This is no nostalgia trip or callous comeback. It's a giant exclamation point on the end of a brilliant career. It's also a tribute to the everyman genius of Phife, a widescreen look at the record-making skills of Q-Tip, and most importantly, it's a pure, undiluted, joyous thrill to have the Tribe back and still sounding this vital.
Alvvays find a way to articulate their heart-struck, dream-like songs with deft intention and control.
Low on frenetics, Syro is anchored by rotund and agile basslines that zip and glide, and it's decked in accents and melodies that are lively even at their most distressed.
As always, Ghersi pushes his boundaries on Arca, and the vulnerability he displays makes it some of his most exciting and moving music yet.
If nostalgia is just pain recalled, repaired, and resold, then The Suburbs is its sales manual.
This is vibrant, moody music that showcases a band growing ever stronger with each risk and dare they take.
An album that coheres in a way other Ariana Grande albums don't, which means Sweetener is something of a double triumph: she's come through a tough time stronger and better than before.
More than anything, Sparrow is sharply constructed as an album, setting a mood with its first song and then finding variations on this lush, enveloping sound. It's a record designed for late nights, whether those nights are lonely or romantic.
Thanks to maturity, Fridmann's mix, and uncanny sequencing, every song fits seamlessly inside each proceeding one, delivering a mercurial yet satisfying whole that makes Gold & Grey the band's finest outing to date, if not their masterpiece.
Though it's not as eclectic and whimsical as their earlier work, Teen Dream is some of their most beautiful music, and reaffirms that they're the among the best purveyors of languidly lovelorn songs since Mazzy Star.
His disciplined approach and bleak yet massively creative imagination delivers a particularly 21st century industrial music of his own design. A U R O R A is dark, dreadful, and dramatic; it is also a masterpiece.
A foray into artful album rock for the band, U.F.O.F.'s shifts in presentation are subtle and seem wholly organic throughout. It's a record deserving of such an evocative title, which captures its dreamily impressionistic yet unsettling nature.
Vulnicura honors her pain and the necessary path through and away from loss with some of her bravest, most challenging, and most engaging music.
Negro Swan sonically is as fluid as it is fragmented, synthesizing and bounding between bedsit post-punk, desolate dream pop, chillwave-coated quiet storm, and low-profile hip-hop soul.
For a pop band to display such thematic consistency, depth, and maturity is a wonder, making Love Yourself: Answer BTS' most definitive statement to date and a snapshot of the group at the top of its game.
For all its adventure, Jei Beibi is solidly consistent. There isn't a weak or even unexciting moment here. But then, what else would you expect from one of the world's greatest rock bands?
An even more consistent album than Kiss, E-MO-TION further defines Jepsen as an equally stylish and earnest pop artist.
As she examines what masculinity, femininity, strength, and vulnerability mean to her, Christine has never sounded more exposed -- or in control. A triumph, Chris reaffirms just how masterfully she engages minds, hearts, and bodies.
Even on the darkest moments, such as "Lies" or "Science/Visions," there's a disarming emotional directness to The Bones of What You Believe that makes it a unique, fully realized take on a style that seemed close to being played out.
A convincing argument that rock & roll doesn't need reinvention in order to revive itself, Courtney Barnett's full-length debut Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. falls into a long, storied rock tradition but never feels beholden to it.
The mere existence of his third album evinces that, creatively, he's doing all right. That the album reaffirms the weakest-link status of his singular debut is something else.
At first, it's hard to know what to make of all the fromage, but Random Access Memories reveals itself as the kind of grand, album rock statement that listeners of the '70s and '80s would have spent weeks or months dissecting and absorbing
While Old often seems like a hip-hop kaleidoscope exploding across the speakers, it's also crafted and paced, split down the middle like a great LP with a sure start and a freeing finish.
Aptly named, You Won't Get What You Want is awash with hopelessness, but each battery acid-stained note and room-clearing clang is delivered with the resigned ferocity of a cornered beast. In looking to capture the ugliness of humanity and parse through the despair that slithers malevolently in its wake, Daughters have crafted their most vital outing to date.
