KEXP Listeners’ Top 90.3 Albums of 2017

KEXP is counting down the Top 90.3 Albums of 2017, as voted on by our listeners! Follow along from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM Pacific Time, and see if your favorites made the list. And check out what KEXP DJs, staff, and volunteers picked for their favorites on the KEXP blog.


Reviews by Don Yates, KEXP Music Director (except where noted)

1 LCD Soundsystem – American Dream (DFA/ Columbia)

A powerful return to form featuring some of Murphy’s finest, most deeply felt songwriting with anxiety-fueled lyrics revolving around aging and the passage of time on songs ranging from driving, nervy dance-rock to wistful, elegiac ballads..

2 Kendrick Lamar – DAMN. (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope)

On his fourth studio album, West Coast rapper Kendrick Lamar works with a slew of producers including James Blake, BadBadNotGood, Greg Kurstin, The Alchemist and 9th Wonder, and many more. DAMN. received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rap Album and Album of the Year at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards.

3 The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding (Atlantic Records)

An excellent set of expansive, ’80s-steeped rock. Beautifully produced, the band’s music has never sounded better than it does here with a bliss-inducing combination of expansive guitar leads, shimmering keyboards, synthetic strings, driving rhythms, scruffy, Dylanesque vocals and anthemic song hooks.

4 The National – Sleep Well Beast (4AD)

Another masterful set of brooding rock that injects a bit more electronic experimentation along with an occasional welcome return to rock aggression. As beautifully crafted and intricately arranged as always, the album is a powerful depiction of crumbling relationships and middle-aged regret.

5 Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice (Matador)

Melbourne, Australia’s Courtney Barnett hooked up with Philadelphia’s Kurt Vile for a warm, casual and utterly charming set of shaggy-dog folk-rock. The songs are a mix of originals and covers, with most of them about writing songs, musician camaraderie and the creative process.

6 Slowdive – Slowdive (Dead Oceans)

UK band Slowdive return with their first new album in 22 years, a strong return-to-form of shoegazerish dream-pop with swirling, reverbed guitars, ethereal vocals, hazy harmonies and blissed-out melodies.

7 St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION (Loma Vista)

The fifth album from this Dallas-bred, New York-based artist (aka Annie Clark) successfully combines bigger production with some of her most personal songs to date. The album’s diverse sound ranges from frenetic New Wave and slinky funk-pop to lush, string-laded ballads on songs combining an intricately textured, densely produced sound with anxiety-fueled lyrics revolving around issues of power, control, identity and mortality.

8 Arcade Fire – Everything Now (Sonovox/Columbia)

This Montreal band’s fifth album is a real mixed bag. Like their last album (2013’s Reflektor), this one features a more dance-oriented sound, but it also contains some grooves with takes on consumerism, social media and content overload.

9 Alvvays – Antisocialites (Polyvinyl)

Toronto-based band Alvvays deliver another impressive set of breezy dream-pop with fuzzy guitars, atmospheric synths, driving rhythms and wistful melodies with Molly Rankin’s ethereal vocals and melancholy lyrics.

10 Father John Misty – Pure Comedy (Sub Pop)

His finest to date, combining an orchestral folk-pop sound with self-aware, often-cutting and sometimes hilarious lyrics aimed at narcissism, hypocrisy, instant gratification, modern ADD culture and other ills of the modern world, leavened with some hope for love and community.

11 Spoon – Hot Thoughts (Matador)

The Austin band’s ninth album finds them tweaking their sound with more prominent dance beats, electronic textures and adventurous sonic touches, while still providing an abundance of indelible pop hooks.

12 Beck – Colors (Capitol)

Beck teamed up with pop superproducer Greg Kurstin for his 13th studio album, and the end result is by far the most mainstream-sounding thing he’s ever made. It’s a relentlessly uptempo set of shiny, hook-filled pop that’s happy to hang in the shallow end with some of his most conventional songwriting to date.

13 Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Soul Of A Woman (Daptone Records)

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings share their seventh and final album, recorded before Jones passed away from cancer in November 2016, a strong set of buoyant old-school soul and funk, with songs mostly written by members of the Dap-Kings combining punchy horns, chunky rhythm guitar, searing organ riffs, cinematic strings and in-the-pocket grooves with her gritty, soulful vocals.

