This year has gone by quickly, already seven months in and a lot of great music has been released so far. In case you’ve missed them, make sure to check out these albums from the first half of the year – as well as a 50 track playlist that will catch you up on some of the best music thus far this year.

Let’s check out what July had in store for us with this month’s 7 best albums.

Badbadnotgood – IV (Album Of The Month)

Things have changed since the Canadian hip hop/jazz trio released their debut. BBNG, almost half of that album was jazz covers of hip hop songs. Five years later they’ve proved their old music teachers wrong, performed at Coachella, recorded tracks with numerous artists which include a full album with Wu Tang’s Ghostface Killah, and added a 4th member (Leland Whitty). Now with their 4th album, aptly titled IV, might be their best yet. The opening tracks And That, Too  & Speaking Gently are beautiful instrumental pieces which solidify BBNG’s core sound. Through out the album BBNG once again twist their jazz sound to incorporate various influences such as hip hop & electronic music, and the guest list helps with this crossovers. Kaytranada joins the group on Lavender adding synths and percussion, Mick Jenkins spits some solid verses on Hyssop of Love. As much as I love their instrumental tracks, some of the guests vocalists really shine with BBNG backing them up.  Future Island’s Samuel T Herring & Charlotte Day Wilson absolutely kills their individual features and delivers the album’s strongest vocal performances. IV is a flawless addition to BadBadNotGood’s repertoire and further proves that their name is a complete oxymoron.

Stand out tracks: Time Moves Slow, Confessions pt II, In Your Eyes

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Schoolboy Q – Blank Face LP

Schoolboy Q’s 4th album, Blank Face LP, is a 70 minute ride through Schoolboy’s eyes. Q might be the best “gangsta” rapper in the game today, but that’s due to his unmistakable personality that can both preach and play on the same track without sounding forced. The album’s menacing single, Groovy Tony, now features a verse by Jadakiss who fits perfectly at home on it’s gutter production. Apart from Jadakiss and Kanye West, the album features cosigns from West Coast legends E40 and That Dogg Pound, but it’s the newer artists such as SZA and Anderson Paak that truly stand out. Feature wise, the only thing missing would be an appearance by members of Black Hippy, who ripped apart THat Part’s remix, which is unfortunately not on the album. Blank Face delivers two of Q’s most socially aware tracks in Black THougHts and Neva Change. Even though he’s touched on similar topics before, never has he displayed the vulnerability like on Neva Change, in which he raps “They pull me out for my priors, won’t let me freeze before they fire, you say that footage a liar.” Not every song shares a bleak tone, with WHateva U Want being an effortless club banger and Kno Ya Wrong bringing in a jazzy flavor to contrast the aggressiveness of most tracks. Blank Face LP is a quality moody gangsta rap album and another solid release by TDE.

Stand out tracks: Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane, Neva Change, John Muir

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The Avalanches – Wildflower

This has to be one of the longest waits for a sophomore album in music history. Sixteen years after dropping their debut, The Avalanches have returned with Wildflower.  Making an album with the style they  possess is time consuming. Each song samples from old records of every genre and era, this brings back the style of classic albums by artists like DJ Shadow and RJD2. The end result is 22 tracks which vary in sound, yet The Avalanches have always had a very soulful underlying  element in their music which keeps it cohesive. The album starts off with strings and horns blaring on the cheerful Because I’m Me which features Camp Lo. There’s quite a number of other hip hop guests on here including Biz Markie, Danny Brown and MF DOOM; as well as other musicians which provide assistance such as Kevin Parker (from Tame Impala) and Father John Misty. Subways is a funky ass tune with hints of disco, complete with a Bee Gees sample, and a catchy vocal sample which provides the chorus.  Overall, Wildflower is the type of album you listen to in it’s entirety when you’re walking outside on a beautiful sunny day, which is perfect for the Summer.

