50 Best Albums of 2018 So Far

Including Janelle Monáe, Cardi B, Kacey Musgraves, the 'Black Panther' soundtrack and more

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John Prine, 'The Tree of Forgiveness'
50
8/50

John Prine, 'The Tree of Forgiveness'

We Say: Prine's kept at it steadily, despite a muse evidently grown less insistent, for nearly 50 years, and The Tree of Forgiveness is his first set of originals in over a decade. ... After neck surgery in 1998 to remove a squamous cell carcinoma, and more surgery to treat lung cancer in 2013, Prine's plainspoken tenor creaks like an wide-plank old floor in winter. ... And of course, it nails the death meditation "When I Get to Heaven," a mix of punchlines, sweet sentimentality and looming void. It's precisely what Dylan – a major fan who offered to sit in on harmonica at Prine's first New York gig – was referring to when he famously described Prine's writing as "pure Proustian existentialism. Midwestern mindtrips to the nth degree." W.H.

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