2017 has been a sublime year for music (if nothing else). Long-awaited releases from indie bands like The XX and Alt-J punctuated the start of the year as well as ambient electronica from Bonobo and Portico Quartet.
Grime had a hallmark year with impressive contributions from Dizzee Rascal, Wiley and the Stormzy album that took the world by, well, storm. Gucci Mane and Vince Staples reinvented the rap album, Lorde and St Vincent ensured pop would never be a dirty word again and Daphni and Carl Craig explored electronic music in wonderfully weird ways.
Fifty might sound excessive, but you should really get the most of that Spotify/Tidal/Apple Music subscription and discover some new music before the page turns on 2017 and we're distracted by a whole new set of releases.
Here's our pick for the best fifty albums of 2017.
Call Super – Arpo (10 November)
The second album from London-hailing Berlin-dwelling electronic producer Joe Seaton, or Call Super as you might now him, is an eclectic and brilliant 11 track release. The title track is a gentle fusion of electronic chimes and woodwind before a faint bass-line creeps in. The same melody appears in 'Ekko Ink', a little warped but a recognisable riff, tracks for the the last hours in a club where everything becomes distorted.
Skip to: 'No Wonder We Go Under' - A bouncy abstract track where the momentum keeps building and ebbing away teasingly.
Angel Olsen – Phases (10 November)
The 30-year-old Missouri folk singer Angel Olsen has the warbling voice of an old soul. The album never feels flat, ranging her vocals to quivering soprano whilst singing 'If you should take me I'd let you break my heart' in 'California' to a nasal slow refrain in 'Tougher Than The Rest.'
Skip to: 'Fly On Your Wall'- a melancholy march that pushes forward and her voice soars with echoes of Lana Del Ray's sound.
Gucci Mane – Mr Davis (13 October)
Mr Davis is (incredibly) the Atlanta rapper's eleventh studio album, and the track titled 'Members Only' sums up the roll call of names from Nicki Minaj to A$AP Rocky to The Weeknd to Chris Brown. His solo tracks have just as much weight, like the frenetic 'Back On' with the rhythm of a bouncing video game.
Skip to: 'Miss My Woe' - Creeping organ notes linger in the background with menace and Gucci's rapping harmonises sublimely with Rico Love rather than the pair battling it out to be heard.
King Krule – The Ooz (13 October)
Though Archy Marshall's look might surprise you, his sound is familiar and unmistakably London, with streaks of the city in lyrics like 'His guts twist/ Sits in the big smoke and thinks of her / Me and you against this city of parasites' from 'Bermondsey Bosom (Left)'. The 19 track release is a beautiful, meandering journey that goes from lilting blues in 'Slush Puppy' to the moody urban beats of 'Biscuit Town'.
Skip to: 'Czech One' - Here Marshall's voice shows its delicacy in stripped back melancholy that plays out like an eclectic James Blake track, complete with impromptu-sounding piano scales and saxophones gently humming.
St Vincent – Masseducation (13 October)
Whether it's the trippy chaos in 'Sugar Boy', saccharine pop of 'Pills' - which Pitchfork described as a "nursery-rhyme, advertising-jingle"- or the electro power ballad of 'Los Ageless', Annie Clarke's fifth album produces no two replicas . The 34-year-old Texan recently said of the release that her "whole life is in this record", she's certainly packed a life's worth of emotion into it.
Skip to: 'Slow Dance' - Soaring strings and Clark's delicate voice wash over you like a balm. A soothing two minutes which winds up the end of the album, like relaxing into the last bus home.
Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice (13 October)
The union of these two indie rock names might have resulted in the sort a bland soundscape that plays in the background of a Zooey Deschanel rom-com, but instead the pair compliment each other without becoming a naff guitar double act. 'Over Everything' sees their vocals increasingly fuse together over the six minute track and 'Outta The Woodwork' creeps up on you, haunting with the refrain of "She's so easy".
Skip to: 'Fear Is Like a Forest' - From the off the track oozes with a sauntering confidence as Vile and Bartnett weave in and out of each other. Tight and memorable lyrics like "Fear is like a forest / Dark of the unknown / Love is like a promise / That you'll never be alone" will echo around your head.
Daphni – Joli Mai (6 October)
Following the success of his 2014 album, Our Love with electronic band Caribou, Dan Snaith might have felt little incentive to return to his dance-floor alias. Fortunately he did, as Joli Mai shows the breadth of his talents with stripped back but shimmering beats like in 'Carry On' or the rousing techno march of reverb and hi-hat in 'Hey Drum'.
