Musically and emotionally, Concrete and Gold is their most balanced record yet.
The sound is still ornate – on "Glass Hillside," nylon-string embroidery melts into gilded choirs, with oddball melodies recalling Brit proggers Soft Machine. Elsewhere, simple cybernetic beats and synths dominate.
Far From Over might lack an obvious mainstream hook, but the sturdiness of its design and the passion of its execution make it 2017's jazz album to beat.
From A Room is strikingly focused, sonically and thematically.
Sure, it's less focused than the reportage of 2015's Summertime '06, but the varying emotions and outlooks mark a full step forward into becoming a multi-layered, genre-crossing, emotion-spilling pop auteur in the vein of West, Drake or Childish Gambino.
More Life is his finest longform collection in years, cheerfully indulgent at 22 tracks and 82 minutes, a masterful tour of all the grooves in his head.
Shying away from the big riffs of 2013's Ultraviolence and the glossy noise of 2015's Honeymoon, Lust for Life is almost like a fan service album, solidifying the idea of Del Rey as a trapped-in-space pop star of yore who happened to touch down in Los Angeles in the era of streaming music and sponsored afterparties.
A gorgeously produced, hook-studded record with cocked-eyebrow trepidation adding a jittery edge – a combination that's very of-the-moment in 2017, even if it veers outside of pop's rigid lines.
What makes this more than glib is a golden-era songwriting craft evidently shaped by Tillman's tenure with Fleet Foxes, and his unsparing self-examination.
On his superb solo debut, the One Direction heartthrob claims his turf as a true rock & roll prince, a sunshine superman, a cosmic dancer in touch with his introspective acoustic side as well as his glam flash.
After an opening series of expertly crafted country pastiches, All American Made indeed evolves into one of the most political country records in years, a declarative honky-tonk manifesto of small-town farmer populism and working-class feminism.
Just as 2008's excellent Harps and Angels served as a sardonic send-off to the Bush era, Dark Matter greets #MAGA America with his signature brutal comic irony and heartbreaking grandeur.
Jay-Z's unusual vulnerability elevates 4:44 to something more than just a tawdry reality show.
Culture ... sees Migos upping their game musically, working with some of Atlanta's hottest producers (Metro Boomin, Zaytoven) to cook up stickier melodies than ever.
She's playing for bigger emotional stakes – this is an album full of one-on-one adult love songs.
James Murphy and his wrecking crew of New York punk-disco marauders don't waste a moment on the superb American Dream – it's a relentless, expansive, maddeningly funny set of songs asking how a lifetime of good intentions and hard work can blow up into such a mess.
Kesha channels that drama into the best music of her career – finding common ground between the honky-tonks she loves and the dance clubs she ruled with hits like "Tik Tok" and "Die Young," between glossy beats, epic ballads and grimy guitar riffs.
If experience has taught U2 anything, it is that a great new song can still feel like the first day of the rest of your life. Songs of Experience is that innocence renewed.
She has said the album's conceit is a house party and its unfolding dramas; indeed, Pure Heroine's cool snark is now a hotter passion, in its millennial-skeptical way.
If To Pimp a Butterfly was the best rap album in 2015, Damn. is the platonic ideal of the best rap album of 1995, a dazzling display of showy rhyme skills, consciousness-raising political screeds, self-examination and bass-crazy-kicking.