The 10 best albums of 2017

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Published December 21, 2017


STILL FROM LIL PEEP’S VIDEO FOR “AWFUL THINGS”

10. Good Time OST, Oneohtrix Point Never

Oneohtrix Point Never treads the well-worn path blazed by electronic artists providing soundtracks to films, like Johnny Jewel for Lost River [2014], Mica Levi for Under the Skin [2013], and Harold Faltermeyer for Top Gun [1986]. Still, the producer is on perfect form here, adding burning intensity to the Safdie Brothers’ heist drama Good Time. He transports the rich sounds of Tangerine Dream into the bleeding-edge present. It’s by far the best soundtrack of the year. — Trey Taylor

9. No Shape, Perfume Genius

Don’t be surprised that Mike Hadras’s latest ended up on our list—we’ve been following his career since his debut back in 2010. On his fourth record, Hadras fleshes out a zone somewhere in between bruised vulnerability and high drama, as illustrated by the surreal, borderline-Shakespearean video for “Slip Away.” Yet even at his most conceptual, Hadras never forgets to craft hooks. This is sophisticated music you can still scream along to in the shower. — Ezra Marcus

8. Process, Sampha

Sampha has finally gotten his due. The reverb-heavy piano and excruciatingly personal stories on Process kept it floating to the top of my Spotify playlists as the months passed. Looking back over the year, it was the one album I was surprised had been released in 2017, because it feels like I’ve already spent an age with it. It remains supremely refreshing whenever his soaring vocals pour through the speakers. — Trey Taylor

7. Take Me Apart, Kelela

In 2013, Kelela burst onto the scene with her mixtape Cut 4 Me, and the wait for her debut album proved to be four long, tantalizing years. It turns out the wait was worth it. Take Me Apart is a mesmerizing collection of avant-R&B from an artist who deftly balances experimentation and melody to create a body of work that feels sensual and alien at the same time. The production, from sonic provocateurs like Arca and Ariel Rechtshaid, is at once accessible and unplaceable. But the star of the show is undoubtedly Kelela’s voice, a sultry and alluring instrument that is uniquely her own. — Ben Barna

6. BLUE LIPS [lady wood phase II], Tove Lo

At 30, with two studio albums under her belt, Tove Lo has become the de facto leader for a new vanguard of Northern European pop stars—MØ, ALMA, Tove Styrke, Sigrid and Anna of the North all trail in her wake. How Lo separates herself from the others—with whom she frequently collaborates—is with her uninhibited approach to singing about her sexuality. She has no fucks to give, as evidenced by the red luminescent handful of butt-cheek on her album’s cover. Her playful nature is the most refreshing angle you can bring to pop. — Trey Taylor

5. Playboi Carti, Playboi Carti

In a year when plenty of young rappers ran circles around themselves trying to seem cool and collected, the Atlanta native casually dunked on the competition with a magnetic debut that’s both fully-formed and barely there. Carti doesn’t beat you over the head with wordplay. He’d rather duck and weave around Pi’erre Bourne’s gorgeous beats like a boxer, sneaking in fluid ad-lib jabs you won’t get out of your head for months. Only the rarest talents make it look this easy. — Ezra Marcus

4. Pop 2, Charli XCX

This surprise mixtape came out after we’d already solidified this list, but it’s so good we had to make room (sorry, Alex G’s Rocket). XCX enlists a production dream team that includes PC Music’s A. G. Cook, futuristic beat-master Sophie, and even Scritti Politti keyboardist David Gamson (!), alongside a bumper crop of underground freaks (Tommy Cash, Mykki Blanco, Cupcakke…). But the real star is XCX herself. She sings, she raps, she cries, she laughs, she fucks, she fights. This is what pop music can and should sound like. — Ezra Marcus

3. DAMN., Kendrick Lamar

So much breathless praise has already been heaped on this album, and for good reason: it was perfect for the disquieting times we found ourselves in this year, in which the personal became political. It is also a perfect record on its own; a winding and furious portrait of America as told by a master storyteller. Back in August, Interview called Lamar our greatest living rapper—listen to DAMN. to see why. — Matt Mullen

2. Melodrama, Lorde

One of the year’s biggest mysteries is how Lorde’s Melodrama did not become her 1989—that is to say, a world-tilting mega-smash. The Kiwi singer’s long-awaited sophomore album was stacked with pristine pop gems, and while it was beloved by critics and fans, it failed to leave its mark on the charts. We don’t get it. With an assist from Jack Antonoff’s stadium-sized production, Lorde proved herself remarkably adept at writing authentic, emotional music couched around undeniable hooks. In any other universe, “SuperCut” is a number one smash. In this one, it’s just a perfect piece of songwriting wizardry on an album overflowing with it. — Ben Barna

1. Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 1, Lil Peep

Lil Peep’s debut studio album galvanized emo catharsis and hypnotic rap into an alien alloy of remarkable power. How did he do it? It’s hard to explain, other than to say that the Long Island artist born Gus Åhr vibrated on a particularly high frequency. His hooks on songs like “Awful Things” resonated with millions of young fans hungry for an emotional lodestar. Come Over… felt like a bolt from the blue, one of the few truly unique full-length statements this year, and it indicated a bright future for Åhr way up in pop’s stratosphere. Then he died of an overdose, in November, at the age of 21. This record should have been a thrilling introduction. It became a heartbreaking conclusion. — Ezra Marcus