A ranked selection of notable recordings we heard in September.
1. Aphex Twin, “Syro”
Hey, Richard D. James, whatcha been working on in rural seclusion since you pretty much vanished 13 years ago? A rich, exquisite, fun new Aphex Twin record that illustrates the sheer sonic breadth of contemporary electronic music while softly illuminating pop’s now-brighter future? Have Lauryn Hill, David Berman or Andre 3000 heard it yet?
2. Hiss Golden Messenger, “Lateness of Dancers”
M.C. Taylor turns a corner with his fifth album of folk songs as Hiss Golden Messenger. He’s still asking God hard questions about fate and family, but he doesn’t sound as distressed by His failure to reply.
3. Lori McKenna, “Numbered Doors”
McKenna’s country songs map out a very specific stretch on the trajectory of grief, when the agony of heartbreak has dulled into a steady, bitter ache. The highlight-lowlight of her devastating “Numbered Doors” comes when she when she sings, “Nobody’s fighting/Nobody wants to win/Nobody’s slamming any doors/Remember when we had love to be cruel for?”
4. Prince, “Art Official Age”
The 56-year-old pop genius spends much of this new album throwing purple spaghetti at the wall, but the slow jams — especially “Breakfast Can Wait” — are sublime.
5. The Gotobeds, “Poor People Are Revolting”
The title alone is a tip-off that these punky Pittsburghers have a knack for puns and smirks. They’re also really good at distorted guitars, floor toms, making fun of New York and speeding up a song just because it feels good.
6. Bonnie “Prince” Billy, “Singers Grave a Sea of Tongues”
Transmuting a bundle of his older Bonnie “Prince” Billy ballads into new, gospel-ish forms, Will Oldham continues to amble along as one of our most perplexing and enchanting songwriters.
7. Lee Ann Womack, “The Way I’m Livin’”
Plenty of country stars released good-enough albums this month: Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Lady Antebellum. Against that competition, Womack’s first release in six years feels particularly intimate and tasteful. And there’s a great Neil Young cover on here, too.
8. Jo Johnson, “Weaving”
Cool second act: Johnson, once a guitarist in the brilliant and furious ’90s riot grrrl band Huggy Bear, is now creating effervescent synthesizer music inspired by Alice Coltrane and Terry Riley, and life is beautiful.
9. Helado Negro, “Double Youth”
Unlike the too-cute digital patty-cake being played by so many of his indie rock peers, the computer-crafted lullabies that Roberto Carlos Lange records as Helado Negro feel refreshingly purposeful.
10. Travis Scott, “Days Before Rodeo”
Since plugging himself into a rising clique of Atlanta rap stars, this Kanye West acolyte has been accused of chasing after the style du jour. But on his new mixtape, the Houston-born rapper is learning how to vocalize in an aggravated yawn, which is to say, he’s onto something.
11. Lee Gamble, “KOCH”
The British producer’s latest batch of ambient dance tracks can feel close and far away at once. His kick drums sound like heartbeats in the womb. Everything else sounds like the weather on Jupiter.
12. Bankroll Fresh, “Life of a Hot Boy”
The new mixtape from this Atlanta rookie makes a few formal nods to New Orleans’s legendary Cash Money Records, but he’s at his best when he’s dispersing syllables in his own relentless monotone mumble.
13. Goat, “Commune”
This Swedish band makes studied psychedelic rock with drum circle percussion — dubious arts, both. But sometimes they play it like their lives depend on it. Grab a bongo.
14. Mapei, “Hey Hey”
Nothing on the neo-neo-soul singer’s new album eclipses the seductive sleekness of its lead single, “Don’t Wait,” but don’t you want to hear her try?
Listen to some of the Month’s Best Music: