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The 60 best albums of the year

From Robert Plant and Alison Krauss to J. Cole, Jon Batiste to Olivia Rodrigo, Miguel Zenón to The War on Drugs, these were our favorites

Adobe, Ally Rzesa

There was at least one silver lining to 2021: A bounty of excellent albums emerged from a year that began with artists hunkered down and waiting out lockdown. From Robert Plant and Alison Krauss to J. Cole, Yola to Olivia Rodrigo, Miguel Zenón to The War on Drugs, many spent that time making great things happen. These are our favorite albums of the year, spanning pop, jazz, classical, Americana, hip-hop, rock, country, and more.

The War on DrugsMAGDALENA WOSINSKA/NYT

“I Don’t Live Here Anymore” The War on Drugs

The Philadelphia band made their most cohesive project to date with “I Don’t Live Here Anymore.” Every album in The War on Drugs’ arsenal feels seminal, and their fifth LP is no different; frontman Adam Granduciel proves that powerful emotion can be conveyed through lyrical simplicity. The band’s latest release — which focuses on perfecting exhilarating arena anthems (like the record’s title track) — is their most ambitious yet. (Candace McDuffie)

“The Light Saw Me” Jason Boland & the Stragglers

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It’s a long way from Red Dirt country to outer space, but that’s the long, strange trip that Jason Boland takes on “The Light Saw Me,” a concept album that expands his sound way beyond the trad iterations of his previous work as it tells the tale of a 19th-century cowboy who is abducted by aliens. A bizarrely brilliant release. (Stuart Munro)

“Uneasy” Vijay Iyer

With “Children of Flint” and “Combat Breathing” (for Eric Garner), this album is certainly about our historical moment. But it’s also about musicians (pianist-composer Iyer, bassist Linda May Han Oh, drummer Tyshawn Sorey) being in the moment with each other, making music both consoling and turbulent, where playing is about listening. (Jon Garelick)

Francesco Turrisi and Rhiannon GiddensWade Payne/Associated Press

“They’re Calling Me Home” Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi

Creative and romantic partners Giddens (banjo/fiddle/voice) and Turrisi (too many instruments to count) spent the pandemic shutdown in Ireland, oceans away from their respective homelands of the United States and Italy; the result was this album, a gorgeous and genre-blind contemplation of home, death, and time. (A.Z. Madonna)

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“Second Line” Dawn Richard

Electropop visionary Dawn Richard pays tribute to her hometown of New Orleans in a thrilling way, embracing that city’s vast musical history while plunging headfirst into music’s next wave. While cuts like the pulsing “Bussifame” and the house track “Boomerang” were made for spinning at a club in space, other tracks, like the plush “Radio Free” and the winding “Mornin | Streetlights,” catch her reflecting amid the dancefloor din. (Maura Johnston)

“J.S. Bach: Brandenburg Concertos” Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin

Did the world need yet another Brandenburgs recording? It doesn’t matter; this one, featuring the sterling violinist Isabelle Faust, sets an electrifying gold standard for period instrument ensembles looking to take on the beloved Baroque concertos. Try the first movement of Concerto No. 5 on for size if you’re sleeping through your alarm clock. (A.Z. Madonna)

Jazmine Sullivan Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

“Heaux Tales” Jazmine Sullivan

Sullivan has never shied away from spilling her most intimate thoughts and experiences on wax. On “Heaux Tales,” she takes it a step further, detailing sexual escapades in a bold and empowering manner. Songs like “Lost One” and the H.E.R.-assisted “Girl Like Me” are impressive with their stark honesty — and work to make Sullivan’s newest project unforgettable. (Candace McDuffie)

“King’s Disease II” Nas

The closest Nas came to controversy this year was a viral clip of producer Hit-Boy, buzzed and celebratory at the release party, reveling in the fact that the process for making a well-crafted album with a legendary rapper was simply the two of them locking in as opposed to, say, a bloated Kanye West or Drake TMZ-buffet. Otherwise, Nas and Hit doubled down on substance over spectacle, and the follow-up to their 2020 collaboration showcases one of rap’s greatest in a serene sweet spot. (Julian Benbow)

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“… and then there’s this” Artifacts