14 ODESZA – A Moment Apart (Counter/Ninja Tune/Foreign Family Collective)

Seattle-via-Bellingham duo ODESZA release another potent set of emotive electronic grooves with shimmering synths, mostly downtempo beats, occasional guest vocalists, treated vocal samples and dreamy melodies. The impressive guest lineup includes Leon Bridges, Regina Spektor and RY X.

15 Fleet Foxes – Crack Up (Nonesuch Records)

This Seattle-bred band’s third album of expansive folk-pop is their most adventurous work to date, featuring a rich, ornate sound on sprawling, shape-shifting songs with complex arrangements and impressionistic lyrics.

16 Wolf Alice – Visions of a Life (Dirty Hit/RCA)

This British band’s second album is an even more expansive and assured set ranging from shoegazerish psych-rock and ferocious garage-punk to driving synth-pop and atmospheric folk.

17 Chastity Belt – I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone (Hardly Art)

This Seattle band’s third album is another impressive set of brooding post-punk with dreamy, ringing guitars, wistful melodies and personal, sometime angst-fueled lyrics.

18 Sylvan Esso – What Now (Loma Vista)

The second album from this Durhan, NC duo is another sharply crafted set of propulsive electro-pop with sometimes celebratory, occasionally biting lyrics often revolving around the highs and pitfalls of music.

19 Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins (RCA)

An adventurous set of densely layered and intricately arranged prog-pop, featuring a punchier, more beat-driven sound to more forcefully drive home the band’s dark, imagistic lyrics of decay and alienation.

20 The xx – I See You (Young Turks)

This London trio’s excellent third album brings a brighter, more varied and pop-inflected sound to their spectral electro-pop courtesy of band member/producer Jamie xx, though the emotional focus remains on Madley Croft and Sim’s vulnerable vocals and intimate, often-dark lyrics.

21 Big Thief – Capacity (Saddle Creek)

This Brooklyn band’s second album is a well-crafted set of expansive folk-pop with a mostly intimate and hushed sound accompanying Adrianne Lenker’s soothing soprano and imagistic lyrics countering life’s hardships with resiliency and hope.

22 Run The Jewels – RTJ3 (Run the Jewels, Inc.)

Another first-rate set of hard-hitting hip hop, with their most expansive production and adventurous beats to date accompanying the duo’s magnetic tag-team rapping, this time with a stronger political lyrical focus.

23 Queens Of The Stone Age – Villains (Matador)

Queens Of The Stone Age deliver a “a potent set of streamlined hard-rock inflected with glam, New Wave, ’70s guitar boogie and other styles. Produced by Mark Ronson, he helps provide a bit more punch and clarity while mainly staying out of the way of the band’s pulverizing rock grooves.

24 alt-J – Relaxer (Canvasback)

This British band’s third album is their most adventurous, ranging from catchy prog-pop and solemn atmospheric folk ballads to decidedly odder fare.

25 SZA – Ctrl (Top Dawg)

This New Jersey artist (aka Solana Rowe) follows up a string of promising EPs with an excellent debut full-length of expansive R&B combining a languorous, moody sound with her elastic, expressive vocals and frank, deeply personal lyrics.

26 Portugal. The Man – Woodstock (Atlantic)

This Portland-via-Wasilla, AK band’s eighth album features a bigger and glossier pop-oriented sound inflected with R&B, dancehall, hip hop and other styles. 

27 Julien Baker – Turn Out The Lights (Matador)

This Tennessee artist’s second album is a powerful set of dark, hymnal folk-pop with a haunting, minimalist sound featuring just spare guitar and piano along with occasional strings and woodwinds accompanying her aching, dynamic vocals and vulnerable, almost unbearably intimate lyrics dealing with depression, doubt and faith.

28 Broken Social Scene – Hug Of Thunder (City Slang/Arts & Crafts)

This large Toronto collective’s fifth album (and first in seven years) is an often-buoyant set of maximalist, psych-tinged pop-rock with a lush, densely produced sound featuring soaring harmonies, exuberant melodies and lyrics celebrating community in the face of technology-abetted narcissism and the current toxic political environment.