Skip to: 'Tin' - An energetic flurry of melodies and vocals that rise and drop in perfect waves. A track that feels like the highlight of a nightclub set coming flooding back to you with every listen.
The Horrors – V (22 September)
From the tangled white noise of the aptly named 'Machine' to the soothing reveries in 'Gathering', the English indie rock band's fifth album is one of extremes. In 'Something To Remember Me By' they have achieved that hallowed sweet spot of a catchy song which grows on you rather than grates with a journey through pop, synth, rock and electronica in 6 minutes.
Skip to: 'It's A Good Life' - reportedly written about Peaches Geldof who lead singer Faris Badwan dated, the track hums with a slow sadness but bursts into a rousing ending.
Ariel Pink – Dedicated to Bobby Jameson (15 September)
The genre-evading Californian artist's latest release is a joyful mess of dream-pop and chillwave packed with story-telling tracks. Drawing on influences like Electric Light Orchestra in 'Another Weekend' and with a psychedelic nod to The Doors in 'Dedicated to Bobby Jameson', the album has an inviting familiarity.
Skip to: 'Feels Like Heaven' - a hazy pop number typical of the eighties-worshipping sound he is known for. The drawling American vocals will take you back to a summer spent by the lake, even if you never had one.
The National – Sleep Well Beast (8 September)
Matt Berninger's vocals are as intimate and affecting as ever in the Ohio rock band's seventh album, where emotional restraint wields its own power. That said, it feels taller than their last release, especially in the feisty rock track 'They System Only Dreams In Total Darkness' and in 'Empire Line', where a frantic thrumming transforms into a warm melody.
Skip to: 'Born to Beg' - Similar soft rolling piano notes to old classics like 'England' or 'Fake Empire', The National here prove their brand of melancholy is irresistible and unrivalled.
LCD Soundsystem – American Dream (1 September)
The electronic outfit who hail from Brooklyn haven't toned down their eclectic style for their fourth album, and as such it's hard to find one continuous thread through the 11 track release. Much of the album looks back on broken friendships, ended relationships and even the faded American dream.
Skip to: 'oh baby' - lyrics which ask 'Please shake me from my lovesick patient dream' and the repeated refrain of 'oh baby' become a reverberating lullaby when paired with a piano melodies and quacking synths.
Hercules & Love Affair – Omnion (1 September)
Though primarily known for their heady summer hit 'Blind', the fourth album from the American disco trio delves into weirder territory like the jazzy echoes on 'Are You Still Certain?' and the haunting vocals on 'Through Your Atmosphere' set over Stranger Things-esque eighties sounds effects.
Skip to: 'Rejoice' - skipping between a power anthem and a club track, the bouncing techno gives some weight to the euphoric and almost gospel-like chants of 'Rejoice'.
Portico Quartet – Art In The Age Of Automation (25 August)
The ambient instrumental outfit who hail from London have regained the 'Quartet' in their moniker after losing a member and signing to Ninja Tune Records for their previous album. Back as a four they have refocused on a more pure form of jazz. That said, it remains firmly in 2017 with bizarre computer samples on 'S/2000S5' and the panpipes meets club bass-line in 'RGB'.
Skip to: 'Endless' - a throbbing opening transforms into steel-pan chimes and warm saxophone notes. Perfect for anyone who has exhausted Bonobo's last album.
Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins (18 August)
The fifth album from the New York rock band avoids the lure of the angsty Trump-era release and sticks to natural inspiration for their songwriting. It's all the better for it in this mix of dark and light, particularly on tracks like 'Wasted Acres' and 'Cut-Out'. That said, the bland folk-rock template is tested in challenging moments, like 'Four Cypresses', and their habit of swapping band members for vocals sets the tracks apart.
Skip to: 'Losing All Sense' - a winding journey that swings between melancholy drawn-out guitar chords and a gleefully energetic chorus which takes you off-guard.
UNKLE – The Road Part 1 (18 August)
A powerhouse of talent come together to collaborate on the the new UNKLE release including folk-singer Keaton Henson, soul artist Eska and rapper Elliott Power. The James Lavelle-fronted ensemble group that used to boast DJ Shadow have merged rock, electronic and soul in their first album in seven years. The atmosphere is constantly shifting, from the sedate and peaceful reverie of 'Sonata' to menacing grunge-rock in 'Looking For The Rain.'
