Jay Rock: Redemption

Jay Rock’s music is consumed by his struggles; he wrestles with the granular details of street life and gangbanging. His clear-eyed accounts of surviving in the California ghettos are far from glamorous. “Struggle” is an operative word in the retelling of his story. When asked why he was the first artist to get signed by…

Mike Shinoda: Post Traumatic

On October 27, 2017, three months after the suicide of their bandmate Chester Bennington, the surviving members of Linkin Park played a tribute concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Backed by a slew of musicians, the group marched through its catalog with trademark fury, angst, and earnestness. The live-streamed recording of the show flits between shots…

Kamasi Washington: Heaven and Earth

Kamasi Washington—a tenor saxophonist, bandleader, and composer with the profile of a low-level pop star—designed his second full-length album as a metaphysical dyad, unfolding over two halves that each run over an hour. Far and away the strongest musical statement of his career, it’s also an exercise in contrast, if not outright contradiction. “The Earth…

Brendon Anderegg: June

Deep listening, extended listening, immersive listening—these are not novel concepts, but they do seem increasingly radical, and perhaps even endangered. Every year, the apparently irreversible march of technology chips away at our ability to focus, one crumbling nanosecond at a time. The attention economy turns concentration transactional, substituting red-dot rewards for the fluid pleasures of…

Matty: Déjàvu

Matty Tavares got burned out. The keyboardist’s band, Toronto jazz combo BADBADNOTGOOD, had achieved a remarkable degree of success collaborating with A-list rappers like Ghostface, Tyler, the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, and Kendrick Lamar. That increased profile led to touring—which, for Tavares, soon led to anxiety and depression. He became frustrated with the band, experienced what…

Rico Nasty: Nasty

Rico Nasty is happy to try on different skins in order to become comfortable in her own. Like Eminem, Nicki Minaj, or MF DOOM, she compartmentalizes aspects of her personality—her softer side, her anxious side, and her unapologetically brusque side—as a coping mechanism, playing different roles wherever necessary: mostly the pop-trap femme Tacobella and the…

Leon Vynehall: Nothing Is Still

Every time Leon Vynehall releases new music, you’re guaranteed a fundamental level of coherence. The British producer is a quiet, cerebral guy, and his long-form statements communicate rich themes and a solid sense of structure even though they’re largely wordless. His 2014 breakthrough, Music for the Uninvited, explored house music’s queer history and Vynehall’s own…

Melody’s Echo Chamber: Bon Voyage

Melody’s Echo Chamber’s Bon Voyage is one of those “highly anticipated” albums that are as haunted as they are hyped, with fans’ excitement for the music giving way to concern for its creator. French psych-pop artist Melody Prochet isn’t a celebrity, but the travails she underwent while finishing her second LP were newsworthy: It ends…

Virginia Wing: Ecstatic Arrow

A recent tour supporting Hookworms pushed Virginia Wing over the edge. Frustrated by the progressive psychedelic band’s incongruously laddy crowds, the Manchester synth-pop duo performed the rest of their dates against a hot pink projection that read: “END RAPE CULTURE.” Unsurprisingly, Alice Merida Richards and Sam Pillay’s message made some audiences bristle even more than…

R+R=Now: Collagically Speaking

There’s a now-famous clip of the soul and jazz icon Nina Simone pleading with her peers to do more with their art. Her voice is declarative, her eyes full of vigor. “I choose to reflect the times and the situations in which I find myself,” Simone tells the interviewer. “How can you be an artist…

Don Cherry: Home Boy, Sister Out

Think of a trumpet player. A jazz musician. Think of someone who broke boundaries with ease, who innovated so effortlessly it’s hard to imagine music didn’t always sound that way, the way they played. Think about restless reinvention, relentless forward momentum. Think about making a stone classic in your youth and never pausing to revisit…

King Princess: Make My Bed EP

King Princess’ breakout single, “1950,” is about as close to perfect as a pop song can get. Like Lorde’s “Royals” or Mapei’s almost-hit “Don’t Wait,” it accomplishes a lot with a little: Sparse 808 drums, sentimental piano, and hazy guitars bubble as they build to a timeless torch-song chorus. “I’ll wait for you, I’ll pray/I…

Curtis Mayfield: Super Fly

The success of an album like Super Fly goes against all conventional wisdom. Nothing this raw, this ghetto, this funky, soulful, and political is supposed to sell five million copies. At least, to my understanding, nothing before the dawn of hip-hop, and even then you had to sacrifice some of those elements for commercial success….

