Amanda Shires, To the Sunset
Lubbock, Texas singer-songwriter Amanda Shires came up playing fiddle in the long-running Western swing act the Texas Playboys and later, backing Americana troubadours Todd Snider and Rod Picott while workshopping records of her own. She’s a clever lyricist who can set a gripping story up inside of a few lines and a singer whose high warble calls to mind the great Dolly Parton.
Arctic Monkeys, Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino
If you play your cards right in your late 20s, your 30s can be a place where you find time to get weirder and perhaps a little more refined. Arctic Monkeys front man Alex Turner used to write nervy, self-aware punk tunes about the experience of finding out everyone sucks a little after college, but upon receiving a piano as a gift for turning 30, he shifted gears.
Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Everything Is Love
This summer, music’s biggest power couple finally delivered the joint album that seemed to be their destiny after 15 years of hit collaborations like “Deja Vu,” “Crazy in Love,” and “Drunk in Love.” Everything Is Love follows the vengeance of Lemonade and the rocky reconciliation of 4:44 with a new objective: “Let’s make love in the summertime.”
Blood Orange, Negro Swan
Dev Hynes is a restless, multifaceted talent; his records as Blood Orange mix diaristic confessions, historical allusions, and a blend of genres so unique you know who you’re listening to within seconds of pressing play. Negro Swan, the fourth official studio album under the moniker (not counting the ones he’s apparently keeping to himself), tosses rap, R&B, rock, gospel, jazz, and screw music into a blender, then lets the mix dry and warp in the sun.
Cardi B, Invasion of Privacy
It’s hard to believe that only two years have passed since Cardi B starred on Love and Hip-Hop: New York, where she jostled for camera time with the two-timing one-hit wonder Peter Gunz and a rogue’s gallery of little-known new artists renting out clubs to premiere bad rap singles we never heard again. Cardi’s career has gone so swimmingly since then that her banner Billboard chart run feels like a coronation or an anointing.