Skip to: 'Farewell' - with dark and orchestral echoes of Nils Frahm and Trentemøller and no less than eight guest collaborators, you'll need a few listens to get your head around this gem.
Ghostpoet – Dark Days + Canapés (18 August)
That the title of Obaro Ejimiwe's fourth album represents his view of the state of the nation becomes only more evident upon listening. Hard to ignore truths lie in the lyrics of tracks like 'Immigrant Boogie' ("It's just the boat's going down / And I don't think we wanna stay") and 'Karōshi' taken from the Japanese term for dying from overworking. Ejimiwe's velvet voice is perfect throughout, singing so softly some tracks are almost spoken.
Skip to: '(We're) Dominoes' - bluesy vocals and sombre piano chords mix with electronic bleeps in this beautiful hopeless track with lyrics of quiet despair.
Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile To The Surface (28 July)
The American band have graduated from the days of angsty teen drama soundtracks and produced an album with more maturity and daring moments. Though nearly all tracks come with 'The' prefixes ('The Gold', 'The Moth', 'The Alien', 'The Wolf' etc) there's still real scope on the album. From the warm guitar notes on 'The Sunshine' to the whirring sound effects, mumbled lyrics and jarring samples on 'Lead, SD'.
Skip to: 'The Maze' - Reminiscent of Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst and his desolate warbling, this track about frontman Andy Hull's daughter is lifted by gospel-like harmonies and twinkling sound effects.
Vic Mensa – The Autobiography (28 July)
An album littered with charged political references, from Alicia Machado to the shooting of Alton Sterling, the first album from the Chicago rapper also features appearances from Pharrell, Pusha T, Weezer and Syd over 15 tracks loaded with skill and depth.
Skip to: 'We Could Be Free' an emotional plea that touches on slavery and Black Lives Matter with sincerity where the emotion is more yearning than anger and all the more moving for it.
Dizzee Rascal – Raskit (21 July)
Given how many heads have recently been turned by new grime proponents like Stormzy and J Hus, it's only natural that Dizzee would embrace his roots in the genre and drop the dalliance with pop/dance that we saw in 'Bonkers' and 'Holiday'. Raskit is a return to the genre which still maintains his signature style, evident in the frenetic and tongue-twisting lines in 'Business Man' and the catchy hook on 'I Ain't Even Gonna Lie'.
Skip to: 'Space' - Where the album becomes more experimental is where Dizzee showcases his array of talents. Here a haunting melody winds around impressive bars like "Give me the gas and the matches / I've been through hell and I swallowed the ashes / running this ting for so long as it happens / I'm knackered."
Lana Del Ray – Lust For Life (21 July)
The indie dream-pop singer returns with her fifth album having ditched her tendency to wave the American flag on stage due to Trump's unfortunate association with the emblem. Lust For Life captures the same dreamy melancholy as her most celebrated music, like '13 Beaches' which mopes but offers some depth of emotion. Elsewhere her collaborations with Stevie Nicks and The Weeknd are worth a few listens.
Skip to: 'Love' - The most obvious descendent of Del Ray's wistful brand of Americana, this slow track feels washed out and muted in a delicate and lovely way making the lyrics shine and stay with you.
Haim – Something to Tell You (7 July)
The cooler-than-you Californian sisters' second album once again strikes a sweet balance between rock and pop, appeasing fans of both genres without compromise. Lead single 'Want You Back' is a nearly-acoustic Fleetwood Mac-esque track punctuated with drum kicks and collaboration with Dev Hynes 'You Never Knew' reverberates with bouncing disco beats.
Skip to: 'Kept Me Crying' - Though on first listen it sounds like another rousing girl power track, heartbroken lyrics like, "Now I'm only just someone you call / When it's late enough to forget" make it surprisingly poignant.
Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory (23 June)
After various cameos on artists work and the widely acclaimed Summertime 06, the second album from the California-born rapper has all the hallmarks of a turning point in his career. Deservedly so, as this emotional and sincere album has a weight to it, from the voiceovers of Amy Winehouse on the pulsing 'Alyssa Interlude' to criticisms of the "propaganda press" in 'Party People', and the multiple affecting references to death and suicide.
