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Here’s a genre-diverse top 10 list for albums of the year, close calls, honorable mentions, and best EPs:
Overcoats is a new duo out of New York who released their debut LP YOUNG this year. This record is filled with sharp lyrics, killer harmonies, and fresh production. Check these gals out if you haven’t yet!
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Best Tracks: Father, Hold Me Close, The Fog, Kai’s Song, Nighttime Hunger
Listen to Young by Overcoats here on Spotify.
Kehlani is the next Rihanna – mark my words. Her vocals are killer, the lyrics are so clever, and the production is top notch. She’s the perfect mixture of bad ass and vulnerable. See her live in 2018.
Best Tracks: Keep On, Undercover, CRZY, Advice, Too Much, I Wanna Be
Listen to SweetSexySavage by Kehlani here on Spotify.
I wasn’t 100% on the Sam Smith obsessive train until this record. His single “Too Good At Goodbyes” is one of the best written pop ballads of the year. The gospel BGVs are chill-inducing and these songs are simply amazing.
Best Tracks: Too Good At Goodbyes, Burning, HIM, No Peace, Pray, Nothing Left For You
Listen to The Thrill Of It All by Sam Smith here on Spotify.
I would like to thanks John Mayer‘s Twitter handle for this discovery. It became one of my favorites of the year the moment I listened to it. Beautifully honest and conversational lyrics sung with a voice that is equally comforting and haunting.
Best Tracks: Smoke Signals, Motion Sickness, Funeral, Chelsea, You Missed My Heart
Listen to Stranger in the Alps by Phoebe Bridgers here on Spotify.
PRAISE BE for the Fleet Foxes reunion. Their distinctive harmonies have never been better, and the arrangement and lyrics of Crack-Up are more complex than they’ve ever been. These compositions are unique and unpredictable.
Best Tracks: Kept Woman, Third of May, If You Need To Keep Time On Me, Fool’s Errand
Listen to Crack-Up by Fleet Foxes here on Spotify.
Sylvan Esso has been around for a few years, but this record has made her a household name. Entertainment Weekly included What Now in their top 10 list albums for 2017 and it couldn’t be more deserving. There isn’t a song here I don’t like and I love her quirky lyrics and production.
Best Tracks: The Glow, Die Young, Radio, Song, Slack Jaw
Listen to What Now by Sylvan Esso here on Spotify.
MUNA consists of a powerhouse trio who met in college and began working together in 2013 after discovering their strong musical chemistry. Reminiscent of the 80’s greats, these gals bring a fresh new take on pop anthems. Definitely one of my favorite discoveries this year!
Best Tracks: So Special, Loudspeaker, I Know A Place, Winterbreak, After
Listen to About U by MUNA here on Spotify.
Bleachers frontman Jack Antonoff simply blows my mind. Not only did he produce for arguably the two biggest female forces in pop this year (Lorde and Taylor Swift) but he also manages to put out an incredibly unique album and go headline a tour (that I was lucky enough to see twice) that just explodes with musicality and pure energy.
Just like Melodrama was more artistic and conceptual than Pure Heroine was for Lorde, Gone Now is the same in comparison with Bleachers’ debut album Strange Desire. That record is still one of my favorites and I actually like some of those songs better than certain ones on Gone Now, but this most recent record feels more like a unified expression and you really see Antonoff honing and defining the Bleachers sound.
Best Tracks: Goodmorning, Don’t Take The Money, Everybody Lost Somebody, All My Heroes, Nothing is U
Listen to Gone Now by Bleachers here on Spotify.
I really only knew HAIM’s hits like “The Wire” and “Falling” before this album.
Something to Tell You is simply just an awesome record. You almost feel like you’ve heard these songs before – they’re simultaneously timeless and also so true to who they are currently as a group. I love the combination of real instrument, almost live tracked feeling songs like “Little of Your Love” and “Kept Me Crying” mixed with more new age production in songs like “Walking Away.” And their video for “Want You Back” is adorable.
Best Tracks: Want You Back, Little of Your Love, Ready for You, Something to Tell You, Kept Me Crying
Listen to Something to Tell You be HAIM here on Spotify.
Ella Yelich-O’Connor, known professionally as Lorde, took a four year hiatus after the release of her debut LP Pure Heroine (2013) which included huge hits like “Royals” and “Team” and deeper track fan favorites such as “Buzzcut Season” and “Ribs.” You already have enough pressure as it is in the mainstream music industry to deliver top notch album after album, but there’s even more so when you take double the amount of time typically allotted between major releases.
She dropped “Green Light” on March 2nd, which I dug immediately, but it was definitely different. You could tell this record was going to have a new sound. She also released “Liability” and “Perfect Places” as singles. The latter is an awesome anthem about the nonexistence of ignorant bliss, and the former is a stripped-down ballad that paints of a picture of the effect she believes she has on the people she loves; I think it’s one of the best written songs this year.
