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.
Note: We’ll take an in-depth look at Solange’s When I Get Home soon. For now, we highly recommend the music below.
Little Simz’s 2016 effort, Stillness In Wonderland, was likable enough, but it felt long, winding an extended Alice In Wonderland metaphor into tracks that showed infinite promise but diluted appeal. No such problem afflicts Grey Area, the British emcee’s ferociously bullshit-free new work, which begins with a blast of fuzz bass and blaxploitation woodwinds and never stops to breathe until the outro. Simz has always rapped hard the way people rapped hard on old Rawkus compilations, kicking into double and triple time and layering shit-talk over shaggy-dog stories with enough dexterity to earn Kung-Fu Kenny’s love. But on Grey Area, finally, the music keeps up, with a stylistic wanderlust recalling Janelle Monáe or the late-’90s sample-crazy explosions of Cibo Matto, Handsome Boy Modeling School, and Hello Nasty. It’s her best album by a long shot. [Clayton Purdom]
It was last April that Run For Cover Records announced it had signed Fury, the Orange County hardcore act that captured the scene’s attention with its debut album, Paramount, in 2016. Make no mistake, Paramount was an expertly written youth-crew record, but with the release of “Angels Over Berlin,” Fury shows just how much its creative ambitions have grown. The band’s second album, Failed Entertainment, is out May 3, and “Angels Over Berlin,” which opens the record, is a stunning bit of post-hardcore flexing. While Fury’s foundation remains, the band brings in chunkier, groove-oriented riffs, the kind that bring to mind the likes of Refused, but also classic New York and Boston influences like Orange 9mm and even Have Heart (who, fittingly, just announced a short reunion run). Hardcore has had a hot couple of years, and as Fury is showing here, there’s no sign of that stopping any time soon. [David Anthony]
Tierra Whack, “Clones”
Last May, Tierra Whack put out one of the most wonderfully amorphous and alluring rap records of the year—the 15-minute, 15-track Whack World. And the accolades have continued to ripple into 2019, not least in the Philly rapper’s recent Grammy nomination. Her first post-Whack World song, the typically playful “Only Child,” dropped last week, giving fans four whole minutes of Whack to revel in, and she quickly followed it up with this week’s superior “Clones,” a track that finds her flow at its most elastic—coolly confrontational in the verses, low and syrupy in the chorus. “Westbound, eastbound / Everybody walkin’ like me now / Everybody talkin’ like me now / Heard I’m who they wanna be now,” Whack slurs melodically in the hook, over a sub engineered to knock you silly. “Just hopped off the plane / ’Bout to fuck up the game,” she raps later, ready to fulfill her disruptive destiny. [Kelsey J. Waite]
We’re collecting our A-Sides recommendations over on a Spotify playlist updated every Friday. Tune in and subscribe here.
After a couple of weeks sitting with the newest album from Ladytron—the group’s first record since the extended hiatus following 2011’s Gravity The Seducer—it’s clear the band reunited not out of obligation, but a creative impetus to push its icy electronic grooves in a bolder and brasher direction. The band had been slowly edging toward more expansive and richer sounds over the course of its previous five albums, but with this self-titled release, it has perfected the blend of warmer sonic and vocal palettes to pair with the dark rhythms and cool synth-wave flourishes that used to be the sole foundation. Tracks like “Paper Highways” showcase the album’s hopeful-sounding vocal runs and downright cathartic melodicism (which started to peek out on Helen Marnie’s recent solo releases), while even the quieter songs like “Run” feature emotional expressiveness that would’ve been verboten in the group’s earlier years. It’s not a reinvention or anything—this is very recognizably a Ladytron album—but the incorporation of shimmering, Tangerine Dream-esque waves of sound and soulful vocals has pushed Ladytron somewhere great. [Alex McLevy]
Lucki’s a survivor, in more ways than one. His understated, impressionistic mixtapes Alternative Trap and X (both excellent) netted collaborations with everyone from FKA Twigs to Chance The Rapper, but he never burbled over into wider name recognition. The new Freewave 3 details, at least in part, why: It’s a harrowing portrait of addiction, like Future after the lights fade, the chemicals drain out, and he’s still grinding his teeth as the sun comes up. At times, the slim, aquiline tape can recall the recent confessional mode of Earl Sweatshirt, who produces one track here. At others, Lucki glides over the phasing beats like a morose Playboi Carti. For all its lyrical ruminations about a curdled relationship and the physical toll of drug use on the body, Freewave still sounds darkly seductive, like a handful of pills to someone who knows they probably shouldn’t. It gets in your system and stays there. [Clayton Purdom]