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With Kim Jong-un celebrating July 4th with “a gift for the American bastards” in the shape of a lovely big missile, while Donald Trump discusses WWIII scheduling with Vladimir Putin, the Doomsday Clock is currently closer to midnight than at any time since 1953. Thus, with the ever-increasing chance that we won’t actually make it to the end of the year, we thought we’d have a rundown of the best albums of 2017 so far. Plus we do this every July so, you know, tradition.

While it’s been a worrying year for geopolitics, it’s clear from this best albums of 2017 run-down that it’s been a damn fine year for music. Usually we restrict ourselves to around twenty-five albums but this summer’s list runs to a full forty, and that’s only after excessive cutting. Seriously, we could’ve doubled it without significantly reducing quality control. And maybe it’s the influence of our burgeoning sister site MusicMap, but it’s interesting to see international efforts from Armenia, Mali, Venezuela and further afield in the mix. It’s a big old world out there. Well, until it blows up.

As usual our chosen albums are listed in alphabetical order, and we have a Spotify playlist containing tracks from all the best albums of 2017 and many, many, many other highlights. Seriously, there’s about 24 hours worth of music on there, and we’ll be adding to it throughout the rest of 2017. Something nice to listen to while the world burns. Enjoy!

Kier Wiater Carnihan

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The Monitors’ Best Albums of 2017 – So Far…

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Arca – Arca (XL Recordings)

“Arca’s self-titled fourth album is an absorbing meditation on sexuality and fetishistic desire, sensuality and identity… The entire album is filled with dichotomies: hearing Arca sing but unsure if you’re ever hearing his true voice; seeing his face close up on the cover but discoloured and relatively unrecognisable; sharing something personal through dissonance and obscurity.” Amris Kaur (full review here)

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Bing & Ruth – No Home of the Mind (4AD)

Like a pebble dropped into a lake of rippling piano keys, Bing & Ruth create absorbing, reflective meditations for a world that’s never been more in need of such moments. Kier Wiater Carnihan

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Colin Stetson – All This I Do For Glory(52Hz)

The sheer physical effort Colin Stetson puts into his art is impressive (if you haven’t seen him undertake a lengthy circular-breathing battle with a saxophone as big as your mum, you haven’t lived), but it’s the fact that it consistently results in such transcendent music that makes this undertaking truly glorious. KWC

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Damaged Bug – Bunker Funk (Castle Face Records)

Are we getting to the point where John Dwyer’s Damaged Bug project starts to outshine his Thee Oh Sees day job? The brilliant, synth-strewn groove machine that is Bunker Funksuggests we might well be. KWC

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Dollkraut – Holy Ghost People (Dischi Autunno)

“Dollkraut’s first release, Shimanski’s Black Lullabies, left the impression of a nostalgic musician, concerned as much with sound’s aesthetic as with its sonic impact, superbly talented and a tad eccentric. His second full-length album does not change this perception one bit, though it adds intricate musical layers aplenty to the producer’s erudite library of musical and cinematic tastes.” Carmen Schaack (full review here)

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Do Make Say Think – Stubborn Persistent Illusions (Constellation)

The first Do Make Say Think album for eight years is also the best they’ve ever produced. Hell, it might be the best album the entire post-rock genre ever produced. Grand without being bombastic, emotional without slipping into earnestness, Stubborn Persistent Illusions is an absolute tour de force. KWC

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Ex Eye – Ex Eye (Relapse Records)

Colin Stetson’s second entry in this list, the busy little blighter. He spoke of his love for Liturgy when we interviewed him way back in 2013, and now he’s cemented it by teaming up with the band’s drummer Greg Fox to produce a terrifically tempestuous record full of bite and muscle. KWC

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Feature – Banishing Ritual(Upset The Rhythm)

“With each member continuing to perform in other projects, the title suggests the album’s release is a way to reconcile the band’s dissolution, a (chalk) line drawn underneath several years spent at the heart of London’s DIY scene. That or they’re all satanists. Either way, Feature have left us with a thrilling thirty-minute document that’s as sharp as a gleaming spike.” KWC (full review here)

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FIN – Ice Pix (Hausu Mountain)

