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Somehow the year is already halfway over, and though there’s a lot of 2017 left, there is already a long list of albums that have been released. To keep track of what we’ve been loving so far this year, the Substream editorial team put together a list of 15 of the best album of the year so far. Do you think we nailed it? What releases have you been listening to non-stop this year?

Mod Sun – Movie 

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of asking Mod Sun how he felt about finally having his sophomore album, Movie, out in the world. Without missing a beat, he turned to me and explained that he would be perfectly alright if death came for him later that very day because he felt as if he had completed a mission he was put on this Earth to carry out. Movie is a showcase of everything the Minnesota native has been working on musically for the entirety of his life, and it features a number of memorable tracks (“Beautiful Problem,” “Two”) that will no doubt be in heavy rotation for many months to come. It’s also the perfect soundtrack for summer, which leads me to believe this album will not be leaving my favorite record list anytime soon. – James Shotwell (Read our full review of the album here.)

Recommended Tracks:  “Beautiful Problem”


Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

There’s not much to argue when it comes to Kendrick Lamar’s place in the current generation of rappers. If he’s not the best there is, he’s incredibly close. DAMN. is the latest proof for that distinction. Lamar has always been brilliant at providing social commentary, and his inclusion of Geraldo Rivera’s disparaging remarks about him is a brilliant move before launching into the sonic intensity of “DNA,” where he explores his ancestry and origins. Lamar excels on long cuts like “FEAR” and on tracks that were designed expertly to overtake pop culture, like smash hit “HUMBLE” (which is currently scoring the NBA Finals). The few guest spots compliment without overpowering, with Rihanna’s entrancing rapping on “LOYALTY,” Zacari’s soft croon on the tender “LOVE,” and U2’s surprising inclusion in “XXX,” which had the capacity to overshadow the track upon its announcement, but instead works within the framework that Lamar has created. DAMN. is another notch in the illustrious belt of Lamar, who shows no signs of slowing down or faltering. – Gabriel Aikins

Recommended Tracks: “LOYALTY” & “XXX”


The Maine – Lovely Little Lonely

The sixth studio album from Phoenix-based band The Maine is by far their greatest effort yet. As the tracks transition from one to the other in a seamless fashion, lead singer John O’Callaghan pours his soul into each verse, striking even the hardest of hearts. Even after 10 years as a band and many albums and EPs later, the band haven’t fallen into a rhythm with their style. Though 2015’s American Candy was similar in style to this year’s Lovely Little Lonely, the fluidity of the latter sets it apart in the band’s discography. With an upcoming summer tour supporting The All-American Rejects and Dashboard Confessional along with a headlining fall tour with Dreamers and Night Riots, The Maine are not slowing down anytime soon, and it’s just a matter of time before the rest of the world catches up. – Jessica Klinner 

Recommended Tracks: The Sound of Reverie & How Do You Feel?


Harry Styles – Harry Styles 

Harry Styles has accomplished something that has proven impossible for most. Just over one year removed from his work as part of One Direction, the singer has reintroduced himself to the world with a hit record that challenges many preconceived notions about the careers musicians lead after their time in so-called boy bands. Styles’ debut album is an amalgamation of pop sensibilities and classic rock influence, following nicely in the steps of iconic acts like Bowie and Paul McCartney without completely ripping off either one. – James Shotwell (Read our full review here.)

Recommended Tracks: “Two Ghosts”


Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog 

Mac DeMarco is an everyman. He’s your college roommate. He’s your neighbor. He’s the guy you go get drinks with after a long day at work. That’s why This Old Dog works so well. You feel like you know DeMarco, so the stories he regales you with strike a chord. It also helps that while these stories are obviously specific to DeMarco’s family and experiences, they contain truths that apply to many situations. Maybe you also have a strained relationship with your father, or have been beaten down by love, or have siblings you would do anything for. Whatever it is, DeMarco conveys emotion and stories as someone who was born to do it. His extensive musical knowledge and playing abilities stand out here, and the soft acoustic sounds that pervade the album bring you in closer, making you feel like he’s talking directly to you as an old friend. And sometimes we all need a friend just to listen. – Gabriel Aikins (Read our full review here.)

Recommended Tracks: “Sister” & “Watching Him Fade Away”


COIN – How Will You Know If You Never Try

COIN are a band that everyone needs to get acquainted with–and fast! With the release of their debut full-length album, How Will You Know If You Never Try, the Nashville natives are rising in the indie pop ranks. With a mix of southern charm and catchy beats, COIN are able to captivate with every note. How Will You Know If You Never Try is packed with dance tracks that aren’t over saturated with synth, inviting listeners to sing along effortlessly. – Jessica Klinner 

Recommended Tracks: “Boyfriend” & “Hannah”


Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors – Souvenir

There is something refreshing about musicians who write for themselves and their audience with little to no thought given to how the masses or radio might respond. Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors have spent more than a decade working the road to develop a community of like-minded music fans that will follow their efforts to whatever town, club, or festival it may lead. Souvenir is, in many ways, an album about that experience and how it has shaped the band’s lives. It’s the first record Holcomb wrote alongside the Neighbors, and their combined perspectives on a life lived together makes for a captivating, often deeply moving, record. This is the kind of record you put on when your only friends are the open road and whoever is sitting in the passenger seat. Put this on and get lost. You can thank me later. – James Shotwell

Recommended Tracks: “Rowdy Heart, Broken Wing”


