2. Rich Gang, “Tha Tour: Part 1”
Wowee. Together as Rich Gang, Atlanta babble-masters Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan aren’t just creating the most thrilling and mystifying rap music around — they’re testing the tensile strength of the English language itself.
This young Detroit singer-rapper uses her teeny-tiny voice to issue massive boasts, ugly threats, sly jokes and vivid revenge fantasies. Sweet and menacing, her breakout hit “Try Me” — which appears on her new mixtape, “Sell Sole,” in remix form — could go down as the most magnetic song of the year.
4. Ex Hex, “Rips”
With her killer new power trio, D.C. rock hero Mary Timony tempers glam whimsy with punk moxie, acing all of her guitar solos along the way.
5. Kindness, “Otherness”
Wait, a British R&B singer in a funk who actually has the funk? Yes, please. On his second album as Kindness, Adam Bainbridge drapes wilting soul songs over various clattering pulses, frequently to glorious effect.
6. Tinashe, “Aquarius”
Terrific songs, tough questions: Will Tinashe continue the work that Janet Jackson and Aaliyah started? Or, after dropping this fine debut, will she promptly slide into R&B oblivion the way Cassie did a decade ago?
7. Little Big Town, “Pain Killer”
The co-ed country quartet’s latest sounds like an identity crisis, but y’know, in a good way. Here’s a cheat sheet: “Day Drinking” sparkles, “Things You Don’t Think About” roars, “Silver and Gold” is refreshingly breezy, “Girl Crush” is refreshingly psychotic.
8. Steve Gunn, “Way Out Weather”
A child of hair metal and a student of drone, Gunn is sounding more and more like a guitar guru for a new age.
9. Jessie Ware, “Tough Love”
Ware spends plenty of her sophomore album plucking flower petals, wondering if he loves her or if he loves her not. Her voice melts into her quiet-stormy ballads with such rousing melancholy, you might find yourself selfishly hoping the flower has an even number of petals.
10. T.I., “Paperwork“
Don’t call it a comeback! (Okay, fine, call it a comeback, but as mid-to-late-career rap albums go, few are brimming with slick-talk that’s as energized as what T.I. is blurting out right now.)
11. DJ Quik, “The Midnight Life”
Don’t call it a comeback! (For real, don’t. Is there a more consistently cool, innovative, casually hilarious, presence in hip-hop than DJ Quik?)
12. Maggie Bjorklund, “Shaken”
The Danish steel guitarist has made music with Jack White and members of X, but here she’s a global cowgirl vaguely channeling Leonard Cohen at the cosmic rodeo, and doing it quite well.
13. Angaleena Presley, “American Middle Class”
Presley always had the slightest voice in Pistol Annies, her supergroup with Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe — she got invited to the party because she writes good songs. And her new solo album bears that out, offering an array of zingers, daggers, land mines and heavy truths.
14. Diamond District, “March on Washington”
At a glance, this D.C. rap trio — Oddisee, Uptown XO and yU — come across as boom-bap nostalgics, but closer listens to their strong new album posit them as craftsmen. And they’re getting better all the time.
15. Jesse Charles Hammock II, “The Fall”
Hammock, the snarly frontman of the underrated and under-loved Southern rock band Powder Mill, may have gone solo, but he’s still singing about rotten romances and bad drugs in an ornery twang that’s equally tough to get out of your system.
Listen to selections from the Month’s Best Music below.
WARNING: Some songs contain explicit lyrics.
Read more of the Month’s Best Music: