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 Spotify.
Frost quakes and a new Mountain Goats song—two things I didn’t expect to hear this week, but have made my life all the richer (that is, unless those frost quakes find a way to make Chicago’s potholes even worse). The concept for In League With Dragons, due out April 26, sounds incredibly cool, and by that, I mean incredibly nerdy: What was once a rock opera is now, according to John Darnielle, a “dragon noir.” Darnielle et al. even teamed up with Wizards Of The Coast, your current purveyor of Dungeons & Dragons, to live-stream a concert earlier in the week. With its tight snare, the lead single “Younger” bounds along through Darnielle’s regret and resurgent hope. It’s a great opening statement for the upcoming album, even if, at just under six minutes, it’ll hardly get you through one battle round. [Danette Chavez]
Boogie, Everything’s For Sale
It feels a bit churlish to isolate a track called “Self Destruction” as the keeper on a nuanced and heartfelt record like Everything’s For Sale, but here we are. The wildly talented and charismatic Compton rapper Boogie’s first proper LP after a string of great mixtapes is, well, a little much, overemphasizing his penchant for syrupy crooning until the “Oh My” fire-spitter sounds like a poor man’s Chance. (I blame Eminem, on whose label the album was released.) But Boogie can still go off with the best of ’em—check the predictably virtuoso collab with J.I.D. here for proof. Better still is “Self Destruction,” on which he eviscerates Xanny-popping Instagram rappers, gets too high to remember the hook, but still blasts the queasy beat to bits with a furious double-time flow. He also cops to drunk-texting SZA, which is pretty funny. This guy should rap more! [Clayton Purdom]
Girlpool, What Chaos Is Imaginary
Girlpool’s always felt like a singular entity, two voices intertwining into one. On their third album, however, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad embrace their individuality with songs that highlight their respective vocals, allowing for a breadth of new sonic textures—strings, organ, and even Tucker’s own voice, which, due to his hormone replacement therapy, has taken on a deeper register—that still honor the dusky, atmospheric rock for which they’re known. What Chaos Is Imaginary pairs its exploratory sound with themes of idolatry and identity that complement the album’s creation, which found the pair, for the first time, writing separately. As such, there’s a palpable straining for independence that resonates both musically and lyrically. “I hate the way I feel confused, like I’ll always be a part of you,” Tividad sings on “Pretty,” a lovely, melancholic slice of alt-rock that finds Tucker’s voice bleeding in and out of her own, a symbol of the song’s emphasis on dependence. There’s still plenty of duets between the two, of course, but they feel purposeful rather than obligatory this time around. [Randall Colburn]
We’re collecting our A-Sides recommendations over on a Spotify playlist updated every Friday. Tune in and subscribe to the 2019 list here.
Boy Harsher, Careful
Boy Harsher finds warmth in the cold and calm in the chaos. On Careful, the duo’s sophomore album, Augustus Muller’s synths and drum machines smack hard and dissipate foggily, while vocalist Jae Matthews’ Gothic, breathy mutters defy the music’s hard edges with tenderness. Combined, the duo’s talents result in 10 propulsive yet restrained darkwave tracks. Dancing in place—but no farther—to “LA” is inevitable thanks to the song’s austere, oscillating beat, over which Matthews whispers darkly sensual lines like “I want you” alongside “I will hurt you.” On “Face The Fire,” the album’s ultimate meeting of groove and listlessness, Matthews’ passive murmuring pulls seduction from Muller’s cloudy, dreadful pounding. Every ounce of bleakness on Careful accompanies an ounce of affection, every ounce of energy equal lethargy, and it’s a delicate balance that Boy Harsher executes, as the album title suggests, with great care. [Max Freedman]
Swervedriver, Future Ruins
Honestly, it’s a little strange this Swervedriver album didn’t already exist. The psychedelic shoegaze-meets-distorted-soul sound, the melancholic ruminations on the darker side of life wedded to imagery of distant cities and open roads, the fuzzed-out feeling of a world circling the drain—Future Ruins is the Beat-poet soul of the band writ large in the back half of its career. Following up 2015’s reunion record, I Wasn’t Born To Lose You, Future again finds Swervedriver in contemplative, midtempo mode, foregoing the urgency and immediacy of its earlier work in favor of the ambling, expansive tenor of a more mature and steady collection of songs. Tracks like “The Lonely Crowd Fades In The Air” and “Drone Lover” deliver the signature stomp and airy vocals, while meditative numbers like “Everybody’s Going Somewhere & No-One’s Going Anywhere” are among the group’s bleakest in its career. There aren’t many standout moments, but it’s consistently good, through and through, a reliably strong record from a band that, more than most, still sounds like no one but itself. [Alex McLevy]