An avant-jazz acoustic trio (flutist Nicole Mitchell, cellist Tomeka Reid, drummer/percussionist Mike Reed) with grooves to die for — and some lovely ballads as well. Their 2015 debut featured performances of pieces by their forebears in Chicago’s venerable AACM organization; the pleasures here are just as deep. (Jon Garelick)

Desperate Journalist

“Maximum Sorrow!” Desperate Journalist

Big guitars and bigger emotions — channeled through the searching wail of vocalist Jo Bevan — take center stage on this English band’s fourth album. The woozy churn of “Fault” and the pummeling riffage of “Fine in the Family” make Bevan’s lyrics feel like notes from the end of a rope, while the windswept restraint of “Utopia” echoes her narrator’s urban ennui. (Maura Johnston)

“The Offseason” J. Cole

For the past three years, J. Cole has been turning over every stone, clicking on every link, building relationships with every rapper, and going to every open run in a search for inspiration. For an artist who’s been leery of his falloff since the beginning of his career, he’s done everything to avoid it. The offseason was a culmination of Cole recharging, and he plays with flows and beats and even features (yes, features!) like a rapper who found a way to stay locked in with a craft he loves. (Julian Benbow)

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“Pressure Machine” The Killers

Brandon Flowers and company have made a career of concocting flashy songs complete with infectious choruses and vibrant melodies. But on “Pressure Machine” they’ve traded in bright lights for chilling narratives about the lead singer’s hometown of Nephi, Utah. The quiet atmospherics of the band’s seventh album show off a different dynamism of The Killers — and it was better than anyone could have anticipated. (Candace McDuffie)

Jon BatisteJack Plunkett/Invision/AP

“We Are” Jon Batiste

Batiste digs into his New Orleans roots for an album of exuberant “social music” that’s both self-portrait and American panorama — crossing genres while drawing on musical associations that include his high school marching band and the Hot 8 Brass Band, mixing jazz, gospel, R&B, and hip-hop with consummate pop-craft. (Jon Garelick)

“Changing Faces” The Deep Dark Woods

Ryan Boldt may have left his native Saskatchewan for coastal living, but the spectral folk music he makes as the Deep Dark Woods on latest record “Changing Faces” still sounds like something blown in under the door of a prairie cabin a hundred years ago. (Stuart Munro)

“The Diving Sun (Side A and B)” Joe Pug

It only ever takes a phrase or two for this Maryland-based troubadour to create and flesh out a character, and so it is with these eight tracks, released across two EPs. Before you know it you’re fully emotionally invested and on the fast track to heartbreak or hope; usually a mix of both. “Free Rider” may be a strong contender for the most quietly devastating three minutes ever committed to tape. (A.Z. Madonna)

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Olivia RodrigoJon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Teen Vogue

“Sour” Olivia Rodrigo

The 18-year-old songstress was a proverbial breath of fresh air when she released “Sour” this year. Rodrigo’s debut showcased all of her pop-punk proclivities cleverly wrapped in visceral lines about heartache. From the impassioned pleas on “Driver’s License” to the righteous fury of “good 4 u,” the star tapped into a generation full of feelings and the creativity to navigate it. (Candace McDuffie)

“New Long Leg” Dry Cleaning

If one musical moment summed up my 2021, it was the furiously shaking instrumental freakout that opens Dry Cleaning’s “Unsmart Lady.” The rest of this British band’s debut isn’t as unhinged as that convulsion — vocalist-lyricist Florence Shaw’s over-it delivery ensures that — but it is quite potent, with guitars that seethe and curdle as Shaw elliptically outlines the ways in which modern life can, indeed, be rubbish. (Maura Johnston)

“Weight of the World” Maxo Kream

Maxo doesn’t hide that he’s a Crip, but his gang ties are hardly what drive the story he’s telling. With a flow as distinct as Project Pat’s, he’s processing loss, grief, and mistrust and clinging hard to family. With smartly picked soul samples backing him, this is as fully formed as the Houston rapper has ever sounded. (Julian Benbow)

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss ERIC RYAN ANDERSON/NYT

“Raise the Roof” Robert Plant & Alison Krauss

There are a few wrinkles, but the formula is more or less the same as it was on the initial Plant and Krauss collaboration 14 years ago: the incomparable sound of their conjoined voices applied to a choice selection of covers (Calexico! Haggard! Bert Jansch!), with the marvelous, simpatico playing of producer T Bone Burnett’s aggregation of players supporting them. (Stuart Munro)

