Somehow this has become a bit of an annual thing for me, surveying the vast landscape of albums that have been released to date and trying to pick out a few of the gems that we might not have covered on our site this year. As always I’ve tried not to focus on one genre, instead offering up several appetizers from very different food groups. So without further ado, if you’re looking for something a little different to add to your collection, here are five albums that make for very contrasting starter points.

Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment – Surf

So after 2013’s brilliant Acid Rap mixtape and some really eye-catching performances, such as the one he gave at Coachella last year, what did Chance The Rapper do next? The answer to that lies in this album, a collaborative feature that credits trumpet player Nico Segal rather than Chance himself. It’s a lovely whirlwind of styles, switching through soul, funk, jazz, and hip hop with supreme confidence and a whole phalanx of guest stars (Busta Rhymes, J. Cole, Janelle Monáe, amongst others). And it’s free on iTunes. No reason not to check this one out.

Vattnet Viskar – Settler

I will keep ranting about the almost complete absence of metal coverage in mainstream music press as long as albums as good as Settler keep getting released. The New Hampshire band deals in the kind of crossover between black metal, shoegaze, and post-rock that has been under a brighter spotlight since the success of Deafheaven, but it packages those sounds in compact four-to-five-minute songs that alternate between brutal and gorgeously dazzling. If you can stomach the harsh vocals, many moments of pleasure are to be found for the open-minded listener.

Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material

Speaking of listening to things outside your comfort zone, when this self-confessed hater of country music says that a straight-up country album is well worth a listen, you should pay attention. Pageant Material occasionally slips into some country cliches, but more often subverts them (especially on the likes of “Good Ol’ Boys Club”), with Musgraves revealing herself as a writer of real wit with a fine grasp of melody. Her crossover appeal has already been proven by her evident chart success, and she looks ready to carry the mantle of “the future of country.”

Mbongwana Star – From Kinshasa

It’s had a quiet release, but this collective from the Congo capital has created a remarkable hybrid of traditional local music, haunting guitar lines, and a smattering of dub and electronics that represents the kind of fascinating culture clash you would imagine form a modern African city. It’s difficult to label but very easy to enjoy, with the likes of “Nganshe” showing an effortless melding of several strands. There’s often a kind of condescending tone when it comes to coverage of music from this part of the world, but in this case, it’s really unnecessary. Mbongwana Star’s talent is comfortably evident and continues to reveal itself after plenty of listens.

Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside

It’s been a hell of a year for rappers from LA County. Vince Staples dropped a superb debut album last week, and some guy called Kendrick’s had a pretty good year as well. Those albums threaten to drown out the latest from the much more muted and introverted Earl Sweatshirt, but it would be wrong not to give the young rapper his dues for a tight half hour of gripping hip hop that displays both his slightly misanthropic worldview and his honesty and vulnerability. It’s a step up from Doris and further proof of who Odd Future’s real star was in hindsight.