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5 new releases we love: Four Tet’s nostalgic offering, Matt Wilson’s return, and more

Kieran Hebden of Four Tet
Kieran Hebden of Four Tet
Photo: Gus Stewart (Redferns/Getty Images)
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There’s a lot of music out there. To help you cut through all the noise, every week The A.V. Club is rounding up A-Sides, five recent releases we think are worth your time. You can listen to these and more on our Spotify playlist, and if you like what you hear, we encourage you to purchase featured artists’ music directly at the links provided below.

Four Tet, Sixteen Oceans

[Text, March 13]

Twenty-odd years into a fascinatingly varied career as bedroom-electronic maestro and friend/remixer to the stars, Kieran Hebden seems like he’s ready to look back just a bit. Sixteen Oceans, his tenth album as Four Tet, feels slightly nostalgic for his earlier work, from the sound right down to the track titles: “Romantics,” “1993 Band Practice,” “School.” Those paying close attention will even recognize “4T Recordings” as Hebden’s moniker on his very first single. For those more intrigued by his less techno-led tracks, these are welcome: Only the two opening tracks—“School” and the Elle Goulding-assisted “Baby”—really shake, and they’re followed by some of his best downtempo work ever. “Harpsichord” makes pretty use of its titular instrument but no beats at all; “Teenage Birdsong” could soundtrack an ’80s spy movie; and album-closer “Mama Teaches Sanskrit” is all calming tones and textures, a balm that couldn’t have come at a better time. [Josh Modell]

Porches, Ricky Music

[Domino Recording Company, March 13]

“I like the idea of Auto-Tune,” Aaron Maine once told Impose, back when Porches had only one album of electronic-tinged folk-rock, and Maine was just dabbling in vocal processing. Talk about foreshadowing: Six years later, the luxurious synthetic gloss of his voice is the central element of Porches. On Pool, still their best, it was sheared into lunar electro-pop; on follow-up The House, it got a little lost in gooey sweetness that was nevertheless strangely un-sticky. But new album Ricky Music sticks, structuring the ardently twittering vocals of The House with some of Pool’s tranced-out pump and glide. “Patience” could have stopped at the early minutes of vocal fanfare but instead takes the time to go full supernova into the achingly sweet earworm “Do U Wanna.” The digital kiss-prints that cover Maine’s earnest yet slightly stoned voice also cover the soulful live instrumentation, and these contrasts account for Porches’ distinctive soft tension between intimacy and distance, and its mellow urgency. The heightened sense of the artificial also intensifies the sense of what’s real. Ricky Music is the sound of strong emotions mediated by stronger technology, a very pure reflection of the world in which we live. [Brian Howe]

Dogleg, Melee

[Triple Crown, March 13th]

Pokemon name-drops in an Origami Angel song are celebrations of youthful giddiness, but in a Dogleg song they symbolize something completely different: letting yourself level up for once, if only for a brief moment in a video game. With Melee, Dogleg carries the baton forward that PUP just handed the band from Joyce Manor—and they’re sprinting ahead with surprising dexterity despite it being a debut album. Usually when a record captures the contagious energy of punk-rooted emo, it comes at a cost: lo-fi production, underdeveloped vocals, or stereotypical lyrics. Melee circumvents all of these problems with too many highlights to count, be it the directional shift in the final third of “Wrist,” the sheer guitar madness that is “Fox,” or the positioning of “Cannonball” as the album’s heart-on-sleeve ballad that ditches the diminished volume and obligatory dragging tempo that traditionally come with it. Put simply, Melee is an instant classic within the genre; it’s hard to miss the appeal of a record when the guitar solos are messy enough to charm while still being poppy enough to commit to memory. [Nina Corcoran]

TOKIMONSTA, Oasis Nocturno

[Young Art Records, March 20]

TOKiMONSTA has had a steep trajectory in the 10 years since the release of her debut album, Midnight Menu, to this year’s Oasis Nocturno. As much as the inventive electronic music producer evolved with each release, it’s not at such a breakneck pace that the connecting thread is lost. TOKiMONSTA retains her instinctual feel for imaginative beats-based productions as she handily steps into the pop songwriting realm with BiBi Bourelly and Jean Deaux on “One Day.” She employs a similar approach to “Fried For The Night,” the sticky, shuddering beats collaboration with hip-hop duo EARTHGANG. Oasis Nocturno traverses varied styles from funky soul jams on “Get Me Some (featuring Drew Love and Dumbfoundead)” to R&B grooves on “Come And Go (featuring Vanjess),” house shuffles on “Renter’s Anthem” and introspective instrumentals on “To Be Remote.” Despite its wide-reaching styles, Oasis Nocturno’s well-paced flow propels it forward smoothly. [Lily Moayeri]

Matt Wilson & His Orchestra, When I Was A Writer

[Pravda Records, March 20]

It’s been 22 years since the last solo release by Trip Shakespeare founder Matt Wilson. His fearless falsetto and emotive songwriting made him a strong driving force for that legendary Minneapolis band—but the group he currently fronts, Matt Wilson & His Orchestra, trades Trip’s psychedelia for a variety of strings (especially harp), some handheld percussion, and a lot more introspection. It might actually be the perfect album for the current cocooned state of American life: cozy, soothing, and extremely internal. The hooky title track is a nostalgic look at Wilson’s Trip days, as is the backward-leaning “I Can’t Return.” The moody, dreamlike “Come To Nothing” should please Rufus Wainwright fans, with Wilson’s similarly enveloping vocals a tad scratchier after all these years, but just as hypnotic. Those who love his old band’s classic “Toolmaster Of Brainerd” can find a smaller but similarly gripping saga in the banjo-based “Decent Guy,” as Wilson tries to live up to the title but knows he’s bound to fail. [Gwen Ihnat]