You might have resigned yourself to spending the next month venturing not much further than your garden, so this means it's very important your summer playlist is in excellent condition. Right now we're enjoying the recent drops from DJ-producers Daniel Avery and Romare, as well as the surprise indie album from Taylor Swift.
Whether you're looking for something to zen you out at the end of the day or a rousing playlist for your daily dose of time outside, we're here to help with our selection of the releases of the year so far (complete with the tracks you can skip to, should you wish).
Lomelda – Hannah
The self-titled fourth studio album from Texas singer-songwriter Hannah Read is filled with beautiful and sparse indie rock. Lomelda – a made-up word that Read says means "echo of the stars" – makes music which has the sense of being lost, but sometimes enjoying that feeling. Here that is calling from route 110 as a security guard asks if she is ok in 'Stranger Sat By Me', or reckoning with who she is in 'Reach', her muttering, 'So confused who I have been who I haven't / How'd you know, know?'
Skip to: 'Hannah Sun' – 'I sent you the sun from my hometown' is the opening refrain on this soft and lilting track which blooms beautifully as Read's voice falters with emotion.
Angel Olsen – Whole New Mess
A gift for fans of Angel Olsen, in that less than a year after her excellent record All Mirrors and the Missouri native has revealed the sparse original versions of the songs which she recorded in rural Washington. The album which was written in the retreat from a relationship has a more intimate and wounded feel when stripped back, with 'Lark', retitled as 'Lark Song', echoing distantly against Olsen's trembling voice.
Skip to: '(New Love) Cassette' – the final version, which was titled without parenthesis, had a brash, St Vincent-esque, rock sound to it, while the original feels more downcast and Olsen's voice monotone and almost possessed.
Nubya Garcia – Source
The debut album from British jazz composer and saxophonist Nubya Garcia is a thrilling record which puts her in the company of the names at the forefront of modern jazz, from Kamasi Washington to Kings of Kemet, whose last album she appeared on. On Source, her singular talent is laid bare, from the velvet smoothness of 'Pace' to the dizzying riffs of 'Inner Game'.
Skip to: 'La cumbia me está llamando' – A rising tide builds in this rhythmic four minute track in which the voices of the Colombian all-female enter the fray.
Bright Eyes – Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was
Sad days call for Bright Eyes, the musical project fronted by Conor Oberst who haven't released an album for nearly a decade but who have come out of hiding during the pandemic. This, their tenth studio album, is a world away from the sparse, sad guitar melodies that defined their early sound, but the strange samples and influences on Down In The Weeds make for no less melancholic listening.
Skip to: 'Hot Car in the Sun' – Imbued with a heavy sense of word-weariness, and the dark images of a dog dying in a Chevrolet, this track feels like a nightmarish daydream, one where Oberst reminds us, 'It's just painful to walk around'.
Dominic Fike – What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Though the Naples (Florida, that is) native sports the same the same bleached hair, smattering of tattoos and curious eyes as Pete Davidson et al, Dominic Fike's voice has an unbridled energy that sets him apart. The rapper's debut album is an ode to the ephemera of early twenties, with getting cancelled, texting while driving and chicken tenders all getting shoutouts in the wry and contagious record.
Skip to: 'Why' – A perfect lazy jam for the distant memory of a never-ending summer, here Fike comes close to a romantic ballad, singing, 'Why would you pay for this apartment / You don't belong in? / You take this shit from all your bosses / And all your boyfriends'.
Romare – Home
This nine-track release from Romare, aka London DJ Archie Fairhurst, will transport you to the thrumming, dusky light of a festival on Friday night, with the sort of atmospheric and soulful dance music which makes you long for a swaying crowd. Reminiscent of the output of artist like Daphni, or the more melodic cuts from Joy Orbison, highlights on Home include the zippy, bass-heavy 'Heaven' and 'Gone', a sprawling, eight-minute builder built round an ethereal voice that moans over soaring waves that eventually crash against a circling drum loop.
Skip to: 'The River' – Snatches of vocal samples ping-pong against a marching beat in this spiritual track, which features a Messianic voice singing about a promised river while percussive sounds rattle overhead.
