The Best Indie Rock of 2017
The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.
Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.
With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.
10. Priests - Nothing Feels Natural (Sister Polygon)
9. The Mountain Goats - Goths (Merge)
8. The National - Sleep Well Beast (4AD)
The National's newest release is as bleak as the album cover suggests. Seven records into their career, Matt Berninger and company are mature, polished, and at their strongest. Largely an album about a relationship falling apart, The National accentuate the distance with melancholy droning synths and electronic beats, while Berninger's slow and deliberate delivery (see "Empire Line") allows for contemplation of every word and feeling. Like so much of 2017's music, there are also political undertones, as on "Turtleneck" when Berninger sarcastically offers, "This must be the genius we've been waiting years for / Oh, no". Although it may be difficult to grasp through the murky music and somber mood, The National offer hope for the future and urge us not to sleep through the hard times, but to do our best for the next generation. -- Chris Thiessen
7. Spoon - Hot Thoughts (Matador)
6. Charly Bliss - Guppy (Barsuk)