The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind for everyone. I was camping in the mountains of North Carolina for Spring break and arrived home to news of a deadly virus spreading across the world, upending our lives as we know them. As we practice social distancing (or quarantine), music is one of the few things we can share, so we will be doing everything we can to bring you the best music available over the coming months. Gone are the days of slogging through reviews to find out what new music is worth your precious time. Starting this week, we will publish a weekly roundup every Sunday or Monday featuring the best albums, EPs, tracks and mixes. We strive to offer a concise summary of notable new music, but in this extended roundup, we're catching up on the past few weeks.
One selection for each of the past 3 Friday release days.
Heavy Light is a vivid and deeply affecting album of experimental pop music. Heavy Light is a sideways look at the history of pop music and the capitalist world in which it thrives. It takes more than one listen to sink in and fully understand but we promise it’s worth your time.
Best Tracks: "And Yet it Moves / Y Se Mueve", "The Quiver to the Bomb", "Denise Don’t Wait"
After 10 years of rumors and false starts, Jay Electronica’s debut album is finally here, and it does not disappoint. A Written Testimony is a densely-constructed album, full of subtle nuances and top-notch sampling (much of which Jay himself is responsible for) along with features by Travis Scott, James Blake, Khruangbin and, most notably, Roc Nation boss Jay-Z, who spits some of his most solid bars in years on nearly every track.
Best Tracks: "The Blinding", "Flux Capacitor", "The Neverending Story"
After 5 years away from the Caribou moniker, Suddenly finds Dan Snaith in his element, writing beautifully endearing tunes and setting them to multi-layered production in a way only he can, and the results are spectacular. Suddenly forgoes some of the easy-listening pop melodies of Our Love for a more experimental, but still accessible record with absolutely stunning production.
Best Tracks: "Home", "Sunny's Time", "You & I", "Magpie"
Confronting the ongoing mental health and familial trials that have plagued Allison since pre-pubescence, color theory explores three central themes: blue, representing sadness and depression; yellow, symbolizing physical and emotional illness; and finally, gray, representing darkness, emptiness and loss. Color theory features the live Soccer Mommy band on studio recording for the first time, with a live take at the foundation of almost every track. The resulting album is a masterpiece that paints an uncompromising, honest self-portrait of an artist.
A triumphant EP led by the comforting and infectious single “People, I’ve been sad”. Christine captures the modern fomo and makes it common ground. She finds what we believe divides us and uses it to unite. This album is danceable, thoughtful, and relatable in a way that pop music often fails to be. See the excellent short film released in tandem with the EP here.
Aaron Maine describes Porches as his “public diary.” Porches’ music, at its best, captures a sort of intimate beauty drawing from Maine’s deepest joys and heartbreaks. Maine follows his muse to explore new corners of synth-pop, be it danceable pop beats or opaque and cyclical production experiments. The result, Ricky Music is a beautiful collection of his most varied and far-reaching batch of songs yet.
The debut release by Hot Tub Boys balances jungle, outsider house, and indie elements. Sometimes it recalls the indie-pop style of Homeshake, at others the beats of Luke Vibert or DJ Koze. Of course, these comparisons only hint at the album’s style. Jesse Hall has crafted an album wholly in his own sound, bringing together a fresh fusion of styles and influences. Yesterday on Twitter Jesse announced “a compilation of unreleased amherst [his other future funk moniker] stuff, hopefully a couple of dj mixes, maybe a hot tub boys single or two”, so stay tuned for more soon.
The new album from the rapper formerly known as Milo is a stunning manifesto for independent rap in the 2020s. Backed up by the inventive, jazz-infused production of Kenny Segal’s Jefferson Park Boys, R.A.P. Ferreira sets forth his most complex and well-developed manifesto for psychic freedom yet, folding in gas station graffiti, existentialist wisdom, and doing his son’s laundry into his rich artistic tapestry. Gone are the days when Ferreira would somewhat clumsily insert direct references to Schopenhauer and Nietzsche into his music — with Purple Moonlight Pages, Rory’s raps are more naturalistic and free-flowing than ever, never forced or pretentious. In fact, his delivery reflects the album’s ambitious conceptual framework; he sounds utterly free. [Paul]
The second album from the Brighton four-piece is a departure from the minimalist, bandcamp diary sound of artists like Frankie Cosmos. Porridge Radio has scaled into something much bigger. Every Bad is the sound of a band mercilessly digging into itself with a stunning, dynamic performances from singer-songwriter Dana Margolin. It’s the rock album we need in these times of despair.
Best Tracks: "Pop Song", "Born Confused", "Lilac"
Snarls is a Columbus-based band that’s been slowly gaining steam over the past year with media coverage from Stereogum and MTV. With their debut album Burst, it’s evident the hype is well-deserved. Snarls' sound is hard to pin down, but the band sees themselves as the forebearers of "glitter emo alt-rock." Snarls is fresh, frenzied, and worth fawning over. You'll just have to find out on your own.
Similar artists: Snail Mail, Hop Along, Mitski, Soccer Mommy
The Garden doesn’t have any interest in your opinion. Spiritually in the vein of groups like Fire-Toolz and 100gecs, The Garden cuts a bloody swath through genres as varied as screamo and EDM. What this results in is, whether or not you care for it, a record that pushes boundaries at every turn in ways that are entirely unpredictable.
Sixteen Oceans is full of bouncy, contemplative electronic music equally capable of getting you up on your feet or sitting you down to a cool soundscape while you read a book. Bells, strings, and keys build over house beats into delicate crescendos, making Four Tet’s tenth LP a more dynamic listen than most in the genre.