Skip to: 'Big Fish' - An unexpected electronic intro drops into verses where lyrics like "No sleepin', late nights no eatin' / Gun squeezing, I'm a real Artesian" reverberate and bend together seamlessly.
Lorde – Melodrama (16 June)
Managing to do what so few pop-stars can, 20 year-old Ella Yelich-O'Connor captures the turbulent, fun, traumatic and confusing experience of girlhood with profundity and genuine excitement.
Skip to: 'Supercut' - Here lyrics about a first love tumble with intensity and build to the chorus, where the line "In my head, I play a supercut of us" echoes beautifully . Similar to "Ribs" from her last album, it's a track that manages to be both catchy and moving.
London Grammar – Truth Is A Beautiful Thing (9 June)
The British dreamy trip-hop threesome have bottled a particular type of sadness in their music which feels less depressing and more reflective, a sorrow you can revel in and unwind with.
Hannah Reid's haunting vocals steal the show on the 18-track release, soaring particularly on 'Wild Eyed' and the angst-ridden 'What A Day'.
Skip to: 'Oh Woman Oh Man' - With a sound recognisable from their 2013 album If You Wait, this takes the album from its melancholy to a more uplifting place.
Phoenix – Ti Amo (9 June)
With a name like this, the second album from French alternative disco-pop outfit Phoenix ought to grate far more than it does.
Even the scrawled heart on the album artwork can be ignored thanks to the nods to Daft Punk, Passion Pit and Friendly Fires on tracks like 'Love Life' and 'Fleur De Lys'. Ti Amo transplants a grin on your face and offers the simple antidote of cheesy upbeat music.
Skip to: 'J Boy' - A euphoric, hazy slice of summer to distract from the pissing rain outside, where the "just because of you" hook will ring around your head like a highlights reel of happy sunny days.
Alt J – Relaxer (1 June)
The Leeds-formed trio have called in Marika Hackman and Wolf Alice's Ellie Rowsell for their short and strange third album, and these voices give the narrative-driven tracks new characters to play with.
'3WW' and 'House Of The Rising Sun' are soft, lilting melodies where Newman's voice slowly washes over you. Elsewhere 'Hit Me With That Snare' has a twisting darkness to it, and 'Pleader' features London Metropolitan Orchestra, boy choristers and police siren samples. Certainly not just more of the same.
Skip to: 'In Cold Blood' - The story of a pool party gone wrong grows from a throbbing guitar riff which the band say "rallies in a tennis match", alongside the notes of an old Casio keyboard and electric live brass instruments.
Gucci Mane – Droptopwop (26 May)
The 10 track collaborative mixtape from America rapper Gucci Mane is a muted and melancholic contribution to the trap scene with snaking bass, isolated high hats and snares all paired with dark lyrics. Tracks like 'Finesse The Plug Interlude' sound like they're playing in slow-motion and the dark samples looping throughout it are both haunting and contagious.
Skip to: 'Met Gala' - A collaboration with Migos' Offset adds pace and flavour to fiercely spat track which combines tight rapping, frantic rhythms and more of those looped samples.
Harry Styles – Harry Styles (10 May)
Yes, yes we know what you're thinking. We hardly thought we'd see the day we included a former One Direction band member in here either. But to give Mr Styles credit, his album is an impressive collection which showcases his stirring voice. The lead single 'Sweet Creature' is a lusty love ballad - possibly to Harry himself, but you forgive him for it. Elsewhere is swooning slow number 'Two Ghosts' - reportedly about Ms Swift - and the swaggering groove of 'Carolina'. An impressive first stab at being a grown up.
Skip to: 'Ever Since New York' - Styles takes on the persona of an aging country singer, and somehow pulls it off.
Slowdive – Slowdive (5 May)
As you'd expect for an album 22 years in the making, the British shoegaze band's latest offering is a carefully crafted and considered affair. The self-titled fourth album is nostalgic for their earlier albums, with that same swirling vocals and low pulsing bass notes. True to the genre, tracks like 'Slomo' and 'Sugar For The Pill' feature ethereal sounds and conjure spiritual imagery.
Skip to: 'Star Roving' - a more vibrant offering with eighties high-velocity guitars that manage to sit aside gentle vocals that keep the track in same universe as the rest of the album.
