If you're clued up with how time works, or indeed fractions, it'll come as no surprise that we're a quarter of the way through 2017. Congrats on making it this far.

If we were long-lost friends, passing each other on the street, this is the part where I'd say something like, "damn, this year is going fast, isn't it?", but I don't really know you. And in all honesty, 2017 is going as fast as any other year. It just so happens to be orange-tinged. And Brexit-tinged. And, oh wait, let me just check because this sounds an awful lot like 2016 (it seems the garbage can fire metaphor we all clung to last year is still going strong.)

It's not all bad, though. Listening to music is typically seen as a pretty OK way to pass the time, and 2017 - again, like most years - has offered up some pretty good albums for us obsess over. And look, I have a lot of respect for first quarter releases: to release something during that period takes a lot of confidence. Or maybe artists don't care about end-year lists like we all do? Because let's face it, albums released from the summer onwards tend to do better during listageddon. We're awful people with awful memories.

Maybe this list will serve as a reminder that good music deserves more than just a couple of listens. Who knows.


Sampha - Process

This is not an album for a breakthrough, nor is it a bastion in the storm. It's something grander. When you're in the peak of a mental cyclone - who truly wants a helping hand? No matter whether it's well-meaning, gentle prod or some grand, patronising "here is the way to get over", Sampha had no interest in saving us all. What he did give us is the soundtrack for the breakdown. When the darkness comes, and you'd prefer to just be in it, rather than pushed into some cloying, artificial light, Process is there. Just remember: you can always come home. Chase McMullen

Mountain View

Dirty Projectors - Dirty Projectors

Every breakup record has its own obsession: ire or even hate, or a descent into true despair a la Ryan Adams; Longstreth simply seems to wish things to be as they were. Even as he grimly declares, "Love will burn out / Love will just fade away" on 'Up in Hudson', in between, he's still sweetly, fondly traversing memory. In short, he isn't particularly fond of admitting romance's continued hold, but he lets the music do it for him, with the opening song alluding to matrimony through its title, and closer 'I See You' bringing the message back around with literal wedding bells. This manages to make Dirty Projectors, both the kindest and saddest breakup album in recent memory. After all, when something ends and it's of no surprise to you, what need do you have for an outlet?

This is a record for when you're wondering just what went wrong, just where you lost one another. When so many good feelings remain, when you can so easily return to the well for inspiration and hope, why did things have to fade at all? Dave Longstreth certainly doesn't know, and in his search for the answer, he invites us all into his sorrow. Bask, we shall. Chase McMullen

Mountain View

Laura Marling - Semper Femina

But, comparing these tunes to past rock greats misses the point. Only in hindsight do the mirror images of this record present themselves. While listening, however, the swirl of guitars and melodies is all that matters. You'll blink your eye, and all of 'Next Time' will have gone by. By the third or fourth listen, this trance will include singing along in a singsong, White Album kind of way. And there's another reason Marling's current state of affairs will stand the test of time. One can hardly bring it up without having to mention something already widely appreciated and loved. It's a journey beyond explanation Marling is taking us on. Michael Cyrs

Mountain View

Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked at Me

This is the real life experience of being unable to look at the one you love; of them fading into "something jaundiced and fucked." There is no respite here, no merciful glimmers of peace in loss, it's clear he loves his child deeply, ending the LP with thoughts of her, but everything else is shit. For forty-two minutes, he lets us inside. God forbid, should the day come you suffer such a loss as this, there will be no more honest companion. In any other case, this is not likely to be an album you yearn to play often. It is taxing. How many albums can you name that truly take something away from you by the time they cease? It may not be one you play often, but it's also one you will never forget. It's omnipresent. Words fail. Chase McMullen

Mountain View

Julie Byrne - Not Even Happiness

She's made a salve, giving us her darkest moments, letting us leave something from our own in return. How has she made a feeling of fading hope allow us to leave revitalized? What right do we even have to pillage her memory? It's all quite a lot to pose, a great deception in seemingly warm, embracing folk. However she managed it, whatever we will take from it as it settles, delving further past its placid surface into its cavernous mystery will surely remain one of the year's earliest true pleasures. Chase McMullen

Mountain View

Thundercat - Drunk

Lurking just beneath the eased groove of the album is a general malaise, a clear existential confusion that's both relatable and surprising beneath the warm exterior of the album. Therein lies Drunk's true victory, offering its listener both solace and sunny vibes in its immediate presentation, and rewarding the focused observer with ruminations befitting a night of drinking that led to self-examination rather than glee. Regardless of what you're looking for, Thundercat is ready to serve you. Drink up. Chase McMullen

Mountain View

Allison Crutchfield - Tourist in This Town

Allison Crutchfield has proven her poetry is a force to be reckoned with. She is able to take words coming from a place so personal and place them in a pattern that anyone with a heart can relate to. She not only tells a story, she takes it a step further, peeling back the façade and interacting with the truths that haunt us all in those late night hours. And it is that bravery that truly propels Tourist in This Town. Ian Hays

Mountain View

Migos - Culture

There's just no stopping it, this is Migos recognising just how grand of an impact they've had on the culture, and as our world hurtles further into a pathetic mess - amidst the justly seething political rap already popping up - Migos just want to give us a good time, perhaps one last time. Chase McMullen

Mountain View

Syd - Fin

Fin is a mature, if slightly restrained debut. Unfortunately, there's not quite enough here to get a true sense of where Syd's long-term artistic vision will take her. Nonetheless, what Fin does, it does incredibly well - and with confidence. It's clever, it's fun and it's consistently enjoyable. If Fin is viewed as an understated introduction, it serves only to heighten excitement and anticipation as to where Syd can go next. James Norman-Fyfe

Mountain View

Planning For Burial - Below the House

The album ends with the title track, 'Below The House'. This seems to go hand in hand with Wasluck's moniker, Planning For Burial, as if he knows that he'll never again escape the isolation and monotony of his enclosure, and is destined to end up interred beneath the very place in which he was born, lived and died.

