This article originally appeared on VICE US.
Every week, the Noisey staff puts together a list of the best and most important albums, mixtapes, and EPs from the past seven days. Sometimes it includes projects we’ve written about on the site already; sometimes it's just made up of great records that we want everyone to hear, but never got the chance to write about. The result is neither comprehensive nor fair. We hope it helps.
Beyoncé, The Lion King: The Gift
The album that Beyoncé curated for The Lion King movie uses the landmark remake for a real-world diasporic reunion. The expansive list of artists on the record is meant to overwhelm listeners with all there is to discover about African music scenes. It may feature American stars like Kendrick Lamar and Pharrell Williams, but the real driving force is the distinct rhythms its African producers and artists brought to the project.
Commanding afrobeats on "DON'T JEALOUS ME" welcome listeners to break out their shoki, gwara gwara, or improv footwork, while the dancehall-influenced "ALREADY" lures them to whine their body. The tracklist is heavy on artists from South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana and even though it has drawn some criticism for leaving out the flourishing music scenes in places like Ethiopia and Kenya, it's strikingly more in tune with current sounds on the continent than Black Panther's Lamar-curated album. Beyoncé puts a welcome emphasis on women from these scenes with tracks like "MY POWER," which unites her with both Philly surrealist Tierra Whack and the South African singer Moonchild Sannelly, among others. —Taylor Hosking
Maxo Kream, Brandon Banks
Maxo Kream wants to tell you about his life. The Houston-born rapper has spent his seven year career making songs with stories about family, hustling, and becoming a world-class rapper. His ascension was slow—he didn’t really gain steam until 2015’s #Maxo187, but last year’s Punken was a star-making performance. With Brandon Banks—his major label debut—Maxo builds on this promise. This is one of the best rap albums of the year, and in typical Maxo fashion, it's entirely vulnerable and open about the tribulations he’s faced as a young Black man in America. Maxo has spent his entire career telling us about his life, but it still feels like the first chapter of a great book. — Will Schube
Tony Molina, SONGS FROM SAN MATEO COUNTY
Brevity is the one constant in Tony Molina’s career. He’s an adventurous songwriter who churns out short-and-sweet songs that occupy rock ’n’ roll’s catchiest and fuzziest fringes. His albums rarely take longer than getting ready in the morning and by far the longest offering on his rarities collection SONGS FROM SAN MATEO COUNTY clocks under two minutes. More importantly, Molina crams so many guitar-based hooks into 14 songs and 15 minutes, it’s almost overwhelming. —Josh Terry
Notable first as the accidental co-architect of a maybe-genre that most people involved would rather we just drop at this point, New York producer Baltra has spent the last couple of years figuring out what it is he does best across a series of bleary and blunted LPs. There have been foggy rave refractions, straight-up house belters, and blissed ambience buried in that string of recent releases. But Ted, his new LP, proposes another possibility: why not follow all your ideas at once? Across the record, there's misty fairy-tale house music, aggro junglist theatrics, and jazz-acid freakouts, each undertaken with care and love. It gives the album a sort of dream logic—as he moving between sounds and styles with a mixture of hard cuts and blurry fades, it's hard to want to wake up. —Colin Joyce
Ada Lea, what we say in private
Ada Lea’s album what we say in private came about after a breakup, which led to 180 days of journaling and processing. While the Montreal songwriter’s debut is as open and vulnerable as a diary entry, it’s not messy—it's careful and intentional. Opener “mercury” is a sprawling, indie rock stunner that unpredictably unfolds in its final third. There are many other welcome surprises like on “for real (not pretend)” which boasts spooky synths as well as a ‘90s-inflected alt-rock hook. Perhaps the most resonant moment comes during the quieter side of Lea’s music in “yanking the peals off around my neck..,” which showcases her plaintive folk side. —Josh Terry
Lingua Ignota, Caligula
Lingua Ignota's known as a noise project, but there's always been a lushness to Kristin Hayter's arrangements that she doubles down on here, sewing together the beauty and the pain. Enjoy those harmonies while you can though—the tone-setting for this record happens on the second track "DO YOU DOUBT ME TRAITOR," when Hayter offers a pained scream over wheezing strings: "I DON'T EAT / I DON'T SLEEP." Worrisome sure, but so is everything these days. The rest of the record continues in kind, luxuriating in the catharsis that comes from owning your anger at a world of trauma, pain, deprivation. —Colin Joyce
Thanks for Coming, No Problem
This new 24-track collection from New York band Thanks for Coming fits firmly in the tradition of hyper-clever, self-referential, casually devastating indie rock that have filled Bandcamp pages and DIY venues across the Northeast for the last half decade. What separates them from the crowd is songwriter Rachel Brown, who sings scenarios both relatable and strange; there's one song meeting terrible people online and another about feeling like you've been demoted to a tertiary character in your own life. It's all pretty downcast, but in a funny way, sung with both a wink and a sigh at the same time. It'll feel like comfort food for anyone who spent their teenagehood holed up in their rooms listening to Frankie Cosmos rarities. —Colin Joyce
Ajani Jones, Dragonfly
One of the hardest-hitting songs on Ajani Jones’ excellent LP Dragonfly is “Lucid,” a bass-heavy single where the Chicago hip-hop artist most dexterously shows off his flow. On that song, his lyrics can be vulnerable and self-effacing: “I think that's it 5 in the mornin', I'm rappin' / Momma be callin', she saw my bank balance / She wonderin' how I'm gon' manage.” Jones is signed to Closed Sessions, a local label responsible for first boosting Jamila Woods and Kweku Collins. And like those acts, Jones thrives throughout Dragonfly in searching for his place in the world. Take highlight “Pluto,” a single where he navigates bouncing around the South side with his family with grace and emotional acuity. —Josh Terry