In , it felt hard to reach consensus on anything—including music. The heavy-hitters of pop and hip-hop returned, but many disappointed; in fact, sometimes, they were just confounding cough Kanye cough. More than ever, music felt like a playing field where new, exciting artists were sharing the discussion with the veterans, if not taking it over outright. A sea change was underway, the borders eroded—and music was better for it.
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This year felt more like a changing of the guard than any year in recent memory. It was a fantastic year for ambitious Latin-pop, psychedelic Southern rap, Gen Z indie rock and boundary-defying country. After three albums, 34 songs and Guitarist Matt Pike, who also put out an excellent High on Fire album this year, plays measured, wah-wah—inflected solos, drummer Jason Roeder keeps everything on track and Cisneros spaces out, singing his fantasies in a gloriously stoned monotone. Instead, Tweedy used the scaled-down setting—smaller sounds and a slighter audience—to reveal more of himself than ever. Lil Wayne needed a win almost as much as the world needed Lil Wayne. After opening with her unlikely rags-to-riches narrative on the chilling title track, McBryde spends the next 10 tunes spinning vital stories about the holy sanctity of FM radio, dirty jean jackets and small-town dive bars, channeling Mellencamp by-way-of Patty Griffin along the way. Lubbock, Texas singer-songwriter-fiddle player Amanda Shires broadened her sound and flirted with electro-rock experimentation for To the Sunset , her third album in five years. Wait, come back!
The excellent young New Zealand band take part in the grand power-pop tradition of addictively buoyant songs about crummy romance. The Danish punk boys come on like bastard sons of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, with a smoldering venture into mutant American roots-rock from their excellent fourth album, Beyondless. Guitars sulk and kick like Eighties Def Leppard, while the blocky bass lines are tenacious enough to compete with Atlanta hip-hop; brusque rapping tugs against intricate, swooping singing. And alongside Robyn, it was more proof that American pop acts can learn a lot about emotional depth from their EU peers. This song, which mirrors the sort of mood-swings familiar to many of us in , is an outburst of chiming joy modulated by unshakable clouds. The finale of her warmest LP yet caps a virtual mixtape of ecstatic dance floor melancholy. During her post-teen-pop phase, Hayley Kiyoko has transformed herself into a queer-pop auteur, directing and starring in her own videos for pulsing anthems. Lil Baby and Gunna are the princes who were promised. The Turbo produced song is a tumbling, Western that features Baby and Gunna rapping about dripping and drowning and waves.
Whatever your taste, has been a great year for music. Pop goddess Robyn returned from an eight year break with an instant classic in Honey and St Vincent flipped her excellent album to give each track a more melancholy sound. The German musician's ninth solo album mixes classical and electronic music in a way that is both arresting and soothing. Skip to: 'All Melody' - The title track unfolds around a throbbing central force which expands and shrinks away inviting in different instruments to slowly melt into one. Three years since their slightly disappointing second album and the London-based pop-rock-indie-psychedelic band are back.