Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Top Releases of the Year

December 15, 2017

This year I’m just going to have one list of releases that encompasses both full releases and EPs. Without further ado, here it is:

1. Twigs – townsppl. (Review) The most infectious indie-pop I heard all year. I couldn’t stop listening to it from the first time I heard it.

2. A Lovely Wait – Nathan Partain. (Review) Easily balances being a folk album and a worship album, subsequently transcends both genre labels.

3. Thinking about Thursdays – Lullatone. (Review) The scope of this project is massive, but the quality never suffers. Charming, endearing, thoughtful instrumental twee work here.

4. Fear Not – Cameron Blake. (Review) This album spans an impressive range of emotions, moods, genres, and lyrical places. Blake shows off his distinctiveness throughout.

5. Oversleepers International – Emperor X. (Review) Starts off as a acoustic-punk album, then sprawls outward in all directions. The one-two punch of “Wasted on the Senate Floor” and “Schopenhauer in Berlin” is the best album-opening blast of the year.

6. Two Sets of Eyes – Two Sets of Eyes. (Review) A mind-bending amalgam of indie-rock, jazz, hip-hop, and emo that has more twists than a rollercoaster. Whoa now.

7. Bright Hopes! – Mike Crawford and His Secret Siblings. (Review) Another album of massive scope, Crawford’s double album of melodic indie-rock is punchy, clever, and unforgettable.

8. Listen to the River – The Collection. (Review) It’s an emotionally heavy piece of work, which is par for the course with the Collection. The orchestral-folk outfit’s songwriting vision is as clear and strong as ever.

9. II – Alex Dezen. (Review) A veritable jukebox of ’70s and ’80s pop styles matched with Dezen’s eye for lyrical detail and ear for inescapable melodies.

10. Tambaleo – Matthew Squires. (Review) Squires’ left-of-center, idiosyncratic vision of indie-pop is on full display here. I didn’t hear anything else like Tambaleo all year.

11. Wives’ Tales – Illustrated Manual. (Review) A moving, carefully-crafted set of acoustic singer-songwriter/folk tunes.–Stephen Carradini

Winding on out of each year, the reflection of great music begins. Here are my picks. That being said, I do hope that you find a bit of something new that brings you cheer heading into the 2018!

10. Jenny ScheinmanHere on Earth. It’s a rare feat to bring true roots Americana to life. Jenny Scheinman does just that in her album Here On Earth. History brought to life musically, this is an experience not to be missed.

9. This Pale FireAlchemy. Singer/songwriter Corban Koschak performs as This Pale Fire from Auckland, New Zealand. His subtle, nuanced acoustic music is finding wings around the globe with soulful melody and emotive vocal delivery, bringing to mind early years of Michael David Rosenberg.

8. Cyclope EspionFriday Night Epitaph. The best music tells a story. Finding a voice in America, French-born Cyclope Espion’s Friday Night Epitaph is the story of New York City. With every raw, Dylan-esque moment, this album is “Indélébile” from start to finish.

7. DoubleVeeThe Moonlit Fables of Jack the Rider. This is trippy indie at its finest. With shimmers reminiscent of Oingo Boingo, this is musical deliciousness not to be missed. Jack the Rider emerges out of Norman, Oklahoma–not normally known as a spot for a concept album. But to say any more about the album might take away from an initial listener experience with Alan and Barb Vest.

6. Charles Ellsworth Cesaréa. Ellsworth’s 2017 record found him back at Flying Blanket Studios working with producer Bob Hoag. This partnership helped shaped the evolution of many tracks that populate Cesaréa. Travels and journeys forge this singer/songwriter’s journey through life. This is the third full-length album by the artist who left the wilds of northeastern Arizona to finish film school in Utah, only to uproot and end up in Brooklyn. It will be great to hear what the next five years in his life sounds like.

5. The American WestThe Soot Will Bring Us Back Again. Matthew Zeltzer (guitar/vocals) and Maria Maita-Keppeler (vocals, violin) are The American West from Portland, Oregon. Their “post-Americana” sound envelops each track off their debut album The Soot Will Bring Us Back Again.

4. Trevor James Tillery Together, Alone. With some of the most stunning artwork of the year representing an album of pure social analysis, this Nashville-based singer/songwriter proves that each carefully-chosen lyric can paint a picture in music. Undeniably outstanding.

3. Jason Van WykAttachment and Opacity. These two albums of piano is the storyteller for a look at relationships. This two-part masterwork is composition at its finest.

2. Grover AndersonFrom the Pink Room. All listeners gravitate toward great songwriting. From The Pink Room is the third album from the folk singer/songwriter from historic Murphys, California. The album blends great storytelling in a true troubadour fashion with country flair. Anderson is a man to watch.

1. Polyrhythmics Caldera. Genius takes all forms, but rarely does that put nine musicians of incredible caliber into a creative space–the album is named Caldera after the form left behind from a volcanic eruption. On their fourth studio album, the Seattle-based band is all about that jazz. But that foundation allows the band to stretch into rock, funk, blues, and R&B forms. Their sound expands like the caldera that is the album’s namesake.

I hope to hear your favorites from this year’s IC. Have a prosperous 2018! –Lisa Whealy

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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