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The Best Albums of 2017 (So Far)

From statement-making debuts to incredible returns to form, this year has already well and truly provided the musical goods. Because we are all round legends, we've put our heads together to bring you the best albums that have dropped in the first half of 2017.

Image source: 
Cassie Stevens

Kendrick Lamar : Damn
There aren’t any other rappers who can generate such crisp beats, technical flow, and poignant lyrics. Every bar, every track, is a testament to a prodigy showing his expertise. The production is an equal component to the record, treated with the same regard as the writing, or the flow.
Overall, with tracks like YAH. DNA, and ELEMENT, this is one heck of an album. Judge it for yourself, it’s straight fire.

Lorde : Melodrama
Melodrama is a celebratory exploration of young and temporal love. Its lyrical rawness intertwined in a more lively pop atmosphere highlights Lorde’s continual musical prowess; she’s a force to be reckoned with.
Her visceral lyrics are intoxicating and encourage retrospection. Melodrama’s opener Green Light explores the compelling post-break up narrative with raw, unapologetic imagery that highlights hurt, vulnerability and resilience. This melodic honesty is sustained throughout the album with other standout tracks Sober and Writer in the Dark.

Holy Holy : Paint
Paint has a very upbeat and funky, almost psychedelic feel, with drums and a flowing synth omnipresent. Like a more upbeat Tame Impala record, Paint keeps the swaying tunes coming, with vocals almost as catchy as the rhythms. Once you fall in love with this record, you find yourself singing the lyrics in your head all day and you aren’t even a little bit mad about it.

London Grammar : Truth Is A Beautiful Thing
London Grammar have absolutely knocked it out of the park with Truth Is A Beautiful Thing. Mainly because they haven’t tried to change the recipe that made album number one so ridiculously impressive.
Instrumentalists Dan Rothman and Dominic ‘Dot’ Major create stunning soundscapes that underpin vocalist Hannah Reid’s sublime voice, allowing it to take centre stage. There’s no denying that her crazy range is the real selling point of the band.

Methyl Ethel : Everything Is Forgotten
Funky production layered with catchy hooks and gorgeous falsetto is the recipe Methyl Ethel have gone with on album number two. There’s never too much going on, while there are grooves and textures in abundance, there’s also more than enough time to breathe. More focused than their 2015 debut, with a clear improvement on songwriting, if Methyl Ethel continue to build on all their best bits, who knows what’s to come from album number three.

Bad//Dreems : Gutful
With their sophomore album, Bad//Dreems sound as dusty as ever but with a little more fire in their belly. Title track Gutful will resonate with many – Bad//Dreems clearly don’t see the need to hide behind ambiguous messages, which is refreshing.  
Overall this is a uniquely bold album from a uniquely bold Aussie band. Look forward to their album tour as well, because this will be brilliant to see on stage.

The Smith Street Band ­: More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me
For a group with such a distinctive signature sound, The Smith Street Band have managed to keep this album fresh, delivering a diverse range of tracks unlike anything we’ve heard from them before. Much like the relationships these songs were written about, the album weaves through lows and highs with Wagner laying his guts on the table and delivering hard-hitting one liners with his gravelly vocals, doused in the sincerity of someone who is singing about extremely personal experiences.  

In Hearts Wake : Ark
To the untrained ear, metalcore can tend to sound like a blur of the same thing, but In Hearts Wake manage to put their watermark on the genre by perfecting a balance of intensity and serenity. The tracks seesaw between lighter melodies with clean vocals and smashing walls of sound with screamed verses, a recipe that In Hearts Wake have certainly mastered.

Harry Styles : Harry Styles
Shrugging off the pop reputation of his past, Harry Styles has arrived. From the Bowie-esque Sign Of The Times, to the psychedelic air of Meet Me In The Hallway, the grit of Kiwi, or when he lays it bare in From The Dining Table, Styles is trying everything. Tying it all together is his voice. Here Styles has room to experiment – to show off his range, but also take time to breathe. Pre-conceived notions be damned, this is a great debut.

Kirin J Callinan : Bravado
While Bravado contains sporadic flourishes and the signature Callinan panache of its predecessor, Bravado is an entirely new beast in itself – an epic, grandiose affair, teeming with infectious ‘80s new wave synth pop, glimmering ‘90s EDM and an extensive roll call of guests.
Callinan’s virtuosity lies in his ability to weave familiar compositions, melodies and genres to create a sound that’s undeniably his own, with each track completely distinct from the last, yet merging together seamlessly.

The Courtneys : II
See, there’s a lot to love about II – its choruses are hooky, its production is clever, and it proves consistently inventive in a way that never once feels show-offy or overly considered – but it’s the carefully controlled mix of dreamy writing and barbed wire taut delivery that makes it the truly accomplished work that it is.
II isn’t a record you pick apart. It’s one you submit to willingly, arms up and eyes wide open.