29 The Black Angels – Death Song (Partisan)

The last decade has proven to be fruitful for an increasing number of emerging psych-rock acts, with the beloved Austin-based five-piece, The Black Angels, sitting pretty at the forefront of this resurgence. Known for their dark, blistering jams, the hypnotic group has amassed a dedicated following since beginning their musical journey in 2004. With the bulk of their career spent largely on the road, they have managed to spawn their own music festival and remain diligent in crafting new music all the while. Though Death Song, their fifth album, is the group’s first release in several years, their slot in the hierarchy of modern psych-rock hasn’t faltered in the slightest. (CF)

30 Wolf Parade – Cry Cry Cry (Sub Pop)

This Canadian band’s fourth album (and first in seven years) is a smartly crafted blend of New Waveish post-punk,
Bowiesque glam, spacy prog-pop and more, combining a densely textured sound with anxiety-fueled, often-politically charged lyrics for these troubled times.

31 Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog (Captured Tracks)

This LA-based Canadian artist’s third album is a darker and more dreamy take on his psych-tinged folk-pop, featuring a spare, relaxed sound with warm acoustic guitar, pillowy synths, unhurried rhythms, wistful melodies and often-melancholy lyrics.

32 doNormaal – Third Daughter (self-released)

This Seattle rapper’s second album is an excellent set of adventurous hip hop combining eerie, atmospheic textures and banging, bass-heavy beats from a variety of up-and-coming Seattle producers with her hypnotic flow and emotive, often-deeply personal lyrics.

33 Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm (Merge)

The fourth album from this Tacoma-via-Seattle artist (aka Mike Hadreas) is an even more adventurous take on the dark avant-pop of his last album (2014’s Too Bright), combining an inventive, dynamic sound using a variety of instrumentation with his tremulous vocals and impressionist, comparatively more hopeful lyrics.

34 Perfume Genius – No Shape (Matador)

The fourth album from this Tacoma-via-Seattle artist (aka Mike Hadreas) is an even more adventurous take on the dark avant-pop of his last album (2014’s Too Bright), combining an inventive, dynamic sound using a variety of instrumentation with his tremulous vocals and impressionist, comparatively more hopeful lyrics.

35 Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me (P.W. Elverum & Sun)

Mount Eerie (aka Anacortes-based artist Phil Elverum) shares his eighth LP, a often-heartbreaking set combining a stark, mostly acoustic sound with painfully honest lyrics about the death of his wife Geneviève Castrée (who passed away from cancer in July 2016) and the accompanying grief and emptiness that’s followed.

36 Diet Cig – Swear I’m Good At This (Frenchkiss Records)

On their debut full-length, New Paltz, NY duo Diet Cig deliver a strong set of emotive garage-pop with crunchy guitars, energetic rhythms, yearning vocals, assertive, heart-on-sleeve lyrics and catchy pop hooks.

37 Gorillaz – Humanz (Parlophone/Warner Bros.)

The fifth album from Damon Albarn & co. is a diverse, party-friendly blend of hip hop, funk, post-punk, R&B, dancehall, electro-pop and more, featuring an impressive guest lineup and often-politically charged lyrics. 

38 Bread & Butter – Bread & Butter (Killroom)

This Seattle band’s debut full-length is a first-rate set of ’70s-steeped power-pop with crunchy guitars, energetic rhythms, buoyant harmonies and sunny pop hooks.

39 Ty Segall – Ty Segall (Drag City)

This prolific LA-based artist’s ninth solo album was produced by Steve Albini and also features a full band for the first time on one of his solo releases. The stellar lineup includes Emmett Kelly, Mikal Cronin, Charlie Moothart and Ben Boye. Together with Albini, they provide a loud, muscular sound on a diverse assortment of first-rate songs ranging from anthemic garage-rock and expansive prog to sludgy psych-rock and acoustic-oriented psych-pop.

40 Hobosexual – Monolith (Kitchentable)

This Seattle duo’s third and finest album to date is an expansive, hard-rocking blend of stoner-rock, prog, doom-metal, psych-rock and more, combining crunchy guitars and muscular rhythms with wailing lead vocals, soaring harmonies and head-banging song hooks.

