1. LCD Soundsystem, American Dream More than a collection of sensational (and, dare I say it, Bowie-like) sounds and textures, American Dream is the perfect salve for this violent, frustrating national moment. If James Murphy can come back, so can we.
2. Kendrick Lamar, DAMN. It’s not as ambitious as To Pimp a Butterfly, but landing just below 2015’s best album is still a solid win for one of the most adventurous and creatively inspired rappers of his generation.
3. Fleet Foxes, Crack-Up This sumptuous collection of atmospheric folk plays like a favorite novel reads—you revisit it again and again, in whole or in pieces, to feed your soul.
4. The War on Drugs, A Deeper Understanding It’s easy to pick out the influences—a little Fleetwood Mac here, a little Tears for Fears there—but easier still to simply appreciate this shimmering indie pop on its numerous merits.
5. Soulwax, From Deewee Synth-pop with genuine stomp. Everything this Belgian group has to say, it says directly to your feet.
6. Shamir, Revelations The hometown star starts over in astonishing fashion, trading programmed beats for DIY fuzz, yet retaining his lyrical vulnerability and his angelic voice.
7. The Regrettes, Feel Your Feelings Fool! The LA band’s first full-length is one smart smack on the ear—a savvy blend of 1960s girl-group pop and 1980s LA punk. Just like they used to make it.
8. Bash & Pop, Anything Can Happen That long stint in Guns N’ Roses drove Tommy Stinson to make a full-blown Replacements record, thank God. Meat-and-potatoes rock at its most tender and tasty.
9. Deerhoof, Mountain Moves More than two decades in, Deerhoof hasn’t lost its experimental edge—or its gift for solid hooky-hooks that pull you into the weirdness.
10. Thundercat, Drunk Funky, unabashed goofy fun—though I’m slightly ashamed to have an LP that guest-stars Michael McDonald in my top 10, even in passing.
1. Richard Dawson, Peasant The Englishman takes a brilliant weird-folk detour to Medieval times, painting vivid pictures of commoners struggling to cope with everyday life. Recommended for fans of Joanna Newsom, Roy Harper and Fairport Convention—or the sonic adventurous in general.
2. Laurel Halo, Dust The kaleidoscopic third album from this Michigan-bred, Germany-based experimental electronicist shatters the walls between techno, pop, soul and jazz, with songs that might feel off-putting initially before turning into earworms that last for days.
3. Slowdive, Slowdive Twenty-two years after breaking up, the English shoegaze legends pick up where they left off with a gorgeous fourth LP that deepens the “What’s Slowdive’s best album?” debate.
4. The Necks, Unfold Best known for album-length ambient-jazz compositions that build over time, the Aussie trio compressed that approach into four side-long tracks that all achieved heart-stirring bliss.
5. Matt Mitchell, A Pouting Grimace The New York pianist, renowned for his work with avant saxman Tim Berne, heads his own 13-piece ensemble for this dazzling, free-but-not-unhinged jazz excursion.
6. Fleet Foxes, Crack-Up Robin Pecknold reconvenes his folk brigade for its first LP in six years—a heady journey ideal for distancing oneself from the mire of modern-day life.
7. Guided by Voices, August by Cake For GBV’s first double-album, leader Robert Pollard invited his bandmates to contribute a couple of tunes apiece to go with his usual high-quality stash, and his songwriting genius rubbed off.
8. Kelly Lee Owens, Kelly Lee Owens A dizzying debut for a London-based artist who infuses her hypnotic minimal techno with real human warmth.
9. SZA, Ctrl If 2017 was the year of women speaking out, this fast-rising R&B star helped epitomize it on a red-hot debut that took no sh*t from anyone.
10. Wolf Parade, Cry Cry Cry Spencer, Dan and the gang picked up like they never stopped, on a record that plays like a rallying cry for especially tough times.
1. Algiers, The Underside of Power Protest songs came and (unfortunately) went, but none sounded as artistically or thematically incendiary as the ones that comprise this Atlanta gospel/post-punk quartet’s sophomore stunner.
2. Tony Allen, The Source After releasing an also-impressive 2017 album of Art Blakey covers, the former Fela Kuti drummer and his effervescent octet soar by seamlessly fusing jazz and Afrobeat to harmonic perfection.
3. The War on Drugs, A Deeper Understanding Adam Granduciel remains loyal to the same ’70s and ’80s rock palette, but somehow his sonic panoramas have grown even more expressive, affecting and singular.
4. Ryan Adams, Prisoner Break-up albums can entrap their creators, but for the refreshingly less-prolific Adams, he’s never sounded more liberated—or melodious.
5. Margo Price, All American Made The unshackled Nashville singer-songwriter crafts the country record needed most in 2017—a castigation and celebration of American politics and culture.
6. Kelela, Take Me Apart A fearless R&B record, made dynamic by the other genres that fleck it, its sonorous compositions and, more importantly, its soulful vocalist.
7. The National, Sleep Well Beast Whether it was that Grateful Dead covers project or its famously taut aesthetic losing its elasticity, the Brooklyn act stretched out to inspired effect.
8. Cameron Graves, Planetary Prince The talented West Coast Get Down jazz collective delivers another parse-worthy and progressive gem, this time under pianist Graves’ assured—and unselfish—direction.
9. LCD Soundsystem, American Dream Turns out James Murphy still had things to say, and still blends our record collections together with demonstrable affection and enthusiasm.
10. Slowdive, Slowdive Rather than merely repeat its formula, the English dream-pop quintet refreshes it, with a tunefulness that renders this comeback album as solacing as its classic predecessors.
1. Filthy Friends, Invitation A band helmed by Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker and ex-R.E.M.’er Peter Buck debuts with an exuberant record nodding to glitter-encrusted glam-rock, charred power-pop and careening garage-punk.
2. Kesha, Rainbow The pop star took back control of her career—and personal narrative—with an empowered record touching on grimy rock, delicate country and folk, gospel-pop and sassy soul.
3. St. Vincent, Masseduction The latest solo album from Annie Clark hews toward introspective, space-age electro-pop with boiling-tar beats, jagged guitar lightning bolts and glazed-over synthesizers.
4. Robyn Hitchcock, Robyn Hitchcock Psychedelic pop’s fractured genius returns with a plugged-in solo album, full of ornate songs that are equal parts absurd and sentimental.
5. Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives, Way Out West A California country fever dream that’s both traditional (the rollicking, Johnny Cash-recalling “Lost on the Desert”) and thoroughly modern (the jangly holler “Time Don’t Wait”).
6. Dreamcar, Dreamcar Take AFI lead singer Davey Havok—an acolyte of ’80s alternative’s dark side—and add in No Doubt’s three instrumentalists, and you get this retro-leaning debut indebted to The Cure, Duran Duran and MTV’s onetime synth-pop staples.
7. Alvvays, Antisocialites The dreamy Canadian act’s chiming guitars, plush keyboards and sighing vocals conjure the crème de la crème of C86 and Sarah Records.
8. Paul Weller, A Kind Revolution Forty years into his career, the Modfather continues to innovate, with a soulful mélange of Bowie-esque rock skronk, funky folk-pop and gospel-tinged electronica.
9. Slowdive, Slowdive The shoegaze icons sound ready to forge an entirely new chapter; highlights include the urgent, spackled noise-pop of “Star Roving” and the more ethereal “Everyone Knows.”
10. Wolf Parade, Cry Cry Cry The Canadian troupe’s first full-length since returning from hiatus is full of sinewy prog-pop gems with burbling New Wave synths, askew guitar riots and touches of theatrical piano-glam.