11. Orville Peck – Bronco – No sophomore slump here, just pure growth. Bronco is beautiful, accessible for all, and emotional. I know there’s critique on the street about the depth of his vocal range on his first album. But, if there is a limit there (and I call it a big if) it is something that I’m willing to tolerate because I believe it exposes his vulnerability. It creates authenticity to the music. So I’m going to count  the fact that he’s not the most polished singer on the planet as a win and the thing that actually makes this album more beautiful. (I don’t usually post lyric videos, but “Kalahari Down” speaks to what I am getting at when listening to this album)

Orville Peck: Bronco

A gay cowboy with South African and Canadian roots who performs with his face hidden behind a fringed mask, Orville Peck seems like a figure destined to reside on the margins of pop culture.

The theatre of Orville Peck

When Orville Peck first appeared on the country music scene in 2018, he wore a Zorro-esque mask, hid his mouth behind a tassel fringe and clad himself in fetishistic leather. His debut single, Big Sky, a moody, ethereal track with gauzy guitar drenched in reverb, sounded like it could have been ripped from the Twin Peaks soundtrack.

12. The Black Keys – Dropout Boogie – I don’t really understand how this album didn’t get the love I think it earned. Is it ground breaking? Nope. But, did we finally get the sequel to El Camino? Yes, I think we did. The funny thing is this; if you are a fan of The Black Keys, no matter the age, you are now listening to dad rock. I wish it wasn’t true, but I don’t believe they hold the same ‘cool’ factor they once did. Don’t get me wrong, they are still great, but you are now a dad band fan.

The Black Keys: Dropout Boogie

Even with the help of outside songwriters and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, the blues-rock duo can’t help reverting to the same old same old. When the Black Keys coughed up their debut album, The Big Come Up, exactly 20 years ago this week, the smart money definitely wasn’t on them being the slow-and-steady victors of the early 2000s garage-rock rat race.

13. Quelle Chris- Deathfame – Think Earl Sweatshirt rap songs. Now that you have that vibe in mind, dig into the uniqueness of Deathfame.

Quelle Chris: Deathfame

Quelle Chris has carved a niche for himself at the edges of alternative hip-hop. His music is as distinctive as it is capacious, and he’s probably one of the only rappers whose discography contains a verse from Roc Marciano and a hook from the Tune-Yards.

This song is so nice. And if you are not familiar with Chris Keys, he too, dropped a nice album this year.

14. Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers – We waited five years for this. I can’t convince myself it is legendary. I also can’t convince myself it is as bad as I think it might be. My hot take, if he had left off “We Cry Together” and “Auntie Diaries” I think my first listen would have felt a lot different. A research on reviews ran the gamut. The consensus was usually one of two things. It did not live up to expectations or they gave it too much praise. Some people can’t be objective in fandom. Ultimately, Kendrick’s voice and commitment to a deeply developed storyline on all of his albums keeps me coming back and putting him in my top twenty. Maybe I too fail at being objective in my fandom.

15. Carrtoons – Homegrown – What is this lovely R&B experience? I don’t know, but I can’t get enough of these smooth rhythms. This video will guide you to what is in store on the album.


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