41 King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Flying Microtonal Banana (Flightless/ATO)

Australian psychedelic rock band King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard deliver their ninth studio album, and the first of five proposed albums set to be released in 2017.

42 The True Loves – Famous Last Words (self-released)

Carrying on without Grace Love, this Seattle band offers up a first-rate set of funk and soul instrumentals featuring tight musicianship and in-the-pocket grooves. Special guests include Delvon Lamarr on Hammond organ and Rhodes piano and Skerik on baritone sax.

43 Radiohead – OKNOTOK 1997 2017 (Parlophone/Capitol)

This sampler of the new expanded 20th anniversary edition of Radiohead’s 1997 album features the three songs that haven’t been officially released until now. While not classic Radiohed, they’re all fine examples of the band’s brooding prog-rock.

44 Pickwick – LoveJoys (Small Press Records)

Produced by Erik Blood, this Seattle band’s second full-length is an impressive blend of moody soul-pop, gritty psych-funk and eerie psychedelic soul ballads.

45 Thundercat – Drunk (Brainfeeder)

LA-based producer/bassist/vocalist Stephen Bruner — aka Thundercat — delivers an adventurous, often-playful blend of spacy R&B ballads, slinky funk jams, woozy hip hop, cosmic jazz, psych-tinged pop and more.

46 Japanese Breakfast – Soft Sounds From Another Planet (Dead Oceans)

The second full-length from this Philly-based Korean-American artist (aka Michelle Zauner) is a well-crafted set ranging from atmospheric dream-pop and sweeping orchestral pop to driving indie-rock and robotic electro-pop, with many of the album’s songs dealing with loss and mortality. 

47 Kevin Morby – City Music (Dead Oceans)

This Kansas City-bred artist’s fourth solo album is a smartly crafted set of expansive folk-rock that acts as a counterpoint to his previous album (2016’s autobiographical Singing Saw), focusing again on themes of solitude while centering this time around on city settings and themes with a more rock-oriented sound (particularly ’70s-era New York).

48 The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions (Concord)

The seventh album from Vancouver, BC-bred supergroup The New Pornographers finds them rejiggering their soaring power-pop with a more motorik, prog-tinged sound featuring more driving rhythms along with more vocal interplay.

49 Future Islands – The Far Field (4AD)

Another potent set of emotive, ’80s-steeped synth-pop with driving rhythms, shimmering synths, atmospheric guitars and melodic bass lines accompanying Samuel T. Herring’s dramatic vocals and impassioned, often anxiety-fueled lyrics.

50 Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound (Southeastern)

This Alabama-bred, Nashville-based artist’s latest album is one of his finest sets to date, with a variety of consistently strong songs ranging from anthemic roots-rockers depicting blue-collar desperation and white male privilege culpability to brutally honest ballads of love and mortality to life-affirming songs filled with hope.

51 Elbow – Little Fictions (Polydor/Concord)

This British band’s seventh album features a more spare sound while adding some more modern rhythms to this low-key set of mostly solemn ballads.

52 The Afghan Whigs – In Spades (Sub Pop)

The eighth studio album (and the second since reuniting in 2012) from this veteran Cincinnati-bred band led by Greg Dulli is another potent set of brooding, soul-inflected rock with churning guitars, soaring horns, haunting strings and muscular rhythms accompanying Dulli’s husky vocals and often-dark lyrics. 

53 Cigarettes After Sex – Cigarettes After Sex (Secretly Canadian)

The debut full-length from this Brooklyn-via-El Paso, TX band led by Greg Gonzalez is an evocative set of noirish, bleary-eyed dream-pop combining an atmospheric, slow-burning sound with smoky, androgynous vocals and often-melancholy lyrics of love and heartbreak.

54 Cherry Glazerr – Apocalipstick (Secretly Canadian)

The second album from this LA band led by Clementine Creevy features a revamped lineup and a more polished and expansive sound that moves beyond the slacker garage-pop of their debut on songs ranging from anthemic garage-rock to moody guitar-pop.

55 The Horrors – V (Wolf Tone/Caroline)

An expansive blend of brooding electro-rock, industrialized post-punk, shoegazerish space-rock and more, combining a majestic, adventurous sound with some of the band’s most assured songwriting to date.

