Chvrches – Love is Dead
Add some live instruments and a feature or two, and the Scottish Cover Faeries come up with their best album yet.
Panic! At the Disco – Pray for the Wicked
The slow evolution from alt-goth twinks to power pop kings is complete. Urie even sounds like Robin Thicke on one song.
Dead Sara – Temporary Things Taking Up Space
Yes, it’s just an EP, but it’s also the most confident songwriting and powerful delivery the garage heroes from LA have released yet. Every song here is better than all the Grammy nominees this year in the rock categories.
Frank Turner – Be More Kind
The best anti-Trump album you’ve never heard, and the way this British post-punk hero delivers it, with both rollicking historical allegory and simple balladry, makes it all the more powerful.
Twenty One Pilots – Trench
Their most conceptual, sprawling release to date. The influence and growth from their recent collaboration with Mutemath is undeniable.
Mike Shinoda – Post Traumatic
What happens when your lifelong musical partner kills himself? You make an album about it with the rest of your friends. And from Shinoda it would only be possible to make a brutally honest, viscerally redemptive one.
Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
The queen of country wordplay slows it down, stretches it out, and then brings it home with a disco inferno.
Years & Years – Palo Santo
More of the same on their second album, but Olly and his religious-themed songs about gay love and loss are stronger than ever.
Nicki Minaj – Queen
SHE. DID. THAT.
Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
After a while it starts to sound a bit samey, but no one burst on the scene this year like Cardi, okrrr? “Be Careful” is the best rap ballad since “Stan.”
Robyn – Honey
90s nostalgia seemed to be the theme of a lot of releases this year, and the queen of dancing on her own is no different. The title track and “Missing U” are her best songs in 8 years.
A Perfect Circle – Eat the Elephant
Few of these songs made any sense to me on their own as pre-album singles. Once put together they make perfect sense as a surprisingly mature slow-rock masterpiece. The major-key driver “So Long and Thanks for All the Fish” is a brilliant and unexpected “Black Parade”-like celebration of recent celebrity deaths.
Editors – Violence
The first half of their last album might have been the best album that year. This one is more evenly balanced throughout the full duration. They’ve lost a lot of their blistering rock edge from the early 00s, but the maturity and songwriting evolution has more than made up for it.
Ariana Grande – Sweetener
A little 90s nostalgia and ill-timed romantic specificity don’t dampen this glistening pop delight. The ponytail has definitely grown up.
Muse – Simulation Theory
They’ve been through Radiohead, Zeppelin, and Queen phases, a brief flirtation with dubstep, and a full-length jock-rock dissertation on modern warfare, so why not an 80s synth-rock album about metaphysics? When everyone else is stuck in the 90s this year, it’s almost refreshing to go back another decade.
Blue October – I Hope You’re Happy
A return to form for a great band who seemed in danger of slipping into schmaltzy soft-rock obscurity. The title track is a driving, hopeful masterwork, their best since “Bleed Out”, but could not be more different in tone.
Troye Sivan – Bloom
The growth and confidence between his full-length debut and now is inspiring. The best album about a body part this year.
Post Malone – Beerbongs & Bentleys
The most surprisingly great album of the year. Posty’s voice has been hinting at this level of near-crooning vibrato for a couple years, and he finally lets it rip on this album from start to finish.
Goldfrapp – Silver Eye
Just like old school Star Trek movies alternated between great and terrible, Goldfrapp albums now alternate between symphonic and synthetic, but all great. This one is a banger.
Thrice – Palms
A bit of an inevitable step backward from their stunning 2016 release, but Dustin’s voice and songwriting are still some of the most underappreciated in the rock world. “Only Us” even adds a little synth adventurism to its rant against partisanship and xenophobia to great effect.