The 17 Best Albums of 2017: Kendrick Lamar, Lorde and Other Favorites

Lorde
Lorde performs onstage during the 2017 Governors Ball Music Festival - Day 1 at Randall's Island on June 2, 2017 in New York City. Theo Wargo/Getty Images

U2 says: "Love is all we have left." Chance the Rapper says: "Music is all we got."

We tend to side with Chance. Music—whether charged with the spirit of resistance or not—provided comfort and clarity in a profoundly turbulent year, a shared language at a moment when nobody could agree on a shared vocabulary of facts.

And in the pop world, emotions were high in 2017. Taylor Swift returned to settle her debts with famous enemies. Lorde rose from the shadow of "Royals" and delivered the year's best pop record. Katy Perry faceplanted with Witness. Jay-Z reclaimed his empire, and Kendrick Lamar tossed a firebomb at Fox News with the brilliant and virtuosic Damn. U2 reintroduced The Joshua Tree to a new generation. The indie world, meanwhile, buzzed with successful comebacks (LCD Soundsystem, Broken Social Scene), lucrative nostalgic tours, politically charged resurrections (Gorillaz) and some confounding stumbles (Arcade Fire).

These are the 17 best albums that emerged. Three quick notes before we begin. 1) This list is in no order except alphabetical. 2) It's not an exhaustive list of every great or enjoyable album released in 2017. 3) And lastly, two of these blurbs appeared prior on our list of the best albums of the year so far.

Happy listening. We hope you find something new to love.

1. BIG THIEF, CAPACITY (Saddle Creek)

Big Thief 'Capacity' is the second album by Big Thief. Saddle Creek

Families crumble. Cars smash into guardrails in Des Moines. A mom cradles her injured child, soaking up blood with a dishrag. Big Thief's songs inhabit a world of gothic tragedy, where harrowing secrets burrow beneath a mundane surface. Adrianne Lenker, the band's soft-spoken singer, draws sometimes from her own unusual biographyshe was born into a religious cult and moved frequently as a childand sometimes from outside observations to create haunted indie-rock songs. Though it is only Big Thief's second album, Capacity, which vacillates between hushed folk-rock and clanging guitar textures, is remarkable for its vivid writing and emotional depth. (For more, read Newsweek's recent feature on the band, "The Strange Majesty of Big Thief."—Zach Schonfeld

2. CHARLY BLISS, GUPPY (Barsuk)

Guppy 'Guppy' is the new album by Charly Bliss. Barsuk

Guppy is a blistering punk album sprinkled with Eva Hendricks's candy-coated Powerpuff Girls voice, but the band’s earnest lyrics keep the whole project from going south into its own gimmick. What if, Guppy asks, the descendents of riot grrrl found themselves emotionally exhausted in 2017? You’d get “Glitter,” a pretty track made prettier by Hendrick’s desperate wails. —Emily Gaudette

3. CALVIN HARRIS, FUNK WAV BOUNCES VOL. 1 (Columbia)

Funk Wav 'Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1' is the latest album by Calvin Harris. Columbia

Calvin Harris’s latest album is a concisely curated collection of just 10 party-ready tracks that leaves no room for duds. Right from Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1's opening song, "Slide," featuring Frank Ocean and Migos, Harris's influences are clear: eighties Nile Rodgers-style funky urban-pop with just enough modern flavor courtesy of a unique mix of  collaborators (Katy Perry, Pharrell and Big Sean on "Feels," for example). Harris's impressive roster of music industry heavyweights (Snoop Dogg, Ariana Grande) is complemented by an equally impressive array of newcomers, namely Khalid on the thumping "Rollin'" and Kehlani on the wistful "Faking It." Hopefully the Vol. 1 in the title suggests a Vol. 2—Tufayel Ahmed

4. JAY SOM, EVERYBODY WORKS (Polyvinyl)

Everybody Works 'Everybody Works' is the debut album by Jay Som. Polyvinyl

Twenty-three-year-old Melina Duterte writes songs about youth and insecurity, stage fright ("Bedhead") and career pressures ("Everybody Works"), recording them under the name Jay Som. On Everybody Works, Duterte makes the jump from Bandcamp to the big(ger) leagues, tumbling between genres with considerable ease, from noise-pop to ambient soundscapes. The music is hooky and uptempo, the lyrics honest and endearing. In the lyrics of the title track, Duterte mimics herself reaching out to rock stars for advice. But with this album, she's made something distinctively her own. —ZS

5. JAY-Z, 4:44 (Roc Nation, UMG)