The first half of 2017 has been nothing less than a musical goldmine. An album which is already a contender for best album of the year is Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN coming out in April taking a different stream as far as Kung Fu Kenny’s diversity in rap is concerned. After To Pimp a Butterfly’s jazz, funk and African roots influence with poignant poetry of the Black struggle, making it possibly the greatest hip hop album of all time, K.dot is the only artist out there who could if not, out do but bring in something just as fresh and revolutionary to new school rap. Putting together elements of old school hip hop and RnB beats with brilliant production, DAMN tore through the roof past More Life by Drake which was a tough commercial album to beat. Kendrick’s bars blends surreally with the beats as he talks about his journey so far as an artist and the consequences of being the best in the scene. HUMBLE was and still is one of the hottest tracks this summer. DAMN is many a way an alternative hip-hop album, collaborating with U2 on XXX and Zacari on LOVE. I personally sensed a shift in style and the production quality which is nothing like his previous albums. It’s so distinct that it leaves you in splits with occasional tempo changes making it a creative challenge to listen to the album.
Alternative giants like The Shins came out with Heartworms, their fifth album since 2001 and first since five years. Ambient Indie Pop band The XX released their third record I See You still making us sway to their melancholic tunes. Canadian Indie Guitar Rock Hero Mac Demarco is still relevant since the “Salad Days” with The Old Dog. A surprise but also, one of the most hyped and successful entrant is One Direction’s Harry Styles self-titled solo album which shook me when I heard the easy flowing rock n roll of the 60s with a touch of Bowie, Freddie and Clapton in a polished fashion which is a unique start to his solo career. Paramore along with other indie rock stalwarts put together 80s synth pop and disco and merged with their respective original sounds, creating a few unlikely gems indicating a sudden revival of dance punk back in the alternative scene which was last popularised by The likes of Electric Six, Franz Ferdinand and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in 00s. The garage rock sensibilities of the 2000s are also back with The Orwells. Meanwhile, The National and Foster the people teased their fans by not releasing the albums just yet, but only a few singles which I must add were close to perfect for their approach. Alt-J too released Relaxer and you know it is a great year for Alternative music when “Alt”-J comes out fresh with their all too familiar but wildly peculiar alternative sound. 2017 is reminiscent of 80s new wave merged with 00s garage revival and it’s simply an exquisite arrangement.
Here are TOP 30 ALTERNATIVE TRACKS OF 2017 put together after repetitive listening to not just individual tracks but the albums too, as it helps one understand the relevance of the track in a collective. Also, this list is created only based on the alternative arrangement of the song with respect to modern day pop music and not on the basis of the performance of the song or recognition on charts, regardless if it has done well or not.
COIN – Talk Too Much
Released as their top single for their second studio album How Will You Know If You Never Try by Columbia Records is a danceable and head bopping indie pop song which is guaranteed to get stuck in your head.
K.Flay – High Enough
Kristine Meredith Flaherty known by her stage name K.Flay is an American Singer-Songwriter who specializes in Alternative Hip-hop. This Lo-fi indie artist has made quite a mark after signing with Interscope and coming out with a brooding pop track, similar sounding to Tove Lo before she blew up.
Spoon – Hot Thoughts
It’s the title track from their ninth studio album released by Matador Records. It’s a catchy electronica and synth pop song with multi-instrumentation and simple tone blending lyrics and vocals which make an addictive hook and you will most definitely listen to this more than once.
Mondo Cozmo – Automatic
The new alias of former Eastern Conference indie rocker Joshua Ostrander’s new edit of an ultra-swaggering cool and snappy indie track with an echo like vocals and kinetic backing percussions which makes you want to pack your backpack, tune in and go out and seize the day. It’s that song.
Milky Chance – Bad Things ( feat Izzy Bizu )
This German indie folk group meets flashy aesthetic electro – pop and its music to my ears.
Rostam – Gwan
Former Vampire Weekend member’s solo debut creates a dreamy atmosphere with this track with classical sounds of violins and grand pianos with indie rock sensibilities of the likes of Sufjan Stevens and Elliot Smith.
Animal Collective – Kinda Bonkers
The Animal Collective is one of a kind group. Very few alternative acts can take us on a flight to their trippy world of conscience where all the music happens. Kinda Bonkers is a quintessential Animal Collective track with tablas, multiple vocals and guitar-synth music.
Local Natives – I Saw You Close Your Eyes
Like Pitchfork stated in their review, “Local Natives’ New Song Will Only Play If You Close Your Eyes”.
Halsey – Now or Never
With popular recognition for a successful debut album Badlands and hits like Colours and New Americana, Halsey still stays true to the alt force with her new album hopeless fountain kingdom on this track.
The XX – I Dare You
This London Ambient Indie Pop band is still making the poppy melancholic tunes on love and heartbreak like no one else. Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim’s vocals on this track is just as serene as it was of their biggest hits like VCR and Crystallised.
Sundara Karma – She Said
An English Indie pop/rock band made this gem of an indie rock song with a catchy chorus from their debut album Youth is Only Fun in Retrospect. You can hear influences of a band like Arcade Fire on this track.
Vagabon – Fear and Force
Laetitia Tamko, better known as Vagabon is a Cameroon-born musician based in New York released her debut album Infinite Worlds. It is definitely one of my favourite albums of the year, Laetitia’s vocals are special and the intense lo-fi arrangement around heart-wrenching vocals make a near perfect alt album with simplicity and an emotional quotient coming out on top.
Depeche Mode – Where’s the Revolution?
