Great music has come from just about every corner of the musical map this year, and on this list of our favorites of the year’s first half, there’s no real connecting thread. An ambitious all-over-the-place album from a big-money Nashville country mainstay is just as likely to rule as, say, a mixtape from a pair of Atlanta rap weirdos, or a Southern doom-metal trudge, or a sparkling and breezy piece of conceptual dance music, or a gut-ripping neo-folk record. But in our top three, you’ll find two heavy, sprawling slabs of death-obsessed darkness from songwriters who are decades into their careers but who are just hitting new strides now. If those made up our top two, we might be tempted to call this the Year of the Craggy Old Bastard. But right between them, there’s an effortlessly listenable album of lightly stoned ’80s radio-rock. So you figure it out. Nothing in music this year makes a lot of sense, but a lot of it is great anyway.
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