Our guide to the best new albums, singles, and live sets/mixes released in January.
On his latest record, Dan Deacon creates beautifully lush and wondrously psychedelic soundscapes. He incorporates a wide range of colorful sound pallets over the 44-minute run-time. Many tracks, including the standout opener “Become a Mountain” are giant crescendos of multi-textured synths layering to form an explosion of sound, while others explore more the post-minimalist aspects of his work that Deacon is known for. All this works together to make Mystic Familiar a euphoric aural experience. [Liam]
It's a new decade, and the barbarians are closing in on Dan Bejar's walled city. Although Have We Met returns to the neon-bathed lothario-pop sonics that made Kaputt so special, the suspended dreamscape narrative of that album has here been altered into something darker, like fractured pieces of a glittering black opal. Bejar's songwriting is even more imagistic than ever before, and accordingly this album contains some of the most memorable and beautiful Destroyer lyrics ever released. [Paul Ray]
Portland artist Alexandra Savior borrows heavily from ideas Lana Del Ray perfected on 2019's Norman Fucking Rockwell while also meandering towards dreamier, more atmospheric textures at times in a stunning second record.
Parker is most widely known as the guitarist for the chicago post-rock innovators Tortoise but he’s also been a cornerstone of the city's jazz and experimental scenes for years. Suite for Max Brown is a thrilling melange of jazz fusion, nu-jazz and avant-garde jazz and sets a high bar for the genre in 2020. [Alek]
Paul Woolford technically released this album on December 30th, but we thought it was too good to not highlight here. According to the press release, Zero Fucks was made “concentrating purely on the heavyweight original hardcore ethos of taking whatever you want from anywhere, these tracks are made for shelling down dances and losing your marbles.”
The songs comprising Keeley Forsyth’s debut are, she states simply, “like blocks of metal that drop from the sky.”
With its minimal arrangements placing her recollections and dissections of sometimes harrowing experiences front and center, Debris showcases her elemental voice and an outpouring of candid, haunting lyrics detailing the seismic ruptures which take place behind closed doors. “There was a lot going on in my life that was heavy and hard,” she adds. “Songs were made under that moment.”
Most genre experiments are simply that, experiments. A casual way for an established artist to break out of the confines of their chosen genre, only to return to it when critical consensus crashes against them. Rarely is it a heartfelt exploration into new sounds and styles that push them forward as a musician and as a personality, and rarer still is a meaningful dive into the genre they are test driving.
Far too often the style takes a backseat and it is explored on a mere surface level, leaving fans of the genre irritated, and fans of the artist in question confused. I Disagree shows Poppy to be a rare breed. Beginning as a PC Music style pop artist, she has tirelessly worked to evolve her sound while remaining true to her persona, and the resulting record is not only her best to date, but arguably one of the best metalcore records in recent memory. [Drew Pitt]
The choice to release these two new tracks under A.A.L. is a puzzling one, as these are some of his most abrasive and hard-hitting tracks to date. Nonetheless, this raw and aggressive release is another reminder of the versatility of one of electronic music's most talented producer. [Nick Delgaudio]
See also: A.A.L. Mix featured below along with our other favorite mixes and live sets of the month.
On 070 Shake’s debut full length album, Modus Vivendi, the G.O.O.D. Music artist soulfully works through heartbreak and loneliness with the help of Mike Dean’s incredible production. The album title encapsulates much of the album’s meaning and tone. The Latin phrase modus vivendi translates to “way of living”, but in diplomacy, it means “an arrangement or agreement that allows conflicting parties to coexist in peace.” Throughout this 44-minute album, 070 Shake often addresses her ex-lover and herself, trying to negotiate the terms of their relationship to find a way that the two can coexist in peace. [Jake Cody]
In a battle between creative autonomy versus artificially intelligent algorithmic directives, Canadian foursome, Holy Fuck, blends experimental krautrock with disco-tinged house on their fifth studio album, Deleter.
“The robots are smarter than ever, and the algorithm knows more and more what we like as individuals, but we have to remind ourselves that there is music in the margins that can go missing and that that music is more important than ever."
RIP is an explosive, experimental pop record from a group of artists at their prime. The pristine, layered production provides an immaculate backing to the thoughtful, heartfelt, lyrics and vocal performance. It feels like a culmination of the best parts of their discography distilled down to their purest and most honed form. [Liam]