Lianne La Havas – Lianne La Havas
Lianne La Havas' self-titled third album is hypnotic and beguiling, languishing thoughtfully in the aftermath of a break-up in a series of bare and beautiful guitar tracks. In the syrupy 'Please Don't Make Me Cry' she laments, "I show you my pretty scars, they make us whatever we are" over Nick Hakim's electric guitar. On the rather jauntier 'Read My Mind', guitar strings twinkle against an imaginary breeze.
Skip to: 'Paper Thin' – One of the album's most downcast moments is also its most memorable, a winding melody enveloping heartbreaking lyrics as La Havas croons: "But you're not the only one who's suffering / That's enough, I know you're made of better stuff, baby / You gotta roam free, please / Don't forget about me".
Daniel Avery – Love + Light
The English producer and DJ's third release is fused with dark energy: rapid-fire shots in 'Searing Light, Forward Motion', a reverberating, hollow white noise in 'Depth Wish' and an off-kilter jangling alarm on 'Dusting For Smoke'. But there are dreamier, more surreal moments, too, like the twinkling harp notes in 'Katana' and the meandering introspection on 'Fuzzwar'.
Skip to: 'Dream Distortion' – Synths echo against each other and what sounds like air being pumped into a chaotic room battle it out in this six-minute track which will make you long for the frenetic haze of a club.
Taylor Swift - folklore
Swit's surprise eighth album is one in which she stops being the dramatic figure at the centre of attention, instead retreating from focus in an indie record which sees her collaborate with Bon Iver and call upon the production skills of The National's Aaron Dessner. This ploy might be another way for Swift to frame her storytelling, with folklore decorated with myths and fairytales, but it's one in which her talent burns bright.
Skip to: 'the last great american dynasty' – this Fitzgerald-esque fable about Standard Oil heiress Rebekah Harkness – whose Rhode Island house Swift now owns – glitters with images of loud parties and swimming pools filled with Champagne in a track which combines the indie influences on the record and Swift's pop prowess seamlessly.
MIKE – Weight of the World
MIKE's 2019 album Tears of Joy affirmed the Earl Sweatshirt protégé as an exciting new talent in rap, channeling the pain of his mother's death into a deeply moving portrait of grief and loss. Now his follow-up, Weight of the World, reckons with the next stage of that grieving process, imbuing the 16-track release with the spectrum of painful emotions that run through his daydreams and nightmares.
Skip to: '222' – Spacey piano notes flutter against synths and MIKE's voice echoes in and out as he mutters: 'Believe I got the nerve, seein' mommy with the burden / Had to hit the curb, papa told me hit the churches / Thinkin' got me hurt, got me emptyin' the bourbon'.
Denai Moore – Modern Dread
British-Jamaican artist Denai Moore's third album is a transfixing blend of electro-pop and R&B with her soaring voice at the centre of it. In pop anthem 'Too Close' her vocals ride a snaking bassline while on 'Cascades' the beat slows and grooves with autotune as she asks sweetly, 'Laying flat, would you hold me hand and stay awake?'
Skip to: 'Motherless Child' – sharp synths that bounce against a glowing bassline are the backdrop to this track about disconnection and identity as the chorus repeats: 'Got this feeling, I'm a motherless child / Broken ceilings, send me straight to the sky.'
Nadine Shah – Kitchen Sink
The English singer-songwriter's fourth album sees Shah truly hit her stride, interrogating domestic life which, as the title suggests, has an alluring but uncomfortable sense of realism. In 'Buckfast' she creates a rousing rock anthem about gaslighting and toxic relationships, while in 'Ladies for Babies (Goats for Love)' she sings in a hypnotising but sinister tone about the treatment of women in a fable about a farmer who neglects his wife.
Skip to: 'Kite' – Shah's sound becomes more sparse and delicate in this sombre track with gothic chanting, strings plucked repeatedly like a bell chiming and tinkling sounds fluttering in the ether.
HAIM – Women in Music Pt. III
The newest release from Haim sisters Este, Danielle and Alana might not be gracing the carefree July we expected, but it's still bringing a moment of summer romance to a gloomy world. The trio's third album, Women in Music Pt. III, moves through the moods of the summertime, from the breezy saxophone melody on 'Los Angeles' which feels like walking pavements in the sunshine, to the uplifting anthem 'The Steps' and later the woozy sadness on disorientated '3am'.