This was sent over by Hausu Mountain with the description that it’s “definitely one of the more accessible records we’ve worked on in a while — somewhere between Enya and Eartheater”. Correct on both counts. Shimmering, crystalline pop experimentation from Rebecca FIN Simonetti that will make your battered ears feel like you do love them after all. KWC

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Goldlink – At What Cost (RCA)

Apocalyptic climate change is good for one thing, anyway – hittin’ up those summer tunes. Goldlink’s 2017 offering has Kaytranada on ‘Meditation’ and Wale on ‘Summatime’ – album highlight – and it’s good for all sunny exploits. Take it roadside bike-cruising (‘Roll Call’), to pool parties (‘Herside Story’), blazing – or not, depending on whether I’m about to get in trouble – in a field (‘The Parable of the Rich Man’) and through sultry streets (‘Have You Seen That Girl?’). Up there with your shades as a midsummer essential. Amris Kaur

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GNOD – Just Say No to the Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine (Rocket Recordings)

“As its subtle title suggests, Gnod are angry. As angry as Nigel Farage at a British ale and tweed gilet convention where all of the ale and tweed gilets have been replaced, last minute, by continental lager and silk-knit cardigans. Noisy, abrasive and righteous, Just Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine is quite possibly Gnod’s most coherent and powerful record to date.” Luke O’Dwyer (full review here)

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Hauschka – What If (Temporary Residence Limited)

“Hauschka’s latest, What If, keeps in line with his previous work: complex, dark, mournful, and at times, angry. Never fluffy… The mechanical clockwork twangs? Sci-fi bleeps? Alien xylophones? Satellite transmissions? Believe it or not – they can all come together. And work.” Zoe Cormier (full review here)

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Hey Colossus – The Guillotine (Rocket Recordings)

“In my last review I called for them to be anointed saints, which may seem a bit strong, but fuck it, get them sainted and elevate them to the pedestals they deserve. In these dark social times there’s not enough room to piss about with vagaries. The Guillotine is quite simply another astonishing album from a band that just continues to impress.” LO (full review here)

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H.Grimace – Self Architect (Opposite Number)

“To me, the album’s biggest achievement is that it makes me think, feel and enjoy in equal measure. Its underlying tone is serious but not bitter, the guitars’ voicings powerful, lingering and darkly celebratory. The swivelling sounds and sturdy riffs stir up an immediate, pleasant, nostalgic response as they skilfully hark back to ’90s grunge and ‘80s post-punk, and will remind you of at least three of your favourite guitar bands. Promise.” CS (full review here)

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H Hawkline – I Romanticize (Heavenly)

I Romanticize seems like it’s going to simply be a bit of pleasant, affable Welsh indie, but Huw Evans has a knack for filling his tracks with arresting lyrics and unexpected musical quirks. It’s like taking a turn down a winding country path and slowly realising the trees are full of tropical birds, which have somehow ended up in Pembrokeshire and are singing about “a liquid den of snakes with yawning gobs”. KWC

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IDLES – Brutalism (Balley Records)

Brutalism may be brutal but it’s also rich in righteousness, perceptiveness, humour, irony and occasional slaps of raw emotional honesty. Plus it spawned possibly the best music video this year. KWC

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ÌFÉ – IIII+IIII (Discos Ifá)

As a project fronted by a priest (of the Yoruba faith in this case), IIII+IIII unsurprisingly displays a spiritual outlook on life. Lyrically, tracks such as ‘Higher Love’ and ‘Yumavision’ merge the otherworldly with a very physical sense of romanticism. Underpinning the bilingual lyricism is the group’s fusion of rumba, reggaeton and hip-hop, which displays the diversity of the New York born but Puerto Rico based frontman’s experiences. An original and uplifting listen. Nicholas Burman

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JFDR – Brazil (White Sun Rec)

Listening to Brazil is akin to walking in Jófríður Ákadóttir’s shadow as she contemplates out loud, her life, loves, and the dynamics of her relationship with the world, particularly nature, that surrounds her. The album is spine-tinglingly personal, its intimacy almost tangible. So much so, that one feels as if the 22-year old Icelandic native is sharing our very breathing space; whispering her thoughts, exhaling her feelings, against a visceral backdrop which is at times pure mysticism and arctic spaciousness, and at others, intense, chaotic melodrama. Derval McCloat

