In a year as full of outstanding music as 2017, best-of voting can be a difficult task, and the wide variety of nominees across this year’s ballots reflects just how many great albums there were to choose from. After giving our Best Albums Of 2017 a read, dig into the individual lists our writers submitted of their favorite LPs, honorable mentions, EPs, and plenty more.
1. Pile, A Hairshirt Of Purpose: This should come as no surprise. I love this band, I love this record, and it’s one of the few albums I can put on repeat and still have it hit me like it did the first time through.
2. Vagabon, Infinite Worlds: Much like the Pile record, I’ve listened to Infinite Worlds so many times it may as well be imprinted on my brain. But even then, the end of “Alive And A Well” still makes the hairs on my arms stand up by the end of it, no matter how well I know it.
3. Power Trip, Nightmare Logic: This is the most fun I had listening to a metal record this year. It’s vintage thrash with the softest hint of death metal tossed in, proving the so-called “thrash revival” is more than an assortment of derivatives.
4. (Sandy) Alex G, Rocket: Though many of Alex Giannascoli’s diehards would consider this statement sacrilege, Rocket is the first album of his that lacks any filler. On Rocker, Giannascoli is at his best, both as a songwriter and performer, and this record is his artistic peak—at least thus far.
5. Melkbelly, Nothing Valley: Melkbelly has been positioned as one of Chicago’s best bands for some time, and Nothing Valley cements those claims. “Kid Kreative” has been stuck in my head since I first heard it and, at this point, I hope that never changes.
6. Elder, Reflections On A Floating World: By now, we’re pretty well aware of what genres blend together well. Mixing stoner metal with prog-rock’s sprawl with hints of psych isn’t totally new ground, but few do it as well as Elder, and Reflections On A Floating World is easily their best record yet.
7. Meat Wave, The Incessant: I’ve championed Meat Wave for a long time, but this Chicago trio has made consistently great records, and The Incessant is far and away the most awe-inspiring. It’s dark, bleak, and furious, making for the kind of post-hardcore meets noise-rock totem that this decade is in need of.
8. Ratboys, GN: Ratboys have always been a good band. But, with GN, they became a great one. The way in which they blend alt-country with buzzy, borderline pop-punk shouldn’t work, but it totally does.
9. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper: A single, 83-minute track by a funeral doom band is no easy sell, but it’s an incredibly rewarding journey if you’re willing to stick with it.
10. Katie Ellen, Cowgirl Blues: Last year’s TV Dreams EP wrecked me, and on the debut full-length, Anika Pyle made a record so effortlessly catchy that it almost hides how soul-rattling the subject matter is. Almost.
11. Slaughter Beach, Dog, Birdie: This is the new Weakerthans record we’ve all been waiting for.
12. Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, DROOL: Nnamdi Ogbonnaya is unparalleled as a musician. At this point, I’m convinced he can do no wrong.
13. Phoebe Bridgers, Stranger In The Alps: This record just keeps growing on me, due in large part to the subtle humorous moments that Bridgers bakes into her lyrics.
14. Cloakroom, Time Well: The pride of Northwest Indiana returns with a sprawling album that’s equally indebted to Jason Molina and Jesu, threading a needle that only Cloakroom can.
15. Sampha, Process: Sampha’s debut was hotly anticipated and in no way did it disappoint. It’s an evocative, moving listen packed full of hooks that come so naturally to him it’s astounding.
16. Couch Slut, Control: The excellent follow-up to My Life As A Woman makes for a listen that’s jarring and uneasy, with saxophone squeals undercutting noise-rock blasts, proving Couch Slut is in a league of its own.
17. Julien Baker, Turn Out The Lights: Julien Baker’s second album builds on the intimacy she established on Sprained Ankle, only with a more refined, worldly outlook.
18. Caddywhompus, Odd Hours: Math-rock gets a bad rap, but Caddywhompus shows that it’s a genre only limited by the creator’s ambition.
