It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, not that one – we’re talking of course about Albums of the Year. Nothing is more life-affirming as a music journalist, than looking over your shoulder to see a collection of albums so great that you’re filled with fresh determination for the year to come.

This year saw the return of some seminal artists, long-awaited debuts from BLM favourites and some complete surprises, so without further ado – here’s our Top 20. Contributions from Loki Lillistone, Christian Northwood, Jon Kean, Mustafa Mirreh and Lor Nov.

  1. Spectres – Condition

Condition scrapes away some of the grime from Spectres’ sound, revealing something that feels clearer without compromising their trademark sonic assault. The crushing mix of post-punk, shoegaze and post-rock is still present, but moments of beauty and calm make it truly special. CN

  1. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy

Watching America willingly buy itself a one-way ticket to Palookaville recently must just have reinforced to Josh Tillman that life is Pure Comedy. His 2017 meisterwerk examines existence from birth to death, largely observing that most modern lifestyles involve not being dead, and that’s about it. Fools are not suffered gladly. Arch, sardonic, witty and insightful, Father John Misty is the drollest troll in this great, big global unfairy tale. He’s definitely the daddy. JK

  1. The Black Angels – Death Song

These masters of psych-rock have proven they can still do great things with help from this year’s Death Song. More hypnotic than their previous Indigo Meadow, they dive to deeper depths and with greater variety – something all psych bands could use a touch of. Fifty minutes of quicksand-style, comfort zone-sidestepping bangers confirm that The Black Angels are here to stay. Death Song is a welcome surprise for jaded ears. LN

  1. Diet Cig – Swear I’m Good At This

Channelling misgivings from relationships, life and the female experience in an authentic and impassioned way, New York duo Diet Cig captured many hearts this year with their unique bundle of instant yet three-dimensional songs. A fantastic full-length instalment, brimming with all the talent and emotion of their earlier efforts. MM

  1. Perfume Genius – No Shape

If 2014 saw Mike Hadreas transcend sombre bedroom plonking in favour of switched-on pop, this year saw him turn that into, well, ‘genius’. Rarely has a collection of perfectly-crafted melodies maintained such a vibey swagger or otherworldly presence, at once cathartic and transformative, inviting you to stow away between its many layers. Forays back to sparser times remain, such as on the gorgeous ‘Die 4 You’, but with a pulsating new energy, one only gained from years of graft. LL

  1. Wolf Alice – Visions Of A Life

The most anticipated album of the year, which delivered on all fronts. Wolf Alice capitalised on 2015’s My Love Is Cool with the even more vibrant Visions Of A Life – both refining their sound and exploring untapped avenues. From spiralling grunge to dreamy pop amid touches of punk rock, singer-guitarist Ellie Rowsell commands the waves from her centrepoint to double down on the band’s seemingly limitless potential. MM

  1. Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm

Out in the Storm hits you like an old friend singing you songs by the fire. The fourth album from one of the most celebrated underground singer-songwriters of our time, it’s the work of a fully-grown woman with a mended heart. Mesmerising. LN

  1. Public Service Broadcasting – Every Valley

Popular music tends to present you with lyrics about love, hate, rampant materialism or casual misogyny. Public Service Broadcasting give you the demise of the South Wales coal mining industry. They may look like four supply teachers, but far from feeling like we’re in the schoolroom, hearing a tweedy dinosaur regurgitate a textbook, Every Valley should give you similar ‘lump in the throat’ moments as delivered by Pete Postlethwaite in Brassed Off – compassionate and accomplished. JK

  1. Big Thief – Capacity

Timid yet powerful, raw yet soaring; Big Thief couldn’t sound more honest on breathtaking sophomore album, Capacity. Adrianne Lenker’s unique storytelling conveys a lifetime of sentiment in one hour of striking beauty, as the band use their shape-shifting indie-folk to create new, cherishable memories. MM

  1. Brockhampton – Saturation 1 / Saturation 2

The Cali-based “boy-band” stepped their game up immeasurably in 2017 with both Saturation albums (at time of writing Saturation 3 is unreleased). Emerging within months of each other, both records perfectly balance the personalities of every distinct rapper and producer, creating electrifying hip-hop with hooks, chemistry and a lyrical deftness that most artists can only dream of, all while tackling issues like queerness, rape culture and racism. Hip hop has a new, unstoppable force. CN

  1. Chelsea Wolfe – Hiss Spun

There may come a day when Chelsea Wolfe will disappoint, but it hasn’t yet. The Californian seems to dig a bit deeper into the depths of her musical psyche on every release, here delivering sludge and discomfort in a way that only makes you want more of it. LN

  1. Los Campesinos! – Sick Scenes

As their peers have fallen by the wayside, Los Campesinos! have never looked like they were letting up, and Sick Scenes is a testament to the band’s enduring passion, relevancy, and – let’s be honest – ability to write great music. The band’s usual mix of love, loss, politics and football, with a healthy dose of wit and self-deprecation, again works perfectly, but it’s the band’s return to their energetic, punk-flecked sound that makes this album stand out. CN

  1. St Vincent – MASSEDUCTION

Sounding her most vulnerable since the recent transformation into dystopian diva, Annie Clark’s return filled a hole that only she could. MASSEDUCTION does well to balance St Vincent new and old, throwing out twisted riffs, dada-isms and wry romanticism in equal measure. Hell, it’s even got a ballad – but don’t be fooled into thinking she’s gone soft. Jabs at modern life abound, typified best on the rather gruff ‘Pills’. St Vincent is a leader among musicians. LL

  1. The Big Moon – Love in the 4th Dimension

When the Mercury shortlist contained The Big Moon’s debut album, there were cries of “Who?” and “What?” followed swiftly by “Ah! I get it” once people gave it a spin and maxed out blissfully on Love in the 4th Dimension. JK

  1. Cigarettes After Sex – Self-titled

I’ve never really been one for sex music. Even Air’s Moon Safari has its moments and Marvin Gaye just makes me feel weird. Enter Cigarettes After Sex and their appropriately-framed debut of the same name. Greg Gonzalez’s songwriting manages to deftly walk the line between seminal arthouse goodbye and teenage makeout sesh, with great help from less-is-more indie production and his own unique delivery – with a result that makes us all want to be more quiet, more often. LL

  1. Sløtface – Try Not To Freak Out

As far as punk rock albums go, Sløtface’s debut Try Not To Freak Out is up there with the best. True to this spirit, while throwing vital punches to the modern world; the Norwegian group overcome the odds to create something new and relevant. MM

  1. Charly Bliss – Guppy

In the singles age, the art of the album can easily fall by the wayside. So when a debut as consistent and confident as Charly Bliss’ falls in your lap, spraying coffee all over your computer as I did is quite understandable, really. Eva Hendricks and co throw out both aggression and femininity without compromising on either, through honest, visceral rock songs that dodge triteness – despite the fact that they could easily ghost-write for Weezer. LL

  1. Cherry Glazerr – Apocalipstick

Take some kids with more talent than you could ever dream of having, funnel it through the deft, modern production of Joe Chiccarelli and the result is Cherry Glazerr’s shining second offering, Apocalipstick. Holding within it an ebb and flow of finely-crafted rock songs, it’s as appropriate a gift for you as it is your once rebellious mum or slightly-shy little sister, as tracks ‘Told You I’d Be with the Guys’, ‘Trash People’ or ‘Nuclear Bomb’ will all attest to. LN

  1. IDLES – Brutalism

Brutalism, the architectural movement of the 1950s, filled the world with crap concrete constructions. Brutalism, the debut album of Bristol’s own debunking punks, IDLES, provides expert demolition of complacent pomposity, offering a design for life that esteems beauty and compassion. JK

  1. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

I’m not sure anyone doubted that DAMN. would be anything less than brilliant, but the fact that Kendrick yet again raised his game on it is astounding. He weaves his most complex narratives yet over his most sparse beats, firing salvos at those who doubted him on tracks like ‘HUMBLE.’, while exploring both race and his own religion with the skill and intelligence only he could. Another instant classic from Compton’s finest. CN