Each week this year, we’ve happily listened to as much new music as possible to help ease a major burden of the modern listener — selecting the best new music from a seemingly infinite number of choices. In doing so, we have slowly assembled a list of the best albums of 2017. On our annual year-end list, you will find a living, breathing portrait of some of the most exciting sounds currently being made by both newcomers and long-established artists.
From famed bands reuniting to fresh faces breaking down barriers, 2017 has been a musical whirlwind that closely mirrors the fast-changing world. The best albums of 2017 exhibited new and interesting viewpoints that have often been forced to the background. Whether it’s the profoundly personal statements from a widower heard on Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked At Me, the compelling perspectives on love and loss from rising female-led bands like Alvvays and Jay Som, or the unique and intimate look inside the mind of the world’s most important rapper, Kendrick Lamar, these albums will challenge you as much as they entertain. In a world that seems to be increasingly drawing inwards, this new music is more vital than ever.
For your listening pleasure, here are our top 50 albums of 2017. Want to explore in more depth? Check out our full Spotify playlist. Interested in other music? Be sure to check out the best songs to work to, best songs about money, and best songs about friendship.
1. Kendrick Lamar — DAMN.
Where 2015’s blockbuster To Pimp A Butterfly was a broad-stroked, socially charged jazz-rap piece of art, Kendrick Lamar‘s fourth studio album is a significantly more intimate work. An introverted look into the mind of the man who many have declared the savior of modern hip-hop, DAMN. is a post-trap masterpiece that eschews 2015’s wall-of-sound approach, and instead embraces subtle stereo mixing and doubled vocals to clearly illustrate Lamar’s inner voice. It’s in this stripped-down setting that audiences are offered astonishingly honest glimpses into the mind of a true musical genius, with lyrics like, “Look, I feel like I can’t breathe/Look, I feel like I can’t sleep/Look, I feel heartless, often off this/Feelin’ of falling/Of fallin’ apart with darkest hours, lost it.” Each of the album’s 14 tracks is centered on a specific topic (loyalty, pride, lust, fear, etc.) and comes across as a self-reflective sermon. Together, they form a series of musical moments that stand in stark contrast to the hubris-filled jams that dominate today’s airwaves.
2. Mount Eerie — A Crow Looked At Me
“When real death enters the house, all poetry is dumb,” sings songwriter Phil Elverum on the opening track of A Crow Looked At Me, a powerful set of eleven songs that were written immediately following the death of his wife, artist Geneviève Castrée. Where loss is often employed by songwriters as a hook to catch heart-heavy listeners at their lowest moments, A Crow Looked At Me instead makes death more haunting by painting it with plain, naked realism. This is a clear and honest album from the perspective of a man who has experienced tragic, inconsolable loss, a person for whom beautiful melodies and hopeful messages have lost all traction.
3. Perfume Genius — No Shape
Gorgeous production, superb songwriting, and a shocking musical depth abound on No Shape, the fourth studio album from Seattle songwriter Mike Hadreas. Those who miss the dramatic, complex pop music of late legend David Bowie will find many of the same musical cues inside this beautiful work of contemporary chamber pop, where balanced blends of world rhythms, guitars, and synthesizers are joined by a thick glue of lyrical self-investigation. In the single-driven pop universe, it’s becoming increasingly rare to find albums that are worth dedicated, front-to-back listening time, but in this case we must insist: Sit down and listen to its full 43 minutes without stopping. If you’re anything like us, you’ll find yourself doing it more than once.
4. Alvvays — Antisocialites
The award for Catchiest Album Of The Year easily goes to the sophomore release from Canadian indie-pop outfit Alvvays, whose all-killer, no-filler Antisocialites grabs your eardrums from every conceivable angle. Driving drumbeats, atmospheric guitars, and the crisp voice of frontwoman Molly Rankin serve as the stickiest elements of each song, forming irresistible ear candy that we found ourselves coming back to over and over again.
5. Jay Som — Everybody Works
Songwriter Melina Duterte plays every instrument on Everbody Works, a near-perfect work of bedroom pop that sounds as slowly and painstakingly assembled as it almost certainly was. Dreamy lyrics melt inside of slick drum grooves and subtle guitar work on an album that always feels warm and personal, even at it’s most blurry and lo-fi moments. When people tell you the golden age of American indie rock is over — or insist that musicians these days aren’t doing anything new or compelling — please put this on.
