Pilerats End Of Year Wrap: The 50 Best Albums of 2017
From Alex Lahey to The XX, here are the 50 albums which impacted us the most in 2017.
2017 has been a big year for music, especially on the album front. We got long-awaited returns from some of music's most well-adored (Gorillaz's long-winded Humanz, Kendrick Lamar's politically charged DAMN., LCD Soundsystem's triumphant victory lap American Dream, and Phoenix's romantic Ti Amo among them), while some of Australia's internationally emerging names proved their worth with new albums of their own (look no further than Cub Sport's BATS, Gordi's Reservoir, Kilter's Through The Distortion, or KLLO's Backwater, for starters). However, amongst the countless albums we've listened to this year, these 50 are the ones which stuck with us the most.
You'll also notice that we've chosen to leave our list in alphabetical order, abstaining from the traditional, numbered album lists in favour of one which treats all listed albums equally. Primarily, this is because albums are often years in the making, with musicians compiling every emotion and private, touching story they have to create incredibly personal records. To gather these incredibly personal pieces of art in a strict, numbered order seems a little unjust and dismissive, especially when attempting to compare small, independent artists with those backed by multi-million-dollar record labels and management companies. So, here are 50 albums we've come back to the most this year, in alphabetical order, starting with the incredible debut album from Melbourne's Alex Lahey – I Love You Like A Brother.
Alex Lahey - I Love You Like A Brother
Released in October, the charging debut album from Melbourne's Alex Lahey took the young alt-rock musician from an Australian triple j favourite to an international show-seller, and we wouldn't have it any other way.
Ali Barter - A Suitable Girl
Ali Barter's impressive debut album A Suitable Girl placed her on a pedestal within the Australian music scene, with the Melbourne musician's incredibly personal first record leaving its mark with its festival-friendly indie-rock feel.
Image by Aaron Webber.
Bonobo - Migration
The returning album from Los Angeles' Simon Green is a dazzling display of the calm, yet beautiful side of electronica, enlisting guests including our own Nick Murphy for the occasion.
Cashmere Cat - 9
Now one of pop music's most leaned-upon producers, the debut album from Norway's Cashmere Cat took more of a pop edge than many were expecting, but with special guest features from Ariana Grande, MØ, The Weeknd and others, I don't think many people were complaining.
Charlotte Gainsbourg - Rest
Sung primarily in French, Rest, the fifth album by French musician and actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, is an intimate display of euro-disco and pop, which grows a touch more special when you mention that the album was co-produced by SebastiAn and Daft Punk's Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo.
Charli XCX - Number 1 Angel
Although marketed as a mixtape, Number 1 Angel saw British singer-songwriter Charli XCX break free of her radio-friendly pop shackles with an inventive and experimental release with guest features from Cupcakke, SOPHIE, MØ and more.
Cub Sport - BATS
Following up 2016's incredible debut This Is Our Vice, the second album from Brisbane outfit Cub Sport is a personal journey through the highs and lows of finding yourself and more specifically, the journey of the group's Tim Nelson and Sam Netterfield leading to their engagement this year.
Image via Facebook/Dave Byrne.
Cut Copy - Haiku From Zero
After taking more of a club-house turn with their Free Your Mind record in 2014, Haiku From Zero is the closest thing we've gotten to the 2008 In Ghost Colours era of Cut Copy and because of that alone, it's already a great album. Think funky basslines, disco melodies and their well-known, catchy vocals.
Drake - More Life
Although technically not an album, Drake's expansive, culture-clashing More Life project saw the Toronto heavyweight team up with some of hip-hop's best – Kanye West, Sampha, Travis Scott, Young Thug, PARTYNEXTDOOR and 2 Chainz among them.
Ecca Vandal - Ecca Vandal
Ecca Vandal's debut album solidified the Melbourne musician as one of the countries' most unique and genre-bending voices, with her masterful blend of rock, pop, hip-hop and others proving to be a dominant force in 2017.
Four Tet - New Energy
English electronic wizard Kieran Hebden returned in 2017 with his newest full-length under the Four Tet banner, New Energy. It's a subtle and restrained album, occasionally breaking free on singles like Planet, but it's a beautiful listen for those into the more techy side of electronic.
Gang Of Youths - Go Farther In Lightness
There's a reason why it took out the ARIA Award for Album Of The Year. Go Farther In Lightness, the second album from Gang Of Youths, is one of the most powerful Australian albums released in the past few years, and is sure to become a classic among our community.
Image by Perrywinkle Photography.
Gordi - Reservoir
The sensational debut album from Sydney musician Gordi was one of this year's unexpected highlights, but boy, does it shine. Reservoir puts Gordi's unique vocals in the limelight, pairing it with emotive songwriting for a brilliant combo which cannot be stopped.
