TimeOut critics Joanna Hunkin (JH), Chris Schulz (CS), Karl Puschmann (KP), Siena Yates (SY) and George Fenwick (GF) pick their best albums of 2017.

1. Aldous Harding - Party

Aldous Harding's Party is a devastating, seductive powerhouse of gothic folk.
Aldous Harding's Party is a devastating, seductive powerhouse of gothic folk.

On first listen, Aldous Harding's sophomore album Party was very good. But as the months have passed since its May release, it has grown on us, wrapping its melodies around our minds, until we've become consumed by its power and poetry. Equally devastating and seductive, its haunting beauty will make you yearn for a freshly broken heart to fully appreciate its awesomeness. (JH)

2. Lorde - Melodrama

Lorde's Melodrama is a deeply personal pop record that you can both dance and cry to.
Lorde's Melodrama is a deeply personal pop record that you can both dance and cry to.

Lorde's Melodrama was one of the biggest albums of the year and one of a very select few albums we awarded five stars to. In her long-awaited second release, Lorde delivered heartbreak, vengeance and nostalgia via pure pop production, piano ballads and even a sprinkling of hip hop. It's honest and insightful yet incredibly personal, and with its exploration of sorrow, joy and everything in between, it became the rare kind of album you can simultaneously cry and (mostly) dance to. (SY)

3. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN

Eight months on and it still feels like we're untangling DAMN's mysteries, unravelling its barrage of words, working out Kendrick Lamar's intentions. On DNA you could tell he was angry - it's a pummelling showcase of his skills. But that's the beauty of the Compton rapper's fourth record. Keep listening, take a deep dive, go get lost in the message boards, and you can get buried in its layers for days. Next month, DAMN is being re-released with all the tracks reversed so we can do it all over again. (CS)


4. Khalid - American Teen

He may have sung about being Young, Dumb and Broke but only one of those adjectives applies to 19-year-old Khalid these days. His debut album has dominated the charts, thanks to its smart, soulful rhymes and mature, thoughtful lyrics. Featuring two tracks produced by NZ's own Joel Little, American Teen has stayed on high rotate since we first heard it and remains one of the year's best. (JH)

5. SWIDT - Stoneyhunga

A rap album about gentrification? How does that work? Brilliantly. Yes, SWIDT's debut charted the changing landscape in their home suburb Onehunga. They reference shops that no longer exist and streets now filled with $1m homes. But Stoneyhunga has so much fun it's impossible not to want to join SWIDT's party. These players of the day became the Kiwi rap event of the year. Let's hope the home run continues. (CS)


CTRL showcases SZA's stunningly honest and intricately clever brand of R'n'B.
CTRL showcases SZA's stunningly honest and intricately clever brand of R'n'B.

If you want an insight into life as a single 20-something in 2017, CTRL is it. SZA explores love, insecurity, polyamory, sexuality - everything that goes into finding yourself and someone to love in the age of social media. SZA holds nothing back and her hip hop sound and textured vocals are uniquely brilliant. (SY)

7. Sampha - Process

This quiet, shy South London singer had been working behind the scenes for years. But he saved his best songs for himself, emerging with a Mercury Prize-winning debut that showcased his best asset: his soothing, soulful voice. (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano still hits me in the chest every single time. (CS).

8. Neil Finn - Out of Silence

Neil Finn's Out of Silence features some of his most affecting songs to date.
Neil Finn's Out of Silence features some of his most affecting songs to date.

Neil Finn invited the world to watch him make this album by live-streaming three recording sessions. These mini-gigs were simply astounding, filled with guest cameos, surprises and a celebratory party vibe. The resulting album however stands in stark contrast to its good time recording process. Somber, quiet and filled with some of the most affecting songs Finn's ever written. It's something to shout about. (KP)

9. Queens of the Stone Age - Villains

On this rip-snorting, hip-shaking return Queens wanted you to dance with the devil. Adorning their groove-laden, guitar grunt with synths and beats the group summoned a record to get your head moshing and your toes tapping. Hella good. (KP)

10. JAY-Z - 4:44

Few were excited about another Jay Z record. He'd had a bad run. But 4:44 is unlike any other. It's raw and honest, with the Brooklyn rapper whispering intimate lines about his marriage to Beyonce, his daughter, all the wrongs he had to right. It's a headphone masterpiece performed in a confessional booth. (CS)

11. Fazerdaze - Morningside

10 tracks draw from a limited palette of fuzzy guitars and simple pop structures – but don't let that fool you into thinking it's a simple record. Amelia Murray nails the very essence of bedroom pop on her debut; lyrically, she untangles her insecurities with finesse, while her production breathes with an enriching warmth and intimacy. One of the year's finest debuts. (GF)

12. The Horrors - V

The path through The Horrors' moody, mid-tempo murk is occasionally illuminated by shimmering orbs of synth-pop and flashy bolts of radiant new wave, but for the most part is an aural wander through an uneasy, psychedelic and foggy atmosphere. Scarily great. (KP)

13. Gorillaz - Humanz

The first big political album of the Trump era imagined a night sky filled with nukes. It's all apocalyptic doom, bass heavy beats and guest vocalists getting their probs with the pres. off their chests. It really shouldn't be this much of a good time. But the record's a party starter even if it asks you to imagine the world ending. (KP)

14. Mura Masa - Mura Masa

Few could put a name to the British DJ's face. But go back and listen to Mura Masa's self-titled debut and it's easy to see why he's here. It's a round-the-world experience featuring Brooklyn rap, Caribbean pop and British house. If you're looking for a summer soundtrack, this is it.(CS)

15. The National - Sleep Well Beast

The National's Sleep Well Beast is dark and introspective - in the best way.
The National's Sleep Well Beast is dark and introspective - in the best way.

Even by their standards, The National got dark on this record. The toxic political climate of the States is burdensome, as is their more personal anxieties and fears concerning love and marriage. Fortunately all the heavy vibes make the moments of hope that pop up surprisingly often just shine that much brighter. (KP)

16. Yumi Zouma - Willowbank

Just over a year after their debut album Yoncalla, Yumi Zouma returned with a sophomore record that knocked it out of the park. Willowbank delivers lush, alt-pop dreaminess in droves, and each nuanced track showcases a new-found synchronicity for the four-piece. Where Yoncalla was the ephemeral winter sun, Willowbank is summer in the city. (GF)

17. Drake - More Life

Technically, this isn't an album - it's a "playlist". But More Life's A-list roster includes Sampa, Skepta, Travis Scott and Young Thug, as well as the first new Kanye West verse in forever. Drake doesn't even feature on some songs, but it doesn't matter. Call it what you want. I'll call it essential. (CS)

18. LCD Soundsystem - American Dream

After six years in retirement LCD Soundsystem made a surprise comeback with an album more relevant than ever. Heavily informed by Bowie's Berlin era it's languid and reflective and hyper self-aware. It's not all cerebral however, as the group keep more than a few shoe shufflers in the mix. As far as comebacks go, it's a dream result. (KP)

19. St Vincent - MASSEDUCTION

While MASSEDUCTION is St Vincent's most accessible album yet, Annie Clark's idiosyncratic alt-pop remains firmly rooted in excellence. Clark burns through themes of sexuality and obsession with a furiously trained eye, and an unwavering commitment to creating gripping, danceable pop; the result is a thrilling journey into the fundamentals of human desire. (GF)

20. Teeks - The Grapefruit Skies

We have strict rules around eligibility for our Best Album list and usually EPs are a strict no-go. But Teeks' debut release was just too good to ignore. At just six-tracks long, Teeks' rich, soothing melodies are a balm for the soul that will leave you yearning for more. (JH)