6. Vince Staples — Big Fish Theory
Vince Staples may not be considered by the masses to be as much of a visionary as fellow Californian Kendrick Lamar, but critics have long compared the two rappers for their uncanny ability to find success while audibly swimming against hip-hop’s mainstream. Big Fish Theory, the rapper’s sophomore studio release, offers the same musical density listeners loved on Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, but substitutes Lamar’s jazz-influenced backing tracks for Detroit-influenced electronic music. Synth-driven collages pair well with Staples’ sparse and interesting lyrics throughout the album, creating a record that seems more suited to a hi-fi system than a car stereo, despite its street-fueled subject matter.
7. Sampha — Process
The pillowy voice of British singer Sampha has long played a supporting role inside the songs of some of the world’s biggest pop names (Drake, Kanye West, Solange, and Frank Ocean among them), but it was on this year’s debut solo album that we first got to know the singer more intimately. A creative and diverse blend of modern R&B material laden with live instrumentation, Process offers close-to-the-bone glimpses inside Sampha’s head from a wide variety of musical angles, be it groove-driven dance music or stripped-down ballads.
8. Slowdive — Slowdive
Bands that haven’t released new music in more than two decades rarely come back from the dead, and those that do rarely make anything worth listening to. Legendary shoegaze pioneers Slowdive buck that trend with their new self-titled release — their fourth album and first new material in 22 years. The record picks up exactly where the band left off, serving listeners some of the finest ethereal dream pop of the year. Atmospheric guitars, drums, and synthesizers are the centerpiece of this huge and dramatic album, a musical effort that pairs best with expansive outdoor landscapes.
9. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit — The Nashville Sound
A blend of nostalgic country tones and astute observational songwriting, The Nashville Sound is lyrically and musically honest, a trait that has long been bleeding out of Tennessee’s famed music hub in favor of radio-friendly songs about trucks, girls, and cheap lager. Songwriter Jason Isbell‘s Nashville is still one concerned about more current and personal matters, as the album unfolds tunes about anxiety and racial inequality in between more classic subjects like love and loss. As refreshing and cathartic as it is relaxing, this is an album that reminds you that unique and progressive viewpoints abound, even in places you don’t expect to find them. In an era in which too many things are painted in black and white, that’s a powerful achievement.
10. Moses Sumney — Aromanticism
Despite layered strings, tiered vocal arrangements, and numerous tricks of modern production, Moses Sumney‘s Aromanticism comes across as a minimalistic electro-soul masterpiece, thanks largely to the crisp alto of the songwriter and a distinct lack of drum grooves. Sumney’s soulful voice is so encapsulating that you often forget about the backdrop, only to be awakened by elegant production choices like beautiful harp lines or shakers placed right on the edges of the soundstage. This is an album that feels lovingly assembled, a clean-edged soul record that thoroughly deserves as much attention as you can throw at it.
11. Father John Misty — Pure Comedy
A masterpiece of post-irony, Pure Comedy provides a Randy Newman-esque backdrop for the Donald Trump era, shining a light on the many contradictions inside modern society with a wry and sometimes abrasive sense of humor. Songwriter Josh Tillman places his astute and dark vocal observations alongside acoustic guitars, horns, and punchy grooves, managing to ride the paper-thin edge between an educated superiority complex and careless, almost reckless honesty in a truly unique and compelling manner.
12. SZA — Ctrl
Budding Top Dawg Entertainment star SZA firmly grips the spotlight with her first full-length album, a compelling work of contemporary R&B that does well to showcase her clean and rhythmic lyrical style. Fellow TDE member Kendrick Lamar appears as one of very few guests on this first outing, a group of 14 songs that relies heavily on her own talent rather than on the abilities of others. That’s a welcome change from the feature-heavy debuts that often occupy this space, and one that easily places her alongside Moses Sumney and Sampha as one of the most important new voices in the R&B universe.
13. The War On Drugs — A Deeper Understanding
A Deeper Understanding is more tightly composed than The War on Drugs’ previous album, 2014’s Lost in the Dream, but somehow manages to sound more epic. Every track is dense, with guitars, keyboards, harmonicas, and other instruments layered atop each other like sandstone formations. The songs are built on steady rhythms and bright melodies, swelling to grand choruses where the
14. Tinariwen — Elwan
Round African rhythms and bluesy guitar tones are the heartbeat of the latest album from Malian artists Tinariwen, which contains some of the most downright soulful compositions we’ve heard in the past several years. Much of the album’s dark beauty comes as a result of personal struggles and turmoil in their homeland, with one member of the group having even been kidnapped (and eventually released) by Islamist group Ansar Dine. Though all of the lyrics are sung in the band’s native Tamashek, and the scales and time signatures may be all new to your eardrums, there is something approachable and familiar about the group’s latest music, with songs like the guitar-and-voice-driven Ittus painting clear and eerily familiar images of a nation’s people in distress.
