The xx, “I See You”

The erstwhile minimalists have never made a record that sounds so glossy and full, but there’s not enough production polish in the world to mask the the hurt and the vulnerability at its core.

Flo Morrissey & Matthew E. White, “Gentlewoman, Ruby Man”

On their covers LP, Morrissey & White stand shoulder to shoulder with classics from Sinatra & Hazlewood and Sonny & Cher.

Brian Eno, “Reflection”

If there’s anything disappointing about Brian Eno’s career thus far, it’s that his oblique strategies have never taken him radically far away from the zones he settled and perfected.

The Flaming Lips, “Oczy Mlody”

The oddball, acid-laced soliloquies that characterized Coyne’s Mad Hatter aesthetic from the start are still part-and-parcel of what drives his merry-to-morose ensemble.

Run the Jewels, “Run the Jewels 3”

There is immense catharsis in Killer Mike and El-P’s appetite for destruction.

John Cale, “Fragments of a Rainy Season” [reissue]

Equipped with nothing more than a piano and occasionally a guitar on this live album from 1992, the former member of The Velvet Underground pulls something new out of so many songs from across his career.

Neil Young, “Peace Trail”

Perhaps it doesn’t rate as a classic, but in “Peace Trail” ol’ Neil has put forward an honest and open series of stories on the state of the day that, instead of inciting rage, offer a gentle listen encouraging self-reflection.

The Weeknd, “Starboy”

“Starboy” is rapt with the same sad-sack bullshit, asinine stabs at humility, and total lack of self-awareness that has plagued The Weeknd since his first tape.

Childish Gambino, “‘Awaken, My Love!'”

Like so many retro-leaning artists before him, Donald Glover riffles through classic sounds for a lens through which to view his modern anxieties.

John Legend, “Darkness and Light”

It’s tough to shake the idea that we’re getting the real John Legend for the very first time.

The Rolling Stones, “Blue & Lonesome”

There may still be some bite left in Keith Richards’s guitar.

Telefon Tel Aviv, “Fahrenheit Fair Enough” [reissue]

The reissue of the New Orleans IDM duo’s debut is a refreshing reminder of a more cerebral time.

Metallica, “Hardwired…to Self-Destruct”

Historically, metal’s biggest act has suffered the most when they try something new. “Hardwired…To Self-Destruct” finds them slogging their way back to basics.

Bruno Mars, “24K Magic”

The “Uptown Funk” star can be both trite and torrid when it comes to plastic, flossy funk.

Lee Hazlewood, “Cowboy in Sweden” [reissue]

Much of “Cowboy in Sweden” comes across like an elegy.

A Tribe Called Quest, “We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service”

A Tribe Called Quest’s first album in eighteen years—and last album ever—is as urgent as “Atrocity Exhibition” and as easygoing as “The Low End Theory.”

Lambchop, “FLOTUS”

If a sudden shift toward EDM trappings sounds like an awkward fit for an alt-country band, on “FLOTUS,” it plays out as neither sudden nor awkward.

R.E.M., “Out of Time” (25th Anniversary Edition)

Beyond the big hits, R.E.M.’s seventh album is a record full of nuances, a record that matched the quantity of units sold with the quality of its songwriting.

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