NPR Music's Top 15 Albums Of October Among the month's best albums, you'll find veterans of varying ages making some of the best music of their careers, but also a striking debut by a promising R&B singer.
NPR logo NPR Music's Top 15 Albums Of October

NPR Music's Top 15 Albums Of October

Summer Walker's Over It is one of the best albums of October. Aiden Cullen/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Aiden Cullen/Courtesy of the artist

The arc of an artist is marked by detours, reinventions and returns. Among the month's best albums, you'll find veterans of varying age making some of the best music of their careers, but also a striking and honest debut by a promising R&B singer.

Below you'll find an alphabetized list of NPR Music's top 15 albums of October 2019. Be sure to check out our top 16 songs from the month as well.

NPR Music's Top 15 Albums Of October

  • Allison Moorer, 'Blood'

    Blood
    Courtesy of the artist

    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON

    A companion to her remarkable memoir of a youth marred by tragic family violence, Allison Moorer's album is brilliantly constructed from the shards of memory, turning from stark, descriptive ballads to restless rockers to her own catalog to make a living portmanteau carrying the past into the light. —Ann Powers

  • Angel Olsen, 'All Mirrors'

    All Mirrors
    Courtesy of the artist

    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON / BANDCAMP

    Angel Olsen, meet 14-piece orchestra. An artist who's cycled through acoustic folk, rock, and synth experiments has finally found a sonic landscape delicate enough to buoy her softest croon and big enough to blow your hair back when she howls. A swirling, defiant opus. —Cyrena Touros

  • Big Thief, 'Two Hands'

    Two Hands
    Courtesy of the artist

    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / AMAZON / BANDCAMP

    Big Thief's second album of 2019, which the band calls the "earth twin" to May's "celestial twin," is beautiful, gentle and focused; to great effect, it also occasionally dwells in drama. Two Hands draws power from the intense connection between the band's members and the insistent questions of compassion on which songwriter Adrianne Lenker fixates. —Marissa Lorusso

  • Billy Woods, 'Terror Management'

    Terror Management
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    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON / BANDCAMP

    Terror Management opens with a recording of Kurt Vonnegut describing what he thinks is the simplest story: "Man in Hole." The story that follows is anything but. Billy Woods is at his poetic best here, weaving together not-so-disparate worlds — dice games, tent cities, Potemkin villages — over instrumentals that sound like they were made in the jagged cracks running through a glacier. —Mano Sundaresan

  • Caroline Polachek, 'Pang'

    Pang
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    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON

    Children know the power of onomatopoeia and its ability to give simple language and physicality to complex emotional experiences. With production at times viscous and breathless, Caroline Polachek deploys its percussive force on Pang in the emotional punches of love and its accompanying pain. —Cyrena Touros

  • Danny Brown, 'unknowhatimsayin¿'

    unknowhatimsayin
    Courtesy of the artist

    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON

    Danny Brown spent this decade testing just how far he could take his claim, "I can rap over anything and make it dope." But on his latest, the Detroit rapper circles back to the most conventional set of rap beats he's worked with in years, tearing through Q-Tip's boom-bap oddities with the grace and charm of someone having fun at his job. — Mano Sundaresan

  • Great Grandpa, 'Four of Arrows'

    Four of Arrows
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    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON / BANDCAMP

    Great Grandpa's superb second album, Four of Arrows, was written following seismic shifts for the band, as members moved and reconvened to record. Unsurprisingly, it feels like the result of deep examination, keen observation and contemplative processing. —Lyndsey McKenna

  • Kim Gordon, 'No Home Record'

    No Home Record
    Courtesy of the artist

    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / AMAZON

    Kim Gordon's first solo album toys with cultural decline in surreal shades of terror and bemusement, a detached deconstruction she sharpened as the co-founder of Sonic Youth. Yet through every heady drone, spacious dub, riotous punk rager and lysergic trap beat, Gordon's scorched rasp scrapes the shocked psyche clean. —Lars Gotrich

  • Kris Davis, 'Diatom Ribbons'

    Diatom Ribbons
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    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON / BANDCAMP

    Pianist Kris Davis has always managed a knife's-edge balance of daring and delicate, but on Diatom Ribbons she reaches a higher gear. It's an album informed at every turn by Davis' elastic rapport with an elite corps of improvisers, notably Val Jeanty on turntables and Terri Lyne Carrington on drums. —Nate Chinen, WBGO

  • Lankum, 'The Livelong Day'

    The Livelong Day
    Courtesy of the artist

    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / AMAZON

    Already Europe's standard-bearer for reinventing Irish folk in the 21st century, this group of musical explorers is finally capturing American ears with its third album. Drone-drunk reinventions of folk revival favorites like "The Wild Rover" mystically meld with originals that feel grown from the earth, reimagining folk music as the muddy stain of history and as dream inheritance. —Ann Powers

  • Lucas Debargue, 'Scarlatti: 52 Sonatas'

    Scarlatti
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    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / AMAZON

    The open-minded French pianist, who once dropped classical music to play bass in a rock band, makes these 52 baroque miniatures sparkle. Forgoing the use of pedal, Lucas Debargue finds singular transparency of color and light, allowing Scarlatti's Flamenco strumming, trumpet fanfares, lyrical reflections and mood shifts to pop even brighter. —Tom Huizenga

  • Odd Okoddo, 'Auma'

    Auma
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    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON / BANDCAMP

    Odd Okoddo might be considered odd bedfellows. The newly formed duo pairs German percussionist-composer Sven Kacirek with Kenyan luthier Olith Ratego who sings in a high and lonesome style called "dodo." Together they've created a debut album of singular propulsive beauty, fueled by Ratego's five-stringed okodo and grounded by Kacirek's bass marimba. —Tom Huizenga

  • Summer Walker, 'Over It'

    Over It
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    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON

    An expression of dating fatigue, hook-up culture and social media faux pas, delivered in unflinchingly honest terms, informed by experiences unique to black womanhood. Soon after Over It's release, Summer Walker's reserved stage presence at our own Tiny Desk set off Twitter conversations about the expectations placed on black female performers. She's tired of the bulls*** and shouldn't be afraid to show it. —Zoë Jones

  • Vagabon, 'Vagabon'

    Vagabon
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    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON / BANDCAMP

    With 2017's Infinite Worlds, Vagbon's Laetitia Tamko pushed the limits of bedroom-bound solo indie-rock, unveiling fresh textures and nuanced thoughts on identity and her place in the world. Her follow-up stretches that sound far further, in nervily luminous songs that showcase Tamko's growth and versatility as a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, poet and all-around icon-in-the-making. —Stephen Thompson

  • Wilco, 'Ode to Joy'

    Ode to Joy
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    : APPLE / SPOTIFY / YOUTUBE / AMAZON / BANDCAMP

    The stakes can often seem low for a veteran band: No need to prove your staying power if you've survived this long, right? Wilco's current configuration has been solid for years, and Ode to Joy feels like its definitive statement. It's an insular yet inviting snapshot that more than justifies its worth. —Lyndsey McKenna