Best Albums of 2017
picked by 5 German selectors

Der Ringer <BR> “Soft Kill”

Der Ringer
“Soft Kill”

2016 wasn’t a bad year at all for the 5-piece band from Hamburg. Der Ringer published “Glücklich” EP in the spring, worked with their mates Isolation Berlin in the fall and toured with them in the winter. 2016 was happy. 2017 is the soft kill. They made an album consisting of overwhelming effects and morbid drives through estranged emotions.

When first listening to “Soft Kill”, one is immediately struck by the auto-tune and some Indie fans might never come to terms with the chorus effects, the consequent echo in the background and the use of overdrive and distortion. But those fans might then miss a synergy of text and sound that was not to be found in German pop until now. Over and over again, the text is made indecipherable so that songs like “Morton Morbid” and “Violence” can explode into post-punk orgies.

“Soft Kill’s” extreme sound can be described best through its dynamic drums and thrilling guitar, which combined with soft synthesizers remind us of 80s legends like The Cure. The album is the warm feeling of missing personal affinity, a voyage into the unconscious of the zeitgeist, but is never accusing or bashing the modern digital society.

Der Ringer is delivering a debut that leaves much unresolved. The five band members show that they do not care about demanded realness and authenticity but ask the listener to question their words and to search for meaning. Those who let themselves in on the album will be fascinated by so much punky self-reflection. (David Klein)

♪♫ Listen: “Ohnmacht” + album stream

Der Ringer on Facebook, Soundcloud, www.

Dillon <BR> “Kind”


…sorry Brasil, for this list we might have stolen one of your artists. As Dominique Dillon de Byington, born in Brasil, moved to Germany at an early age, her major audience is probably located there too. Still working in Berlin, Dillon continues to shape her own sound all built up around her unique voice.

Frailty always comes to mind first hearing it – as impressively captured in the breathtaking moment of a smartphone recording (like in the songs “Te procuro” or “The Present”) as the peak of proximity to the artist’s voice.

These raw recordings perfectly align with the overall focus of the record on vocal performance, often accompanied by compelling brass sections and skeletal drumming sequences. This central idea is upheld even in the interesting, more rhythmic approach on the last third of the record.

Peaking in the almost clubby vibe of “Contact Us” or the vibrant and technoid reprise of the title track “2. Kind”, Dillon’s voice always stands out exceptionally.

“Kind” therefore is a detailed and accentuated third record all the while being typically minimalistic, making it Dillon’s most focused project so far. (Paul Crone)

♪♫ Listen: “Contact Us” + album stream

Dillon on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, www.

Erregung Öffentlicher Erregung <BR> “Sonnenuntergang über den Ruinen des Klatsch”

Erregung Öffentlicher Erregung
“Sonnenuntergang über den Ruinen des Klatsch”

To be honest, this could scare a lot of people scared by the German language. In fact, it means something like ”excitement of public excitement” (a pun on the German expression for public indecency) and could resume an era full of fake news and internet assholes.

In 2017, the band released their first EP “Sonnenuntergang…” on the label Euphorie. The 8 songs are packed with a fluorescent, adolescent sense of humor. “Kreuzen Kompetenzen” is a rumbling post-punk track about crossing competences that builds up to a distinct relationship between two young individuals. “Anthropozän” describes the will to escape. An escape to someplace new, somewhere beautiful. The centrepiece of the EP is definitely “Wo soll ich hin”, a track that continues the concept of escaping, but leads it into a more thoughtful and pessimistic direction. It describes the Memento Mori of our youth.

Overall, the post-punk of “Sonnenuntergang…” comes with a lot of wordplay without getting too political. EÖE are the kind of band that won’t start a revolution. You could either listen to what they say, or you could just have a hell lot of fun. (Yannick Philippe)

♪♫ Listen: “Wo soll ich hin?” + album stream

Erregung öffentlicher Erregung on Facebook, Bandcamp.

Friday Dunard <BR> “Gerade”

Friday Dunard

“Eine Gerade” means “straight line” in German, but it’s not the path chosen on this record.

Relying on a heritage somewhere between Krautrock and Trance, Cologne-based DJ and producer Friday Dunard delivers with his first release on Magazine label a work that is as highly referential as it is unique.

Its 23 minutes merge dadaistic lyrics sung by the producer himself, a notorious use of drum machines and dancefloor sensitivity in an unusual way that makes perfect sense and showcases Dunard’s DJ qualities.