The xx – I See You

The xx have some of the best production on an album in 2017. Jamie xx brings his usual excellence to the instrumental portion of the album, ranging from the blaring horns and uptempo beat of album opener “Dangerous” to the quieter echoes of “Brave For You.” Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim share vocal duties as always, and their duets here are some of the best in the band’s entire discography. The two singles from the album are some of their strongest work ever, with “On Hold,” a heart wrenching self-examination of where a love story went wrong (with a great vocal sample on the part of Jamie xx), and “Say Something Love,” find the two singing of the opposite end of the spectrum, a soaring ode to the blossoming of romance. No matter what the subject or the emotion, The xx have captured it with great skill on I See You. – Gabriel Aikins

Recommended Tracks: “On Hold” & “Dangerous”


Bleachers – Gone Now

When Bleachers popped onto the map with their debut album Strange Desire in 2014, many were taken aback by the sheer artistry and talent of Jack Antonoff, and after “I Wanna Get Better” started to gain momentum, it was evident that Bleachers would make a lasting impression on the music industry. Now with their highly-anticipated, second full-length album, Gone Now, Bleachers have brought excitement and authenticity back to the table. It’s a much darker album lyrically with themes of death and loss occupying the majority of the record, giving it a more serious tone than Strange Desire, but musically it finds Antonoff exploring more of the sound that launched Bleachers and perfecting it even more. If you haven’t given Gone Now a chance, now is the time to give it a spin. – Jessica Klinner

Recommended Tracks: “I Miss Those Days” & “Goodmorning”


Migos – Culture

To be completely honest, Culture is not the strongest release in Migos’ catalog. It is, however, the album the majority of the world cares about. Thanks to “Bad and Boujee,” the men of Migos have finally ascended to the level of superstardom their fans have known was coming for the past five years. Tracks like “T-Shirt” and “Slippery” have fittingly helped defined pop culture in 2017, and as long as they don’t release another YRN The Album the future seems brighter than ever for the Atlanta trio. Here’s hoping we get another mixtape before the year is out. – James Shotwell

Recommended Tracks: “T-Shirt”


MUNA – About U

While the trio has been releasing EPs since 2014, About U is the debut studio album from MUNA, so you still have plenty of time to jump on the bandwagon. And it’s a bandwagon that deserves jumping on. The queer pop band consisting of Josette Maskin, Katie Gaven, and Naomi McPherson have put together an album that’s an emotional look into the members’ minds while also serving as a phenomenal pop record. It’s evident in tracks like opener “So Special,” a track about the self-doubt that comes from getting dumped, that is an absolute jam. “Loudspeaker” is tailored for dancing around your bedroom, and the electro-pop stylings of “Crying On The Bathroom Floor” host impressive lyrical and stylistic depth. If you want an outstanding pop album that will make you feel and think about a lot of things, MUNA are here to provide with some of the best tracks of the year. – Gabriel Aikins

Recommended Tracks: “Loudspeaker” & “Crying On The Bathroom Floor”


Paramore – After Laughter

It didn’t seem like Paramore could top their chart-topping self titled release from 2013. And maybe the band believed that as well, but after regrouping and welcoming back Zac Farro to the lineup, Paramore released what can only be described as an artistic masterpiece. From front to back, After Laughter boasts ‘80s-tinged pop and Hayley Williams’ classic vocal style. – Jessica Klinner 

Recommended Tracks: “Fake Happy” & “Idle Worship”


John Mayer – The Search for Everything 

The Search For Everything may come up short as far as answers are concerned, but it more than delivers on the promise of reminding music fans what makes John Mayer so special. Here we have an often soft-spoken artist sharing all his worries and concerns with the world at large while simultaneously reminding us to never take ourselves too seriously. No one makes it out of this existence alive, after all, so live it up while you can and try to leave things a bit better than you found them. Is all this an original take? Not really, but that doesn’t matter. In a world as crazy as the one we live in now, records like this can (and do) provide much needed relief. What more could you ask for? – James Shotwell (Full review here.)

Recommended Tracks:  “You’re Gonna Live Forever In Me”


Japandroids – Near To The Wild Heart Of Life 

Japandroids have never needed much time to accomplish what they set out to do on an album. Near To The Wild Heart Of Life is no different, with its eight tracks clocking in at under 40 minutes. What a 40 minutes they are, though. Brian King and David Prowse have consistently shown that they can make instrumentals that sound much bigger than just the two of them, and their latest album is their most expansive yet. The title track perfects their specific brand of rock, but the rest of the album finds them branching out considerably. “North East South West” is music made for the road, “Arc of Bar” adds more electronics than the band have ever had to craft its slinking melody, and “In A Body Like A Grave” is a moving celebration of life in all of its joys and hardships. At this point, King and Prowse clearly know how to bring the best out of each other, and it’s resulted in an album that shows how far they’ve come, both musically and geographically. – Gabriel Aikins (Full review here.)

Recommended Tracks: “In A Body Like A Grave” & “North East South West”


Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness – Zombies on Broadway

Andrew McMahon used to sing about punk rock princesses and holidays from real, but now he’s traded in his punk rock rhythm for a more polished and modern sound. But one thing that remains no matter what version of the singer that’s listened to is his uniquely identifiable vocals. Maybe no one ever thought that McMahon would be churning out pop dance hits, but it’s 2017 and anything’s possible. With his newest musical project, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, McMahon explores new heights as an artist and songwriter. Zombies on Broadway finds the singer embracing the challenges of the past and accepting the path its taken him down to today. – Jessica Klinner

Recommended Tracks: “Shot Out of a Cannon” & “Island Radio”