2017 Retrospective: Don't Sleep On These 36 Records
INFJ - Ashes
Overview: Ashes is a polished exhibition of inviting, homey folk songwriting. The combination of skillful musicianship, clear production, and rich instrumental arrangements makes for an experience on-par with any household name in folk-inspired music. Ashes is a friendly, inviting collection of songs that is sure to please any indie folk fan.
Jerk - Pink EP
Overview: Jerk is smooth, cool, and everything you want in an R&B, Jazzhop fusion project. The first in a series of color-themed EPs, Pink is a great introduction to Jerk’s vibey, refined sound. Drown out the noise of your commute, take your coffee shop experience to the next level, or just enhance your life in general with the sweet sounds of Jerk’s Pink & Yellow EPs.
Toxic Crew - Pimp in Distress
Overview: Pimp in Distress is a sonic gut punch that cuts to the core of what makes heavy music hit so hard. Consisting of just bass, drums, and vocals, I never found myself missing traditional instrumentation because not only is the bass tone so awesome, but the energy from the group is so palpable. What Pimp in Distress captures is the experience of a live show, but with a level of sonic clarity missing from most live productions. If you love hardcore and want to listen to a wonderfully bottled live show experience, then listen to Toxic Crew.
Samantha Sklar – Florá
Overview: Florá features a charming simplicity and solid folk tunes reminiscent of singer songwriters from the 60s and 70s. The interplay of tasteful vocal layers and harmonies with the solo acoustic guitar makes for a warm, vibey aural experience.
Kelly Quigley - Weigh On
Overview: Intricate guitar runs, interesting chord progressions, creative percussion arrangements, and soft vocal delivery; each piece of this EP encourages the listener to curl up in these acoustically-driven songs and get lost. Weigh On is an EP in the indie acoustic style that you (likely) already love, with fresh and inspired execution of the singer songwriter genre.
Chase Andrzej - Five Letters
Overview: “Five Letters” is extremely anthemic and emotive single from singer songwriter Chase Andrzej. The narrative is a vivid depiction of pain, struggle, and ultimately triumph, and the contrast in tone between the verses and choruses do well to reinforce this imagery. Just one listen will have you belting out the chorus “I deserve love”, so do yourself a favor and give it a spin, because this song certainly deserves some love.
Stephen Alexander - Wavering Field
Overview: Stephen Alexander is a master of creating interesting textures and putting the listener in a tangible, skillfully crafted sonic space. Wavering Field offers a unique listening experience, blending ambient sonic-scapes, spoken word, and carefully crafted songs together into a cohesive, compelling work of art.
Ryan Wu - Wutasia
Overview: Wutasia encapsulates everything great about 70s folk rock, and then blends in Ryan Wu’s unique flavor of indie slacker coolness.The dense arrangements, smooth guitar work, and stylized vocals will give your ear a lot to enjoy over repeated listens. Wutasia is a fun homage to classic folk rock that adds new life to the genre.
Cotter Champlin - Parallel Vertices
Overview: Parallel Vertices is a commanding display of musicianship. The intricate arrangements of drums, bass, and guitar are always purposeful, never complex for complexity’s sake. The smooth, clean production fits these tunes perfectly, and the end product is a smart and engaging four course meal for the ears. Cotter Champlin has curated a wonderful auditory journey which needs to experienced firsthand.
POOR CHOICE - SOUTH SHORE SLAUGHTER
Overview: Do you like your music to punch you in the face? Do you like harsh vocals that don’t grate on your eardrums? Do you like distorted guitars that cause a stir deep down in your chest? If so, this EP is for. SOUTH SHORE SLAUGHTER is a hard hitting 5 track EP of pure energy that will have you nodding your head for its entire duration. POOR CHOICE is a misnomer, because listening to their music is a great choice.
Bobby Sanchez - The Crisis
Overview: The Crisis is super-charged political hip hop delivered with a great deal of conviction. Bobby Sanchez is a multi-talented writer & producer, and this 15-track work delves into important, timely social issues. The earnest vocal delivery, potent word-smithery, and creative production all elevate so that it’s not only entertainment, but functions on an intellectual level as well. The Crisis is not only a victory for DIY rap, but is a reminder that music can be a powerful vehicle for communication and social commentary.
Folded Voices - Stone Body
Overview: Stone Body is a surprisingly vivid and abstract experience. Every detail in the production, arrangement, and execution decisively move in harmony to build a work of art which will leave an impression on you long after you’ve finished listening.
Stone Body is a beautifully ethereal record, and at the low-price of “free”, there are no excuses for not experiencing it for yourself.
