5. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard—Flying Microtonal Banana 

Your favorite prolific experimental neo-pysch seven-piece is back, following up their exceptional album Nonagon Infinity (2016). The new-album, rumored to be one of four the band will release in 2017, masterfully fuses microtonal notes and instruments into their quirky sound. While this record wasn’t as immediate as Nonagon, it’s still a very enjoyable listen.

Favorite Song: Doom City

4. Sampha—Process

You probably heard his voice on the latest Kanye West and Solange projects, but soul/R&B singer Sampha really came into his own on his debut album, Process. Fusing rich grand piano sounds with synthetic instrumentation, Process is a gorgeous, melancholy, cathartic journey.

Favorite Song: (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano

3. Kendrick Lamar—DAMN.

Admittedly, I’ve yet to fully dissect and digest the concept of K. Dot’s latest release, so I do anticipate this will jump even higher on my year-end list. While not as grand and cohesive as To Pimp a Butterfly (2015), DAMN. is as loud and abrasive as it is subtle and thought-provoking. Kendrick opted to employ trendier sounds and instrumentals, but he doesn’t skimp on content. In fact, content is abundant.

Favorite Song: Humble

2. Father John Misty—Pure Comedy 

Folk rock superstar Father John Misty (aka Josh Tillman) drastically departed from the catchy, lovey-dovey ballads on his last record I Love You, Honeybear (2015). Its followup, Pure Comedy, is a minimalist, depressing, nihilistic statement on the hilarity and meaninglessness of human life. But rather than merely preaching at you, Pure Comedy is Tillman’s own struggle to come to terms with his purposeless existence. Some may find it tedious, but I found it dense, heady, and wonderful.

Favorite Song: Leaving LA

1. Mount Eerie—A Crow Looked At Me

If you thought Father John Misty’s new album sounded depressing, this record will tear you apart inside. A Crow Looked At Me sees singer-songwriter Phil Elverum clumsily processing the very recent death of his wife at the hands of cancer. Phil throws traditional songwriting conventions to the wind, penning formless, rambling ballads about processing his devastating loss and raising his daughter alone without a mother. What makes this album even more heartbreaking, however, is that there is no moral to this story. There is only grief and despair. As Phil sings, “It’s dumb, and I don’t want to learn anything from this. I love you.”

Favorite Song: “Real Death”

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