The Best Albums of 2017

  • Publish Date: December 21, 2017
  • Comments: ↓ 9 user comments

Kendrick Lamar has the best-reviewed major album of 2017

2017 95 DAMN.
by Kendrick Lamar
2016 95 Skeleton Tree
by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
2015 96 To Pimp a Butterfly
by Kendrick Lamar
2014 95 Black Messiah
by D'Angelo and the Vanguard
2013 92 Sunbather
by Deafheaven
High Scoring Albums by Year
(Minimum 15 Reviews)

One of the most notable features of this year's highest-scoring albums list is its absences. New releases from usually high-scoring outfits like Arcade Fire, Beck, Gorillaz, Sufjan Stevens, and HAIM failed to crack our list. Even generally well-reviewed new releases from Björk, Spoon, Jay-Z, Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, and The War on Drugs didn't wind up in this year's top 40.

But damn if Kendrick Lamar didn't have another good year. For the second time in three years, the rapper has claimed the title of Metacritic's highest-scoring album. In fact, he's the first artist in Metacritic's 17-year history to repeat as #1.

Of the 594 new studio albums released in 2017 that have received at least seven reviews from professional critics, 154—or just under 26%—received universal acclaim (with a Metascore of 81 or greater). That's higher than 2016's 23% figure, and marks the third straight year that percentage has increased. Either music is getting a bit better overall, or critics are being more generous in their assessments.

Below is this year's final ranking of the best full-length studio albums (in Metacritic's database) released during 2017, as determined by their Metascores, which represent an average of all reviews by professional critics at the time of each album's original release. Note that live albums, reissues, EPs, compilations, and the like are excluded from this chart, though they are listed separately a bit further down this page.

The 40 best-reviewed albums of 2017 (min. 15 reviews)

Album cover#1
Kendrick Lamar
95 DAMN. (Aftermath)

Buy From Amazon Buy From iTunes

It is becoming increasingly clear that Lamar is the best artist working in hip hop—or possibly any genre—today, and he has yet to put out a dud album. The average Metascore for his five releases (including last year's untitled unmastered., which may not technically be a full album) is 89.6; take out his 2011 debut Section.80, and that average jumps up to 92.

"Damn. is an almost flawless hip-hop masterclass that crunches Kendrick's consuming concerns—life and death, pride and guilt, fate and freewill—into the tightest, most explosive package yet."

Q More reviews...

Album cover#2
Mount Eerie
93 A Crow Looked at Me (P.W. Elverum & Sun)

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At the end of 2016, we talked about how many of that year's best albums dealt with mortality as a theme. That is true of 2017's second-best release as well, which finds Phil Elverum grappling with the recent death of his wife on a powerful, emotional, and deeply personal album from his Mount Eerie project.

"They are beautifully and simply arranged, but it is not an entertaining album to listen to in any conventional sense, nor can it be shaken off easily. It is, however, the kind of album that makes all others seem frivolous while you’re hearing it."

Paste More reviews...

Album cover#3
91 Melodrama (Republic)

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It turns out that the success of 2013's Pure Heroine, the debut from young New Zealand singer-songwriter Lorde, wasn't a fluke. Her Grammy-nominated, Jack Antonoff-produced follow-up is even better, cementing her place among pop's brightest stars.

"There is a palpable depth of feeling and meaning in her songs, operating on both personal and universal levels, delivered with subtle dynamism and dizzying imagination. She is a breath of fresh air with the power of a hurricane."

The Telegraph More reviews...

Album cover#4
90 The Dusk in Us (Epitaph)

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Coming five year's after their stellar 2012 album All We Love We Leave Behind, the ninth LP from the Massachusetts-based metalcore band somehow scored even higher with critics, and it finds Converge continuing to explore their sound without settling for more of the same.

"It's still heavy as fuck, but it's also textural, emotional, diverse and defiant as fuck, too."

Magnet More reviews...

Album cover#5
89 Black Origami (Planet Mu)

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Jerrilynn Patton's 2015 debut Dark Energy marked her as one of the "footwork" genre's rising stars. Her follow-up is even stronger, offering what reviewers call a dense, complex, and futuristic take on electronic music.

