NPR Music's Top 15 Albums From May From Tyler, the Creator's lovesick turn to Jamila Wood's funky second album, May had a ridiculous amount of stellar music to offer just before summer arrives.
NPR logo NPR Music's Top 15 Albums From May

NPR Music's Top 15 Albums From May

Tyler, The Creator. His latest album, IGOR is on our list of the best albums out in May. Sam Rock/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Sam Rock/Courtesy of the artist

May had a ridiculous amount of stellar music to offer just before summer arrives. Some of the tracks are ripe for backyard parties (Carly Rae Jepsen's Dedicated and Ari Lennox's Shea Butter Baby) while others dig into the self (Jamila Woods' LEGACY! LEGACY! and Vampire Weekend's Father of the Bride). We couldn't just stop at 10 picks, especially in such a strong month for hip-hop, including crucial albums by DUCKWRTH, Injury Reserve and Tyler, The Creator.

NPR Music's Top 15 Albums For May

Cover for Shea Butter Baby

Shea Butter Baby

  • by Ari Lennox

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Ari Lennox's honey-dipped delivery might crib notes from Erykah Badu's late-'90s book of neo-soul. But you have to go all the way back to '70s soul queens like Betty Wright and Millie Jackson for the down-to-earth confessionals and cheeky sexual confidence she embodies on her infectious debut Shea Butter Baby. Rodney Carmichael

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Song
Shea Butter Baby
Album
Shea Butter Baby
Artist
Ari Lennox
Label
Interscope

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Cover for U.F.O.F.

U.F.O.F.

  • by Big Thief

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It's not like Big Thief went mellow on its third album; and yet, for a band that's always been incessantly tender, U.F.O.F. is somehow even more so. Continually prodding intimacy and asking eternal questions, here, Big Thief peels back its careening indie rock sound for a powerfully and hauntingly delicate album. Marissa Lorusso

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Song
U.F.O.F.
Album
U.F.O.F.
Artist
Big Thief
Label
4ad

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Cover for Dedicated

Dedicated

  • by Carly Rae Jepsen

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Carly Rae Jepsen famously writes hundreds of songs for each album. But for all of her handpicked bops that have soundtracked our lovesick nights, Dedicated has a singular vision — love yourself before you can love others — with a sophisticated synth-pop palette that opens our deepest desires. — Lars Gotrich

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Song
Dedicated
Album
Dedicated
Artist
Carly Rae Jepsen
Label
Interscope
Released
2019

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Cover for État

État

  • by Daniel Wohl

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Inching toward a more song-like format – with a few danceable beats and an airy vocal from Poliça's Channy Leaneagh – Daniel Wohl's latest music remains a Pandora's box of unknown sounds and concussive juxtapositions. The Los Angeles-based Parisian is among the most spirited electro-acoustic composers working today. Tom Huizenga

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Song
État
Album
État
Artist
Daniel Wohl
Label
Nonesuch
Released
2019

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Cover for The Falling Man

The Falling Man

  • by DUCKWRTH

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Somewhere between God and gangsta rap, DUCKWRTH has constructed an epic hero's journey in The Falling Man. One minute he's losing his religion, turning over tables in the temple like Jesus. The next, he's questioning a lost generation's allegiance to the trap. It's a Shakesperean tragedy squeezed into an EP. — Rodney Carmichael

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Song
The Falling Man
Album
The Falling Man
Artist
DUCKWRTH
Label
Republic

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Cover for PROTO

PROTO

  • by Holly Herndon

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Science fiction has long shown us that dystopias can be beautiful. The future-now that composer and tech wizard Holly Herndon shows us on her third album is that kind. Equally rooted in the ancient magic of choral music and the post-human affinities artificial intelligence makes possible, it is the sonic equivalent of great movies like Arrival and Annihilation: haunting, deeply moving, showing what's strangely possible. Ann Powers

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Song
PROTO
Album
PROTO
Artist
Holly Herndon
Label
4AD
Released
2019

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Cover for Injury Reserve

Injury Reserve

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Nothing's weird about weirdo rap anymore. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. But Phoenix trio Injury Reserve's experimental-yet-accessible approach — led by producer Parker Corey's kitchen-sink approach — feels more refreshing than cliché. It's not so much about where they're going, but how they get there that makes this studio debut worth the ride. Rodney Carmichael

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Song
Injury Reserve
Album
Injury Reserve
Artist
Injury Reserve
Label
Loma Vista
Released
2019

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Cover for LEGACY! LEGACY!