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Jlin – Black Origami (Planet Mu)

As indebted to Igor Stravinsky as the footwork scene Jlin sprung from, Black Origami is a labyrinthine album that hones her approach to its sharpest point yet. An all-out percussive assaul peppered with sonic flourishes, it’s capable of inspiring both awe and a bout of hypertension. KWC

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Jane Weaver – Modern Kosmology (Fire Records)

As someone who lamented Jane Weaver’s move away from the psych-folk stylings of 2012’s Fallen By Watchbird, the idea of another album that stuck with the krautrock-inspired sound she’s pursued since didn’t overly appeal. Luckily, the masterful Modern Kosmology shows she stuck to the right path – and then some. Shows what I know. KWC

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Jarvis Cocker & Chilly Gonzales ‎– Room 29 (Deutsche Grammophon)

One of England’s finest lyricists meets one of Canada’s finest pianists – of course it’s great. A concept album about the Chateau Marmont hotel, it covers some of the building’s most infamous guest while retaining space to tell quiet, intimate stories that don’t appear in any Hollywood history book. Oh, and it’s also the first Deutsche Grammophon release to come with a ‘parental advisory’ sticker. KWC

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Juana Molina – Halo (Crammed Discs)

Juana Molina has ploughed a furrow of fulsome, hypnotic electronic folk for some time now, and the harvest she yields just gets better. It’s up against some strong competition, butHalo is a strong candidate for Molina’s best record to date. KWC

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Kairon; IRSE! – Ruination (Svart Records)

If you only buy one Finnish prog album this year, make it this one. And if you don’t think you need a Finnish prog album, you’re wrong. Verily, there is more invention, creativity, passion and skill in Ruination‘s opening track than most bands manage in a career. KWC

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King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Flying Microtonal Banana (Heavenly)

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard will probably have enough albums to fill a list like this on their own by the end of 2017. Still, Flying Microtonal Banana stands out even among their own prodigious and consistently satisfying output. The ‘microtonal’ of the title refers to their customised guitars, which allow them to adopt an Eastern-influenced approach with both precision and gusto. KWC

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Kunst – Kunst (Clone Records)

The combination of beats and bells on this collaboration between dgoHn and Jodey Kendrick is so good it might just kick off a new microgenre. ‘Chimecore’ anyone? A truly original record that’s hard to categorise, and even harder to take off your stereo. KWC

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Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog (Captured Tracks)

This Old Dog follows neatly in this continuing odyssey, where ol’ Mac is beginning to reflect and it feels as though he’s hit that proverbial quarter-life crisis. Whereas his previous offering Another One was his ’70s adult contemporary release, this one seems to be his world weary, sombre, comedown record, as well as a solid display of his knack for concise, memorable and melodic songwriting.” Amadeep Chana (full review here)

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Matt Martians – The Drum Chord Theory (Three Quarter)

A founding member of both Odd Future and The Internet, Matt Martians already has credits on a bunch of successful albums. He seems to have saved some of his best work for this debut solo album though, a rainbow of stoned funk, psychedelic beats and Prince-worthy top lines. KWC

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Onra – Chinoiseries Pt. 3 (All City Dublin)

A decade on from his first album of Vietnamese sampledelica, Onra finally completes his Chinoiseries trilogy. Once again mining a seemingly bottomless crate of vintage Far Eastern vinyl, the generous results (32 tracks in all) show such a surprising lack of filler that you can’t help but hope that a fourth instalment may yet follow. KWC

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1115 – Post Europe (Alien Transistor)

1115’s first release, last year’s The Drowned World, took place in J.G. Ballard’s post-apocalyptic London. Sadly, Post Europe doesn’t have to look into the future to find similar horrors, instead casting a bitter eye at the present state of a stumbling continent. Tracks like ‘Camps&Jungles’ and ‘Boris Johnson Gave Me A Gun’ reflect the chaos and coldness of our current climate with music that seems to rumble from the depths of an electronic gut. KWC

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Oumou Sangaré – Mogoya (No Format!)

