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Janky Star

Grace Ives

Pop - Released June 10, 2022 | True Panther Records - Harvest Records

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
"The themes Ives touches on are as complex as her compositions, as she discusses sobriety, overdoses, escapism, attempting to slow down, and trying to find solid ground in a world that never stops spinning." © TiVo
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Nothing To Declare

700 Bliss

Electronic - Released May 27, 2022 | Hyperdub

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
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A Light for Attracting Attention

The Smile

Alternative & Indie - Released May 13, 2022 | XL Recordings

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
When is a Radiohead record not a Radiohead record? That's a fair question when listening to the debut from The Smile—which includes most prominent Radiohead members Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood and is produced by Nigel Godrich, who has worked on every Radiohead album since OK Computer. They're even recycling bits and bobs of old songs that never made the permanent Radiohead roster, like "Skrting on the Surface" which has roots going back to that band's In Rainbows era as well as Yorke's Atoms for Peace side project. Here, it's served as an ambient moment—as much a mood as a song. Greenwood's jazz guitar arpeggios dress things up while soft brass fades in and out and Yorke vocalizes like flotsam drifting through the ether. In other words, the song plays it cool: a good simmer that doesn't need to overdo it as a full-on boil. "Open the Floodgates" started as a Radiohead track back in 2006, when it was known as "Porous," and also got revived for live gigs with Atoms for Peace. It sure sounds like a frustrated commentary on concert fans: "Don't bore us/ Get to the chorus/ And open the floodgates/ We want the good bits/ Without your bullshit." (Pretty perfect for a band named after the Ted Hughes poem "The Smile," with its ominous warning about hungry fakers consuming purity.) Joining the band is jazz drummer Tom Skinner, also of Sons of Kemet, who lays down a busy, jittery rhythm that matches the oddly charming funk-to-post-punk-siren path of "The Opposite." The drums pace like a caged tiger on the big, festival-ready "You Will Never Work in Television Again," and it's a wow moment to hear Yorke singing like he's in the Wipers or Mission of Burma. He hits his famed upper register on "Pana-vision," a moody, fog-at-the-seaside piano track with strings conducted by Hugh Brunt, who has worked with both Radiohead and Greenwood on his film scores. "Thin Thing" thrives on math-rock tension. "Speech Bubbles" is a graceful, if morose crawl. "The Same" delivers great washes of uneasy noise. "Waving a White Flag" brainwashes with sterile, spacey synth followed by drawling strings, like a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. And "Free in the Knowledge," with its catchy vocal melody, could be Radiohead circa The Bends. © Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz
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Un Verano Sin Ti