"It’s dark and brooding, fiercely sparse at times and blindingly dense at others. Footwork is no longer an appropriate descriptor for this music. With Black Origami, Jlin has transcended her roots to build a language all of her own. And simply put, it’s brilliant."

Dusted More reviews...

Album cover#6
Vince Staples
89 Big Fish Theory (Def Jam)

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The year's #2 hip hop album finds the 24-year-old Long Beach, California native building on the acclaim of his debut Summertime '06 while further developing his sound.

"The full-length follow-up to his 2015 debut, Summertime ’06, surpasses expectations, with incisive lyrics and beats that spurn current trends for a set that sounds unlike anything else in hip-hop right now."

Entertainment Weekly More reviews...

Album cover#7
St. Vincent
88 Masseduction (Loma Vista)

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Annie Clark is another artist who seems incapable of recording a mediocre album. And she has clearly hit her stride: the average Metascore for her past three releases is over 87. Like Lorde's Melodrama (above), Masseduction features production from Jack Antonoff of Bleachers and Fun.

"It’s a jittering, coruscating sucker punch of an album--and St. Vincent’s first bona fide masterpiece."

Boston Globe More reviews...

Album cover#8
Fever Ray
87 Plunge (Mute)

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Frontwoman for the now-defunct Swedish electronic music duo The Knife, Karin Dreijer restarted her solo project Fever Ray in October when, without advance warning, she released the musically innovative and lyrically provocative Plunge to great critical acclaim.

"Plunge is riskier than anything she has made before. It is sometimes harsh, often dissonant, frequently audacious."

Pitchfork More reviews...

Album cover#9
87 Arca (XL Recordings)

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Perhaps best known as a producer on Björk's recent albums (including the recently released Utopia), Venezuelan artist Alejandro Ghersi has also released three studio albums, of which this self-titled release is his best. Arca sings on the album for the first time, with lyrics in Spanish.

"As always, Ghersi pushes his boundaries on Arca, and the vulnerability he displays makes it some of his most exciting and moving music yet."

AllMusic More reviews...

Album cover#10
The Horrors
87 V (Caroline)

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Goth-influenced English indie band The Horrors could have been easily dismissed as mere Chameleons knockoffs when they arrived a decade ago. Instead, they have proven to have unexpected staying power, releasing a series of acclaimed albums and growing their sound, culminating in this year's V, their highest-scoring record to date.

"Overall, V maintains a distinctively elegant gloom, The Horrors continuing to find intoxicating new shades within their gray moods. It’s an album that confirms them as one of the most consistently surprising, most artistically sophisticated, simply greatest rock bands working today."

A.V. Club More reviews...

... and the rest of the top 40:
Album/Artist Score Stream It Buy It
by SZA
86Spotify Amazon iTunes
by Sampha
86Spotify Amazon iTunes
13Cover50 Song Memoir
by Magnetic Fields
86Spotify Amazon iTunes
14CoverA Kind Revolution
by Paul Weller
86Spotify Amazon iTunes
15CoverAmerican Dream
by LCD Soundsystem
86Spotify Amazon iTunes
16CoverThe Underside of Power
by Algiers
86Spotify Amazon iTunes
17CoverRelatives in Descent
by Protomartyr
85Spotify Amazon iTunes
18CoverSleep Well Beast
by The National
85Spotify Amazon iTunes
19CoverI See You
by The xx
85Spotify Amazon iTunes
by Moses Sumney
85Spotify Amazon iTunes
21CoverSoul of a Woman
by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
85Spotify AmazoniTunes
22CoverSemper Femina
by Laura Marling
85Spotify Amazon iTunes
23CoverPure Comedy
by Father John Misty
85Spotify Amazon iTunes
24CoverMental Illness
by Aimee Mann
84Spotify Amazon iTunes
25CoverFlower Boy
by Tyler, The Creator
84Spotify Amazon iTunes
by Laurel Halo
84Spotify Amazon iTunes
27CoverNo Shape
by Perfume Genius
84Spotify Amazon iTunes
28CoverCarry Fire
by Robert Plant
84Spotify Amazon iTunes
29CoverTake Me Apart
by Kelela
84Spotify Amazon iTunes
30CoverSoft Sounds From Another Planet
by Japanese Breakfast
83Spotify Amazon iTunes
31CoverNeed to Feel Your Love
by Sheer Mag
83Spotify Amazon iTunes
32CoverTurn Out the Lights
by Julien Baker
83Spotify Amazon iTunes
33CoverThe Navigator
by Hurray for the Riff Raff
83Spotify Amazon iTunes
by Mark Lanegan Band
83Spotify Amazon iTunes
by The Mountain Goats
83Spotify Amazon iTunes
36CoverLife Will See You Now
by Jens Lekman
83Spotify Amazon iTunes
37CoverGang Signs & Prayer
by Stormzy
82Spotify Amazon iTunes
38CoverTy Segall (2017)
by Ty Segall
82 Amazon iTunes
39CoverDark Matter
by Randy Newman
82Spotify Amazon iTunes
40CoverStranger in the Alps
by Phoebe Bridgers
82Spotify Amazon iTunes