The godmother of Malian music returns after an eight year absence sounding like the break has done her a world of good. Fresh, focused and boasting some particularly sleek production, Mogoya also features one of her finest songs to date, the Tony Allen collaboration ‘Yere Faga’. KWC

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Part Chimp – IV (Rock Action)

Part Chimp thankfully returned this year with IV, their first album since 2009’s Thriller. IV is Part Chimp’s most hooky and upbeat album to date, while still loud as fuck and sludgier than a Scottish bog. To say it’s essential is a fucking understatement, like saying that the political situation in Britain is a bit troubling or that I find baseball caps mildly annoying. LO

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Pega Monstro – Casa de Cima (Upset The Rhythm)

Portuguese sisters Pega Monstro produce their most complete album to date, full of refreshingly untethered compositions that seem to breeze through the album like summer gusts. So good I want to stick it in a blender with some ice cubes and drink the result. KWC

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Pissed Jeans – Why Love Now (Sub Pop)

No one details modern disappointment quite like Pissed Jeans’ frontman Matt Korvette. Why Love Now is Pissed Jeans’ most direct, ‘clean’ and polished album, with producer and punk legend Lydia Lunch applying a lovely glossy sheen to the record. It still manages to malinger and sway like a demented drunk brute though. Third track ‘Ignorecam’ is absolutely savage and the fevered spoken word vocals of author Lindsay Hunter on ‘I’m A Man’ just simply need to be heard by everyone. So why love Why Love Now? Because it’s fucking brilliant that’s why. LO

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Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – Feed The Rats (Rocket Recordings)

Feed The Rats parties hard like a booze-crazed ham homunculus on a particularly rowdy stag do.” LO (full review here)

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Rosalía – Los Ángeles (Universal)

Barcelona-based singer Rosalía has gained traction through her collaborative efforts in the Spanish hip-hop scene. It’s the display of the modern attitude from that output delivered through her impressively emotive vocals which makes this record so enticing. Producer/composer Raül Fernández’s frenetic guitar adds the necessary atmosphere without ever overpowering the star of the show. If she were singing in English she’d probably be being coined ‘the next Amy Winehouse’, but she’s not, so you can enjoy Los Angeles without contemplating quite how a flamenco record is gaining hipster attention in 2017. NB

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sir Was – Digging A Tunnel (City Slang)

“Upon first listen the album reminded me of something put out by Tame Impala, but after many listens and a sleep-deprived moment of clarity later I realised the album is that and so much more. It sounds as if Wästberg is almost having a conversation with you as his loosely constructed lyrics periodically break through the concoction of sounds working together in harmony on this album.” Carly Bernstein (full review here)

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The Physics House Band – Mercury Fountain (Small Pond Recordings)

In his press note for Mercury Fountain, Stewart Lee (yes, that Stewart Lee) describes The Physics House Band as “sounding like vintage Seventies stadium-prog behemoth, a Yes or a Rush, but stripped of any errors of taste and judgment [sic], fed amphetamines, made ashamed of their record collections, slapped in front of the whole school, immersed instead in post-rock procedure and practise, and made to apply their obvious talent and ability to a more worthwhile end than their forebears”. Which sums up this burning-up-on-reentry rocket ship of an album better than I can. KWC

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Tigran Hamasyan – An Ancient Observer (Nonesuch)

One of my favourite live music experiences this year was watching Tigran Hamasyan switching between grand piano and miniature synth at London concert hall Kings Place. If you’ve ever been there you’ll know that the sound is absolutely pin-sharp, and it’s hard to think of many musicians who could do it more justice that Hamasyan, whose blend of neo-classical, jazz and Armenian music finds ultimate fruition on this beautifully reflective record. KWC

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USA Nails – Shame Spiral (Bigoût Records ‎/ Hominid Sounds)

If you want angry, sarky and fucked off noise-punk then look no further than USA Nails’ third album Shame Spiral. As sharp as an overused butcher’s knife and twice as nasty, USA Nails continue to be totally untouchable, like a greased up sex lizard. LO

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Various Artists – Mono No Aware (PAN)

“For those that don’t know the artists involved, this is simply a collection of beautiful music. For those that do, it is fascinating to hear motifs from previous releases being applied in a more ambient direction. Contributions from SKY H1, AYYA and Helm are personal highlights here but there isn’t really a misstep featured. Perhaps it’s the vocal samples or the melancholic yet life-affirming dynamics of the record, but this is an incredibly human-sounding release and very much needed.” Jamie Miller (full review here)

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