Skip to: 'I Know Alone' – a garage-inflected track about the flatness of time when depressed takes on a new meaning in a world in lockdown, lamenting: 'Been a couple days since I've been out / Calling all my friends but they won't pick up / Found another room in a different place / Sleeping through the day and I dream the same'.
Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
As with Bridgers' 2017 album Stranger in the Alps, her sophomore solo album is filled with music that aches with longing and loneliness in a way that still feels righteous and alive. From resentment tracks to haunted house fairytales, Bridgers' release is eerily well timed for the way it looks at life against a background of doom, nihilism, loneliness and the end of the world.
Skip to: 'I Know The End' – the closing song for the album is a rousing metal track which, like the kind of natural disaster Bridgers' was inspired by, sweeps through you like a tornado.
Westerman – Your Hero is Not Dead
Two years after Will Westerman's single 'Confirmation' turned heads, the British singer releases his debut album: a release which shows the depths and variations in his brand of downcast soft rock. In 'Blue Comanche', Westerman's vocals reverberate against slowly echoing percussion and in 'The Line', it lilts up and down against vibrant guitar chords.
Skip to: 'Easy Money' – scattered synths give way to a guitar melody as Westerman frustratedly sings: "Treat me nice / Nobody's looking bad up here / Then I ask you polite / So I don't say no and I don't think twice".
Run the Jewels – RTJ4
The fourth album from Killer Mike and El-P's was released early, with Run the Jewels saying “We hope it brings you some joy. Fuck it, why wait". The record could hardly feel more of the moment, with tracks waging war on the police system's systemic racism and the everyday experience of being a black man in a country where slave masters pose on dollar bills.
Skip to: 'Walking in the snow' – Killer Mike's evisceration of his own liberal, Twitter-performing fans invokes the words of Eric Garner and George Floyd: "You so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me / Until my voice goes from a shriek to whisper—‘I can’t breathe’."
Christian Lee Hutson – Beginners
The latest studio album from Phoebe Bridgers' songwriter Christian Lee Hutson is stripped bare, with sparse tracks letting the gorgeous folky guitar melodies and Hutson's world-weary and soulful voice burn brightly.
Skip to: 'Single for the Summer' – here Hutson describes vignettes from a romantic summer of drinking on the roof as he gently sings, "You took my sweaty hands and put them underneath your shirt / Can we be single for the summer?".
Medhane – Cold Water
New York rapper Medhane's voice has such a deep, honeyed sound that even while rapping it sounds like he's pausing to consider his words carefully. Cold Water is the Brooklynite's third release in three months but this full-length album is his most impressive yet, one packed with so much jazz, soul and rhythm that the sound stays with you in your bones.
Skip to: 'Off Tha Strength' – a collaboration with KeiyaA that sees her voice shimmering above Medhane's as he raps poetically: "Awake for days / Moving thru the maze / Stargaze / Scarred frame / Working till we saw change / Short days / I could feel the floor shake."
Moodymann – Taken Away
Kenny Dixon Jr, known more commonly as Detroit DJ Moodymann, alludes to his experience of being held at gunpoint by police officers in 2019 on his new release, Taken Away, with police sirens rolling through the title track. Elsewhere the release, which is only available to buy on Bandcamp, samples Al Green's 'Love and Happiness' in the soulful opening and closing tracks of the record.
Skip to: 'Let Me Show You Love' – a warped disco groove slides through this sensual dance-floor moment which is interspersed with moans and whispers.
Kehlani – It Was Good Until It Wasn’t
The second album from Californian singer Kehlani Ashley Parrish features a girl wearing denim shorts peeping over a concrete wall to an idyllic sky of palm trees; an illustration of the grit and glamour, darkness and light that weave against each other on the album. It Was Good Until It Wasn’t is Kehlani's best release yet, one filled with smooth R&B, nimble rapping and Parrish's silken voice.
Skip to: 'Grieving' – With guest vocals from James Blake, this slowly winding track is a melancholic ode to an unnamed ex which shudders tenderly.
Perfume Genius – Set My Heart on Fire Immediately
The fifth album from Michael Alden Hadreas's alias Perfume Genius feels like the perfect music for the moments of reflection, emptiness and occasional bliss that so much of the world is currently experiencing. "What I’m reaching for is patience, safety," said Hadreas of the record when speaking to the New Yorker, and though there is darkness in the emotional subject matter his touches upon, there is also restraint and calmness in his shimmering and transcendent music.
