END OF YEAR MUSIC

The 30 best albums of 2017, according to me

Not exactly a great year for albums, but here are 30 of the best 2017 had to offer.

This year was by no means a great year for albums, but it wasn’t a total washout either. Before I get into charting my faves from 2017, I’d like to mention there’s a slight change to my usual list as this year I’ve included EPs, mixtapes and one playlist into the mix.

I’ve already listed the 50 best songs of 2017, which you can read here.

And as for this rundown, I’ve made a playlist of what I think is the best track from each of the albums on this list, which you can listen to here.

Okay, enough fannying around – here are the 30 best albums of 2017, according to me.

30. Tayá – Tayá (EP)

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Tayá aka Taylor Fowlis hails from Liverpool and I stumbled across her on Spotify buried at the bottom of a New Music Friday playlist one morning. Her sound is very neo-R&B. Think: Jheno Aiko, but actually singing and not whispering. This EP has definitely made me want to check for her in 2018.

BEST TRACK: Deeper

29. Kelela – Take Me Apart

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I don’t know much about Kelela as an artist or even as a person to tell you the truth. But I really liked this debut from her and production wise it’s stunning. The dark and haunting vibe of the album works nicely against Kelea’s sweet RnB vocals. Definitely a critics fave, ‘Take Me Apart’ is a very promising start for the singer.

BEST TRACK: Onanon

28. Allie X – CollXtion II

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There are some really questionable lyrics on this album, or maybe I’m just becoming prudish in my old age? But on the whole I bopped along nicely to this. It’s got that perfect combination of 80s synth with bubble gum pop hooks. I especially like ‘That’s So Us’ and ‘Paper Love.’

BEST TRACK: That’s So Us

27. Miley Cyrus – Younger Now

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For Miley to go from ‘Bangerz’ to this still confuses me. I don’t mind her doing country because she does the genre very well. See: her cover of ‘Jolene‘. I have a sneaky feeling this album will grow on me next year, but right now it just feels a bit safe. Especially from a popstar who had the entire world talking about her twerking antics just a few years ago.

BEST TRACK: Malibu

26. Sampha – Process

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Mr Sisay finally released his debut album after years of working his magic on the likes of Solange, Drake and Jesse Ware. ‘Process’ is a great introduction to Sampha for anyone is unfamiliar with his sound. This album is evidence that British black excellence is pushing music into new and exciting spaces and if you don’t know, I urge you to get to know.

BEST TRACK: Blood on Me

25. Calvin Harris – Funk Wav Bounce Vol.1

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I really enjoyed Calvin Harris reinvention from so-so EDM producer to low-key demigod of smooth R&B and hip-hop jams in 2017. The album has a mixtape vibe to it and I like that each feature artist was given the chance to play to their strengths. Bursting at the seams with with R&B, pop, hip-hop and funk, there’s really a something for everyone here.

BEST TRACK: Feels

24. Khalid – American Teen

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Khalid is one of those acts that everyone is absolutely bowled over by and the critics love him. But I’m not quite sold…yet. I think his big breakout moment is still yet to come. But I do love just how positive and optimistic he is about everything. It’s refreshing. Especially in this current climate. Khalid feels like the future and I’m ready for it.

BEST TRACK: Young, Dumb & Broke

23. Aly & Aj – 10 Years (EP)

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One thing I did not expect from this year was new music from this Disney sister-duo. At only four tracks long ‘10 Years’ has really wet my appetite for a full-length album from Aly & AJ. It follows through with that dreamy synth pop sound I love. In the short time this EP has been online, I’ve played it to near death and I’m not even close to being bored of it.

BEST TRACK: Promises

22. Katy Perry – Witness

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God, this era could have been so perfect for Katy. All her peers released stuff last year leaving the gate wide open for her!!!! ‘Witness’ isn’t exactly terrible as there are some gems hidden in here. They’re just buried behind the lacklustre writing and filler tracks that feel like a proper hard slog to get through. My advice? Keep the singles along with ‘Hey Hey Hey’, ‘Tsunami’ and ‘Roulette’ and throw the rest away.

BEST TRACK: Bon Appétit 

21. HAIM – Something To Tell You

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There are a few catchy numbers here on HAIM’s sophomore effort, I think they still struggle writing proper earworm hooks though. But I listened to this more than their debut so that’s progress. I guess I just expected more? My new fave band The Aces are hot on HAIM’s tails and pretty much ready and waiting to take their spot and I honestly don’t think that would be the worst thing.