56 The New Year – Snow (Undertow Music)

The fourth album (and first in nine years) from this band led by Bedhead founders Matt and Bubba Kadane is another well-crafted set of slow-rolling indie-rock with a spacious, minimalist sound featuring interlacing guitar lines, atmospheric keyboards, unhurried rhythms and hushed vocals. 

57 Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory (Def Jam Recordings)

This Long Beach, CA rapper’s second official studio album is another powerful set of hard-hitting hip hop, but this time featuring a more electronic-influenced sound that blends banging hip hop with Detroit techno, house and 2-step. With production from Zack Sekoff along with Flume, SOPHIE, Jimmy Edgar and GTA, the album’s cavernous sound combines dark, bass-heavy beats with his limber, conversational delivery and concise, sharply crafted lyrics reflecting on race, class, hip hop culture and the toxic effects of fame.

58 Hurray For The Riff Raff – The Navigator (ATO)

The latest album from this New Orleans-based artist (aka Alynda Segarra) is a concept album revolving around her native New York and her Puerto Rican heritage, featuring often-politically charged lyrics along with her most expansive sound to date blending folk-rock, post-punk, blues, doo wop and gospel with son, bomba and other Latin styles.

59 Charly Bliss – Guppy (Barsuk)

Charly Bliss – Eva Hendricks, Sam Hendricks, Spencer Fox, and Dan Shure – have a pretty tangled history. The band began when Eva and Spencer crossed paths at 15 at a Tokyo Police Club show, and from there they added her older brother Sam to the mix. Then reaching back to Spencer’s friend from summer camp and Eva’s ex-boyfriend, they added Dan on the bass. Charly Bliss’ inspirations include Veruca Salt and Sleater-Kinney: pretty obvious for a living 90’s throwback spewing bubblegum pop and power riffs in 2017. (AK)

60 Mark Lanegan Band – Gargoyle (Heavenly Recordings)

One of his stronger latter-day albums, with a dark, expansive sound featuring atmospheric guitars, moody synths and driving rhythms accompanying his deep, gravelly vocals and often-dark lyrics.

61 Sera Cahoone – From Where I Started (Lady Muleskinner Records)

This Seattle artist’s fourth album is an excellent set of beautifully crafted country-folk combining a warm, often acoustic-oriented sound with her honeyed vocals, wistful melodies and heartfelt lyrics of love and loss.

62 Ride – Weather Diaries (Wichita/PIAS)

This reunited British band’s fifth album (and first in 21 years) is a strong return-to-form of expansive shoegazer psych-rock with fuzzy guitars, yearning vocals and soaring song hooks.

63 Shabazz Palaces – Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star (Sub Pop)

One of two simultaneously released albums from the Seattle hip hop duo of former Digable Planets frontman Ishmael Butler (aka Palaceer Lazaro) and multi-instrumentalist Tendai “Baba” Maraire, Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star is an impressive set of adventurous hip hop combining an ominous, shape-shifting sound with often heavily processed and reverbed vocals and dystopian lyrics.

64 Beth Ditto – Fake Sugar (Virgin)

The debut solo album from the Portland-based former frontwoman for Olympia-bred band Gossip is a diverse, well-crafted set of rhythm-driven pop ranging from crunchy blues and soul-inflected rock and stomping glam to slinky disco dance-pop and anthemic power ballads.

65 Bully – Losing (Sub Pop)

The second album from this Nashville trio led by Alicia Bognanno is an excellent set of ’90s-steeped grunge-pop with a dynamic sound featuring fuzzy guitars and muscular rhythms accompanying Bognannon’s raspy vocals and anxiety-fueled lyrics.

66 Emma Lee Toyoda – Sewn Me Anew (Make Fart)

Local singer Emma Lee Toyoda’s music is a compelling dichotomy. They embrace brevity with songs that sometimes tap out at 30-seconds, but also utilizes maximalist arrangements. Guitars, violins, banjos, keyboards, saxophones, and organs all grace the tracks on their debut, sewn me anew. That they and their band are able to tastefully arrange all these moving parts in these often brief spaces is a testament to their prowess — and they’re still in college. But beneath all of this is the foundation of Toyoda’s tender, thoughtful songwriting. (DH)

67 David Bazan – Care (Undertow)

Former Pedro The Lion leader David Bazan returns with a new solo full-length, following two new albums in 2016 Blanco and the holiday song cover collection Dark Sacred Night.

