Exclaim!'s Top 10 Underrated Records

2017 in Lists

BY Exclaim! StaffPublished Dec 7, 2017

Look, we all know democracy is flawed. And so, in our annual voting for Exclaim!'s Top 20 Pop & Rock Albums, Top 10 Soul and R&B Albums, Top 10 Metal and Hardcore Albums, Top 10 Folk and Country Albums, Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums and Top 10 Dance and Electronic Albums of 2017, there are always going to be those beloved, incredible albums that just missed the cut. It feels unfair.
Thus, today we're taking a break from our official Best Albums of 2017 to shine a light on those records that made us feel a way — even when the rest of the world didn't quite agree. The list is arranged alphabetically below.
Top 10 Underrated Records of 2017:
Relentless Mutation
(Season of Mist)

With Relentless Mutation, Vancouver, BC's Archspire present a modern, experimental take on technical death metal. The band's third full-length is fast and complex, featuring layers of jazz-infused guitar work and dense, staccato riffage all counterbalanced with melody, atmosphere and dystopian sci-fi themes — and delivered in a succinct 30 minutes.
Denise Falzon
Phoebe Bridgers
Stranger in the Alps
(Dead Oceans)

Though she's just 23, the poignant lyrics and classic songwriting on Phoebe Bridgers' Stranger in the Alps suggest the work of a veteran. "Motion Sickness" is Fleetwood Mac-esque brilliance, but it's "Funeral," on which Bridgers has the emotional wisdom to check her own sadness by remembering "someone's kid is dead," that shows her talent's true depth.
Stephen Carlick
Charly Bliss

Charly Bliss pick up where the 1990s' brief infatuation with sugary-sweet alt-rock left off. On this unabashed throwback, the Brooklyn four-piece lean into their influences without sounding beholden, marrying crunchy and catchy riffs to Eva Hendricks' biting, ex-excoriating lyrics. Bursting with earworms, Guppy is an unrelenting joy.
Ian Gormely
Com Truise
(Ghostly International)

When it was released in June, Iteration sounded warm and familiar, geared more towards refinement than development of Com Truise's distinct sci-fi sound. And it's more assured than ever here — the restlessly yearning synth line at the end of "Propagation" is alone worth the price of admission.
Luke Pearson
Audible Songs From Rockwood
(Ideé Fixe)

Part Smithsonian Folkways homage, part literary non-fiction, Audible Songs From Rockwood finds Toronto songwriter Simone Schmidt (aka Fiver) delivering a deeply researched collection of crackly, austere folk songs written from the perspective of women incarcerated in Kingston's Rockwood Asylum for the Criminally Insane. Culled from the mid-late 1800s, it sheds light on issues still painfully relevant today. 
Sarah Greene

Nick Hakim
Green Twins

An ode to the ups and the downs of love, Nick Hakim's full-length debut was a hidden treasure of 2017. He expertly weaves lush, soulful vocals over a hodgepodge of rock, jazz, blues and a dash of hip-hop. It's warm, cohesive and brimming with vintage charm.
A. Harmony
Valerie June
The Order of Time
(Concord Music Group)

Valerie June's latest features the bluesy "Shake Down" and the lo-fi, folksy "Man Done Wrong," but its biggest standout is "With You," all cascading guitar and poignant lyrics. Though it wasn't enough to top the pop charts, The Order of Time makes clear it's only a matter of time before June's big breakthrough.
Kyle Mullin
Alex Lahey
I Love You Like a Brother
(Dead Oceans)

Mainstream pop music may have disappointed in 2017, but indie rock was there to pick up the slack. See for example Melbourne's Alex Lahey, whose debut album I Love You Like a Brother combined lovable wit, affecting intimacy and meaty riffs with hooks big enough to catch a Great White — and top some charts.
Cam Lindsay
Wash & Set
(Hardcover/RCA Records)

Despite staggered releases since her debut in 2012, balaclava-fitted rapper Leikeli47 made her true debut with this year's Wash & Set LP. Imbued with feminist perspective, the quirky album speaks to everyday experiences; from the feel-good "Attitude" to the financially responsible "Money," Leikeli47 lets go of all inhibitions here.
Erin Lowers
Perfume Genius
No Shape

In our cultural climate, an album that celebrates and explores being defiantly, queerly and powerfully in love should have been impossible to ignore. For all the joy on No Shape, there's just as much uncertainty — the happiness here is never permanent. This necessary and beautiful record was the very definition of underrated this year.
Peter Ellman

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