The Skinny's Top 50 Albums of 2017

2017 has been quite an incredible year for music, so after much deliberation our music team have selected their favourite 50 of the year

Feature by Music Team | 29 Nov 2017

At the end of October we reached out to our music team, asking for their top ten albums of the year in order of preference; from 39 submissions we were left with 230 unique titles, and a bit of a task to try and calculate our top 50. Every record that features in this top 50 appeared in at least two of our writers' top ten; the higher up the overall list, the more writers' lists an album featured on, and the higher it came in those individual lists.

Our top album of the year was a clear winner featuring on 12 of our writers' lists, while the LPs taking the 49th and 50th spots each only featured on two. It was a close run thing in many cases, and the realisation that our writers loved well over 200 different albums this year just shows how amazing 2017 has been for music.

Special shout-outs must go to EMA, Pumarosa, Austra, Julien Baker, Wolf Alice, James Holden and the Animal Spirits, Princess Nokia, Idles, Songhoy Blues, Ibibio Sound Machine and Grandaddy who failed to chart despite being individual highlights for some of our writing team, and of course to Björk whose Utopia album came out too late to be considered.

Read on for the list; we've also created a handy 100-strong Spotify playlist featuring two tracks from each of our top 50 albums for your listening pleasure.

Without further ado, here is The Skinny's Top 50 Albums of 2017... in reverse order of course!

#50: Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
Pure Comedy, Joshua Tillman's third album as Father John Misty, was mostly written before the rise of Trump, and its subject matter is painstakingly prescient; it takes a deep, dark and farcical look at 21st-century culture. Listen to: Leaving L.A., The Memo

#49: The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
A Deeper Understanding is the fourth album from Philadelphian sextet The War on Drugs. It was their first album on a major label, and although we said in our review earlier in the year that it "lacks that spark that their previous releases had," it still featured among our writers' top choices. Listen to: Pain, Thinking of a Place

#48: Kelela – Take Me Apart
Kelela's long-awaited debut album, Take Me Apart may not appear as immediately unique as Kelela's previous work but there are layers upon layers of elements to be explored. Listen to: Waitin, S.O.S.

#47: Nadia Reid – Preservation
Back in February, New Zealander Nadia Reid told us her second album Preservation was about "romantic relationships and the things we experience as humans." Listen to: The Arrow and the Aim, Hanson St, Pt. 2 (A River)

#46: Little Dragon – Season High
After a pretty busy 2016 with some huge features on albums from Kaytranada, Flume and De La Soul, 2017 has truly been Little Dragon's year. Earlier this year, Yukimi Nagano told us, “There are quite a few songs on the album that are over four minutes and there’s one even going on eight minutes, but it’s just showing our classic ability of not knowing when to end a song.” Fine by us! Listen to: High, The Pop Life

#45: Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
2017 saw the Seattle-based band release their third studio album, Crack-Up, which was their first release on Nonesuch Records. It was the band's first release since 2011 and their first following a three-year-hiatus from 2013-16. Welcome back Foxes! Listen to: If You Need To, Keep Time On Me, Third of May / Ōdaigahara

#44: Alvvays – Antisocialites
Antisocialites is the second record from Canadia indie poppers, Alvvays. Its lyrical blend of sass, anger, dejection and defiance will be familiar to anyone who’s ever been pissed off at a partner and wanted to put it in a song; it's a pretty perfect autumnal album. Listen to: In Undertow, Your Type

#43: Algiers – The Underside of Power
Algiers' follow-up to their eponymous 2015 debut, The Underside of Power, is the answer to the world the band find themselves in. As a result of their new weapons and surroundings, there is now a directness and ferocity to Algiers' sound which their debut mostly just threatened. In short, Algiers are justifiably angry and we dig it. Listen to: The Underside of Power, Walk Like a Panther

#42: Priests – Nothing Feels Natural
American punk band Priests, fronted by the incredible power of Katie Alice Greer, released their debut studio album, Nothing Feels Natural back in January. We caught the four-piece back in May and said, "This is the kind of punk rock show most people can only dream of and Priests are the perfect band to be at the centre of it." Listen to: Jj, Nothing Feels Natural