This well-crafted overall tastiness as well as its creator’s tongue-in-cheek approach to finding beauty in the details of aforementioned genres make this four-track record a truly exhilarating listen! (Jakob Lebsanft)

♪♫ Listen: “Eine Gerade” + album stream

Friday Dunard on Facebook, Soundcloud, Bandcamp.

Lea Porcelain <BR> “Hymns to the Night”

Lea Porcelain
“Hymns to the Night”

New bands often spend years to find their own sound. German post-punks Lea Porcelain might have created their unique sound at the first attempt. Lea Porcelain, consisting of Julien Bracht and Markus Nikolaus, was initially planned as a long-distance project, but then the Frankfurt duo just came out as a symbiotic coexistence. The widespread sound of the newly emerged band is inspired by Berlin, Frankfurt and London and thus hard to fix to one place. They previously released some singles to create a buzz around their music, all of which got packed onto their debut album “Hymns to the Night”.

The opener “Out Is In” shows the nebular vibe of the band, before dark impulsive drums lead into “Bones”, reminiscent of the dystopian dark-ness of early Manchester. Its identity is formed by crossing post-punk with dark ambient electro. It’s one of the standout tracks and clearly identifies the DNA of Lea Porcelain. The ukelele beat in “A Year From Here” gives some time to rest and enjoy the lightness before he continues his dark journey to “Warsaw Street“. It reflects the optimistic post-punk haze and leads us to the more angry, upbeat “Similar Familiar”, which is characterised by woozy, hypnotized vocals.

The second part of “Hymns to the Night” carries the dark, but optimistic soul of the album, which ends with the symbolic “Endlessly”. It recalls the more wistful The xx songs. “Hymns to the Night” is a powerful debut with the bipolarity of Optimism and Darkness, which is more than a reflection of good ol’ post-punk legacy. (Yannick Philippe)

♪♫ Listen: “Bones” + album stream

Lea Porcelain on Facebook, Soundcloud, Instagram, Twitter, www.

Martin Kohlstedt <BR> “Strom”

Martin Kohlstedt

Martin Kohlstedt’s third full-length album begins like his first two releases: elegiac piano music, recorded in a way that allows you to hear all the surrounding sounds. Musical acoustics rather than acoustic music.

One and a half minutes into “NAO”, the first song on this nine-track album, one begins to hear a low drone and soon it all becomes clear: the title of the Weimar-based artist’s third effort, “Strom”, is a play on words.

It translates into English as “current” and it is a two-faced title, on the one hand suggesting the fluid evolution and engulfing force of a river, on the other the inclusion of synthesizers and other electronic instruments.

The pianist, who grew up in the woods of Thuringia, still uses his finer brushes, but the heavier, electrically enhanced strokes on “DOM” or “TAR” serve to underline his expressivity. By including instruments whose strident sounds are in conflict with the delicate ones of the piano, Kohlstedt has broadened his emotional palette.

It’s hypnotising to hear the music flow. (Philipp Fischer)

♪♫ Listen: “TAR” + album stream

Martin Kohlstedt on Facebook, Soundcloud, Instagram, Twitter, www.

Marvin Horsch <BR> “Fukushisha”

Marvin Horsch

A Jazz Fusion theme that could have been written for a late seventies TV series kicks off this cinematic record.

Muffled, tape-recorded drums and a melodic bass guitar are supporting the tonally unstable synth chords in a nervous manner, the whole first track is a crescendo leading towards the implosion of its own recording techniques: the drums crackle away, a synth sound turns out to be a bomb alert. And then there was tape hiss… An incredibly beautiful ambient track lead by a smooth guitar tremolo is then followed by the arpeggio-laden last track which leans more to the IDM side of things.

Coming from a club background, the musician Marvin Horsch doesn’t use these idioms in a sampled lo fi-house-ish way, but seems to adopt them, make them his own: on this 12″, genre transitions are so organically grown that the listener doesn’t even perceive them as such. (Jakob Lebsanft)

♪♫ Listen: “Sun After Rain” + album stream

Marvin Horsch on Facebook, Soundcloud.

Neufundland <BR> “Wir werden niemals fertig sein”

“Wir werden niemals fertig sein”

As if rock music could ever die. On their debut album, Neufundland take cues from recent punk records and their hometown’s pop soniverse. An innovation of the German-language rock formula.