This comfort with the now is the most striking thing about Blackstar: it is the sound of a restless artist feeling utterly at ease not only within his own skin but within his own time.
Many bands go through their entire career without making an album as well crafted, fully realized, and downright gorgeous as Sunbather, and somehow, Deafheaven have managed to nail it on their second outing, with an album that seems to get bigger and more affective with each listen.
The Money Store is an important record that's also compelling, loaded with kinetic blows against the empire and fully stuffed with that attractive maverick spirit.
It’s not as immediate as previous Deerhunter albums, but Halcyon Digest has an appeal all its own: It’s as difficult to grasp -- and as hard to shake -- as a memory lingering at the back of your brain.
Considering all the shrewd alliances and its polished attack, Settle seems like it was designed to be 2013's acceptable dance album. That said, any purist who denies its pleasures is a crank.
Simultaneously sad, strange, and warmly nostalgic, Some Rap Songs is excitingly listenable and emotionally connected despite its abstruse approach.
Where The Outsiders was designed to dazzle, Mr. Misunderstood is built for the long haul: it settles into the soul, its pleasures immediate but also sustained.
I Love You, Honeybear, despite the occasional double entendre, is as powerful a statement about love in the vacuous, social media-obsessed early 21st century as it is a denouement of the detached hipster charlatan.
FKA Twigs' music was already so fully realized that LP 1 can't really be called Barnett coming into her own; rather, her music has been tended to since the "Water Me" days, and now it's flourishing.
Elaenia is fated to become one of those albums that inspires ritualistic listening parties held by small groups of audiophiles. That shouldn't be held against it.
That rare sophomore outing that not only manages to avoid the slump, but bests its predecessor in the process.
Its flow is even more liquid than that of Until the Quiet Comes, though the sounds are more jagged and free, with roots deeper in jazz.
One listen to Channel Orange makes it obvious that he is as free as an artist as he is as a man. The album doesn't have as many slyly powerful hooks as Nostalgia, Ultra, but Ocean's descriptive and subtle storytelling is taken to a higher level.
An LP more rounded and more stirring than the excellent first one.
With the release of the album DS2 -- Dirty Sprite 2, named after his hit mixtape -- he becomes a hip-hop version of Lee "Scratch" Perry, a strange and yet in command figure standing at the center of a slick, inventive swirl of music.
The vocals, the songs, the music, and the production work together to make Singles a one-of-a-kind experience that's nearly perfect.
What holds it all together is solid writing that sticks close to stock pop/rock methodology.
Fresh and surprisingly accessible despite its quirks, Visions is bewitching.
Vibras is more consistent and varied than Energia. Its songwriting, performances, and production are truly inspired, making for an utterly compelling listen and one of the essential soundtracks of summer.
Though the stormy textures and somber reflections are pretty specific to a particular mood, Overgrown finds and fits that mood perfectly. While it might take listeners a few spins to find the right head space for the album, once they get there, it's an easy place to get lost in.
It makes plain the music contemporary country is trying to erase, while being a thoroughly accessible modern offering. Given its wonderfully crafted and performed material and stellar production, it is the country album of 2010.
As it moves from reflective to engaging and back again, In Colour covers the entire spectrum of Jamie xx's music, delivering flashes of brilliance along the way.
This galvanizing declaration of pride, support, and discontent will no doubt inspire covers itself. Every public library should have at least one copy.
Black Origami is a monumental achievement, yet it still seems like Jlin is just getting started.
While it's tempting to say Have You in My Wilderness is her most personal music yet, it might be more accurate to say that it's her most approachable: this time, her brilliance demands a lot from her listeners, but also meets them more than halfway.
Previously, her cleverness was her strong suit, but on Golden Hour, she benefits from being direct, especially since this frankness anchors an album that sounds sweetly blissful, turning this record the best kind of comfort: it soothes but is also a source of sustenance.
