KEXP is counting down the Top 90.3 Albums of 2016, as voted on by our listeners! Follow along from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM Pacific Time, and see if your favorites made the list. And check out what KEXP DJs, staff, and volunteers picked for their favorites on the KEXP blog.
Reviews by Don Yates, KEXP Music Director
1 David Bowie – Blackstar (Columbia)
This veteran British artist’s 25th studio album is a masterful set of adventurous, jazz-steeped songs ranging from propulsive, groove-driven tracks to atmospheric ballads, with a dark, beautifully sculpted sound accompanying Bowie’s impassioned vocals and often-cryptic lyrics of impending doom and mortality.
2 A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (Epic)
The veteran New York rap group’s sixth album (and first in 18 years) was recorded shortly before founding member Phife Dog unexpectedly passed away in March from diabetes complications. It’s a strong return to form of often-politically charged hip hop that updates the group’s warm, jazz-tinged sound with adventurous production and harder hitting beats. Special guests include Kendrick Lamar, Andre 3000, Anderson .Paak, Jack White, Talib Kweli, Busta Rhymes and Elton John.
3 Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Denial (Matador)
The latest Car Seat Headrest album from Seattle-based artist Will Toledo is the first recorded in a studio with a full band. Produced by Steve Fisk, Teens Of Denial is not only the best-sounding Car Seat Headrest album to date, it’s also packed with great songs combining anthemic song hooks and shout-along choruses with smartly crafted lyrics of alienation, depression and survival.
4 Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool (XL)
This British band’s ninth album is a transportive blend of brooding avant-pop, spacy prog-rock and psych-folk, with an intricately textured, tension-filled sound combining buzzing synths, atmospheric electric and acoustic guitars, reverberating piano, some gorgeous string arrangements and occasional ghostly choral vocals with Thom Yorke’s haunting lead vocals and dread-filled lyrics blending the political and the personal.
5 Bon Iver – 22, a Million (Jagjaguwar)
The third album from Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) is his most adventurous, forward-looking recording to date, combining spacy, digitally warped electro-pop with folk, gospel and other styles on soul-searching songs featuring an intricate blend of electronic and acoustic instrumentation accompanying his often-manipulated and vocodered vocals.
6 Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker (Columbia)
The 82-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter’s 14th studio album is a powerful set reflecting upon life, love, loss and mortality, featuring a spare sound with celestial organ, gentle guitars, piano, strings and choral backing vocals accompanying his bottomless baritone.
7 Angel Olsen – My Woman (Jagjaguwar)
This Asheville, NC-based artist continues to head in a more electric, rock-oriented direction on her excellent third album, combining elements of raw classic-rock, moody soul, ’60s girl-group pop, psych-rock, atmospheric synth-pop and more into emotionally powerful songs of struggle and resiliency through the ups and downs of love and life.
8 Beyonce – Lemonade (Parkwood/Columbia)
Beyonce’s sixth solo album is a powerful set of expansive R&B blended with hip hop, electro-pop, reggae, blues-rock, gospel, New Orleans brass band music and more, combining a dark, decidedly non-glossy sound with her versatile, soulful vocals and often-scathing lyrics of infidelity, marital discord and eventual reconciliation, while also reflecting outward onto larger gender and racial issues. Special guests include Jack White, The Weeknd, James Black and Kendrick Lamar.
9 Frank Ocean – Blonde (Boys Don’t Cry)
This New Orleans-bred, now London-based artist’s long-awaited second official album is a masterful set of expansive, atmospheric R&B, featuring a mostly spare, hazy, psych-tinged and often beat-less sound with spacy guitars, shimmering keyboards and occasional cinematic strings accompanying his warm, intimate vocals, melancholy melodies and introspective lyrics of love, sex, escape, isolation, spirituality and identity.
10 Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book (self-released)
This Chicago rapper’s third mixtape is a masterful set of gospel-steeped hip hop featuring a grand, soulful sound with churchly organ and piano, choral backing vocals, occasional horns and a high-powered guest lineup augmenting Chance’s nimble delivery, hopeful, often-spiritually minded lyrics and sunny melodies.
