“There’s no accounting for taste” is actually a pretty stupid saying. Fact is, some albums are objectively better than others. Here are some of the good ones.
The Growlers — City Club
Contrary to popular belief, the Growlers aren’t named after a beer container, but rather “the swelling of a horrendous amount of fecal matter moments before it is excreted”. While its early incarnation might have been (for want of a better word) shit, the band has since come of age with its infectious surf-pop, rockabilly, grunge, and rock-inspired tracks.
People Under the Stairs — The Gettin’ Off Stage, Step 2
If you ask me—and, since you’re reading this, I suppose you are—People Under the Stairs is without doubt the best old-school, funky hip-hop group still producing music. Name me one other duo bold enough to rhyme “chrysalis” with “Sisyphus” in its opening track. Nope? Didn’t think so.
Mark Farina — Mushroom Jazz 8
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Mushroom Jazz: the genre that fuses ’90s East Coast hip-hop with European acid jazz. The eighth in the series of stellar compilation mixes, Farina’s latest offering blends everything from lounge music to bossa nova and hip-hop instrumentals, seamlessly forming a smooth, hour-and-a-bit experience that will chill you out faster than the world’s biggest bong hit.
Solange — A Seat at the Table
For those not yet in the know—or, I suppose, the Knowles—Solange’s music is actually much better than her big sister Beyoncé’s. Sure, Queen Bey may have made Lemonade this year, but Solange made a full lemon-meringue pie. Top tracks include an impassioned R&B plea for people to stop touching her hair, and an ode to self-care penned with Q-Tip.
Glass Animals — How to Be a Human Being
Glass Animals frontman Dave Bayley is a former medical student—which makes perfect sense when you consider his forensic approach to album-making. With a serious eye for detail, Bayley and his band have crafted a groove-laden indie rock record with a twist: creating a new character as the basis of each track. A concept album of sorts, How to Be a Human Being is sonically engaging and lyrically relatable, and has single-handedly pioneered the life hack of using “a cookie as a coaster”.
Justin Jay & Friends — Fantastic Voyage Pt. 1
What happens when you take a producer famed for his work on bass-driven house music label Dirtybird, put him in a college dorm room with a frat buddy who plays the guitar, add another bro who specializes in the ukulele, and make an album? Here’s a hint: it’s not what you’d expect. Miles away from Jay’s quirky house beats, Fantastic Voyage’s combination of electronic instruments and vocals is perfect for low-key beach parties, or fighting off the winter blues without turning to Vitamin D.
The Tourist Company — Apollo
Fresh off a trans-Canada tour, these local heroes have leaped into the spotlight with Apollo. Taking its musical and lyrical cues from documentaries on the history of the Space Race, the record showcases big canvases of sound with sweeping ’80s synths, intricate time signatures, and lyrical imaginings of the extraterrestrial world. So nerdy, but so powerful.
Robert Glasper/Miles Davis — Everything’s Beautiful
I suppose everything is beautiful when you’re the coolest jazz pianist on the planet. After finding fame penning classic beats for J Dilla, Eryka Badu, Common, and, briefly, Kanye (admittedly, not Glasper’s best), the Grammy Award–winning composer has this year tackled a Miles Davis–inspired album, merging sound clips of interviews or classic melodies from the jazz trumpeter with Glasper’s own hip-hop percussion and prodigious piano-playing.
Recloose — Honey Rocks EP
Okay, it’s not technically an album—but Recloose does more with three songs than other artists can do with three hours of tape. Title track “Honey Rocks” is a floor-filling house tune with deep synth swells and a bass line that wouldn’t seem out of place on a disco record, while second song “On & On” chills the mood with a syncopated, euphoric melody. In a bid to get you to actually listen to it, I’m not going to describe the final track, “Sidewalks”, but trust me. It’s worth it.
Matthias Tanzmann — Momentum
The world has been waiting eight years for deep- and tech-house pioneer Matthias Tanzmann to finally release a new album. With its light tropical percussion and fidgety melodic lines, Momentum belongs for the most part outside of the club—but tracks like “Frenzy” and “Mirage” have more than enough energy to get a crowd moving. Play this on a first date, and you’ll surely impress your counterpart with your smooth knowledge of continental sounds. And get laid.