It’s that time of year where everyone who writes about music shares the end-of-year lists. We’re no different, having shared our numerous lists since we started The Revue in 2013. Our absolute favorite list is the one where we get to share our favorite discoveries of the year. Some of our favorite hidden gems have gone on to do quite well. For instance, our 2014 list included Nadia Reid, who had a global breakthrough this year. The 2015 alumni include Aussie psych-rocker Wesley Fuller (who is on course for a massive breakout in 2018) and UK electro-pop favorites Meadowlark.
Last year’s list was so long we had to separate it into two parts (1 & 2). Aaron Lee Tasjan, Few Bits, Lucia Fontaine, Ninet Tayeb, Palm Honey, Petal, and The Regrettes all had a big 2017. This year, we share 30 of our faves. Once again, we’ve split the list into two so you can delve into each artist or band, some of whom will be huge in 2018. Without further ado, here are our Favorite Hidden Gems of 2017 – Part 1. It’s in alphabetical order of course.
The Academic (Mullingar, Ireland)
The Academic made it onto our radar earlier this year after releasing “Bear Claws”. Started in 2014 as teenagers, the band has firmly marked its place in the competitive UK indie-rock landscape with their swiftly-paced, head-jarring guitar rock and melodic hooks. The quartet also craft lyrics that are relateable, sharing their own experiences about growing up and persevering through difficult relationships. Their last single release, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”, showcased a different side to the band – anthemic pop-rock that was made more for the dance floor than pounding fists in the air. Their debut album, Tales From The Backseat, will be released January 12th, which should see The Academic achieve success that extends beyond Ireland. ~~~ Wendy
Adrian Underhill (Toronto, Canada)
Adrian Underhill is a singer-songwriter from Toronto who has been experimenting with different sounds throughout his musical career. This year he shared several singles that revealed his innovative genius, where he’s transforming R&B by infusing jazz, soul, and electronica. For example his latest single, “Weather”, showcased an upbeat sonic vibe with uplifting lyrics causing the listener to contemplate the positive aspect of change.
Speaking of change, 2018 could be a big year for the Canadian, as his debut album release, CU Again, is out February 9th. Can his calming and relaxing compositions and simple yet direct songwriting style lead to stardom? We certainly think so. ~~~ Wendy
Bedouine (Los Angeles, USA via Aleppo, Syria)
On her first album, Azniv Korkejian has created something really special with Bedouine. Born in Syria, constantly relocating, and now in Los Angeles, Korkejian has carved out a spot in what’s an increasingly crowded folk scene. Bedouine is a gorgeous record with lush vocals, charming guitar and drum work, and fantastic lyricism. Listening to Bedouine is reminiscent of the early days of artists like Nadia Reid or Julie Byrne, where in every note and song something really special is happening. Accompanied throughout by a whimsical horn section, everything just feels so grand. But when that pares down a bit, like on “Solitary Daughter” and it’s just the listener and Korkejian’s voice, it feels so intimate. These are compelling moments that are crafted so wonderfully that together they create one of the year’s standout debuts. ~~~ Rich
Behind the Shadow Drops (Tokyo, Japan)
Many instrumental bands and artists attempt to replicate the post-rock approach and effect of Explosions in the Sky and Sigur Rós, but Japanese composer and instrumentalist Takaakira Goto seeks to find new ground through his project Behind the Shadow Drops. Combining ambient, electronica, classical music, trip-hop, indie-rock, and post-rock, Goto’s sonic world is blissful, exotic, and unlike anything you will hear. One could say that he’s Japan’s version to Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, who likewise is constantly experimenting. However, in our minds, Goto resides on a planet all his own where he is peerless. ~~~ Ben
Best Girl Athlete (Aberdeen, Scotland)
In a year in which several young singer-songwriters made stunning debuts, teenager Katie Buchan is the one who had the biggest effect on us through her project Best Girl Athlete. While stylistically she could have followed in the footsteps of BANKS or Lorde like many artists her age, she opted to be different, which is of no surprise to those who know Buchan. Some may say she’s an overachiever, but we would say she’s ahead of the curve – not just with respect to peers her age but of all ages. Her indie pop-rock approach fuses blues, old-school soul, and even a bit of theatre and jazz, and the multi-dimensional nature of her music leads to unexpected twists and turns.