There isn’t a track on this album I don’t like. Melodrama is artistic pop at its absolute finest. While Pure Heroine was an awesome record, Meldorama is much more lyrically conceptual and sonically intricate.
Best Tracks: All of them.
Listen to Melodrama by Lorde here on Spotify.
The face of Spotify’s “Women of Indie” playlist, Maggie Rogers combines world music instrumentation and sleek pop production in a way that’s so universal and unique. This EP is a great glimpse into what’s to come.
Listen to Now That The Light Is Fading by Maggie Rogers here on Spotify.
I discovered Middle Kids this year at the NoiseTrade SXSW showcase. They’ve got a relaxed energy that’s really likable and their lyrics are simultaneously fun and deep. Check out this self-titled EP!
Listen to Middle Kids EP by Middle Kids here on Spotify.
I discovered Swim Against The Tide last year (their 2016 EP) and immediately fell in love with their unique sound. The manipulation on the lead vocals makes their sound genderless and distinguishable. I’ve really loved everything they’ve put out so far and can’t wait for a full-length album.
Listen to Saw You In A Dream by The Japanese House here on Spotify.
Trella (FL native and now Nashville resident Lindsey Sweat) is a dear friend and super talented writer and performer. Her debut EP Vapor is quite a showcase of what she can do and “Retreat” in particular, released last year as a single, is one of the best songs of 2016. Check out her newest holiday jam “This Year” as well – she just gets better and better!
Listen to Vapor by Trella here on Spotify.
I can’t really recall how I discovered this group, but I’m so glad I did! With their no face artwork and affinity for the lower case, they’re a bit mysterious. Check them out – they’re ones to watch for sure!
Listen to fabulist by slenderbodies here on Spotify.
Remember when Coldplay was breaking up? Idk what happened to that but I’m definitely not complaining. This is a hodge podge EP but definitely worth a listen if you haven’t yet/weren’t sure if they were still a thing.
Listen to Kaleidoscope EP by Coldplay here on Spotify.
Another group that’s for sure on the rise is The New Respects. It felt like one second I knew their name because a friend’s band opened for them and the next second they were on tour with Switchfoot. They have killer vocals and combine R&B and rock beautifully. Check them out if you haven’t already!
Listen to Here Comes Trouble by The New Respects here on Spotify.
One of my favorite discoveries this year by far has been Dermot Kennedy. He’s as if Ben Howard and Jack Garratt had a musical lovechild. The combination of his passionate, raw vocals, acoustic instrumentation, and almost trap-like beats make for a truly powerful sound. “Glory” and “A closeness” are standouts.
Listen to Doves & Ravens by Dermot Kennedy here on Spotify.
Sister trio Joseph had one of my favorite albums last year. Their harmonies and lyrics are beautiful and Stay Awake is an awesome interim EP that includes a gorgeous cover of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” On Instagram they said of the EP: “It’s a bit of telling it like it is. It’s a bit of a ‘keep going.'”
Listen to Stay Awake by Joseph here on Spotify.
Another talented friend of mine, Jordan Hamilton, released his debut EP this year under the moniker In Grey. Every song is thoughtful and intricate and is the perfect soundtrack for the colder seasons.
Listen to All You Needed by In Grey here on Spotify.
I discovered Yoke Lore a few months back seeing them open for Overcoats. If Aziz Ansari was an indie performer, he’d be the lead singer of Yoke Lore. They have a really unique, new age sound, combining doubled and tripled vocals and pop beats with real Americana instruments. I really dig all these songs – Yoke Lore is for sure one to watch!
Listen to Goodpain EP by Yoke Lore here on Spotify.
Most people probably don’t know that Kevin Garrett co-wrote the opening track on Lemonade “Pray You Catch Me” (nbd). The best way for me to describe his music is smooth. Just great vocals, lyrics, and instrumentation. “Little Bit of You” is probably my favorite.
Listen to False Hope by Kevin Garrett here on Spotify.
Nashville resident Jessica Lamb‘s EP Heavy speaks directly to the twenty something generation. I love these songs – the title track is a standout.
Listen to Heavy by Jessica Lamb here on Spotify.
Their most streamed song “Slow Down” caught my attention back in 2013. I love their vocals and lyrics. In this EP they explore more pop/electronic production. Check it out!
Listen to Uneven Kind by Twiceyoung here on Spotify.
Beautiful, ambient sound. Cool instrumentation and smooth vocals. Perfect for TV/Film and your local coffee shop.
Listen to EP by Hanging Valleys here on Spotify.
And that’s a wrap! What a great year for music.
Monica Moser is a native New Yorker, grew up in Texas and now lives in Nashville. She's a graduate of Belmont University where she studied Songwriting & Music Business and interned with NoiseTrade, Nashville's Independent Radio Station Lightning 100 and Dualtone Records (The Lumineers, Shakey Graves) assisting their TV/Film Synch Licensing department. She’s a musician, writer, playlister and is the Marketing Coordinator at Streaming Promotions in Nashville, and is also Coordinator at NoiseTrade.