11 Charles Bradley – Changes (Daptone)
This Brooklyn artist’s third album is another first-rate outing of ’60s-steeped soul combining stellar accompaniment from members of Menahan Street Band, Budos Band, the Dap-Kings and Charles’ touring band The Extraordinaires with his grainy, pleading vocals on a rock-solid set of mostly original songs.
12 Tacocat – Lost Time (Hardly Art)
This Seattle band’s third album is an excellent set of punkish power-pop with crunchy, occasionally surfy guitars, energetic rhythms, sugary melodies and often-biting, wickedly humorous lyrics skewering sexism and other societal ills while celebrating friends and good times.
13 Kate Tempest – Let Them Eat Chaos (Lex)
This British poet/rapper’s second album is another impressive blend of hip hop and spoken word, combining stark hip hop and electronic soundscapes with her razor-sharp delivery and evocative, politically-inspired lyrics revolving around alienation, consumerism, gentrification and other modern afflictions.
14 Anderson .Paak – Malibu (EMPIRE/OBE/Steel Wool/Art Club)
This Oxnard, CA rapper’s second regular studio album is a masterful set of expansive hip hop and cosmic R&B/soul inflected with jazz, funk, gospel and other styles, combining a warm, melodic and often-breezy sound with his relaxed, slightly raspy vocals and smartly detailed lyrics of love and struggle. Many special guests contribute, with on-point production from Madlib, 9th Wonder, DJ Khalil and other luminaries.
15 Deep Sea Diver – Secrets (High Beam)
The second album from this Seattle band led by Jessica Dobson is another sharply crafted set of adventurous pop-rock ranging from moody rockers spiked with Dobson’s intricate guitar work to atmospheric, piano-based ballads.
16 Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered (Aftermath/Interscope/Top Dawg)
The latest release from the mercurial LA rapper is an impressive 8-song album of previously unreleased outtakes from his To Pimp A Butterfly recording sessions. For an album of odds ‘n’ ends, it holds together remarkably well, combining an expansive, jazz-tinged, live-band hip hop sound with Lamar’s on-fire delivery and knotty lyrics revolving around identity, racism and other weighty subjects.
17 Blood Orange – Freetown Sound (Domino)
The third Blood Orange album from Dev Hynes (ex-Lightspeed Champion, Test Icicles) is another masterful set of expansive, moody R&B blended with funk, synth-pop and other styles, combining a diverse sound and a variety of live and sampled voices (including a stellar lineup of female singers) with his sharp, often-politically charged lyrics exploring issues of identity, race, sexuality and religion.
18 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree (self-released)
The 16th album from Nick Cave & co. (and the first since the death of his 15-year-old son Arthur in July 2015) is a powerful set of dark, mournful ballads combining a brooding, spare sound with Cave’s wounded vocals and emotionally raw lyrics reflecting upon death and loss.
19 Phantogram – Three (Republic)
This New York duo’s third album is a sleeker, more polished take on the band’s moody electro-pop inflected with hip hop, funk and other styles.
20 Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate (Polydor)
This British artist’s second album finds him mostly moving away from his folk-soul beginnings towards a darker, more edgy and brooding sound (courtesy of producer Danger Mouse along with Inflo and Paul Butler) with rumbling electric guitars, gauzy keyboards, cinematic strings, backing choral voices and stark, muscular rhythms accompanying his plaintive, soulful vocals and often-poignant lyrics of lost love, doubt, isolation and injustice.
21 Parquet Courts – Human Performance (Rough Trade)
This Brooklyn band’s latest album is another smartly crafted set of often-sardonic post-punk with a greater emphasis this time around on brighter melodies and more personal, anxiety-riddled lyrics.
22 Drive-By Truckers – American Band (ATO)
While this veteran Alabama-bred band has never been shy to broach political and social topics, their 11th studio album is their most overtly political set to date, tackling police violence, white privilege, religious hypocrisy, last year’s massacres at Charleston, SC and Roseburg, OR and the battle over the Confederate flag, along with more personal songs from frontman Patterson Hood about his recent move to Portland, OR and his battle with depression. They do so with some of the more focused and passionate performances of their illustrious careers.
