The 50 best albums of 2017

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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.

iTunes 

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.

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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.

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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.

iTunes 

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.

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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.

iTunes 

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.

iTunes 

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 RebelDiaspora, 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.

iTunes 

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.

iTunes 

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