15. The National — Sleep Well Beast
On their seventh album, The National returns to familiar themes — feeling uncomfortable in a room, the little tensions that tear at a relationship — and familiar sounds. Bryan Devendorf’s tempestuous drumming, the Dessner brothers’ dancing guitars, and Matt Berninger’s baritone crooning are all present, but as always, the band experiments with new twists on their signature sound. Among the stylistic flourishes on Sleep Well Beast are drum machines, staccato trumpets, and furious guitar solos. Between the swaggering rock of the first half and the roving electronic ballads of the second, Sleep Well Beast shows The National is a band that only gets bolder with age.
16. Ryan Adams — Prisoner
Alt-county hero Ryan Adams‘ Prisoner easily ranks as the best breakup album of the year, a driving work of contemporary rock with painful and personal edges. The first album since Adams’ marriage to Mandy Moore ended is a more mature version of the songwriter’s earlier heartbreak-fueled material, with ’80s-influenced production that’s glued together by elegant lyrical explorations. “Everyday I find another little thread of silver,” he sings midway through the album, “Waiting for me when I wake/Some place on the pillow/Then I see the empty space beside me and remember/I feel empty, I feel tired, I feel worn/Nothing really matters anymore.”
17. Big Thief — Capacity
With Capacity, Brooklyn quartet Big Thief expand upon the intimate songwriting style that drew listeners in on last year’s debut album Masterpiece, offering complex and deeply personal folk rock compositions that ruminate on love, childhood, and human nature. Like its predecessor, the album finds success in its vibrant and compelling arrangements and recorded performances, with layered guitar tones, shifting rhythms, and beautiful vocal pairings that grab your ears and draw you in.
18. Tyler, The Creator — Flower Boy
Controversial rapper Tyler, The Creator has earned his fair share of criticism over the years for his use of misogynistic and homophobic lyrics early in his career, but as he has personally matured, so has his subject matter. With Flower Boy, the rapper looks more inward than ever, investigating his own conflicted sexuality and various other, deeply personal matters over dense and creative hip-hop beats. Where much of his previous work can seem to be entirely fabricated to troll audiences or generate a few laughs among a California in-crowd, Flower Boy is imbued with authentic personality, a record on which the artist literally implores people to “be who they are” from the outset.
19. Grandaddy — Last Place
The first album from indie rock heroes Grandaddy in more than 10 years, Last Place is a comeback record with something new to offer. Though songwriter Jason Lytle hasn’t changed his main formula — he still writes crisp lyrical structures atop driving drum grooves, with distorted guitars and classic synthesizer tones spicing things up — the recipe for each of the album’s 12 tracks feels more concentrated and robust than on previous releases. This is the rare reintroduction of a band that easily stands alongside their best early work.
20. Jay-Z — 4:44
Who else but Jay-Z could turn a therapy session into a master class on finances, a dance party, and then back into a therapy session? On the 10-track 4:44, the acclaimed rapper kills his ego (Kill Jay-Z), dissects race relations (The Story of O.J.), and extols the virtues of establishing generational wealth (Legacy). Everything on the record feels more personal than ever, with the rapper even going so far as to stagger an otherwise pristine flow on the confessional, Grammy-nominated title track, because conversations rarely have a rhythm fit for radio. This is Jay Z’s first classic album since returning from “retirement” in 2003, and hopefully a sign the 48-year-old icon is far from done.
21. Jlin — Black Origami
A groundbreaking work of electronic music that blends Chicago’s footwork with more primitive Detroit-bred tones, Black Origami is as much a musical exploration as it is an artistic statement. Created by Indiana-based producer Jerrilynn Patton, the album offers a dizzying array of fast-paced rhythms alongside quick vocal samples, creating avant-garde soundscapes that are both physically jarring and head-boppingly clean — and sometimes inexplicably both. Because of its jagged musical edges, this album will be an acquired taste for many listeners, but it’s also the kind of distinctive musical expression that we expect to see emulated (perhaps with less drama) by big-name producers in the coming years.
