Jay-Z’s 4:44 and 6 Other Albums to Listen to Now

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Photo: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Spike

Every week, Vulture gathers new albums you can listen to right now. We don’t have a problem admitting it: Keeping track of everything that’s released can be overwhelming, but finding out about interesting music doesn’t have to be work. Read our picks below, and share your thoughts in the comments.

Jay-Z, 4:44 (Roc Nation)
You already know this is out, and you’ve probably already listened to it, assuming you’re a Tidal or, uh, Sprint loyalist, but here it is: Jay-Z released a brief, honest rap album that engages with everything swirling around him: infidelity, Beyoncé, elevator fights, and what it means to age gracefully in a genre that has not yet figured out what to do with its veterans. 4:44 is not close to the best Jay-Z album ever (we can argue about that somewhere else if you disagree), but it is a great entry in the canon of one of rap’s greatest artists. —Sam Hockley-Smith (@Shockleysmith)

Calvin Harris, Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 (Sony)
Did everyone else expect Calvin Harris to make an entire album of disco rap? Was this just, like, a thing that his career up to now was pointing to? Just in time for your Fourth of July wedding that also happens to be a belated barbecue graduation party at a waterpark in California, Harris, along with the cream of the rap crop, got together to make an album that bottles summer evenings, good vibes, and pure fun. Remember fun? —SH-S

Floating Points, Reflections — Mojave Desert (Luaka Bop) Reflections — Mojave Desert is technically a soundtrack to London producer Sam Shepherd’s (a.k.a. Floating Points) short film of the same name, but that descriptor doesn’t fully encompass what this beguiling, otherworldly 27-minute score really is. The sounds on Reflections feel simultaneously synthetic and natural (think a synthesizer loop distorting and speeding up as it echoes through the desert) because they are: Shepherd recorded it all in the Mojave desert, capturing the natural sonic textures of vast open spaces, rock formations, and valleys. Where traditional soundtracks amp up the emotional impact of what happens onscreen, in this case, gorgeous shots reflect the stillness of the desert at night. Reflections is more than a piece of music that soundtracks an experience — it’s the sonic manifestation of the experience itself. —Samantha Rollins (@SamanthaRollins)

Beach House, B-Sides and Rarities (Sub Pop)
Album to album, Beach House are one of the more consistent bands around. If you want songs that sound like pure melancholy distilled into thick walls of glammy shoegaze theatrics, then Beach House is your band. They are very good at it, and have a few classics under their belt. The question is, though, does a band like Beach House — a band so dedicated to the album as an artistic statement — need a collection that pulls together loose tracks? Probably not, but I’m happy it exists anyway. —SH-S

Kacy Hill, Like a Woman (Def Jam)
You wouldn’t know it just by listening, but Kacy Hill’s debut album was executive-produced by Kanye. What does that mean in this case? I’m not sure: It means nothing, or it means a whole lot. Either way, it’s an interesting debut. Hill’s voice floats over moody electronics in a way that brings to mind a modern take on Kate Bush’s ornate pop. “Lion” in particular is hauntingly intimate and often very beautiful. Hill is worth watching. —SH-S

Washed Out, Mister Mellow (Stones Throw)
Ernest Green, better known as Washed Out, accidentally helped pioneer chillwave, a genre built on laid-back vibes that briefly turned into a cottage industry, but more or less relaxed itself out of existence. Green’s debut record, Within and Without, still holds up remarkably well, though. Its hypnotic beats are buoyed by Green’s distant vocals, making for pleasantly atmospheric tunes. Chillwave’s death coincided with Green’s move away from these roots: 2013’s Paracosm was a detour into more straightforward rock, but Mister Mellow sounds like it exists somewhere in between. A 30-minute runtime makes the record a breeze. It’s a sometimes clunky but enjoyable back-and-forth between disco pop and mellow electronic vignettes. Make sure to stick around for the album’s closing track “Million Miles Away,” which is the closest to Green’s euphoric first EP, Life of Leisure, as you’re going to get. —Ethan Sapienza (@ClickTheMovie)

TLC, TLC (852 Musiq)
In 1999, TLC’s Fanmail pioneered the album as overt fan service. You could submit your name to be included in the liner notes as a supporter of the group. Now, close to two decades later, TLC practice a different form of fan service. This album was made with the help of Kickstarter, and it touches all the TLC touch points that have become so familiar. Don’t worry, they mention not wanting scrubs, and not wanting said scrubs to chase waterfalls in the same sentence on the first track. Nevertheless, TLC is an appealing album. It might not change the world, and it’s certainly not on the level of CrazySexyCool, but it’s a solid summer R&B album worth spending time with. Snoop Dogg is the only guest and he shows up twice. —SH-S

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