Lucent Dreams - Honest EP
Overview: Lucent Dreams demonstrates the potential still held within the indie folk arena with Honest EP. This record ranges from pumping folk punk, slow rocker jams, and densely arranged, sectional songs with layered harmonies and strings. Between the adept lyricism, creative production, varied song lineup, there's no question that Honest EP is worth your time.
Loner Spring - The Quiet
Overview: “The Quiet” is everything you want a college/bedroom rock single. It evokes the best kind of melancholy, a hint of nostalgia, and a dash of sobering self study; similar to the feeling you’d get listening to a Death Cab for Cutie song. The arrangement and production fit the vibe very well, and there’s a subtle urgency throughout the song that builds through the song into a satisfying conclusion.
Penthouse Boys - New In Town
Overview: New In Town is a breath of fresh air for DIY music fans. This semi-satirical synth pop project showcases a creative narrative from the perspective of a NYC playboy of the early 90s. Not only is it an interesting premise, but the songs are undeniably fun and catchy. It's safe to say that this is one of the most unique projects released in 2017 and I can’t recommend it enough.
Aloha Machine - soothouse
Overview: The latest Aloha Machine EP is a visceral experience which will keep the listener on their toes for the entire duration. With its driving rhythms, abstract instrumental sections, and inventive production; soothouse is necessary listening material for any garage rock fan who feels that the genre is growing stale. Aloha Machine’s creative use of rhythm, textures, and effects on soothouse is a must-hear for any fan of alternative music.
Pandafan - Ocean B-Sides
Overview: Pandafan offers a unique brand of indie folk with beautifully haunting 3-part harmonies. This ocean-themed collection of songs transports the listener to a picturesque alternate ocean side reality with each song telling a unique and captivating story. This release is also quite progressive for DIY music, as it includes a coinciding picture and lyric book. Pandafan has successfully delivered a wonderfully creative, deep, and forward thinking experience for the listener.
Sean Robert Jones - Sightless
Overview: Sightless is just the right amount of dark, raw, and sparse. This release effectively features all the main ingredients needed for good folk music; engaging, vivid lyrics, accompanied by well arranged, impeccably recorded guitar parts. The emotive vocal delivery is the cherry on top of a well-constructed framework of song writing, making Sightless a must-listen for any folk music appreciator.
Jokamundo - 100 Reasons
Overview: The multi-talented producer, beatsmith, and lyricist Jokamundo put out an extremely enjoyable and compelling EP with 100 Reasons. There’s a lot of variety in the production between each track, but every beat hits that head-bobbing sweet spot. The lyrics range from introspection about the struggles of the creative process, to straight clout and posturing, and at every step the delivery is smart, self-aware, and calculated. There are 100 reasons to check out this EP, just do it.
Metric Tones - Daily Releases
Overview: There’s no album or EP here, but what we have here is a steady stream of daily releases which has stretched from the midpoint of 2017 to the time this blog is posted. The result is an incredibly varied collection of electronic pieces ranging from ambient soundscapes, to danceable grooves, and anywhere in between. It takes a great deal of commitment to create and release a piece of music every day, but to achieve that feat and have every release be legitimately cool and worth listening to is something else entirely. For inspiration, relaxation, or sheer curiosity, I highly recommend taking the time to listen through these tracks.
Tom Jolu - What You're Striving For
Overview: Tom Jolu has a way of embodying the core elements that make singer songwriters staple of music culture. The transparency of the lyrics, folk style guitar playing, and an implicit yearning in the vocal delivery make the listening experience authentic and engaging.What We’re Striving For is a short but sweet collection of songs that are a perfect soundtrack for reflection and driving around your hometown.
Jelani Sei - LVNDR TWN
Overview: LVNDR TWN is a masterful blend of the groove and rock. The ridiculously tight rhythm section, embellishing guitar parts, and tasteful use of interesting vocal effects; all facets of production and instrumentation come together to create an extremely well presented work of art. This is an unbelievably cool EP that you must check out.
Hit Like A Girl - You Make Sense
Overview: You Make Sense features emotionally packed lyrics, crisp production, very singable choruses, and the reassurance that you’re not alone.
There’s a great mix of songs from driving pop-punk jams, emotive ballads, to a fun ukulele tune which closes out the record. Hit Light A Girl has curated a comfortable, approachable collection of tunes that you’d do well to take a listen through.
Full Body - What's Good?
Overview: Full Body’s latest release is a driving force of nature from front to back. From track 1 the crunchy guitars, growling bass, heavy drums, tastefully saturated vocals, and hyper-compressed-everything grab hold of your ear drums and shake them around until the end of track 8. What’s Good? kicks real hard, and leaves you struggling to your feet wanting more.
