The 25 best albums of 2017, according to critics

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kendrick lamar damn Interscope Kendrick Lamar's "DAMN."

This year in music saw a number of innovative album releases from acclaimed artists. 

Rap great Kendrick Lamar started the year off strongly with "DAMN.," his third, critically lauded LP.

Artists like Lorde, SZA, and St. Vincent followed suit, with standout works that critics universally praised.

To get a full picture of the year's critical consensus in music, we turned to the reviews aggregator  Metacritic  to rank the most well-received albums  of 2017.

Note: Metacritic's ranking excludes free albums, mixtapes, and reissues.

Here are the 25 best albums of the year, according to critics:

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25. Rodney Crowell — "Close Ties"

25. Rodney Crowell — "Close Ties"

Critic score: 86/100

User score: 7.1/10

Sheryl Crow and Rosanne Cash appear alongside country legend Rodney Crowell on his poignant 17th studio album. The Observer called it "delicately sung and immaculately played," and "a high point in an impressive career."

24. Tinawiren — "Elwan"

Critic score: 86/100

User score: 8.0/10

The seventh album from Tuareg band Tinawiren wraps rock and blues music up in a drifting, hypnotic sound influenced by the group's homeland, Mali. Exclaim called it "a can't-miss release" that makes "the geographically distant feel welcomingly familiar."

23. Paul Weller — "A Kind Revolution"

23. Paul Weller — "A Kind Revolution"

Critic score: 86/100

User score: 8.2/10

Veteran British rock musician Paul Weller's 13th studio album is a crisp and melodically inventive collection. Record Collector called it "a proper major work, revealing an artist at ease with himself without resting on his laurels."

22. Magnetic Fields — "50 Song Memoir"

22. Magnetic Fields — "50 Song Memoir"

Critic score: 86/100

User score: 7.5/10

The sprawling yet inviting five-disc "50 Song Memoir" features one song for each of singer Stephin Merritt's first 50 years of life. The AV Club described it as a "good gimmick" that "has the power to transcend itself."

21. SZA — "CTRL"

21. SZA — "CTRL"

Critic score: 86/100

User score: 8.2/10

Kendrick Lamar labelmate SZA comes into her own as one of the most idiosyncratic and compelling songwriters in modern R&B on her debut LP. Pitchfork praised SZA's collection for being "in touch with love's fragilities" and the "tireless work" that love requires.

 

20. Sampha — "Process"

Critic score: 86/100

User score: 8.2/10

British singer-producer Sampha concocts an atmospheric and devastating set of songs on "Process," his debut album. Entertainment Weekly labeled it "a sonically adventurous vision that's entirely his own and builds on his enormous potential."

19. Gas — "Narkopop"

19. Gas — "Narkopop"

Critic score: 86/100

User score: 7.8/10

"Narkopop" is German electronic artist Wolfgang Voigt's first album in 17 years. Mojo heaped praise on the LP's "grand intermeshing spinneys of lush ambient sound, distant pounding beats, lonesome horns, and glimpsed shadows of melody that hint at Beethoven, Mozart, and older Teutonic ghosts.

18. Four Tet — "New Energy"

18. Four Tet — "New Energy"

Critic score: 86/100

User score: 8.1/10

The ninth studio album from British producer Kieran Hebden (Four Tet) features 14 shape-shifting and inventive electronic tracks. Spin lauded Hebden's "desire to remove a listener from their surroundings and bring them someplace higher, no matter the means."

17. Vijay Iyer Sextet — "Far from Over"

17. Vijay Iyer Sextet — "Far from Over"

Critic score: 86/100

User score: N/A

MacArthur Genius grant winner and jazz pianist Vijay Iyer linked up with five other musicians on his latest release. AllMusic called the work a "balance of harmonically adventurous exploration and no-holds-barred blowing."

16. Power Trip — "Nightmare Logic"

Critic score: 86/100

User score: 7.7/10

True to its name, Power Trip's second album "Nightmare Logic" is a nightmarish suite of erratic and propulsive heavy metal. PopMatters said it was "easily one of the most inspired and thought-provoking [metal releases] of the decade."

15. The Horrors — "V"

15. The Horrors — "V"

Critic score: 87/100

User score: 8.3/10

The fifth album from British rock band The Horrors was produced by Adele's Grammy-winning producer, Paul Epworth. The AV Club said the album "confirms them as one of the most consistently surprising, most artistically sophisticated, simply greatest rock bands working today."

14. Arca — "Arca"

Critic score: 87/100

User score: 8.0/10

Venezuelan producer Arca's self-titled third album continues his string of unsettling, bizarre, and entrancing avant-garde releases. Uncut praised the way the album's "intensely personal touch humanises his alien sound design."