LEGACY! LEGACY!

  • by Jamila Woods

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"You can't police my joy," Chicago hip hop poet and songmaker Jamila Woods insists on "Basquiat," one of twelve tracks named after the ancestors and elders with whom she communes on this rich and funky second album. Woods effortlessly communicates how history lives in the present moment — in sound and in feeling — and, like joy, cannot be erased. Ann Powers

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Song
LEGACY! LEGACY!
Album
LEGACY! LEGACY!
Artist
Jamila Woods
Label
Jagjaguwar
Released
2019

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Cover for KingMaker

KingMaker

  • by Joel Ross

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What are the odds that a vibraphonist in his early 20s would emerge as this year's breakout jazz talent? Pretty good, if we're talking about Joel Ross — whose highly anticipated Blue Note debut suggests a sort of Millennial post-bop manifesto, bursting with deft maneuvers and sincere emotion. Nate Chinen

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Song
KingMaker
Album
KingMaker
Artist
Joel Ross
Label
Blue Note
Released
2019

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Cover for Front Porch

Front Porch

  • by Joy Williams

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One of Nashville's most emotionally daring vocalists finds her balance on this lovely, understated, yet revealing collection of songs. Keeping things simple under the guidance of Milk Carton Kid Kenneth Pattingale, Williams offers insights into longstanding love, family, and desire; its her strongest work since her former duo, the Civil Wars, called it quits. Ann Powers

Cover for Painted

Painted

  • by Lucky Daye

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Painted comes off as Lucky Daye's one shot at making an impression. The New Orleans singer-songwriter and his producer D'Mile lay out their entire repertoire through a myriad of influences in R&B, producing a project that satisfies a range of tastes. This debut should be a springboard to a long and fruitful career, but if this is his last ditch-effort, point well taken. Bobby Carter

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Song
Painted
Album
Painted
Artist
Lucky Daye
Label
RCA
Released
2019

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Cover for Cut & Stitch

Cut & Stitch

  • by Petrol Girls

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Cut & Stitch fuses post-hardcore furor and thoughtful feminist interrogation. How does feminist praxis relate to the environment? To national identity? To masculinity? To mental health? In a month of exhausting news about women's rights, Petrol Girls delivered a powerful set of questions and a needed rallying cry. Marissa Lorusso

Cover for IGOR

IGOR

  • by Tyler, The Creator

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Up until 2019, if you were to describe Tyler, The Creator, lovesick would likely not be the adjective that first came to mind. But in the wake of IGOR, his stellar and entirely self-produced display, the young class clown has grown up, gotten his heart broken and is left reeling in the wake of what this all means without the one he loves. Sidney Madden

Cover for Father of the Bride

Father of the Bride

  • by Vampire Weekend

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Ezra Koenig turns his attention to how we forge forward with the ones we love in a fallen world. Working with producer Ariel Rechstaid and featuring vocals from Danielle Haim, Father of the Bride draws on many of the same sonic reference points of earlier Vampire Weekend albums, but applies a looser approach, sprawling across its airy 18 tracks. Lyndsey McKenna

Cover for 4REAL 4REAL

4REAL 4REAL

  • by YG

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It's been two months since the untimely death of Nipsey Hussle and hip-hop is still mourning. So, as much as 4Real 4Real is a greezy, gangsta reminder to hold down your set and enjoy the moment, it's also YG's sonic eulogy for Neighborhood Nip, one of his closest friends. Sidney Madden