Stand out tracks: Because I’m Me, Subways, Saturday Night Inside Out

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Chevelle – The North Corridor

Chevelle is the epitome of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” But contrary to other bands that grow stale by using a similar style for over a decade, they’ve managed to explore individual layers that help enhance their core sound without deviating from it, and they’ve done it once again with The North Corridor. Their 8th album might be the heaviest in their discography. From their opening track Door To Door Cannibals, they hit the ground running with some adrenaline pumping riffs, and then the album continues to pick up the pace from there. Their single, Joyride (Omen), has a pulsating bass guitar that will quake through your speakers. One thing that Chevelle has always done extremely well is crafting infectious hooks, and that trend continues all over the album especially on Got Burned, one of the album’s strongest and catchiest tracks. Chevelle is one of the few bands left from the early 00’s nu-metal/alternative metal scene that still delivers great albums in 2016, and if they keep up this level of quality, they’ll easily make it way past another decade.

Stand out tracks: Rivers, Young Wicked, Got Burned

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Bernz – See You On The Other Side

If you’ve ever heard any of the 5 ¡Mayday! albums (6 if you count their collaboration with Murs, ¡Mursday!) you already know that Bernz is a talented MC. However, Bernz had not been solo for a full LP since the very first ¡Mayday! self-titled album. He finally gets his chance with his solo debut on Strange Music, See You On The Other Side. This is not a project full of braggadocio verses or battle raps. Instead Bernz spends most of the album sharing his stress and burdens, resulting in an album that captivates with its ability to relate to most people.  The album is filled with tracks that contain mature topics, dope bars, solid production, and catchy hooks without being watered down and remaining true to loyal ¡MAYDAY! fans. After a few spins, even songs that I wasn’t a big fan of (Smoke N’ Fuck) managed to grow on me and led me to never skip a single track. SYOTOS is a great album for those that are currently dealing with a lot of bullshit, as it seems that Bernz is not only venting for himself but for the listener as well.

Stand out tracks: Outta My Brain, It Don’t Go, Sunday Sin

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Maxwell – blackSUMMERS’night

Longevity is a testament to any artists legacy, and it takes more than true love for your craft to make it to the 20 year mark. This is made even more impressive when Maxwell has accomplished this by only releasing 5 albums in an era where albums are cranked out just as quick as they are disposed of. Seven years after his last LP, Maxwell returns with blackSUMMERS’night, the 2nd in a trilogy of albums with a nearly identical name and his most impressive album since his debut. Lost is one of the album’s best moments as Maxwell reflects on a former lover’s current happy life. The blues undertone in this song meshes perfectly with his powerful vocals, the soulful climax is filled with strings and guitars that never overpower the track but helps Maxwell close it out in a gorgeous heart-wrenching fashion. This is grown folks R&B that explores every nuance of love backed by impressive musical arrangements as Maxwell’s silky vocals  serenade the listener

Stand out tracks: Lake By The Ocean, Gods, Lost

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Kembe X – Talk Back

Talk Back is the first official album from the Chicago native. The album is mostly produced by Bentley Hazelwood but other beat makers join in to provide a full canvas for Kembe X’s raps. Hippie Sabotage provide the hypnotizing rhythms on two tracks, including the title track and Loosie. Some of the best tracks on this album are when the Chicago rapper is allowed to rap over soulful instrumentals and let his bars go wild. 10 Feet Tall has some of Kembe’s best wordplay in the whole project while a triumphant beat reminiscent of early Just Blaze & The Heatmakerz thunders in the background. Kembe doesn’t need an aggressive beat to bring out out the best in him, Carpenter is a chill piano based instrumental which finds Kembe rapping; “I idolize no man who’s confined to time/ I only idolize the sun cause he’s always lit.” This young spitter’s career is just beginning, and it is already hyped about with his immense potential which he strongly showcases on his debut.

Stand out tracks: Carpenter, 10 Feel Tall, Talk Back