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Olivia Rodrigo, “GUTS”

Beyond being wiser than her debut, this sophomore LP is also sharper, meaner, funnier, more assured, more pleasurable, and more persuasive that Rodrigo is operating on a plane of her own.

September 12, 2023
Jon Batiste, “World Music Radio”

Coalescing disparate genres, generations, and value systems into a big-tent pop blockbuster, Batiste’s latest streamlines musical and ideological sophistication into an LP designed for mass appeal.

August 16, 2023
Makaya McCraven, “In These Times”

The jazz fusionist plays to his strengths as a sample-based thinker and collage artist while also showing how he can wrestle his micro-moments into long-form works.

September 28, 2022
The Linda Lindas, “Growing Up”

The teen punks’ debut is a set of sturdily constructed songs that blur the line between bubblegum tunefulness, power pop crunch, and punk abandon.

April 11, 2022
Kacey Musgraves, “star-crossed”

Kacey’s latest feels like several types of divorce album spliced together, at once messy, conflicted, and purposeful.

September 09, 2021
Sons of Kemet, “Black to the Future”

The jazz collective’s fourth album is first and foremost a dance record, bruising, visceral, and thrilling in its physicality.

May 18, 2021
Jimbo Mathus & Andrew Bird, “These 13”

Bird reconnects with his Squirrel Nut Zippers associate Mathus for the most straightforwardly old-timey music he’s made since the late ’90s.

March 09, 2021
Paul McCartney, “McCartney III”

The latest from Sir Paul is warm, inviting, a little weird, persistently tuneful, endearingly merry.

December 22, 2020
Laraaji, “Moon Piano”

“Moon Piano” creates an environment that emanates tranquility without ever overstepping its bounds.

October 09, 2020
Margo Price, “That’s How Rumors Get Started”

“Rumors” may seem almost like a deliberate provocation of the country purists.

July 09, 2020
HAIM, “Women in Music Pt. III”

HAIM has always made their music sound effortless, but here they sound genuinely unencumbered.

June 24, 2020
Hayley Williams, “Petals for Armor”

On “Petals for Armor” Williams is in full blossom, telling her story without requiring our permission.

May 12, 2020
The Staple Singers, “Come Go With Me: The Stax Collection”

Looking for a consolidated history of soul music in one handy package?

February 24, 2020
Son Little, “aloha”

The narrative behind Aaron Livingston’s third full-length as Son Little is one of relinquished control.

January 27, 2020
Beck, “Hyperspace”

It’s not exactly a Beck album without precedent; but maybe at this point, that’s asking too much.

November 18, 2019
The Roots, “Things Fall Apart” 20th Anniversary Reissue

A record that still “sparks shit” today.

September 24, 2019
Sleater-Kinney, “The Center Won’t Hold”

They remain faithfully yours in taut, ruthless, uncompromising rock and roll.

August 16, 2019
The Raconteurs, “Help Us Stranger”

Their third album may feel almost like a tonic for those befuddled by last year’s bizarro-world “Boarding House Reach.”

June 24, 2019
Mac DeMarco, “Here Comes the Cowboy”

The singer-songwriter notes that he’s long been fascinated with the cowboy mythos, which captures both the freedom and the solitude of life on the great open frontier.

May 09, 2019
Weezer, “Weezer (Black Album)”

Try as he might to sound brash and nonchalant, Rivers Cuomo still comes across like the goofball nerd that he is.

March 01, 2019
Bob Mould, “Sunshine Rock”

“Sunshine Rock” is bedazzled with literal bells and whistles, including an eighteen-piece string section to lend Mould’s muscular rock a sense of transcendence.

February 11, 2019
Backstreet Boys, “DNA”

Rightly intuiting that they’d only embarrass themselves by carrying the “boy band” ethos into middle age, they long ago shifted into pure adult contemporary.

