“To Pimp A Butterfly” by Kendrick Lamar:
In many ways, Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” is this generation’s answer to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” The production is adventurous while instantly enduring, and the subject matter tackles social injustice as well as personal conflict.
“Carrie & Lowell” by Sufjan Stevens:
Known for his lush instrumentation on previous albums such as “Age of Adz” and “Illinois,” singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens strips everything back on his latest record and lets his tear-jerking songwriting prowess shine.
“Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit” by Courtney Barnett:
Australian indie rocker Courtney Barnett makes quite the impression on her debut record. As vulnerable as it is vicious, the record channels inner turmoil on tracks like “Depreston” just as it channels rambling outer anguish on tracks like “Pedestrian at Best.”
“I Love You, Honeybear” by Father John Misty:
Don’t let the title fool you. Singer-songwriter Father John Misty may come off as sentimental and heart-felt at times, but his music can be equally cynical and venomous. This record has its tongue in its cheek just as much as it has its heart on its sleeve.
“The Epic” by Kamasi Washington:
Sure, using the term “jazz fusion” to describe an album can be a huge turn-off to some, but give this thing a chance. With its beautiful orchestration, highly expressive instrumentation and groovy rhythms, this album does a good job of living up to its title.
“Currents” by Tame Impala:
Tame Impala mastermind Kevin Parker trades in some of the key elements — ‘60s-style fuzzed-out guitars and thunderous drums — of previous records for elements like ‘80s synthesizers and finger snaps. Despite the dramatic sonic change, Tame Impala falls comfortably into a new sound, and Parker’s songwriting is as strong as ever.
“Sound & Color” by Alabama Shakes:
In “Sound & Color,” Alabama Shakes breaks free of the Southern rock-esque tendencies of its first record and trades them for a more concise, diverse and gut-wrenchingly soulful sound on this record.