BEST TRACK: Something To Tell You

20. Niall Horan – Flicker

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Of all the 1D boys who released solo stuff this year – Niall reigned supreme. Seriously, he really pulled it out the bag here with ‘Flicker’. He does country on ‘Seeing Blind’, channels Fleetwood Mac on ‘Since we’re Alone’ and then obviously there’s megabop ‘Slow Hands’. I really wasn’t checking for Niall or his music before, but he now has my full attention.

BEST TRACK: Slow Hands

19. Kehlani – SweetSexySavage

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Millennial R&B chanteuse Kehlani has been on my radar for a while and she definitely has the jams to back-up the hype. The funny thing about this album is that the week it was released I was obsessed, but then got bored of it a week later. That was until I saw Kehlani smash it at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in March. Hearing the songs in a live setting breathed new life into them and I appreciated the album a lot more as a result. I mean, some songs on here have held up better than others, ‘CRZY’, ‘Too Much’ and ‘Distraction’ are the standouts, but with new music already being drip-fed on Spotify and it sounding like a step in the right direction, I’m not too worried about Kehlani’s future.

BEST TRACK: CRZY

18. Zara Larsson – So Good

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I don’t think it’s over the top to say everyone thought 2017 would be the year Zara became a bonafide superstar because we all literally did! It’s weird because this album, objectively speaking, isn’t a total disaster. ‘Sun Down’, ‘TG4M’ and ‘Don’t Let Me Be Yours’ are great, catchy pop songs.

But subjectively ‘So Good’ is beneath what we all know Zara is capable of delivering. I reckon her label got greedy and tried to spread her too thin, which impacted on the sound of the album. It’s a shame, but I’m writing this off as a false start and hoping for better next time.

BEST TRACK: Don’t Let Me Be Yours

17. Dua Lipa – Dua Lipa

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After countless pushbacks, Dua finally got her debut album out there to the world. I’d heard at least six of the tracks on the album already when her team was throwing everything at the wall. This didn’t bother me much because in the context of the album they all still bang. Out of the new songs though, ‘IDGAF’, ‘Begging’ and ‘New Love’ are my top-tier.

BEST TRACK: IDGAF

16. Fifth Harmony – Fifth Harmony

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I always knew the four ladies of Fifth Harmony would get things right once that racist rat left the group. Sure, lead single ‘Down’ was a poor man’s ‘Work From Home’ but the island flavor of ‘He Like That’ and insanely catchy ‘Sauced Up’ hold their own. What’s even better is the girls actually sound like they’re all singing as part of the same group for once.

It took them a while, but Lauren, Dinah-Jane, Normani and Ally seem to have finally ironed out the kinks that plagued their previous efforts; it’d be a shame for someone to pull the plug on them now.

BEST TRACK: Don’t Say You Love Me

15. Little Mix – Glory Days: The Platinum Edition

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When Little Mix dropped this album last year it didn’t grab me like ‘Get Weird’ instantly did. But over the past year I’ve come to realise this album is full of BANGERS. ‘Private Show’, ‘Power’, ‘No More Sad Songs’, ‘Beep Beep’, ‘Shout Out To Me Ex’ and of course song of the century ‘Touch’!

The slow jams are just as good too; ‘Nothing Else Matters’ is that wave-your-hands-in-the-air-as-tears-stream-down-your-face end of the night type song. The three new songs on here are enjoyable too. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I was a fool to keep this off my list last year, but I’m happy we got there in the end.

BEST TRACK: Power

14.  Taylor Swift – Reputation

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‘Reputation’ doesn’t have the warmth or charm that ‘1989’ had, but there are still some fun songs on here, they’re just trying too hard to push people’s buttons. We get it Taylor: you’re vexed! ‘Dancing With Our Hands Tied’, ‘Delicate’ and ‘…Ready For It?’ are my personal highlights. But I just don’t buy into the whole “BadGalTayTay” image she’s pushing. Take the cover for example, she’s doing her best Daria impression when we all know deep down she’s her sister Quinn.

BEST TRACK: Dancing With Our Hands Tied

13. Drake – More Life (PLAYLIST)

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I really enjoyed this a lot more than his 2016 album ‘Views’. I think Drake works best when he opens the booth up to others instead of sticking to his tried and tested methods. Sampha kills it on ‘4422’, Skepta’s interlude is fire and Jorja Smith’s sweet R&B tones on ‘Get It Together’ make Drake sound even better. This is definitely my favourite project from Aubery since ‘Take Care’.