19. Career Suicide, Machine Response: Machine Response is proof positive that the best vintage-sounding American hardcore is the kind that makes room for guitar solos befitting of Iron Maiden records.
20. Worriers, Survival Pop: Lauren Denitzio has been one of pop-punk’s sharpest songwriters, and Survival Pop is the personal, affecting album that scene has long needed.
1. Palm, Shadow Expert
2. False, Hunger
3. Liquids, More Thana Friend
4. Slaughter Beach, Dog, Motorcycle. jpg
5. Fire Is Motion, Still, I Try
1. Lorde, Melodrama
2. Mount Eerie, A Crow Looked At Me
3. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper
4. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN
5. The War On Drugs, A Deeper Understanding
6. White Reaper, The World’s Best American Band
7. Planning For Burial, Below The House
8. Japanese Breakfast, Soft Sounds From Another Planet
9. Elder, Reflections Of A Floating World
10. Waxahatchee, Out In The Storm
11. Ex Eye, Ex Eye
12. Power Trip, Nightmare Logic
13. Vagabon, Infinite Worlds
14. The xx, I See You
15. Tyler, The Creator, Flower Boy
16. Big Brave, Ardor
17. Perfume Genius, No Shape
18. Algiers, The Underside Of Power
19. Converge, The Dusk In Us
20. Beck, Colors
1. “Strangest Thing,” The War On Drugs
2. “Green Light,” Lorde
3. “Ran,” Future Islands
4. “The Way You Used To Do,” Queens Of The Stone Age
5. “Loyalty,” Kendrick Lamar
1. Priests, Nothing Feels Natural
2. LCD Soundsystem, American Dream
3. Fever Ray, Plunge
4. Alvvays, Antisocialites
5. Grizzly Bear, Painted Ruins
6. The War On Drugs, A Deeper Understanding
7. Perfume Genius, No Shape
8. Sampha, Process
9. Guerilla Toss, GT Ultra
10. Blanck Mass, World Eater
11. Hercules & Love Affair, Omnion
12. Tinariwen, Elwan
13. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Murder Of The Universe
14. Colin Stetson, All This I Do For Glory
15. SZA, CTRL
16. Algiers, The Underside Of Power
17. Zola Jesus, Okovi
18. White Reaper, The World’s Best American Band
19. Liars, TFCF
20. Juana Molina, Halo
1. Charly Bliss, Guppy: A record so good, it reawakened my long-dormant love for ’90s indie-pop.
2. Kendrik Lamar, DAMN: Slow but steady wins the race.
3. Sylvan Esso, What Now: Electronic pop is rarely this entrancing.
4. St. Vincent, Masseduction: Getting less weird but more confident? I’ll take it.
5. Joey Bada$$, All-American Bada$$: This record screams “Fuck 2017” in a way I desperately needed.
6. Ratboys, GN: A gentle breeze of a record that slowly won my heart over many months.
7. Mogwai, Every Country’s Sun: The best they’ve done in years, and the sweetest they’ve hit my ears.
8. Waxahatchee, Out In The Storm: Like falling into a late-night jam session, but with less noodling about.
9. Pile, A Hairshirt Of Purpose: Take it from loud to soft, but in more of a poet way than a Pixies way.
10. Bully, Losing: Turn up the punk-rock guitar, but not in the mix, and voila.
11. Diet Cig, Swear I’m Good At This: Guitar and drums, still all you need.
12. Oneohtrix Point Never, Good Time OST: Just a hallucinatory fever dream of a record, like the film itself.
13. Sløtface, Try Not To Freak Out: The sunniest shiniest pop-rock with pissed-off lyrics, but not too sweet.
14. The New Pornographers, Whiteout Conditions: Still got it.
15. Japanese Breakfast, Soft Sounds From Another Planet: Feet in the clouds, head in the clouds.
16. Luca D’Alberto, Endless: No words, just the orchestra.
17. Protomartyr, Relatives In Descent: Arrrrggggghhhhhh.
18. Julie & The Wrong Guys, s/t: She sings, they rock, the end.
19. LCD Soundsystem, American Dream: Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years.
