Mary Timony
Ex Hex

Timony finds the perfect collaborator in Medications leader Devin Ocampo, whose intricate, precise drumming complements and encourages her angular guitar revival. Ex Hex lacks the lyrical subversion of The Dirt of Luck or The Magic City, but it’s her finest album since those, and hardly limited to the singer-songwriter mold.


Hydra Head

The seemingly jarring confluence of shuddering, industrial noise and transcendent, introspective beauty takes full advantage of the lengthy canvases and haunting melodies to become more palatable. The incantations within these cavernous cathedrals crawl through their texts, letting each droning chord shake the walls and reverberate for what seems like eternity.


Standed Under Endless Sky
Republic of Texas

Glistening, minimal dreamscapes of gentle drones and melodic guitar populate this quiet highway, pleading that no tractor-trailers barrel by, ruining the introspective calm. Despite the expanse, there’s a remarkable economy of sound, recognizing the benefit of highlighting those sparse details among the muted hues. For once, being stranded is welcome.


Insects with Angel Wings

Dropsonic’s ascent up the label ranks continues, with two songs (one re-recorded) from The Big Nothing tagging along. The remaining nine have more than enough razor-wire hooks and churning math-rock riffs to revitalize Dropsonic’s signature nouveau-classic rock. “Everyone’s a Stranger” is an infectious, dynamic single, while “Rotten Luck” positively seethes.


Talk Like Blood

With Talk Like Blood, a long-awaited confluence of prog-rock eccentricities, math-rock proficiency, and indie rock passion occurs, and 31Knots is no longer wholly consumed by instrumental trickery. Confidence, manifested in a leering bravado, takes hold, gripping the nimble leads of “Chain Reaction” with white knuckles, sneering in the title track.


Yann Tiersen & Shannon Wright
Yann Tiersen & Shannon Wright
Ici D’ailleurs

Wright’s über-dramatics find respite from the suffocation of Over the Sun with Amelie composer Tiersen and his complement of accordion, vibes, violin, et al. Ranging from graceful, withdrawn desperation (“Pale White”) to abrasive aggression (“While You Sleep”) to bemused longing (“Dragon Fly”), it’s unfortunate that this pairing is only temporary.


Wake Up. Report.
Record or Record

I’ve waited for seven years for a Bill Hudgins–penned song to meet plastic, and finally that patience is rewarded. It’s hard not to love the optimistic jaunt of “1234 (on 3),” the throttling “…Speak in Tongues,” the ’70s Rhodes vibe of “The Conversation,” and the racing “The No Vote.”


Accelera Deck
Pop Polling

With the pulverizing maximalism of Sunstrings largely left behind, the pointillist landscape of processed guitar and gentle feedback becomes equally inviting in theory and practice, as both background and foreground. The structures and melodies also cede to this newfound appreciation for listenability. Let’s hope this phase is no brief tangent.


Doris Henson
Give Me All Your Money

Their pedigree insists Midwestern rock, but this collision of ’70s art rock and ’90s alternative disagrees, gliding along mid-range hooks and trombone blasts. Being consistently good, yet three-quarters great means this marks their arrival, not a grand statement. Still, “A Dark Time…,” “Sidestepping,” “Dead Stars,” and others are downright glorious.


March into the Sea
Hydra Head

A mere two tracks cover an astonishing tract of terrain. The title track exhibits instrumental fortitude and dexterity, emotional range and depth, brute strength and remarkable subtlety. Justin Broadrick’s massive, slow-motion shoegaze version of “Angel Tears” surpasses its source and arguably, his own work as Jesu. This is no tease.


Your Favorite People All in One Place

Devin Ocampo one-ups his collaboration with Mary Timony on Ex Hex with a powerful and precise dose of D.C. math-rock. The lockstep “Pills,” the spacious “Occupied,” the firestorm “Surprise!,” and the layered melodies of “This is the Part…” are bound together by Ocampo’s insistently impassioned delivery and Medications’ tight musicianship.


Sigur Rós

Dropping the fake language and embracing their home tongue, still innately foreign to most listeners, isn’t the sea change here. Instead, it’s their resolve to use approachable figures (song titles, even) and glorious bursts of heft and lightheartedness. The impenetrable language once again unites, rather than divides, these brilliant canvases.


Silver Jews
Tanglewood Numbers
Drag City

It’s strange that Tanglewood Numbers was nearly lost in a fire, because it documents David Berman returning from similarly dangerous places. He’s lost none of his charm and even opens up to brighter arrangements and lighter moods, although “There Is a Place” lets the immediacy of the damage take hold.


One Time for All Time

Without chopped-up conversations to do the talking, the cybernetic post-rock performs beyond capacity composing far more arresting phrases. Whether stuttering from sonic overload or glimmering in solemn refuge, melody is never far removed from the equations. Thoroughly consistent, but “Radio Protector” shines as a hopeful end to this tumultuous ride.


Out Hud
Let Us Never Speak of It Again

Embracing female-led electro-pop and drum machine workouts, Out Hud manages to trump the subtly dance-oriented instrumentals of their debut with infectious choruses and ’80s synthesizer bravado. Keeping Nic Offer from lead vocal duties was a coup, but sublimating their penchant for bursts of noise into pop hooks is their masterstroke.


The Narrator
Such Triumph

Careening violently from youthful exuberance and riotous energy, The Narrator approaches with a hook in one hand and a knife in the other. Some blows injure immediately, with neat wounds and clear messages. Others fray out from the inside, billowing riffage pressing against the skin until it bursts. “Roughhousing” indeed.


Sufjan Stevens
Asthmatic Kitty

A surprisingly effective conjunction of the personal, the historical, and the public delivered with zeal and detail. The layered vocal harmonies and instrumental stratification are prodigiously arranged. Its expansive charm—22 extravagantly named tracks, some the orchestral equivalent of rap skits—nearly overshadows the strength of its verified, affecting songs.


The Life and Times
Suburban Hymns

This is Allen Epley’s most layered and detailed record yet, bolstered by a deft new rhythm section, a healthy dose of suburban ennui, and a devastatingly affecting closer about post-apocalyptic cannibalism. His trademark sinewy force and melancholic melodies are hardly absent, particularly in “Mea Culpa,” “Skateland,” and “Coat of Arms.”


Different Days

After records reflecting their secret break-up and a tenuous détente, L’altra’s two songwriters reconvened with new supporting players, IDM-inspired backdrops, and a refreshing confidence. These vibrant, glowing songs flow outward instead of retracting inward, losing the code but not its mystique. Fall in love, out of love, all over again.


The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw
Hydra Head

Triumph is meaningless without struggle. Pelican understand this better than their peers, imbuing each moment of glorious relief with recognition of past hardship, savoring each victory as if it were their last. Dynamic range and sonic flexibility allow access to this spectrum, privileging each ferocious barrage with time to reload.