Carl Craig and Francesco Tristano – Versus (5 May)
Detroit techno and Parisian orchestral music might not seem the most natural of bedfellows but they blend seamlessly in Versus, which contains orchestral versions of Craig's hits and electronic reworkings of pieces by pianist Tristano . There's plenty of variety, from the the pulsing club-ready rework of 'Sandstorm' to the balletic translation of 'Barceloneta Trist' with its humming strings. The album is a masterpiece that shows the beauty and technicalities of dance music and how well it lends itself to the concert-style performances of classical music.
Skip to: 'Desire' - The point in the album where the mixture of classic and electronic music is the most interesting and elegant, eight minutes of bliss that wouldn't be out of place in Fabric or the Royal Albert Hall.
Perfume Genius – No Shape (5 May)
Seattle-based solo artist Mike Hadreas' fourth album is one of two halves - one part gorgeous piano trills and whispered vocals ('Otherside', 'Die 4 You') the other tangled guitar melodies and frenzied drums ('Choir', 'Wreath'). Just as Prince and Bowie were able to explore issues of sexuality and gender identity with both devastating subtlety and wild brashness, No Shape does too.
Skip to: 'Slip Away' - Described by Pitchfork as, "a song that sounds perpetually under siege in a majestic fantasy battle", this reverberating and rousing track is where the album blazes most brightly.
Gorillaz – Humanz (28 April)
After a cool seven years out the game, Gorillaz returned this month with Humanz, a feast of carefully selected collaborations, timely lyrics and commanding chorus melodies. Guest appearance include De La Soul on 'Momentz' - part happy hardcore part demented battle cry - and Grace Jones on the violently bouncing and whirling psychedelic trip that is 'Charger'.
Skip to: 'Fade Away' - Though technically not on the album, the Andromeda releases from earlier this month are well worth a listen too. This collaboration with Bonobo and rapper D.R.A.M has an amazing mounting chorus, a rumbling bass rhythm and layers of glittering instrumentals. You'll want to play it over and over.
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN (14 April)
Even with the impossible job of matching expectations after To Pimp a Butterfly, the fourth studio album for K.Dot doesn't disappoint. Right from stripped back spoken word and orchestral beginning on opening track 'BLOOD', the album is an epic feat of storytelling. Guest appearances from Rihanna and, more surprisingly, U2 both hold their own, proving he can push the boundaries by blending rap, hip-hop, jazz, spoken word and soul and constantly create new hybrids.
Skip to: 'FEEL' - Though 'HUMBLE' is billed as the title track, this is where his seamless rapping comes into its own with meticulously formed lyrics like "The feelin' of bad dope / A quarter ounce manipulated from soap / The feelin', the feelin' of false freedom / I'll force-feed 'em the poison that fill 'em up in the prison." 'FEEL' evolves with every listen.
Little Dragon – Season High (14 April)
Yukimi Nagano and her Swedish electronic band Little Dragon have produced an album of balanced extremes in their fifth studio release. Hazy and mellow tracks like 'High' are a mixture of ambient drumbeats and experimental sound effects and more uptempo numbers like 'Should I Care?' or 'Push' have a warm eighties sound similar to the dreamy pop of Blood Orange or indie-electronica of Kindness.
Skip to: 'Strobe Light' - A rising bass and faster tempo makes this a less controlled and more loose sounding track on the album. Lyrics are at their maddest and best too with a chorus promising "Then I'm gonna kiss your tummy / Then I'm gonna kiss your pineapple."
Father John Misty – Pure Comedy (7 April)
Wailing Maryland guitarist and vocalist Josh Tillman, aka Father John Misty, sounds like Bon Iver perhaps might had his break-up been slightly less heart-wrenching. Pure Comedy is his third indie-rock album in six years and though the 13 track release shows he's as prolific is ever, it's also notedly more experimental in its melancholy. From the TV theme-tune sample that opens the title track to the cymbal crashes and dark lyrics of 'Two Wildly Different Perspectives', there's far fewer jolly folk tracks than in prior albums but multiple gems nonetheless.
Skip to: 'Ballad of The Dying Man' - Gently rocking guitar notes and lullaby backing vocals come together perfectly here in an antidote to the albums crazier moments. The sort of track that might close a Toy Story film, in the nicest possible way.
