While 2017 will be remembered as the year of the comeback for major bands, plenty of extremely talented artists and bands still made their mark. Some have been around for a few years but hovered below the radar – so low that we only learned about them this year. Others made their own comebacks or are just launching their careers. They all share one trait: an extraordinary gift to make creative music that mesmerized us from the start and made us immediate fans. Without further delay, here are our Favorite Hidden Gems of 2017 – Part 2. The first fifteen are available here.
Lunar Twin (Los Angeles/Hawaii/Salt Lake City, USA)
Early this spring the music of American duo Lunar Twin sent chills up my spine and impressed me more than just about any other debut of 2017. That their “Waves” single maintains its ethereal, haunting allure at year’s end is testimony to their talents. Bryce Boudreaux and Christopher Murphy don’t make music with fleeting appeal; rather, they create gorgeous works of art that become the soundtrack to your most contemplative days. With downtempo dream-wave synths and deep, brooding vocals, Lunar Twin draw you into an oasis of calm on their lush Night Tides EP. Calling them one of my favorite discoveries of 2017 is no understatement. ~~~ Hollie
The Mighty Orchid King (Hertfordshire, England)
Formed in St Albans in 2015, The Mighty Orchid King are a group of four friends. Pete, Michael, Martin and Jonny appear to have already perfected their cool and trippy psych-rock performances in their relatively short time together as a band. Give yourself plenty of time when listening to their 2017 EP, Nothing Ever Happened. The last song, with which they finish their live sets, runs for over nine minutes. You don’t, however, feel as if time is moving as you get caught in a Mighty Orchid King time bubble and dance along to the awesome end to the track. If you can find a taller drummer than Jonny, let us know! ~~~ Paul
Mimicking Birds (Portland, OR USA)
Every so often a song stops you in your tracks when you hear the first notes. Those rapturous moments send chills up your spine and take your breath away. This is the reaction I had when I discovered Portland, Oregon trio Mimicking Birds. Their single “Sunlight Daze” casts an instant spell on listeners thanks to its perfect fusion of indie dream pop with ambient electronic tones. Even after many dozens of spins (yes, it’s that addictive), every note – from the glimmering melody to the gently psychedelic chord changes at the bridge – is still fresh and exhilarating. Get to know this band. Find out why their music has magical, restorative powers. Then grab their new Layers of Us album when it releases next month. ~~~ Hollie
Moon Loves Honey (Aarhus, Denmark)
Moon Loves Honey is the project of Jeppe Dengsø, who plays most of the instruments (guitars/bass/synths/drums) in the band, although it has expanded to Ludvig Kastberg (drums), Stine Drejer (backing vocals/synths), and Johan Gudmandsen (bass).
Not only is Moon Loves Honey creating dreamy and bliss filled indie rock, they released an awesome visual video earlier this year to go along with their single “Should Have Waited”, which we were happy to premiere. Moon Loves Honey’s combination of shoegaze and dream-pop takes us on a hazy trip that we won’t soon forget. The good news is that the trip should continue early in 2018 when the Danish quartet are expected to share more music. The question is, where will they take us this time? ~~~ Wendy
Peaer (Brooklyn, USA)
Peaer is the project of songwriter Peter Katz. He released his self-titled LP last year, and it really rocked. Unfortunately, it flew under the radar (including in our world). But as a result of him and his band constantly playing shows around Brooklyn (which are intense performances), they’ve found a bit of a following.
Their self-titled album is a great look into the world of the band. It’s quiet at times and unbearably loud at others. It’s brooding, it’s laid back, and it’s a complex animal full of killer riffs and drumming that will knock you out. “Drunk”, for instance, is one hell of an example of what they can do. ~~~ Rich
Pysence (Stoke-on-Trent, England)
Face-meltingly brilliant: that’s the consensus of all of us here at The Revue after we were introduced to British psych rockers Psyence. Unlike some bands who gently ease you into their awesomeness, Psyence launch a full-throttle assault from the start. These guys don’t waste time with musical foreplay; the get straight into the action. This is just one of the reasons we love this band. Their innovative delivery of scorching riffs is the other.
