The Top 50 Albums of 2017

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Kelela Take Me Apart review Album of the Week30. Kelela
Take Me Apart


Kelela’s been building up to her first full-length album for a long time, having made a name for herself with the auspicious Cut 4 Me mixtape back in 2013. She’s taken her time—one EP, some compilation appearances and guest vocals on albums by Danny Brown and Solange have taken place since then—but four years later the arrival of Take Me Apart signals a landmark for the young L.A. artist. Written to be an album in transition between one relationship’s end and another’s beginning, the LP also signals a different sort of transitional phase between R&B’s past and pop’s future. On the title track she invokes the pop perfection of vintage Janet Jackson, while the sumptuous atmosphere of “Frontline” feels like a misty look into dancefloors of tomorrow. Yet lead single “LMK” rides the line down the middle, revealing Kelela as one of the most crucial artists of the present day. She’s a voice and a force to be reckoned with, but it’s her vision that makes Take Me Apart a next-level pop album. – Jeff Terich

The xx I See You review29. The xx
I See You

(Young Turks)

The years since the release of the xx’s self-titled debut album have seen the British band be homaged, aped and not infrequently badly imitated in multiple genres, from R&B to chillwave. They’ve loomed large in the musical universe, and with good reason: It’s no easy thing to make music that truly feels romantic, and on I See You, the xx do just that better than ever before.

This record, the xx’s third, is the first where producer/third member Jamie xx actually feels like a consistent and tangible presence. Not coincidentally, I See You has a full and rich sound that past efforts lacked in places. You notice it right off in the initial one-two punch of “Dangerous” and outstanding first single “Say Something Loving.” But the heart of this album is tracks like “Brave For You,” which takes on special resonance in light of Romy Croft’s recent engagement to her partner Hannah Marshall, but works as a wrenching love proclamation in any context, and “Replica,” which approaches the painful opposite end of love’s spectrum. – Liam Green

best albums of april 2017 Arca28. Arca


Alejandro Ghersi didn’t single-handedly merge the mainstream with the avant garde, but his name has appeared in the credits of some of the more adventurous big-name albums in recent years, from Björk to Kanye West. And while his solo albums to date have mostly dealt in complex electronic compositions with strange rhythmic constructions, his self-titled album finally finds Arca becoming an avant-pop star in his own right. The first sound in leadoff track “Piel” is his own emotionally charged voice, which becomes the human element that ties together tracks such as soaring ambient pop gem “Anoche,” haunted dirge “Reverie” and hook-laden standout “Desafio.” Arca has done an impressive job in pushing the limits of artistic abstraction in pop, but even without the boost of established artists, he soars majestically. – Jeff Terich

Pallbearer Heartless review27. Pallbearer

(Profound Lore)

Pallbearer’s third album Heartless was hailed as the Arkansas band’s major foray into the mainstream. It is an unlikely position for the doom/prog stalwarts, whose 2014 Foundations of Burden solidified its reputation for thick, climatic cuts. Long before that, the group made an art of dense, dirgelike music, crafting a sound that has never been what you might call accessible. However, Heartless showed the world a band with fresh focus and a gift for drawing out emotion in a way you would not otherwise expect. From new topical ground to unique instrumentation, Pallbearer offered their most adventurous turns this year. The result is a recording that offered at once those meandering, ethereal cuts as well as music that is particularly exquisite in its musicianship. You may not see the words metal and pretty together often, but the intricate and beguiling tracks of Heartless make both terms entirely appropriate. – Ernesto Aguilar

best albums of May Jlin26. Jlin
Black Origami

(Planet Mu)

This album breaks ground not in the manner of lowly hands and shovels, but with heavy equipment at worst and natural upheaval at best. It’s a landmark for footwork music, a reminder of the power of the DIY aesthetic in the world beyond major labels, and an overdue transfer of the mantle of dance music’s best thing going from a string of men to a woman. Jerrilynn Patton channels the nervous energies of Midwestern economic depression, bullying, racism, Native American dancing and the vintage electronics of hip-hop and synth-pop into throbbing, thrilling love letters to the drum. Subgenres deserve their day in the sun, and Jlin’s scaffolding props up the difficult architecture of juking as Roni Size once managed for the acquired taste of jungle. I don’t know what she’s going to do next—shit, I don’t know what she can do to top this—but I’m there.- Adam Blyweiss