23 Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression (Loma Vista)
The veteran rock legend’s latest album was produced by Queens Of The Stone Age frontman Josh Homme with accompaniment by Homme along with QOTSA’s Dean Fertita and Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders. The end result is an often-masterful set of hypnotic, brooding rock.
24 The Avalanches – Wildflower (Astralwerks)
This Australian group finally follows up their 2000 debut album with another impressive full-length of cut-and-paste collage-pop incorporating a dizzying multitude of samples, field recordings and guests vocalists ranging from Danny Brown and Biz Markie to Father John Misty and David Berman on a variety of buoyant, groove-driven songs with sunny textures and breezy melodies.
25 Solange – A Seat at the Table (Columbia)
The third album (and first in eight years) from this New Orleans-bred artist (and sister of Beyonce) is a powerful set of expansive, bittersweet R&B inflected with jazz, hip hop, funk, soul, electro-pop and more, combining a mostly dark, moody sound with her honeyed vocals and poignant, often-politically charged lyrics revolving around issues of identity, empowerment and healing.
26 Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid (Rhymesayers)
The New York-bred, now Portland-based rapper’s seventh solo album is a typically rock-solid set of underground hip hop combining a variety of banging beats with his fluid delivery and personal lyrics dealing with depression, family issues and more.
27 Glass Animals – How to Be a Human Being (Wolf Tone)
This British band’s second album is another potent set of R&B-tinged electro-pop with a cleaner, more punchy sound featuring bright synths, propulsive beats and often-dark character-study lyrics juxtaposed with shiny pop hooks.
28 case/lang/veirs – case/lang/veirs (Anti-)
The debut album from this collaboration between Neko Case, k.d. lang and Laura Veirs is an impressive set of intimate folk-pop. Produced by Tucker Martine, the album features a warm, beautifully crafted sound and some gorgeous, mostly acoustic instrumentation on songs ranging from soaring, jangly pop to melancholy torch ballads.
29 King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity (ATO)
This Melbourne, Australia band’s eighth album finds them following up last year’s gentle, acoustic-oriented release Paper Mache Dream Balloon with a much more aggressive and electric set of driving, riff-heavy psych-rock with buzzing guitars and keyboards, relentless rhythms and potent song hooks.
30 Band of Horses – Why Are You Ok? (Interscope/American)
This Charleston, SC-via-Seattle band’s fifth album was produced by Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle, and he brings a bit more of a spacy, effects-heavy approach to the band’s genial, psych-tinged folk-rock.
31 De La Soul – and the Anonymous Nobody… (self-released)
This veteran New York trio’s eighth album (and first in 12 years) is a lengthy set with a diverse sound ranging from funky hip hop and smooth R&B to hypnotic electro-pop and metallic rap-rock.
32 Sturgil Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth (Atlantic)
The third solo album from this Kentucky-bred, Nashville-based artist (and former Seattle resident) finds him continuing to stretch out with a masterful, even more expansive blend of outlaw country with soul, funk, psych-rock and other styles. A concept album addressed to his infant son, A Sailor’s Guide To Earth roams from gritty funk-rock and spacy psych-rock to soul-steeped country-funk and atmospheric country ballads. The Dap-Kings are prominently featured throughout on horns.
33 Lumineers – Cleopatra (Dualtone)
This Denver band’s second album is a more somber, ballad-heavy take on their dramatic folk-pop.
34 Wilco – Schmilco (dBpm)
This Chicago band’s 10th album is one of their more modest-sounding releases, featuring a mostly low-key and acoustic-oriented folk-rock sound on bittersweet songs revolving around alienation and childhood memories.
35 PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project (Island)
This veteran British artist’s ninth album is a potent blend of rock, blues, jazz and gospel. It’s also one of her more politically charged releases, with observational lyrics of war-torn and poverty-wracked lives in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Washington D.C.
36 Andrew Bird – Are You Serious (Loma Vista)
This Chicago artist brings a bit more polish along with an occasional rock edge to his latest album of well-crafted chamber-pop. The album also features his most personal set of songs to date, centering around fatherhood and relationship issues.
