50. HUNDRED WATERS- COMMUNICATING
Third full-length release from experimental electronic pop quartet is their most accessible effort yet. Despite being signed to Skrillex’s label OWSLA, Hundred Waters have little in common with bro step. Their music is gorgeous, relaxing and chill. The first half of the album is nearly perfect starting with lead, and most radio-friendly track “Particle” and “Wave to Anchor” being the biggest highlights. The second half dips in quality slightly aside from “Blanket”, one of the group’s best tracks yet.
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49. IRON & WINE- BEAST EPIC
Iron & Wine’s sixth album shows Sam Beam and company returning to the sparer, more stripped down sound of their earliest records, after more recent more band-oriented efforts. At this point, it is same to call Iron & Wine one of the most consistently good bands in indie-rock as they’ve yet to have a misstep. While “Beast Epic” may lack immediacy, there are no bad moments and it’s a gorgeous listen from start to finish. The majority of this album is just Beam’s beautiful voice, his acoustic guitar and some strings and the occasional bass to back him up. I’ve really enjoyed the group’s busier sounding records as well but this return to roots is nonetheless refreshing.
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48. GIRLPOOL- POWERPLANT
Second album by this L.A. based female indie folk-punk duo barely out of their teens. Girlpool only just added a session drummer for “Powerplant”, giving their sound a bit more muscle. But the focus is on Girlpool’s otherworldly harmonies which bring to mind both the Breeders and the Roches. Highlights are peppered throughout the album with lead single “123” and penultimate track “It Gets More Blue” being at the top of the heap.
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47. DESTROYER- KEN
It’s hard to believe that Destroyer, the long-term project of ultra-literate and eccentric singer-songwriter (and New Pornographer member) Dan Bear, has been active for over twenty years. The first half of “Ken”, Destroyer’s 11th album, is equal in quality to their 2011 masterpiece “Kaputt”. Opening track “Sky’s Grey”, single “Tinseltown Swimming In Blood” and “Cover From The Sun” are some of the best Destroyer tracks ever. “Ken” loses some steam at the end but is overall a worthy effort and a step up from 2015’s still pretty good “Poison Season”.
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46. JAY SOM- EVERYBODY WORKS
Jay Som is SF Bay area multi-instrumentalist Melina Duterte. “Everybody Works” is her official debut album after late 2016 mixtape “Turn Into”. Though her music plays as lo-fi bedroom pop, her strong sense of melody and propensity to ROCK allows “Everybody Works” to rise far above most other music of its kind. Duterte is only 22 years old and her talent, ambition and wisdom at such a young age gives me the sense that she could be around for a long time and really make a name for herself in music.
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45. FLEET FOXES- CRACK-UP
Fleet Foxes third album and first since 2011’s “Helplessness Blues” is their most musically complex & least song oriented album to date. “Crack-Up” needs to be listened as an album rather then piece by piece so that you can dive into its sheer beauty. Three of the tracks are over six minutes, including two song suites. It is safe to call “Crack-Up” progressive indie-folk. The Foxes’ signature gorgeous harmonies are in tact- there is not mistaking this band’s sound. It’s just so much denser and layered than ever before, but ultimately rewarding for the listener who sticks with it.
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44. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE- VILLAINS
Mark Ronson-produced seventh album shows this hard-rock institution at its most ass-shakin’ and experimental. Queens have always been a groove-oriented group but I’ve never heard them actually this close to danceable. Lead single “The Way You Used To Do” seems prime to take over radio but most tracks run into the five to six minute mark. This does not make them inaccessible. Any long-time fan of Queens will not be disappointed.
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43. DRAKE- MORE LIFE
Over the best decade, Drake has become the most commercially successful and well as prolific artists in Rap. Though critically he falls well short of Kendrick Lamar, his output of great songs and albums is undeniable at this point. 2016’s “Views” was bloated and an artistic disappointment but still contained a number of standout singles such as “One Dance”, “Feel No Ways” & “Controlla”, not to mention “Hotline Bling” and it was DRake’s most commercially successful album to date. AS a follow up Drake gives us a nearly hour and a half long mixtape in “More Life”. While even longer than “Views” it seems more generous and less bloated with a free flowing vibe and a plethora of guest stars- Drake at times cedes entire songs to the featuring artists. It’s a fun album showing Drake stylistic diversity while still offering up a number of absolute standout singles like “Get It Together”, the summer-friendly “Passionfruit” and the previously released smash “Fake Love”.
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42. ALVVAYS- ANTISOCIALITIES
Second album by Canadian quintet improves on the group’s very good 2014 self-titled debut. While it may lack a track as immediate as the debut’s “Archie, Marry Me”, “Antisocialities” is much more consistently winning overall. Alvvays makes hook-filled indie-pop with a nod to shoe gaze and dream-pop. Lead singer Molly Rankin’s airy vocals are punched up to the front of the mix helping to make the group’s sound even more accessible than before. The album barely breaks thirty minutes and is air tight without a dud among the ten tracks. “Dreams Tonite” and “Plimsoll Punks” are two early standouts.
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41. ARIEL PINK- DEDICATED TO BOBBY JAMESON
Forty-something eccentric L.A. weirdo Ariel Pink dedicates a set of songs to Bobby Jameson, a sixties L.A. fellow weirdo who was once a fixture of the city’s psych-rock scene before dropping out due to mental health and substance abuse issues. With “Bobby Jameson” Pink mixes 60’s psych sounds, 70’s soft rock and millennial dream pop. His genius is his ability to morph this zany, outsider experimental music into catchy pop songs. But he mostly succeeds here, particularly with tracks like “Bubblegum Dreams”, “Feels Like Heaven” and “Another Weekend”.
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