Bad Bunny

World - Released May 6, 2022 | Rimas Entertainment LLC

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Every summer, music slides back into our lives like a long-forgotten friend. The year's warmer months have a tendency to give our brightest memories their own musical accompaniments, and with the industry's titans all pushing for song of the summer, producing a seasonal masterpiece requires not just an understanding of hit-making, but of the magic of the season itself. This is the type of music that defines years -- and over the last seven or so of them, Bad Bunny has built an empire. It's only fitting, then, that the Puerto Rican superstar should define the summer in his own terms. His fourth studio album, Un Verano Sin Ti ("A Summer Without You"), is a page-to-stage adaptation of the season itself, a representation of the ephemeral feeling that makes the year's middle months so revered. Across reggaeton anthems and lone-man ballads, he flits between the season's traditional ensemble -- from earnest party-starter on "Me Fui de Vacaciones" to smooth amarante on "Agosto" -- channeling his own memories to ground each in their own emotional depth. Nights on the San Juan seafront and trips to La Parguera make for snapshots of a life well-lived, while Benito paints a spectrum of loves won and lost: the exhilarating optimism of "Enséñame a Bailar," the bittersweet temporality of “Un Ratito,” and the suffocating lonerism of "Un Coco." Everything here moves with a fundamental easiness, the transiency of the season itself written in fleeting romances and night-time drifts along the coast. At the core of the project is the reggaeton that has defined the musician's early-2020s output: Tony Dize makes for a bold new sparring partner on the impassioned "La Corriente," JhayCo and Rauw Alejandro help lift the party off on the inventive "Tarot" and "Party," and solo tracks pay tribute to small-room sensuality ("Efecto," "Ojitos Lindos"). Lead single "Moscow Mule" proves a soulful successor to the year-defining "Dákiti," dressed in untarnished joy and sexed-up adrenaline, while "Después de la Playa" ups the tempo with an impassioned mid-track leap into Dominican-inspired merengue. Yet with the project's expansive 23-track setlist, Benito can flesh out a wider range of ritmos -- a taste of afrobeats on the Lakizo-sampling " Enséñame a Bailar," some flecks of bossa on the paranoid "Yo No Soy Celoso." The genre-flipping collages of El Último Tour make a triumphant return, but this time they're given space to bloom: the dembow-trap hybrid "Titi Me Preguntó" dives from hedonistic machismo to downcast introspection, "El Apagón" weaves a sparse PR tribute into a frenzied floor-filler, and rare 4-plus-minute runtimes are afforded to the dreamboat-pop of "Otro Atardecer" and poignant "Andrea." "Dos Mil 16," a scale-model of the rapper's Latin trap roots, revives Bad's oldest producer tag for a portal into a simpler era. Un Verano is not only a seasonal statement-piece but a testament to Benito's singular songwriting -- across genres, generations, and even languages, he works to produce enduring landmarks that trace universal joys, sorrows, and passions. As the final amber tones of "Callaita" fade beyond the horizon, and the wash of the waves begins to cease, you're reminded of just how far this cantante has come. © David Crone /TiVo
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Boat Songs

MJ Lenderman

Alternative & Indie - Released April 29, 2022 | Dear Life Records

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
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Air

SAULT

Electronic - Released April 13, 2022 | Forever Living Originals

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
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GOLD

Alabaster DePlume

Alternative & Indie - Released April 1, 2022 | International Anthem

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
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Warm Chris

Aldous Harding

Alternative & Indie - Released March 25, 2022 | 4AD

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Crossing a puddle in the rain can be perilous: the calculation of jumping force; the angle of attack; how to stick the landing. While often there is a roundabout path to avoid the literal depths of uncertainty, inevitably, we land in a squishy mess—one we thought was just past the soles of our sneakers but encompasses our entire ankle (yuck!). But in the same way, chasm-presenting puddles are often only as deep as our imagination builds them to be. Inside the world of Warm Chris, Aldous Harding offers an eerily analogous taut 10-track package of baroque, fanciful indie-pop jaunts with a disarming depth and lucid melodic transfixion. Each track simmers with an air of lightness and approachability. Once inside, the record's surprising profundity is realized with explorations from the literal to the sweeping imagination. Warm Chris employs bouncy piano riffs, warm fuzzy baselines, cozy horn honks, and vocal performances stretching from barbed lyrical delivery to slippery mumbling murmurs. Written in bits by Harding in her native New Zealand and elsewhere, and recorded at Rockfield Studios (the storied Welsh countryside recording complex which has hosted Oasis, Robert Plant, Coldplay, Queen, and more), Warm Chris has a sense of insulation and surrounding celestial timelessness. Harding reunites with producer John Parish (best known for his work with PJ Harvey), continuing a creative partnership that began with Aldous' strikingly intimate 2017 project, Party. The sonic palettes the duo captures most notably flow from this partnership to frame the stage for Harding's various narrative perspectives. The album opener's soft marching shuffle and burbling layered hums pull the listener through the veil of Harding's creative world; a varied, intimate, and curious setting. On "Tick Tock," an encounter between two substance-users with aimless conversational musing, a slide-guitar-laced and sing-songy chorus bounces from person-to-person in casual exchanges. The strutting album highlight "Fever," features a juicy piano lick and vibrant vocal passages cascading into a lush horn arrangement underpinning a story of two criss-crossing romantic souls trading accounts of one night under the light of the moon. The track presents a crystallized example of how the album, rather than ruminating from a single perspective, mingles and spins many views for the listener to poke, prod, and fully feel.  Warm Chris is a funhouse—fuzzy and inviting, full of sweet, melodic and imaginative disjunction that grows richer right when you least expect. © William Card/Qobuz
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LABYRINTHITIS