“Squint” Julian Lage

A former teen star with Gary Burton’s bands, guitarist and composer Lage, now 33, has the killer chops, voracious ears, imagination, and remarkably pliable sound to do it all — jazz-rock, country, ballad standard, straight-ahead swing, and his own unclassifiable creations — in a superb trio with bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Dave King. (Jon Garelick)

“if i could make it go quit” girl in red

Thanks to singer-songwriter Marie Ulven’s succession of gauzy singles about the endless yearning of being a girl who loves girls, the question “do you listen to girl in red?” became a not-so-secret handshake for queer women on social media. With her full-length debut, she rolls out the strongest songwriting and production of her career. Standout track: “Serotonin,” a pop-punk primal scream of rage at intrusive thoughts that just won’t quit. (A.Z. Madonna)

“Tell Me I’m Bad” Editrix

This Western Massachusetts trio’s wild update of “art rock” is full of stop-start rhythms and incisive lyrics, with vocalist-guitarist Wendy Eisenberg leading the chaos thanks to their piercing soprano and virtuosic playing. (Maura Johnston)

Tyler, the Creator Rich Fury/Getty Images

“Call Me If You Get Lost” Tyler, the Creator

A decade ago, Tyler tweeted that he wanted a Gangsta Grillz mixtape. At the time, the series, curated by the boisterous and influential Philadelphia DJ Drama, was a gold stamp for everyone from Young Jeezy and TI to Lil Wayne and Gucci Mane. It wasn’t exactly the same lane as a 20-year-old Tyler, leaning into his weirdo ways, obnoxiousness, and immaturity to use shock as a way to draw attention to his genuinely innovative ideas. But an unexpected gem of the collection was Pharrell Williams’s “In My Mind: The Prequel.” Fast forward and those wild ideas have become beautifully vulnerable and adventurous projects, including 2020′s Grammy-winning album “Igor.” As a follow-up, “Call Me” is an homage to Pharrell’s Gangsta Grillz tape. Tyler got back in his rap bag but also crossed a 10-year-old item off his bucket list. (Julian Benbow)

“If Words Were Flowers” Curtis Harding

The expansiveness of Harding’s musical vision here traces a line back to the likes of Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield. Grounded in vintage sounds but thoroughly modern, “If Words Were Flowers” is an intoxicating soul masterpiece. (Stuart Munro)

“Glow On” Turnstile

Saturated with gnarly, jagged guitar riffs and heart-stopping percussion, “Glow On” frantically captures a hardcore band gripping tightly to its instincts. The album is a tempestuous adrenaline rush from start to finish, with lucid and more focused moments (like “Alien Love Call” featuring Blood Orange) thrown in when you least expect. (Candace McDuffie)

Pat MethenyMARCIAL GUILLEN/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

“Side-Eye NYC V1.IV” Pat Metheny

If you’re like me, you have a love-hate relationship with guitarist-composer Metheny’s more proggy tendencies. But for this version of his rotating Side-Eye project (with keyboardist James Francies and drummer Marcus Gilmore), there was no choice but to surrender. Old compositions and new answered our chaotic era with sublime quietude. (Jon Garelick)

“Treasure of Love” The Flatlanders

The off-kilter supergroup composed of Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock ambles back after 12 years for another splendid go-round, with the focus on songs they’ve been covering live for years, from Dylan’s “She’s Gone” to Townes’s “Snowin’ on Raton” to Cash’s “Give My Love to Rose.” (Stuart Munro)

“All the Brilliant Things” Skyzoo

Skyzoo’s always been a thinker. Whether it’s fatherhood, friendship, or salvation, he’s looking at the world around him and asking questions. But now a father, he wondered what he was supposed to tell his son about the place where he grew up, as the buildings he once knew turn to condos and the bodegas become coffee shops. In a meditation on gentrification, he explores questions worth asking, and over an atypically lush, jazz-driven soundscape, he makes observations worth hearing. (Julian Benbow)

Attacca Quartet ANTHONY MULCAHY/NYT

“Real Life” Attacca Quartet

Classical concerts in dance clubs: sure, it’s been done as a novelty, but on “Real Life,” the Attacca Quartet treat arrangements of electronic dance music as seriously as their peer quartets have treated fiddle tunes, free jazz, or Jimi Hendrix. Flying Lotus, Louis Cole, TOKIMONSTA, and the Halluci Nation are just a few of the artists who get the Attacca treatment: Background music this isn’t. (A.Z. Madonna)

