June 06, 2018 at 09:30 AM EDT
Illustration by Alex Cabal for EW

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Space cowboys, dream-pop cocoons, a Pulitzer Prize winner, pansexual anthems—our top LPs from the top half of 2018 feature a little something for everyone.

Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

Monkeys evolve; it’s kind of their job. But Tranquility, with its baroque piano pop and arch, Bowie-esque flourishes, somehow manages to blaze whole new avenues without losing the core essence of the U.K. foursome’s musical DNA. —LG

Beach House – 7

Come, surrender to the wooze. If every Beach House record feels like being wrapped in a warm dream-pop cocoon of vocals and reverb, the coed Baltimore duo’s lush, kaleidoscopic latest makes you wonder why anyone would want to turn into a butterfly at all. —LG

Brandi Carlile – By the Way, I Forgive You

Ever given your whole heart and received much less in return? Angry but also want to forgive and forget? Do you like crying as these things are sung about with gorgeous harmonies and bone-deep emotionalism? Then get your hankie out and cue this baby up. —SR

Brian Fallon – Sleepwalkers

From grinning giddiness to inconsolable aching, the Gaslight Anthem frontman runs the emotional gamut on his second solo album. Veering from Motown stomp to Jersey swagger, Fallon unburdens his heart with a mesmerizing urgency that is as muscular as it is poetic.—SR

Camila Cabello – Camila

After breaking free of Fifth Harmony, Cabello could have gone dance-floor massive with her solo debut. Instead she delivered 10 tracks so intimate and indelibly melodic that it felt less like a commercial pop record than a beautiful secret she chose to share. —LG

Cardi BInvasion of Privacy

Cardi shut up the “she’s just a one-hit wonder” crowd with the standout single “Bartier Cardi,” a mean-mugging follow-up to “Bodak Yellow.” On Invasion of Privacy, which features certified summer bops like “Bickenhead” and “I Like It,” she snuffs the haters out for good. —AS

Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel

The Australian singer-songwriter takes on everyday struggles and toxic masculinity—with help from Carrie Fisher and Margaret Atwood, whom she quotes on two tracks—producing predictably terrific results. It’s another cutting effort from modern rock’s sharpest lyricist. —AS

Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer

Already beloved for her unique artistry, the singer-songwriter-actress hit a watershed by getting deeply personal and accessible on a collection of funky, smart, and ferocious tracks combining echoes of her heroes—including Prince—with her own special feel. —SR

Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

Inspired by acid trips, disco, and her marriage to singer Ruston Kelly (the main subject of the plucky, banjo-synth single “Butterflies”), the spectacular Golden Hour mixes Musgrave’s trademark country twang with a touch of outer space. —AS

Mary Gauthier – Rifles & Rosary Beads

Even by the Louisiana folkie’s own high standards, this album of co-writes with veterans and military spouses is extraordinary. From growling rockers to stark folktales, it’s good not because of its intentions but because its eye-opening concept is so finely wrought. —SR

MGMT – Little Dark Age

With Little Dark Age, the consumate synth duo fuse the accessible space-pop sound of their debut, Oracular Spectacular, with the underrated oddities of second LP Congratu­lations. Come for the haunted psych riffs, stay for the moody harmonies. —AS

Pusha-T – Daytona

The album’s notable Drake dis (off “Infrared”) is what snagged initial headlines, but the entire EP (all 21 minutes of it) is just as enigmatic. Pusha puts on a drug-rhyme master class, proving once again why he’s rap’s most consistent (and consistently ferocious) MC. —AS

Soccer Mommy – Clean

This beautiful and brash debut LP from Sophie Allison captures the anguish/ecstasy of your formative years through clean, catchy guitar riffs and lyrics both biting (“I don’t want to be your f—ing dog”) and heartfelt (“I wanna know her like you, I wanna be that cool”). —AS

Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar

The combination of hip-hop, pop, dance, and a manic punk spirit proves the Scottish trio are only improving in miraculous increments as they age, with lyrical lacerations, holy choral rounds, and rhythms that lick at the soul (and soles). —KH

Various Artists – Black Panther: The Album

Not many soundtracks can claim they’ve been curated by a Pulitzer Prize winner. (That would be one Mr. Kendrick Lamar.) Even fewer can boast a long list of filler-free bangers from the likes of SZA, the Weeknd, Travis Scott, and Vince Staples. —LG

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