letlive. – The Blackest Beautiful

While I think California’s letlive. has pulled together some intense performances on this new album of theirs, the obnoxious vocal harmonies and poppy appeals keeps this album’s thrill short-lived.

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Autopsy – The Headless Ritual

While Autopsy is sounding much heavier on The Headless Ritual, these death metal veterans just didn’t seem to put in the songwriting effort that they did on their last full-length, Macabre Eternal.

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James Holden – The Inheritors

Even though I’m not completely in love with the new James Holden album, I am impressed by the simultaneously primeval and futuristic vibe he’s been able to evoke on most of the tracks here.

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Jay-Z – Magna Carta… Holy Grail

Jay-Z returns to putting out rap albums with Maga Carta… Holy Grail, and raps about as well as you’d expect at this point in his career over some pretty fresh production.

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Billy Woods – Dour Candy

D.C. rapper Billy Woods comes through with a Blockhead-produced project that might be more autobiographical than he lets on.

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Joey Bada$$ – Summer Knights

New York rapper Joey Bada$$ follows up his infamous 1999 mixtape with a collection of tracks that feel more like a sequel from Pro Era’s recently released PEEP: The aPROcalypse mixtape. Still a solid effort, though.

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Locrian – Return to Annihilation

Chicago experimental rock group Locrian creates some evocative sounds on a rough recording. I just wish their melodies and songwriting were as gripping as their moody, apocalyptic aesthetic.

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Smith Westerns – Soft Will

Smith Westerns’ Soft Will shows the Chicago band upping their recording quality, and really showcasing the big melodies and choruses that were hidden under some of the muck on their last record, Dye It Blonde.

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J. Cole – Born Sinner

Despite the dramatic cover art and album title, J. Cole’s sophomore effort doesn’t seem any more emotional or focused than his debut.

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Mac Miller – Watching Movies With The Sound Off

Mac Miller’s followup to Blue Slide Park is an improvement on all fronts. While it’s not gonna be one of my favs for the year, Mac is seriously reaching for the potential that I’ve felt he’s had for a while with creative production choices, better flows, and some impressive features.

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