“LP!” JPEGMAFIA

JPEGMAFIA’s best creative trait is unpredictability; the experimental emcee is known for crafting industrial soundscapes and layering harrowing screams on top of them. On “LP!,” he takes a more subdued approach while still flaunting bars that are just as venomous. Tracks like “THOT’S PRAYER!” and “OG!” Show off Peggy’s ingenuity and musical fluidity. (Candace McDuffie)

“A Beautiful Life” Heartless Bastards

The first Heartless Bastards record that Erika Wennerstrom has put out in five years finds her bending its sound in new directions — from the hooky hippie pop of “How Long” to the swirling strings on “When I Was Younger” — and finding new modes for the band’s vintage rock ‘n’ roll caterwaul as well. (Stuart Munro)

Adam O'FarrillArnaud Ghys

“Visions of Your Other” Adam O’Farrill

The title comes from director Paul Thomas Anderson’s film “The Master.” Otherwise, suffice to say trumpet star O’Farrill, 27, and his crew Stranger Days (tenor saxophonist Xavier Del Castillo, bassist Walter Stinson, and older-brother drummer Zack O’Farrill) bring the funk (and tunes! and arrangements!) to avant-jazz. (Jon Garelick)

“Oooki Gekkou” Vanishing Twin

Led by multi-instrumentalist Cathy Lucas, this British act’s fractured take on lounge-ready psychedelia results in hi-fi adventures like the jittery “Phase One Million,” the galaxy-traversing “The Organism,” and the fluttering “Tub Erupt.” (Maura Johnston)

“Promises” Floating Points, London Symphony Orchestra, Pharoah Sanders

It turns out the world hasn’t heard the last of Pharoah Sanders, a consummate bandleader and collaborator with both Coltranes. The first studio album in a decade from the octogenarian saxophonist sees him teaming up with British DJ Floating Points and the London Symphony Orchestra for “Promises,” a vibrant and heady dream of a piece punctuated with playful scatting and torrential solos. Listen in one sitting. (A.Z. Madonna)

Lil Nas X Adam Bettcher/Getty Images for iHeartRadio

“Montero” Lil Nas X

A kitchen-sink album that doubles as a middle finger toward any naysayers, Lil Nas X’s debut full-length subverts any expectations placed on him with darkly brooding pop songs that are stuffed full of brain-adhering hooks, A-listers like Elton John and Miley Cyrus, and a delightfully surprising amount of guitar heroism. (Maura Johnston)

“The House Is Burning” Isaiah Rashad

So much time passes between Isaiah Rashad projects that every album feels like his debut all over again. He isn’t the same person he was when he wrote “Cilvia Demo” as essentially a love letter to southern rap in 2014, let alone the same rapper. Expectations pulled at him as much as the lifestyle shift from Tennessee to Los Angeles. So did drugs and alcohol (and apparently the addictive qualities of Uber Black). But he remains as fluent in the cadences and nuances of the sound that raised him. He can conjure up the pool party feel of “Wat U Sed” as easily as he can the hood club tension that sneaks up on “Hey Mista.” Welcome back. (Julian Benbow)

“Ramble On” Charlie Marie

This Providence native has conquered classic, steel-slathered country forms and invested them with her own perspective and concerns (witness “El Paso,” a classic “been left” song that sounds like a George Strait outtake, only in this case, the man is leaving the woman in question for another man). That, and the fact that she has a voice that’s absolutely made to sing the music, makes this one of the best country albums of the year. (Stuart Munro)

YolaTerry Wyatt/Getty Images for W Hotels Worldwide

“Stand for Myself” Yola

No one delivers deep-seated, urgent soul better than British songstress Yola. She brilliantly combines weighty concepts with captivating bombast. Whether it’s celebrating the sanctity of life with “Break the Bough” or affirming her worth on the title track, Yola’s third album is about giving herself — and other Black women inspired by her journey — something they’re in dire need of: grace. (Candace McDuffie)

“Zephyr” Steph Richards

Avant-garde trumpeter Richards has used the “extended technique” of “resonating water vessels” before. Here, six months’ pregnant, she found it the perfect means to channel the in utero life she was carrying. The resulting three duo suites (with pianist/percussionist Joshua White) are focused, funny, daring, intimate. And, yes, great trumpet playing. (Jon Garelick)

