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.
“It’s just a feeling,” Lila Ramani sings on “Part III,” the first single from Crumb’s debut album, Jinx. Crumb’s fans might agree: The Brooklyn-via-Boston band often finds itself, much to its chagrin, pigeonholed alongside the many “chill” bands that have found massive YouTube and Spotify success without music industry assistance. But there’s far more to the band than high streaming counts, trippy videos, and tranquility. As the band’s breakout hit “Locket,” not to mention its technically groundbreaking viral video, suggests, Crumb’s hallucinogenic tendencies transcend “lo-fi beats to study/relax to.” Jinx makes good on the promise of “Locket” with R&B-inspired trips such as “And It Never Ends,” softly grooving reveries such as “Ghostride,” and even irresistible, humid head-boppers like highlight “Fall Down.” Connecting Jinx’s remarkable songs is Ramani’s languid whisper-singing and lyrical focus on needing to untether her varying emotions, because Crumb is more than a feeling. [Max Freedman]
There’s no doubt that Palehound frontwoman Ellen Kempner is a gifted songwriter; the evidence is obvious in the feathery indie rock of 2017’s A Place I’ll Always Go and 2015’s Dry Food. But on her band’s third album, Black Friday, the most thrilling moments come when the indie rock act lays off the guitar. Instead of putting the instrument at the forefront, Kempner lets her voice take the lead, whether it’s skating across organ-like opener “Company,” accenting a jangly electronic backbeat on “Urban Drip,” or fluffing the dream pop atmosphere of “Sneakers.” On Black Friday, Palehound has found a perfect balance of heart, hooks, and harmony. Thankfully that means songs like “Aaron,” a beautiful love song about gender transition and acceptance, will never lose their steam, no matter how many times you repeat it. [Nina Corcoran]
We’re collecting our A-Sides recommendations over on a Spotify playlist updated every Friday. Tune in and subscribe here.
GoldLink specializes in vibes. His music has an unerring sense of movement, whether it’s a sensuous R&B flow or a propulsive deep house rhythm. And over the course of four projects, he has slowly expanded his vision: the clubby hip-house of 2015’s And After That, We Didn’t Talk; the bittersweet love letter to his D.C. hometown that was his 2017 breakthrough At What Cost; and now Diaspora, which draws an international coterie of musicians into his woozy hip-hop world. British crooner Maleek Berry and German American singer Bibi Bourelly float over the Afrobeat arrangement of “Zulu Screams,” and Nigerian Afrobeats don Wizkid offers a hook for “No Lie.” Pusha T tries too hard to turn “Coke White/Moscow” into a sequel to Goldlink’s hit single “Crew,” but it still works. Khalid and Tyler, The Creator take bows. GoldLink anchors it all with a steady flow that tends to bounce and skip. He doesn’t have a distinctively magnetic voice, and his verses don’t shine as brightly as they did on At What Cost. But he keeps the party going. [Mosi Reeves]
Bill Callahan released an album every year or two from 1990 until 2013, first as Smog and later under his own name, evolving from a static-and-cacophony specialist into a songwriter with few contemporary peers. Six years of relative quiet was peppered with big life events, apparently, and they’re all over the gorgeous, gentle Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest: Callahan got married and became a dad, and the album presents his version of domestic bliss and professional reawakening. The centerpiece and statement of purpose might be “What Comes After Certainty,” a sidelong-approach love song in which he sings, “I never thought I’d make it this far / Little old house, recent-model car / And I got the woman of my dreams.” If that all sounds a little direct for a guy known more layered turns of phrase, don’t fret: Even a stress-free Callahan uses his lovely baritone in the service of more poetic, nuanced ends. It’s a new side to him in some ways, but as welcome a turn as all those that have come before it. [Josh Modell]
Bat For Lashes, a.k.a. Natasha Khan, this week announced the release of her fifth LP, Lost Girls, due September 6. She simultaneously released the first single from the album, also its opening track, the epicurean, ethereal “Kids In The Dark.” It’s impressionistic and, like much of Khan’s work, mines the fecund sonic world of ’80s film soundtracks, serving as a crepuscular yet romantic yin to the neon glow radiant yang of M83. Khan once hilariously described her songs as “tempestuous little teenage kind of moany little bastards,” but now is worlds removed from such fatuous frivolity. She’s clearly found her voice as a songwriter, and “Kids In The Dark,” with its magisterial keyboard swells and nutmeg-sweet vocals, evinces her at the peak at her formidable powers, yielding one of the finest singles released thus far in 2019. And as just a tantalizing opening volley, a small part of the jigsaw puzzle of her typically great start-to-finish LPs, it augurs that Khan may have made her masterpiece in Lost Girls. We’ll find out for sure in September. [John Everhart]