Skip to: 'On the Floor' – The album's most bouncy pop moment is a playful mask over lyrics which intone: 'The constant buzzing all through the night / The fighting rips me all up inside'.
Moses Sumney – græ
The second half of Sumney's album–the first 12 tracks were released digitally last December–has been born into a very different world, and one that feels even more primed for his quiet yet deeply affecting music. græ is arresting, featuring guest appearances from the likes of James Blake in a release where Sumney's raw vocals trill against muffled guitar strings or loose jazz piano.
Skip to: 'Bless Me' – 'Bless me / Before you go / You're goin' nowhere with me' Sumney sings carefully and slowly in the chorus of this swelling track which, at the close of the record, makes for a gloriously euphoric ending.
The Soft Pink Truth – Shall We Go On Sinning So That Grace May Increase?
Drew Daniel, one half of the experimental duo Matmos, has released a string of albums under The Soft Pink Truth, a side project which started when Matthew Herbert bet Daniel that he couldn't make a house record. His past releases have spanned genres including hardcore metal and punk and reckoned with the pains and pleasures of gay sexuality. This latest floats between house, jazz and ambient and is perfect lockdown music, an album filled with quiet contemplative moments and bursts of joy.
Skip to: 'We' – Ambient synths sounds stutter and blur as soft sighs usher in a luscious house track with tinges of DJ Koze and Robag Wruhme.
Ghostpoet – I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep
The fifth album from Obaro Ejimiwe (Ghostpoet) features a haunting tableau on its cover: the artist stretched across a red silk of sheet that looks like blood spill while an animal eyes you sinisterly from the background. I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep is music for gloomy and introspective times, circling the anxieties of modern life in a way that feels eerily prescient.
Skip to: 'Breaking Cover' – The opening to the album features ringing guitars before melting away at the end as his voice echoes 'Too late / Too late / Too late.'
KeiyaA – Forever, Ya Girl
Chicago-raised singer KeiyaA's debut album comes released on her own eponymous label, lending the 16 track release the feel of a homemade mixtape that combines downcast grime and smooth R&B. 'Way Eye' is silky smooth melody interspersed with strange samples of voices, it leads into 'Rectifiya' where janky chords loop against sighing vocals.
Skip to: 'Hvnli' –Here KeiyaA blends spoken word and glitching synths while she sings 'Gone for so long, I prefer to spend time alone with my pain / Gone for so long, I can barely recall, the last my phone rang'.
Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Fiona Apple's electric fifth album burns with a kind of rage that sits inside you and hollows you out as she sings about terrible dates, memories of bullying, sexual assault and the quotidian pains of just existing day after day. Though there's darkness lurking throughout, Apple buries it so that you almost miss it through the wry lyrics and often jaunty melodies.
Skip to: 'Ladies' – a closing time piano ballad shows Apple's lyrical comedy as she sings out to her ex's new partner, offering up the dress she left behind with the lines, 'I didn't fit in it / it was never mine / It belonged to the ex wife of another ex of mine.'
Laura Marling – Song for Our Daughter
Marling's voice is so imbued with a world-weary sorrow that even when singing about socks you feel a wistful longing as though staring out across an expanse of desert. Her spare and delicate seventh album is a worthy follow up to Grammy-nominated 2017 release Semper Femina, stripping back her sound to guitar melodies which let her voice soar.
Skip to: 'Alexandra' – Inspired by a Leonard Cohen track, here Marling's stirring voice sings about a girl who 'Finds diamonds in the drain / One more diamond to add to her chain'.
Yves Tumor – Heaven to a Tortured Mind
There's a swagger from the opening track of Heaven to a Tortured Mind, the latest release from Tennessee-raised artist Sean Bowie's alias Yves Tumor. As with the names of each track ('Kerosene!, 'Dream Palette', 'Asteroid Blues') Tumor rapidly cycles through different moods and genres, surprising and delighting in the process.
Skip to: 'Identity Trade' – As the chameleonic title suggests, this shifting track features madcap wind instruments alongside a chorus which repeats, 'Pure water from the fire, reflect my spirit'.