February 05, 2019
William Tyler, “Goes West”

“Goes West” summons all the majesty and loneliness of Tyler’s other work, but condenses it into his tightest, punchiest, and most palatable set of songs yet.

January 24, 2019
Jeff Tweedy, “WARM”

It’s not an album about what Tweedy has been through so much as an album about what we’ve all been through—a weathered yet buoyant reflection on shared trauma.

November 30, 2018
Elvis Costello & the Imposters, “Look Now”

Even if it’s pitched as a continuation of earlier works, “Look Now” never feels like a rehash.

October 26, 2018
Prince, “Piano & a Microphone 1983”

These songs take on a kind of confessional immediacy that you don’t hear much on proper Prince albums, and there’s stark emotion in abundance.

September 28, 2018
Low, “Double Negative”

For a band that’s so steady and sure-footed, Low are uniquely gifted at conveying a sense of unraveling.

September 14, 2018
Mitski, “Be the Cowboy”

Mitski is deepening her craft and heightening her emotional availability, but never dulling her edge.

August 20, 2018
Cowboy Junkies, “All That Reckoning”

Cowboy Junkies have never reckoned with the times as vividly or as pointedly as they do here.

July 18, 2018
Florence + the Machine, “High as Hope”

More than ever, Welch trusts her magnetic personality and her unerring gift for skyscraping pop hooks to do the emotional lifting.

June 29, 2018
Kamasi Washington, “Heaven and Earth”

Everything’s writ large; it is music that contains multitudes, and it’s teeming with joy and power. 

June 25, 2018
Eleanor Friedberger, “Rebound”

Friedberger has crafted an album of contoured melodies and steely precision.

May 10, 2018
Janelle Monáe, “Dirty Computer”

Every generation needs its own soundtrack for kicking against the pricks, and Monáe delivers one here.

May 07, 2018
Willie Nelson, “Last Man Standing”

Willie’s addressing his twilight years with a light touch and an amiable chuckle.

April 30, 2018
The Decemberists, “I’ll Be Your Girl”

They may be the only band around who can make the New Wave sound old-timey.

March 29, 2018
Yo La Tengo, “There’s a Riot Going On”

What the indie rock veterans offer is an album’s worth of palate-cleansers—songs of pastoral purity and laid-back reflection.

March 23, 2018
Caroline Rose, “Loner”

“Loner” could rightly be called a feminist album or simply a human one, weaponizing empathy in an age of despair.

February 23, 2018
SHIRT, “Pure Beauty”

SHIRT comes across as a battle rapper; he blazes through “Pure Beauty” in a blur of shit-talking and chest-puffing.

February 21, 2018
Hollie Cook, “Vessel of Love”

“Vessel of Love” feels modest and small-scale—the work of a self-possessed singer who’s inspired by tradition but never beholden to it.

February 05, 2018
tUnE-yArDs, “I can feel you creep into my private life”

Merrill Garbus’s latest LP doubles down on hooks and polished mainstream sheen without actually jettisoning any of her quirks or peculiarities.

January 12, 2018
Exchanging Ideas with The JuJu

Nico Segal’s Chicago quartet is exploring what jazz music can and should be in 2017.

December 05, 2017
U2, “Songs of Experience”

At fifty-seven, Bono remains weirdly obsessed with charting a song on the radio, and hopelessly committed to the idea that rock and roll can still change the world.

December 04, 2017
Mavis Staples, “If All I Was Was Black”

Mavis Staples isn’t one to brandish a song like a weapon—not when she’s so good at disarmament—and here she aims to melt swords into plowshares through the cosmic force of neighborly love, wild empathy, and intentional optimism.

November 17, 2017
Kelela, “Take Me Apart”

“Take Me Apart”‘s tension between sleek, modern sound and beating-heart humanity reveals what’s always been great about R&B: that it wears its emotions on its sleeve and provides a conduit for deep feeling.

October 13, 2017
Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile, “Lotta Sea Lice”

The songs of Barnett and Vile are deliberately gnarled and unkempt, and never sound nearly as fussed-over as they probably are.

