NPR Music's Essential Songs, Albums, Performances And Videos Of 2017 (So Far)

Kelli Schaefer is a local musician, so some of opbmusic's staff had already seen her unveil songs from her album No Identity during a gig several months prior to this session. We thought we knew what to expect — but we weren't prepared for this. Schaefer, who's known as a talented guitarist, surprisingly opted to front her band without an instrument. Seemingly freed from that burden, she held the stage with a subtle anxiety that added urgency and importance to virtually every word she sang. The centerpiece of the performance was this powerful version of "Underground." Driven by a simple but infectious bass line, the song gives Schaefer room to sing — and can she ever sing. Through chopped-up verses and soaring choruses, she turned in one of the most impressive performances I've seen in years. —Jerad Walker, opbmusic

Jeremiah Hayden