37 Kanye West – Life of Pablo (GOOD)
The Chicago producer/rapper’s latest album is another masterfully produced set that incorporates a strong gospel element while also reflecting various styles of his past albums with a beautifully woven assortment of beats, samples and special guests, who often steal the spotlight.
38 Explosions In The Sky – The Wilderness (Temporary Residence)
This Austin band’s latest release is another fine album of cinematic post-rock instrumentals.
39 Thee Oh Sees – A Weird Exits (Castle Face)
The latest album from this prolific LA-via-San Francisco band is a companion volume to their album released earlier this year (A Weird Exits), and while that album focused on energetic, motorik jams, this one leans heavy on the band’s softer, more trippy side with a 6-song set of atmospheric psych-pop ballads and spacy instrumental jams.
40 Dinosaur Jr. – Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not (Jagjaguwar)
The 11th album from this venerable Amherst, MA-bred band (and the fourth since the original trio reunited in 2005) is another strong set of muscular, psych-tinged rock with fiery, fleet-fingered guitar solos, pounding rhythms, drawling vocals and potent song hooks.
41 Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam – I Had a Dream That You Were Mine (Glassnote)
The Walkmen frontman Hamilton Leithauser hooked up with former Vampire Weekend member Rostam Batmanglij for a well-crafted, impressively diverse set ranging from boozy rock and acoustic-oriented folk to doo wop-inflected ballads.
42 Mitski – Puberty 2 (Dead Oceans)
The fourth album from this New York-based artist (aka Mitski Miyawaki) is her strongest release to date, combining a diverse sound ranging from grungy punk to atmospheric dream-pop with her smartly crafted, angst-fueled lyrics on often-dark, emotionally devastating songs.
43 Damien Jurado – Visions of Us on the Land (Secretly Canadian)
This Seattle artist’s 12th album is the third in a recent trilogy of releases produced by Richard Swift, and like the preious two, it’s an excellent set of psych-tinged folk-rock combining a warm, expansive sound with Jurado’s luminous vocals and searching lyrics revolving around a symbolic road trip.
44 Jagwar Ma – Every Now & Then (Mom+Pop)
This Australian duo’s second album is another strong set rooted in late ’80s-early ’90s Manchester dance-rock, with a bit more emphasis on rhythm and electronics than the debut.
45 Daughter – Not To Disappear (Glassnote)
This British trio’s masterful second album is a more refined and nuanced version of their brooding, folk-tinged dream-pop, featuring a dark, atmospheric sound with reverbed guitars, stately rhythms, haunting melodies and Elena Tonra’s smoky vocals and crossed-in-love lyrics.
46 James Blake – The Colour In Anything (Republic)
This British artist’s third album is another beautifully crafted blend of intimate R&B and ambient post-dubstep with a spacious, atmospheric sound featuring moody, woozy synths, somber piano and spare downtempo beats accompanying his gorgeous, sometimes digitally manipulated falsetto and emotionally vulnerable lyrics of love lost and found.
47 Manatee Commune – Manatee Commune (Bastard Jazz Recordings)
The second album from this Bellingham producer/multi-instrumentalist (aka Grant Eadie) is a strong set of dreamy, psych-tinged electro-pop with a warm, intimate sound featuring bubbly synths, unhurried beats, sampled ambient sounds, blissed-out melodies, manipulated vocal fragments and occasional guest vocals from Marina Price, Moorea Masa and Flint Eastwood.
48 Warpaint – Heads Up (Rough Trade)
This LA band aims for a more immediate sound with more prominent rhythms on their third album. It’s a typically well-crafted set of brooding post-punk inflected with dub, funk and other styles, juxtaposing often-dark grooves with optimistic lyrics.
49 ANOHNI – Hopelessness (Secretly Canadian)
Formerly known as Antony Hegarty (of Antony & The Johnsons fame), this British artist offers up her debut album under her new name. Co-produced by Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never, it’s a powerful set of dark, tempestuous electro-pop with ominous synths and thundering rhythms accompanying her dramatic, tremulous vocals and politically cutting lyrics aimed at drone warfare, climate change, our surveillance society and other ills of the modern world.
