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The month’s best music: Tenement, Kacey Musgraves, Thundercat and more

The band Tenement’s new album is “Predatory Headlights.” (Courtesy of Matt Stranger/Tenement)
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A ranked selection of new recordings we heard in June.

1. Tenement, “Predatory Headlights

Here’s a rock album that’s instantly pleasurable, but still demands commitment — it runs 25 tracks deep. Take the plunge and you might hear Joe Jackson fronting an unserious Foo Fighters in the underground of some parallel universe that’s way cooler than our own.

2. Kacey Musgraves, “Pageant Material

Her straight-up country songs about about staring down small-town gossips and small-minded scolds made Mugraves the most exciting new singer in Nashville. Now, with the rest of the world paying attention, she might actually be singing her “be-yourself” gospel to herself.

3. Dawn of Humans, “Slurping at the Cosmos Spine

Certain types of punk rock can lift the heart. Other kinds can bully the brain, terrorize the stomach, pummel the kidneys, insult the spleen, freak out the thyroid and horrify the bowels. These creeps are responsible for the latter type. Somehow, it feels good.

4. Thundercat, “The Beyond/Where Giants Roam”

Having just contributed to colossal new recordings from rap maestro Kendrick Lamar and jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington, the California bassist’s brisk new EP feels like a splash of water to the face before whatever comes next. (Hopefully, it involves further jamming with Herbie Hancock.)

5. Davido feat. Meek Mill, “Fans Mi

Meek Mill just dropped a poised new album, but nothing on it eclipses the sinister cool of this transcontinental duet with the Nigerian rap superstar Davido.

6. Jason Derulo, “Everything Is 4”

This guy. Is he even a guy? A real person? A sentient being with his own personality or a modicum of taste? Or is he a ravenous android sent from some Skynet Brill Building to eat our pop charts, then our brains? And does that explain why can’t I stop dancing to the songs on this album that don’t make me want to die?

7. Kelsea Ballerini, “The First Time”

As Nashville’s songwriters continue to whip up power ballads for singers who don’t quite know how to handle all of that power, it’s refreshing to hear from a 21-year-old who does. The best songs on Ballerini’s debut, (the entirety of which she co-wrote), feel ready-to-burst, never blown out.

8. Miguel, “Wildheart”

There’s a lot of gear-shifting here. Fast to slow. Thoughtful to crass. Rock to soul to pop to whatever Lenny Kravitz was brought in to do. But nothing on “Wildheart” whiplashes quite like Miguel’s toggling between artless dirty talk and dreamy slick talk, all of which he delivers with same velvet touch.

9. J Fernandez, “Many Levels of Laughter”

“Communication doesn’t matter,” Fernandez sings on the first track, but don’t believe him. There’s plenty of fresh communication happening between the Chicago bandleader and his troupe as they swap ’70s kosmische and ’90s post-rock ideas as if they’re discovering both genres on the spot.

10. Malportado Kids, “Total Cultura”

When Victoria Ruiz isn’t fronting the activist punk outfit Downtown Boys, she’s making gnarled cumbia tracks with fellow Downtown Boy Joey L. DeFrancesco under the name Malportado Kids. And following in the sneaker-steps of her punk-turned-digital forebears, (Le Tigre, Atari Teenage Riot), she gets into the groove by shouting at it.

Listen to selections from the month’s best music in the playlist below:

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