20. Cayetana, New Kind Of Normal: A familiar kind of rock, but a new kind of normal.
1. The National, Sleep Well Beast
2. Sylvan Esso, What Now
3. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN
4. Iron & Wine, Beast Epic
5. Julien Baker, Turn Out The Lights
6. Phoebe Bridgers, Stranger In The Alps
7. Rostam, Half-Light
8. St. Vincent, Masseduction
9. The New Year, Snow
10. Father John Misty, Pure Comedy
Frightened Rabbit, Recorded Songs: Three new songs from one of the best melancholy bands ever to drizzle out of Scotland, one of which is a duet with the best melancholy singer-songwriter of the year, Julien Baker.
1. The Horrors, V
2. The War On Drugs, A Deeper Understanding
3. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN
4. Algiers, Underside Of Power
5. Not Waving, Good Luck
6. Slowdive, Slowdive
7. Blanck Mass, World Eater
8. Four Tet, New Energy
9. Grizzly Bear, Painted Ruins
10. Alessandro Cortini, Avanti
11. LCD Soundsystem, American Dream
12. Forest Swords, Compassion
13. Liars, TFCF
14. Porter Ricks, Anguila Electrica
15. Gas, Narkopop
16. The National, Sleep Well Beast
17. Spoon, Hot Thoughts
18. Actress, AZD
19. Metz, Strange Peace
20. James Place, Voices Bloom
1. Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement, Ambient Black Magic
2. Lakker, Eris Harmonia
3. Kodomo, Divider
4. Compton White, s/t
5. Ben Frost, Threshold Of Faith
1. Protomartyr, “Windsor Hum”: I’ve been singing “Everything’s fine” to myself for months.
2. Sleaford Mods, “Carlton Touts”: I saw Sleaford Mods earlier this year, and after the show, someone in their crew asked me, “Do ya even know what they’re all about?” I stammered out something about “the plight of the working class” that was good enough to pass muster, but truth be told, no, most of the time I don’t know exactly what Jason Williamson’s ranting about. “Carlton Touts,” for example, is crammed full of regional slang and references to weird British snacks, and I’m not politically astute enough to know what “the Labour Party is a three-quid tube of vending machine smarties at the airport” is supposed to mean, even though it sure sounds like a sick burn. And yet, I know how the song makes me feel; I innately understand its frustration at feeling trapped, watching the future being pissed away by a bunch of “fat bastards” only looking out for themselves. That’s an international language they’re speaking.
3. Ride, “All I Want”: Ride’s big, ballyhooed return was… fine. But it at least produced this cool song, whose catchy, cut-up vocal effect has me hoping the band (if it sticks around) experiments even more with an electronic direction.
4. Nosaj Thing, “All Points Back To U”: Kids, I’m sorry you have to hear me talk this way, but this song is sexy as hell.
5. Oneohtrix Point Never and Iggy Pop, “The Pure And The Damned”: All of Oneohtrix Point Never’s Good Time score is aces, but this song—with Iggy Pop’s gloriously somber, deathbed croak made all the more arresting by the loss of so many of his contemporaries—is an all-timer, like an “In Memoriam” montage for a crazy depressing couple of years.
Helium, Pirate Prude/The Dirt Of Luck/The Magic City/No Guitars/Ends With And: Mary Timony’s fantastic, iconoclastic art-rock group finally got its due with Matador’s comprehensive reissue of its ’90s catalog alongside a new B-sides and rarities compilation, as well as a brief reunion tour. You can hear elements of Helium in scores of artists who similarly tread somewhere between angular punk and knotty prog, fuzzy shoegaze and melancholy pop, but you’ve still never heard anything exactly like it. Now you can.