What about albums with fewer reviews?

Here is a look at the albums that received extremely positive reviews, but not enough of them to qualify for our list above. (In other words, consider them the year's best under-the-radar releases.) Albums on this list received 7-14 critic reviews. (Titles with fewer than 7 reviews are excluded from all year-end charts.)

Album/Artist Score Stream It Buy It
1CoverEternity, In Your Arms
by Creeper
89Spotify Amazon iTunes
2CoverThe Order of Time
by Valerie June
89Spotify Amazon iTunes
3CoverScience Fiction
by Brand New
88Spotify Amazon iTunes
4CoverLaila’s Wisdom
by Rapsody
87Spotify Amazon iTunes
5Cover Thin Black Duke
by Oxbow
87Spotify Amazon iTunes
by Charly Bliss
87Spotify Amazon iTunes
7CoverReaching for Indigo
by Circuit des Yeux
87 Amazon iTunes
8CoverNightmare Logic
by Power Trip
86Spotify Amazon iTunes
9CoverNew Energy
by Four Tet
86Spotify Amazon iTunes
by Gas
86Spotify Amazon iTunes

Albums released between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017 with 7 or more reviews (15 or more for the first chart) in Metacritic's database were eligible for inclusion. Reissues and other older material, EPs, live albums, holiday albums, greatest hits albums, multi-artist soundtracks, and other compilations are excluded from the above lists. The Metascore is a weighted average of scores from top professional critics, on a scale from 0 (bad) to 100 (good). Albums are ranked by Metascore prior to rounding. All scores on this page are from December 20, 2017.

More bests and worsts

If you read the fine print under our list of high-scoring albums above, you noticed that reissues, compilations, live sets, and other album types were excluded from our best-reviewed albums charts (which are intended to include only new full-length studio albums). Here are the highest-scoring "disqualified" albums of the year:

Best-Reviewed Reissues, Box Sets, and Compilations of 2017 (Min. 7 Reviews)
Album/Artist Score Stream It Buy It
1CoverOK Computer: OKNOTOK 1997-2017
by Radiohead
100Spotify AmazoniTunes
2Cover Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band [50th Anniv. Ed.]
by The Beatles
100 Amazon
3CoverPurple Rain [Deluxe Expanded Edition]
by Prince and the Revolution
100Spotify Amazon iTunes
4Cover The Queen Is Dead [Deluxe Edition]
by The Smiths
99Spotify AmazoniTunes
5CoverMaster of Puppets [Remastered & Expanded Edition]
by Metallica
95 Amazon iTunes
6CoverAutomatic for the People [25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition]
by R.E.M.
95Spotify Amazon iTunes
7Cover Lovely Creatures: Best of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, 1984-2014
by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
95Spotify Amazon iTunes
8Cover Singles OST [Deluxe Edition]
by Various Artists
93 Amazon iTunes
9CoverLes Liaisons Dangereuses 1960
by Thelonious Monk
92 Amazon iTunes
10CoverBright Phoebus [Reissue]
by Lal & Mike Waterson
90Spotify Amazon iTunes

Now that we've heard from the critics, what about Metacritic users? Here are the 2017 releases receiving the highest average user scores:

