NPR Music's Top 12 Albums Of August Lana Del Rey balanced bleak beauty with real insight, Young Thug's So Much Fun culminated his influence and Bon Iver offered an album just in time for autumn.
NPR logo NPR Music's Top 12 Albums Of August

NPR Music's Top 12 Albums Of August

Bon Iver's i,i appears on NPR Music's best albums of August. Graham Tolbert /Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Graham Tolbert /Courtesy of the artist

August, traditionally, is slow month for media. Hollywood takes a (brief) break from blockbusters and gets ready to roll out autumn's big movies. The music world didn't get that memo, giving our ears much to love. Bon Iver surprise-released the abstract and beautiful i,i early, Lana Del Rey put the finishing touches on Norman F****** Rockwell! and Young Thug dropped So Much Fun with a week's notice.

Below you'll find an alphabetized list of NPR Music's top 12 albums of August 2019. Be sure to check out our top 16 songs from the month as well.

NPR Music's Top 12 Albums Of August

  • Bon Iver, 'i,i'

    Bon Iver, 'i,i'

    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON

    With i,i, Bon Iver has now released an album for every season — this one's for autumn. It's full of songs about connection: to friends, to family, to lovers, to the world at large. Appropriately, the work feels more open and collaborative than ever, letting light pour into everything. — Stephen Thompson

  • Ellen Reid, 'p r i s m'

    Ellen Reid, p r i s m

    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / AMAZON

    Perhaps the most luminous, startling and beautiful theatrical score in many years, Ellen Reid's opera p r i s m more than earns its 2019 Pulitzer. The story, set to a pungent and poetic text by Roxie Perkins, delves deep into the shape-shifting reality of a young woman recovering from sexual assault. Stunning. Tom Huizenga

  • Jay Som, 'Anak Ko'

    Jay Som

    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON

    Melina Duterte's third full-length as Jay Som is a profound creative leap for the L.A.-based multi-instrumentalist. Anak Ko ("My Child" in Tagalog) rattles, shakes and sighs while veering into some wonderfully surprising — and stranger — sonic directions, with deep ruminations on love and humility. — Robin Hilton

  • Jazzmeia Horn, 'Love and Liberation'

    Jazzmeia Horn, Love and Liberation

    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON

    On her poised and pugnacious second album, Jazzmeia Horn slips free of lingering comparisons — to Betty Carter, Sarah Vaughan and other jazz-vocal touchstones — by sharpening the angle of attack. Her singing is exuberant, her original songs reveal a sturdy intellect, and her message is nothing less than everything the title implies. — Nate Chinen, WBGO

  • Joan Shelley, 'Like the River Loves the Sea'

    Joan Shelley, Like the River Loves the Sea

    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / BANDCAMP / AMAZON

    It may be a long way from Kentucky to Iceland, where Louisville's most skillful singer-song-writer recorded this album, but there's nothing chilly about the songs, which glow in homespun warmth with diaphanous arrangements. And some, like "Cycle," unfold with the poetic inscrutability of an Alice Munro short story. — Tom Huizenga

  • Lana Del Rey, 'Norman F****** Rockwell!'

    Lana Del Rey, 'Norman F****** Rockwell'

    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON

    Lana Del Rey writes languid songs from the perspective of a gloomy Cali pleasure-seeker whose accumulated ache can't stamp out faint embers of hope. At 67 minutes, Rockwell! sprawls exquisitely, balancing its bleak beauty with real insight into the ways we get by in a world on the brink. — Stephen Thompson

  • Oso Oso, 'Basking in the glow'

    oso oso, 'basking in the glow'

    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON

    Emo taught to us glower in our feels, or at least that's the persistent narrative pushed by pop culture. But there's always been far more nuance to this music, with a glimmering example found in Oso Oso's Basking in the Glow. Like anyone else in our current hellscape, Jade Lilitri struggles to stay positive, but radiates with melodies and epiphanies about who he is and aspires to be. — Lars Gotrich

  • Raphael Saadiq, 'Jimmy Lee'

    Raphael Saadiq, Jimmy Lee

    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON

    Raphael Saadiq's Jimmy Lee is an exorcism of family tragedy and trauma, personified in blood, bone and blues. It's the story of American dysfunction run rampant, while the survivors find the guts to music their way through the pain. This time, Saadiq lights up the darkness by revealing his own. He's never sounded brighter. — Rodney Carmichael

  • Rapsody, 'Eve'

    Rapsody, Eve

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    Though this is technically Rapsody's third studio effort, the narrative of Eve has been centuries in the making. By naming each song after an inspirational black woman (from Cleopatra to Sojourner Truth to Aaliyah to Michelle Obama), Rap traces the legacy of black influence in society while maintaining her measured flow and the scorching wit of a group chat roast session. — Sidney Madden

  • Sleater-Kinney, 'The Center Won't Hold'

    Sleater-Kinney, The Center Won't Hold

    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON

    Slickly produced by Annie Clark, The Center Won't Hold breaks new sonic ground for Sleater-Kinney without abandoning the dynamic interplay that makes the iconic band tick. "There are not a lot of all-female rock bands who have stood on this precipice, making their ninth album," Carrie Brownstein told NPR this month. How lucky we are to have this trio setting the pace. — Marissa Lorusso

  • Tanya Tucker, 'While I'm Livin"

    Tanya Tucker, While I'm Livin'

    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON

    In the 1970s, Tanya Tucker was country's wild teenage flame; in the 1980s, a prime purveyor of country pop. Then, like many stars, she found herself grounded for a while. Her ardent fan Brandi Carlile and her spiritual son Shooter Jennings have engineered a comeback for Tucker that rings remarkably true, writing and selecting songs that help her tell her whole life story, redolent of heartbreak, jokes, dreams, and realistic optimism. — Ann Powers

  • Young Thug, 'So Much Fun'

    Young Thug, So Much Fun

    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON

    You know that screechy, slurred delivery and unpredictable rap you hear all the young bucks emulate? That's all Thugger.
    While copycats have arose and climbed up the charts thanks to what he purveyed, Thug's long awaited, J. Cole-produced album So Much Fun is the culmination of the rapper's influence, experimentation and forward thinking of a high-sky caliber. — Sidney Madden