22. Valley Queen — Destroyer EP
Fans of Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young will find something familiar and exciting in the music of LA-based Valley Queen, whose Destroyer EP offers the same piercing female vocals and warm rock style made iconic by the legendary rock-and-rollers. Elegant and introverted lyrics combine with clean and precise arrangements over the course of these five tracks, a debut release that serves as a near-perfect introduction to this young band.
23. Twain — Rare Feeling
There were perhaps no two more powerful opening singles this year than Solar Pilgrim and The Sorcerer, the first two songs on the latest album from New York folk band Twain. Sparse and delicate guitars pair with the soaring alto of songwriter Mt. Davidson on both, driving home dark and powerful lyrics about love and loss, and settling you in for a compelling journey through the mind of one of the folk world’s most important new voices. This is one to put on with the lights out, or to take with you to your favorite quiet place for careful consideration.
24. Braxton Cook — Somewhere In Between
Saxophonist/vocalist Braxton Cook blazes new ground on the aptly named Somewhere In Between, combining cutting-edge jazz compositions with the sounds of contemporary electronic artists like Flying Lotus and Thundercat, all while throwing in a dash of ’90s R&B for good measure. Shredding instrumental solos divide simple vocal choruses, with fat grooves acting as a glue to fuse everything together. Don’t let the gray hairs tell you jazz is dead; jazz is this.
25. (Sandy) Alex G — Rocket
Alex Giannascoli has long been revered by members of his own generation as among the best young songwriters alive, earning himself the admiration of acclaimed pop successes like Frank Ocean (who employed Giannascoli as a collaborator on last year’s smash success Blonde). On Rocket, listeners get the same stream-of-consciousness lyrics and clean instrumentation offered on previous releases, this time codified by more simple musical forms and better overall production. The sounds on the album are as diverse as its subject matter, ranging from gentle acoustic guitars and strings to remixed digital beats and distorted vocals.
26. Kevin Morby — City Music
Though it came shortly after last year’s excellent Singing Saw, the sophomore release from songwriter Kevin Morby is a fully formed effort that focuses on the hustle and bustle of modern city life. With a Dylan-like deadpan, Morby offers interesting observational lyrics, surrounded by a wall of sound that includes numerous synthesizer and percussion elements. The growth in Morby’s songwriting ability is palpable here, and sets the stage for a long, successful career — especially if he can keep up this pace.
27. Migos — Culture
Regardless of where you stand on modern trap music, Atlanta hip-hop icons Migos provided some of the most essential listening of the year with Culture, a slick work of Southern hip-hop with clean lyrics and expertly simple beatmaking. Densly rhythmic lyrics occupy the vast majority of the album’s 13 tracks, paired with Atlanta’s legendary drum sounds and floating synthesizer tones, making for an album that’s much more sophisticated than initially meets the ear.
28. Steve Lacy — Demo
It’s hard to believe when you hear the finished product, but the bulk of this album from 18-year-old Southern California producer Steve Lacy was produced on an iPhone. A series of bite-sized singles that blend soulful lyrics with groovy drum and bass lines, this 13-minute debut easily ranks as one of the most thoroughly unique releases of the year, and is made all the more impressive in that you can take it all in on a single coffee break.
29. The XX — I See You
Prior to the release of I See You, The XX were known for their subdued indie-pop arrangements, not effortlessly mixing in a proper Hall & Oates hook. That changed in 2017. Lyrically, the anguish and rampant disillusionment are still there. But the London trio’s R&B-laced core is now joined by four-to-the-floor beats, lush strings, and a steady pulse of dub, culminating in a patchwork of guitars and electronic flourishes that push and pull at all the right moments. We have producer-bandmate Jamie xx to thank for taking the band’s earlier sound, disassembling it, and sculpting the pieces back together into something far richer.
30. Mac Demarco — This Old Dog
Slacker rock hero Mac Demarco‘s latest album, This Old Dog, exhibits the same slow-paced song structures that fans have come to expect from the gap-toothed goofball, but this time they are wrapped up in a shinier overall package. Songs like My Old Man showcase a new penchant for digital drum and keyboard sounds, but still feature the same quirky lyrics and timeless grooves that originally drew listeners to Demarco as a bedroom artist. While it may not top our list, this album easily ranks among the most compelling of the year.
