Linkin Park, One More Light

One More Light is as shimmering and dreamy as a sunset on the Pacific Ocean. Ditching the punk rock intensity of 2014’s The Hunting Party, the band wrap their songs in electropop synthesizers, R&B-kissed hooks, skittery club beats and high-profile cameos from the likes of Pusha T and Kiiara. But despite the music’s alluring sheen, a sense of melancholy lurks just beneath the surface. The aptly titled “Nobody Can Save Me” sets the tone thanks to singer Chester Bennington’s wounded pleas and a melody drenched in longing. This vibe reaches a climax on the Kiiara-featured “Heavy,” a starkly honest meditation on how life can feel like an unending struggle. Linkin Park certainly are no strangers to conveying angst, but never before have the alt-rock bruisers sounded so achingly vulnerable--and pop. -- Justin Farrar

MisterWives, Connect The Dots

With Connect the Dots, MisterWives unleash a sublimely balanced gem and rousing tour de force. In addition to capturing the fizzy energy and five-alarm passion of their highly revered live show, the New York sextet--tapped for Napster’s Ones to Watch program--capture their dance-oriented indie pop in all its intricately crafted splendor. Cuts like the anti-establishment “Machine” and love anthem “Coloring Outside the Lines” twirl and bounce with wonderfully choreographed clusters of flickering synths, funk guitar licks, sinewy horns and all manner of percussive wallop. (The album definitely exudes a new wave-style sense of fun not unlike Paramore’s After the Laughter.) Lead singer Mandy Lee is a total powerhouse who delivers one arresting performance after another, always finding new ways to express the explosive energy insider her. Fully expect her soaring, soulful vocal on the ballad “My Brother” to pierce your heart like an arrow. -- Justin Farrar

Faith Evans & The Notorious B.I.G., The King & I

Faith Evans reportedly drew inspiration from Natalie Cole’s Unforgettable… With Love when she made this tribute to her late husband, Christopher “The Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace. But the results are more complex than a blend of new Evans vocals with vintage Biggie verses that most fans have probably heard before. She struggles with his infamous player image on “Can’t Get Enough” as she sings, “You be talking sht, but whenever I’m gone, you be ringing my phone.” She mourns his untimely passing on “Somebody Knows” and “Lovin’ You For Life,” but she also declares on “Ten Wife Commandments,” “Don’t hate the player, just hate the game/You break the rules, ngg*, I do the same.” The King & I gives this respected R&B veteran to contend with Biggie’s legacy as one of the greatest rappers of all time, and hopefully find closure in the process. --Mosi Reeves

Rascal Flatts, Back To Us

The harmonizing country chart-toppers’ tenth album in 17 years goes down as inoffensively easy as usual, with twists. In “Hopin’ You Were Lookin’” and the Chris Stapleton co-written, horn-section-spiked “Vandalized,” the trio ride the lightest possible funk bounce; “I Know You Won’t” expertly approximates r&b-infused ‘70s soft rock. “Dance” has a girl hoofing it across the kitchen floor to “country, rock’n’roll, hip-hop, throwback soul,” while detailed opening lines of Bryan Adams-worthy closer “Our Night to Shine” find common ground for Hollywood, heartland and urban concrete kids. All that – plus a Lauren Alaina duet, and some tasty guitar jangle. --Chuck Eddy

Aldous Harding, Party

Where Aldous Harding’s stunning debut feels as grand as a Gothic cathedral, her sophomore effort is a far more intimate and subtle affair--yet no less dark. Indeed, the Kiwi folk singer offers up the most forlorn corners of her soul on “What If Birds Aren’t Singing They’re Screaming,” “Swell Does the Skull” and the exquisitely jazz-tinged “I’m So Sorry.” Because the arrangements possess more space and less layering, the sheer visceral impact of Hardin’s singing is thrusted into the foreground. On “Imagining My Man,” for instance, her deep, mournful voice sounds like it’s sinking into oblivion. Make no mistake: this is severe music from a severe artist and, and it is oh so entrancing. -- Justin Farrar

Selena Gomez, “Bad Liar”

While most associate Selena Gomez with saccharine girly pop streamed from preteen playlists—and the alt-punk new wave outfit Talking Heads with subversive New York rebellion—the unlikely combination of a Heads sample in Gomez’s “Bad Liar” is a welcome anomaly. Gomez’s sugar-sweet lilting vocals offset the chords of the bass-infused “Psycho Killer” sample with unique polarity. As she sings of honeymoon-phase love to the catchy sample, one can’t help wonder whether the combination foreshadows future disaster of homicidal proportions. – Sara Jayne Crow

Snoop Dogg, Neva Left

“The Miles Davis of gangbanging and crack slanging,” raps Snoop Dogg on the title track. Of course, his days as a Long Beach hustler are in the distant past – it’s been 25 years since he landed his first big hit with “Deep Cover.” However, much of Neva Left finds the West Coast OG re-asserting his hood bona fides, whether it’s flipping A Tribe Called Quest’s “Check the Rhime” for “Bacc in the Dayz,” or referencing Whodini’s “Big Mouth” and Biz Markie’s “Vapors.” As he spits hard about his gangsta past, he shuns much of the pop trappings of his recent work, although the champagne-sipping vibe of “Go On” and the reggae tones of “I’m Still Here” hold some commercial appeal. --Mosi Reeves

Katy Perry, “Swish Swish”

It’s a track fit for a circuit party at a gay club, rooftop pool parties at The Standard in Hollywood, late-night warehouse raves, or even a drive home from work in traffic. The versatility of Katy Perry’s “Swish Swish” features artful production merging well-produced elements: keys, hand claps, vocal support by Nicki Minaj, and throwback beats to ‘90s house music. “Swish swish, bish / Another one in the basket,” the vocals croon, and the track is certainly a power rebound circus shot score from the pop center. – Sara Jayne Crow