Nicolás Jaar – Cenzias
Chilean-American producer and musician Nicolas Jaar has always avoided conventional career paths, following his critically-acclaimed 2011 album Space Is Only Noise with Don't Break My Love, a mix released on a silver prism which users plugged headphones directly into. Cenzias marks the most significant release under his own name for some time and sees the producer become more introspective in a collection of sparse and pensive tracks, the majority of which were written while in isolation.
Skip to: 'Sunder' – The album's lead single echoes with furtive whispers about prophets, blood and betrayal against jangling sounds which loop on and on.
Thundercat – It Is What It Is
Stephen Bruner's 2017 album Drunk was the moment the LA musician broke through as Thundercat, it coming off the back of notable collaborations with Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus. His latest release has other big names on offer too, such as a disco groove featuring Steve Lacy, Steve Arrington and Childish Gambino, or the haunting chords of 'King of the Hill', which features Flying Lotus and BADBADNOTGOOD..
Skip to: 'Funny Thing' – Bruner's voice slows down to drift over this breezy moment on the record which is powered by a squelching rhythm.
Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
The English singer-songwriter's sophomore album confirms her as one of the most exciting pop musicians working at the moment. Future Nostalgia, which Lipa pulled forward to give fans something to enjoy in self-isolation, features retro funk beats as in 'Don't Start Now', and jazzy, Kylie-esque anthems like 'Break My Heart', with Lipa softly singing, 'I should have stayed at home / cause I was doing better alone'.
Skip to: 'Levitating' – There are more than a few shades of Katy Perry on this bouncy, rousing song which blends sugar-sweet pop and tongue-twisting lyrics.
Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud
Listening to Saint Cloud, the fifth studio album from Katie Crutchfield's solo project, Waxahatchee, transports you to America's South, the soft folk conjuring dusty sunsets and glowing fields. Crutchfield has spoken of how the album is largely inspired by her decision to get sober and that yearning is visible in the rallying call of 'Lilacs', where she sings, 'If I'm a broken record / Write it in the dust, babe / I'll fill myself back up like I used to do / And if my bones are made of delicate sugar / I won't end up anywhere good without you'.
Skip to: 'Fire' –There's something mournful but transfixing about Crutchfield's voice here, which sounds like she's standing on the edge of her life and taking stock, pleading as she sings, 'I'm wiser and slow and attuned / And I am down on my knees'.
The Weeknd – After Hours
The cover artwork for Abel Tesfaye's fourth studio album features him bloody-mouthed and sporting something between a grin and a grimace. After Hours flitters between these two emotions, blending R&B and pop, and revelling in both existential dread and blissful euphoria.
Skip to: 'Blinding Lights' – Charged with Eighties synth pop this Max Martin-produced track has the frenzied relentlessness of an arcade game car chase.
Four Tet – Sixteen Oceans
There is a specific Four Tet mood which Kieran Hebden imbues his music with: a gentle wistfulness which combines romantic instruments like harps or flutes with digitally synthesised sounds, fusing together to make something which feels both excitingly new and soothingly familiar.
Skip to: 'Teenage Birdsong' – A flute melody plays on a twisting loop which hums like birds wings fluttering over a faintly rumbling bassline.
Childish Gambino – 15.3.20
Donald Glover's fourth studio album under the his alias Childish Gambino came as a surprise to fans. It's fortuitously timed as it's a release which deserves to be listened to over and over again and picked apart, not least for the intricately coded track titles which are almost all combinations of different digits. '12.38' and '42.26' have a tropical breeze to them, while 'Time' uses boinging sound effects that jitter against Ariana Grande's silky guest vocals.
Skip to: '24.19' – Warped synths and Glover's sensual vocals make for a Prince-esque groove in which he croons: 'Sweet thing / You moved to Southern California, sweet thing /
You do just what your parents told you, sweet thing'.
Move D and Benjamin Brunn – Let’s Call It a Day
The title track for this release by David Moufang (Move D) and Benjamin Brunn was actually released back in 2008, but the album has only now come to streaming services and vinyl. The seven tracks on Let’s Call It a Day are wonderfully sparse ambient music which, at about ten mins per track on average, each feel like Rorschach paintings of moods you can disappear into.