“Sober-ish” Liz Phair

Released nearly three decades after her debut, “Exile in Guyville,” exploded any assumptions about female singer-songwriters, Liz Phair’s seventh full-length shows how her art remains singular in its observational skills and its penchant for hurling musical curveballs. (Maura Johnston)

Michelle Zauner of Japanese BreakfastAmy Harris/Invision/AP

“Jubilee” Japanese Breakfast

Michelle Zauner has had a banner year; her memoir “Crying in H Mart” landed to showers of critical acclaim, she provided the ambient soundtrack to the desert-exploration adventure video game “Sable,” and she still found time to drop her best album yet after a four-year break, melding bedroom pop beats with riffs that smell like something you’d have found on MTV or your local college rock station a few decades ago. (A.Z. Madonna)

“Westside With Love III” Dom Kennedy

For so long, Dom Kennedy made music sound as fun and carefree as life should be. Then it seemed like he was having a hard time making it look so easy. “WWL3” was an acknowledged bounce-back to sounds that are less for clubs and crowds and more for cars and people passing by the nightspots to go somewhere better. (Julian Benbow)

“I Want the Door Open” Lala Lala

Singer-songwriter Lillie West is an ethereal goddess floating on a collection of songs with her third project as Lala Lala. Her vocals are soft and soothing; her lyrics are simple yet piercing. From the hypnotic reverie of “Castle Life” to the eclectic instrumentation of “Color of the Pool,” “I Want the Door Open” was one of the most spellbinding music moments of 2021. (Candace McDuffie)

Kevin SunJessica Carlton

“<3Bird” Kevin Sun

Sun’s Charlie Parker tribute reimagines compositions by this towering musical genius, juggling source material (exquisitely documented in the liner notes), mixing instrumentation for small ensembles (including his own tenor sax, clarinet, and, on one track, Chinese sheng), creating new pieces that crackle with the originals’ subversive joy. (Jon Garelick)

“The Darkness Dressed in Colored Lights” Sean Rowe

On his sixth album, upstate New York singer-songwriter Rowe continues to make wide-scope folk music of great intensity (think Jeffrey Foucault and you’re in similar territory) sung with his impossibly well-deep voice (think Greg Brown and you’re in the same ballpark). (Stuart Munro)

“Puppies Forever” BLACKSTARKIDS

“Puppies Forever” contains the complexities of adolescent angst, love, disillusionment, and rebellion. BLACKSTARKIDS are not only trying to navigate their place in the world but are doing so with acute self-awareness. Standout track “All Cops Are Bastards” expresses a disdain for law enforcement whose targets are routinely people of color: “I’m a man so I’ma stand on my beliefs/BLACKSTARKIDS is not a friend to no police.” (Candace McDuffie)

Marissa NadlerKristin Cofer

“The Path of the Clouds” Marissa Nadler

Marissa Nadler’s vision of American Goth-pop cracks open on her latest album, where she spins tales of old-time outlaws and 21st-century gentrification while adding sweeping guitars, undulating harps, and swooning woodwinds to her razor-sharp songwriting. (Maura Johnston)

“Florence Price: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 3″ Philadelphia Orchestra & Yannick Nézet-Séguin

The recent resurgence of interest in performing the work of this neglected American composer has translated into recordings as well, and with this album, captured on the Philadelphia Orchestra’s home turf of Verizon Hall, Price’s symphonies get the royal treatment they deserved while she was alive. Under the baton of music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Price’s church-steeped orchestral Americana rings with jubilance. (A.Z. Madonna)

“Homegrown” VanJess

VanJess is by no means simply a throwback to the sultry voices and hard beats that signified early ‘90s R&B. But the Nigerian-American duo harnesses the same energy as groups like Zhane and SWV and continuously delivers jams that tug at the same chords while also maintaining the voice, edge, sexiness (and lustiness) that fuel the music of their contemporaries. (Julian Benbow)

Morgan WadeDavid McClister

“Reckless” Morgan Wade

“When I wrote these songs, I was going through a lot, just trying to figure out who I am.” No kidding; what she was going through translates into songs that are so gut-wrenching, so achingly vulnerable, so bleeding raw that they compel you to listen even as they nail you to the floor. (Stuart Munro)