1. SZA, CTRL
2. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN
3. Sampha, Process
4. Vince Staples, Big Fish Theory
5. JAY-Z, 4:44
6. Mike, May God Bless Your Hustle
7. JID, The Never Story
8. Brockhampton, Saturation/Saturation II
9. King Krule, The Ooz
10. Ty Dolla $ign, Beach House 3
11. Dvsn, Morning After
12. Visible Cloaks, Reassemblage
13. Gas, Narkopop
14. Playboi Carti, s/t
15. Oneohtrix Point Never, Good Time OST
16. Future, Future/HNDRXX
17. Roc Marciano, Rosebudd’s Revenge
18. Wiki, No Mountains In Manhattan
19. Jessie Ware, Glasshouse
20. Migos, Culture
Every rap show I have ever been to in my entire life has been a sometimes-hours-long attempt to have a crowd react with even an ounce of this enthusiasm:
“Bodak Yellow” is somehow as cold as Mobb Deep, as funny as Gucci Mane, as catchy as Migos, but ultimately inimitably the work of its author, the former dancer and reality star Cardi B who came out swinging in an unlikely career shift. Sure, it’s the first No. 1 single by a female rapper since Lauryn Hill—a depressing statistic that underlines the systemic problems facing women in hip-hop—but it is, more than that, the most infectious four minutes in rap music this year. That video was Cardi B in Virginia over summer, but it’s fair to assume she’d get that response anywhere at this point. Here’s hoping for much more from her in 2018.
1. Iron Chic, You Can’t Stay Here
2. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN
3. Waxahatchee, Out In The Storm
4. Julien Baker, Turn Out The Lights
5. St. Vincent, Masseducation
6. Worriers, Survival Pop
7. Japandroids, Into The Wild Heart Of Life
8. Metz, Strange Peace
9. Tee Grizzley, My Moment
10. Rainer Maria, Rainer Maria
1. Björk, Utopia
2. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN
3. SZA, CTRL
4. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, The Kid
5. Vince Staples, Big Fish Theory
6. Fever Ray, Plunge
7. Priests, Nothing Feels Natural
8. Kelela, Take Me Apart
9. St. Vincent, Masseduction
10. Arca, Arca
11. Sampha, Process
12. Demen, Nektyr
13. Dvsn, Morning After
14. Slowdive, Slowdive
15. Toro Y Moi, Boo Boo
16. Latasha Alcindor, B(LA)K
17. Circuit Des Yeux, Reaching For Indigo
18. Laura Marling, Semper Femina
19. Nadine Shah, Holiday Destination
20. Charlotte Gainsbourg, Rest
1. Kamasi Washington, Harmony Of Difference
2. Coby Sey, Whities 010
3. Exploded View, Summer Came Early
4. Anohni, Paradise
5. Carla Dal Forno, The Garden
1. Kesha, Rainbow
2. Filthy Friends, Invitation
3. St. Vincent, Masseduction
4. Robyn Hitchcock, s/t
5. The Regrettes, Feel Your Feelings, Fool!
6. Marty Stuart And His Fabulous Superlatives, Way Out West
7. Dreamcar, s/t
8. Paul Weller, A Kind Revolution
9. Wolf Parade, Cry Cry Cry
10. Alex Lahey, I Love You Like A Brother
11. Slowdive, s/t
12. Bash & Pop, Anything Could Happen
13. Ride, Weather Diaries
14. Eisley, I’m Only Dreaming
15. Backwards Dancer, s/t
16. Magnetic Fields, 50 Song Memoir
17. Craig Finn, We All Want The Same Things
18. Desperate Journalist, Grow Up
19. Harry Styles, s/t
20. AFI, s/t
1. Paramore, “Hard Times”
2. Magnetic Fields, “’83 Foxx And I”
3. Tori Amos, “Up The Creek”
4. The Killers, “The Man”
5. Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness, “So Close”
1. R.E.M., Automatic For The People
2. The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
3. David Bowie, Cracked Actor (Live Los Angeles ’74)
4. Buffalo Tom, Let Me Come Over
5. The Replacements, For Sale: Live At Maxwell’s 1986