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“THE NEW NORMAL” STL GLD

The hip-hop band debuted surprise drop “The New Normal” with a power move, staking out the MFA’s American wing for a listening party among portraits of slave-owning founding fathers. Moe Pope’s burly delivery and deft rhymes, The Arcitype’s lushly, subtly sinister production, and a who’s who of local voices (Oompa, Will Dailey, Latrell James) combine to make this a searing artist’s statement of survival through the MAGA era. — Zoë Madonna

“CAN’T JUDGE A BOOK” Ward Hayden and the Outliers

Hayden and company’s latest is also a covers album, highlighted by a shimmering, dark version of Elvis’s “Viva Las Vegas.” — Stuart Munro

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“TWEETS FOR MY SWEET” 45 Rally

This six-song gem from “Switzerland’s garage rock sensations 45 Rally” is actually an alias project from Evan Shore, frontman of Boston garage rock sensations Muck and the Mires. No politics, just love songs with titles “stolen from presidential tweets.” — Jon Garelick

“CLEO” Oompa

The lingering line from Queen Latifah’s character Cleopatra “Cleo” Sims in the cult classic heist film “Set It Off” is: “What are you looking at? I’m a bitch with a gun.” She was more, obviously. And Roxbury slam poet-turned-rapper Oompa uses her knack for observation and narrative to weave Cleo’s story with her own. — Julian Benbow

Clairo
ClairoBrooks Sproul

“IMMUNITY” Clairo

These days, Gen Z picks its own pop stars. From behind a cheap drum machine and keyboard, this now 21-year-old Carlisle native went viral, riding the lo-fi wave of “Pretty Girl,” a fuzzy, catchy hunk of bedroom pop. But on debut album “Immunity,” Clairo emerged as something more lasting: an earnestly terrific (and terrifically earnest) songwriter. On tracks like the wistful “Alewife” and brightly gleaming “Bags,” she pursued pop perfection through minimalism and, with a knack for precise lyrical portraiture, came thrillingly close. — Isaac Feldberg

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“BLACK FRIDAY” Palehound

Ellen Kempner loses her breath, bares her heart, and brings us deep in her feelings on “Black Friday.” If you are (or have ever been) any combination of young, queer, and anxious, you probably know these feelings too, and it would be hard to find them translated into words or song with more candor and exquisite care. — Zoë Madonna

“NORTHEAST” Session Americana

The latest iteration of this collective applies its talents to a clutch of covers that that are all in some way “northeastern” and come up with a gem. — Stuart Munro

Juliana Hatfield
Juliana Hatfield Ben Stas for The Boston Globe

“WEIRD,” “JULIANA HATFIELD SINGS THE POLICE” Juliana Hatfield

Juliana Hatfield’s late-2010s tear continued in 2019 with a pair of corkers: January’s “Weird,” which balanced dry observations with fuzzed-out riffs, and November’s Police tribute, which stripped down the MTV staples’ biggest tracks and re-electrified their wiring in the process. — Maura Johnston

“SPACE LASOO” Chris Hersch and the Moonraiders

On their debut, this instrumental quintet cooks up a main course of swing (both the western and uptown varieties), with a little R&B on the side. — Stuart Munro