Best New Music to Start Summer: Ed Sheeran, Lana Del Rey, and More

Here’s a list of the top-selling albums for the month of June and what the critics thought of them.

Miranda Lambert, Platinum

Country singer Miranda Lambert’s fifth solo album sold 180,000 copies during its first week on sale after hitting the shelves June 3, according to data from Nielsen SoundScan, per Billboard. Platinum was Lambert’s fifth time debuting at No. 1 on the country albums chart but her first time hitting the top spot on the Billboard 200 and her biggest sales week to date. The week ending June 8 was the highest-selling week for a female country artist since Taylor Swift released Red at the end of 2012.

Platinum currently has an impressive 86 rating among reviews aggregated by Metacritic. The record has gotten rave review from publications as disparate as Country Weekly and The New York Times. Rolling Stone gave the record four stars and said that while it is full of pop-country hits, it “also taps the old and alt elements beyond Music Row pop that make country music so rich.” 

Jack White, Lazaretto

Jack White’s second solo record, Lazaretto, sold 138,000 copies during its first week on sale, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Lazaretto also broke the record for the largest sales week for a vinyl album since Nielsen SoundScan began measuring vinyl sales in 1991, selling 40,000 copies of the vinyl LP; Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy formerly held the title for biggest vinyl sales week. This is the second debut at No. 1 for White as a solo artist: 2012′s Blunderbuss sold an almost identical number of copies during its first week on sale.

Lazaretto has a 79 among reviews aggregated by Metacritic. Critics have praised White’s killer backing band and his affinity for blending a huge variety of styles. “You suspect that getting on the wrong side of White would be inadvisable. Thankfully, he has channelled his demons in Lazaretto to create one of the great break-up albums of recent years,” said The Telegraph.

Lana Del Rey, Ultraviolence

The controversial pop star Lana Del Rey’s sophomore album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, selling 182,000 copies during its first week. That was the largest sales week for a female solo artist since Beyonce dropped her surprise album at the end of 2013, and was a personal best for Del Rey, whose debut Born to Die gained more controversy than actual album sales when it came out in 2012.

Critics are saying that Del Rey’s sophomore effort was aided greatly by the production of Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach, as well as the band he gathered to play on the album. Ultraviolence has a 75 score on Metacritic. Indie taste maker Pitchfork gave the new record a decent 7.1 rating after famously panning Born to Die by calling it “the equivalent of a faked orgasm.” Pitchfork said that in Auerbach, Del Rey has found her “ideal creative partner, crafting lush walls of sound that evoke her favorite cultural era, a time when the prim and surface-level 1960s were just starting their slide into drug-fueled decadence.”

Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour

British soul singer Sam Smith was prevented from reaching the No. 1 spot by Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence, but his debut In the Lonely Hour sold a respectable 166,000 copies during its first week on sale. His single “Stay With Me” is a summer hit, currently sitting at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In the Lonely Hour has gotten mixed reviews from critics, with a 62 score on Metacritic. Many are saying that while Smith has a great voice, his songs feel too consciously radio friendly and he doesn’t take enough risks. Pitchfork gave Lonely Hour a mediocre 5.5 rating, saying the record “is enjoyable just for Smith’s voice alone – so unusual, unpredictable and utterly pleasing that it can be wonderful to listen to even through the most egregious of lite-FM tropes. But so much of the album remains hard to swallow otherwise, lost underneath layers of industry polish and focus-grouped lyrics.”

Ed Sheeran, X

At the end of the month, British singer Ed Sheeran had the biggest sales debut of June, selling 210,000 copies of his sophomore album, X, pronounced “multiply.” X was the largest debut for a pop album thus far this year and the fourth-largest debut of 2014 overall, according to Billboard. The album also debuted at No. 1 on the album charts in the U.K., making it simultaneously the top-selling record on both sides of the pond. Billboard noted that X is the biggest U.S. debut from a British male singer in nearly 10 years, since Rod Stewart released Stardust… The Great American Songbook Vol. III in the fall of 2004.

The record was produced in part by Pharrell and Rick Rubin, and finds Sheeran exploring more R&B and hip-hop influences than his previous record, the multi-platinum +. Rolling Stone said that Sheeran’s more hardened attitude works for the most part, giving the album 3 out of 5 stars. “On his second album, x, Ed Sheeran supersizes his romantic affliction: Each new day is a fresh chance for this guy to hit the bar, fall in love, get his heart stomped like a bug — and then dissect the gory remains over a pretty acoustic melody,” Rolling Stone writes. The album has a 70 rating from reviews aggregated by Metacritic.

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