80’s electronic and synth pop revolutionaries came out with their fourteenth studio album Spirit and the single for the album – Where’s the revolution. It came out in the earlier half of the year hinting at a major influx of synth pop sounds to be coming to the alt world this year. Dystopian themed and an anthem styled adaptation is what makes it a great song at times like these.
Mac Demarco – This Old Dog
Mac Demarco makes lo-fi psych rock music seem effortlessly cool and has been at it for years. This Old Dog is a relaxed track of an even more relaxed Mac from his third studio album This Old Dog.
Pond – The Weather
Modern Psychedelic Rock from Australia was popularised by Kevin Parker’s persisting project Tame Impala in the late 00s and led to the genesis of many such bands and created a culture over the past decade. Pond is an idiosyncratic psychedelic band with space-like electronic sounds and jangly guitars forming most of their music. The weather is the title song of their seventh studio album.
Temples – Certainty
Australian Psychedelic Rock band is Beatles meets the The Doors, loud, abrasive but refined kaleidoscopic guitar-synth composition. Listening to them is what I call eargasm. Certainty is a track from their newest album Volcano.
LCD Soundsystem – call the police
Headed by James Murphy, this Electronic rock band has been around since 2002. Often synonymous with their biggest hit Daft Punk is playing in my house, they released call the police as an introduction to their yet to be released album and it sounds like a dance rock masterpiece.
Phoenix – J Boy
This French indie rock band most well-known by their biggest hit 1996, return with their first album in four years – Ti Amo. Prepare to tune in and groove.
Royal Blood – Hook, Line and Sinker
This duo’s sound is rooted in modern blues rock and garage rock. The Black Keys would sound the closest to what Royal Blood sounds like. Dirty riffs and a punk rock rhythm is what encompasses their music. Hook, Line and Sinker is a garage rock track reminiscent of the 00s Strokes and The Hives from their yet to be released new album – How Did We Get So Dark?
Muse – Dig Down
Matt Bellamy’s arena rock alt maestros are back with a rocking track which will captivate you again with their space rock magic.
Harry Styles – Kiwi
Harry Styles owned it with his debut album which showcased the rock n roller he his and the greatness he his capable of. From Bowie-esqe Sign of the Times to The Kinks-like track but refined and very rock n roll – Kiwi which will have you saying “ I’m having your baby, it’s none of your business”.
Arcade Fire – Everything Now
Every Alt buff is more than familiar with Arcade Fire and their contribution to indie rock music by the unforgettable masterpiece of – Funeral, one of the greatest Indie Rock albums produced. It’s 2017 and they lit a different kind of Fire, bringing together an ABBA-esqe disco beat to the typical Arcade Fire music.
Perfume Genius – Slip Away
Seattle-based solo artist, Mike Hadreas is your regular indie pop bloke. He exhibits his artistic and sexual persona through his fashion, performances and music videos. He’s a proud gay man today and has had a history of personal struggle with his sexuality, abuse and Crohn’s disease. He is a charismatic personality and his music explores everything he has gone through. His fourth album, No Shape was released on May 5th, 2017 and Slip Away is a track that stayed with me. You only have to listen to understand him.
Portugal. The Man – Feel It Still
Feel It Still is the kind of song that creeps up on you. It’s an overall groovy vibe with kitschy tunes along with John Gourley’s peculiarly fascinating high pitched vocals makes it a great alternative track and worthy of this position.
Paramore – Hard Times
Paramore was one of the biggest cult favourite emo-pop-punk bands that ruled the 00s with MCR and other pop-punk artists of the generation. Hayley Williams’ vocal abilities have always been top notch with Taylor York’s guitar skills. They had so far retained the original Paramore “feel” to their music which is pop-punk. But, 2017 has been strange and their change in direction has been one of the most talked about. Employing colourful indie-pop aesthetics with 80’s electro-synth-pop arrangement of the album has been very interesting. Hard Times is their latest biggest hit and in no time will you start humming the tune of this track.
The Orwells – They Put The Body In The Bayou
I have always been a fan of old school Garage indie like the legendary, The Strokes and later The Arctic Monkeys and The Kooks. The effortless rock n roll attitude of this band is what gets me hooked to them and this brand new track is everything indie rock.
Foo Fighters – Post-Grunge biggies Foo Fighters’ brand new track was just out which rocked just as hard as The Pretender.
Foster The People – Pay The Man
Foster The People released a singles chronology for their third album. Everyone has heard the ultra-famous and subtly sinister track – Pumped up kicks. Since Torches, they have gained a promising fan base and has lit that indie fire and taken it to the next level. But guess what? They just levelled up. The three singles that they released is an excellent concoction of a tenacious FTP sound with multitudes of electro-pop tunes and the result is genius.
Alt-J – In Cold Blood
Alt-J still doing what Alt-J does best. From their newest album Relaxer, here’s In Cold Blood.
The National – The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness
The National has been around since 1999 and is known for their moody and often off-beat indie rock songs about the world expressed through human emotions. They are intricate, post-minimalist and draw influences from arrangement of classical music. Bryce Dessner has made huge strides as an art music composer. The current line-up is vocalist Matt Berninger along with rest of the team including Aaron Dessner and brother Bryce on keyboards and guitars, Scott Devendorf on bass and Bryan Devendorf on drums. Their set often includes an orchestral backdrop which makes their live performances an uplifting experience. Their new track release and the teaser for their new album, Sleep Well Beast hints at a Radiohead-esqe album of guitar riffs coupled with progressive arrangement.
The first half of 2017 has me looking forward to the second and what it has to offer. While I eagerly wait for FTP’s third album and the National’s Sleep Well Beast, there are tonnes of great music still coming our way this year. Be sure to add these songs to your playlists if you like them and join me on this alternative music revolution that’s about to go crazy.