68 Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy (Columbia Records)

The album features guest appearances by Frank Ocean, ASAP Rocky, Anna of the North, Lil Wayne, Jaden Smith, just to name a few.

69 Dude York – Sincerely (Hardly Art)

This Seattle trio’s second album is an excellent set of well-crafted power-pop with crunchy guitars, energetic rhythms, bright pop hooks and often-dark lyrics of anxiety and alienation.

70 Ryan Adams – Prisoner (Blue Note Records)

A breakup record inspired by his recent divorce. It’s a well-crafted set with a polished and cavernous though somewhat subdued sound indebted to mainstream ’80s rock, combining ringing guitars and atmospheric keyboards with his yearning vocals and often-poignant lyrics of lost love.

71 Polyrhythmics – Caldera (self-released)

This 8-piece Seattle band’s fourth album is a well-crafted set of groove-driven instrumentals blending Afrobeat, funk, soul, psych-rock and more, combining tight grooves with impeccable musicianship.

72 Algiers – The Underside Of Power (Matador)

This London/NYC-via-Atlanta band’s second album is another powerful, edgy blend of gospel-tinged post-punk and industrial, with loud, buzzing synths, shards of angular guitars, forceful rhythms and handclaps accompanying Franklin James Fisher’s soulful vocals and politically charged lyrics decrying injustice and racism.

73 Grandaddy – Last Place (30th Century Records/Columbia)

The fifth album (and first in 11 years) from this reunited Modesto, CA-bred band led by Jason Lytle is an impressive return to form featuring consistently strong songs of psych-tinged space-pop with fuzzy, chugging guitars, sparkling synths, wistful vocals, airy harmonies, melancholy melodies and lyrics revolving around the breakup of Lytle’s marriage.

74 King Krule – The Ooz (True Panther)

The second King Krule album from British artist Archy Marshall is a powerfully brooding blend of noirish rock, jazz, ambient, dub, hip hop, post-punk and more, combining a murky, atmospheric sound with dark lyrics of alienation and self-loathing.

75 Beach Fossils – Somersault (Bayonet)

The third album from this Brooklyn band led by Dustin Payseur features a more sophisticated sound for the band’s shimmering dream-pop, combining a rich variety of instrumentation including lush strings, piano, harpsichord, flute and sax along with the band’s trademark jangly guitars with gentle, airy vocals and wistful melodies.

76 Bonobo – Migration (Ninja Tune)

The sixth album from this LA-based British producer/multi-instrumentalist (aka Simon Green) is another impressive set of warm, dreamy and often-melancholic ambient grooves seamlessly blending a variety of beats and acoustic and electronic instrumentation with various samples, ambient found sounds from around the world and occasional guest vocalists.

77 Feist – Pleasure (Interscope)

This Toronto artist’s fifth solo album (and first in over five years) is a powerful set of dark, intimate folk-rock. Recorded mostly live, the album features a stark, raw sound with unconventional, shape-shifting arrangements framing her elastic vocals and introspective lyrics.

78 The Replacements – For Sale: Live at Maxwell’s 1986 (Sire/Rhino)

This 2-CD live set from the legendary Minneapolis band was recorded at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ in February 1986, when original guitarist Bob Stinson was still with the band and they were arguably at the peak of their powers. The 29-song set list features songs from all five of their albums that had been released along with some b-sides and covers. It’s a typically raw and thrilling set ranging from raucous hardcore punk to more moody and reflective fare.

79 Japandroids – Near to the Wild Heart of Life ( Anti-)

This Vancouver, BC duo’s third album is a more expansive take on the band’s anthemic, life-affirming garage-pop, ranging from classic Japandroids heart-pumping sing-alongs to more measured but still effective fare featuring prominent synths and acoustic guitars. 