October 09, 2017
Benjamin Clementine, “I Tell a Fly”

On his second album, the Mercury Prize winner is a big star and a total alien on a pilgrimage through hostile lands.

September 27, 2017
The National, “Sleep Well Beast”

By keeping it low-key, the stakes on The National’s new album somehow seem even higher.

September 12, 2017
LCD Soundsystem, “American Dream”

Seven years after “This is Happening,” James Murphy remains unparalleled at building slow-burn epics from all the fun bits of his record collection.

August 31, 2017
Queens of the Stone Age, “Villains”

It’s another great Queens of the Stone Age record that’s simultaneously of a piece with the others and distinct in its character and identity.

August 23, 2017
Joe Henderson, “The Elements” [reissue]

For as much as the spiritual jazz movement of the 1970s reached for the stars, the great triumph of “The Elements” is how earthbound it feels.

August 14, 2017
Arcade Fire, “Everything Now”

On paper, “Everything Now” is the dourest of any Arcade Fire album, a significant achievement for a group whose debut album is called “Funeral.”

July 25, 2017
Big Boi, “Boomiverse”

Is Big Boi underrated?

June 29, 2017
Fleet Foxes, “Crack-Up”

This band does delicate beauty so well that the stand-out moments of “Crack-Up” tend to be the ones where they let their hair down a bit.

June 13, 2017
Alice Coltrane, “World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda” [reissue]

These are songs that feel like they’re reaching for something; songs that sound like invocations.

May 15, 2017
Mac DeMarco, “This Old Dog”

On his third full-length, DeMarco pits the innately good-natured, easy-going tone of his music against a hint of sorrow in his lyrics.

May 11, 2017
Feist, “Pleasure”

Leslie Feist is casually virtuosic and quietly adventurous throughout her first record in six years, though you never get the sense that she’s pushing things just to push.

May 07, 2017
Kendrick Lamar, “DAMN.”

“DAMN.” bears our struggle and triumph, swagger and fear, success and uncertainty, love and original sin.

April 28, 2017
The New Pornographers, “Whiteout Conditions”

Nothing here wants for hooks or for energy, but the songs on The New Pornographers’ seventh album all seem flat somehow.

April 12, 2017
Jessi Colter, “THE PSALMS”

Colter creates music that drones, builds, drifts, and crests, never following familiar emotional beats but instead allowing them to follow their own wild intuitions.

April 05, 2017
Conor Oberst, “Salutations”

“Salutations” maintains the tattered humanity of its unaccompanied counterpart, but somehow makes it all go down a little smoother.

March 14, 2017
Spoon, “Hot Thoughts”

There was always bound to be a straight-ahead dance-rock album from Spoon. How could there not be?

March 13, 2017
Quelle Chris, “Being You Is Great, I Wish I Could Be You More Often”

“Being You” is gnarly and cerebral, the sound of a jittery headspace that’s got room enough for every flight of fancy.

February 14, 2017
Sampha, “Process”

Sampha’s debut is a record with broad appeal and precise vision; a record where listeners can find themselves but also where they’ll spot the auteur’s hand if they really care to look for it.

February 06, 2017
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.

January 17, 2017
Run the Jewels, “Run the Jewels 3”

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

January 06, 2017
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.

December 08, 2016
Art & Culture
A House Divided: How Barry Moser’s “We Were Brothers” Offers a Way Forward After Trump

The author’s reflections on his relationship with his deeply racist brother make an appeal to our common humanity.

November 23, 2016
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.

November 21, 2016
Jim James, “Eternally Even”

The My Morning Jacket frontman’s second solo record is not a hymn to destruction, but an anthem of resolve.

November 14, 2016
Common, “Black America Again”

Nothing is held back.

