20. Moses Sumney - Aromanticism
Watch: "Lonely World"
Watch: "Indulge Me"
19. The Fresh & Onlys - Wolf Lie Down
Watch: "One of a Kind"
Watch: "Impossible Man"
18. Feist - Pleasure
17. Fleet Foxes - Crack-Up
Watch: "Third of May/Ōdaigahara"
Watch: "Fool’s Errand"
16. Ibeyi - Ash
Watch - "Deathless" (featuring Kamasi Washington)
Watch: "I Wanna Be Like You"
Watch: "Me Voy" (featuring Mala Rodríguez)
15. Spoon - Hot Thoughts
Watch - "Do I Have to Talk You Into It"
Watch: "Hot Thoughts"
Watch: "I Ain’t the One"
14. Laura Marling - Semper Femina
Watch: "Next Time"
Watch: "The Valley"
Watch: "Nothing, Not Nearly"
13. The New Pornographers - Whiteout Conditions
Watch: "Whiteout Conditions"
Watch: "High Ticket Attractions"
12. The National - Sleep Well Beast
Watch: "Dark Side of the Gym"
Watch: "Walk It Back"
Watch: "Sleep Well Beast"
11. The War in Drugs - A Deeper Understanding
Watch: "Holding On"
Watch: "Nothing to Find"
10. Bedouine - Bedouine
Bedouine is Azniv Korkejian, who was born and raised in the Middle East (Syria and Saudi Arabia respectively), before landing in the US in the latter part of her childhood. It's her experience in the US which seems to lend itself most to her music, recalling 1970s folk. I knew next to nothing about the artist before first hearing her debut record, but I was captured from the start of the opening track.
Watch: "One of These Days"
Watch: "Solitary Daughter"
Watch: "Dusty Eyes"
9. Aldous Harding - Party
I first heard of Aldous Harding when she opened for Deerhunter on tour in 2016. I sensed that other concert-goers seemed either unimpressed or weirded out by her, but there was something incredible about both her music and her presence. I looked for her first album at show, with no luck, so I immediately purchased online when I got home. She's still a little weird on this second album, but is far more polished. The best example is in the lead single from the record, "Imagining My Man".
Watch: "Imagining My Man"
8. Rostam - Half-Light
I was worried about future of Vampire Weekend when Rostam announced he was leaving the band. Regardless of their future, he has proven that his work outside of the band will continue to be excellent. The first example came with his collaborative album with Hamilton Leithauser in 2016, but he shines on his own here, as well. I can hear elements in his music that contributed to his past work, but his own perspective and voice shine through on his proper debut.
Watch: "Bike Dream"
7. Gorillaz - Humanz
I have a dirty secret to tell, I think this is the best Gorillaz album. The band's best songs aren't on this record, but this represents their best complete vision (IMHO). The collaborations here are amazing, ranging from Vince Staples to De La Soul to Mavis Staples to Savages' Jehnny Beth. The Vince Staples collaboration that opens the album is probably my favorite and ends with what may be the most incredible rap line of 2017 (you'll have to listen below to find out)!
Watch: "Saturn Barz" (featuring Popcaan)
Watch: "Ascension" (featuring Vince Staples)
6. Wolf Parade - Cry Cry Cry
While it was sad when Wolf Parade went on hiatus, I was leery of their return. I've sometimes found that a band's return sees them become a mere shadow of their peak (see: The Dismemberment Plan). They first teased their return with a short EP, which left me underwhelmed, but this album floored me. My favorite of theirs remains their debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, but this is a far better return than many other bands have been able to achieve.
Watch: "Valley Boy"
Watch: "King of Piss and Paper"/"Artificial Life"
5. Dirty Projectors - Dirty Projectors
This is more of a David Longstreth solo record, one on which the artist ostensibly lays his soul bare following the end of his relationship with former bandmate Amber Coffman. Some details that have come out since the release of this album call into question its honesty, and lessens its emotional impact. Still, this was on repeat in the early part of the year, and I think it's a great record. Dirty Projectors have always been a little weird, but that weirdness is best contained here.
Watch: "Up in Hudson"
Watch: "Cool Your Heart" (featuring D∆WN)
Watch: "Little Bubble"
4. St. Vincent - MASSEDUCTION
So until a couple of weeks ago, this album was on my favorites list, but not this high. St. Vincent had a concert in Cincinnati a few weeks ago and the incredible live show bolstered the strengths of the record. Every time that I listen to the record now, I'm transported back to the theater and reminded again of just how amazing of a performer and musician that she is.
Watch: "Los Ageless"
Watch: "New York"
3. Lorde - Melodrama
My bias against pop music is something that I've been starting to release myself from in the past couple of years. Still, my initial impression of Lorde when she released Pure Heroine was colored by this bias. Over time, I came to love a few singles from that album. She's even better this time around, matured by her experiences over the past few years and even more assured of her own unique perspective and style.
Watch: "Perfect Places"
Watch: "Green Light"
2. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.
I was apprehensive when I heard the direction that Lamar was taking for his fourth album; trap isn't my favorite genre. But, ever the auteur, he has elevated the sound far beyond what anyone else is doing. It doesn't sound like a copy of anything; he is one of those few artists who, regardless of the changes he makes between records, always sound definitive.
Watch: "LOYALTY." (featuring Rihanna)
1. SZA - Ctrl
I'd heard SZA's music prior to her stand-out feature on the opener of Rihanna's ANTI-, but it was that feature that got me most excited for her work. The delays on the release of the record only served to increase its anticipation. Fortunately, it has lived up to, and exceeded, the excitement and hype built up over its multi-year release cycle. My favorite thing about SZA is just how unconcerned she is with decorum. It's in her lyrics, her dancing in her videos, everything with her image and her sound!
Watch: "The Weekend"
Watch: "Drew Barrymore"