#41: Blanck Mass – World Eater
World Eater is the third solo album from Fuck ButtonsBenjamin John Power, aka Blanck Mass, and it's as dark and brilliant as we've come to expect. In an interview with Power back in February he told us, “The title is a reference to both the inner beast inside human beings, that when grouped en masse, stops us from moving forward towards good... We do have these beasts within us. It’s a case of understanding the beast as opposed to letting it run amok.” Listen to: Please, Rhesus Negative

[Little Dragon by Martyna Maz]

#40: Brockhampton – Saturation II
California-based hip-hop collective and self-proclaimed "boy band" Brockhampton have astonishingly already released two albums this year – Saturation I and II – with a December release planned for III, but it's their middle record that's one of our favourite albums of the year. Listen to: Sweet, Gummy

#39: Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more compatible musical pairing than Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile. Barnett pairs lackadaisical delivery with sharp observations of modern life while Vile coats hazy existential ruminations in layers of reverb-laden rock. Lotta Sea Lice is a joyful, ambling product of two connected creative minds. Listen to: Over Everything, Blue Cheese

#38: Open Mike Eagle – Brick Body Kids Still Daydream
Brick Body Kids Still Daydream – inspired by the demolition of Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes – offers everything you’d expect from an Open Mike Eagle album and rivals Dark Comedy for the best in his catalogue. Listen to: Happy Wasteland Day, Brick Body Complex 

#37: Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound
On Cloud Nothings' fourth record Life Without Sound we hear frontman Dylan Baldi taking a more polished and ruminative approach. When we spoke to Baldi earlier in the year, he told us, "I’m proud of the words. I feel that they mean a little more to me than any other lyrics have – they’re not exactly narrative stories, but they’re definitely more that than the past records have been." Listen to: Things Are Right With You, Modern Act

#36: The xx – I See You
The xx turned a corner with their third long-player, I See You – coming to terms with long-buried grief and reflecting on alcoholism across the album’s brief 39 minutes, the trio have never sounded more confident. Listen to: Replica, Lips

#35: Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer
Ed Sheeran's best pal, aka NME's (unauthorised) cover-boy for depression, aka grime champ Stormzy released his debut album Gang Signs & Prayer this year and amid the heartfelt singing there are some true bangers to be found. Listen to: Shut Up, Big for Your Boots

#34: Alt-J – RELAXER
For a record so brief, RELAXER's ability to evoke scale – while still carrying the distinctive sound of the band that surprised us all with An Awesome Wave back in 2012 – is testament to Alt-J’s talents as artists. Listen to: In Cold Blood, 3WW

#33: Jlin – Black Origami
Black Origami is the second album from the Indiana producer. Released on Planet Mu, it features collaborations with the likes of Holly Herndon and William Basinski. Listen to: Black Origami, Nyakinyua Rise

#32: Jane Weaver – Modern Kosmology
Ethereal cosmic-pop purveyor Jane Weaver released her eighth studio album, Modern Kosmology, back in May and it's full of the usual folktronica pop gems we've come to expect from the Liverpudlian. Listen to: Did You See the Butterflies?, Slow Motion

#31: Forest Swords – Compassion
The key to Forest Swords' Compassion is the stark chasm between two dominating sound palettes – full, rich, emotional orchestration stands off against sinewy programmed beats, with found sounds and sampled voices forming the loosest of cords between them. Listen to: Panic, Sjurvival

[The xx by Cameron Brisbane]

#30: Jens Lekman – Life Will See You Now
There were signs that Life Will See You Now wouldn’t feel fresh. Luckily, the finished product is articulate and bubbling with energy and positivity – much like Lekman himself. Listen to: To Know Your Mission, What's That Perfume That You Wear?

#29: Hurray for the Riff Raff – The Navigator
Hurray for the Riff Raff is arguably the most overtly political act on the folk-rock scene right now, and given everything that’s going on in the world, with respect to people of colour and the LGBTQ+ community in particular, we suspected The Navigator would be a bit of a call to arms. Indeed, it is, and it delivers. Listen to: Pa'lante, Living in the City

#28: Methyl Ethel – Everything is Forgotten
Everything is Forgotten is the second album from Australian art rockers Methyl Ethel and features James Ford (Simian Mobile Disco) on production duties alongside Jake Webb. Listen to: Ubu, No. 28