Future Islands – The Far Field (7 April)
Another gift from Maryland in the form of Baltimore synth-pop outfit Future Islands, a band famous for having the most energetic frontman in music. From the infectious synths of 'Beauty of The Road' to the frantic bass-line of 'Cave', the album has a frenetic energy that pulses through it and puts a smile on your face with soaring guitar chords, warped vocals and crashing drums. An album that shows what great pop music can sound like and a band that will likely see swathes of new fans dancing to their music this summer
Skip to: 'Aladdin' - One octave less frenzied than the tracks that follow it and with lyrics that are less garbled and more expressive. A moment where all the instruments shine, particularly the closing keyboard chords.
Drake – More Life (18 March)
Drake described More Life as "A body of work to bridge the gap between major releases", otherwise known as an album. The variation on the 22 track release makes it hard to pinpoint any one direction, from the murky rapping on 'Free Smoke' to the warmer house rhythms in 'Passionfruit' and the breadth of collaborations with the likes of Sampha and Kanye.
Skip to: 'Get It Together' - Rising South African house producer Black Coffee and 19-year-old singer Jorja Smith shine on this infectious track that feels like a hit from the first play.
ANONHI – Paradise (17 March)
You'll recognise ANOHNI - or Antony Hegarty - as the powerful and moving vocals on chamber pop band Antony and the Johnsons. The British transgender singer's new musical project creates the same brutal and beautiful sounds in Paradise with tracks like 'Jesus Will Kill You' - a medley of ethereal and abrasive sound effects. The closing track 'She Doesn't Mourn Her Loss' catches you off-guard with hauntingly beautiful vocals and a speech delivered to the UN asking what is happening to the world (we're not sure).
Skip to: 'Paradise' - the title track is a mash-up of delicate vocals, kick drums and heavy bass where the production of Hudson Mohawke really shows.
Laura Marling – Semper Femina (10 March)
Compiled of just nine tracks, Laura Marling's sixth studio album shows how far the London folk singer has come from her pithy acoustic love songs strummed on a guitar. Tracks like 'Don't Pass Me By' and 'Soothing' are bolder with snaking bass notes and soulful vocals. Elsewhere 'Next Time' and 'Always This Way' are romantic and stripped back like Marling's most recognisable songs.
Skip to: 'The Valley' - Strikingly different in part because of is building guitar and wistful violins, Marling finds a whole new way to make organic sounds feel romantic.
The Shins – Heartworms (10 March)
Despite James Mercer replacing the entire band two albums ago, Heartworms still feels a natural extensions of The Shins' sound, probably because his songwriting has always been at the heart of it. 'Fantasy Island' is synth-pop anthem that would fit any of their releases and 'Cherry Hearts' has 80s disco-rock undertones reminiscent of Modest Mouse or Future Islands.
Skip to: 'Name For You' - Album opener and buoyantly upbeat with a marching drum beat and pop lyrics sweetly written for Mercer's three daughters. It'll stick.
Temples – Volcano (3 March)
With a sound more exotic than their native Kettering, Temples second album is a return to the form of debut release Sun Structures. Their psychedelic rock sound and heavy synths will be familiar to fans of Tame Impala, particularly on tracks like 'Born Into The Sunset' and 'In My Pocket' which are more experimental but still just the right side of pop. An album you'll be desperate to see live.
Skip to: 'Certainty' - An obvious choice for the first single with its MGMT-like squelchy bass and abstract lyrics that we'll all be singing this summer.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – The Tourist (24 February)
2017 looks to be the year of the indie rock return having already seen awaited releases from Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors. The Tourist, like previous CYHSY albums, nods to musical inspirations like Tom Waits , Paul Simon and Nick Cave and is the perfect dose of nostalgia. 'Better Off' and 'The Vanity Of Trying' illustrate the mixture of complicated keyboard and tight drumming that make the album so hypnotic.
Skip to: 'Down (is where I want to be)' - marches forward madly with wailing vocals and rising guitar riffs. Think Talking Heads meets The Walkmen.
Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer (24 February)
With the praise Stormzy has rapidly garnered within the grime scene, you'd be forgiven for assuming that he would look to fit some big names on suitably big tracks. Quite the contrary, collaborations with MNEK and Wretch 32 are slightly middle of the road slow jams and Stormzy is the main man for the album's stand-out moments. Having said that, 'Don't Cry For Me' with Game of Throne's Raleigh Ritchie is a soulful highlight.
Skip to: 'Blinded By Your Grace' - sublime and simple vocal harmonies shine in this ballad which despite its short length really shows his range of talent.
