Alt-J may have tempered their eccentricities on The Dream but there’s still plenty of death and genre-bending to satisfy veteran votaries.
Continuing to blend hip-hop and indie rock, Bartees Strange charts a musically agile, emotionally-charged journey through his psyche on Farm to Table.
Beach House are always tinkering around the edges of their sonic universe, getting darker, weirder, subtler, and more expansive. They do that on Once Twice Melody, and the payoff is enormous.
Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You collates everything Big Thief are now known for – pristine arrangements, tight performances, urgent emotionality – into a behemoth of stellar songs. Though it clocks in at about 80 minutes, somehow it all flies by like a breeze.
Congotronics International, a supergroup of Konono Nº1 and Kasai Allstars members and guests, make their recorded debut with Where’s the One? It’s phenomenal.
On LABYRINTHITIS, indie rock’s Destroyer address North American anxiousness while successfully tackling styles hitherto untouched by the project.
Drug Church have bent the aging punk and hardcore genre into new shapes on Hygiene whilst also becoming tighter, sharper, and more accessible.
Emeli Sandé’s soulful R&B is full of love. Once again this beautiful artist warmly embraces her listeners with her coming-out album, Let’s Say for Instance.
Fanclubwallet’s first record, You Have Got to Be Kidding Me, litters cartoonish bedroom-pop melee with sober self-examinations.
Father John Misty’s Chloë and the Next 20th Century is filled with deeply imaginative arrangements and sophisticated, textured songwriting.
With Skinty Fia Fontaines D.C. deliver a brooding post-punk sensual feast with a distinctly Irish flavor. Longing, alienation, and malice simmer under the surface.
With Angel in Realtime, Gang of Youths have elevated their work to new echelons of arena rock potential. Listening to it from start to finish is something genuinely satisfying.
Quirky art-rock outfit Guerilla Toss sacrifice little of their magnificent strangeness by leaning mainstream on their Sub Pop debut, Famously Alive.
With Crystal Nuns Cathedral, Guided By Voices deliver a compelling statement and a thrilling testimony to the high artistry of Robert Pollard’s vision.
Harry Styles demonstrates his genuine affinity for modern pop with Harry’s House, as he stands out amidst a collection of pandemic-influenced bedroom offerings.
By letting her existential anxieties take center stage, Hatchie embraces alt-pop sensibilities on Giving the World Away to process life and loss in all its messy glory.
Hurray for the Riff Raff’s new songs explore different survival strategies one can take to endure and thrive during our short Life on Earth.
Desert rock’s Imarhan have always been strongest for their subtleties, and never more so than on the immaculately crafted tracks of Aboogi.
The 7th Hand is a brilliant calling card for both Thomas and the leader. Immanuel Wilkins, quietly and without exaggeration, is the future of creative music.
Fear of the Dawn is an intense aural barrage of rock from start to finish and may very well be Jack White’s finest solo output to date.
The songs on Jenny Hval’s latest album, Classic Objects, are purposely dreamlike and intended to inspire her audience’s reveries. Hval succeeds in creating a dreamlike state.
A shift to focusing on world-sized problems pays huge creative dividends for Joywave on Cleanse, as they create their most moving work yet.
On Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, renowned rapper Kendrick Lamar observes the strife plaguing his kingdom and consciously abdicates the throne.
With Breaking the Thermometer, Leyla McCalla explores identity, freedom, and joy through Haitian music and culture. It’s a reminder of the album as a statement.
Miranda Lambert’s Palomino is a damn fine record with 15 tales of love and the American Dream in her trademark powerful, declarative yet tender voice.
Conceived out of the pandemic’s hopelessness, outre-art rapper and film composer OHYUNG has crafted a two-hour ambient record for the ages in imagine naked!.
For as much as “Malian blues” is thrown around in talking about everything from Tinariwen to Touré, Oumou Sangaré’s Timbuktu truly delivers on such a phrase.
Michael Hadreas of Perfume Genius delivers his most experimental, wandering, and gorgeously unkempt album to date with Ugly Season.
The vast creativity and breadth of Röyksopp’s Profound Mysteries are impressive. A suite of short films operates as a gorgeous visual interpretation.
On Bamanan, Rokia Koné spreads messages of hope, resistance, and history that further cement her relevance as simultaneously a performer and commentator.
Just as altermodern culture materializes “trajectories rather than destinations”, Rosalía’s MOTOMAMI concerns the freedom to create and explore pathways.
On Nightroamer, Sarah Shook and the Disarmers capture that nocturnal vibe where darkness illuminates the unknown more than hides what should be seen.
Sharon Van Etten grapples with love and parenthood in pandemic times in the ten deeply felt songs on We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong.
Not content to just recycle the formula, St. Paul & The Broken Bones’ The Alien Coast is a profoundly bold statement of their creative evolution.
Endlessly creative electro-popster Tennyson builds on previous accomplishments with his textured, sophisticated full-length debut, Rot.
The Smile aren’t a full-on syncretism of Radiohead and Sons of Kemet, but A Light for Attracting Attention proves that it needn’t be.
On the companion piece to last year’s Ignorance, the Weather Station creates a piano-based record just as existentially anxious but anchored by quietude.
11 5 18 2 5 18 makes it sound like Yann Tiersen has been dabbling in deeply abstract instrumental synthesizer mood music for decades. Yes, he pulls it off.