Jay Som Everybody Works review25. Jay Som
Everybody Works


Melina Duterte’s sense of self is rare for a 23-year-old. The self-made artist maintains an enviable composure in the words on her self-produced Polyvinyl debut. “But I like the bus/I can be whoever I want to be/Take time to figure it out,” Duterte sings on Everybody Works standout “The Bus Song.” While the song may document the shaky course of a couple’s impending relationship, it can also be interpreted as a nod towards Duterte’s mindfulness. Everybody Works is a melting pot of influences, recalling Yo La Tengo’s upbeat indie rock on “1 Billion Dogs,” Duster’s lo-fi drone on “(Bedhead)” and Carly Rae Jepsen’s pop sensibilities on “Baybee.” – Patrick Pilch

best albums of 2017 Converge24. Converge
The Dusk In Us


For a band with an insanely storied career, it’s hard to imagine Converge being to push beyond the intense and often soul rending compositions of their past. Oh, how wrong we all were. The Dusk In Us is a rabid affair, equally transcendent as it is pure vitriolic spite. The album is cruelly organic, as if it poured straight from Bannon and crew’s own veins, and there is a demonstrable progression of both raw intensity and throttling emotion throughout. From the title track’s melancholy dirge turned solemn and apocalyptic sludge meditation, to the engulfing fury of “I Can Tell You About Pain,” this is an album that reverberates with the listener for days to come. – Brian Roesler

Lorde melodrama review23. Lorde


Given her age and the level of art she’s created, it’s easy to place Lorde on a well deserved, goddess-level pedestal—making the stunning oil portrait album artwork for Melodrama all the more fitting. But throughout the album, it doesn’t feel like Lorde, or Ella Yelich-O’connor, has grown jaded by the attention. If anything, she has an easy time poking fun at her fame, with clever jabs like “down the back, but who cares, still the Louvre” on “Louvre,” show she’s not 25, not even 22 yet, and won’t succumb to standards or expectations. Sure, she reached top 40 at the age of 16, but she still feels approachable, experiencing the fundamental highs and lows growing pains present. Her commitment to sticking to her guns leads to stunning anthems like “Green Light,” and they certainly flex her vocal abilities as well. Melodrama is a blueprint for growing up female in this day and age, providing clever insight from a place of both curiosity and honesty. Lorde elegantly jumps from the cringey to the blissful, wearing all the hats any other 20-year-old would—swinging from upbeat synth fused “Supercut” to the honest, haunting “Liability.” – Virginia Croft

best albums of 2017 War on Drugs22. The War on Drugs
A Deeper Understanding


Though the rich production of The War On Drugs’ 2014 opus Lost in the Dream proved multi-instrumentalist Adam Granduciel to be one of his generation’s sharpest and most impressive artists, 2017’s A Deeper Understanding furthers this claim, making for Granduciel’s lushest and most complex album to date. Channeling Springsteen and the usual, sprawling guitar epics, the melancholic ambiance that A Deeper Understanding spews amounts to a landmark musical statement of neo-psychedelia and jam rock. Granduciel proves that, even as old age comes creeping along, that doesn’t mean that your best has already passed. – Timothy Michalik

Power Trip Nightmare Logic review21. Power Trip
Nightmare Logic

(Southern Lord)

“SWING OF THE AXE!” Power Trip’s Nightmare Logic contained some of the hardest hitting riffs and grooves of 2017. The Texas quintet plays a fiery brand of crossover thrash metal that rivals long-time acts like Toxic Holocaust and Sodom. “Executioner’s Tax” and “Firing Squad” were certified head bangers guaranteed to put a snarl on a face or a fist in the air. Power Trip’s music also took on a much greater meaning this year. Their songs became anthems, as their unabashed willingness to oppose the current regime through their music and their social platforms made them a voice for the dejected—especially in metal. – Cody Davis

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