“Collapsed in Sunbeams” Arlo Parks

“Collapsed in Sunbeams” is a testament to Parks’s sophisticated approach to making pop music. On her debut album, the 21-year-old London poet grabs listeners by the hand and gently guides them to absentia; tracks like “Black Dog” and “For Violet” underscore the artist’s softness and an imagination unafraid of somatic detail. While Parks’s strong suit is lyricism, she has the vocal prowess to confront — and belt out — raw and unfiltered sentiment. (Candace McDuffie)

“Flux” Poppy

The shape-shifting singer-songwriter embraces the chunky, hooky rock of ‘90s acts like Veruca Salt and The Breeders while also remaining committed to her weirdo side on cuts like the sour-patch-dwelling “Her,” the Doc Marten-gazing “As Strange as It Seems,” and the percolating “On the Level.” (Maura Johnston)

Miguel Zenón

“Law Years: The Music of Ornette Coleman” Miguel Zenón

The alto saxophonist, composer, and educator (New England Conservatory, MIT) is known for his explorations of his Puerto Rican heritage. Here, at a club in Basel, Switzerland, he and a band playing together for the first time tackle Coleman’s challenging book and just let it rip. (Jon Garelick)

“shut the **** up talking to me” Zack Fox

This guy’s not normal. The 30-year-old comedian made that clear when he ripped off his pants in Kenny Beats’s studio and demanded, “You better praise God, or I’m a shoot — and that’s on God/ I ain’t playing ‘bout my lord and savior, I’m on my job. If it ain’t ‘bout Jesus, I’ma stab you in the face/ If it ain’t ‘bout Jesus, I’m hit you with this K.” The freestyle that wasn’t really supposed to happen went viral, because it was absurd and hilarious. He was initially reluctant to make anything more of it, but with this very brief set of songs, he breathed fun into some of the ridiculousness of modern hip-hop without making fun of it. (Julian Benbow)

“Flock” Jane Weaver

The sonic equivalent of eating a miracle berry, one of those mysterious fruits that make limes, pickles, and hot peppers taste like candy. In different hands, Weaver’s myriad influences might clash or sound too twee; on “Flock,” the singer-songwriter’s 11th album, it’s all delicious. Good luck listening to “Revolution of Super Visions” and remaining seated the entire time. (A.Z. Madonna)

Miranda Lambert with Jon Randall (left) and Jack Ingram.Jim and Ilde Cook/CookHouseMedia

“The Marfa Tapes” Jack Ingram, Jon Randall, and Miranda Lambert

Recorded during a west Texas trip by three of country’s finest singer-songwriters, this campfire-side collection places playful moments alongside stripped-down versions of Lambert cuts like the heartbroken “Tin Man.” (Maura Johnston)

“Ignorance” The Weather Station

Tamara Lindeman returns in her guise as The Weather Station, delivering another collection of marvelous prose poems with her deceptively restrained, gossamer singing voice and once again demonstrating that she is a master of a singular, dynamic soundscape that keeps moving away from her folky origins with each release. (Stuart Munro)

“Shadow Plays” Craig Taborn

A live solo piano concert (Vienna Konzerthaus, March 2020) of daunting imagination and stamina: 76 minutes, seven pieces, all improvised, with a fresh compositional sense of form and anticipatory drama in each, replete with pianistic fireworks. (Jon Garelick)

“Overstand” Apifera

A quartet named after an orchid walks into a studio. Three days later the foursome emerges with 35 minutes of spaced-out bliss that fuses classical impressionism, futuristic jazz, hip-hop, and traditional music from Central Africa and Israel. Listen when the world needs color; play it for your house plants, if you’re not worried that your house might be overtaken by flowers as soon as they hear it. (A.Z. Madonna)

“Gold Mouf” Lute

No matter how many times fans ask when the album’s coming, Lute moves at his own pace. So does his music. He isn’t just trying to churn out hits, he’s trying to work through thoughts. Four years after his Dreamville introduction “West 1996, Pt. 2,” his follow-up feels like a manual on self-care. (Julian Benbow)




A.Z. Madonna can be reached at az.madonna@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @knitandlisten. Julian Benbow can be reached at julian.benbow@globe.com. Jon Garelick can be reached at jon.garelick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jgarelick.