Dextrous raps, sensual R&B and literate pop all rub shoulders in a "poll of polls" to find the top 10 albums of 2017.
The BBC looked at 30 of the "best of 2017" lists in music's most influential publications – including the NME, Rolling Stone, Vice, Billboard and Q Magazine – to find the highest-ranked albums of the year.
Read about the Top 10, and what the critics had to say about each of them, below.
10) Kelela – Take Me Apart
Kelela Mizanekristos' ambition for her debut album was to discover "the place between Bjork, Sade, and Beyonce".
It's a goal she achieves – the shape-shifting R&B of Take Me Apart is both familiar and challenging, as the 34-year-old deconstructs the emotional mechanics of a break-up, from devastation through recrimination to the blossoming of a new love.
- "These are unanchored R&B songs for unmoored times, with Kelela's alluring vocals holding fast, front and centre." [The Guardian]
9) Sampha – Process
A sonically adventurous patchwork of analogue and digital soul, Process was written as London-born singer Sampha Sisay processed the grief from his mother's death.
His anguish is palpable throughout – and nowhere is it more moving than on (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano, where he reminisces about the keyboard she taught him to play as a five year-old.
- "Process [is] an intimate epic of the worst minutes, hours, days, and years of Sampha Sisay's life. But it's also a story about the small moments of levity that allow one to endure what comes next." [Vice]
8) Perfume Genius – No Shape
Tortured soul Mike Hadreas started his recording career as Perfume Genius in 2010, recording candid ballads about growing up gay, isolated, confused and bullied.
No Shape lets the light in. Full of lavish, rococo string arrangements and buoyant melodies, it finds the singer shedding his anxieties and settling down. "Did you notice, we sleep through the night?" he sings on Alan – a song dedicated to his lover, Alan Wyffels.
- "More than anything, No Shape is about the transformative, redemptive power of love." [Stereogum]
7) Jay-Z – 4:44
In which Jay-Z did something no-one expected: He apologised.
A partial response to Beyonce's rage on Lemonade, it finds the star as vulnerable and introspective, as he candidly confronts his infidelity.
Elsewhere, he dispenses financial advice and makes repeated calls on black American culture to do more to support black Americans. Clocking in at a brisk 36 minutes, it's still his most complete, most satisfying album in years.
- "4:44 is Tony Soprano at his first couple of sessions with Dr. Melfi. He's not totally sure why he's here and is occasionally petty about it. Jay-Z acknowledges the pain he caused without entirely agreeing to own it." [New York Times]
6) The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
After 2014's Lost In A Dream became a surprise hit, Philadelphia's War On Drugs were signed to Atlantic Records – but their first album for the label shows no signs of compromise.
The first single, Thinking Of A Place, stretches out over 11 minutes, with ambient synths and echo-drenched guitars drifting in and out of view like the lover who "vanished in the night" in Adam Granduciel's lyrics. But as big as the songs get, there's always a ear-catching detail or haunting melody to draw you in.
- "Granduciel's music is such a sumptuous wallow we don't mind moving forward by the inch." [NME]
5) LCD Soundsystem – American Dream
We have David Bowie to thank for this one. LCD Soundsystem made an emphatic goodbye in 2011, but when frontman James Murphy played percussion on Bowie's Blackstar, the musician persuaded him to do things that "make you uncomfortable".
The result is American Dream, which steers the band's itchy disco straight into the political turmoil of 2017. As Murphy sings on Call The Police: "The old guys are frightened / And frightening to behold."
- "Not just older but wiser, too, with a new strain of wit and tenderness thrumming beneath their strobelit dreams." [Entertainment Weekly]
4) St Vincent – Masseduction
"It's an incredibly sad album," St Vincent told the BBC of her fifth album, Masseduction. "Quite manic and painful." It's also her most accomplished – all seedy glamour, giddy highs and unsettling lows.
The centrepiece is New York, a subterranean ballad that's either about her breakup with supermodel Cara Delevigne or the death of David Bowie (or neither or both).
St Vincent hired Taylor Swift's producer Jack Antonoff to work on the album, but he never reduces her to a pop caricature – she's by turns alluring, imperious, vulnerable, playful and, yes, incredibly sad.