Gorillaz - Humanz
With 26 songs and guest features by Vince Staples, Danny Brown, De La Soul, Grace Jones and more, Gorillaz had a large room for error on their long-awaited returning record Humanz, but for the most part, they nailed it.
HAIM - Something To Tell You
Released four years after their super successful, break-out debut album Days Are Gone, Something To Tell You brought us a more refined and confident version of LA pop-rock trio HAIM, whose headline Splendour performance was one of the best of the whole weekend.
Holy Holy - Paint
Much-loved for their energetic live performances, Holy Holy's sophomore record Paint was one of the more critically adored Australian records from this year, and for a good reason why. It's part dancey, part rocky, part soft and comforting, but all-round incredible.
Image by Aaron Webber.
Hundred Waters - Communicating
Communicating, the third album from the OWSLA-signed US trio Hundred Waters, is hauntingly beautiful. The varied release explores the world of soft and emotive electronica and has us seriously questioning when the three-piece will finally make their way down under.
Jacques Greene - Real Infinite
Real Infinite, the debut album from Montreal musician Jacques Greene, is an R&B-infused journey through club culture and the sounds it incorporates, while also being a celebration of Montreal's bustling independent music scene. It's a real good listen too, with tracks like Real Time continuing to tear up clubs months after release.
The Jungle Giants - Quiet Ferocity
Released smack-bang in the middle of the year, Quiet Ferocity is the third album from Australian festival favourites The Jungle Giants. It introduced us to a more mature version of the Brisbane four-piece, who continue to be one of Australia's most adored in their rise to the top.
Kelela - Take Me Apart
Take Me Apart is the debut album from American R&B star Kelela, and while it wasn't the most commercially successful albums of the year, it was adored by both the critics and R&B lovers immensely.
Image via Facebook/Koen Keppens.
Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.
DAMN., the fourth album from American hip-hop heavyweight Kendrick Lamar, is his most politically charged yet. It's powerful and dominating, with the rapper holding us in the palm of his hands from the opening bars of BLOOD. to the dying moments of DUCKWORTH., a definite album highlight.
King Krule - The Ooz
On his third album The Ooz, London's Archy Marshall perfectly creates what can only be described as controlled chaos. The building layers of sounds, tones and textures across the album's duration continually leaves us floored and has us highlight anticipating his return to our shores in 2018.
The Kite String Tangle - The Kite String Tangle
Three years in the making, The Kite String Tangle's debut album is the definition of 'worth the wait'. The expansive release enforces The Kite String Tangle's talents as a versatile electronic songwriter, showing Australia that he is more than just a couple of great singles.
Image by Aaron Webber.
Kllo - Backwater
Over the past few years, Melbourne electronic duo Kllo have cemented themselves as one of the Australian underground's best acts. Backwater is their first attempt at the long-length format and it's an incredibly great time, winning us over with their soft and subtle sound.
LCD Soundsystem - American Dream
On LCD Soundsystem's first album in seven years (and their first after 'breaking up' with their 'final shows' at Madison Square Gardens), James Murphy and company remind the world why they're the best, with American Dream coming together as a victory lap of sorts for the dance-punk inspirations.
Lorde - Melodrama
A stark contrast to the timid and restrained Lorde we met on Pure Heroine, Melodrama saw the New Zealand pop name break free of her shell for a confident and empowering pop record with some of the best songwriting of the year.
Methyl Ethel - Everything Is Forgotten
Does anyone else remember when Methyl Ethel were a small-time Perth band just trying to find their way through life? Well, they're now one of the most adored groups of both Australia and the UK, and Everything Is Forgotten is to thank for this.
Image by Lisa Businovski.
Mura Masa - Mura Masa
For his first, 'major' debut album, British producer Mura Masa gave it his everything. The self-titled record is one of the more varied in mainstream electronica, and with guests including Gorillaz' Damon Albarn, Charli XCX and A$AP Rocky, he couldn't really go wrong.
The National - Sleep Well Beast
Sleep Well Beast, the seventh album from the Matt Berninger-led The National, is one of the group's best yet – a hard task considering the strength of the indie-rock group's previous work. It's subtle yet effective, and one of the more tender albums to arrive on our streaming services in 2017.
ODESZA - A Moment Apart
Following up their incredibly successful sophomore In Return was never going to be an easy task, yet somehow, ODESZA did it. A Moment Apart is a more complex and varied release than their previous albums but it worked incredibly well for the Seattle duo, cementing them as one of our favourite pairings in the game.
Image via Facebook.