Holistic in breadth and deep in vision, it provides a way into this music for many, and challenges the cultural conversation about jazz without compromising or pandering.
Yeezus is an extravagant stunt with the high-art packed in, offering an eccentric, audacious, and gripping experience that's vital and truly unlike anything else.
On the masterful follow-up to her Mercury Prize-nominated debut, Everybody Down, British poet/rapper Kate Tempest offers a vivid portrait of human failings and worldly tumult as seen through the microcosm of an unnamed South London street at 4:18 A.M.
To Pimp a Butterfly is as dark, intense, complicated, and violent as Picasso's Guernica, and should hold the same importance for its genre and the same beauty for its intended audience.
Kids See Ghosts is everything Ye wasn't, delivering a worthwhile listen in spite of the extended PR disaster that preceded its release. With Cudi as the yang to West's yin, the pair inch closer to finding peace and a light in the darkness.
We Are King is all about plush, impeccable grooves and spine-tingling harmonies. It's without fault.
King Gizzard's inventive sound, giant hooks, and hard-as-titanium playing make Nonagon Infinity not only their best album yet, but maybe the best psych-metal-jazz-prog album ever.
Slowheart is an auteurist album, one driven by Moore's sense of self, and he winds up precisely articulating his blend of arena country and AOR.
Easily his most focused and accessible work, Pretty Daze is the strongest so far in a chain of releases that seem to suggest there are even greater heights to be reached.
While the show itself is clear about its influences, its soundtrack manages to do this too, while ultimately culminating as an in-depth and invigorating piece of atmospheric electronic music.
While much of her older material revelled in its own inconsolable sadness and detached numbness, the lush sonics and intimate narratives of NFR! draw out hope from beneath desolate scenes.
This balance between discovery and reflection gives Melodrama a tension, but the addition of genuine, giddy pleasure ... isn't merely a progression for Lorde, it's what gives the album multiple dimensions.
More than any of M83's other albums, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming feels like a destination to explore; while it may not be quite as striking as Saturdays = Youth, it delivers a welcome mix of classic sounds and promising changes.
With songs touching on themes of maturation, life in the public eye, and good old-fashioned romance, DeMarco has trimmed the fat both musically and conceptually on Salad Days, turning in a streamlined picture of his musical development.
By drawing upon so many cross-currents, Hero belongs to the digital era but it's the songs -- smart, sharp, and hooky -- that make this a great modern pop album, regardless of genre.
This tension between the head and heart, between the country and the city, is what fuels Midwest Farmer's Daughter, placing it on a warm, hazy plane that feels simultaneously sophisticated and down-home.
Although the work as a whole is not a film score, it has the flavor of one, and it opens up intriguing possibilities for the expansion of that language to other settings. Certainly recommended for anyone who has noticed and liked the music for Arrival.
She's made giant leaps as a singer, songwriter, and musical director, and Bon Voyage shows that Melody's Echo Chamber is far from being just a Kevin Parker creation. Prochet's vision is her own, and it's strong enough here to fly free of any and all constraints.
By radically shifting her sound, she winds up focusing attention on her songwriting and musicality: it may have mainstream songs, but The Weight of These Wings isn't produced like a country-pop album, so it demands attention and rewards close listening.
Sharing his loss on A Crow Looked at Me doesn't diminish its impact at all -- even within Mount Eerie's body of work, this is a remarkably powerful and pure album.
Even by Cave's dour standards, Skeleton Tree is a tough listen, but it's also a powerful and revealing one, and a singular work from a one-of-a-kind artist.
The immaculately crafted Room 25 is highly mature and immensely enjoyable. Simply remarkable.
Paramore is a veritable pop opera about a band reborn, phoenix-like from the ashes of a broken lineup, better and stronger than any previous incarnation.
In its own way, Let England Shake may be even more singular and unsettling than White Chalk was, and its complexities make it one of Harvey’s most cleverly crafted works.
