(Album art links to Amazon, title links to Spotify)
1. Beyoncé – Lemonade
Whether it’s all marketing theatre or a legitimate examination of a marital breakdown, the Queen has used it to give her subjects the best album of the year, and the best of her life. Ignore the hype, put on some headphones, and just listen. And bow down.
2. Lady Gaga – Joanne
The album she should have made after Born This Way. Raw, sparse, lyrical, fun, gut-wrenching. We all knew the range she was capable of, especially after a Tony Bennett album and her stunning Oscar and Super Bowl performances. The big surprise was going inward for even more.
3. Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
Ace finally, finally, makes a full album of coherent narrative biographical rap. It’s still light years beyond and above anything anyone else is doing in hip-hop, but bringing it back down to earth was just what the game needed.