16. Fall Out Boy, Save Rock and Roll
It’s really shocking Fall Out Boy put out a good album in 2013. After all, the original Fall Out Boy run was such a product of the mid-00s. And coming back less than 5 years after their hiatus, it seemed like not enough time had passed for people to really care or miss them. Plus, with the album’s especially idiotic art, the announcement of really arrogant cameos from Courtney Love and Elton John, and the completely asinine music videos they put out to promote it, it just seemed like the album was doomed from the get-go. And if you focus on any one particular piece of the album it’s completely silly — like the Big Sean guest verse. But even though all of those specific things are really embarrassing, the album is really catchy and a lot of fun. In other words, a great Fall Out Boy album. —Ryan Broderick
15. Bleached, Ride Your Heart
I identify with this band so hard that I feel like I’m in it, and if you’re a certain kind of snarling but ultimately soft-hearted little shredder, there’s a very solid chance that you might as well. Bleached makes surf rock sound smart as hell, and Ride Your Heart is the ideal soundtrack to having a mean little crush on every single atom of the universe, making drawings in your notebook on the bus, and rolling around melodramatically in your bed. Okay, so maybe it’s just the ideal soundtrack to being a teen? Whatever, it’s a perfect record, and I love it and am adamant that you try to love it too, and not just because I consider myself an honorary member. —Amy Rose Spiegel
14. Joel Cusumano’s ODD POP Spotify playlists
Joel Cusumano is the brain behind both the best Tumblr on the internet, Blame Aspartame, and the weird-ass fuzz band DSTVV, but my favorite project of his is more of a secret one. But I can’t keep it to myself any longer! I simply have to let y’all know about the absolute GENIUS of his ODD POP Spotify playlists, which have themes like “Insane Dreaming Lies,” which was one of this month’s, and “Hypocrite,” which is my favorite of all time. These perfectly-curated compilations are ideal for lovers of baroque pop, deep cuts, trash rock, old soul, teen trouble, and plaintive bone-deep ~~~feeling~~~. They are also probably my favorite way to find new-old music in the entire world. —A.R.S.
13. Chance the Rapper, “Good Ass Intro”
As an endurance exercise, I defy you to try not to fucking jam to this track. Three seconds in, you’ll be biting your lip and trembling and then POW all of a sudden you are swaying and grinning and cursing your own terrible impulse control. Between this and the other track I’ve heard off of his forthcoming album, Acid Rap, I have very high hopes that the rest of Chance the Rapper’s record is going to be similarly excellent. As I’m all for art that grabs you by your wrist and pulls you joyously, insistently alongside it, like Chance’s does, I CAN’T WAIT. – A.R.S.
12. Pharrell interviews Nardwuar
Nardwuar is a legend in music journalism. Though the Vancouver, Canada radio host’s quirky, unfailingly sunny, impenetrable persona may throw you off at first, he’s one of the most respected interviewers in entertainment journalism. The reason? He knows his shit. When it comes to interviews, no one can top Nardwuar’s level of research. He routinely freaks artists out when he presents them with gifts and questions about obscure facts from their childhood. Being interviewed by Nardwuar is not unlike being knighted; it’s not only the ultimate co-sign, it’s also a humbling experience for the artist. Nardwuar first interviewed Pharrell — a notoriously difficult subject — in 2008. His interview technique impressed P so much, he admitted, “You’re either a psychic or you have some kind of remote viewing talent or something. Seriously. It’s amazing.” Now, years later and after he’d brought Nardwuar onto his own project, iamOTHER, Pharrell takes the opportunity to “nardwuar” Nardwuar, and clearly relishes every minute of it. And while it’s still hard for Nardwaur to slip out of the role of interviewer, we do learn that he’s obsessed with cheese and Heather Locklear, and that he can read sheet music. It’s all worth it to see him sing a 1914 song called “Here’s a Ho! Vancouver.” —Aylin Zafar
11. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Mind Control
“Valley of the Dolls”
Earlier this month, a friend introduced me to Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats via this album, and it’s unlike any other metal I’ve heard recently. I hear a very super-druid-y, almost Savatage-y thing in the way this band shreds (which they really, really do) — what they evoke for me is the kind of ’80s metal that was about a blood prieystyss in her forbidding foryste kyngdom, which I love to death. But Mind Control is heavier than all that — there’s not really much camp and it’s way less shrill and goofy than its woodsy ’80s forebearers, which is to say that this band is AMAZING. It totally lives up to the “acid” in its name, and is perfect for shooting murderous looks through heavy-lidded eyes at people you hate. —A.R.S.
10. Daft Punk, “Get Lucky”
Daft Punk have kept their fans waiting so long for a new proper album that expectations for their new single “Get Lucky” were sky high. They definitely delivered, and pulled off a neat trick of giving people exactly the kind of euphoric, good times jam they wanted while departing from electronic music to go full-on old school disco with Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers and singer Pharrell Williams. Disco and funk have always been at the core of Daft Punk’s music, but it’s a special thrill to hear them take on that sound directly, rather than filtering it through DJ aesthetics. —Matthew Perpetua
9. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, “Can’t Hold Us”
Macklemore’s follow up to “Thrift Shop” is not going to do as well. That’s just a fact. But if the video’s any indication, it doesn’t look like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are going down into one-hit-wonderdom without a fight. The video for “Can’t Hold Us” is a grand and world-spinning celebration — and it has Macklemore rapping on a pirate ship. —R.B.