2017 Releases Most Liked by Metacritic Users (Min. 15 User Reviews)
Metascore/Album/Artist Listen Buy It User Score
1 88 Masseduction by St. Vincent Spotify Amazon iTunes 8.6
2 76 SweetSexySavage by Kehlani Spotify Amazon iTunes 8.5
3 100 OK Computer: OKNOTOK 1997-2017 by Radiohead Spotify Amazon iTunes 8.5
4 95 DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar Spotify Amazon iTunes 8.5
5 91 Melodrama by Lorde Spotify Amazon iTunes 8.5
6 84 No Shape by Perfume Genius Spotify Amazon iTunes 8.4
7 84 Flower Boy by Tyler, the Creator Spotify Amazon iTunes 8.4
8 76 Native Invader by Tori Amos Spotify Amazon iTunes 8.3
9 100 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
[50th Anniv. Ed.]
by The Beatles
  Amazon 8.3
10 86 CTRL by SZA Spotify Amazon iTunes 8.3

User scores represent an average of scores assigned by site visitors, from 0 (bad) to 10 (good).

Thousands of albums are released each year, and most of those don't even make their way to reviewers; as a result, the vast majority of the awful albums recorded each year do not show up on Metacritic. However, there are always some major releases this year that fail to impress critics, and we now share with you the 10 disappointing albums receiving the worst reviews in 2017:

The Lowest-Scoring Albums of 2017 (Min. 7 Reviews)
Album/Artist Score Stream It
1 CoverMemories: Do Not Open
by The Chainsmokers
2 Cover8
by Incubus
3 CoverOne More Light
by Linkin Park
4 CoverEvolve
by Imagine Dragons
5 CoverThe King & I
by Faith Evans and the Notorious B.I.G.
6 CoverRevival
by Eminem
7 CoverWitness
by Katy Perry
8 CoverProphets of Rage
by Prophets of Rage
9 CoverGive More Love
by Ringo Starr
10 CoverDrogas Light
by Lupe Fiasco

What do you think?

What were your personal favorite and least favorite albums of 2017? Let us know in the comments section below, and don't forget to vote for your favorite albums of the year in our Best of 2017 User Poll. And for more of 2017's best albums, see which titles critics are including on their year-end top 10 lists.


Comments (9)

  • brashadcarr23  

    i agree with this list king kendrick goat

  • SergeiWalankov  

    "See Lorde for another example."
    Of critics not wanting to appear racist against white New Zealanders?

  • blopho  

    I think it's pretty pathetic that a rap album is considered the #1 album of the year.

  • bdbilello  

    There's no way one album can be so universally acclaimed by professional critics without some sort of pandering, a need to be inclusive, a desire to include popular artists, or other form of unnatural influence. Or complete incompetence as a critic. i think these "professional" critics start out as critics of tv, movies, or other media, and know nothing about what constitutes good music, good songwriting, or a good album. Sites like Entertainment Weekly, for example, probably wait to turn in their list once other music-focused websites post theirs. And these music focused sites are all about $$$ they get from in website ads. Well, pretty much all sites rely on ad $$$.

  • Schwepps  

    I kind of feel like a crazy person yelling about the end of the world while no one is listening. Damn by Kendrick is just good it is not exceptional and is certainly not the best album of the year. Best albums imo should be a work of art, unique and something that could be seen to define the year it was released. Damn isn't even the best rap album of the year and this is coming from a massive Kendrick fan. This really shows how desperately news publications want to be 'in' with whats popular. My favourite of the year was Arca by the way.

  • masseduction  

    the metascore list are good, all my top 10 albums of the year are on the top 40 but i think the user score list is a little messed up.
    got an album released 50 years ago (i know it's a new edition BUT don't change the fact that it's a 50 years old album) same for radiohead album.
    and next year could be a low-rating user score list too

  • MegamanExecute  

    I just gave "A crow looked at me" because of this article and I'm just wondering how it ever got such a high score and what the criteria for these is.

  • frankrog29  

    Vince Staples' and St. Vincent's albums from this year are not that great.

  • tschrky  

    1) Pitchfork should be added to Master of Puppets [Remastered & Expanded Edition] by Metallica.
    2) Trivium's latest record is missing on this website. Will that change?

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