Destroyer

Alternative & Indie - Released March 25, 2022 | Bella Union

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Labyrinthitis is a medical condition (inflammation in the inner ear which results in hearing loss, a sense of dizziness and vertigo) that seems to result in an unsettling state of being. In the opening moments of Destroyer's latest album of the same name, a crackling drum loop and orchestra tune-up are swept into an eerily similar abstraction of space and sound that cocoons the listener from all sides. This panoramic dizzying state is constant throughout LABYRINTHITIS, but inside that envelope are dotted pockets of cynical lyrical subversion, insoluble anxious questioning, and restful acceptance.  It’s a sonic bath so thick and luscious with the hypnotic, woozy wistfulness of frontman and maestro Dan Bejar's voice guiding us through the fog. LABYRINTHITIS' lyrical and sonic statements appear as non-sequitur. Still, when lifted out of line-by-line analysis, their meanings extend an invitation to get lost in their arcane maze. Because no matter where you end up, Bejar and his band have got your back. Mainly written in 2020 and pieced together through early 2021 with frequent-collaborator and fellow-New Pornographer John Collins, LABYRINTHITIS is a continuation of Destroyer's cerebral, life-is-messy-so-embrace-it revelation. Bejar has said that his lyricism has a "hermetic” and "unconscious" stream of consciousness, which is highlighted in "June." Muted bass bounces and synthesizer glimmers open to Bejar proclaiming "Fancy language dies, and everyone's happy to see it go" into decisive reflections that wage workers are "Happy to strike for more pay." While seemingly unrelated, Bejar's wandering slurs weave the different ideas together (Consider a title like "Eat the Wine, Drink the Bread"). Shrouded in a misty sheen, the instrumental soundscapes of LABYRINTHITIS are another striking high point. Crashing keyboards, driving drum patterns, muted horn honks, and pulsating synthesizers speckle the vistas of each track. "Tintoretto, It's for You" (yes, like the Italian painter) and "The States" are serpentine with no predictable structure, but imbue a sense of meditation amidst swirling destruction their very lyrics are describing. Destroyer’s hazy, scalable labyrinth is anchored by the distinctive paradox of feeling lost and self-assured, all in the same swing. A fitting illustration for the world at the time this record arrives. © William Card/Qobuz
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Topical Dancer

Charlotte Adigéry

Electronic - Released March 4, 2022 | DEEWEE

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music - Qobuzissime
Having first appeared on the scene with a feature on the fantastic soundtrack for the film Belgica (2016) scored by the Dewaele brothers, and then releasing two very well-received EPs (especially 2019's Zandoli which included the hit Paténipat), singer Charlotte Adigéry now launches her first full-length project with Bolis Pupul, her "musical partner" from Deewee, Soulwax's label. The two Belgian artists have decided to tease all intolerant people on Topical Dancer by tackling subjects such as cultural appropriation, racism, sexism and post-colonialism. 'Tease' is a fitting term as it's all done in an extremely funny way with Charlotte Adigéry at the top of her creative game as a lyricist.On Esperanto, Adigéry scolds isolationists ("Don't say we need to build a wall. Say: I'm a world citizen, I don't believe in borders") with a refined and stylish sense of rhythm. On the funky Blenda, it's the racists who find themselves in the firing line, before the misogynists are addressed on Ich Mwen, Reappropriate and the brilliant Thank You, which ironically blows away the unsolicited opinions of men on women's looks. Musically, this record oozes with the heavy yet chilled sound of Deewee, Soulwax's label/studio in Ghent, with, as always, a mix of genres (electro, pop, no (new) wave...) between hypnotic synths, edgy bass and groovy guitar riffs. Even though tracks such as HAHA (a concept track somewhere between laughter and tears where surrealism peaks) and Making Sense Stop (a slap in the face to all of French pop) are undoubtedly unmissable, it's not easy to pick out individual highlights from this surrealist album, which is as danceable as it is listenable. Funky, caustic, engaged; this is a truly complete album and an easy choice for Qobuzissime. © Smaël Bouaici/Qobuz
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Painless

