Steven Hyden’s Favorite Albums Of 2017 So Far, Plus His Top Five Sleeper Records

This week, UPROXX has been compiling different lists of the best albums to come out so far in 2017. I also counted down my personal five favorite albums from the first half of the year on my podcast. But in the interest of talking up as many worthwhile records as possible, here is my full Top 10.

10. White Reaper, The World’s Best American Band
This gleefully cocky Louisville band worships at the altar of Kiss and Muhammad Ali, eschewing pretension and downer vibes on this non-stop party record designed for the hashers who hang out by the smoking doors at school.

9. Charly Bliss, Guppy
The sugary pop-punk of Charly Bliss is a proverbial fist inside of a velvet glove. While the nonstop barrage of hooks pummels your musical pleasure centers, Eva Hendricks’ sneaky-sharp lyrics leave a mark.

8. Wild Pink, Wild Pink
Dreamy indie-rock with the songwriting smarts of classic-rock mainstays like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, Wild Pink’s self-titled debut is a big-hearted brooder that slowly sinks its hooks in.

7. Hurray For The Riff Raff, The Navigator
The most ambitious Americana record of 2017 so far is also the most prescient. Alynda Segarra makes a case for empathy for all Americans in this collection of stylistically adventurous songs, which attempt to take in the full scope of this country’s rich, multi-ethnic musical legacy.

6. Oso Oso, The Yunahon Mixtape
I’ll have more to say about this record in the “sleepers” section.

5. Girlpool, Powerplant
This two-woman band from L.A. could’ve lost what was delicate and charming about their sound by making a relatively big, shiny rock album. Instead, they infused their eccentricities into one of the year’s most addictive guitar records.

4. Japandroids, Near To The Wild Heart Of Life
This beloved Canadian duo returned with its first LP in five years by making one of the finest arena-rock albums of the decade. If you ever wondered what The Who would sound like if it was just Pete Townshend and Keith Moon, look no further.

3. Craig Finn, We All Want The Same Things
The Hold Steady frontman has finally discovered how to adapt his novelistic style to the high drama of adulthood, resulting in the most mature album of his career.

2. Big Thief, Capacity
Adrianne Lenker’s speciality is writing beautiful, cinematic songs that are full of revelations, violence, love, and darkness. On Big Thief’s unsparing second album, she make a startling step forward, cementing her status as a significant young singer-songwriter.

1. Father John Misty, Pure Comedy
Perhaps 2017’s most polarizing record, Pure Comedy to my ears is also the funniest and most moving album of the year, setting the mood of these troubled times to expansive folk-rock.

Narrowly Missed The List: Chris Stapleton, The Menzingers, Ryan Adams, Spoon, Jay Som, (Sandy) Alex G, Sorority Noise, Fred Thomas, Thundercat, Son Volt

(I should also mention that there are several albums coming out later this month that might’ve very well ended up on this list with a slightly later deadline: Jason Isbell, Fleet Foxes, Kevin Morby, and Rozwell Kid.)

As you can see, I’ve already said and written plenty about many of the albums on my list. And nearly all of the records I’ve mentioned have appeared on other Uproxx lists. So, instead of reiterating what I or others have said, let’s talk about five very good albums that didn’t appear on the main Uproxx list, and seemed to have been generally overlooked on some of the other mid-year round-ups.

Here are my five favorite sleeper albums so far of 2017:

Oso Oso, The Yunahon Mixtape

As you might’ve noticed, this album made my Top 10, but The Yunhon Mixtape is such a perfect little throwback indie record that it justifies the double-endorsement. A labor of love for Jade Lilitri, who posted the album to Bandcamp with little fanfare in January, The Yunahon Mixtape has become a cult favorite on music blogs and among indie nerds who still carry a torch for the brisk guitars and melancholy melodies of Death Cab For Cutie and Jimmy Eat World. A small but growing audience has already signed on with Oso Oso, but The Yunahon Mixtape is still obscure enough to feel like a secret that fans can’t wait to share with anyone who will listen.

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, The French Press EP

Here’s another band that seems like they should be more popular than they currently are, and I suspect they will be by the end of 2017. “Upbeat Real Estate” is probably an overly reductive way to describe this strummy trio from Melbourne, Australia, but nevertheless Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever do specialize in angular guitar jams that zoom swiftly forward with the help of an energetic backbeat. (Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever is for jogging, and Real Estate is for the cool down.) Dispensing six tracks in about two dozen minutes, The French Press was my go-to record for spring-time drives at dusk. I suspect it will work equally well in the summer, too.

Susto, & I’m Fine Today

Since I’m making reductive comparisons to other bands, let’s give this one a spin to describe the luminous psychedelic Americana of Susto’s & I’m Fine Today — it’s like if The War On Drugs attempted to do an album-length cover of Wilco’s Being There, but with original songs. Susto is ostensibly an alt-country band, but & I’m Fine Today displays impressive stylistic range, synthesizing ’70s soul string sections, dissonant synths, Krautrock rhythms, and stoner folk melodies into surprisingly coherent musical packages. Not everything works, but it’s hard not to get swept up in the band’s ecumenical musical vision.

John Moreland, Big Bad Luv

For now, John Moreland is more famous among other singer-songwriters than he is with the general public. A country singer who is positioned outside of the Nashville establishment both by aesthetics (he’s closer to Kris Kristofferson than Luke Bryan) and by geography (he’s based in Tulsa), Moreland has nonetheless garnered support from superstars like Miranda Lambert and fellow insurgents like Jason Isbell. Moreland has made his name by writing heartfelt, man’s man tearjerkers, a practice that continues on his fourth solo LP, Big Bad Luv, on songs like the self-explanatory “Lies I Chose To Believe.” But Moreland is also really good at writing rock anthems, including the rousing “Amen, So Be It,” the best Bruce Springsteen song not written by Bruce Springsteen in many, many years.

Thunder Dreamer, Capture

Like The Yunahon Mixtape, Thunder Dreamer’s Capture is an album that seemed to magically materialize one day out of the ether on Bandcamp as a full formed gem. Hailing from Indiana, Thunder Dream is pre-disposed to being described as “heartland rock,” with a dreamy sound that puts a My Morning Jacket-style spin on roots music, giving the band’s heart-rending songs extra drive and an outsized scope. Full of beauty and mystery, Capture evokes the desolate openness of the band’s home state, even as Thunder Dreamer let the music carry them a few feet off the ground.