80 Shelby Earl – The Man Who Made Himself A Name (Savage Man Records)

Shelby Earl‘s voice is a coveted gift. Google her name plus the word “heartbreaking” and you’ll get endless results. With her mournful vibrato and aching howls, it’s no wonder she’s an artist many turn to in their most aching moments. However, that’s just one facet of what Earl’s capable of. On her latest album, The Man Who Made Himself a Name, she showcases just how rousing her voice and songwriting can be. (DH)

81 Neil Young – Hitchhiker (Reprise Records)

On his thirty-eighth studio album, the revered Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young revisits an album he recorded in a single night in 1976. At the time, his label deemed it unfit for release, but 40 years later, the songs have met acclaim. (JH)

82 Cut Copy – Haiku From Zero (Capitol Records)

Australian band Cut Copy deliver a potent set of buoyant, ’80s-steeped dance-pop inflected with disco, Afrobeat, and other styles, combining bright synths, propulsive beats, psychedelic textures, occasional tropical rhythms and soaring harmonies while juxtaposing sunny melodies with often-dark and dystopian lyrics.

83 The Mountain Goats – Goths (Merge Records)

The 16th studio album from this band led John Darnielle is a smartly crafted concept album revolving around goths while wrestling with issues of aging and cultural relevancy. The album’s often-dark, atmospheric sound finds Darnielle & co. eschewing guitars for the first time in favor of just keyboards, a rhythm section and occasional woodwinds.

84 The Jesus and Mary Chain – Damage and Joy (Artificial Plastic Records)

Scottish siblings Jim and William Reid deliver an impressive return-to-form that ranges from fuzzy, feedback-drenched rockers to swooning downer ballads.

85 Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly and James McAlister – Planetarium (4AD)

Originally begun as a commissioned work by composer Nico Muhly, he recruited his friends Sufjan Stevens, The National’s Bryce Dessner and percussionist/composer James McAlister for the project, which then began as a live show in 2012 with all of the songs named after parts of the solar system. They’ve now recorded an album for the project, and it’s a lengthy 17-song, 76-minute somewhat disjointed set blending elements of neo-classical, prog-rock, ambient, folk, space-rock and more.

86 The Shins – Heartworms (Columbia)

The fifth album (and first in five years) from James Mercer & co. is a diverse set ranging from jangly psych-pop and orchestral pop-rock to relaxed folk-pop, nervy New Wave and propulsive synth-pop. While not everything works, there are a number of fine songs reflecting on youth and aging.

87 Fotoform – Fotoform (self-released)

It’s pretty appropriate that Kim House, frontwoman for Seattle shoegaze band Fotoform, happens to gaze at shoes for a living, as footwear design director at Nordstrom. The band layer gauzy guitars and ethereal vocals, all laced up with a UK post-punk influence. Fotoform just released their debut LP earlier this year, but they have a longer history in the local music scene under the name C’est la Mort. You may also recognize drummer Garrett Croxon behind the kit for Fleet Foxes and Erik Blood. (JH)

88 Dan Auerbach – Waiting On A Song (Easy Eye Sound)

The Black Keys frontman’s second solo album finds him stepping away from blues-based rock for a well-crafted, ’70s-steeped blend of amiable folk-rock, breezy soul, hooky power-pop, sun-kissed glam and more.

89 Lana Del Rey – Lust For Life (Interscope)

This LA-based artist’s fourth album is a potent set of atmospheric pop with a languid, reverb-drenched sound combining hazy synths, mournful strings, spare piano lines, acoustic guitars and slow-rolling hip hop beats with her haunting vocals and well-crafted lyrics revolving around searching for love and hope amidst a nation in decline.

90 Fever Ray – Plunge (Rabid/Mute)

The second Fever Ray album (and the first in eight years) from Karin Dreijer Andersson (former frontwoman for the Swedish duo The Knife) is an excellent set of adventurous, noise-addled electro-pop combining buzzing synths and a variety of inventive beats with her eerie vocals and frank lyrics of love, sex and desire.

90.3 Aimee Mann – Mental Illness (Loma Vista)

A consistently strong set of intimate, smartly crafted folk-pop, combining a dark, acoustic-oriented sound with her plaintive vocals and often-poignant lyrics reflecting upon lost love and mental illness.

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