Alejo Becerra - Calavera EP
Overview: Calavera’s opening track “I’m Not Leaving” is a politically charged kick in the ears, and sets the tone for the rest of the EP. Each song on this EP is a different flavor from the rock spectrum, with explorations into punk, hard rock ballads, and even some rap rock. Ultimately, if you’re looking for some solid head-banging tunes, then look no further than Calavera.
Lee's Manifold -
Leave a Light On
Overview: Leave a Light On places the listener in a rich and sonic space and keeps you there from start to finish. The brainchild of Liam Connors (Also of Strawberry Blonde), Lee’s Manifold employs dense acoustic-driven arrangements filled with strings, keys, electronics, and thick vocal harmonies, in addition to the traditional guitar, drums, and bass outfit. The community aspect of the recording process is is quite prevalent in the final product. This is much more than your average indie folk EP, it’s proof that the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.
Tiny Blue Ghost - Growing Pains
Overview: Dreamy guitars, driving rhythms, and squeaky clean production - Tiny Blue Ghost delivers a well balanced, rock solid collection of songs on Growing Pains. Between the refined lyricism, and elegant instrumental arrangements, the breadth and depth of this record is on-par with something you would expect from a label-backed release.
Growing Pains features of catchy indie pop sensibilities, vivid storytelling, and an awesome looking cassette release; all of which you need to check our right now.
Robot Detective - Discourse
Overview: Listening to Discourse is like going through an inter-dimensional sonic wormhole. There is a great deal happening for the ear to dissect at any given moment on any given track, and the grainy, noisey elements mixed with the djembe rhythms make for a trippy, transportive experience. If you’re looking to delve into some psychedelic, experimental electronic music, then Discourse is a great choice.
Jake Kerkapoly - "Rabbit's Hole"
Overview: If you like your music smooth, then “Rabbit’s Hole” is a song you should check out. Channeling the best parts of a Maroon 5-esque vibe, this single packs all the groove, style, and sheen you want in a pop single.
Bobby Woody - "Phoebe"
Overview: A single from his upcoming mixtape Cartoons Are For Kids, Bobby Woody has graced us with a very friendly, groovy invitation into his sound with “Phoebe”. The production value is very high with the beat being comprised mostly of acoustic instruments.
For these reasons listening to “Phoebe” feels like more than simply listening to a Bobby Woody single; it feels like all the community and energy of a live show has been packed into your bedroom.
Ciarra Fragale - On Your Mind / My Hair's Grown Longer
Overview: This double from Ciarra Fragale is an exposition of adept indie pop song writing carried by strong vocal performance and catchy melodies. The vocal lines in “On Your Mind” are strong enough to grab onto and swing around, and the layers of harmonies seem to smoothly glide across your ears. If you like pop folk, you’ll want to give this double a spin.
Julez - Back to First Street
Overview: If hard-hitting, driving blues-inspired rock music is something you want, then you can get it here with Back to First Street. The production is somehow simultaneously clean and dirty; and it has all the grit you’d expect, but is smooth enough so that it doesn’t wear on the ears. The record as a whole is a reassurance that dynamic, interesting rock music is alive and well in the indie world and is a must-listen for any lover of the genre.
Citizen Serenade - "Premonition"
Overview: “Premonition” offers a unique listening experience in both production and form. If you’re sick of the usual pop-song structure then you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that this song has no distinct repeating repeating sections to speak of. That combined with driving acoustic guitars, swirling textures, and an interesting percussion groove makes this single from Citizen Serenade a solid listen.
DomCo - FOURTEEN
Overview: FOURTEEN is an impressive release that demands full attention from the listener. There’s a good variety to this record and each track hits hard for different reasons. Whether it’s from the beat, of the intense vocals, the political message, or because of relatable interpersonal struggles, DomCo gives the listener a lot of reasons to engage with FOURTEEN.
Evan Liu - fkdj
Overview: If the nonchalant title of fkdj doesn't tell you all you need to know; this is a record for slackers. The loose production, the quiet delivery of the vocals, and dark tone of the guitar parts deliver a perfect soundtrack for when you want to do nothing but lay around in your room. To me there a bit of an “X” factor here that’s hard to explicitly sell, so in order to properly appreciate this record it’s best to give it a listen at 3am, in the dark, avoiding your responsibilities.
milo - who told you to think??!!?!?!?!
Overview: You don't need us to tell you why this record is good, and even if we tried we couldn't sum it up in a blurb. There are seldom few artists who better exhibit the way in which an independent artist should best conduct themselves creatively, commercially, and ideologically in today’s environment. Milo’s latest release embodies this fact, and that is why who told you to think ??!!?!?!?! is TFTV’s Official Best 2017 Record.