Summer has officially arrived, and with it yet another bountiful crop of albums that are already stacking up amongst the year’s best. Vince Staples and Lorde both delivered sophomore full-lengths that are not only the strongest work of their careers but genre-bending masterpieces, while artists like SZA finally unveiled their long-gestating debuts. And that doesn’t even begin to touch the variety of excellent singles that appeared this month from the likes of Arcade Fire, Tyler, the Creator, and Toro y Moi.

So without further ado, here are our picks for the best albums and tracks of June.

Albums

2 Chainz—‘Pretty Girls Like Trap Music’

“Not even halfway through 16-track LP, it’s apparent that not only are the 39-year-old MC’s ambitions grander, but he walks with a different purpose and motive. While his past musical offerings were gratuitously animated and spry, focusing on strip clubs, the pandemonium of his glittering jewels and purple drank, 2 Chainz now flagrantly speaks about his disdain for mumble-rap and government.”

Read our review.

Fleet Foxes—‘Crack-Up’

In a similar move employed last fall by their folk-minded counterparts Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes went back to the drawing board for their latest LP to create something entirely different. The result is a sound about as revisionist as it gets, turning their formerly accessible indie-chants into a sprawling, futurist rock record with a paranoiac heart of darkness. Yet even that does little to deter the crystal-clear innocence of lead singer Robin Pecknold’s tenor.

JAY-Z—‘4:44’

Listen on TIDAL.

After its mysterious yet slickly executed worldwide roll-out, JAY-Z’s 4:44 finally dropped today. Twitter users were sent scrambling for Tidal subscriptions across the world after the first reactions to the album came in, prompting viral mass hysteria. As those who have added to Tidal’s massive upsurge in sign-ups will attest, 4:44 did not disappoint. Containing forward-thinking beat selection, Kanye disses and an up-front apology to his wife Beyoncé, it’s the album we had all dreamed Jay would make – and perhaps his most cathartic and honest album of all time.

Kacy Hill—‘Like a Woman’

“However, one thing that is abundantly clear is what a supremely gifted vocalist Hill is. The title track is among the most seductive R&B jams of the year thus far, enhanced by an evocative music video that oozes sex appeal. Her breathy soprano is simultaneously fragile and hearty, able to flit between breathless flirt and full-throated diva in an instant.”

Read our review.

Laurel Halo—‘Dust’

Offerings from Laurel Halo’s newest full-length have cropped up throughout the year, and each one was met with an increasing sense of wonder here at HS Music. The final product does not disappoint; if electro-dance-pop is your cup of tea, then consider the table as set.

Lorde—‘Melodrama’

“Now Lorde is 20, and to mark her exit from her teenage years she has blessed us with her second full-length, Melodrama. To call it an artistic growth would be a disservice to just how breezily self-assured it is; the album is a remarkable creative leap, sure, but it is most importantly an astonishingly coherent and profound dissertation on the delirious roller-coaster of being a teenager, all from someone who, up until a few months ago, still was one.”

Read our review.

Phoenix—‘Ti Amo’

“Phoenix have always made everything they do look absurdly easy. Whether it’s swooping in on the trends of mid-2000s indie and turning it into pop gold or incorporating harpsichords in their backing band, each piece of their artistry is executed with confoundingly effortless panache. Perhaps this is one of the advantages of being from Versailles. So when Ti Amo, their sixth full-length, was announced as a concept album about having fun in Italy for a summer, it seemed like the group had maybe taken it too easy. But quite the contrary, the finished product is among the best works of their career.”

Read our review.

SZA—‘Ctrl’

“Yet over the album’s 14 tracks the TDE songstress also paints a more nuanced picture, one in which control becomes secondary to a voracious desire for love and intimacy. In turn, love and intimacy become the catalyst for the loss of control. As Travis Scott’s brutal faux murder in the “Love Galore” video demonstrated, infatuation will make you do crazy things. SZA never backs away from re-introducing that narrative. Instead she confronts the complexity of modern love head-on: lying, cheating, boyfriend-sharing and all.”

Read our review.

Vince Staples—‘Big Fish Theory’

“And though in many ways Big Fish Theory is a natural next-step in Staples’ evolution, it functions first and most effectively as the opposite; as a radical thrust outward into uncharted territory. His previous works were all marked by his potent rhymes, off-kilter, jarring production and rapid-fire delivery, elements that are all still on display here. Yet those very elements have been amped up to a degree that renders their former characteristics unrecognizable—this is the Staples sound pumped full of amphetamines and let loose in the club, frantically turning the speakers up past 11.”

Read our review.

