40. BLOOD ORANGE- NEGRO SWAN
“Negro Swan”, Dev Hynes’s fourth album as Blood Orange, examines the flipsides of ‘ugly’ and ‘beauty’ and what is is like to live in the margins as an African-American gay person in modern America. Hynes is a top-notch producer, who works with some of the biggest & best pop stars of today including Solange Knowles, Haim, Sky Ferreira & Carly Rae Jepsen. Though his music is never boilerplate pop, Blood Orange is the place where he expands and explores his music to the greatest depth. “Negro Swan” is a lot to dig through and is not immediately accessible, revealing its greatness slowly. “Nappy Wonder”, “Orlando” and “Runnin’ (with Georgia Anne Muldrow) are early highlights.
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39. TOMBERLIN- AT WEDDINGS
Debut album from Kentucky-based singer songwriter Sarah Beth Tomberlin. Raised in a suffocatingly strict southern Baptist home, Tomberlin grapples with the loss of her religious faith and “At Weddings” celebrates the beauty of every day mundanity resulting in intimate music which is devastatingly beautiful and heart wrenching. Key tracks are “Any Other Way” and “I’m Not Scared”.
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38. DIRTY PROJECTORS- LAMP LIT PROSE
Coming a just a year behind his 2017 self-titled break-up album about Dirty Projector’s leader Dave Longstreth’s longterm bandmate and partner Amber Coffman, “Lamp Lit Prose” has flown a bit under the radar this year. “Lamp Lit Prose” is a lovestruck, optimistic album about finding that earthquaking romance after a long period of depression. With track titles like “Break-Thru”, “I Feel Energy”, “I Found It In U”, “You’re The One” and “(I Wanna) Feel It All”, Longstreth’s joy is palpable and the buoyancy of the music here matches the lyrics. In a year and a time filled with anger and often despair, “Lamp Lit Prose” is a light in the dark.
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37. TY SEGALL- FREEDOM’S GOBLIN
Ty Segall is one of the most prolific artists working today. Even a music-obsessive such as I probably knows much less than half his discography. He’s released twenty albums in just under a decade so one must narrow the focus on the standout releases if possible. “Freedom’s Goblin” is a sprawling double album which takes from nearly every non-radio friendly electric guitar sound of the last fifty years. Early Metal, Stoner-rock, Crazy Horse inspired guitar jams, T-Rex-era glam rock, late sixties garage rock- it’s all here. There is even a kick-ass cover of disco-funk band Hot Chocolate’s “Everyone 1’s A Winner”. With an album this long not every track is created equal- Segall is intentionally messy and stylistically all over the place but the dude shreds and anyone lamenting the decline of guitar rock should check this out immediately.
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36. COURTNEY BARNETT- TELL ME HOW YOU REALLY FEEL
Sophomore album “Tell Me How You Really Feel” sounds smaller and more minor than Courtney Barnett’s 2015 full-length debut “Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit”, which was a surprise hit for the young Australian singer-songwriter who has a way with quippy, memorable and detailed lyrics and crunchy guitar riffs. “Feel” is more introverted with less hit potential but it does not feel like a misstep. I think in time it will show as an under-appreciated album with a handful of hidden gems- a likable album among a series of peaks and dips in the hopefully long and storied career of a major songwriting talent.
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35. SUPERCHUNK- WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE
11th full-length release by North Carolina indie-heroes Superchunk, continues their brilliant 2010’s late career run with “What A Time To Be Alive”, an energetic, angry and political album perfectly ripe for these crazy times. It is therapeutic to listen to people in their fifties calling out “old people” their age, or not much older for all of the messes they have made. Among the many album highlights are the title track, closer “Black Thread” and “Reagan Youth”. Another feather in the cap of this remarkably consistent punk institution.
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34. NONAME- ROOM 25
Second self-released album by Chicago rapper and spoken word artist Noname even betters her debut “Telefone”. Noname throws in jazz & neo-soul beats creating a vibe, which is simultaneously relaxed and confrontational. Always thought provoking- Noname talks love, career, violence, death & racial and gender politics. Of the moment and encouraging all of us to be better, including herself. Fellow Chicagoan guest stars like Ravyn Lenae, Saba & Smino further enhance the music.
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33. THE INTERNET- HIVE MIND
Second album by talented R&B/Soul outfit featuring lead vocalist and solo act, Syd, which offers are rock solid array of songs that vary from upbeat pop to slinky funk to sultry slow jams. There are no obvious standout tracks here but no filler either and “Hive Mind” gets better with each listen.
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32. 1975- A BRIEF INQUIRY INTO ONLINE RELATIONSHIPS
Third album by British pop band The 1975 is stylistically all over the map. Though it’s tough to love every track, the group’s ambition, excess and outrageousness is easy to admire and the group delivers perhaps the song of the year, and if not certainly the song that most captures the year’s zeitgeist, with “Love It If We Made It”. The band combines current pop, nineties R&B, eighties yacht-rock and adult contemporary, schmaltzy jazz and indie-rock and somehow make it work- usually….
31. TRAVIS SCOTT- ASTROWORLD
Master rap curator, Travis Scott, brings together many of the biggest names in modern rap, R&B and indie-rock, including The Weekend, Drake, Frank Ocean, Thundercat, Sheck Wes, Gunna, Juice WRLD, John Mayer & Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker to create one of the year’s biggest event rap albums. “Astroworld” captures the sound of rap of rap today, murky and psychedelic, but placed in an accessible package. Lead track “Stargazing” is a big highlight and the Drake featuring “Sicko Mode” is one of the hottest tracks of the year.
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