50 DIIV – Is The Is Are (Captured Tracks)
The second album from this Brooklyn band led by Zachary Cole Smith is an impressive set of shimmering, surf-tinged post-punk. Recorded and produced by Smith himself, this lengthy album features 17 songs that rarely flag with a dreamy blend of jangly guitars, driving rhythms, murky vocals and wistful melodies.
51 Local Natives – Sunlit Youth (Loma Vista)
This LA band’s third album finds them returning to a more joyful sound, while also taking their expansive folk-pop in a more synth-oriented direction on smartly crafted, hook-filled songs with soaring vocals, optimistic lyrics, radiant harmonies and sunny pop melodies.
52 Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger (Loma Vista)
The latest album from this prolific LA-based artist is an uncompromising set of ultra-raw garage-punk with noisy gnarled guitars, pounding, sometimes tempo-shifting rhythms and dark lyrics about instant gratification and warped emotions.
53 Frightened Rabbit – Painting Of A Panic Attack (Canvasback/Atlantic)
This Scottish band’s fifth album is a bit more somber and restrained take on the band’s anthemic folk-pop. Produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner, the album combines an atmospheric, mostly mid-tempo sound with Scott Hutchinson’s impassioned vocals and often-bleak lyrics.
54 DJ Shadow – The Mountain Will Fall (Mass Appeal)
The fifth album (and first in five years) of mostly instrumental hip hop from this California DJ/producer (aka Josh Davis) features less sampling with more emphasis on modern production software.
55 BADBADNOTGOOD – IV (Innovative Leisure)
This Toronto band’s fourth album is a smartly executed, groove-driven blend of jazz, hip hop, funk, R&B and more. The impressive guest lineup includes Future Islands’ Sam Herring, Kaytranada, Colin Stetson, Mick Jenkins and Charlotte Day Wilson.
56 Junius Meyvant – Floating Harmonies (Record Records)
This Icelandic artist’s debut full-length is a beautifully crafted set of soul-tinged, orchestral folk-pop with a warm, lush sound combining a variety of guitars, horns, strings and keyboards with glowing harmonies and Meyvant’s soulful vocal.
57 Kyle Craft – Dolls of Highland (Sub Pop)
This Portland-via-Shreveport, LA artist’s debut album is a masterfully crafted, ’70s-steeped blend of Bowiesque glam-rock and warm folk-rock, featuring a full, beautifully arranged sound with electric and acoustic guitars, piano, organ, horns, harmonica and more accompanying his clarion vocals and intricately detailed lyrics.
58 Kevin Morby – Singing Saw (Dead Oceans)
The third solo album from the former Woods bassist/the Babies co-founder is a sharply crafted set of dark folk-rock combining a beautifully fleshed-out sound courtesy of Sam Cohen with Morby’s Dylanesque croon and often-dark lyrics.
59 Whitney – Light Upon The Lake (Secretly Canadian)
The debut album from this Chicago band led by former Smith Weterns members Julian Ehrlich and Max Kakacek is an excellent set of ’70s-influenced folk-pop featuring a consistently strong set of beautifully arranged, melodically rich songs and a warm, summery sound combining sweetly twanging guitars, soulful horns and other instrumentation with plaintive falsetto vocals, breezy melodies and melancholy lyrics.
60 M83 – Junk (Mute)
The seventh album from this French artist (aka Anthony Gonzalez) ranges from ’70s soft-rock, easy-listening lounge-pop, and ’80s power ballads to kitschy disco and hair metal.
61 The Julie Ruin – Hit Reset (Hardly Art)
The second album from this band led by Kathleen Hanna (ex-Bikini Kill, Le Tigre) is a potent, politically charged blend of urgent garage-punk, bouncy New Wave dance-rock, ’60s girl-group pop and other styles, with personal, often-scathing lyrics aimed at abusers, sexists, narcissists and other deserving targets.
62 Kaytranada – 0.999 (XL)
The debut full-length from this Haiti-born, Montreal-based producer (aka Louis Kevin Celestin) is a masterful, groove-driven blend of house, hip hop, R&B, funk, jazz and other styles, combining buoyant grooves and sunny melodies with an impressive guest lineup of vocalists and musicians including Anderson .Paak, Little Dragon, BADBADNOTGOOD, AlunaGeorge and other notables.