 
Bonobo : Migration
The long-awaited follow up to 2013’s The North Boarders couldn’t have come at a more relevant time for Bonobo. As an artist with a worldly influence of sounds, the record conjures up images of home and displacement when switching between minor strings and catchy drum loops.
The record is startling at times as it pushes you along from track to track whilst providing room to breathe.

Father John Misty : Pure Comedy 
The difference is that this time around instead of focusing on fictional tales or his own love life, he is reflecting on the world outside, in particular the political world.
There are moments when Tillman is a little heavy-handed with his approach, such as on The Memo or the 13-minute vision of the apocalypse, Leaving LA, but for the most part this is very strong work and an important snapshot of our times.

Gorillaz : Humanz
Gorillaz have always been a celebration of musical freedom. Sometimes a little silly, sometimes a little dark, always a little different. Humanz is a continuation of this difference. It’s a chaotic meeting of 2D’s vocals and Murdoc’s foul influences.
Overall Humanz is more reminiscent of Demon Days than it would be of Plastic Beach or The Fall. Certainly an album to enjoy.

The Maine : Lovely Little Lonely
Lovely Little Lonely is a culmination of all the different styles The Maine have tried on over the last ten years. They’ve embraced the pop catchiness they’ve tried to shy away from, ultimately writing some of the best songs of their career. LLL is all about the front-to-back album journey, from moments of dreamy nostalgia to sunkissed pop-rock anthems, it’s all here bundled in honest, raw songwriting.

Jade Imagine : What Was Fuck I Thinking
A project that allows musical influences such as The Church and Fleetwood Mac to come to the fore. The result is a rich concoction of heady, fuzzed out neo-psychedelia that perfectly frames around McInally’s candid songwriting. Jade Imagine may have only been in existence for a short time now, but it seems McInally and her band are set to become one of the most venerated acts in the country.

Tinariwen : Elwan
Reigning from the now war-torn Sahara Desert region of northern Mali, Tinariwen’s Elwan sees the seven-piece capturing the nostalgia of their once-harmonious homeland and the tragic circumstances they have faced after being forced into exile.
The purity of the sounds and ideals that build Elwan is clearly the record’s strong suit. Transcending the boundaries of a possible language barrier, the emotive nature of the Tamashek vocalists is beyond explanation.

Camp Cope/Cayetana – Split 7”
Camp Cope and Cayetana’s split 7” is a fusion of indie punk beats with folk melodies in a minor key.
The tracks alternate from one band to another, complimenting the music effortlessly and leaving you hungry for more. As inversions of each other from opposite sides of the world, both bands hold your attention with their individuality while giving you some common ground in between.

Tornado Wallace : Lonely Planet
Crunchy ‘80s drum machine beats cruise along at a leisurely pace underneath heavily chorus and reverb effected guitars. Classic synth basslines ride the grooves while kaleidoscopic synth chords and lead lines drift off into space. So much of the charm of this record is in its use of space, extra percussion and reverberating samples populating each track without ever crowding the sound stage.

Paramore : After Laughter
The tension between sunshine-bright melodies and dark, gloomy lyrics is one that has taken Paramore through their career, but never before has it been so apparent. The hooks are still here, Hayley William’s signature vocals are still in full force, and yet there’s something fresh and new about the Paramore we get on album number five. From anxiety to fake friends, this gorgeously-produced album will having you singing along with all its heartache.

Northlane : Mesmer
Citizen kicks off with a bang, streaking guitars carry Bridge’s growls, send listeners into a frenzy. Colourwave begins with a gritty guitar, effectively paired with a swirling synth sound, but soon enough the heavy breakdown erupts and that’s when we know Northlane mean business.
This album is an emotional rollercoaster, and Northlane have injected their grief beautifully into their new work of art. 

Bernard Fanning : Brutal Dawn
Each song brings something different to the table. Shed My Skin infuses a contemporary violin melody with Fanning’s classic acoustic roots sound, complemented by soft keys. Isn’t It A Pity serves a full band sound and upbeat melody juxtaposed by disheartened lyrics, creating a beautiful paradox that leaves you unsure how to feel. Throughout the album, Fanning displays honesty and rawness, resulting in evocative and emotionally driven tracks. 

Pond : The Weather
Pond don’t get enough credit. Of Australia’s two biggest modern psych exports – Tame Impala and King Gizzard – Pond split the difference; often, with freaky results. They’re loud and have distinct swagger; but they’re also nicely-packaged, with ethereal pop sensibilities. This is Pond’s bread and butter, and few other bands pull it off as well as they do.