Zeal & Ardor: Stranger Fruit

Stranger Fruit, the second album by provocative Swiss-American metallurgist Zeal & Ardor, ends with a perfect piece of black metal for 2018. Above an invocation of roaring guitars, Manuel Gagneux begins to sing, his voice bending forward with the urgency of Sam Cooke’s revolutionary soul. “Like a strange fruit out of season, you are bound…

Dave Matthews Band: Come Tomorrow

Since forming in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the early ’90s, Dave Matthews and his band have excelled at making cargo-shorts party music, blending acoustic folk, jazz fusion, bluegrass, and funk. Songs like “Ants Marching” and “Crash Into Me” were streamlined and direct enough to become alternative rock radio staples and get airtime on MTV, but it…

Protomartyr: Consolation EP

The most recent LP of caustic rock from Detroit band Protomartyr, 2017’s Relatives in Descent, contained a song with a riveting name: “Male Plague.” Better still, it found frontman Joe Casey—typically a post-punk wordsmith of the compacted Mark E. Smith School, who can convey the nuance of a short story in four charmingly obtuse minutes—just…

Laura Jean: Devotion

Laura Jean opens her fifth album, Devotion, with a spectacular orchestral flourish—the kind that might signal the beginning of a dream sequence in an old movie musical. She sings as if in a daze about stolen glances and trepid desire, her words lifted skyward by synthetic strings and weightless, arpeggiating piano. The transportive song, “Press…

Angélique Kidjo: Remain in Light

Nearly 40 years on, Talking Heads’ Remain in Light remains a pinnacle of New York City rock, in part because it drew from anything but the strictures of rock‘n’roll. Instead it preferred cycling polyrhythms, mesmeric vamps, and dizzying layers and loops. But depending on which half of the band you asked, you might get a…

Uniform/The Body: Mental Wounds Not Healing

On Mental Wounds Not Healing, two compatible bands bring out the best in each other. The joint LP from Portland extreme-metal titans the Body and New York-based industrial duo Uniform finds both outfits pushing the most intense elements of their respective sounds into the red while scaling new melodic and compositional heights. Recorded around the…

Eartheater: IRISIRI

Alexandra Drewchin’s music as Eartheater deals in opposing forces. Her songs interlace acoustic instruments, like guitar and violin, with harsh electronic drums and eerie synthesizer figures; she tends to juxtapose startling beauty with cutting ugliness. Her third album, IRISIRI, exacerbates the contrasts she set up across her first two records. Where her previous albums, Metalepsis…

Fetty Wap: Bruce Wayne

Fetty Wap broke through doing pop rap things only Eminem and Lil Wayne had done, but now he only ever makes headlines when trading barbs with mayoral candidates in his hometown, or when drag racing his Mercedes CLS AMG drunk on a suspended license, or when people are facetiously petitioning to have him perform “Trap…

Jorja Smith: Lost & Found

“Why do we fall down with innocence?” Jorja Smith wonders on the opening title track of Lost & Found. The 20-year-old English singer’s deeply personal debut is full of impressionistic questions like this, yet she never demands easy answers. Her approach to seeking self-knowledge is compassionate and patient, demonstrative of a keen intellect and rich…

Flasher: Constant Image

In their two years of existence, Flasher have existed at the cross-section of what makes Washington, D.C. an exhilarating and terrifying place to create political art. They’ve recorded in the studio of Fugazi’s Brendan Canty. Guitarist Taylor Mulitz was previously in the radical rock band Priests and continues to oversee its Sister Polygon label, which…

Proc Fiskal: Insula

Joe Powers grew up 300 miles and 10 years away from the epicenter of grime. The Edinburgh producer would have been more interested in plastic blocks than tower blocks back when Deja Vu FM was transmitting from the rooftops of East London. But his debut album as Proc Fiskal is one of the most original…