Best Albums: A space-surf return, heavy-ass hip hop, and murder balladry

After a 13-year studio layoff, Man or Astro-Man? returns to Earth with elements both familiar and new.

Mini-super-group NK delivers an indescribable mash of Deftones-style groove riffs, heavy hip hop, shoegaze, post-punk, and soulful down-tempo jams.

Chosen by John Zorn to start his label’s “spotlight series,” Les Rhinocéros offers a more focused commingling of prog rock with jazz, worldly melodies, and experimental tangents.

On her sixth full album, bluesy rock singer/guitarist Scout Niblett bares her soul in songs (including a murder-ballad opener) that convey the raw intensity of personal shakeups.

New York quintet The National returns to familiar territory (brooding melodies, forlorn arrangements) but with different musical textures.

Honorable Mentions

Daft Punk: Random Access Memories (Columbia)

G&D: The Lighthouse (SomeOthaShip Connect)

Grim Tower: Anarchic Breezes (Outer Battery)

Have Mercy: The Earth Pushed Back (Topshelf)

Japanther: Eat Like Lisa, Act Like Bart (Recess)

LVMRKS: Pale Fairytale

Pat Metheny / John Zorn: Tap: Book of Angels, Vol. 20 (Nonesuch / Tzadik)

Saturday Looks Good to Me: One Kiss Ends It All (Polyvinyl)

Sqürl: s/t EP (ATP)

Ten Kens: Namesake

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