Skip to: 'C-Sick' – A wobbling, trembling kind of sound morphs into a calming ambient wave which fans forward against a rattling drum sound.
Ultraísta – Sister
The experimental rock trio made up of producer and Thom Yorke collaborator Nigel Godrich, drummer Joey Waronker, and singer Laura Bettinson earned acclaim with their eponymous debut in 2012. Sister is a sublime follow-up with huge range between the pulsating layers of 'Tin King' and the stripped back emotion of 'Mariella', but with their unique sound threading each of the tracks together.
Skip to: 'Harmony' – Bettinson's voice snakes over a winding melody in this kinetic song which has a Trentemøller feel to it.
Jay Electronica – A Written Testimony
New Orleans rapper and producer Jay Electronica has been keeping fans on their toes since he gained a cult following on MySpace in 2008, going on to become cosy with Jay Z, date Erykah Badu and ghostwrite for NAS. Twelve years later and A Written Testimony is, astonishingly, his debut release, but one worth the wait thanks to collaborations with Travis Scott, uncredited vocals from Jay Z and production from Khruangbin.
Skip to: 'Ghost of Soulja Slim' – Sampling John Williams's 'Jennifer's French Movie' gives a sweeping cinematic feel to this track, a vibe which contrasts with Jay Z and Jay Electronica's rap battles which touch on the Rothschilds and Tidal.
Lil Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake
Eternal Atake is only the second album from Symere Woods (aka Lil Uzi Vert aka Baby Pluto) and still it confirms him as one of the most exciting talents working in music today, his creativity with drill and hip-hop influences making for a genre-defying sound all fused together by his immaculate rapping.
Skip to: 'You Better Move' – The sound of an old pin ball machine fires in the background of this murky track which shows he is just as in command when slowing things down as at a frantic pace.
U.S. Girls – Heavy Light
American musician and producer Meghan Remy starting making music as solo experimental pop project U.S. Girls in 2007. Thirteen years later and her seventh studio album, Heavy Light, marks her most impressive yet, with rock, pop and disco influences fused together and Remy's warm vocals masking themes of trauma and pain. There are stirring piano ballads like 'Woodstock 99'; eccentric anthems like the Julia Holter-esque 'Born to Lose', and snippets of conversation in 'Advice to Teenage Self', where we hear a female voice say, “I would tell her that I loved her, and that life is long.”
Skip to: '4 American Dollars' – borrowing a Martin Luther King Jr. quote, this disco jam has an old soul feel to it, as Remy's voice chants, 'You can do a lot with four American dollars /
You can do a lot with four American dollars'.
LEYA – Flood Dream
Harpist Marilu Donovan and violinist Adam Markiewicz are the Brooklyn duo who make dreamlike and ethereal music as LEYA. Following their 2018 album The Fool, their second release is haunting, with their delicate instruments used to create moods that are both beautiful and frightening at once. This contradiction is summed up in tracks like 'Mariah', where muffled strings sound like a distant clock chiming.
Skip to: 'Flow' – Donovan's harp strings tremble beautifully in this floating track which, as the longest on the record, drifts on peacefully against warbling vocals and building strings.
Wajatta – Don't Let Get You Down
Icon of electronic music John Tejada teams up with stand-up comedian and musician Reggie Watts for this wildly fun and musically impressive house album. The record's opener, 'Renegades', has a tropical beat against Watt's melodic and warm voice, while the mood gets spacey in the synth-heavy groove 'January' and the frenetic loops of 'Another Sun'.
Skip to: 'Don't Let Get You Down' – The title track feels like a modern take on chill house, but one that still retains a snaking beat against Watts' lilting voice.
Bad Bunny – YHLQMDLG
Latin trap star Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio's third album, YHLQMDLG, has become the highest-charting Spanish album in American history since its release. Though the Puerto Rican artist is known for his rapping, his third release looks further afield, incorporating disco, reggaetón and R&B to give it a multifaceted and modern flavour.
Skip to: 'Está Cabrón Ser Yo' – a murkier moment on the record comes in this trap-heavy collaboration with rapper Anuel AA who makes for a good sparring partner.