8. Grimes’ amazing Tumblr post
Canadian songstress Grimes confronted the rampant sexism she frequently faces in the music industry with a manifesto on her Tumblr that includes statements such as “I don’t want to have to compromise my morals to make a living,” “I don’t want to be infantizied because I refuse to be sexualized,” and “I’m sad that my desire to be treated as an equal and as a human being is interpreted as hatred of men, rather than a request to be included and respected.” These issues go largely unmentioned in the music industry, but her frustrations seem universal. And now, she’s given her fans a vocabulary to discuss them. Keep fighting the good fight, Grimes! —Maria Sherman
7. Cassie, RockaByeBaby
Seven years after she first dropped “Me & U” and her debut album, Cassie resurfaced this month with her first proper follow-up, a New Jack City-inspired mixtape called RockaByeBaby. Though the mixtape is filled with features from hip hop heavyweights like Pusha T, Rick Ross, Fabolous, and even Too $hort, they’re almost an afterthought here. Cassie’s voice and swagger dominates the album, complemented by production that isn’t designed to be melodically accessible (in the way that sugary-sweet “Super Bass” is, for example), but creates an interesting tension against her vocals. “Numb,” featuring Rick Ross, is a gem (no thanks to the Boss, who just phones in a boring and essentially pointless verse), and a reminder that Cassie was dominating icy deadpan well before Rihanna. “I make music to numb your brain (numb…numb…numb),” she sings over dark, rumbly synths made by Toronto producer Ncadastre. Cassie’s crystal-clear monotone is detached but sweet, the perfect counter to the nightmarish, hazy production. Cassie hits her stride when her vocals are trance-like and when her beats that are unexpected, twisted and strange (the more haunted, fun-house-like, the better) — it’s what made “Me & U” such an inescapable hit in 2006. On “RockaByeBaby,” she raps over a menacing, loopy beat before slowing down into a catchy, mellow chorus. Cassie doesn’t need to have Beyoncé’s singing chops in order to make interesting choices, and she pulls that off better than ever here. —A.Z.
6. Basement Jaxx, “Back 2 the Wild”
Miss Emma Lee and Baby Chay’s vocals on Basement Jaxx’s new stand alone single “Back 2 the Wild” are gleeful, childish and silly to the point of being almost an aggressive provocation, like they’re just trying to get an uptight listener to be like, “ugh, so annoying!” And that’s perfect for this song — it’s vibrant as a Day-Glo rainbow, and bouncy and playful as a million hyperactive puppies. The song is inviting you to a party, basically — or more literally, a wild and guileless state of existence — and tugging on you and begging until you finally just give in. —M.P.
5. Jai Paul, leaked demos
It would’ve made sense that Jai Paul would continue the recent trend of surprise releases. For a minute there, it seemed like the enigmatic Brit had actually released his long-awaited self-titled debut online on his Bandcamp page, where 16 tracks had mysteriously appeared, ready for purchase. Paul quickly refuted the album’s validity, along with his label XL, which released a statement explaining they were demos that had been illegally uploaded. Regardless of whether that’s true or not, Paul’s digital-age R&B/electro-pop is still as mesmerizing as it first was, maybe even more so. In addition to the gorgeous “BTSU” and “Jasmine” that first garnered him attention, the collection included songs like “Str8 Outta Mumbai,” likely one of the most exciting, ambitious productions to come out this year. Pulling from his South Asian influences, Paul marries a Hindi song sample and drum beats with electronic glitches, a sunny sax line, and Paul’s cooing vocals. There’s a lot going on there, but it works. —A.Z.
4. Phoenix, Bankrupt!
Phoenix come full circle on Bankrupt!, merging their early synth-driven style with the formalist version of garage rock that made them stars. Thomas Mars is as cryptic as ever, but don’t waste your time trying to crack his code — the emotion is always right there on the surface of the music, whether it’s the collision of genuine enthusiasm and hardened cynicism on the single “Entertainment,” or the way “S.O.S. in Bel Air” shifts on a dime from Sisyphean frustration to a sense of profound relief. – M.P.
3. G-Dragon, “MichiGO”
K-Pop superstar G-Dragon makes the most colorful and flamboyantly weird videos of anyone in pop music today. The clip for “MichiGO,” his latest single, is a riot of brilliant and bizarre images — a leather clad G-Dragon being spanked by spooky doll-faced parents, some kind of candy-colored BDSM foot fetish scenario, and, of course, a laser gun battle. Even better, the song itself is actually more hyperactive and thrilling than the video. – M.P.
2. Tyler, the Creator, Wolf
Though he goes on the defensive for much of the album, Wolf is something the Odd Future ringleader should be proud of. Not only does he grow immensely as a producer (intricate, layered, and surprising, the production features horns, guitar, drums, piano melodies, and strings), he also lets himself play with how he tells stories. One of the more surprising tracks off the record is “48,” a tale told from the perspective of a crack dealer, trying to rationalize his choices. The track features a spoken intro and outro by Nas, and Frank Ocean on the hook. It’s fun to see Tyler trying something different, even if the concept doesn’t necessarily make total sense coming from him. Plus, the track — like the rest of the album — sounds gorgeous. —A.Z.
The Swedish electronic duo The Knife’s fifth album one of the most physically and emotionally evocative records in recent memory: a collection of songs that explores issues of identity and gender with the visceral urgency of a great horror movie. It’s not hard to come by blogs and books that articulate social justice arguments in dry or shrill language, but Shaking the Habitual is the rare piece of music that accurately conveys the emotion that makes people feel so passionately about these issues. – M.P.
- The 2016 MTV VMAs are airing at 8 p.m. ET tonight. Here are all the nominees 📺🎵