Nilüfer Yanya

Alternative & Indie - Released March 4, 2022 | ATO Records

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Nilüfer Yanya makes music that is as much of an eclectic melting pot as her own background. The daughter of Irish-Barbadian and Turkish parents, she grew up in London listening to Turkish music, classical, and the Strokes and the Libertines; the sound of her second album, following up 2019's acclaimed Miss Universe, is nothing like anything else being made right now. "Shameless" morphs from jangling guitars and a deep well of bass to a soulful, silky R&B track and then back. "Chase Me" is woolly with industrial static like creaky gears and moody, downbeat guitar. "Anotherlife" is café dream-pop, "Try" slowly sashays with hypnotic guitar, and "Company" is an almost goth ballad of tender sympathies. Which isn't to say there is any kind of identity crisis. The whole package very much feels like one complete idea, just traveling a boulevard of moods. "Stabilise" is a standout, its nervous, antsy rhythm, and almost math-y guitars (think early TV on the Radio) suggest the kind of oppression you can feel in a city, when the skyscrapers choke off the sidewalk's sunshine. Indeed, Yanya has said the song is about how urban life can feel "just grey and concrete, there's no escape." Her delivery is haunted on lines like "It was a small flat/ Rotten to the core/ Still going nowhere," before the drums give way to a chorus that could be heard as hopeless or self-sufficient: "'Cause I'm not waiting/ For no one to save me." Across the album, Yanya's uniquely husky voice can feel like heavyweight gauze; Sade run through a grainy filter. Her staccato delivery is disarming on "L/R," with its spooky Siouxsie guitars, elasticized bass and goth dancefloor drums, before the singer pushes up into the higher reaches of her range, a "left-right" chant panning in the speakers. "Midnight Sun" is another scene-stealer, starting off with warm, off-kilter, Radiohead-esque guitars before erupting in a storm of fuzz. "Love is raised by common thieves/ Hiding diamonds up their sleeves," Yanya sighs. When she repeats the title of "Belong With You" over and over again, it's unclear if she is trying to convince herself or the other person—or maybe the horn, low in the mix, that's just audible through a fog. © Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz
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LIFE ON EARTH

Hurray For The Riff Raff

Alternative & Indie - Released February 18, 2022 | Nonesuch

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
After a lifetime of running—away from their Bronx home as a teenager, for freight trains to travel the country, from New Orleans to Nashville and back to NYC—Alynda Segarra (aka, the force behind Hurray for the Riff Raff) was forced to sit still and look around when the pandemic all but stopped the world for a while. "Not being able to travel and get out whenever, I felt nervous energy inside me ... it taught me a lot about trauma and memories being stored in the body," they said. So Segarra began running, as in jogging, to get out the energy—but also sorting through the past and figuring out how to live with it, and thrive. Nowhere is that clearer than on "SAGA," a bittersweet, Velvet Underground-like jangle inspired by Christine Blasey Ford's sexual-assault accusations against then-Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and how that led to a resurfacing of Segarra's own painful memories. "I don't want this to be the saga of my life … push it out of my mind," they rebel against a hopeful wall of horns, kittycat-cute backing vocals contrasting the chant of "Nobody believed me." (Their voice often recalls the power and silk of Annie Lennox.) You can feel Segarra's racing pulse in "PIERCED ARROWS" and a more measured pace in "WOLVES," with its mix of chilled synth, tribal drums and '80-style gospel backing vocals. It feels like a lost Yeah Yeah Yeahs song, and that's a good thing. "ROSEMARY TEARS" sounds sacred and holy, and "nightqueen" is atmospheric, the drums slowly floating in as if to pierce its bubble of keening synth. "RHODODENDRON" is great, as Segarra coos pretty plant names and makes them sound like a roll call of danger—"Rhododendron/ Night blooming jasmine/ Deadly nightshade/ Fox glove … " It bounces along like a joy-riding car without shocks, then settles into a groove just as the singer switches gears to wail their plea of a chorus: "Don't turn your back on the mainland!" It's a reference to their Puerto Rican heritage, and Segarra has said it's about admitting to the "colonizer inside us all." Finally, "PRECIOUS CARGO" is a stunner, Segarra's sing-song spoken word like documentary journalism as they speak in the voice of real-life ICE detainees. "Me swimming just to get across/ With the babies on my shoulders ... Made it through the jungle/ No water there for two weeks," the story goes, detailing the hardships of being captured while seeking asylum: split from their families, sleeping on the cold floor "like a dog." Segarra helped the men work with lawyers to win their freedom but stresses that just being free in the US does not guarantee a functioning, human system. © Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz
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Heaux Tales, Mo' Tales: The Deluxe

