The Round-Up: The Best Albums of the 2nd Quarter

Ana Roxanne
~~~
Leaving Records
The Oakland bedroom artist’s debut project is a staggering slice of ambient music that pulls subtly from the R&B and pop vocalists that she grew up on. Her voice sounds far away but pulls you in close (think: Grouper’s “Ruin”) and is ready to tell you its secrets… if you’re down to take the time to listen.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

AJ Tracey
AJ Tracey
Self-Released
He made us wait for it, but the talented Tottenham boy delivered on his debut LP. It’s probably five or six songs too long, but Tracey’s versatility is on full display here, potently mixing modern grime with Island pop, American rap, and touches of classic 2-step and garage.

Stream it on Soundcloud.

A.A. Bondy
Enderness
Fat Possum
You might think that synths don’t really belong in folk music, but the Louisiana native doesn’t agree with you. On his incisive fourth LP, Bondy cleverly injects hazy synths to the mix, which add delicious sonic texture to his mopey, mature songcraft.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

Bedouine
Bird Songs of a Killjoy
Spacebomb
Azniv Korkejian outdid herself on the follow-up to her understated yet excellent 2017 debut. “Bird Songs of a Killjoy” boasts all the stately, pastoral beauty of her debut, but with the added bonus of subtle string arrangements and touches of percussion. An album to drape yourself in.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

Big Thief
U.F.O.F.
4AD
The Brooklyn quartet’s third album in four years proves that in some cases, you don’t need to choose between quality and quality. A moody, mellow collection of swelling folk music, “U.F.O.F.” wraps Adrianne Lenker’s wispy voice and affecting lyrics in warm, lived-in string arrangements.

Bill Callahan
Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest
Drag City
On his seventeenth (17th!) studio LP, the lo-fi legend glides into (cool) dad-hood with consummate ease. The 20-song project is dripping with insight, grace, and more than anything, gratitude. It’s wonderful to hear Callahan so at ease with where he is, and the disc consistently brings my thoughts back to all the many, many things that I’m thankful for in my own life.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

Bruce Springsteen
Western Stars
Columbia
I can’t lie, I never would have imagined putting a new album from the Boss on a list like this. But fuck, Western Stars is good. A vulnerable, weary slice of Americana, Springsteen shares nearly 70 years of lessons, allowing himself to reminisce about the past while always keeping one eye on the future.

Cate le Bon
Reward
Kemado
Though she recorded her fifth LP in relative solitude, Le Bon’s fifth LP feels anything but lonely. On her best project yet, the Welsh singer-songwriter wraps her evocative vocals in smart, lush chamber pop arrangements that recall late 60’s psych but still feel modern somehow.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

Field Medic
fade into the dawn
Run For Cover
Though he tends to get lumped with the emo revival groups, Kevin Sullivan’s music feels a lot more “No Depression” than “Alternative Press.” Fade into Dawn reminds me a lot of Whiskeytown, pairing Sullivan’s rickety voice with Southern-fried, sweet & easy pickin’.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

Hayden Thorpe
Diviner
Domino
A few years on from Wild Beasts’ break-up in 2017, Hayden Thorpe and his dulcet falsetto is back with a contemplative, seductive first solo LP. Though the mood stays pretty consistent, the emotional resonance of Thorpe’s vocals and his soft songwriting touch keeps things ticking over and feeling fresh.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

J Balvin x Bad Bunny
OASIS
UMG

Superstar team-ups like this often work better in theory than in practice, either due to shaky chemistry or each artist vying for top billing instead of sharing the spotlight. J Balvin and Bad Bunny’s surprise collab suffers from no such thing, as the pair bring the best out of each other, playfully cruising through eight weightless, gleefully flirty cuts.

Holly Herndon
PROTO
4AD
On her fifth LP, the San Francisco artist takes us deep inside the soul of the robo-verse, teaming up with a cast of talented musicians and an AI program, lovingly called “Spawn.” The result is a towering, chaotic collection of genreless sound, which feels equal parts alien and human.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

Kevin Abstract
ARIZONA BABY
Question Everything
To my ears, the Brockhampton frontperson works best as a solo artist, as it allows him to fully explore his eclectic sonic tastes, which include R&B, rap, soul, pop, and jazz (to name a few). Though it’s only 11 songs, ARIZONA BABY is a mature, hyper-thoughtful, modern project, which is dripping with perspective and insight.

Kim Petras
Clarity
BunHead

A pure pop powerhouse. Each track features melodies that are Gorilla Glue sticky, and Petras turns out a superstar performance, gliding over the arraignments without breaking a sweat. Though Dr. Luke’s presence is hard to reckon with, hopefully the contract will be short-lived. And it doesn’t completely diminish the excitement of a trans pop star making sexy music music for the masses.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

Klein Zage
Womanhood EP
Orphan
The London producer’s excellent new EP uses samples like a weapon — astutely flipping ultra-earnest affirmations on their head to explore what it’s actually like to be a woman. She pairs them with undeniable, lo-fi house grooves that will get your feet on the dance-floor while the samples stick in your head.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

Kyle Bobby Dunn
From Here To Eternity
Self-Released
If you’ve got good speakers or headphones, fire them up and throw on the Montreal producer’s expansive new project. Almost more of a sound designer than a songwriter, KBD is a master of mood, looping endless layers on top of each other until they form something subtly breathtaking. 

Stream it on Bandcamp.

Leif
Loom Dream
Whities
Not to be confused with Le1f, the electrifying New York rapper, the Welsh producer’s new project is a stunning, gentle wash of sound. Though it is broken into six tracks, it plays like a single 35-minute journey through his home country’s gorgeous rolling hills, placid lakes, and windy, expansive shoreline.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

Lil Keed
Long Live Mexico
YSL/300
Though an early co-sign from Young Thug was crucial to the 21 year-old’s early success, “Long Live Mexico” proves that Lil Keed is ready to stand on his own. Sure, the Thugger influence is obvious, but the way Keed’s squeaky, pitched-up flow dances around the beat is undeniable. Feels like he’s got all the tools to go a long way.

Stream it on Soundcloud.

Lucinda Chua
Antidotes 1
Self-Released

The Londoner’s staggering debut is a 4-song collection of delicate, pure ambient pop music. The only thing softer than her arraignments is her voice, which is so soothing it should be prescription-only.

Matt Kivel
last night in america
Cascine
I’ve been buying stock in the Kivel brothers for the better part of a decade. And to these ears, the dusty, placid “last night in america” is the younger Kivel’s finest work yet. Though the production is lo-fi, the sonic cinematography is widescreen, as the Texas transplant casts his eye (and pillow-soft voice) across a country on the brink.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

Orville Peck
Pony

Sub Pop
The Nevada crooner’s masked melodrama captures country music’s delightfully camp roots and drags them to the 21st century. Blessed with a cannon of a tenor, Peck patrols the lonely prairie, triumphantly belting out intoxicating songs of love, loss, and lust. Yee fucking haw.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

Palmistry
Afterlife
Mixpak
The more the Londoner (né Benjy Keating) slithers away from dancehall pastiche, the better. On his tasty second LP, he mostly lends his impossibly soft, sweet-boy coo to low-key, affecting pop arrangements. Sure, the Jamaican influence is there, but on this project, the sounds feel more like inspiration than source material.

Stream it on Bandcamp.

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