BEST TRACK: Madiba Riddim

12. Mabel – Ivy To Roses (MIXTAPE)

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If you remember I put Mabel’s gorge low-fi ballad ‘Thinking Of You’ at number five on my best singles of 2016 list and since then she’s literally blown up. I’m not saying it had anything to do with me, I’m just pleasantly surprised at how quick her career has skyrocketed. I’m glad Mabel played it smart by not rushing into releasing her debut album. Instead she used 2017 to fine tune her sound with both this mixtape and her ‘Bedroom EP’. With jams like ‘Begging’, ‘Come Over’ and ‘Weapon’ it’s clear pop driven R&B is her lane and I suspect even bigger things for her in 2018.

BEST TRACK: Come Over

11. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

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This album is a lot more straightforward to listen to compared to ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’, but it doesn’t compromise on Kendrick’s witty wordplay and honest commentary on being black in America. I love how in just under an hour ‘DAMN.’ darts between hazy R&B in the shape of ‘Loyalty’ featuring Rihanna and then cranks up the energy with pure hip-hop beasts like ‘DNA’ and ‘Humble’. There really is no question about it: Kendrick Lamar is the greatest rapper and storyteller of this generation.

BEST TRACK: DNA

10. Stormzy – Gang Signs and Prayer

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MAN OF THE YEAR Stormzy released his long awaited debut this year and just as everyone expected – it banged. It has tracks like ‘Big For Your Boots’ and ‘Cold’ to get you hype and then offers moments to catch your breath with ‘Blinded By Your Light pt.2’ with MNEK. There’s a lot happening on this album and sonically it might sound a bit all over the place but, just like the album’s title, I think the huge contrasts work quite nicely.

BEST TRACK: Cold

9. Lana Del Rey – Lust For Life

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Lana dabbled with a lot of more the hip-hop swagger of her 2012 debut, ‘Born To Die’, on this album and I think it really works for her. Lana’s smooth almost lullaby style of singing shines when it’s up against meaty tracks like ‘Summer Bummer’ and ‘Groupie Love’. There’s also the #relatable ‘In My Feelings’ and the saccharine ‘Love’, which makes me think Lana is a lot happier this time round and if she’s happy then so am I.

BEST TRACK: In My Feelings

8. Charli XCX – Number 1 Angel (MIXTAPE)

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I’m not sure why this was sold as a mixtape when it obviously has the weight of an album, but that’s a story for another day. Anyway, this mixtape is bursting at the seams with earworms, like ‘ILY2’ and ‘Emotional’. Honestly, from start to finish ‘Number 1 Angel’ is just banger after banger. It doesn’t seem like a proper album is likely to follow, but if Charlotte keeps delivering mixtapes like this and ‘Pop2’, where she sounds at her creative best, then so be it.

BEST TRACK: Roll With Me

7. MUNA – About U

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God, what a divine listen this album was. It’s like Carly Rae Jepsen minus the optimism, which funnily enough is exactly how MUNA was described to me by a friend this time last year when I was looking for new music. Both ‘Winterbreak’ and ‘Everything’ left me permanently In My Feelings for most of 2017. I’ve lost count of how many times this album has made me cry (I know – TMI!) but surely an album that’s made that much of a profound impact on me is only a good sign?

BEST TRACK: Everything

6. Paramore – After Laughter

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My favourite type of song is one that on the surface sounds all happy and boppy but then when you read into to the lyrics you realise it’s sad as fuck. Thankfully, Paramore made an entire album of songs like this.

They said adios to the rockier/emo sound of their earlier stuff in favour of synth pop, but it was always heading that way, so why not go the whole way, you know? ‘Hard Times’, ‘Rose Coloured Boy’, ‘Pools’ and ‘Fake Happy’ all had me both dancing and crying my ass off this year.

BEST TRACK: Idle Worship

5. Kelly Clarkson – Meaning Of Life

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Now onto more happier affairs, Queen Clarkson was finally free from her “arranged marriage” record deal with RCA and with a switch to Atlantic, she was able to release the album she always wanted. Things are more soulful this time, but her voice is just as big and (I think) given more room to breathe. She also seems a lot happier and engaged in being a popstar than she has in previous years (no shade to ‘Piece By Piece’).