Caribou – Suddenly
Dan Snaith, who also DJs under the moniker Daphni, returns five years after the release of his excellent album 'Our Love' which featured the sound of the summer track 'Can't Do Without You'. His fifth album, Suddenly, is a mash-up of influences, from new-age jazz to modern hip-hop, and covers topics as diverse as grief and the #MeToo movement, all wrapped up in his signature euphoric and nostalgic sound.
Skip to: 'Sunny's Time' another new direction for the genre-shifting artist comes in the form of this track which begins with a serene piano ballad before warping into a woozy trap beat with rap threaded through it.
Grimes – Miss Anthropocene
“Ethereal nu metal,” is how Claire Elise Boucher, the zany Canadian pop-star known as Grimes, describes her fifth studio album. While it has a certain dreamy quality to it, it feels concerned with very human worries, from the inward reflection about her relationships to concerns about climate change. Grimes' voice flickers between soaring and gravelly throughout, whether it's over intense trance or synthetic drum beats.
Skip to: 'You'll miss me when I'm not around' – a frenetic bass charges under poppy vocals, her soft voice contrasted with masochistic lyrics which trill, 'If they could see me now, smiling six feet underground / I'll tie my feet to rocks and drown'.
Beatrice Dillon – Workaround
The first album from London electronic artist Beatrice Dillon is a thrilling debut, comprised of 14 tracks which feel like a winding set of musical daydreams. There are more sparse sketches, as with the quiet bubbling 'Workaround Five', and intense moments like the glitching synth sounds of 'Cloud Strum'.
Skip to: 'Workaround Two' – a hammering drum pattern morphs into a disguised saxophone melody in this brilliantly strange trip reminiscent of a Floating Points track.
Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
After a long time away, Kevin Parker, the man who alone creates all of the recorded music for Australian psych-rock band Tame Impala, has returned. The Slow Rush is a map of Parker's myriad musical influences, with everything from hip-hop to house to soul put through his music kaleidoscope and turned into his hallucinogenic sound.
Skip to: 'Borderline' – thunder rolls through this Seventies rock track which swells with Parker's voice before circling itself robotically at the close
The Big Moon – Walking Like We Do
There is a Robyn-esque tinge to the world-weary lyrics and pulsing synths in the music of indie rock band The Big Moon. Inspired by the sounds of Frank Ocean and James Blake, their second studio album features soaring pop melodies with lead singer Juliette Jackson providing bright vocals and cheerfully nihilistic lyrics.
Skip to: 'Your Light' – the breakout hit from the band has an infectious melody and wonderfully simplistic lines such as, "now we just hang around like a haircut growing out".
070 Shake – Modus Vivendi
Hip-hop artist Danielle Balbuena, who takes her moniker from the area code for her native state of New Jersey, was signed to Kanye West's label after racking up hundreds of thousands of streams on her Soundcloud page. The 22-year-old's vocals even appear on 'ghost town' – the one redeeming track on West's 2018 album, ye. Her debut album, Modus Vivendi, sees her both rapping and singing, her voice given a warped sound through autotune as she sings about whether to trust a partner or feelings of loneliness.
Skip to: 'Don't Break The Silence' – This eerie, winding intro to the album comes in at under two minutes but is the perfect introduction to Balbuena's stirring sound.
J Hus – Big Conspiracy
British songwriter and rapper Momodou Lamin Jallow's second studio album sees the artist reflect on his treatment by the media with the same thought-provoking results as Stormzy's sophomore release, Heavy Is The Head (which we included in our 50 best albums of 2019). In 'Must Be' he raps of being "guilty by association", while in the stripped-back, piano-heavy 'Deeper Than Rap' he looks at the experience of being the son of immigrants from Gambia.
Skip to: 'Helicopter' – "I see an undercover and he had his gun drawn / Didn't like me 'cause I'll never conform" raps Jallow in this bassy and unsettling track which feels like someone is circling overhead.
Khruangbin and Leon Bridges – Texas Sun EP
Funk guitar group Khruangbin and crooner Leon Bridges' collaboration for this four-track EP is an ode to both artists' shared home state and a smooth and soulful slice of R&B-inflected psych-rock. The title track has an instantly roof-down feel about it, while the more complex 'C-Side' is punctuated with percussive grooves.
Skip to: 'Midnight' – Khruangbin's signature meandering bass snakes underneath Bridges' crooning vocals as he sings "Midnight black on the outside / Inside, you and I, leather under our skin".
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