The Best Albums of 2017 So Far

Treble staff
The 30 best albums of 2017 so far

2-3-samphaSampha Process
(Young Turks)

Sampha has spent his share of time as a secret weapon for other artists, providing exceptional vocal features on songs by the likes of Kanye West and Solange (if his hook on “Don’t Touch My Hair” didn’t give you chills, listen again, it will). Yet Process finds the UK R&B singer stepping out on his own with an impressive set of originals that both warm the heart (“Nobody Knows Me (Like the Piano)”) and aim straight for the hips (“Blood On Me”). Process goes in a lot of different places and never adheres too closely to just one style or approach, but it’s consistently incredible, no matter Sampha’s take. – Jeff Terich


(Sandy) Alex G rocket review(SANDY) Alex GRocket
(Domino)

What starts off as a straightforward Alex G release—lofi, acoustic, jangly—quickly blows off the rails post-”Bobby” into something weird, dark, and ultimately hopeful. G, who is normally a singular figure on his albums, invited more collaboration than ever and created in Rocket something that has more variety (and more brilliance) than ever before. Rocket really goes places (“Bobby,” a ballad; “Brick,” a pseudo-rap screamer) before ending in triumphant sounding “Guilty,” and earns the distinction as one of the best albums of 2017 so far. – Matt Perloff


best albums of May SlowdiveSlowdiveSlowdive
(Dead Oceans)

Given how well shoegaze has aged, it’s weird to look back and think how poorly it fared in the second half of the ’90s or the early ’00s. It’s almost quaint. Hindsight being 20/20, however, it’s easy to see how we took things for granted. But while Ride and The Jesus and Mary Chain made their own notable additions to a new generation of shoegaze this year, Slowdive are undoubtedly the MVPs, their new self-titled album not just one of the best albums of the still-young year but one of the best records they’ve released to date. With blazing rock anthems like “Star Roving” and spacious pop numbers like “Sugar For the Pill,” it feels both modern and entirely connected to past albums like 1993’s Souvlaki. This is the sound of a band finding new life in a sound cultivated long ago, and realizing it has a long path ahead of it still. – Jeff Terich


Spoon Hot ThoughtsSpoonHot Thoughts
(Matador)

By the very act of releasing an album, Spoon’s at least guaranteed an honorable mention for best-of-year accolades. But after such an incredible streak in their career thus far, it seems that they couldn’t release a bad album even if it was their intention to do so. Hot Thoughts is expectedly excellent, using their signature taut grooves as a foundation for more electronic and psychedelic sound experiments with producer Dave Fridmann, leading to something that’s both an extension of the albums that came before it and a step outside of those templates. When it hits hard, as on “Do I Have To Talk You Into It?” or “First Caress,” it yields some of the deepest grooves on any Spoon album. When they scale back on the atmospheric “Pink Up,” there’s a trippy, exotic quality that feels ultimately fresh and enlightening. Forgive the cliche, but it’s too apt: It’s everything you’d want in a Spoon album and more. – Jeff Terich


best albums of 2017 so far Vince StaplesVince StaplesBig Fish Theory
(Def Jam)

If the two years since Vince Staples’ double-album debut Summertime 06 feels like ages ago, it’s only because so much has happened since then. Staples released a stunning yet bleak follow-up EP, became the subject of a weirdly hilarious scornful viral-video and then took down Donald Trump with his unstoppable banger of a single, “Bagbak.” Here we are a little over six months after that last single’s release, and it’s the penultimate track on Staples’ incredible new full-length Big Fish Theory. Still concise yet no less furious, Big Fish takes the sobering observations and atmosphere of past recordings and updates them with some of the most innovative production in his catalog, stringing together trap, boom-bap, footwork and UK-style bass beats in a set of songs that are no less dark or chilling but some of the most thrilling tracks of his still-young career thus far. – Jeff Terich


best albums of 2017 so far Sun Kil MoonSun Kil MoonCommon as Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood
(Caldo Verde)

At this point in Mark Kozelek’s career, facetious lyricism seems to be his stronghold. Whether he’s moping about middle aged depression, his legs hurting, or his dad flirting with girls at Panera Bread, he’s in a place where he can basically tell everybody to get the fuck out of his face. He’s fed up with backwards politics, mass shootings and late night SNL reruns, and he isn’t afraid to say it. Although his songwriting may seem stodgy on the surface, beneath it lies absolute veracity. In some ways, his latest release under the moniker Sun Kil Moon, Common as Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood, is Kozelek’s most focused artistic endeavor. Its tracklist—spanning two hours and ten minutes, with most tracks running longer than five minutes each—fosters corny drum-pad loops, over the top bass octaves, and tragic wisdom of the crumbling world around us. – Timmy Michalik


Thundercat Drunk reviewThundercatDrunk
(Brainfeeder)

Late night adultswimcore bassist and Kendrick Lamar collaborator Thundercat’s latest full-length is just as funky as it is weird (though most importantly, it’s fun). There’s a lot to take in here, from songs about leaving your wallet at the club to collaboration that ranges from Pharrell to Kenny Loggins. Thundercat pulls all the stops on Drunk, making it the perfect soundtrack to activities including but not limited to: hanging with pals, pregaming for the club, playing video games all night, eating a hotdog for breakfast, lovemaking and even jet skiing. – Matt Perloff


best albums of 2017 so far VanumVanumBurning Arrow
(Psychic Violence)

K. Morgan and M. Rekevics simply get black metal. They have long been pivotal members in some of the United States’ most forward-thinking metal acts. Now, the duo’s project Vanum returns in 2017 trimmed, direct and forceful. Their Burning Arrow EP channels early Rotting Christ and Master’s Hammer into a triumphant, three-song effort. The triumphs of this project’s music mirror the triumphs of both K. and M. in their musical conquests. This powerful duo has found a sharp and exacting sound through Burning Arrow. Should this blazing path continue to be a part of Vanum’s repertoire, then they are methodically crafting a dynamic and formidable sound for the future. – Cody Davis


Wode Servants of the Countercosmos reviewWodeServants of the Countercosmos
(Avantgarde)

Wode made waves last year with their self-titled debut album, and with this UK group, it does appear that lightning can strike twice. The quartet’s second album in as many years sees another riveting success. Yet, this time Wode opts for a more vicious and direct approach to black metal; much different than their previous, more atmospheric effort. Songs like “Temple Interment” and “Celestial Dagger” are some of the most thunderous moments in metal this year. The overall destructive wrath of Wode’s newest effort is a huge stride forward from their scintillating debut and a bold peak in black metal in 2017. – Cody Davis

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