A ranked selection of notable new recordings we heard in June.
1. Miranda Lambert, “Platinum”
Her best songs tend to end in tears or gunfire, but the biggest blast on this country superstar’s fifth (and best) album is the one she’s having on the title track: “Something ’bout platinum irrefutably looks as good on records as it does on me.”
2. Popcaan, “Where We Come From”
Following a series of ligament-testing summer jams, Popcaan’s excellent dancehall reggae debut blends good times with grief. On the album’s finest cut, “Everything Nice,” everything isn’t: He’s mourning lost loved ones, raising his cup to the ceiling and dancing the pain away.
3. Priests, “Bodies and Control and Money and Power”
This Washington, D.C. quartet makes a lot of noise on its debut EP while quietly testing the parameters of punk itself. It’s provocative and vicious and thoughtful and fun.
4. Willie Nelson, “Band of Brothers”
He’s 81, but he still hasn’t seen it all. Sounding wise, confident and curious, Nelson closes his 48th studio album with a promise: “I’ve got a lot of travellin’ to do.”
5. Black Bananas, “Electric Brick Wall”
The latest serving of cosmic slop from Royal Trux founder Jennifer Herrema doesn’t feel retro-futuristic so much as beamed in from an alternate 21st century where rap-metal was pioneered by women and Beck got hooked on ayahuasca instead of Scientology.
6. Martyn, “The Air Between Words”
Martijn Deykers spends his days indoors crafting dance music, but the results feel anything but claustrophobic. Listen to “Glassbeadgames,” his collaboration with Four Tet made from new age wind chimes and drum-and-bass snares.
7. Kelsey Waldon, “The Goldmine”
This Kentucky-raised rookie frequently sings in an endearing, old-school twang, but on the title track of her debut album, her voice glows like honky-tonk neon: “I don’t want the goldmine, I just want to be all right.”
8. Hellbound Glory, “LV”
The “country” that country singers so often pine for can be a sanctuary, a playground, a paradise. But for Leroy Virgil of Hellbound Glory, it’s a twilight zone where his cell phone won’t work. “No service, so nervous,” he sings sheepishly on his confident new EP. “Nothin’ on the radio.”
9. Optimo, “Amor de Guerra”
Nearly every song begins with a disclaimer: “This is Optimo… for the ladies.” But it isn’t entirely true. Formerly a duo, Optimo is now one dude, Alixandro R. Sanchez, a spry vocalist with D.C. roots. As for his music, it’s for anyone pining for strong, urban-tinted bachata sung in a voice less fluttery than those of Romeo Santos and Prince Royce.
10. Taylor McFerrin, “Early Riser”
This debut album from the son of human sound factory Bobby McFerrin makes the blurry sweet-spot between jazz and R&B feel a little blurrier and a touch sweeter.
11. Parquet Courts, “Sunbathing Animal”
It isn’t quite punk. Isn’t quite poetry. Isn’t quite as good as their last album. But the latest from these Texas rock-and-roll transplants still retains a blabby charisma that isn’t quite that easy to dismiss, either.
12. Tim Vocals, “Timitations” and “Look Both Ways”
As if crooning for street cred in a trembling falsetto wasn’t difficult enough, this Harlem R&B singer takes a moment on his new mixtape, “Timitations,” to transpose Lorde’s “Royals” into a ditty about the drug trade. Bravo? Mysteriously absent from “Timitations” is another new song, “Look Both Ways,” a marvelously menacing slow-burner produced by Baauer of “Harlem Shake” infamy.
Listen to selections from the months’s best music below.
WARNING: Some songs may contain explicit lyrics.