What stands out most, however, is the maturity of her songwriting. She’s not one to lean on repetition, but instead she is writing stories that are meant to stick with listeners for a long time. To make us feel like we are one of the many different characters in her vivid tales. ~~~ Ben
Black Fly (Richmond, VT, USA)
The enigmatic Black Fly debuted their first three songs within the first six months of 2017, and he (or they) weren’t heard from again (we think they’re a duo). As quickly as they arrived on the scene with their uplifting Moby-esque indietronica, they disappeared. But in the short time they were around, they left a lasting impression. It wasn’t just their music, however, as their videos which featured one of them dancing in really cool places. It’s like they channeled their inner Christopher Walken and let loose in unexpected places. When you create music as fabulous as “Dipped”, “I Don’t Know”, and “Sign 2” – the latter which is a serious contender for song of the year – the only thing you can do is dance. ~~~ Ben
DIDI (Hertfordshire, England)
DIDI surprised us in many ways in 2017, not least for stepping out from behind the mixing desk. As producer Lauren Deakin Davies, she’s been creating innovative and exciting sounds for other artists for longer than seems feasible in one so young. DIDI’s style is quirky, assertive, and unapologetically feminist. In a year when women have been finding their voices in so many ways, DIDI captured the zeitgeist with her single “Back Off”, which followed hot on the heels of her art-pop-punk debut “Sorry” – hailed as an anthem for the LGBTQ community – and super-engaging sophomore release, Awkward.
A combination of talent and opinion, DIDI captured the attention of the music industry who – like us – are eagerly awaiting more. Prolific and purposeful, DIDI won’t disappoint. We look forward to this exciting artist finding her place alongside the Lennons and Dylans of this world who have used their music to challenge, empower, and ultimately change our society for the better. ~~~ Flo
Fever Kids (Athens, Greece)
Fever Kids is the project of singer-songwriter Σtella and Alex, and they have released a few songs over the past few years. With a ’70s- and ’80s synth-pop vibe mixed with hypnotic beats and the amazing vocals of Σtella, each new release is always sheer bliss. The other talent from the duo outside of their sound is the lyrical content that is transparent yet alluring. The band released two singles this year that were part of a 7-inch series, A Distant Victory Singles Club, via Inner Ear Records.
We aren’t sure what 2018 holds for the duo, but it’s always a treat to hear their addictive brand of synth pop that has us dancing under disco balls and unleashing our inner John Travolta. ~~~Wendy
The Fluids (Brooklyn via New Jersey, USA)
From Bowie to Springteen, Television to the Rolling Stones, and David Byrne to Franz Ferdinand, The Fluids define the term chameleon. While Michael O’Donnell, Nick de Molina, and Cooper Formant’s approach was wide-ranging, everything they created in 2017 was brilliant. Yes, this is an overused term, but in the case of The Fluids it is an understatement. Their album, No Kidding, is one of the year’s most underrated and overlooked, as the songs ranged from the anthemic to the mind-blowingly explosive. There is not a single dull moment on this adrenaline rush of an LP by one of the year’s biggest surprises. Don’t be surprised to hear more from The Fluids next year and for No Kidding to be re-released to greater fanfare. ~~~ Ben
Frame (Brooklyn, USA)
Sometimes when you walk into a show in Brooklyn, you don’t know what to expect. There are five-band bills performing in multi- and re-purposed spaces. The best is when you show up and you immediately find yourself captivated by the band on stage. That was Frame, who performed one night at Trans-Pecos. It became really easy to dive into their throwback pop sound. It’s dreamy and groovy, and thankfully the band released a killer LP, State of Mind, in October.