Young Thug—‘Beautiful Thugger Girls’

“As a fan, Young Thug’s evolution has been a joy to behold. First he was the sonic successor of peak-experimental Lil Wayne on 1017 Thug. Then the hungry ATL understudy to Gucci Mane on Young Thugger La Flare. He went on to forge his most solid project to date on the low-key Barter 6, before rattling off “I’m UP” alongside three hard-as-fuck Slime Season projects. He then metamorphosed into the dress-wearing JEFFERY on the iconic album of the same name last year. And now, in 2017, he’s the legless, country-crooning “Black Christian Grey” on the brilliant “singing album” that is Beautiful Thugger Girls. YEE-HAW!”

Read our review.

Songs

Arcade Fire—“Creature Comfort”

“This would handily be the darkest song of the band’s career were it not presented in the form of an upbeat, disco-inflected banger. In fact, it’s downright joyous. Because in the end, though it may be populated with a parade of extremely disconcerting personal narratives, it is an anthem of hope. It is about staring down your darkness, acknowledging its power, and choosing not to submit to it, no matter how attractive that option may seem. And who can’t get down and boogie to that notion?”

Read our track review.

Dizzee Rascal—“Space”

Dizzee Rascal is back. With a vengeance. Clearly unhappy with Wiley’s successful return to action with his Godfather album earlier this year, Dizzee is set to release Raskit, which reportedly has a song that directly sends for Eski Boy. Whilst you mull over the mouth-watering prospect of grime’s biggest heavyweights verbally sparring again, Dizzee has treated us to “Space,” a track which sees the boy from Bow return to his roots with vindictive flow, massive bars and a a sledgehammer of a beat. Pew pew.

DJ Khaled—“To the Max” ft. Drake

“What Khaled has done with ‘To the Max’ is forge a Jersey / Miami juke hybrid, via an underground (and distinctly British) music scene. Whilst the track was probably more likely inspired by Khaled’s love of Jersey Club, it’s not out of the question to imagine Drake playing Khaled T2’s ‘Heartbroken’ in a studio session – he’s certainly had previous experience with this sort of thing. ‘To The Max’ is a refreshing, incorporating two of the most overlooked scenes in world music.”

Read our track review.

GoldLink—“Crew” Remix ft. Gucci Mane

Goldlink is riding high from the release of At What Cost, his third full-length released earlier this spring. The D.C. rapper delivered a concise set of trunk-rattlers with his latest effort, but the track “Crew” proved to be a particularly memorable standout. Now, he has given the song the remix treatment, enlisting none other than Gucci Mane.

Jorja Smith—“Teenage Fantasy”

Jorja Smith has quickly become one of our favorites – she continues to leave us speechless track after track. “Teenage Fantasy” is no exception thanks to its neosoul vibes, brimming with youthful teenage nostalgia, and her vocal prowess well beyond her mere 19 years. We can’t wait to see what she’ll bring us next.

Lorde—“Perfect Places”

As the finale to her superb sophomore album, “Perfect Places,” to paraphrase an oft-quoted Lebowski-ism, really ties it all together. Aside from lead single “Green Light,” it is the most straight-up, go-for-broke pop song on the record, yet labeling it as such belies its wisdom; what the fuck are perfect places, anyway?

Toro y Moi—“Girl Like You”

In the end, it’s his naïveté that makes this track work. Toro’s plea is entirely in earnest; he’s ‘dreaming a connection,’ not looking for a quick love in the club. He has effectively subverted the listener’s expectations from the get-go; utilizing the elements of an autotuned bedroom-seduction and transforming it into a yearning paean for the kind of love that leaves you with butterflies in your stomach, ‘smiling without thought.’ In so doing, it is the freshest, most natural Toro has sounded in years.”

Read our track review.

TORRES—“Skim”

“Do you just hate him more than you love me?” rising rocker TORRES asks in her new single, her voice conveying every twitch of her bristling anger. “Skim” is rife with this energy, executed in the track’s first half with a synth that runs tremors through the earth and in the latter half with her miraculous, fuzzed-out guitar frenzy. Her ferocity and inventiveness with the instrument immediately places her within the lineage of forbearers like PJ Harvey and St. Vincent, but TORRES has a captivating swagger entirely her own.

Tyler, the Creator—“Who Dat Boy” / “911 / Mr. Lonely”

They’ve only been with us a few hours but Tyler, the Creator’s double-whammy return is like a welcome hug from an old friend. His first new releases in years find the rapper going tet-a-tet with some of his besties, namely A$AP Rocky and Frank Ocean, over jarring production that reminds us why Tyler is still one of the most vital voices in rap.

Be sure to check out our picks for the best music of May right here.

  • Text: Jake Boyer, Jacob Davey, Bianca Guilione, Stephanie Smith-Strickland
  • Cover Image: Billboard
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