#27: Feist – Pleasure
Leslie Feist’s long-awaited fifth LP Pleasure continues the trend of 2011’s Metals, heading in an even more esoteric direction than her smash hit record The Reminder. Mostly recorded live in studio, this latest offering is a cagey and defiant record that is admirable for its obstinacy. Listen to: Pleasure, I Wish I Didn't Miss You

#26: Sylvan Esso – What Now
Sylvan Esso's second long player, What Now, has been one of our office staples in 2017. When we spoke to the band earlier in the year, Amelia Meath told us, “We had to kind of remember how we wrote the first one, and even when we figured that out, we realised that we had to write it in a totally different way because we were such different people. Figuring out how we write was one of the hardest parts of it.” Listen to: Die Young, Radio

#25: King Krule – The Ooz
Single-handedly bringing slouchy grunge-rock back into fashion, Archy Marshall returned with a new album, The OOZ, under his King Krule moniker in October. The album is Marshall's most immersive yet, switching up from trip-hop to jazz to punk seamlessly. Listen to: Dum Surfer, Czech One

#24: Japanese Breakfast – Soft Sounds from Another Planet
The strained clarity of Michelle Zauner’s voice is what makes this album so beautiful. Moving and inspired, Soft Sounds From Another Planet is yet another lesson in guitar pop perfection. Listen to: Boyish, Diving Woman

#23: Kelly Lee Owens – Kelly Lee Owens
Kelly Lee Owens' eponymous debut is an absolute banger of a record and although we're happy it's featuring in our top 50, we can't help but feel she deserves to be higher up the list. From its ethereal beginnings to it's pounding techno arch, Kelly Lee Owens is a pure joy from start to finish. Listen to: Bird, CBM

#22: Omni – Multi-task
Building upon the strengths of their debut, Deluxe, Omni's Multi-task is much more of a grower, but over time proves itself to be a triumphant lesson in post-punk. Listen to: Equestrian, Southbound Station

#21: Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked at Me
A Crow Looked at Me is the eighth studio album from Phil Elverum's Mount Eerie; a heart-wrenching concept album about the death of his wife Geneviève Castrée, it's a tough listen that deserves your time and respect. Listen to: Real Death, Ravens

[Japanese Breakfast by Mat Hay]

#20: Bicep – Bicep
Bicep's self-titled long-awaited debut album begins our foray into top 20 territory. Functioning seamlessly as a listen-in-one-sitting affair, with enough memorable stand-alone moments to keep the club contingent happy, Bicep is a clear front-runner for best house record of the year. Listen to: Aura, Glue

#19: Bonobo – Migration
Simon Green, aka Bonobo, has delivered his sixth album Migration and at the same time also delivered a lesson in electronic music; expertly crafted intricate drum patterns, found sounds, eloquent strings and synths make this a must. Listen to: Bambro Koyo Ganda, 7th Sevens 

#18: Aldous Harding – Party
Describing her music as gothic folk, New Zealander Aldous Harding has really come into her own with latest record, The Party. Captivating from start-to-finish, with one of the most unique voices we've heard in time. Simply put, this is breathtaking. Listen to: Imagining My Man, Horizon

#17: Phoebe Bridgers – Strangers in the Alps
With an endearing simplicity to her words, there is a truth and an authenticity to Phoebe Bridgers' debut album, and when she gets it right on Stranger in the Alps, you can see her making a long career of this. Listen to: Motion Sickness, Killer

#16: Fever Ray – Plunge
The out-of-the-blue return from Karen Dreijer's Fever Ray project caught us all by surprise at the end of October, but what an amazing surprise it was. Endlessly innovative, Plunge befits the return of an iconic creative voice. Dreijer’s politics are written on her body, and she’s asking you to dive in. You won’t need telling twice. Listen to: Wanna Sip, IDK About You

#15: Mura Masa – Mura Masa
Showing a clear progression from his 2014 Soundtrack to a Death mixtape and 2015's Someday Somewhere EP, Mura Masa has finessed his style from scrappy hip-hop-inspired electronics to a surprising and self-aware pop record. Mura Masa is an intelligent producer with an exciting road ahead. Listen to: 1 Night, NOTHING ELSE!