- "The shattering work of a future pop star." [Fact magazine]
3) Lorde – Melodrama
Lorde beat the second album curse with poetic lyrics and a flair for darkness. Melodrama depicts the messy, awkward business of growing up with an author's eye for detail ("I overthink your punctuation use," she tells her lover on The Louvre).
The music reflects the turbulence of her love life, soaring and plunging with gut-churning regularity – with the self-lacerating Liability the undoubted highlight.
- "At once immediate and layered, massive and minute, thoughtful and instinctual, Melodrama fully solidifies Lorde as the leading voice of pop." [Consequence of Sound]
2) SZA – CTRL
Record company politics nearly derailed SZA's album – and the singer (otherwise known as Solana Rowe) briefly threatened to quit music altogether – but wiser heads prevailed, and CTRL finally saw the light of day in June.
Her debut is a frank and fascinating insight into the complexities of modern love; of how desire, competition, jealousy, sexual politics, social media and low self-esteem can derail a relationship.
The singer deliberately turned down the reverb and echo on her vocals, giving the album an intimate, confessional tone that's made it a touchstone for fans and fellow musicians alike.
- "She may be one of a kind, but she's speaking the truth of a whole generation." [Time magazine]
1) Kendrick Lamar – Damn
Kendrick Lamar made a 180-degree turn from the progressive jazz funk of 2015's To Pimp A Butterfly, to deliver this skeletal, powerful rap sermon.
The song titles, delivered ALL IN CAPS, reference the deadly sins Pride and Lust, as well as Lamar's post-fame struggles with Loyalty and remaining Humble.
But it's the weight and dexterity of his lyrics that set the album apart – examining America's political turmoil through the prism of his own contradictions and failings.
- "This is the work of a future all-time great in full command of his powers. Damn, indeed." [The Telegraph]
‘Extended run’ of heat set to last all week
The heat that has plagued Australia’s south and west is set to linger. But when the mercury does finally drop, it looks like rain will replace the warmth – at least in the country’s south east.
Both Perth and Melbourne have both been solidly in heatwaves.
On Sunday, Perth recorded an extraordinary six days in a row surpassing 40C. That’s a heat feat not seen since a string of scorching days in Adelaide in 2009.
Some blessed relief from the unbearable heat in Perth is due for the coming days – it’s now just going to be moderately baking. But another 40C day is expected soon enough.
Melbourne hit 32.6C on Sunday following a 32.3C high on Saturday. The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has said the city is set for an “extended run” of heat this week.
Most of Victoria and Tasmania will be in low intensity heatwave week with highs in Melbourne of 34C on multiple days.
But the monsoon is getting stronger in the country’s north and that’s sending rain towards the south and east as the week progresses.
Sky News Weather meteorologist Rob Sharpe said a low pressure system forming around northern Australia could deliver 100mm or more of rain over the Top End and had the potential to form into a cyclone.
“Tropical moisture is well and truly in the mix and is aiding the heavy falls we’ve been seeing in many parts of the country.
“That wet weather is generally edging slightly eastwards. So there’s potential for south eastern Australia to see a lot of rainfall towards the back end of the week, with heavy falls a threat,” he said.
But that’s not for a few days yet. Up until at least Thursday, Melbourne should be dry with 33-34C maximums most days and nights only dipping down to 21C or so.
The BOM has warned it will be humid and there is the chance of storms.
Temperatures could come down from Thursday with the possibility of some substantial rain leading into the weekend.
Across the Bass Strait and Tasmania is in the same heatwave, but the maximums will be far lower than Victoria.
Hobart is looking at a week of temperatures in the mid-twenties and dawn lows of 16C. Just like Victoria, the Apple Isle will be dry until the end of the week when some showers are likely.
Perth set to cool down … finally
On the tail end of the systems that’s caused so much rain in the centre of South Australia, Adelaide has seen some decent falls this weekend with 23mm of rain falling on Saturday and almost another 20mm on Sunday.
There will be some warmth and humidity to begin the week in Adelaide with a high of 29C on Monday rising to 31C by Wednesday before a few days in the mid-twenties. Minimums will be around 20C.
