Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color – There’s no weak sauce, from track the first to track the last. Wish I’d caught them in Indy this summer, because they’re most definitely on my “must see” list.
Dead Weather, Dodge and Burn – Maybe the best thing Jack White’s done since the end of the White Stripes. He sounds energized, and the Dead Weather sound stronger because of it.
The Do, Shake, Shook, Shaken – It’s just a great mix of electronic pop, moody lyrics and the gorgeous voice of Olivia Merilahti.
Heartless Bastards, Restless Ones – I like a band that keeps evolving. Restless Ones is a step beyond any of their previous albums.
Houndmouth, Little Neon Limelight – These Kentucky rockers keep picking up steam. Nice to see them get broader recognition.
July Talk, July Talk – Visceral blues rock with pop touches. They put on a terrific live show.
Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly – Kendrick is the only mainstream rapper I have any interest in, because Kendrick is the only mainstream rapper with something to say.
No Joy, More Faithful – High-quality stoner rock that would be more comfortable in the mid-1990s than the mid-2010s.
Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love – Going to see them for the first time in December. Can’t wait.
Young Fathers, White Men Are Black Men, Too – White Men Are Black, Too, takes hip-hop to new strange, interesting places, and might even be better than To Pimp a Butterfly.
On the bubble: Action Bronson, Mr. Wonderful; Girlpool, Before the World Was Big; Pale Honey, Pale Honey; White Reaper, White Reaper Does It Again
Honorable mentions: Ryan Adams, 1989; Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit; Girl Band, The Early Years; Elle King, Love Stuff; Miguel, Wildheart; Speedy Ortiz, Foil Deer; Torres, Sprinter; Waxahatchee, Ivy Tripp