It's like the final embers of a dying fire, where our hero knows that his end is nigh, but is desperate to maintain his burning passion to his final breath, as he repeats "my love, my love," reaching out to someone long gone and forgotten in the wreckage that was his existence. It's a truly haunting and desolate way to wrap up Below The House, and perfectly caps off what is a blazing and devilishly crafted album. This is a fully realised project, enshrouded in frost and fury, and all of the passion will seep into your psyche when you let it enfold you into its powerful gloom. Rob Hakimian

Mountain View

Western Daughter - Driftwood Songs

With Driftwood Songs, Western Daughter has delivered something new and unique into the world of music in 2017. It is something that draws from numerous familiar sources and arranges them together in a way that works beautifully. It works so well, in fact, that I don't see any way that Driftwood Songs will not be among the strongest contenders for my album of the year, and it certainly should end up on many others' lists as well. Zachary Evans

Mountain View

Sorority Noise - You're Not As ______ As You Think

It's emotionally rich, and intelligent, and purposeful, and firmly cohesive; that such divergent realms of ideas not only coagulate but conduce is truly remarkable. Even when donning my beigest critical hat; in the execution of concept, it's still ineffably special. But far more meaningfully, this an album which will mean a great deal to a lot of people, including myself. On the surface and on a symbolic level, it's a salient reminder that music matters. Kieran Devlin

Mountain View

Spoon - Hot Thoughts

Hot Thoughts might not be as consistently hit-packed as some of Spoon's most loved albums, but it certainly makes a fine new addition to their mighty catalogue. Through their lyrics they tap into simple, universal themes of love and frustration, but through their fastidious work on production they're also able to transport the listener - to "a side street in Shibuya," or a "train to Marrakesh," or place you "under Tennessee skies." Overall Hot Thoughts doubles down on what we already knew: that Spoon are a band always looking to push themselves, a fact that seems to be getting more acute with each passing album, and it should be celebrated. Rob Hakimian

Mountain View

The Magnetic Fields - 50 Song Memoir

50 Song Memoir is proof that the power of music is far-reaching and varied in scope. In fact, despite being shorter than 69 Love Songs, 50 Song Memoir feels leaps and bounds more ambitious than its predecessor. It can make you laugh, it can make you cry, it can make you think, or you can just move your hips, oftentimes all within the same song. 50 Song Memoir is as much the story of Stephin Merritt's life as it is a love letter to song. It is a certifiable masterpiece and one that music lovers 'round the world will not soon forget. William Tomer

Mountain View

Blanck Mass - World Eater

It's safe to say Benjamin John Power's Blanck Mass, and Fuck Buttons of course, are solid references for producers and musicians that wish to pursue a path in loud experimental electronics. That is reflected in World Eater too. It's coherent, exciting, and strong, and it gives you an in-depth idea of how you can articulate experimental soundscapes with rough portions of sound that cause commotion. Francisco Gonçalves Silva

Mountain View

Visible Cloaks - Reassemblage

As the album's title would suggest, Reassemblage is about breaking down and reconstructing sound. The translation of voice into synthesizer patterns is just one example of this. Visible Cloaks assemble their sound world out of randomised melodies and instruments pulled together from wildly different contexts. The duo draw as much from Eastern musical styles, particularly Japanese experimental music, as much as Western ambient and avant-garde. So whilst there are shades of Jan St. Werner, Brian Eno and Yellow Magic Orchestra, the result is a series of soundscapes like nothing else. Robert Whitfield

Mountain View

Lowly - Heba

The name Heba is taken from the Arabic for "gift," and it's a perfect title for this album. It is a gift to listeners, sure, in its vibrantly wrapped, pristinely presented manner. But moreover, Lowly make it clear throughout that they look upon life and all of its intricacies as a gift, and they have translated that wonderment and thankfulness into a beautiful ode to the world on their debut album. Rob Hakimian

Mountain View

Cloud Nothings - Life Without Sound

A life without sound is a lifting of the veil; for sound can proffer escape, comfort and inspiration, but it obfuscates the formidable necessities of the present. It's oxymoronic to suggest that a record could successfully advance such meaning while infested by hooks, yet Life Without Sound bears itself with moral clarity and resolve while rocking damn hard. Kieran Devlin

Mountain View

Austra - Future Politics

Future Politics is a call for reaction. You're supposed to feel, to fight, to question, to contradict, to be active and to open yourself to a world of endless possibilities. It is also urging us to be transparent, present and receptive to a wider spectrum than just the binaries. Isn't that the future? The personal is political, and Austra just did us a favour: they've laid down the cards by singing them - and done it very well. Francisco Gonçalves Silva

Mountain View

The Menzingers - After the Party

After The Party is resurgent by rediscovering everything that's exciting about The Menzingers' esotericism, and it's fresh through galvanising this logical step in their thematic journey with a goodie-bag of gratifying surprises. Kieran Devlin