63 Black Mountain – IV (Jagjaguwar)
This Vancouver B.C. band’s fourth album is an impressive blend of hard rock, psych, prog, folk, space-rock and more, ranging from epic stoner-rock dirges and fiery, psych-tinged hard-rock to synth-driven space-rock and some spacious, atmospheric ballads.
64 Bob Mould – Patch The Sky (Merge)
The latest solo album from the former Husker Du/Sugar frontman continues his latter-day resurgence with another impressive set of anthemic, punkish pop-rock reminiscent of the music made by his former bands, combining loud, fuzzy guitars, punchy rhythms and bright pop melodies juxtaposed with dark lyrics revolving around lost love, depression and mortality.
65 Savages – Adore Life (Matador)
This British band’s excellent second album features a more expansive take on the band’s urgent post-punk with a visceral blend of serrated angular guitars, taut rhythms, commanding vocals and impassioned lyrics embracing love and life in all their messy, often risky glory.
66 The Head And The Heart – Signs Of Light (Warner Bros)
This Seattle band’s third album features a more polished and heavily produced sound for their anthemic folk-pop.
67 Nada Surf – You Know Who You Are (Barsuk)
This veteran New York band’s eighth studio album is a solid set of genial pop-rock with mostly mid-tempo songs featuring jangly guitars and wistful melodies.
68 Acapulco Lips – Acapulco Lips (Killroom)
This Seattle trio’s debut album is a promising ’60s-inspired blend of surf, psych and garage-rock, combining fuzzy surf guitars, driving rhythms, Maria-Elena Juarez’s luminous vocals, ghostly harmonies and sparkling pop hooks juxtaposed with often-dark lyrics.
69 Shearwater – Jet Plane and Oxbow (Sub Pop)
This Austin band’s ninth album finds them continuing in the more immediate and uptempo vein of their previous regular studio album (2012’s Animal Joy) with this expertly crafted set of majestic, ’80s-steeped pop-rock featuring energetic rhythms, brooding vocals, anthemic choruses and often-politically charged lyrics.
70 Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – A Man Alive (Ribbon)
The fourth album from this San Francisco-based project led by Thao Nguyen is a smartly crafted set of quirky, adventurous pop. Produced by Tune-yards’ Merrill Garbus, the album features Thao & co. adopting a more beat-driven sound with inventive arrangements, funk-inflected rhythms, fractured textures and dark, more personal lyrics revolving around her long-absent father.
71 Operators – Blue Wave (Last Gang)
The debut album from this band led by Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs, Divine Fits) is a potent set of dance-friendly post-punk with icy synths, buzzing guitars, occasional sax, propulsive rhythms and anthemic song hooks.
72 Macklemore – This Unruly Mess I’ve Made (self-released)
Like their debut full-length, this Seattle duo’s aptly titled second album veers wildly between goofy novelty raps and gospel-steeped inspirational songs, and he has about an equal amount of hits and misses here with both approaches. He’s joined by a mostly impressive supporting cast, and they help provide some of the album’s highlights.
73 Pixies – Head Carrier (Play It Again Sam)
The veteran rockers follow up their 2014 reunion album Indie Cindy.
74 Fly Moon Royalty – Delicious Trouble (self-released)
This Seattle duo’s second full-length is a well-crafted blend of slinky electro soul, gritty funk and airy R&B ballads.
75 Conor Oberst – Ruminations (Nonesuch)
The seventh solo artist from the Bright Eyes/Desaparecidos frontman is a strong set of intimate, stripped-down folk-pop featuring a stark sound with Oberst accompanying himself on piano, acoustic guitar and harmonica on mostly dark, often self-lacerating songs that reflect upon isolation, fragility and mortality.
76 Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition (Warp)
Named after a Joy Division song, this Detroit rapper’s fourth album is a powerful set of expansive hip hop with adventurous production from former collaborator Paul White along with The Alchemist, Evian Christ, Black Milk and Petite Noir. Songs range from warped trap and frenetic Afro-Beat to nightmare carnival music and noirish, jazz-tinged tracks, with off-kilter beats accompanying his elastic nasal honk and gripping lyrics revolving around the downside of the party life with its accompanying anxiety, paranoia and isolation.