As for the songs, ‘Love So Soft’ and ‘Whole Lotta Woman’ are soccer mom bops, ‘Medicine’ and ‘Heat’ are begging to be played on radio and ‘Meaning of Life’ could be another ~moment~ for her if she performs it on a big stage. This album was one of the most enjoyable listens of the year for me, with vocals for absolute days.

BEST TRACK: Medicine

4. Demi Lovato – Tell Me You Love Me

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WHEW!! Let the record show that 2017 was the year Demi SNAPPED. I don’t know what happened but Miss Lovato sounded incredible, looked breathtaking like all the time and oozed a new type of confidence. This rebrand definitely filtered into the music because ‘Tell Me You Love Me’ is her strongest and most consistent album to date.

She’s unapologetic of her bad bitchery on ‘Sorry Not Sorry’, feeling herself on ‘Ruin The Friendship’, addressing her past on ‘You Don’t Do It for Me Anymore’ and serving ice-cold bangers in the shape of ‘Daddy Issues’ and ‘Games’.

All those years of unwavering stanning finally paid off and I really think the stars aligned for Demi this year in a big way. An album I can happily listen to without skipping a single track, ‘Tell Me You Love Me’  is exactly what Demi Lovato should sound like in 2017.

BEST TRACK: Tell Me You Love Me

3. Kesha – Rainbow

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I don’t think I’m able to put into words how special and important this album is for Kesha. There’s no time to go into the details of her story, but you can literally hear her exorcising her demons and making peace with her past. A past that’s absolutely appalling and just goes to show how shit women are treated in the music industry.

‘Rainbow’, as an album, feels like it’s made up of two parts that effortlessly meander throughout. ‘Praying’, ‘Hymn’, ‘Bastards’ and ‘Learning to Let Go’ all feel like you’re eavesdropping on Kesha’s most personal therapy sessions. But then on the flipside, she’s fun living her best life on ‘Woman’, ‘Boogie Feet’ and ‘Let ‘Em Talk’.

It’s a rollercoaster listen, packed with surprising features and a melting pot of sounds. And you know what? It all works quite nicely.

BEST TRACK: Spaceship

2. Lorde – Melodrama

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Missing out on the top spot on my list this year, only just, is Lorde with what I think will eventually be considered as her raison d’etre. The funny thing is that before this year I just did not care about Lorde. If that’s not character development then I don’t know what is!

There’s a lot to unpack here on ‘Melodrama’ and it definitely feels like a concept album. You can’t just cherry pick your fave songs because outside of the context of the album they lose their magic. An album for the streaming era this is not.

What I loved about this album was that it was so masterfully produced with Lorde’s lyrics often feeling like a punch to the gut. ‘Liability’ feels like a diary entry I have written over and over in my head many a time. Then by contrast ‘Green Light’, my song of 2017, and ‘Perfect Places’ bookend the album to practically leave you drowning in euphoria and optimism. Then there’s ‘Sober’, ‘Hard Feelings’ and ‘Super Cut’. God, it’s all just so perfect.

How Lorde managed to make an album that feels so huge yet so intimate at the same time I’ll never know, but I’m glad she did.

BEST TRACK: Homemade Dynamite 

1. SZA- Ctrl

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Okay, storytime! I spent most of 2017 either depressed, riddled with anxiety or just apathetic at the state of the world. And it probably didn’t help that I was in what I now know was a toxic relationship for a good chunk of the year.

Now that I’ve given you some context, SZA’s debut ‘Ctrl’ was the perfect sounding board for my “challenging” year. Built around a conversation with her mother about the meaning of control, the topics and stories SZA was singing about felt like everyday conversations I’d have with my friends about relationships, hook-up culture, self-worth and men.

I can say with confidence that I listened to this album practically everywhere. At work, at the gym, on Sunday evenings just as The Fear of Monday crept in, even when I was happy I still bumped to it. I was truly lost in this album.

Between ‘Doves In The Wind’, ‘Broken Clocks’, ‘The Weekend’ and ‘Garden (Say it Like Dat)’, there’s song for every type of mood. But a special mention has to go to ‘20 Something’ – summing up perfectly that feeling of being in your 20s drifting through life worrying you’re never good enough and wondering what the fuck? HELLO! IT ME.

Brutally honest, painfully relatable, funny and cathartic as fuck; SZA’s ‘Ctrl’ was the soundtrack to my highs, lows and everything else in between this year.

BEST TRACK: 20 Something

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