instrumental (the little run on that same guitar, immediately following [e.g., 0:42]). And I do not at all underestimate the simple power of an appealing voice in this context. For better or worse (and it’s probably an age thing), the aural character of what strikes me as a typical rapper’s voice has been a longstanding turn-off for me.”
Read more and download the song at fingertipsmusic.com
The Rebel Light – “Where Did All The Love Go”
“This a great, must-hear summer song. I like how effortlessly this trio call forth bygone musical times without caving in to pure nostalgia. There is nothing frozen here as they call forth a’70s-in-California sound; instead, they tap into the heart of anthemic pop music that knows no time or space (although has been too often kicked to the curb since the mid-’00s or so). To accentuate the song’s sing-along quality, the band gives us two different versions, lyrically, of the same chorus, and it works because they have landed on a classic-sounding melody here, leaking all sorts of references out its sides but asserting itself as its own new thing right here and now.”
Read more and download the song at fingertipsmusic.com
CocoRosie – “Smoke ´em Out” (feat. ANOHNI)
“Glitchy percussion, child-like synth lines, appealing chord washes, “Smoke ‘Em Out” has all of that just in the ear-catching introduction. When the lyrics start, the song incorporates Bianca’s rap-like delivery into a beautifully sculpted aural environment. The Casadys’ long-time friend Anonhi brings her distinctive voice to the impressively succinct chorus, but I think it’s actually Bianca’s lines after Anonhi sings (first heard at 1:42) that seals this song’s triumph. Her singing voice is here processed in an old-school, megaphonic way, and while mimicking the precision of her rapped verses in her first sung line, in the second line she holds back and releases her words exquisitely behind the beat; that this lyric coincides with a sneaky musical resolution has a lot to do with how satisfying the song feels.”
Read more and download the song at fingertipsmusic.com