The Top 50 Albums of 2017

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best albums of july 2017 Sheer Mag40. Sheer Mag
Need to Feel Your Love

(Wilsuns RC)

On their high-octane full-length debut album, Need to Feel Your Love, Philly hard-rockers Sheer Mag sound fully formed—lead singer Tina Halladay’s scorching howls are at their best, while lead guitarist Kyle Seely’s retro-blues licks are slicker than ever. Following three EPs—and an additional compilation of those EP’s, 2017’s Compilation LP—Sheer Mag’s songs are still as compact as ever, delivered in genuine styles fusing the obnoxious, in-your-face stigma of ’70s hard rock and the anxious uncertainty of proto-metal. The end result is an impressive realization of the band’s early promise. – Timothy Michalik

best songs of 2017 Laurel Halo39. Laurel Halo


Laurel Halo began her career stuck in a space sadly dominated by toxic masculinity. Early on she felt entirely boxed in: “I was worried a few years ago [that I wouldn’t] be taken seriously if I made something that was sweet, but just because something is sweet doesn’t mean it isn’t just as, or more, meaningful than some monochromatic macho techno bullshit.” After years of (literally) finding her voice and making (brilliant) music that wasn’t necessarily joyful, Halo finally let it all go and made the “happiest record of [her] life.” With Dust, Halo has firmly put herself in the same hallowed ground as fellow eclectic geniuses such as Arthur Russell and Alice Coltrane. It’s the sound of an artist gaining confidence, turning the color on and displaying her immense, unique ear for buoyant groove. – Wesley Whitacre

Zola Jesus OKovi review38. Zola Jesus

(Sacred Bones)

The opening stabs of violin on “Exhumed,” the second track and first single from Zola Jesus’ fifth album Okovi, create an atmosphere of danger. Just three years prior, Nika Roza Danilova had dabbled in a more polished form of synth-pop on Taiga that suggested her darkest days were behind her. Yet with her return to Sacred Bones, the darkness pulled her back in deeper, as showcased on her most cathartic and intense set of songs to date. Marked by personal trauma, mental illness and suicide, the songs on Okovi come from a place of genuine anguish, their buzzing industrial synth backing only deepening the harrowing realness behind them. Zola Jesus has always had a breathtaking voice, but it’s never sounded quite so strong as it does here. She’s crying out to the heavens with a determination and resistance that could beat them back. – Jeff Terich

best albums of 2017 so far Elder37. Elder
Reflections of a Floating World


In a post-Baroness world, Elder followup their previous renunciation of doom metal with more country-fried Yes-indebted kinetic/elastic prog rock. And it’s a mighty fine look for them; where their work from Dead Roots Stirring and back felt rich but contained, this period has seen the release of Elder’s capabilities. It would be easy to imagine them sharing a festival stage with the likes of Colour Haze and Motorpsycho now. Nearly a decade in, they’ve found their sound and are producing some of the absolute best contemporary prog around.  – Langdon Hickman

best albums of May Perfume Genius36. Perfume Genius
No Shape


In over half a decade of work, Perfume Genius—the stage name of Mike Hadreas—has brimmed with breakout potential. He’s released music that’s potent yet subtle and, with 2014’s Too Bright, it appeared he had reached his peak. No Shape shows that he still has much more growth yet. One of the defining characteristics of Perfume Genius has been the vocal range and tone of Hadreas’ voice and it’s used to full effect here. The album contains one of 2017’s most powerful tracks in “Slip Away” but throughout the record, there are examples of Hadreas’ songwriting prowess with each song feeling like an R&B shot of adrenaline. – Chris Willis

Yellow Eyes Immersion Trench Reverie review Album of the Week35. Yellow Eyes
Immersion Trench Reverie


Yellow Eyes reestablished the bar for black metal in the United States in 2017. Immersion Trench Reverie represents a bit of a new approach for the Brooklyn band. Much of the radiant qualities of their previous album Sick with Bloom still exist, but their new music comes with a greater sense of urgency. Their riffs are more succinct and much fiercer. They effortlessly fuse eastern European black metal with some of the more cerebral and introspective qualities the United States has its blackened edifice on. It is a combination that has resulted in one of the most necessary displays of black metal this year. – Cody Davis

best albums of 2017 Tyler the Creator34. Tyler, the Creator
Flower Boy


The transformation from an angsty teen with a remarkably successful creative outlet to a 26-year-old seasoned musician was cemented with Tyler, the Creator’s Flower Boy, released in July. Widely colorful, its vivid cast of characters—including Jaden Smith, A$AP Rocky, Estelle and Lil Wayne—complement Tyler’s arresting harmonies and strikingly improved vocals. It’s as splendid an album as Bastard was honest, and as thoughtful as Goblin was radical. Skillfully curated, Flower Boy’s tracklist is satisfying in its arrangement of textures, from the wistful “See You Again” (“Can I get a kiss? And can you make it last forever?”) to the zeitgeist-capturing “Boredom” and the jazzy “Droppin’ Seeds.” – Jonathan Ortiz

best albums of 2017 SZA33. SZA

(Top Dawg Ent.)

On SZA’s debut studio album, Ctrl, the St. Louis native and Top Dawg Entertainment signee comes forth with an abstract and spectacular take on temporary love, her own insecurities, as well as her own way of figuring those things out. Accompanied by some of the biggest names in hip-hop—Travis Scott, Kendrick Lamar, Isaiah Rashad—SZA’s once overlooked vocal capabilities take off into another realm, solidifying Solana Imani Rowe as one of the 21st century’s sharpest and most impressive vocalists and songwriters. – Timothy Michalik

Fever Ray Plunge review32. Fever Ray


In the days and weeks after the shocking election of Donald Trump, one of the very tiny comforts to the millions put at risk by his unique brand of bigotry was that the response would be overwhelming. We saw this when women all around the country marched to oppose his horribly anti-women views. We see this every day, and it was only a matter of time before it manifested into our art. Plunge is one of the year’s best examples of an artist putting a middle finger to ogres like the fascist in charge and the violent culture they breed. “That’s not how you love me,” the chorus of standout track “This Country,” instantly became a rallying cry for defiant empowerment. – Wesley Whitacre

Manchester Orchestra review31. Manchester Orchestra
A Black Mile to the Surface

(Loma Vista)

After a three-year wait, Atlanta’s Manchester Orchestra presented what feels like their most poised, confident and poetic album to date. A Black Mile to the Surface explores themes of new life and unknown chapters—namely the birth of frontman Andy Hull’s daughter, Mayzie (hence intro track, “The Maze”). The record’s entirety challenges Manchester Orchestra’s usual driving style of alt-rock, beginning and ending with more spiritual, atmospheric tracks, and vocally adding greater depth. Guest vocal credits are courtesy of Nate Ruess (Fun.) and Christian Zucconi (Grouplove). It’s almost an unpredictable ride, each song presenting itself in a fuzzy, unclear way, not making sense until midway. “The Gold” brews an earthy blend of folk and southern rock, a jangly ode to human expectations.

The album is a fresh canvas of sorts for the band, and they translated that power into elements like the heavy gospel influence present on “The Maze,” and the breakdown midway through “Lead, SD,” perfectly transposing the tale Hull sings about a family rift. A Black Mile to the Surface carries a perpetual eerie tone, which can be explained in part by Hull’s involvement in the film Swiss Army Man. Hull composed that film’s score, one oozing with harder to swallow themes, and this album’s daunting feeling seems to carry the weight of the world. – Virginia Croft

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