Soccer Mommy, "Color Theory" (Loma Vista)
Sophie Allison is a young star with an old soul. In 2017, she dropped out of New York University and moved back home to Nashville after her deceptively calm, arresting songs earned her a record deal. Her 2018 debut as Soccer Mommy immediately established her as one of the leading songwriters of her generation.
With her follow-up to that impressive entrance, Allison is shooting still higher. She's structured the album in three color-coded parts. Blue represents depression; yellow, physical and mental illness; gray, darkness and loss. The colors are muted on the album and so are the arrangements, which are more polished.
The smooth surfaces can't hide what's roiling beneath, however. She's unforgiving, gazing in the mirror in "Royal Screw Up." "Nightswimming" captures the distance that technology can create for two people otherwise alone.
"Yellow Is the Color of Her Eyes" is a seven-minute heartbreaker about her mother's cancer. It's ultimately inconsolable — and a powerful centerpiece to the album.
Dan Deluca, Philadelphia Inquirer
Bad Bunny, "YHLQMDLG" (Rimas)
The 26-year-old Puerto Rican icon's third album is his best work by far. For 20 unstoppable tracks lasting over an hour, Bad Bunny plays Nintendo bossa nova on "Si Veo a Tu Mama," blows a speaker rocking out on "Hablamos Manana," and imbues his pitch-corrected reggaeton with much melody in between. You'll hum the hooks of "Pero Ya No," "Una Vez," and "P FKN R" — whether you can understand them or not. The title, "YHLQMDLG," is an acronym for "I Do What I Want" en español. The breakthrough pop event of 2020 has come early.
Dan Weiss, Philadelphia Inquirer
• The Weeknd, "After Hours"
• Alicia Keys, "Alicia"
• Kelsea Ballerini, "Kelsea"
• Adam Lambert, "Velvet"
• Morrissey, "I Am Not a Dog on a Chain"
• Brian and Roger Eno, "Mixing Colours"