#14: Paramore – After Laughter
After Laughter is one of the most fun albums of the year, so much so in fact that we're still somewhat in disbelief of Paramore's straight-up pop sensibilities. From peppy opener Hard Times to the heartfelt emotion of album closer Tell Me How, we're hooked. Listen to: Hard Times, Rose-Colored Boy

#13: St. Vincent – Masseduction
Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, has always explored her sexuality in her music and she continues to do so here: “It’s about sex and drugs and sadness,” and these three topics are covered to great effect on Masseduction. It’s the most honest record we've heard from Clark yet, baring her soul more than she ever has before. Listen to: Masseduction, Sugar Boy

#12: Big Thief – Capacity
Brooklyn-based indie band Big Thief's second album Capacity shows that despite their name they are the masters of little details, owing in no small part to the rich lyrics of singer Adrianne Lenker. Big Thief aren’t the sort of band that will always hit you suddenly, such is their subtlety and restraint, but on Capacity they prove that when they do it’s powerful and memorable. Listen to: Mythological Beauty, Haley

#11: Mount Kimbie – Love What Survives
Mount Kimbie's third album, Love What Survives, offers a scattergun approach to ideas, sounds and voices, and it could be their greatest record yet. Listen to this record on loop, because when the opener kicks in again you’ll see the logic in Mount Kimbie’s gentle chaos. Listen to: Four Years and One Day, Blue Train Lines

#10: Protomartyr – Relatives in Descent
Protomartyr will crush your ears and your heart, and it’ll feel worth it every single time. After nine years and four albums, it’s clear that the Detroit band have struck a rich seam of gold. Timelessly urgent but bitingly current, Relatives in Descent attacks with rigour and ruthlessness – but leaves a little space for redemption, too. Listen to: My Children, Half Sister

#9: Thundercat – Drunk
'Let’s go hard, get drunk and travel down a rabbit hole.' Even in its opening few lines, bass maestro Stephen Bruner prepares us to dive deep into the odyssey of sound that is his third album as Thundercat, Drunk. Listen to: A Fan's Mail (Tron Song Suite II), Jameel's Space Ride

#8: Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory
Vince Staples' sophomore long-player, Big Fish Theory, is a masterful collection of upbeat snapshots that mixes flavours of UK dubstep, electronica and Detroit techno with his powerful delivery. The result makes for one of the most unique and colourful additions to the hip-hop canon in years. Listen to: Love Can Be..., Party People

#7: Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3
Police brutality, gentrification, terminal illness and urban warfare all get an airing over RTJ3's 14 tracks, held together and buoyed by El-P’s futuristic production. Equal parts red-hot fire and cold hard reality, Killer Mike and El-P’s third album as Run the Jewels is a muscular call to arms. Listen to: Don't Get Captured, Panther Like a Panther

#6: LCD Soundsystem – American Dream
American Dream is both a highlight reel and a reinvention for LCD Soundsystem making for what feels like James Murphy's darkest record to date, and like previous LCD records it only gets better with repeat listens. Listen to: Other Voices, How Do You Sleep?

#5: Sampha – Process
With Process, Sampha collects and outs his personal tragedies, culminating in a deftly produced record of immense emotional weight that is matched by the depth of his talent. Listen to: (No One Knows Me), Like the Piano, Blood On Me

#4: Perfume Genius – No Shape
Only Perfume Genius could conjure a fairy tale from these troubling times. No Shape documents deep lows and the most glittering of highs; harsh and lush in equal brush strokes, Mike Hadreas’ fourth album celebrates the raw strength it can take to break free and find a new normality. Listen to: Slip Away, Otherside

#3: Lorde – Melodrama
In exploring all the recklessness of late adolescence with a self-knowing wink, Lorde's Melodrama celebrates young adulthood in all its brutal beauty; it's how chart-topping pop should be done. Listen to: Green Light, Homemade Dynamite

#2: SZA – Ctrl
Most artists can’t – or won’t – ever fully unearth their deepest insecurities for their music. SZA does it on her debut album and comes out the other side stronger for it. Listen to: Love Galore, The Weekend

#1: Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
Less than two years on from the mercurial To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar has done it again. However, where Butterfly was a free-wheeling jazz odyssey, DAMN. takes a much more direct and internalised approach. The beats are heavy, spare, and hard, and Lamar's verses are both critical and fearless. Listen to: DNA., HUMBLE.

Let us know your thoughts on our Albums of the Year list in the comments below...