We’re nearly halfway through 2015, so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to once again assemble your summer-listening list: triumphant returns from riot grrrl and Britpop vets, a disco-house phenom’s debut, a feminist post-punk manifesto, post-breakup records from an R&B underdog and an art-rock luminary, and so much more, arranged alphabetically by artist.
Action Bronson, Mr. Wonderful
Action Bronson’s major-label debut is the rare rap album that actually rewards its mixtape following. For one, it doesn’t stray from the collaborators who made him great in the first place — Party Supplies and the Alchemist are all over this thing and brought their A-game, and even the few high-profile risks were worth the trouble, like when Noah “40” Shebib departs from the atmospheric style that made Drake famous to put a mind-bending backwards accordion loop on the first single, “Actin’ Crazy.” At this moment, Bronson has the best ear for classic East Coast beats in the world; try the GZA-ready organ plinks of “Falconry,” or big finale “Easy Rider,” which vrooms off into the sunset on the back of some psychedelic Sahara guitar reminiscent of Group Doueh or Tinariwen. — DAN WEISS
Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color
Alabama Shakes epitomize what a rock band should be in this era, mostly for what they lack. Confidence oozes out of every note that pours from singer Brittany Howard’s mouth, but it doesn’t translate to a big-headed ego. And most importantly, they manage to channel a spectrum of musical influences — including Southern soul and glam rock — without retreading the well-worn paths that others are content to glide on. On their second full-length, Sound & Color, Alabama Shakes aren’t even comfortable following in their own footsteps, as successful as they were — and this time around, guitarist Heath Fogg, bassist Zac Cockerell, and drummer Steve Johnson let the world know that they’re more than just a backing band for a powerful set of pipes. Howard’s boisterous voice, inarguably the sparkling lure that hooked listeners on 2012’sBoys and Girls, is as present as ever, but noticeably muted at times. It seems like an odd choice to bury something so precious under layers of effects, but it proves they needn’t rely on her wild force to succeed. — NATASHA AFTANDILIANS
American Wrestlers, American Wrestlers
The term “lo-fi” has come to be predominantly associated in underground rock with the omnipresent hiss and static of a 20-song Robert Pollard LP, but the audio of American Wrestlers is shitty in a more 21st-century way: poorly compressed, tinny-sounding, and frayed around the edges. That sounds problematic and might be a hard workaround for some audiophiles, but it’s a good match for the album’s tunes, which are gloriously open-armed and instantly connective. The soupy sonics, looping guitar riffs, and surprise shredding of one-man band Gary McClure may put American Wrestlers in league with acts like Real Estate and War on Drugs, but the melodies are pure ’70s AM gold. You could go mad trying to recall what crossover classics the heart-clutching hooks to jams like “There’s No Crying Over Me” and “I Can Do No Wrong” are vaguely reminiscent of, but it’s more that the music is in McClure’s DNA, less him pulling off any specifically insidious thefts. —ANDREW UNTERBERGER