Filled with lonely songs that are as warm as a hug from a long-lost friend, Purple Mountains is more of a rebirth than a debut, as well as a potent, poignant reminder of how much Berman has been missed.
Homme has marshaled all of his strengths on ...Like Clockwork and has found a way forward, a way to deepen his music without compromising his identity.
Their songs have always resided somewhere between head-in-the-clouds lightheartedness and day-dreamy nostalgia, but the ten songs that make up Atlas seem more mature, more deliberate, and lacking some of the carefree naiveté of earlier work.
Freedom Highway draws upon deep American traditions, and while its form may be a throwback, it speaks to a time when the phrase "Black Lives Matter" can be seen as controversial and, in doing so, it illustrates how these issues are deeply ingrained in American life and cannot be forgotten.
By the end of Anti, Rihanna may not arrive at any definitive conclusions about her art but she's allowed herself to be unguarded and anti-commercial, resulting in her most compelling record to date.
There is as much subtlety in both the compositions and production as there is drama, all of it imbued with restless soul via Rosalía's singular voice that marries the folk lineage of flamenco to 21st century styles and sounds, making El Mal Querer not only a provocative and original offering, but a magnificent one as well.
If the first album was the supernova, RTJ2 is the RTJ universe forming, proving that Mike and El-P's one-off can be a going, and ever growing, concern.
As musically vibrant as it is emotionally vulnerable, Care for Me is a triumph of expression, as personally and creatively fearless as Frank Ocean's Blond or Björk's Vulnicura. Over the course of these ten soul-baring songs, diving deep into grief becomes a form of necessary catharsis and part of a healing process.
It's a shame that such a vanguard effort is weakened by a few clever and jokey interludes that don't warrant a return, but that just leaves Shabazz Palaces room for a proper masterpiece as the brilliant Lese Majesty is so very close.
Ferreira manages to balance her teen pop past with her current interest in indie rock in surprising, creative, and always catchy ways.
The Sciences may not be as daring and ambitious as Dopesmoker, but it finds Sleep working at the top of their game in the studio, and their resinous howl is still a weird marvel to behold.
Your Queen Is a Reptile is easily Sons of Kemet's most compelling outing. It offers inspired stylistic contrasts, canny improvisation, and killer charts. It's tight, furious, joyous, and inspirational.
While SOPHIE's music has never been simple, Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides' complexities and transformations make it a remarkable debut album that reveals more with each listen.
Masseduction delivers sketches of chaos with stunning clarity. It's the work of an always savvy artist at her wittiest and saddest.
Carrie & Lowell is the most harrowingly personal work Stevens has offered us to date; it also ranks with his most skillfully crafted albums despite its spartan approach.
This combination gives Lonerism the best of both worlds, allowing it the creative freedom to emerge as one of the most impressive albums of the home-recording era while still feeling superbly refined.
Angels & Devils contains none of the Acid Ragga material, and neither KMS partner is involved. Even so, there's continuity and gradual evolution that can be traced back several years through Martin's output.
One of the best noncommercial R&B albums of 2015, Ego Death is perfectly timed, in sync with -- and distinct from -- other standout releases connected to the thriving L.A. community.
It's a near flawless collection of dreamy vibes, shifting moods, and movement, and stands easily as Granduciel's finest hour so far.
Ultimately, Modern Vampires of the City is more thoughtful than it is dark, balancing its more serious moments with a lighter touch and more confidence than they've shown before.
Blowing the promise of his Hell Can Wait EP into an extraordinary double LP, Summertime '06 finds rapper Vince Staples with all the pieces in place.
Ten Freedom Summers is his magnum opus; it belongs in jazz's canonical lexicon with Duke Ellington's Black Brown & Beige and Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite.
Fantastic songs, meticulously detailed production and a certain, hard to name spark of connection all gel into the near-perfect statement that every part of Mering's strange journey before this led up to.