31. Spoon — Hot Thoughts
Nine albums and nearly 25 years into an impeccable career, Britt Daniel and company remain one of the most most endearing acts in all of rock music. And while the Austin-based band’s latest release is more about refinement than reinvention — it tweaks the group’s tried-and-true formula only ever so slightly — it’s a welcome change. Daniel is still a dynamo behind the mic, but this time his small-stakes lyricism and penchant for vignettes are indebted as much to funk and electronica as they are his taut guitar work. The jazzy, instrumental bookends are just the icing on the proverbial, albeit unpredictable, cake that is Hot Thoughts.
32. Converge — The Dusk In Us
After 27 years and nine studio albums, the entire heavy music scene takes a pause when Converge drops new material. Mixed and produced at guitarist Kurt Ballou’s iconic GodCity Studio once again, The Dusk In Us offers some of the most experimental material Converge has recorded yet. The album reveals a band that’s as comfortable with new ideas as they are writing some of the most savage songs out there, with every track tying together thematic ebbs and flows to create a cathartic listening experience.
33. Camp Howard — Juice EP
Richmond, Virginia outfit Camp Howard use a colorful array of rhythms and guitar work on their Juice EP, a group of six well-thought-out songs that run the gamut from driving, ’80s-influenced pop to ragged ’90s grunge. Powerful beats are at the heart of this short and sweet work, with each song scratching a different rhythmic itch.
34. Julien Baker — Turn Out The Lights
Gentle piano and guitar tones once again lay the foundation for songwriter Julien Baker‘s heart wrenching lyrics on her latest album, Turn Out The Lights. Sparse and lonesome, Turn Out The Lights offers the same intimate and graceful song structures as her 2015 debut Sprained Ankle, but this time there are even more developed arrangements to hold your attention. If you’re in need of an album to hold your hand when you’re down, this is it.
35. Land Of Talk — Life After Youth
From thick drum grooves to succinct pop choruses, everything feels tight and polished on Life After Youth, the first album from Montreal-based band Land Of Talk in seven years. But this record is less a return to form than an intelligent reformulation, with frontwoman/songwriter Elizabeth Powell showcasing the same penchant for hooky pop that first garnered her critical acclaim at the height of the late-oughts indie rock era. All of that is now complemented by heady synthesizer tones and more mature lyrical explorations.
36. Palehound — A Place I’ll Always Go
The sophomore album from Boston songwriter Ellen Kemper is a fuzzy work of indie rock that explores themes of love and loss with unabashed honesty. Written following the death of a friend, powerful lines like “Starting to count up to two/Another year of missing you/When the dust clears, where’s my body?” express deep personal pain in terms that anyone can understand, anchored by real experiences rather than tired pop-world projections.
37. Chastity Belt — I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone
Punchy kick drum and jangly guitar lines slowly bring you into the first track of Chastity Belt‘s I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone, building up for over a minute before the opening lines: “You’re hard on yourself/Well, you can’t always be right/All those little things that keep you up at night/You should take some time to figure out your life.” What follows is a series of extremely relatable stories about self-examination and the anxiety of aging that are shaped into being by atmospheric guitars, warm vocals, and steady drum beats.
38. Beach Fossils — Somersault
Polished production and catchy songwriting make every song on Beach Fossils‘ third full-length album stick in your head as a stand-alone single, helping its short, 36-minute runtime roll by with astonishing speed and grace. Whether balancing strings with digital drum sounds, or working in a beautiful jazzy flute solo midway through a funky rock jam, everything on Somersault exhibits expert placement and production choice.
39. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings — Soul of a Woman
The late soul icon Sharon Jones spent days between chemotherapy treatments recording this powerhouse of a final album, but sadly she died before it was released. A beautiful exclamation point on a long and powerful career, Soul of a Woman features the same funky horn arrangements and throwback Motown style that brought the singer much acclaim. She left us with an overtly positive musical message that is made more powerful by the difficult fight Jones was undergoing during its creation.
40. Japanese Breakfast — Soft Sounds From Another Planet
Despite having a sound that’s as expansive and otherworldly as the cosmos itself, Soft Sounds from Another Planet is an album rooted in the here and now. Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner uses her sophomore LP to investigate the many contradictions of life, often with gauzy vocals and brazen guitars that toe the line between classic indie rock (read: Modest Mouse) and the reverb-soaked shoegaze of the early ’90s. It’s the Philly transplant’s honest, bittersweet approach to indie pop that humanizes it, even when she sings about falling in love with a robot atop a bed of saxophones and dreamy electro.