77 A Tribe Called Red – We Are the Halluci Nation (Radicalized)
This Ottawa-based Native American production crew’s third album is a potent, beat-driven blend of hip hop, R&B and various electronic styles with traditional pow wow drums and vocals, while also incorporating a variety of other indigenous styles with support from an impressive list of guest vocalists from around the world.
78 Kishi Bashi – Sonderlust (Joyful Noise)
This Seattle-born, Athens, GA-based violinist/composer’s third studio album features a more forceful, rhythm-driven sound while skillfully blending electro-pop, disco, R&B and ’70s prog-rock. The album’s lush, well-crafted sound combines bright synths and guitars, soaring strings, woodwinds and more with often-dark lyrics revolving around his own troubled marriage.
79 Avett Brothers – True Sadness (American)
This North Carolina band’s ninth album finds them broadening their folk-pop sound by incorporating more diverse instrumentation and more modern production (courtesy of Rick Rubin) on a variety of well-crafted songs reflecting on love, loss and faith.
80 M.I.A. – AIM (Interscope)
The fifth album from M.I.A. (aka Maya Arulpragasam) is an often-gripping set combining a variety of beats and Eastern textures and melodies with politically charged lyrics often revolving around the plight of refugees.
81 Jim James – Eternally Even (ATO)
The second solo album from the My Morning Jacket frontman is a dark, brooding blend of psych-pop, funk and R&B combining with a woozy, atmospheric sound with often-politically charged lyrics attacking hatred, violence, greed and corruption.
82 The Kills – Ash & Ice (Domino)
This London-based duo’s fifth album (and first in five years) is a more low-key take on the band’s brooding, minimalist rock sound.
83 Cymbals Eat Guitars – Pretty Years (Sinderlyn)
This Staten Island, NY band’s fourth album brings a bit more of an expansive and energetic sound to their anthemic indie-rock. Produced by John Congleton, the album adds synths, occasional horns and other instrumentation alongside the band’s searing guitar work on emotionally hard-hitting songs with often-dark lyrics revolving around anxiety, depression and mortality.
84 Animal Collective – Painting With (Domino)
This Baltimore-bred band’s latest album isn’t one of their stronger efforts, thanks to some perfunctory songwriting and an often-overly busy sound featuring bright synths, pounding rhythms, sunny harmonies and rapid-fire alternating vocals.
85 Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing (Bayonet)
The second official studio album from this young New York artist (aka Greta Kline) is an impressive set of concise, sharply crafted indie-pop songs with clean guitar lines and light synths accompanying her intimate vocals and nakedly honest, masterfully detailed lyrics.
86 Miike Snow – III (Atlantic)
This Swedish/American trio’s third album finds them adopting a more soul-inflected sound to mixed effect on this set of breezy electro-pop.
87 Underworld – Barbara Barbara, we face a shining future (Astralwerks)
This veteran British duo’s ninth album is a potent set of thumping dance-rock with propulsive rhythms, buzzing keyboards and often-hopeful lyrics.
88 Augustines – This Is Your Life (Play It Again Sam)
This Brooklyn-based band adopts a bigger, more fully produced, stadium-rock sound to mixed effect on their third album, occasionally laying on the gloss and bombast a little too thickly, but there are still some stirring moments of anthemic rock.
89 NAVVI – Omni (Hush Hush)
This Seattle duo’s debut full-length is a strong set of dark, moody electro-pop with atmospheric synths, propulsive rhythms, ethereal vocals and hypnotic song hooks.
90 The Cave Singers – Banshee (self-released)
This Seattle band’s 5th album is a bit more stripped-down than their previous release (2013’s Naomi), with songs ranging from brooding blues-tinged rock and dusty, psych-rock to loping folk-flavored ballads.
90.3 St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Sea Of Noise (RECORDS)
This eight-piece Birmingham, AL band’s second album of old-school soul is another excellent set that pairs a darker, more funk-edged sound with more politically conscious lyrics. Produced by Paul Butler (who also just produced Michael Kiwanuka’s impressive new album), the album features an airtight sound with some beautiful arrangements to frame Paul Janeway’s powerful vocals.