Mac Demarco : This Old Dog
Synths, drum machines and acoustic guitars fill This Old Dog from start to finish, providing a new take on that Mac DeMarco charm we all love. Unlike previous albums, the already demoed tracks were given a chance to breathe and settle in. The results are mesmerising.

The xx : I See You
Overall this album is everything it should be. Doing some of the old stuff The xx are so very good at, combined with a new direction which they already seem to have the hang of, I See You is a very early nomination for album of the year and it’s going to take something great to knock it off.

Cameron Avery : Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams
This album doesn’t lend to in-band severance, confusion or anything of the sort – it’s a measure of personal fulfilment and a tenacity to humour music that’s always been at the core of Avery’s existence. An album title strewn with sentiment and sincerity paves way for the most significant and sophisticated track on the album.

King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard : Flying Microtonal Banana
In true King Giz fashion, Flying Microtonal Banana represents another stylistic territory to conquer – gentler, but never reserved. The album strums at a constant tumble, but the theatricality is amped to extremes. King Gizzard have a true knack for transposing classic psych-rock tropes of mysticism and social awareness into a contemporary Australian context – the cyclonic toms and snares on environmental lament Melting, in particular, pop and tingle as they reverberate in a storm through your eardrums.

The Menzingers : After The Party
In traditional Menzingers style, their latest offering is fun, fast and seriously punk rock. There’s one noticeable difference to past releases – in After The Party, The Menzingers are inserting themselves into the post-30 punk club, saying goodbye to youth and embracing that inevitable journey we all face – age.

Swim Team : Holiday
Writing and vocal duties are distributed among band members, this gives the EP a stylistic diversity and means you can never be sure which direction you’re about to be pulled. One minute it’s the dreamy Should've Just Said So, the next we are kicked to the kerb with brattish punk force like Blinkers, Current State.  However, there is a golden reverb-drenched hue that gives all the tracks on Holiday a sense of commonality. 

Planning For Burial : Below The House
One of the album’s main strengths comes from Wasluck’s charting of new territory as he pushes outside of his drawn out wall-of-noise and into more experimental turf.
While at face value, Below the House can be applauded for its sense of mood and grit, tuning your ears to soak in the ambience and subtle percussion makes it worth the repeated listens.

Dirt River Radio : Sun City White 
Sun City White is an album you’d imagine listening to while cruising down a desolate American desert highway with the windows down in your black Cadillac. The albumis a mixed bag of emotions, it kicks you in the guts and rips out your heart, but it’ll keep you smiling and bopping your head all the while. Sun City White is an undeniably rocking album full of heart, grit and Wild West swagger.

APES : Stranger Strangers
The album is soaked in laidback grooves and offers complex soundscapes that wash over you, and gently tug you into their orbit. Between Benjamin Dowd’s delicate vocals and APES’ composition of layered electric beats, it’s the kind of album that you could listen to on repeat as you explore the multifaceted nature of each song.  

Grim Rhythm : What Do You Know About Rock’n’Roll
The LP makes it immediately apparent that Grim Rhythm know more than just a thing or two about rock’n’roll. Although their sound is fluid and seemingly effortless, it’s evident that each note is precise and full of intent. There’s no need for thoughtful lyrics or impressive vocals to complement their well-rounded sound, the melodies speak for themselves.

Rhiannon Giddens : Freedom Highway
Freedom Highway is an aural representation of the history of black people’s struggle within America. The album digs into the past to comment on current sociological and political developments in the USA. Whether it’s slave narratives from the 1800s, civil rights anthems from the ‘60s or country blues from Mississippi, Giddens delivers it with reverence and authenticity.

Jennifer Salisbury & James Mustafa : Unspoken Rule
Capturing such emotion and story in song is a hard task, yet over ten tracks, you’re taken on a journey from the start to the end of a relationship. Featuring some of the best local jazz musicians, Unspoken Rule shines through with strong song structure, in addition to punchy and vibrant vocals. This is an album for jazz enthusiasts and the perfect soundtrack to a smooth Sunday afternoon. 

Baby Blue : In My Mind
From the first note of their debut EP In My Mind, Melbourne’s Baby Blue spark your curiosity and keep it. A breath of fresh air in a musical climate that can often get singular and stale, the band have been a constant fixture in the local music scene, delighting with their catchy surf rock hooks and endearing lyrics.

Future Islands : The Far Field
The Far Field is an album that should only serve to push Future Islands as far as they want to go. Having now added to a rich catalogue and famous for their mesmerising shows (seriously, see them at any given opportunity), they'll have people emotionally dancing for years to come.

 

Did we miss your favourites? Let us know. 
Illustration by Cassie Stevens.