August was a great month for rock and roll in particular, and there’s more on the harder side of that spectrum here than usual, from punk to metal to heavy psych to avant-grade indie rock. The first 5 of these are my favorites for the month but I’ve been back and forth so many times in terms of what order to put them in, so Album of the Month is a bit up in the air. Any of the first five deserve it!

Ezra Furman, 12 Nudes

On the punk rock album he always wanted to make, the Chicago-based singer/songwriter turns up the juice with a dozen raw, rousing anthems. It’s his most straightforwardly political album to date, and it’s bursting with passion. Maybe the most energetic album of 2019. Highlights: “Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone,” “Rated R Crusaders,” “Thermometer”

Bon Iver, i, i

After a radical reinvention, Justin Vernon and company take the sort of ambitious production sensibilities that made 22, A Million so avant-garde, and re-focus them a to create a much smoother, R&B-influenced sound, centered on Vernon’s soulful voice. Highlights: “Hey, Ma,” “Naaem,” “Salem”

The Murder Capital, When I Have Fears

This urgent, trenchant debut from a Dublin band runs the gamut from blisteringly good full-throttle guitar rock to dreamy, spacious meanderings, and secures this young band’s place in the post-punk revival happening in their part of the world. Highlights: “For Everything,” “On Twisted Ground,” “Feeling Fades”

Jazzmeia Horn, Love and Liberation

Bolstered by a backing band full of virtuosos, the Texan-born jazz singer’s sophomore album showcases mostly original compositions with memorable lyrics and solid songwriting that still leave plenty of room for some top-notch scatting. Highlights: “When I Say,” “Searchin’,” “Out the Window”

Tropical Fuck Storm, Braindrops

It’s amazing that this band’s music winds up being even more striking its name. It is unrefined, but catchy and full of soul. The lyrics are delicious, raw and meaningful and come in a thick Melbourne accent. Their sophomore album centers on funk-flavored, hip-hop adjacent indie rock. Highlights: “The Planet of Straw Men,” “The Happiest Guy Around,” “Braindrops”

Sleater-Kinney, The Center Won’t Hold

Continually redefining their sound, the indie punk icons’ 9th album features a more polished and synth-augmented sound, courtesy of producer St. Vincent. It’s still brassy, bold and direct as ever. Highlights: “LOVE,” “The Dog/The Body,” “Can I Go On”

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Infest The Rats’ Nest

The Melbourne rockers employ pure thrash metal for their 15th album, a eco-apocalyptic concept album about searching for other inhabitable planets. Highlights: “Mars For The Rich,” “Organ Farmer,” “Perihelion”

Tool, Fear Inoculum

A progressive metal album at heart, with strong classical influences, Tool’s first album in 13 years is a meandering art rock odyssey. Highlights: “Fear Inoculum,” “Pneuma,” “Descending”

Seeker Lover Keeper, Wild Seeds

Sophomore collaborative album from three singer/songwriters from Melboune who make gentle, folk-tinged pop music. Great voices, lovely harmonies. Highlights: “Superstar,” “Two Dreamers,” “Dear Nighttime”

Ty Segall, First Taste

Much less of a heavy guitar assault than his last few albums, LA’s prolific garage rock torchbearer turns down for a melodic, psychedelic set of songs. Highlights: “Radio,” “Whatever,” “I Sing Them”

Lillie Mae, Other Girls

Lillie Mae Riche’s 2nd album highlights her exquisitie voice with distinctive, modern songs which clothe themselves in Americana rather than adhere to it. Highlights: “A Golden Year,” “Crisp & Cold,” “I Came For The Band”

Tyler Childers, Country Squire

Authentic Appalaichian Americana from a Kentucky-born singer/songwriter who excels at storytelling. This third album is solidly country. Highlights: “House Fire,” “Country Squire,” “All Your’n”

Jay Som, Anak Ko

Indie pop rockker Melina Duterte’s new one is a solid, nuanced sophomore set that actually lives up to the hype generated by the artist’s debut. Highlights: “If You Want It,” “Devotion,” “Crown”

Thee Oh Sees, Face Stabber

Title aside, it’s their least aggressive album in a while, full of trippy prog, psychedelia and John Dwyer’s ever ambitious guitar work. Highlights: “Together Tomorrow,” “Scutum & Scorpius,” “Poisoned Stone”

The Hold Steady, Thrashing Thru The Passion

The Minneapolis indie rockers age gracefully on their 9th album with a lyrically dense offering full of clever but candid storytelling songs. Highlights: “Traditional Village,” “Blackout Sam,” “T-Shirt Tux”

Stef is a Bronx-bred, California-dwelling, 1977-born Libra-Aquarian lifelong music junkie. He is also a writer, improviser, singer, director and voice actor. .