Drake and Post Malone owned Spotify this year, but $200 and a classic 160 GB iPod says that neither of them would last 30 seconds in an alley with Rico Nasty or Cardi B. As for the rest of this list, there’s a case to be made that—most of the time—women do almost everything better.
A trainspotter’s dream for those who love playing connect the influences, the debut from one of the Interweb’s most buzzed-about new bands draws on everything from slacker-brand college rock to dime-store Atari electronica to 20th-century psych. Anchoring the wonderfully weird pop-mart collage is 18-year-old vocalist Orono Noguchi, who’s mastered the art of sounding as bored with life as she is bemused by it all.
Invasion of Privacy
Hip-hop’s reigning freak of the week puts her money where her motormouth is with a collection that shows sometimes you can believe the hype. There was no more transportive summer jam than the Latin trap-salsa mashup “I Like It”—especially if you have a thing for Balenciagas, hot tamales, and texts from your exes.
Cool kids Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker, and Phoebe Bridgers make a sometimes winsome, sometimes distortion-flared record every bit as great as you’d expect from three of indie rock’s brightest young stars. The only disappointing thing about the supergroup’s first offering is that it’s a six-song EP—more, please, and preferably sooner than later.
After years of toiling away on the fringes of the Vancouver music scene, Art d’Ecco makes the most of his closeup with a lipstick-smeared fusion of glitter-dust glam, black-hearted postpunk, and string-swept chamber pop. Add a little greasepaint and a pageboy wig that Rodney Bingenheimer would be proud to wear, and you’ve got a great case that—whether you’re talking Bowie or ’70s Berlin—everything was better back in the day.
Mean-streets rap as raw as it is insanely rage-filled. Nasty positions Rico Nasty as the most swaggering badass on the block, the Brooklyn MC rasping away like someone who pours Drano on her cornflakes. The 21-year-old christened Maria-Cecilia Simone Kelly might be filed under hip-hop at record stores, but at her core she’s punk as fuck.
Fine But Dying
Even when life is at its blackest it’s important to look into the light, something that Liza Anne does on her beautifully conflicted third full-length. This is indie rock as its most majestically harrowing, the Georgia songwriter wringing maximum drama from lines like “I think I wanna die, but I guess I know I’m fine.”
Joy as an Act of Resistance
In an act of mind-bending subversion, forward-thinking U.K. punks IDLES take ultraheavy issues—alcoholism, racism, male toxicity, and rampant self-loathing—and then argue that the future is nowhere near as bleak as it seems. Joy as an Act of Resistance is righteously angry, but in the most positive and uplifting of ways.
Sometimes it’s okay to feel sad, which is what whip-smart lo-fi star-in-waiting Sophie Allison excels at on her official debut, Clean. If you’ve finally had enough of being treated like a doormat by, well, everyone, get ready to love lyrics like “I don’t wanna be your fucking dog that you drag around.”
Peach Pit Being
Vancouver’s Peach Pit got ambitious on its full-length debut after initially surfacing as a Tropicália-tinted pop band perfect for white-sand-beach bars. So while there are moments that still go great with happy-hour piña coladas (hello, “Techno Show”), dig deep and you’ll find nods to everything from Jamaican dub to fuzz-bombed indie rock.
The idea of sitting alone in a rundown apartment watching the snow fall on the street below has never seemed more magical. Ostensibly a record about folks finding solace in their furred, feathered, and finned friends, Animal Companionship actually explores something bigger, with indie-rock veteran Owen Ashworth finding beauty and truth in the mundane.