13. Oxbow — "The Thin Black Duke"

13. Oxbow — "The Thin Black Duke"

Critic score: 87/100

User score: 7.6/10

California-based experimental rock band Oxbow blends powerful guitar work with radical horn and string arrangements on its seventh studio album. Drowned in Sound called the LP "an incredible, cinematic experience which is at once rewarding and terrifying."

12. Fever Ray — "Plunge"

12. Fever Ray — "Plunge"

Critic score: 87/100

User score: 8.4/10

Swedish electro-pop singer Fever Ray received acclaim for her second studio album, "Plunge." Pitchfork called the LP "sometimes harsh, often dissonant, [and] frequently audacious."

11. Brand New — "Science Fiction"

Critic score: 88/100

User score: 8.8/10

Alt-rock band Brand New won commercial success and critical acclaim for "Science Fiction," its first album in eight years. AllMusic called the LP "a complex and nuanced beast of introspective indie rock and detailed production."

10. Circuit des Yeux — "Reaching for Indigo"

10. Circuit des Yeux — "Reaching for Indigo"

Critic score: 88/100

User score: 8.1/10

Singer-songwriter Haley Fohr's sixth album as Circuit des Yeux mixes folk, rock and electronic influences. Pitchfork described it as "stunning" and "[sounding] at once like an exorcism and an epiphany."

9. St. Vincent — "Masseduction"

Critic score: 88/100

User score: 8.8/10

Annie Clark's electric fifth album found her collaborating with Lorde producer Jack Antonoff and Kendrick Lamar collaborators Sounwave and Kamasi Washington. The Boston Globe called it "a jittering, coruscating sucker punch of an album" and a "bona fide masterpiece."

8. Valerie June — "The Order of Time"

8. Valerie June — "The Order of Time"

Critic score: 89/100

User score: 7.9/10

Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Valerie June channeled old-school, storytelling country, gospel, and rock influences on her fifth LP. Slant Magazine called it "a triumph of form" and a "completely idiosyncratic take on American roots music, steeped in its tradition but not beholden to it." 

7. Vince Staples — "Big Fish Theory"

Critic score: 89/100

User score: 8.3/10

Rapper Vince Staples' second album featured radical-sounding production from electronic artists like Flume and Sophie. NME gave "Big Fish Theory" a glowing review, writing, "Whatever this is, it's jaw-dropping."

6. Jlin — "Black Origami"

6. Jlin — "Black Origami"

Critic score: 90/100

User score: 6.8/10

Indiana-based electronic producer Jlin's second album is a bold and wholly original storm of vacillating industrial beats. Consequence of Sound called it "an album that, like its predecessors, will be savored and analyzed for the rest of the year."

5. Creeper — "Eternity, In Your Arms"

5. Creeper — "Eternity, In Your Arms"

Critic score: 89/100

User score: 7.3/10

British punk rock band Creeper cranked up the theatrics on its first full-length album, a concept record about a fictional paranormal investigator. Q Magazine described it as a work where "the switches from retro punk to camp stadium rock are seamless," while labeling Creeper as "worthy heirs to the bombastic rock bands of the past."

4. Converge — "The Dusk in Us"

4. Converge — "The Dusk in Us"

Critic score: 90/100

User score: 8.7/10

Massachusetts-based metal band Convergence won over critics with its eerie and abrasive ninth LP. The Chicago Tribune called it "more dramatic than ever, making greater use of near-silence and dynamics to underline hooks and refrains."

4. Lorde — "Melodrama"

4. Lorde — "Melodrama"

Critic score: 91/100

User score: 9.0/10

New Zealand's Lorde expanded her sonic palette and songwriting abilities on her dynamic and personal second LP. NME called it "a rudely excellent album, introspective without ever being indulgent, OTT in all the right ways, honest and brave."

2. Mount Eerie — "A Crow Looked at Me"

2. Mount Eerie — "A Crow Looked at Me"

Critic score: 93/100

User score: 8.1/10

The emotionally shattering eighth album from Phil Elverum's Mount Eerie traces his grief in the aftermath of his wife's death. Paste Magazine called it "the kind of album that makes all others seem frivolous while you're hearing it."

1. Kendrick Lamar — "DAMN."

1. Kendrick Lamar — "DAMN."

Critic score: 95/100

User score: 8.9/10

Kendrick Lamar followed up two bona fide classic LPs with another masterful concept album that tackles essential themes like "GOD.," "FEAR.," and "PRIDE." over 14 tracks. Rolling Stone declared it "a brilliant combination of the timeless and the modern, the old school and the next-level."

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