Young Thug, Beautiful Thugger Girls

Despite early claims that Young Thug would be the next Lil Wayne, the ATL rapper has consistently upended expectations. Beautiful Thugger Girls may be his most diverse offering to date. “Family Don’t Matter,” recorded with British newcomer Millie Go Lightly, sounds like a demented country-pop tune. On “You Said,” he drowns in sexual metaphors as he harmonizes, “Let’s get freaky deaky down here.” There are two cuts, “Do U Love Me” and “For Y’all,” that have a Caribbean pop tone, and there’s a pairing with his rival in ATL iconoclasm, Future, on “Relationship.” His stream-of-consciousness flow for “Tomorrow Til Infinity” sounds unsurprising in light of the exotic delights of Beautiful Thugger Girls.--Mosi Reeves

Lorde, Melodrama

While Lorde’s latest, Melodrama, is a concept album about a single night at a house party, the album manages to explore post-breakup insular contemplation with anything but festivity. The polarity of being surrounded by a party while isolated runs throughout, as do the singer’s smoky vocals. “Liability” and “Writer in the Dark” are wrenching and dark piano ballads, while “Hard Feelings / Loveless” builds slowly with deft production and culminates with a hard-hitting percussive romp in which Lorde croons “LOVE-L-E-S-S generation” in repeated succession. Lead and closing tracks “Green Light” and “Supercut,” respectively, are both dancefloor-worthy tracks, flanking the dark and brooding album with welcome revelry and respite. – Sara Jayne Crow

2 Chainz, Pretty Girls Like Trap Music

2 Chainz’ music contradicts how traditionalists view modern rap as lyrically deficient and too reliant on wavy melodies. He overstuffs Pretty Girls Like Trap Music, dropping so many bars that he often doesn’t bother to add hooks at all. The Auto-Tuned singing usually comes from his guests – including Travis Scott on “4 AM” and Migos on “Blue Cheese” – while the rapper formerly known as Tity Boi focuses on punchlines. “Have you ever seen a homicide? Have you ever seen your partner die? Have you ever been traumatized?” he asks on “Saturday Night,” which is beset by ringing guitar lines. Another good one arrives via “Burglar Bars”: “I’m no black activist/I’m a black millionaire/Give you my black ass to kiss.” --Mosi Reeves

Big Boi, BOOMIVERSE

Big Boi’s solo albums tend to sound like glorious parties he made with his famous friends, and Boomiverse is no exception. There’s “Kill Jill,” a Tarentino-esque cipher that finds Killer Mike bragging how he’s “Ric Flair flashin’,” and “In the South,” which offers a fantastical dream team of Big Boi, Gucci Mane, and the late Pimp C. “All Night” with LunchMoney Lewis has a chopsticks-like toy piano melody, and “Get Wit It” has a cool, nocturnal-minded rap from Snoop Dogg. Big Boi has been known for his musical adventurousness since his OutKast days, but his most ardent fans might be turned off by “Mic Jack,” with its soft disco beat and Adam Levine. They shouldn’t, though. Toeing the line between Dirty South griminess, funk and pop is part of his DNA. --Mosi Reeves

Fleet Foxes, Crack-Up

If Fleet Foxes first album represents light and their second, darkness, then the indie folk band’s third is nothing less than a grand resolution of these opposites. This is evident from the get-go: the ambitious “I Am All That I Need / Arroyo Seco / Thumbprint Scar”--which breaks the six-minute mark, mind you--is an epic dance between acoustic guitars soaked in world weariness and jubilantly swirling harmonies that sound as though they were recorded on mountaintops. Further evidence comes in the form of “If You Need To, Keep Time on Me;” featuring one of Robin Pecknold’s most pristinely simple vocal performances, the atmospheric piano ballad teeters alluringly between resignation and hope. On top of all this, Crack-Up is the group’s most compositionally complex effort to date. Sure, they’ve always flashed proggy elements. On a song like the psychedelic-soaked “Mearcstapa,” however, they go all out, creating swaying fractals of guitar, bass, drums and strings that reach back to The Grateful Dead’s earliest (and most intricate) recordings. This isn’t an album; it’s a journey. Prepare yourself. -- Justin Farrar

Hey Violet, From The Outside

Hey Violet follow up freshman EPs “I Can Feel It” and “Brand New Moves” with From The Outside. Electro-pop hits “Brand New Moves” and “Guys My Age” return, along with new singles as bright as the band member’s rotating selections of neon Manic Panic haircolor. Frenetic guitar-driven singles “Break My Heart” and “O.D.D.” are highlights to the otherwise punky ‘90s-era selection of throwback pop. – Sara Jayne Crow




Com Truise, Iteration

Com Truise, or Seth Haley, follows up his latest “Silicon Tare” EP with full-length album Iteration for Ghostly International. The album is fit for an ‘80s arcade-and-pinball soundtrack: dot-bleep synth washes evoke pixelated Technicolor two-dimensional worlds of Cyclone, Earthshaker, He-Man, She-Ra, Battlecat, Pac-Man and Frogger as moody melodies draw in the listener. From the dark vintage synth lines and spare guitar laying bare opening track “…Of Your Fake Dimension,” Iteration is a seminal tour de force whose synth wave sounds wholly of the ‘80s—yet will remain timeless. – Sara Jayne Crow

Ride, Weather Diaries

Weather Diaries may be a reunion album, but that doesn’t mean Ride are looking back--far from it. The band’s first in 21 years is a thoroughly contemporary affair, one that finds them filtering dream-washed British rock through 21st-century electronics. Layered with fragile harmonies and ethereal synthesizers that sound both dramatically symphonic and ambient, “Home Is A Feeling” really nails the overall vibe on the hypnotic set. Another stunner is “Integration Tape,” which removes the drums, leaving nothing sans voices, chords and celestial feedback all gently rippling like currents on a secluded pond. Even when Ride rip some guitar riffs, as they do on the cosmic rocker “Rocket Silver Symphony,” they maintain a unique sense of tranquility. Verdict? It’s a damn good thing these Brits decided to make a comeback. -- Justin Farrar