The Best Albums of 2017 So Far

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The 30 best albums of 2017 so far

King Woman Created in the Image of SufferingKing WomanCreated in the Image of Suffering

The dream-like haze cast over the doom-gaze of the band’s debut full-length is much thicker than what appeared on the Bay Area group’s debut EP. The album hits a sweet spot, once again proving that it’s not necessary to adhere to the typical heavy music tropes; a band doesn’t have to be overtly stealing from other metal bands in order to be heavy. Blues bubbles under the simmering cauldron of hypnotic riffs, and while the album starts off with a dreamier coating, it develops into a more grounded powerhouse with incredible vocals from Kristina Esfiandari. – Wil Lewellyn

Kendrick Lamar new album DAMN.Kendrick LamarDamn.
(Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope)

The first thing to notice about Kendrick Lamar’s Damn. is the production. Gone are the jazz-fusion touches of 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly, and in their place are harder-hitting drum machine beats and repeated shout-outs to “Kung fu Kenny!” The second thing to notice is just how vivid and intricate the storytelling is on the album, which isn’t a surprise per se—that’s been a key part of his lyrical talent since his earliest days—but here it’s all the more masterful. Where past albums found him taking hour-long explorations of who he was and the complications surrounding what he thought he should be, Damn. is an album about who he is. It’s affecting as ever, but delivered with no shortage of eye-popping stunt-rapping or exclamation points. No other title could accurately sum up the title of the record. Sit down; be humble. – Jeff Terich

Loss Horizonless reviewLossHorizonless
(Profound Lore)

Funeral doom group Loss’ Horizonless is essentially is everything that was great about their previous album, Despond, but made heavier by fuller production. The guttural gurgle of vocals remains, but over the course of the album more vocal colors have been added. There is a more scathing higher-pitched black-metal-like snarl that explodes out of “The Joy of All Who Sorrow.” They even offer the creepy lower baritone that I grew up loving as a goth kid. This album is a triumph by the band, and everything worth celebrating about this brand of devastating, mournful doom. – Wil Lewellyn

best albums of March 2017 Mount EerieMount EeerieA Crow Looked at Me
(P.W. Elverum and Sun)

A Crow Looked at Me, more than any album in recent memory, is beyond criticism. In the wake of his wife’s untimely death, Phil Elverum cobbled together his broken heart and mind into a collection of thoughts that resemble music. The intimacy of Elverum’s memories and his spoken-word approach creates something that transcends the traditional way we define music. Instead this is a work that more resembles a conversation between the grieving and the dead than it does an album. There is perhaps no subject more mined for artistic expression than death, and yet A Crow Looked at Me somehow finds a way to make a peerless statement on the matter. – Wesley Whitacre

Pallbearer Heartless reviewPallbearerHeartless
(Profound Lore/Nuclear Blast)

On Pallbearer’s third album, the Little Rock metal group venture further down the road away from the mournful doom that defined the sound of their debut. Brett Campbell’s vocals are more up front on this effort, and songs like “Thorns” are a logical step forward from where they were on 2014’s Foundations of Burden. They frequently marry the melancholy lethargy of doom with what feels like more of an alternative-rock songwriting sensibility. It’s more emotionally heavy than it is explicitly metal, with melodies taking center stage. It’s an interesting transition for the band, but its sense of melody is infectious. – Wil Lewellyn

best albums of May ParamoreParamoreAfter Laughter
(Fueled by Ramen)

As NPR contributor Maria Sherman points out, Paramore have always been a fractured band. They’ve faced departures and returns, with the group being held together by lifelong friendships and moments of musical renewal. On After Laughter, Paramore find themselves blossoming into a full-fledged pop outfit, trading in distorted power chords for a sleek new flair of synth pop. Frontwoman Hayley Williams opens up on a recent experiences with depression and anxiety, approaching tracks like “Rose Colored Boy” and “Grudges” with a sense of introspection and melancholy. The result melds glowing melodies and introspection, producing a record filled with rare, heartfelt pop. – Patrick Pilch

Pharmakon Contact reviewPharmakonContact
(Sacred Bones)

Contact begs for empathy in a radically noble way, by striping you of your senses and putting you in a state of trance that ultimately renders you infantile. Now 10 years into her odyssey, Pharmakon’s Margaret Chardiet has returned to give the world another gnarled collection of harsh noise. Chardiet described the record as being about “when our mind uses the body in order to transcend or escape it.” Almost by sheer brute force Pharmakon has found a way to arrest the mind long enough for the body to let go, and in such grotesque times that kind of visceral escapism is vital. – Wesley Whitacre

best albums of March 2017 PilePileA Hairshirt of Purpose
(Exploding in Sound)

A Hairshirt of Purpose is Pile’s sixth studio album in the past eight years, an incredible feat for a group so criminally underreported. While a lack of press may dictate the success of a band like Pile, the group’s tunes truly speaks for themselves, leaving space for frontman Rick McGuire’s creative process and a slow burning cultish fandom that beams through at Pile’s live shows. Raw passion combusts throughout Hairshirt, igniting on tracks like “Hissing for Peace” and detonating on “Fingers,” one of the best closing tracks in recent memory. A Hairshirt of Purpose is the group’s most focused and dynamic release to date, sealing Pile’s reign as one of the most underrated bands around. – Patrick Pilch

Power Trip Nightmare Logic reviewPower TripNightmare Logic
(Southern Lord)

A lot of readers probably have their own memories of hearing an older brother’s cassette copy of Kill ‘Em All or Reign in Blood, that eye-opening “Holy shit! This is loud and fast and crazy and dangerous!” feeling that comes with the discovery of something that recklessly fun. With Power Trip’s Nightmare Logic, the Dallas thrash-metal group’s sophomore album, it’s easy to imagine that happening with an entirely new generation. Faster, punchier and more intense than their debut, Nightmare Logic is a set of survival tools for a regressive society. These songs are both insightful critiques and incendiary devices, a whole lot of menacing fun to listen to but with enough thought-provoking material to dig deeper for those that want to. It’s the kind of metal album that’ll light a fire the first time you hear it; just queue up the title track and see what happens. – Jeff Terich

Priests Nothing Feels NaturalPriestsNothing Feels Natural
(Sister Polygon)

Despite its early January release, we are still yet to hear a record as bitingly relevant as Nothing Feels Natural. Since 2012, Priests have been clamoring for justice in our nation’s capital, a place now infected with a foul, parasitic group of cons threatening the scarce true freedoms left in American society. The band’s political slant combines a D.C. punk ethos with pop-revived ditties, yielding a record incubated through Priests’ patient development of sound, style and function. Their latest offers a deconstructed idea of sinister surf punk, allowing the band to touch on funk, jazz and indie rock influences. – Patrick Pilch

best albums of 2017 so far Rolling BlackoutsRolling Blackouts Coastal FeverFrench Press
(Sub Pop)

As if working with an overwrought musical template wasn’t hard enough in the days of the Internet, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s invigorating Sub Pop debut French Press successfully tackles college rock well past the age where that phrase actually meant something. Much like Rolling Blackout’s predecessors such as The Clean and The Feelies, the Melbourne quintet are no strangers to balls-to-the-wall build ups. As each layer added intertwines with the others on French Press, the result is a staggering, if not gorgeous big-indie label debut, one so full of life and energy it would be easy to forget they’re from the 21st century. – Timmy Michalik

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