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The two unlikely compatriots are actually old associates: 74-year-old Wadada Leo Smith, active since the late 1960s, allowed 45-year-old Vijay Iyer to play in a quartet with him. While Smith lingers on just a few crucial notes within each piece—rendering them either as murmurs or guttural attacks—Iyer relishes the boundless, genre-defying freedom of the duet format.

He creates sweeping contrasts with creeper vines of bunched-up piano clusters, muted Rhodes splats, and electroacoustic tremors.

Theirs is the sound of crafts disintegrating in high orbit, dead stars crumbling into gravitational fields, and the hypoxia of cosmic irrelevance.

Even more than 2013’s jettisons the immediate anguish of blast beats and frantic howls for extended hypnotic passages: the combo of vibraphone and toms that girds “Lahja,” the crotchet organ that grants doomy closer “Valveavaruus” its escape velocity.

Her major-label debut is littered with songs about class and heartbreak, the vulgarity is intertwined with wit and, most of all, it acknowledges that many Southern ’90s babies spent as much time listening to pop and hip-hop as they did country. It’s a loose concept record about a bride-to-be whose fiancé dies in a car crash en route to the wedding, and all of the misery and healing that follows.

Overcome by nightmarish images of the incident, our heroine decides to go on their honeymoon alone, slowly scaling the stages of grief in the process.

Andrés and Lady’s percolating, broken-beat “El Ritmo De Mi Gente” gives way to the full-on disco house of “Uptown Tricks (Rodney Hunter Remix)” by Fort Knox Five, featuring Mustafa Akbar.

The ECM label has traditionally specialized in gentle, tonal jazz with New Age and crossover-classical predilections: Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny, Gary Burton.

This album, like the label’s best music, resists settling into familiar modes or moods at every turn, lending itself to endless reinterpretation by the receptive, patient listener.

Frank Ocean resurfaced, and the Avalanches finally returned. Here are our favorite albums of the year—the ones that helped us get through it all.

There’s no greater sense of awe and mortality in a man than witnessing the birth of his first child.

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