41. Happyness — Write In
Lo-fi vocals and shimmering guitars pair with relaxed drumbeats and tongue-in-cheek humor on the second album from this British rock trio. It’s an artistic effort that’s outwardly elegant but clearly meant for introverts. Though it is more developed and accessible than the band’s previous work, Write In manages to retain their charming and friendly aesthetic, with each song coming across as a warm and contemplative blanket of sound to wrap around yourself.
42. Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile — Lotta Sea Lice
Two powerhouses of indie speech-song, Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile pair perfectly on their collaborative album Lotta Sea Lice, finishing each others’ witty observational lyrics and sharing fun guitar licks from across the globe — Barnett is an Australian native, while Vile lives in the United States. Lighthearted and fun, this album provides a welcome release for those feeling stuck in the often heady musical mud of 2017.
43. Thundercat — Drunk
Dense jazz-influenced chord structures, crisp electronic instruments and whimsical lyrics lay the foundation of Thundercat‘s fourth studio album, Drunk, a quirky and occasionally hard-to-decipher work that enthralls throughout its diverse 23-track run. Big names offer their support throughout the poppiest numbers, with veteran vocalists like Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins pairing up on Show You The Way, and Kendrick Lamar offering a guest verse on Walk On By. Such juxtopositions never feel out of place, with Drunk sliding through your ears as a cohesive collage of fun and bright perspectives.
44. Future Islands — The Far Field
Future Islands continue to rank among the catchiest bands on earth with the release of The Far Field, a beat-forward pop album with a deep and danceable underbelly. Rather than taking huge steps in a new musical direction, the Baltimore band focuses on slow and steady development, giving listeners something in the same wheelhouse as previous releases, but with the more refined overall aesthetic that can only come from even more time spent together on stage and in studios.
45. Hoops — Routines
Washy bedroom pop is in high supply these days, but to our ears there was no more approachable release in the genre than Indiana-based band Hoops‘ Routines, a bright and friendly set of 11 songs that warmed our hearts during a long and dreary year. Cassette tape fidelity mixes with bright synthesizer and guitar, smooth vocals, and funky drumbeats to form irresistible slices of pop.
46. Laura Marling — Semper Femina
Semper Femina sees wunderkind producer Blake Mills leaving an unmistakable mark on the music of British songwriter Laura Marling, taking lessons learned in the trenches with acclaimed artists like Alabama Shakes, Jim James, and John Legend, and applying them to the lush folk of the talented young songwriter. Vast orchestral arrangements and softly layered vocals surround beautiful narratives throughout the album, with each tiny musical element placed gently and carefully in the sound by steady and hyper-creative hands.
47. The New Pornographers — Whiteout Conditions
Many releases from longtime indie stalwarts sound like career continuations aimed at long-term fans instead of compelling musical explorations designed to garner fresh ears. That makes us all the more excited about the latest album from longtime underground heroes The New Pornographers. It’s a grouping of 11 synthesizer-fueled pop songs that we found playing on repeat when it launched this spring.
48. Ty Segall — Ty Segall
Rollicking songs replete with shreddy guitar licks, fat drum grooves, and powerful harmonies make Ty Segall‘s self-titled ninth studio album an absolute gem of modern rock. It’s not all pomp and adrenaline, either, thanks to acoustic guitar-driven tracks like Orange Color Queen that remind you Segall is indeed one of his generation’s master songwriters, even without the lo-fi fuzz.
49. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah — Ruler Rebel, Diaspora, and The Emancipation Proclamation
Trumpeter/composer Christian Scott celebrates the centennial of the first-ever jazz recordings with an astonishing series of three heavily politicized albums in 2017. They all showcase the same passionate spark for civil justice and shredding talent on the horn that has spread his name outside of typical jazz-nerd circles over the past decade. Ruler Rebel, Diaspora, and The Emancipation Procrastination vary in terms of scope and instrumentation, but each blends acoustic and electronic instruments and combines numerous African-American music traditions for a fresh-sounding assortment of songs that is well-suited to both jazz halls and nightclubs alike.
50. LCD Soundsystem — American Dream
The first LCD Soundsystem album in seven years (since the band “broke up” after a documentary-filmed 2011 date at Madison Square Garden) manages to retain the same catchy edge that grew the band’s underground acclaim, but with more thoughtful subject matter. The band uses expanded musical space to explore themes of aging and the meaning of life, coming across as a more mature version of their raucous former selves.
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