Their album title is a declaration of war. “Wir werden niemals fertig sein”, “We will never have finished”, rock music will never die. As with last year’s Karies record, ambiguity plays its part in Neufundland’s music: the chorus of the title song goes “in the morning I’m a banker / in the evening I’m a punk”, but musically, it’s among the least “punk” of the twelve songs on the album.

Nevertheless, Neufundland have released a strong statement with their debut album. Germany’s punk scene has reached artistic maturity in the last several years, Stuttgart has become the third pole of interesting music besides Berlin and Cologne. The latter city, the band’s hometown, is renowned for acts like Roosevelt that vacillate between electro and pop.

Their hometown’s sounds have influenced Neufundland as much as the success of Die Nerven, as their version of rock includes a whole lot of synthesizers and the spaciousness of contemporary pop. While it sounds a bit kitsch at times, “Wir werden niemals fertig sein” innovates the German-language rock formula. It’s pop and punk without being pop punk, and some songs (“Alles was bleibt”, “Bis es stimmt”, “Trink aus”) genuinely amaze. (Philipp Fischer)

♪♫ Listen: “Alles was bleibt” + album stream

Neufundland on Facebook, Instagram, www.

Woman <BR> “Happy Freedom”

“Happy Freedom”

Woman’s debut album is full of longing. From the plea for “something greater” on opener “Dust” to the soaring synths and exploding drums of “The End”, the Cologne three-piece translate into sound the dream of a better world. What’s surprising is the way they manage to blend slick, sexy funk, arena-sized electro pop and just the right amount of pathos into a coherent whole.

“Happy Freedom” is the one album every contributor to this list has felt obliged to mention. Although it hasn’t made the splash its arena-sized, but nonetheless detailed production work suggests (and deserves), the debut full-length by Woman is one of the best works of German pop craftsmanship 2017 had to offer.

Awesome moments abound, for example when during “Control”, the entry of guitar and drums force you to jump up and down in excitement. “Money” at one point sounds like what a friend fittingly described as “Pink Floyd dub”. The ascending synths and steady bass during the chorus of “NYD” are more thrilling than an episode of “Stranger Things”.

But most importantly, there is “Love”, a minimal soul tune that explodes into a maximalist chorus with its title as the sole lyric. The guitar sound and sexy funk recall Bilderbuch, but the borrowing is more than appropriate given Carlos Hufschlag, Manuel Tran and Milan Jacobi‘s equally assured and equally adventurous song writing. It is the epitome of a great pop song and would have merited a Song of the Year award in at least one of Germany’s mainstream music magazines. “Happy Freedom” as a whole is a cornucopia of excitement. Really, this is all you need. (Philipp Fischer)

♪♫ Listen: “Love” + album stream

Woman on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, www.

Zugezogen Maskulin <BR> “Alle gegen Alle”

Zugezogen Maskulin
“Alle gegen Alle”

What a time to be alive! Hate-mongering populists are on the rise, the youth distracts itself with hedonistic idiotism and German rap in the year 2017 is trapped between Dadaistic imbecility or never-changing show-off gangsta rap. Consequently, the latest project of Berlin-based rap duo Zugezogen Maskulin had to be a harsh and hateful intervention, a slap in the face of, well, everybody.

Growing consumerism (“Yeezy Christ Superstar”), a social-media-induced self-optimization (“Stirb!”) and the ironic indifference of online prank culture paralleled with the rise of Islamic and xenophobic terrorism (“Was für eine Zeit”) – ZM, as they are abbreviated for more convenience, paint the picture of a new nature state, a new all against all (“Alle gegen alle”). This dire diagnosis of the growing societal division is paralleled with the protagonists’ growing alienation with their personal environment, resulting in an aggressive and nihilistic reckoning of said circumstances.

The complexity of their criticism of the current zeitgeist is achieved by an inspiring usage of cultural references and ironic distraction, just as they’ve already developed on their 2014 LP “Alles brennt” (“Everything burns”) – probably to avoid a descent into depression. Simultaneously, ZMs Testo and Grim104 achieve to locate their personal history in this portrait of a historically charged country (“Uwe & Heiko”; “Steine & Draht”) going through all these unsettling changes, resulting in a bitter and hopeless but somewhat motivating vibe. (Paul Crone)

♪♫ Listen: “Uwe & Heiko” + album stream

Zugezogen Maskulin on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.