“Midnight Moonlight“ blazes with the intensity of a thousand suns. In fact, when we shared the song a cold February day, it left us all speechless and wondering “Who are these guys?” It didn’t take long for us to learn who they were and why they deserve to be playing every major festival on every continent. They’re just that good – so good that when I found myself in a club venue talking to the bartender pre-show and told him about Psyence, he queued up this tune and reacted with similar shocked appreciation. Even with a four-song EP, A New Dawn, they made their name and one hell of a first impression, turning us all into massive fans. ~~~ Hollie
Sjowgren (San Francisco/Oakland, USA)
We have a thing for bands who like to stay under the radar and remain anonymous. San Francisco/Bay-area band Sjowgren are one of them. After taking a few years off, they returned with a bang, releasing four songs that became viral hits. From The Line of Best Fit to Indie Shuffle to The 405, the blogosphere was buzzing about their return. When they create uplifting, feelgood melodies with stunning vocals, how could one resist?
However, it was more than just their cathartic brand of alt-pop that grabbed our attention – this band writes some of the best stories around. All their songs either share introspective experiences and tell real-life tales, though told through the lens of a playwright. There is only one other band that we can think of that possessed these two talents: Broken Social Scene, and they are a massive collective. Sjowgren, we think, are just three or four masterful artists, and we need to learn their identities so we can personally thank them for the gifts they’ve given us. ~~~ Ben
Soccer Mommy (New York City via Nashville, USA)
When asked about her music, Soccer Mommy’s Sophie Allison describes it as “sad, but chill.” That’s a sweet spot a lot of popular bands like Frankie Cosmos, Florist, and Girlpool hit, and Soccer Mommy nails it just as well as any of them with charming harmonies and a crisp, jangly guitar with occasional assistance from drums and keys.
Her latest record, Collection, came out this year, and it is a wonderful collection of… well… sad and chill tracks. But beneath the veneer of her sound are deeply rich, complex compositions and songs that will remind listeners of a younger, mellower version of Liz Phair. Her 2016 record, For Young Hearts, is just as jangly, laid back, rich, and complicated – and absolutely brilliant. ~~~ Rich
Somasu (London, England)
Combining his passions of music and mathematics, London-based soul rapper Somasu got our attention back in the summer with his sophomore release, the EP From The Water. Exploring themes of temptation and redemption, this is electronic fused with poetry, delivered through vocals dripping with emotional intensity.
Experimental and innovative, Somasu’s music weaves surprises at every pass. He’s prolific too, writing and recording the five tracks that make up the EP in less than two months. But this is no stuck-together DIY offering. It’s a sophisticated blend, relying ultimately on a solid base of contemporary poetry that tells it like it is. We hope he can tear himself away from computational physics long enough to drop another album in 2018. ~~~ Flo
Stef Chura (Detroit, USA)
It might seem odd to list one of our Artists to Watch in 2017 as one of our favorite discoveries of 2017. Well, we’re doing it in the case of Stef Chura because we didn’t really get to know her until this year, and she remains surprisingly under the radar. This should change in 2018 when her fantastic album, Messes, is re-released on Saddle Creek in February (pre-orders available here).
The LP was nearly 10 years in the making, as the now 28-year-old singer-songwriter traveled for over seven years across the U.S. to share her music before settling back in Michigan. Her experiences and the stories of the people who touched her life are heard throughout Messes, making the record extremely emotional, personal, and relatable. As we said in our review, we find solace in her songs because she makes us understand that we are not alone in dealing with the loss of someone or feeling alone. That Chura is sitting next to us to share the pain. ~~~ Ben
Thelma (Brooklyn, USA)
With a voice as captivating as lead singer Natasha Jacobs and the delightful songcrafting of herself, Maciej Lewandowski, and Daniel Siles, it feels like Thelma’s days as a hidden gem may be numbered. They released a self-titled record this year, and it’s a real stand-out. There’s an energy to each song on Thelma.