Jazmine Sullivan

R&B - Released February 11, 2022 | RCA Records Label

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Reality Show was a major milestone in Jazmine Sullivan's career. With this third album, released in 2015, the Philadelphia singer was gaining in stature, in her singing and deepening her relationship with melody and groove. The grace of her old-school R&B mingled with some rather elaborate lyrics. Five years later, and after some impeccable features for artists like GoldLink (Meditation with Kaytranada), Frank Ocean (Solo and four tracks on Endless), Kindness (Hard to Believe), Mali Music (Loved By You), Niia (Sideline) and Robert Glasper (You're My Everything on Black Radio 2), Sullivan gives us even more swagger with Heaux Tales, a viscerally committed work that talks unsentimentally about money.“Heaux Tales is about my observation of today’s women standing in their power and owning who they are.  No longer is male patriarchy dictating what it means to be a ‘good girl.’  The truth is, women of all ages have been called a ‘heaux’ at some point in life, whether deserved or not, by some man trying to put us in our place; a place designed to keep us under control, out of the way and usually beneath them. Women are over feeling ashamed about the decision we have made, or chose to make, in regards to our bodies. We are multi-faceted and shouldn’t be defined by any one thing.  We all have a journey to make and it’s our choice alone how we get there.”These sentiments are set impeccably to music, as on the sure-fire hit Girl Like Me which closes the album, a demented duet with the Californian Gabriella Wilson a.k.a. H.E.R, a classy love story with deception at its heart. Two other guest appearances enrich Heaux Tales (Anderson .Paak on Pricetags and Ari Lennox on On It). Her spot-on voice is hoarse with a naked soul timbre (Lauryn Hill/Brandy) and she sometimes takes a playful run at Kendrick Lamar's flow (Put It Down) or flirts with gospel (Bodies, Lost One). Above all, Jazmine Sullivan is not content to throw together a feminist hotchpotch to catch the pulse of the moment. This is her fourth full album. A beautiful and deep work that will stand the test of time. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Ants From Up There

Black Country, New Road

Alternative & Indie - Released February 4, 2022 | Ninja Tune

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
After their Mercury Prize-nominated debut album For the First Time, this ‘post-punk’ seven-piece are back with their second album Ants from Up There. The term ‘post-punk’, although originally used to coin the band’s style (like that of their UK friends Black Midi, Shame, Squid etc), is really now a loose term to describe their new release. As saxophonist Lewis Evans described it, “it’s way more palatable than the first album…people might hate it, but we like it.”It is hard to think that people will hate Ants from Up There. This album is a lot… it is sad, it is epic, but it is a lot. Knowing what we know now about lead singer and guitarist Isaac Wood leaving the band just four days before this release, the album makes total sense. It is recommended to listen to this new album from start to finish in its entirety. Ants from Up There is what one would describe as a modern-day opera, or a novella put to music. Chaos Space Marine is a fun, jilted upbeat track, which is rare on this album. Concorde is a tragic love song and Wood is a master of lyrics, pouring his heart into this deceptively optimistic track… “But, for less than a moment, we'd share the same sky, and then Isaac will suffer, Concorde will fly.” The absolute hail-mary track on this album is The Place Where He Inserted the Blade. This track is like the final aria of this opera, it is tragic, heart-wrenching and makes Wood’s exit from the band sting just a little bit more. Although a ‘long’ track at just over 7 minutes, every second is necessary, from the false ‘upbeat’ pulsing initial verse to the overwhelming chaos of the final minutes where all instruments and chorus join together… This track really feels like the end of something very special. The final two tracks Snow Globes and Basketball Shoes feel like an encore, like a sign that things are going to be great again. Basketball Shoes in particular is unique, it uses fragments of the previous nine tracks to create almost a summary of the journey Black Country, New Road have just taken us on…one last hoorah!Credit must go to the producer Sergio Maschetzko, who executed every nuance and tone perfectly, letting the instrumentals shine and letting Wood’s lyrics stand out amongst the chaos. Often it is easy to lose instruments in a mix, especially when using ‘a-typical’ instruments within a band setting, however, every instrumental line had impact and intention, making this album even more poignant. Ants from Up There is something so rare, it is experimental without being hard to digest and it leaves you with a slight stinging feeling in your heart… is that sadness or is that a longing for more? © Jessica Porter-Langson / Qobuz
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Time Skiffs

