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.
Against All Logic, 2017-2019
Nicolas Jaar has always sounded his best when ignoring trends. In his early work, that meant warping voices into weird instruments and over-emphasizing bass to a near-comical extent. While his first record under the moniker Against All Logic, 2012-2017, was a sample platter of his range, this new album tightens its focus whilemaintaining that manic energy. With cameos from experimental contemporaries like FKA Twigs and unexpected samples like Beyoncé’s 2003 track “Baby Boy,” 2017-2019 shows Jaar can maintain his sound regardless of what he’s working with. It seems impossible to recommend a single track, with the album’s many absurdity-dotted highs, until you hear a guaranteed crowd-pleaser like “With An Addict.” What starts out sounding like a sporadically spliced DonkeyKong Country track laced with congas and hyper footwork samples subtly melts into something else entirely over each minute: First come the synths, trickling down the scale like raindrops on a window, and then comes the fusion of both moments, shortly followed by an ambient glow straight out of a Zen meditation space. It feels redundant to admit, but Jaar has once again climbeda new career peak. [Nina Corcoran]
Lil Wayne, Funeral
Two years after his emotional, triumphant comeback with Tha Carter V, Lil Wayne returns for another round. He’s not as reflective this time, which is fine; we’re more familiar with the funny weedhead spinning endless punchlines than the wealthy thirtysomething dad mulling over his extraordinary pop life. He sounds in great spirits on Funeral, attacking tracks like “Mahogany” and “Mama Mia” with so much audible delight that his lyrical volleys often overwhelm the beats. As usual with Lil Wayne’s albums, it’s a bit overlong, with unnecessary filler stuffed alongside prospective singles (“I Do It” with Big Sean and Lil Baby) and introspective moments like “Trust Nobody” (with Adam Levine) and “Satan’s Kid,” the latter where he ruefully recalls his childhood in New Orleans. But there are mostly songs like “Ball Hard,” a standout cut with Lil Twist where he references Erick Sermon, Ricky Martin, Jackie Joyner, Taylor Swift, and Pee-Wee Herman, then says, “Ball hard / Sinéad O’Connor.” [Mosi Reeves]
Envy, The Fallen Crimson
For a Japanese hardcore band to have shifted the trajectories of post-rock, screamo, black metal, and plenty of subgenres between those boundaries, one would assume its career achievements were all in the past. With The Fallen Crimson, Envy proves that it’s possible to be both a massive influence while remaining relevant in the here and now. For a band to be championed by everyone from Mogwai to Touché Amoré and have its sound directly inform metal’s biggest crossover success of the past decade, here Envy once again pushes forward, but with an album that was especially hard-earned. After 2015’s Atheist’s Cornea, the band splintered, only to reunite a couple years later like no time had passed. The Fallen Crimson is an emotional, evocative journey, full of post-rock swells that flow into gnarled chaotic passages without feeling like the band is merely flipping a switch from quiet to loud. Envy remains the pacesetter in a style that many have copied but few will ever wield with as much power. [David Anthony]
We’re collecting our A-Sides recommendations over on a Spotify playlist updated every Friday. Tune in and subscribe here.
Matt Pond PA, A Collection Of Bees Part 1
Matt Pond PA split in 2017, leaving behind 12 LPs, just as many EPs, and a slew of splits and standalone singles, the likes of which soundtracked many tender teenage make-outs in the 2000s. B-sides and demo compilations like A Collection Of Bees tend to be “fans only” affairs, but the breadth and scope of Pond’s work—his songwriting explored nearly every corner of what we call “indie folk”—demands reflection, if only because there’s so much of it. It’s an impeccably curated set in this sense, pairing some achingly lovely alternate versions of “Starlet” and “Love To Get Used” with the psych-folk madness of “Round And Round,” a pair of melancholy instrumentals, and even a rousing Stevie Nicks cover. But Pond’s gifts went beyond his prolificacy—his wool blanket of a voice and hooky, sepia-toned melodies remain distinctive to this day, a pile of crisp autumn leaves to jump into again and again. [Randall Colburn]
It takes one hell of an assemblage to mimic the disorder and confidence of Harley Quinn and friends. Fortunately, DC’s slice of mayhem Birds Of Prey is largely bolstered by a soundtrack that leans into the candy-coated chaos with a mix of hip-hop party gems, relentless rock, and warped, emotional pop ballads. More than a complement to a fun film, Birds Of Prey: The Album is a thumping microcosm of today’s most promising female talent. Alongside pop heavy hitters like Normani, Megan Thee Stallion, and Halsey are head-turning newcomers like Doja Cat, whose anthemic, bass-heavy house track “Boss B*tch” is as brassy as the mallet-swinging villainess herself. While this may be, first and foremost, a soundtrack, it’s also Harley Quinn’s ideal breakup album, carrying the listener through moments of despair, rage, metamorphosis, and finally, blissful badassery. [Shannon Miller]