Frame gets its name from their singer and creative force’s last name, Caitlin Frame, who actually started generating buzz within the NYC music scene earlier this decade before taking a two-year hiatus. State of Mind, though, is their first full-length record that is straight out of the ’80s. For those who like soundtracks like Dirty Dancing and Sixteen Candles, you’ll love Frame’s debut. We certainly do. ~~~ Rich
Imitating Aeroplanes (Oslo, Norway)
Is it possible to call a super-group a hidden gem? When it comes to Imitating Aeroplanes, it definitely applies since the project of Tord Øverland Knudsen (The Wombats) and Marius Drogsås Hagen (Team Me) has yet to achieve the status of their main projects. But don’t let their relative obscurity fool you: the two Norwegians created some of the very best psychedelic disco-pop of the year that would rival Kevin Parker’s sonic kaleidoscope. Their debut album, Planet Language, was a dizzying and unforgettable affair that felt like we were indeed traveling across the universe to discover new worlds. Beyond the brilliance of their compositions lie intelligent stories, as the duo challenged our dependency on technology and how we perceive reality. And how we perceive music that is extravagant. ~~~ Ben
Josaleigh Pollett (Ogden, UT, USA)
Josaleigh Pollett has been releasing albums for a few years, including Salt in 2012 and Strangers in 2017. A lot can change in five years. Pollett relocated from her home in Utah to the northwest and then moved back, where she released Strangers. The LP is comprised of some of the year’s sweetest sounds.
From the opening track “Nebraska”, it’s difficult to not immediately become captivated by Pollett’s songwriting as she paints vivid images and conveys raw emotion about driving across Nebraska to meet someone. The rest of the album feels just as heartfelt and magical, breathing new life into a genre that’s become all too formulaic. ~~~ Rich
Kraków Loves Adana (Hamburg, Germany)
It’s a bit strange to list a band that has been around for several years as one of our favorite discoveries. It’s even more bizarre that Deniz Cicek and Robert Heitmann’s project, Kraków Loves Adana, remains relatively unknown within the indie sphere. Sure, they don’t write rousing electronic music, but they do craft some of the most emotive and powerful indie-electro-rock songs on the planet. Their last album, Call Yourself New, which was released in the spring, is intense, brooding, and melancholic, but it is also beautiful, exhilarating, and spectacular. For some of us, it’s one of the very best records of the year and definitely one we will never forget. Maybe the rest of the world will share our affection for Kraków Loves Adana in 2018, as they will release their fourth studio album early in the new year. ~~~ Ben
Leyendekker (London, England)
What happens when you mix Radiohead, Grizzly Bear, and Maribou State into one package? You get a band called Leyendekker, another enigmatic group who appeared on our radars early in the year but then disappeared. We’re hoping Aviram Barath, Joss Brightwell, Jonny Coote, and Calum Duncan haven’t completely abandoned this project because the two singles they did release this year were amazing. “Husk” and, in particular, “Thankless”, are two of the very best songs we’ve heard all year. Songs like this are ones we will be playing for years to come. Their approach and sound are unlike any band around. Unique, exhilarating, unforgettable: that is Leyendekker. ~~~ Ben
Lucy Mair (London/Oxford, England)
Lucy Mair‘s jazz-pop tunes caught our eye halfway through the year. On stage and equipped with a keyboard and loop pedal, she wowed the crowd with her rhythmic and thoughtful tunes. After just one song, you realize just how much talent the young English singer-songwriter possesses. With just two songs released this year, she seems to have been concentrating more on live performances. Nonetheless, she has become a bit of a favourite with BBC Introducing.
Lucy has a new song about to be released called “Soulful Goodbye”, which is available on pre-order. For those who purchase it early, she’s promised personal letters of thanks and a little present. Gotta love an artist who looks after her fans! ~~~ Paul
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