Future – Hndrxx (24 February)
The second of two albums released within a week last month, you certainly can't question the output of the Atlanta rapper. The latter of the two, Hndrxx, features tracks with The Weeknd and Rihanna which complement the dark swaying hip-hop beats rather than turning it into a pop album. The 17 track release is hard to pin down but features rapid glitchy tracks like 'Incredible' which echoes recent Kendrick Lamar and slow soulful laments like opening track 'My Collection.'
Skip to: 'Solo' - here Future's experimental use of auto-tune, which has won over critics, offers a truly unique sound.
Ryan Adams – Prisoner (17 February)
Having spent 2015 covering Taylor Swift's 1989 with much more angst than the blonde starlet managed herself, Adams has continued this emo thread with his latest release, Prisoner. It's a classic Ryan Adams heartbreak record - likely something to do with his recent divorce from Mandy Moore - complete with crashing guitars, crooning vocals and well articulated lyrics of despair.
Skip to: 'Do You Still Love Me?' - Heavy guitars reign here and the chorus repeats "Do you still love me, babe?" Straight to the point and surprisingly moving.
Sampha – Process (3 February)
Sampha Sisay's warm and soothing vocals have an unmistakable sound, and listening to his debut album you'll recognise it from his appearances on tracks by Drake, SBTRKT and Solange. But Process demonstrates his talents go beyond guest appearances, whether it's the glitchy effects and beats on 'Reverse Fault' or the layered vocals and experimental trap beats in 'Under' which echo James Blake and Jamie XX.
Skip to: '(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano' - the first single off the album is a beautiful stripped back piano melody that manages to show off with seemingly little effort.
Austra – Future Politics (20 January)
Despite not straying far from their previous material, Canadian group Austra's third album is captivating with dreamy melodies and anthemic beats. Katie Stelmanis' vocals are high and delicate without grating (think Kate Bush or Florence and The Machine). Tracks like 'Freepower' sound like a softer and sweeter Banks without the annoying commercial R'n'B echoes thrown over the top.
Skip to: 'We Were Alive' - The opening track of the record features synths, broken piano chords and elegant drawn out vocals.
The XX – I See You (13 January)
The third album was always going to be a big test for the English trio who enjoyed wild - and unpredicted - global success with previous albums XX and Coexist. I See You breaks from their stripped back and muted tracks and adds some more uplifting melodic flourishes, but you can still see their original DNA on 'On Hold', reminiscent of warmer tracks like 'Islands' and 'Basic Space'. The tearjerkers are there too, if you look hard enough.
Skip to: 'Lips' - The angelic opening chorus pairs surprisingly well with the trademark moody vocals to create a more sophisticated single than their earlier work.
The Flaming Lips - Oczly Modly (13 January)
The title might sound like the name for a Turkish internet café but the Oakland psychedelic rock band's new release proves, 14 albums later, they're still capable of reinventing themselves. Tracks on the extreme end of the experimental spectrum like 'Galaxy I Sink' feature wobbling guitars, reverberating synths and echoed chanting to brilliant overall effect. Having recently made some strange music with Miley Cyrus you can see their ever-broadening sound on Oczly Modly, but it works.
Skip to: 'We A Famly'- the slow beat, glitchy sound effects and longer lyrics are a highlight of the release.
Wiley - Godfather (13 January)
With the recent wildfire success of Stormzy and Skepta's Mercury Prize it's easy to forget that Wiley, "The godfather of Grime", has been pulling the strings of the scene for 20 years. His 17 track release earlier this month feels like a mixtape with its stack of short explosive tracks and video game sounds rippling through them. The rapping stands out on 'Name Brand' where he's joined by Roll Deep's JME and Boy Better Know's Frisco.
Skip to: 'Pattern Up Properly' - another collaboration, this time with grime stalwart Flowdan, packs frenzied beats and bars into 3 brilliant minutes.
Bonobo – Migration (11 January)
January saw the sixth album release for English DJ Bonobo whose skill at blending ambient and electronic music has earned him critical acclaim beyond East London hipsters - much to their annoyance. Migration doesn't stray from his failsafe formula of intricate instrumentals and haunting vocals but improves upon the occasional elevator music meandering of his previous album, The North Borders. The title track is impressive with its mounting percussion and piano, as are the glitchy looping strings on 'Kerala'.
Skip to: 'No Reason' - the best collaboration and longest track on the record are where his most stirring melodies are found.
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