There could be some showers on Tuesday.
Monday could still a storm or two and some rain in areas most affected by the rain this weekend including Whyalla, Port August and Port Lincoln. Floods remain a risk in the mod north, Flinders Ranges, west coast and Eyre and Yorke peninsulas.
There is the possibility of up to 120mm of rain falling into Monday n some areas.
Across the Nullarbor and the low intensity heatwave should move away from Perth on Monday but could continue around the Gascoyne.
Monday to Thursday should see highs of between 31C and 33C in Perth with mid teen minimums. That’s far cooler than the last week. But come Friday and the mercury is set to rise once again with a possibility of 40C on Sunday.
Summery and settled in east
Wet in Darwin to begin the week with 10-35mm falling on Monday and a further 8-20mm on Tuesday. Thunderstorms could crop up most days. Warm with highs of 31-33C this week and 25C lows.
The east coast should be relatively settled and summery. This week will see a run of 30C plus days in Brisbane with 31C the norm. Overnight, it should dip down to 20C. Some showers are possible on Wednesday.
A possible shower or two in Sydney on Monday but nothing too heavy. The rest of the week is looking dry.
Maximum temperatures on the Harbour City of 26C on Monday rising to 28C on Wednesday and then as much as 30C on Friday. Lows overnight of around 19C.
Dry in Canberra with highs of 27-29C but potentially up to 31C on Friday. Temperatures should fall to the mid-teens after dark.
So, we guess this means Beyonce and Jay-Z are OK then
The first couple of pop music took the world by surprise by dropping their first album together last..
The first couple of pop music took the world by surprise by dropping their first album together last weekend. As you'd expect, it's a statement.
There is arguably no couple better at controlling their own press than Beyonce and Jay-Z. When a video surfaced in 2014 showing Bey's younger sister Solange attacking her brother-in-law in an elevator, rumours of a strained marriage proliferated.
Rather than battle the tabloids, the spouses used the gossip to fuel the creation of two critically beloved, commercially successful records: Beyonce's Lemonade and Jay-Z's 4:44. And, in them, they offered just as many details about their private lives as they chose.
Now the couple have continued their domination of pop music, surprising the world last Saturday by releasing their joint album Everything Is Love, which is something of a sequel to those two solo records. Though they have collaborated for at least 15 years, this marks their first joint album, which they dropped under the name The Carters.
The record is a victory lap from a couple who have mined their relationship for universal truths and then presented them as art. It's a fierce love letter to success, to family, to blackness – but, most of all, to each other.
Lyrically, it primarily focuses on two aspects of the Carters' lives: their marriage and their success. (more…)
Rachel Griffiths: female characters are finally getting real on screen
Almost a year into the #MeToo era, Rachel Griffiths believes the likes of Mystery Road, Wentworth, P..
Almost a year into the #MeToo era, Rachel Griffiths believes the likes of Mystery Road, Wentworth, Picnic at Hanging Rock and Top of the Lake show that female characters are finally coming of age on Australian screens.
In a spirited speech at the launch of a new state government scheme to support more women directors in television, the actor-turned-director said it was exciting to see female characters move beyond "the typical tropes of 'likable, f—able, adorable'" to "more complex depictions of female experience" recently.
While she acknowledged there were male directors who created fresh and compelling women characters, Griffiths said the "male gaze" often reduced them to colouring the characters of their male counterparts.
"[They are created to] make him hot, make him authentic, make him empathetic, make him fatherly, make him conflicted, make him grieve," she said. "In the male gaze, we are so often not the gatekeepers; we're not the ferryman. Sometimes the mentor but usually only ironically, like Judi Dench's M…
"Under-written and under-observed, brought into our sexual awareness precociously and prepubescent in order to accommodate the male libido.
"Often in television we're used by lazy writers and producers who can think of nothing more interesting this week than 'let's have her have sex with X' or 'discover she's a lesbian – for an episode'."
Griffiths, who is about to begin editing the Melbourne Cup drama Ride Like A Girl after finishing the shoot, endorsed Hollywood star Sandra Bullock's recent comment that it was time for women to "stop being polite" about gender equality. (more…)
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