Each of the 11 numbers is exquisitely sculpted, with the melody carrying a sense of subdued drama as it marches from verse to chorus to bridge. These songs are crafted in the best sense of the word, with the lyrics delivering sublime twists that the music matches.
On The Underside of Power, they assert that even amid violence, darkness, and horror, that the human spirit is affirmed through witness and resistance, leading not only to solace but to redemption.
Thanks to the care and feeding the band put into their sound, Antisocialites manages the rare feat of a band topping their brilliant debut with a sophomore effort that's even more brilliant. Alvvays make it looks easy, and by the time the album is done spinning, it's hard not to start thinking about how great their next record could be.
She may emphasize her ties to the past but she's intent on expanding the tradition, turning country music into a bolder, more inclusive place, and that desire is what makes Wrangled such a compelling album.
As always, Ghersi pushes his boundaries on Arca, and the vulnerability he displays makes it some of his most exciting and moving music yet.
This aural variety alone would make Witness an exciting record but when these sounds are paired with probing political and personal songs, the album becomes something fresh and vital.
Utopia isn't quite as idyllic as its title implies, but its mix of idealism and realism makes it an even greater success as a manifesto for radically open love and as a document of thriving after loss.
With Reaching for Indigo, Fohr has done a remarkable job at translating a hard-to-define, life-changing event into powerful music.
Throughout it all, A Flame My Love, A Frequency resonates with a healing warmth that is a testament to the remarkable purity of Colleen's music, as well as to the importance of beauty and hope when life is hard.
Nervy, brainy, bold, and uncompromising, The Dusk in Us doesn't deviate much from the Converge playbook, and why should it?
Face Your Fear ups the ante for Harding, bumping him from promising newcomer to major artist, and if you like good songs played and sung with true conviction, you won't want to sleep on this.
Robust and fearless, Spirit may end up being one of the earliest and best salvos of its political era. Despite dour lyrics to the contrary, Depeche Mode haven't given up on humanity. Spirit exhumes the remains of our better nature and demands its resurrection.
Downtown Boys have an even greater sense of purpose on Cost of Living, and lead singer Victoria Ruiz rises to the challenge, shouting with all the fire and commitment she can muster and then some.
On Exile in the Outer Ring, Anderson calls on listeners to maintain their humanity in powerful, unnerving ways that make it one of her finest achievements.
The journey to dive into commitment that Dreijer takes her listeners on with Plunge boasts more moods and colors than Fever Ray's debut, or any single Knife album; ultimately, it's some of her most powerful work with yet.
Fully maintaining the trademark Gas sound while adding new dimensions, Narkopop couldn't be a more welcome return.
The Navigator is nothing if it isn't a bold risk, a record that attempts to carve out a new kind of Americana, one where the past informs the present instead of the present preserving the past -- and one where the political is personal, too.
The tempos may change, the mood may shift a bit here and there, the arrangement may go from dense to sparse, but through it all Weaver conducts the sound like a magician in full command of her powers.
Arty tropes aside, with Undivided Heart & Soul, McPherson continues to pull all of his varied stylistic influences together into his own vibrantly coherent brand of visceral, emotive rock that grabs you by the collar and demands your passion.
Black Origami is a monumental achievement, yet it still seems like Jlin is just getting started.
Halo, Molina's first release since 2013's Wed 21, feels like a logical snapshot of her ongoing journey, presenting 12 new tracks that are as eccentric as they are inviting.
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.
Having entered the limelight early, the 27-year-old singer/songwriter has now settled into a comfortable groove to on this finely honed career highlight.
No matter the style or mood of the songs, Murphy's vocals are the main attraction, delivering snaky asides, heartfelt emotion, and insistent chatter in his trademark fashion. The years off haven't quite mellowed him or made him a crooner; he still mixes the tart with the bittersweet like a master chef. The years haven't made LCD Soundsystem any less relevant or important, either.
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.
This Old Dog is a logical continuation of DeMarco's musical explorations, but the maturation of his songwriting is what gives it gravitas.
In order to be true to themselves, Mastodon had to make Emperor of Sand at this time. There was no other option. As such, its urgency, sophistication, and emotional heft make it a necessary entry in their catalog.
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.
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.
Goodnight Rhonda Lee is hardly Atkins' first stylistic excursion into the past, but here, having an audibly sharp focus, a lot on her mind, and a leave-it-all-on-tape performance ethic make for her strongest impression since her debut.
Throughout the album, Frobos sings with a confidence he only hinted at on Deluxe, and Omni deliver the songs with all the punch of a band twice their size. They beat the tar out of the sophomore slump and come away with another instant classic album.
Despite the album's buoyantly pastel new wave tones, it unsurprisingly contains a truckload of hard-won maturity and a growing sense of battle fatigue.
Relatives in Descent manages to sound more thoughtful and introspective than 2015's The Agent Intellect without sapping the strength of this great band; quite simply, as a bit of record-making, this is Protomartyr's most impressive accomplishment to date.
Newman has become a more ambitious songwriter than he was in his younger days; there's a scope to his storytelling that's bigger but just as satisfying as his '70s milestones, and years of writing and arranging for an orchestra have taught him how to use the tonal colors of a large ensemble to his advantage without drowning out the nuances.
The very richness of the music bears the weight of a long, unpredictable life, but the album's tenor -- not to mention the songs themselves -- suggests a boundless possibility, and that's why Carry Fire is an album of hope: Plant wears his years proudly, yet he's not concerned with any moment other than the present.
Strike a Match is a brilliant debut album with a solid emotional core that gives the instantly memorable songs gravity and keeps them from lifting off and floating away, instead anchoring them deep in listeners' hearts and minds.
They had a run of thrilling singles that established their uncompromising sound and approach; Need to Feel Your Love is where it all turns to gold.
Masseduction delivers sketches of chaos with stunning clarity. It's the work of an always savvy artist at her wittiest and saddest.
Such militant introspection can sometimes be off-putting, but Music for People in Trouble is rooted in empathy, and even at its most cynical ... the warmth of its core radiates outward.
Luckily for fans of ridiculous pop, they took it another step and made Interplanetary Class Classics, a wild work of twisted genius and more fun than rabies, that's for sure.
What's particularly engaging about Far from Over is Iyer and his band's sense of danger and risk-taking. Ultimately, it's that balance of harmonically adventurous exploration and no-holds-barred blowing that make Far from Over nothing short of thrilling.
Big Fish Theory cements Staples' status as one of the most talented and forward-thinking voices in rap in the late 2010s.
From Rose to her crack band, all the performances on Rule 62 are delivered with a casual assurance that gives the record a warm feel that, when combined with sturdy songs from a variety of styles, gives the record the feeling of an old favorite; it feels like a record that you've lived with for years, in the best possible sense.