Nas, Life Is Good (Def Jam). Nas is older and wiser, but he still delivers unrelenting rhymes with street knowledge with some help from Large Professor. Nas has something for everyone on this release, from pop lovers to hip-hop heads and every one in between. — Valenzuela

Netsky, 2 (Hospital Records). Belgium-based producer Netsky (aka Boris Daenen) broke onto the scene thanks to a nod on a remix of Rusko's "Everyday." Since then, his reach has expanded, and with tracks like "Give and Take" and "The Whistle Song," which features Hospital Records mate Dynamite MC, Netsky's popularity will only continue to rise. — Chester

No Doubt, Push and Shove (Interscope). After ten years, No Doubt returns with an album that's eclectic even by Gwen's standards. The wait was worth it. Tracks like "Settle Down," "Push and Shove" and "Gravity" make you forget Stefani and company ever left. Better yet, No Doubt sounds like it hasn't aged a day since Rock Steady. — Lamz

Panabrite, Soft Terminal (Digitalis Recordings). Norm Chambers has a gift for subtle sonic detail that shines especially bright on this album, with '80s-like analog synths evoking a sense of wonder and peace. If HAL 9000 imagined a paradisiacal afterlife, this would be its music. — Murphy

Peaking Lights, Lucifer (Mexican Summer). Growing out from and beyond the psychedelic dub of 2011's excellent 936, here Peaking Lights runs with a poetic reinterpretation of the name "Lucifer," turning the conventional meaning on its head. The resultant languid, incandescent melodies conjure images of moonlit tropical landscapes. — Murphy

Pop. 1280, The Horror (Sacred Bones). This record is even more noisy, dark and brutal than The Grid, Pop. 1280's debut. With this set of songs, the band sounds like it was inspired by the likes of Killing Joke, Cabaret Voltaire, Flipper and My Dad Is Dead, playing a mutant punk rock that's sure to alienate purists. File under "post-industrial death disco." — Murphy

Rez Abbasi Trio, Continuous Beat (Enja). While Rez Abbasi obviously knows his way around bop and post-bop, the multifaceted guitarist shows that he's a lot more than that, flexing his chops on cuts like "Divided Attention" and "Rivalry," recalling Bill Frisell on Thelonious Monk's "Off Minor," and slipping some Middle Eastern textures into Keith Jarrett's "The Cure." Definitely one of Abbasi's more adventurous outings. — Solomon

RiFF RaFF, Summer of Surf (Self-released). With all the extracurricular acting RiFF RaFF does, it's easy to assume that this former MTV reality star is just playing a role, but his closest friends say otherwise. Either way, RaFF has an undeniable ability to conjure some of the most absurd images you'll find anywhere. Ready your sense of humor and open your mind, or you might find this tape downright offensive. — Hubbell

Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio (Blue Note). While Robert Glasper has three Blue Note jazz recordings under his belt, the pianist is no stranger to hip-hop. On Black Radio, Glasper straddles the two worlds, as well as tossing in some R&B and neo-soul with a stellar lineup of guest vocalists, including Erykah Badu, Lalah Hathaway, Lupe Fiasco, Bilal and Yasiin Bey. Glasper keeps raising the bar with each new album. — Solomon

Kurt Rosenwinkel, Star of Jupiter (Wommusic). While 2009's Reflections was nearly all ballads, Kurt Rosenwinkel switches things up dramatically on the two-disc Star of Jupiter, which thoroughly showcases the guitarist's fiery chops, along with his compositional skills. Possibly the most daring recording of Rosenwinkel's two-decade-long career, Star of Jupiter is stellar throughout. — Solomon

Rusko, Songs (Downtown). Thoroughly indulging his dubstep obsession, Rusko brings raw, pounding bass directly to your ears on his second release. A true multi-sensory experience, the album delves deeply into reggae, with some outstanding vocal features. To get an idea of the album and where dubstep is going, check out "Skanker." — Chester

Jenny Scheinman, Mischief and Mayhem (Jenny Scheinman Music). Having performed with folks like Bill Frisell, Bruce Cockburn and Norah Jones, Jenny Scheinman is one of the more versatile violinists in music today. While she shows off her jazz and improvisational chops here, as does guitarist Nels Cline, Mischief and Mayhem is whole lot more than straight jazz. It's an invigorating disc however you look at it. — Solomon

Sleigh Bells, Reign of Terror (Mom & Pop Music). A beautifully curated cast of contrasts, Reign of Terror showcases a combination of the masculine and the feminine. The hard-core industrial beats here are paired with delicate estrogen-pop melodies, resulting in a cross-cultural assault of dance-fight goodness. But what else would you expect when pairing a former Poison the Well guitarist with a child star from Nickelodeon? — Hesse

Bobo Stenson Trio, Indicum (ECM). In the four decades he's been playing with his trio, Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson has clearly mastered the art of classy, understated lyricism, as evidenced on his past ECM works and, in particular, on this year's Indicum. The group improvisations are quite engaging, as are the traditional hymns and renderings of songs by Bill Evans and George Russell. — Solomon

Swans, The Seer (Young God Records). At times intimate, contemplative and tender, at others exhilarating and terrifying, The Seer demands your attention and rewards your patience. It's a masterpiece of dynamic range and richly diverse soundscaping that stirs the imagination and the spirit — both of which Michael Gira tapped deeply for the album's poetically resonant imagery. — Murphy

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