Phoenix - Ti Amo
Inspired by their European roots and Italian gelato, Ti Amo is the sexiest album yet from French group Phoenix. It's slick and clean, showcasing their festival-friendly, indie-rock sound in one of its best forms thus far.
PNAU - Changa
On their first album in five years, PNAU transported us back to their ravey hey-day of 2007, combining funky basslines with catchy vocals and melodies which have dominated (and will continue to dominate) our music venues over 2017.
SAATSUMA - Overflow
The debut album from Melbourne duo SAATSUMA is an unexpected highlight of 2017, but the sheer depth of the record makes it un-skippable. It features the pairing put their blood, sweat and tears into every single second of the album, something which is incredibly rare nowadays and something which we absolutely love.
Image via Facebook.
Sampha - Process
On his touching and delicate critically-acclaimed debut album Process, London's Sampha emotionally sings about love and loss, securing himself as one of R&B's most beautiful songwriters.
Sinjin Hawke - First Opus
After collaborating with names including Kanye West and Cashmere Cat, First Opus, the debut album from Sinjin Hawke, pushed electronic boundaries with forward-thinking and inventive club music.
Slum Sociable - Slum Sociable
On their self-titled debut album, Melbourne duo Slum Sociable give it their everything. It's a touching release, covering topics including mental health and friendship, but it's bright and happy – something 2017 needed a lot.
The Smith Street Band - More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me
Known for their blazing rock sound and championing cries of anti-ladness, Smith Street Band's More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me is a twelve-track exploration of joy, pain, frustration and everything else that Will Wagner and co had bottled up inside them.
St. Vincent - MASSEDUCTION
Released three years after her startling self-titled fourth album, Annie Clark's returning MASSEDUCTION record focuses on themes of power, sex, drugs and sadness for a riveting listen co-produced by pop music king Jack Antanoff.
Image via Facebook/Simon Genillier Roeisgaard.
Syd - Fin
Typically found fronting American R&B group The Internet, LA singer-songwriter Syd discovered her own voice on her debut album Fin. It has more of a pop feel than her work with the group, but her 90s R&B-esque vocals charmed us from start to finish, establishing Syd as not just a lead vocalist, but an acclaimed musician on a solo level too.
SZA - Ctrl
On one of the most long-awaited and pushed-back albums released this year, SZA's debut album Ctrl brought some of the year's most incredible pop and R&B, making the long wait well worth it.
Thundercat - Drunk
Funnies, farts and Kendrick Lamar guest features – Thundercat's third record Drunk had everything. The extensive, genre-varied album was the bassist's cleanest record yet, injecting some much-needed funk into our lives.
Tired Lion - Dumb Days
Produced by Violent Soho's Luke Boerdam, Dumb Days, the debut album from Perth rock outfit Tired Lion, is a charging display of grungey rock and its best, placing them alongside names including Smith Street Band, Camp Cope and Violent Soho themselves.
Image by Rachael Barrett.
TOKiMONSTA - Lune Rouge
Tokimonsta's third album, Lune Rouge, continues her career as one of the world's most exciting producers. Her story becomes all the more incredible knowing she went through two major brain surgeries to overcome the rare neurovascular condition Moyamoya.
Touch Sensitive - Visions
Four years in the making and Touch Sensitive's debut LP, Visions, was worth the wait. A cosmic disco odyssey of epic proportions, the man is a master of his craft.
Tyler, The Creator - Flower Boy
On Tyler, The Creator's sincere and most accomplished album, he gets to the essence of what he's been chiselling at – the angst of a missed connection, the pain of unrequited love, and navigating youthful ennui.
Vera Blue - Perennial
Vera Blue's debut record Perennial is a 14-track showcase of her now-familiar vocal prowess, which she flawlessly executes while seamlessly synthesising her folk past with a bold, electro-pop future.
Vince Staples - Big Fish Theory
After his sensational break-out Summertime '06, the latest record from accomplished rapper Vince Staples saw him take on a more experimental sound, teaming up with names including Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky, Flume and SOPHIE for warping singles.
Image by Josh Nicolopoulos.
The War On Drugs - A Deeper Understanding
The War On Drugs' returning album A Deeper Understanding doesn't disappoint. It's a big album in every sense of the word, and we're not worthy of this beautiful gift from one of Laneway 2018's most unmissable acts.
Wolf Alice - Visions Of A Life
Visions Of A Life, the expansive second album from English alt-rock band Wolf Alice, is a universally acclaimed return to fame from the British group, who are now praised as one of the best in the country.
The XX - I See You
Last but definitely not least comes The XX's third record in I See You. It features more of Jamie XX's influence than ever before, with Romy and Oliver vocally dancing above slick percussive productions suited for big singalongs or chilled-out listening.
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