Animal Collective

Alternative & Indie - Released February 4, 2022 | Domino Recording Co

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
This Baltimore band is back with its 11th studio album, six years after its conceptual album Painting With (2016). The four members of this band that’s redefined 21st century indie pop/rock has been busy, with Avey Tare, Deakin, Geologist and Panda Bear releasing five solo albums in short succession. Now the four are back together to release Time Skiffs, an album full of 60’s nostalgia with a sound that lies somewhere between the Beach Boys, the Grateful Dead and Frank Zappa. The composition and tone of this album was shaped during a gig in 2018 at the Music Box Village in New Orleans. It features one of their poppiest tracks to date (Car Keys) and a song named Strung with Everything, which sounds like a tribute to Brian Wilson's band. Though this album has more of a pop sound than usual, Animal Collective still maintains that psychedelic base (you can really hear it in the “aquatic” guitars in Cherokee and the free-spirited single Prester John), and their trips last for a good few minutes. Give this record a little time to infuse to discover all its flavours. © Smaël Bouaici/Qobuz 
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Pompeii

Cate le Bon

Alternative & Indie - Released February 4, 2022 | Mexican Summer

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
On the surface, Cate Le Bon's seemingly chill, immersive music seems like something you could put on in the background while doing chores or just relaxing. Ha. In reality, it doesn't leave you alone. It prods and pokes and forces you to engage—to marvel at her odd flourishes, deceptively complicated guitar parts and sly arrangements. She has said that Pompeii, her sixth album, was "written and recorded in a quagmire of unease." With pandemic restrictions and fog leaving her to her own devices, the singer-songwriter had plenty of time to "grapple with existence, resignation and faith." Her conclusion is pragmatic if not comforting: "The world is on fire but the bins must go out on a Tuesday night ... I put a groove behind [the unease] to hold on to. The grief is in the saxophones." In fact, Euan Hinshelwood's sax is her co-star, a supporting actor but a major presence. It can suggest agitation "Dirt on the Bed," and come on like honey on "Moderation," which sounds full and warm with its groovy, playful bass. But don't get too comfortable. This is art rock and it's provocative. The lyrics reference a 1958 essay, "The Moon"—about being less impressed by technology than art—by Brazilian modernist architect Lina Bo Bardi, who magically found ways to make hard lines and "cold" materials exceedingly human-friendly. "I can't have it/ I don't want it/ I want to touch it," Le Bon sings, skating beautifully along the contradiction of all-consuming appetite and decorum. It's a push-pull that seems embedded in her: Le Bon hails from Wales but lives in Joshua Tree, two distinctly weird, remote and mythic locales where outsiderism is worn like a badge of honor. "Pompeii" unfurls with distorted carnival music, like a carousel out of tune, foreboding in the background even as the vocal melody is reassuring: Le Bon's voice effortlessly slides up and down scales, a quick shape-shifter in the vein of Bowie. In fact, "French Boys" feels like it could have been a cut from his moody, slinky Let's Dance era. "Harbour," meanwhile, has a different '80s vibe, its synth pop and grounded ethereality recalling Kate Bush or Tracey Thorn. © Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz
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KicK iii

