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.
Tame Impala, “It Might Be Time”
It’s been almost five years since Currents swept listeners back into Tame Impala’s alternate musical universe, richly slathered in reverb and brimming with delightful, bright psych-rock trimmings. Kevin Parker seems acutely aware of just how long it’s been. Earlier this year, single “Patience” made a clear nod to fans clamoring for new music. Now, “It Might Be Time” arrives alongside the official announcement of the band’s fourth studio album, The Slow Rush, set for release next February. Crooning over punctuated jolts of keyboard across each hook, Parker provides a firsthand look at the fears that have likely been ricocheting across his mind all this time: “You ain’t as young as you used to be / It might be time to face it / You ain’t as cool as you used to be, no / You won’t recover.” The track’s climactic distortion and squealing synths don’t feel quite as earth-shattering as when Tame Impala first entered our collective consciousness, but it’s still well worth a listen for a glimpse inside the mind of one of our generation’s most fascinating songwriters. [Adam Isaac Itkoff]
Given that you can practically hear the fretboard grime on its first two albums, Omni wasn’t exactly a likely candidate to level up to a prestigious label like Sub Pop. But that it did, which means there’s a lesson here about quality finding a way to rise to the top—and also about the importance of shaking the right hands on the way there. The title “Networker” seems to be a bit of a play on the joke of the band having networked itself into a bigger little stream, but truthfully the album itself doesn’t sound all that different from its previous releases; Omni’s sharp, fast post-rock style is so distinct and durable that the Atlanta trio just sounds like itself, even with the added benefit of the highest quality mastering that Nirvana royalties can buy. “Are you nervous for your career?” vocalist/bassist Philip Frobos asks on opener “Sincerely Yours.” If you are, take it from him: Sometimes things work out. [Nate Rogers]
Miranda Lambert, Wildcard
Miranda Lambert’s last album, 2016’s The Weight Of These Wings, was an intimate and introspective collection, in no small part because she was navigating high-profile romantic transitions. The exuberant Wildcard, in contrast, is an extroverted collection that pushes Lambert’s sound forward—influences come from classic rock, gospel-country, and even ’80s rock—while preserving everything that makes her raucous (and tender) country-pop great. Accordingly, Wildcard’s lyrics are also all about growth, as songs ruminate on a journey to emotional and personal equilibrium. The narrator of “Settling Down” wonders about her motivations for getting into a relationship, while “Dark Bars” is a touching meditation of the comfort of a local dive where you can nurse your lonely feelings. Lambert’s sly humor also adds levity: Good luck getting the alcohol pun-filled waltz “Tequila Does” out of your head, while the cheeky “It All Comes Out In The Wash” is about shrugging off anxiety. [Annie Zaleski]
We’re collecting our A-Sides recommendations over on a Spotify playlist updated every Friday. Tune in and subscribe here.
King Princess, Cheap Queen
After building her name on a handful of provocative singles—“1950,” “Pussy Is God”—Mikaela Straus’ King Princess has delivered a debut LP that propels the 20-year-old beyond both her virality and her association with producer Mark Ronson. Cheap Queen isn’t built solely on samples and drum pads—guitars, piano, and live percussion carry tracks like “Homegirl” and “Ain’t Together,” standouts that achieve a powerful intimacy that suits the album’s themes of post-heartbreak navigation. But Straus’ main appeal is her swagger, which compels even as she makes it clear her brashness—“getting too cocky, since everyone wants me”—is born from a place of wounded insecurity. And while songs like “Hit The Back” and “Cheap Queen” flaunt choruses that won’t quit, it’s the rough edges, the surprise snarl in Straus’ vocals, that make the LP such a good hang. [Randall Colburn]
TR/ST, The Destroyer – 2
Opening with the subtle swell “Enduring Chill,” TR/ST’s latest offering extends the cold-wave retrospection of last spring’s The Destroyer – 1. Atmospheric and immersive, part two reveals the marrow of Robert Alfons’ romanticism. As the album opener eases into “Iris,” vacillating synth blends seamlessly with brooding backbeats reminiscent of the unhinged yearning of beloved cuts like “This Ready Flesh” and “Rescue, Mister.” As Alfons utters, “Stay, stay, stay,” “Iris” becomes a Lacanian echo, a plea conjured by longing and a willingness to be vulnerable. Similarly, “Cor” blooms on the heels of a satisfyingly corrosive dissonance that becomes the prologue to an intimately dark yet tender melody. Together with the reflective self-awareness of the title track and the hypnotically brooding chords of “Shame,” these latter songs urge listeners to be patient, to feel what isn’t being said through instrumentation and rhythm. Closing with the cinematic hum of “The Strain” and the buzz of “Slow Burn,” Alfons proves that the malleability of desire and the self are tethered, like two links of an inseparable chain. [Dianca London Potts]