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26th Jun 2017

These are the 10 best albums from the first half of 2017

The mid-point of 2017 and we've had some classics

Rory Cashin

We’re now almost at the end of the June, it’s been a great year so far in terms of new music.

Here are what we think are the 10 best albums of 2017 so far (and we’re looking only at new releases, so sorry, that means no Radiohead or U2.)

You’ll see a few in here you’ve definitely heard before, and some you probably haven’t.

Arca – “Arca”

There’s a pretty good chance you haven’t heard of this Venezuelan electronic producer, but you’ve most likely heard his work on the likes of Kanye West, Bjork and FKA Twigs in the last few years.

Arca is his third solo album, and the one that has finally put him on a global platform of recognition as a standalone artist. It sounds quite unlike anything else you’ll hear all year, and the back and forth between heavy industrial production and light-as-a-feather ballads show the scale of his capabilities.

Standout track: “Desafio”

Feist – “Pleasure”

Equally brilliant as part of Broken Social Scene and a solo artist, Feist released album number five this year, and no other record this year is so simple and effective in its production and performance that you could close your eyes and pretend that she is performing it in full at the foot of your bed, just for you. Vaulting from the raw and lusty title track to powerfully vulnerable “Baby Be Simple”, Feist covers the lot with swagger and emotion.

Standout track: “Century” featuring Jarvis Cocker

Fleet Foxes – “Crack-Up”

Their first album after a six-year hiatus that everyone thought they’d never be coming back from, they’ve semi-ditched their folksy roots to come back with someone unique and experimental, evident from the album’s first release, the almost nine-minute long “Third of May”. Progressive, difficult, and intensely rewarding, there is a lot to digest here, but it’s definitely worth it for those willing to put in the work, as “Crack-Up” is not here for passive listeners. Get wrapped up, or get packing.

Standout track: “Fool’s Errand”

Future Islands – “The Far Fields”

Any road trips planned in the not-too-distant-future? Good news, “The Far Fields” might be the best road-trip album of the 2010s. Despite being five albums in, it was only around album No.4, “Singles”, when their performance on The Late Show with David Letterman went viral, that they found fame. Album No.5 doesn’t change things up too much – catchy basslines, beautiful synths, incredibly raw vocals – but song after song continue to hammer home their outstanding trio of talents.

Standout track: “Shadows” featuring Debbie Harry

Gorillaz – “Humanz”

The full-length album is 26 tracks long, so you can’t accuse of Gorillaz coming back half-baked. What they didn’t come back with was the pop-juggernaut a lot of people may have been expecting. There’s nothing here to bother radio stations along the lines of “Feel Good Inc.” or “Clint Eastwood”, but instead we got, as the band described it themselves, ‘a soundtrack to the party at the apocalypse’. And they’ve invited everyone from De La Soul to Grace Jones to Carly Simon to Rag’n’Bone Man.

Standout track: “Out of Body” featuring Kilo Kish, Zebra Katz & Imani Vonsha

J Hus – “Common Sense”

Mixing in dancehall, grime, hip-hop and afrobeat, this British artist finally hit the big time this year with his hit single “Did You See”, as well as working with the likes of Stormzy and being heavily involved in the ever-improving UK hip-hop scene. Not constantly stuck in the sometimes depressingly, aggressively downbeat swagger that can envelope a lot of the genre, J Hus is mostly here just to make sure we have a good time, be it on the dance-floor or soundtrack every summer BBQ you might be attending.

Standout track: “Bouff Daddy”

Kendrick Lamar – “DAMN.”

What is there to say about this album that hasn’t already been said? One of the best rappers of all time, releasing one of the best rap albums of all time, that’s pretty much all there is to it. At this point he’s practically only competing with himself, and his fans can only argue whether this is better than “To Pimp A Butterfly” or not. Trying to pick one best track is pointless, because it changes almost hourly, but for right now, let’s go with…

Standout track: “ELEMENT.”

Lorde – “Melodrama”

No pop artist has had such an effect on the pop landscape with such little output as Lorde, what with only having one album out to date, and that was four years ago, a lifetime in pop years. Good thing the sophomore is so blazingly brilliant, full of cinematic sounds and making you want to scream along on the dancefloor to crying alone in your bedroom with the headphones on. The final 40 seconds of “Green Light” alone might be the pop highlight of the last decade and we don’t say that lightly.

Standout track: “Writer in the Dark”

Paramore – “After Laughter”

Three of the band members had left since their self-titled 2013 album, so big changes were obviously expected with their fifth outing. And big changes were found, when their rock sound was replaced by 80’s new-wave and synth-pop that wouldn’t be out of place on a Carly Rae Jepsen LP (which is a compliment, by the way!). Hayley Williams and co. work hard on providing an album full of ear-worms, but a happy-sounding album with surprising depth for anyone paying attention to what they’re actually singing about.

Standout track: “Rose-Colored Boy”


Probably the best new artist that nobody outside of America has heard of, SZA was on Rihanna’s “Anti” album’s opening track “Consideration”, but has quietly been garnering hugely famous fans leading up to her debut album’s release. Upon release, everyone promptly lost her mind, but with R’n’B not making as much noise on this side of the Atlantic (we’re still caught up in EDM, for better or worse), and has been getting compared to the likes of Amy Winehouse in her prime. Get ahead of the curve and put CTRL in your ears right now.

Standout track: “Drew Barrymore”

Vince Staples – “Big Fish Theory”

The hip-hop artist that other hip-hop artists say is the best hip-hop artist working today, Staples has just released his second album, but has been cracking out mix-tapes and EPs like crazy over the last few years, consistently dolling out some of the best rhymes in recent times. Hopefully “Big Fish Theory” will see Staples finally receive the attention and success he very much deserves, as he wraps his intelligent raps around bizarro beats to wonderfully unique effect.

Standout track: “Yeah Right” featuring Kendrick Lamar

And now for your listening pleasure, here is a playlist of the standout tracks of each of the above albums: