The album, as a form, is a suggestion at best, and 2017’s most adventurous artists stepped well beyond its boundaries—if they acknowledged its boundaries at all. Most of the time, what’s considered experimental music derives from serious, sustained play: with genre, with form, with tempo and attention, and even with reality. The albums that pushed the hardest in all directions this year managed to carve out pockets of time where the rules and limitations of the broader world didn’t bear down quite so harshly. They came from experimental veterans who have been straining against convention for decades, and they came from young artists starting to cultivate their voice. But all of them, whether they adopt the vernacular of harsh, guttural noise or delicate, synthesized ecosystems, offer reprieve from the repetition of mundane life. In them, you might just find a way out.