Arca

Electronic - Released December 1, 2021 | XL Recordings

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
A year and a half after Kick i, Arca wraps up her series with four new albums (!) released almost simultaneously, with each one revealing an aspect of the Venezuelan producer’s work. She has become one of the most sought-after names in the music industry (with Kanye West, Björk and FKA twigs on her CV). The first, KICK ii, is perhaps the catchiest, presenting the “Arca version” of reggaeton, a very popular genre in Venezuela which has become a worldwide phenomenon in recent years. Arca revisits dembow rhythm in all senses on three quarters of the record, in epileptic style on Tiro with Boys Noize, in vapor style on Luna Llena with the German twins Cubeatz, and IDM/electronic style with Clark on Confianza. The record is finished with the pop/EDM single Born Yesterday with Zero Seven’s ex, the Australian Sia.On Kick iii, Arca takes us back to a dark and sleazy club with a throbbing sound system, beginning with Bruja, industrial hip-hop with an incredible beat that reminds us of the producer's unique talent in terms of sound design. Incendio, which was also released as a single, will be for peak time. As will be the perfectly named, Morbo, a mutant dancehall/dubstep that even the English wouldn't have dared to do, Electra Rex, with its deafening bass kick, and a very metallic Señorita, featuring Machinedrum. As always, Arca’s music is very unusual, and the fans are going to have a great time listening to Intimate Flesh and Joya at the end, relaxing in bed.On the following record, Kick iiii, Arca takes us back to a more downtempo mood, with a ton of delicate keys and cosmic passages bordering on palpable music. The languid Queer, featuring Planningtorock is in tune with the music, and there is even a synthetic ballad, Hija, that would make an android cry. While emos should find something they like with Lost Woman Found and Paw.Finally, Kick iiiii embodies the cycle of rebirth in this saga built by Arca, with a series of lullabies, including one designed especially for rave nostalgia, Amrep, which picks up the conventions of 90's techno before melting them into chaos. A record that continues almost without drums, with a monologue by Ryuichi Sakamoto, on a shamanic instrumental (Sanctuary), until the moving finale, Crown, where we find Arca's signature industrial kick, more inspired than ever. © Smaël Bouaici/Qobuz
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Red (Taylor's Version)

Taylor Swift

Pop - Released November 12, 2021 | Taylor Swift

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
The second in a series of catalog re-recordings and revisions, Red [Taylor's Version] finds Taylor Swift revisiting her self-styled pop breakthrough Red. Released nine years after the original album, Red [Taylor's Version] does bear a few signs of maturation, notably on the explicitly pop moments, such as "I Knew You Were Trouble," "22," and "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," which seem ever so slightly muted when compared to the 2012 versions. Nevertheless, much of the point of the re-recordings is to get these new versions as close to the original versions as possible so they can be easily licensed and to that end, Swift succeeds admirably. The more interesting part of Red [Taylor's Version] arrives in the second half when Swift records songs left in the vault, including "Better Man" -- a song she gave to Little Big Town, who won a Grammy for Best Country/Duo Group Performance in 2018 for their recording -- and duets with Phoebe Bridgers ("Nothing New"), Chris Stapleton ("I Bet You Think About Me"), and Ed Sheeran ("Run"). The highlight of these is a ten-minute version of "All Too Well," a bitter ballad that was already one of the peaks of Red and is now turned into an epic kiss-off. This, along with excavated songs, are reason enough for Swift to revisit Red and they, not the re-recordings, are the reason to return to Red [Taylor's Version]. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Valentine

