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.
With its eponymous title, Lianne La Havas’ third album (her first new music in five years) feels like a re-introduction—but, this time around, the British singer-songwriter is more self-assured and in control than ever before. In fact, haunting opener “Bittersweet” makes that loud and clear as she belts, “I’m born again” in its thumping chorus, setting the tone for a resilient record that’s less of a breakup album and more phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes. In this new phase of her career, La Havas’ transfixing vocals remain her music’s biggest draw—alternately smoky and soaring—but here she compliments them with spirited guitar strings and a percussive heartbeat. Moments like the plucky, mellifluous “Can’t Fight” showcase the power of the album’s live recordings, letting you get lost in the arrangement’s perfectly cascading layers. In the stunning closing track “Sour Flower,” La Havas sings that she’s “running [her] own show,” and Lianne La Havas is a triumphant example of a young artist fully at the helm of their own artistic vision. [Cameron Scheetz]
It’s been 14 years since Natalie Maines, Emily Strayer, and Martie Maguire put out a studio album. In that time, they formally dropped “Dixie” from their name and apparently evolved their sound. The Chicks’ signature harmonies and bluegrass ethos are still at the core of their music, but Gaslighter simmers with a new energy that infuses the best of a handful of genres beyond country, including pop, rock, and even a little R&B. (The synth and drum beat on the album’s second single, the timely protest song “March March,” would even fit on an album from The Weeknd.) Part of this new vibe can be attributed to Jack Antonoff, who co-produced the album with the band. But the passion behind Gaslighter’s fiery title track and mid-tempo empowerment ballad “Julianna Calm Down” can be largely be credited to Maines’ divorce from Adrian Pasdar: Gaslighter started off as a contractual obligation that could have easily devolved into another greatest hits collection, but as Maines explained to The Boot in March, “when I started getting a divorce, I had a lot to say.” We’re grateful for the honesty. [Patrick Gomez]
Long Island brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario, better known as The Lemon Twigs, are about to release their third album before either of them even hit a quarter-century. The multi-instrumentalist pair are famous for belying their youth by enveloping themselves in the most bodacious parts of ’70s glam rock, from Bowie to Queen to The Sweet. The Twigs’ last release was a concept album about a chimpanzee raised as a human, and it looks like upcoming new record Songs For The General Public also has a theme: optimism. Latest sunny track “Live In Favor Of Tomorrow” sounds like The Cowsills and The Partridge Family jamming in a rustic garage somewhere, cheekily looking forward to better times even while embracing despair: “Give us just enough to show us people care / And they’re everywhere / Give a moment where there wasn’t one before.” It’s the perfect poignant pop anthem that may help you detox after spending too much time in current social media hellscapes, making us jones all the more for the full release, which arrives on August 21. [Gwen Ihnat]
Jacob Collier has a fitting track (and friend) for every possible mood. Need a carefree groove that sparks joy? Just turn to his Daniel Caesar collab, “Time Alone With You.” Looking for something a little more frenetic? “In My Bones” has enough Kimbra, Tank And The Bangas, and streaks of funky energy to awaken every cell in your body. With his latest release from his upcoming LP, Djesse, Vol. 3, Collier wades into the emotional depths of love lost with an utterly ethereal R&B plea. “He Won’t Hold You” is overwhelming with its consistent chants of longing, melancholic piano, and Rapsody’s mesmerizing spoken word. Both artists turn up all the healing properties of a good ballad by allowing every emotion—sorrow, devotion, hope—room to grow with each rich melody and rousing verse. “He Won’t Hold You” is absolutely engaging, and a necessary flex of both Collier’s breadth of musicality and Rapsody’s captivating lyricism. [Shannon Miller]
Evan Thomas Weiss is never too far from new music—he plays in Pet Symmetry and Their / They’re / There—but it’s been four years since the prolific Chicago songwriter announced an album under his most beloved of monikers: Into It. Over It. That changed last week, when Weiss teased his followup to 2016’s Standards with “Living Up To Let You Down,” a wistful single that lays the groundwork for Figure’s themes of regret and reconciliation. The song’s inspiration—a spontaneous 2017 road trip to Nashville—is evident in its propulsive melodies, which unfurl and expand like an open highway snaking through the Midwest. That sense of abandon is complex, though, as the anxieties in the rearview continue to haunt the “couple different futures” that wait down the road. The older you get, the harder it becomes to escape. [Randall Colburn]