November 09, 2016

The Bad Plus / photo by Josh Goleman

Beyond “The Epic”: Four Recent Jazz Releases That Show the Genre’s Range

If you found yourself lost in the cosmos of Kamasi Washington’s triple-LP “The Epic” last year wondering which star to reach for next, 2016 has a few answers for you.

October 27, 2016

Mary Oliver has received many honors for her poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize and The National Book Award

Art & Culture
“I Built It to Build It”: Mary Oliver’s Habit of Being

With the essay collection “Upstream,” the lauded poet offers a portrait of herself and the world that is no less shrouded in mystery than her best work.

October 26, 2016
Leonard Cohen, “You Want It Darker”

Rumors of Leonard Cohen’s desire for death have been greatly exaggerated.

October 18, 2016
Conor Oberst, “Ruminations”

“Ruminations” is what it claims to be: a series of ponderous reflections that abide and even cultivate solitude, finding the melancholy romance in moments of quiet introspection.

October 10, 2016
Mick Jenkins, “The Healing Component”

These are songs that tangle with love as a force both personal and political, and with the love of self, the love of God, the love a people must have for one another if any of them are going to last.

September 21, 2016


Wilco, “Schmilco”

Though it turns out this isn’t a Harry Nilsson tribute album, the title is still a good omen.

September 06, 2016
The Frightnrs, “Nothing More to Say”

Daptone’s inaugural reggae release is freighted with a tragic backstory.

August 30, 2016
Noname, “Telefone”

The Chicago rapper and singer delivers an album filled with psalms of lament and hymns to hope through hard times.

August 12, 2016

Nels Cline “Lovers” cover

Nels Cline, “Lovers”

When presented with a collection of songs that’s explicitly billed as mood music, the correct question is: what sort of mood?

August 04, 2016

Faun Fables “Born of the Sun”

Faun Fables, “Born of the Sun”

All together now: “We make fire! With our bare hands! We catch fish from the stream like a bear can!”

July 21, 2016

ScHoolboy Q “Blank Face” LP

ScHoolboy Q, “Blank Face LP”

Past ScHoolboy Q records have shown a similar grasp for introspection, but “Blank Face LP” is all immersion.

July 14, 2016

Paul Simon “Stranger to Stranger” album cover

Paul Simon, “Stranger to Stranger”

Rhymin’ Simon’s still vital at seventy-four.

June 03, 2016

Robert Glasper / photo by Don Q. Hannah

“It’s Called Freedom So We Can Leave”: Robert Glasper on the Mind-Expanding Legacy of Miles Davis

On “Everything’s Beautiful,” the jazz pianist deconstructs Miles’s old recordings, then reassembles them with help from Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu, KING, Bilal, and more. Here, he talks about how the legend’s legacy extends far beyond jazz.

May 23, 2016

Julianna Barwick “Will”

Julianna Barwick, “Will”

Like Miles and Monk, Julianna Barwick understands the importance of space; each resonant note and each distinct sound is chosen judiciously, allowing each one to echo with even greater power.

May 05, 2016
Sturgill Simpson, “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth”

The psychedelic outlaw’s third album album doesn’t hold a lot of easy answers, necessarily, but it does have plenty of right ones.

April 15, 2016

FARGO — “The Myth of Sisyphus” — Episode 203 (Airs October 26, 10:00 pm e/p) Pictured: (l-r) Brad Mann as Gale Kitchen, Bokeem Woodbine as Mike Milligan, Todd Mann as Wayne Kitchen. CR: Chris Large/FX

Film + TV
Killer Ambition: Getting Bloody with “Fargo”’s Bokeem Woodbine

The breakout star of the FX show’s second season talks about his character’s rise to the top of the show’s hierarchy of violence and what it means to be the sole black actor in a snow-white world.

November 13, 2015

Dustin Aksland for The Wall Street Journal

Art & CultureReviews
Watching the Detectives: Colum McCann’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking”

The National Book Award winner returns with a collection of short stories and a novella.

November 02, 2015