Snail Mail

Alternative & Indie - Released November 5, 2021 | Matador

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Lindsey Jordan—the 22-year-old NYC-by-way-of-Maryland singer-songwriter who looks like she's still in high school and goes by Snail Mail—has lived a lot since her 2018 debut, Lush. You can hear it all over Valentine, her second album, which is full of references to heartbreak, losing herself, a stint in rehab and a quest to change. Her wonderfully raw (no American Idol perfection and show-off runs here) voice still sounds girlish, but with a new hoarse quality. The album's stylized cover art, with a besuited Jordan posing defiantly, even hints at the more grown-up direction this time around. "Valentine" starts off kind of free-floating and loose, pouring like honey, before the chorus kicks in: "So why'd you wanna erase me, darling Valentine?" This is the new emo, as big and bold as anything by My Chemical Romance or Paramore but lashed with a 2021 world-weariness and a straightforward queer sensibility. Waxahatchee's Katie Crutchfield, in guest-writing the bio for the album, nailed it: "Valentine is somehow a jolt and a lovebuzz all at once." Against clicky drums, Jordan reveals the desire to anesthetize boredom that landed her in rehab. "On two, feels like spring/ All on my own, guess the shit just makes you boring/ Got money, don't care about sex," she sings. "Sometimes I hate her just for not being you." In fact, Jordan told Pitchfork that success forced her to grow up and reassess, lest she end up another music business tragedy. "After Lush came out, I was driving myself crazy going to every single social thing," she said. "I was like a baby in an adult job." If it sounds a bit like the story behind Julien Baker's last album, the comparisons don't end there. Like Baker, Jordan wrestles with religious guilt and compulsions on the galloping "Madonna," and that new hoarseness makes the two sound even more similar than before (it's a compliment).You can also hear traces of Soccer Mommy's breathy dreaminess in "Headlock," in which Jordan lets herself imagine how wrong things could've gone if she hadn't gotten help: "Thought I'd see her when I died/ Filled the bath up with warm water/ Nothing on the other side." "Glory" feels like punchy '90s indie pop, and the sweet and quiet acoustic ballad "c. et al." is so intimate you can hear fingers slipping on the strings as Jordan unveils a surprisingly bluesy side. "Forever (Sailing)" has a lovely cafe-jazz touch; the snare splashes like a wave gently hitting the side of a yacht, while horns play as bright as the afternoon sun. Jordan has said she grew up influenced by the male-dominated Warped Tour bands of the 2000s, and she brings things full-circle with "Mia," a grand romantic gesture ballad in the vein of "Hey There, Delilah," that feels at once fresh and timeless. © Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz
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I Don’t Live Here Anymore

The War On Drugs

Alternative & Indie - Released October 29, 2021 | Atlantic Records

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
It's been almost four full years since The War on Drugs graced us with their meticulously constructed Grammy Award-winning A Deeper Understanding in 2017. The subsequent tour, captured on 2020's Live Drugs was a victory lap that crystallized this group's electrifying performance prowess. Yet, it might be an understatement to say a lot has changed since then. An altering global string of events, frontman Adam Granduciel's newly-minted fatherhood, and an irrevocable shock to our relationship to live music. What's the journey of digesting change, and when do we amend? It's these very questions that provoke the resulting dynamism in this band's latest album I Don't Live Here Anymore—a cerebral, soul-slicing anthemic rock proclamation. With taut, sculpted hooks, and burly melodies, Granduciel has built an album exploring the ruffled and soothing energy of self-reflection. With previous releases featuring decadent serpentines of shoegaze guitar echos, and groovy up-tempo long-form jams, Granduciel melded the best of both these worlds into this new record. From the opening track, "Living Proof," folksy strumming and staccato piano jabs glide above Granduciel, who recounts the strife in realizing the paradoxical swirling of an altered relationship: "I know the path/ I know it's changing/ I know the pain." "I Don't Wanna Wait" grapples with predicting life's changing tides. A metronome-like drum machine marches underneath fluid phase-y guitar fuzz with Granduciel's voice, drenched and reminiscent of a shotty phone connection calling out, "I don't wanna wait/ When I'm running to you" before continuing: "Show a little faith/ When I'm running to you." The album finds a triumphant peak in the title track "I Don't Live Here Anymore" where propellent, stadium-sized arpeggios ring out over a rock-solid drum groove. Granduciel, backed by the enchanting harmonies of folk duo Lucius, proclaims his unrelenting desire to make things right notwithstanding everything that's displaced ("I'm gonna walk through every doorway/ I can't stop/ I need some time, I need control/ I wanna find out everything I need to know"). Built equally for the headphones and for the arenas, I Don't Live Here Anymore stirs a universal truism and does so in kick-ass rock stylings: wrestling with the shifting tides of life is a constant, and the effort we make in spite of change makes all the difference. With sturdy lyrical themes and righteous melodic euphoria, The War on Drugs have crafted an album for taking the first step forward, which, while complex, is undoubtedly worthwhile. © William Card/Qobuz