It feels at times like a cinematic soundtrack and at others like a big rock concert. For instance, “White Couches” has this incredible start-and-stop build, and it is quite an addictive track. Jacobs’ voice is accentuated by these wild inflections that create a feeling similar to some of our favorite early Angel Olsen tracks. When the record gets to “Peach”, it’s a cathartic release created by the flood of vocals and the huge smashing of cymbals and drums. The album ends with a gorgeous track, “Thelma”, that features a little bit of woodwinds and guitar. It’s just a wonderfully constructed record that is most definitely a gem. ~~~ Rich
Thunder Dreamer (Evansville, IN, USA)
We somehow missed the 2014 debut album from Indiana’s Thunder Dreamer. Fortunately, we discovered them early this year thanks to their brilliant Capture LP. The title track had such a profound impact on us that we couldn’t stop raving about it, calling it a “soul-stirring” anthem on par with the likes of Jason Molina (Songs: Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co.) and My Morning Jacket.
Thunder Dreamer were wise to pick a band name that truly captures the essence of their sound. Equal parts dreamy yet powerful, these guys create such dynamic depth that you lose track of the world around you while you listen. “Capture” begins with a mellow, evocative intro that belies the intensity of what lies ahead. These guys have such cohesive chemistry that every seamless layer of vocals, guitar, bass, organ, and percussion keeps you captivated and utterly spellbound. Why this band isn’t better known remains a mystery. They’ve got an original sound that had us hooked from the first notes, so we hope they find the acclaim they deserve in 2018. ~~~ Hollie
TOTTY (Wollongong, Australia)
TOTTY is from Australia, and so far they have only released a couple of singles. That is all you need to know about how great this band is and how limitless is their potential. Created by Chris, Kell and Max, TOTTY are the type of band you expect to hear from the Aussie surfing hotbed of The Coal Coast – gritty, lo-fi garage-rock reminiscent of the great bands of the ’90s (like Dinosaur Jr. and Pavement). There is, of course, some surf vibes in their music (how could there not be any?).
Lyrically, they more than a party band. They’ve tackled subjects like touring as a DIY band (“Riff”) and the end of a less-than-ideal relationship (“Sigh”). The sky is the limit for the trio, who should in time become Triple J favorites and strutting alongside King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard at one of their future Gizzfests. ~~~ Wendy
Wildwood (Nashville, USA)
Wildwood comes from a long line of musicians, and it’s only fitting that her name is a homage to her family, who sang about a melancholy flower in the wildwood nearly one hundred years ago. All we know about Wildwood is that she has the surname of Carter (Carter as in June Carter Cash) and has already accomplished so much from being a classically-trained violinist and Harvard graduate.
Wildwood has only shared a few songs to date, but three things stand out – her gorgeous, soulful vocals; her emotive songwriting; and a retro country-soul-rock approach similar to Elle King or ZZ Ward. Wildwood also recorded a haunting yet beautiful cover of “Ring Of Fire” , which was of course written by June Carter Cash and performed by Johnny Cash.
We are hoping 2018 includes more new tracks from this talented multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter. Wildwood has the talent to cross multiple genres with her culmination of alt-country, blues and soul. ~~~ Wendy
Wy (Malmö, Sweden)
What a year it has been for Wy, the project of Ebba Agren and Michel Gustafsson. Prior to 2017, the Swedish dream-pop duo had a niche following, but their popularity exploded as they consistently released new material over the next 12 months. It all culminated in their debut album, Okay, which was more than just all right. Breathtaking, gorgeous, stunning, beautiful, remarkable, spellbinding – we ran out of superlatives to describe their music. Each of the LP’s 10 tracks is an unforgettable experience that starts with the duo’s tantalizing arrangements and lush soundscapes and ends with Agren’s personal, intimate, and soul-crushing stories. Could they be the next Mazzy Starr? They certainly have the potential to reach those heights. ~~~ Ben
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