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.
ICYMI: Earlier in the week, we reviewed the excellent new albums by Jenny Lewis and Andrew Bird, both of which we previously glimpsed in A-Sides. So consider those high recommendations in addition to the five below.
And yes, of course, go listen to the new Tame Impala! We’ll likely be back with thoughts on it next week.
Lizzo featuring Missy Elliott, “Tempo”
[Atlantic, March 20]
Good luck sitting still while you’re listening to Lizzo and Missy Elliott’s new single, “Tempo.” The song opens with a blazing guitar riff straight out of a Purple Rain B-side and is punctuated with the sounds of air horns, fireworks, and, of course, Lizzo’s signature flute, but the lifeblood of “Tempo” is bass. Big, heavy, speaker-busting, club-rocking, ass-shaking bass. The ever-versatile Lizzo shows off her mic skills in the opening verse, coining the term “accessorary” and luxuriating in her divine thickness; enter Missy Elliott, queen of sexually charged big-girl bangers, for a playful verse that vibrates with rolling “R” word play. And lest you get performatively offended by Lizzo’s assertion that “slow songs are for skinny hos,” remember what she said on Twitter yesterday: “EVERYONE IS A THICK BITCH WHEN MY SONG COMES ON.” All caps, case closed. [Katie Rife]
Ex Hex, It’s Real
[Merge, March 22]
Much like its 2014 predecessor, Ex Hex’s sophomore album, It’s Real, roars with rowdy, beer-swilling riffs that wouldn’t be out of place opening for Mötley Crüe. But Mary Timony, Betsy Wright, and Laura Harris sought to expand on their sonic palette this time around, declaring in a press release that It’s Real is “a reaction to the blown-out aesthetic of Rips.” They’re not kidding—It’s Real is polished in all the ways Rips wasn’t, but, thanks to the “dozens” of amps upon which it’s built, it’s still loud enough to detonate a crater or two. Openers “Tough Enough” and “Rainbow Shiner,” for example, threaten to overwhelm everything that comes after, each spiraling into muscular, can-crunching codas that will no doubt have live crowds howling. Not everything here invites moshing, however: Take the gorgeous vocal harmonies of “No Reflection,” or the bass-forward swagger of “Diamond Drive,” both of which ping off in unexpected directions. That said, don’t expect any left turns; the art-rock flourishes on display here aren’t departures, but accents, a means of highlighting the addictive melodies buried beneath the noise. [Randall Colburn]
Nilüfer Yanya, Miss Universe
[ATO, March 22]
Although Miss Universe, Nilüfer Yanya’s long-awaited debut album, loosely depicts a dystopian future dominated by the fictitious, insidious self-help program We Worry About Your Health, no narrative knowledge is needed to enjoy the LP. Across 12 brilliant songs (and five skits in which Yanya hilariously impersonates Miss Universe, the linchpin of WWAY Health), the London newcomer so boldly leaps among garage rock, R&B, and synth-pop that anything she delivers in her Sade-like voice sounds delightful. On “Angels,” she invites listeners on an addictive, quiet-loud-quiet power-chord adventure. “Baby Blu” begins as a jazzy piano-guitar ballad and beautifully blooms into a gyrating, aching abyss of pitch-shifted beckoning. “Tears” is a full-speed-ahead electro-pop romp with major crossover potential. “I bet your brain cells won’t last,” Yanya predicts during the sax-laced R&B crooner “Melt,” and she’s right: Like WWAY Health, Miss Universe gets into your head. [Max Freedman]
We’re collecting our A-Sides recommendations over on a Spotify playlist updated every Friday. Tune in and subscribe here.
Schoolboy Q, “Numb Numb Juice”
[Interscope, March 14]
Schoolboy Q can be a bit much—cackling and malevolent, like Pusha T gone troll. But he has put this manic energy to good use across four sprawling albums full of lysergic ride-around music and sativa reverie. The 0:09 beat drop on long-awaited new single “Numb Numb Juice” should be a controlled substance—DJs are going to be abusing it for the remainder of 2019—and the track never stops from there, the beat growing queasy and Q goading himself into spiraling delirium. If you trust the lyrics on Genius, the track ends after its first chorus? Which is a way of saying that this is bottled nitroglycerin, two minutes of compressed, destructive force, 170% Q. (He slaps you into hell in the video.) If you can suffer the flat lighting of a Tonight Show performance, the new, Travis Scott-assisted “Chopsticks” is just as over-the-top, only horny, too. New album coming to slap the shit out of you soon. [Clayton Purdom]
Uranium Club, The Cosmo Cleaners
[Static Shock, March 15]
In the middle of “Michael’s Soliloquy,” eight minutes of cheeky spoken-word at the center of The Cosmo Cleaners, the focus turns away from the ascent of the group’s English-accented spokesperson and toward the recent efforts of Uranium Club itself. “They did as many of us do,” he says between stabs of trebly guitar. “The same thing, but rather a little different this time.” Since forming in 2014, Uranium Club has done that same thing extremely well, playing jagged punk with a satirical edge that tends to reflect whichever spastic smart-asses the listener grew up with. Which means I still hear a lot of early Devo in The Cosmo Cleaner’s nerves, dystopian outlook, and sexual dysfunction (“Grease Monkey” gives new meaning to the term “auto erotic”), but the album also finds the band chilling out and sprawling out while building new alcoves in their weirdo mythology. “Michael’s Soliloquy” gets a bookend in “Interview With The Cosmo Cleaners,” vignettes from a hellish blue-collar gig whose morse-code pianos and pealing guitars get whipped up into a coda that’s much more recognizably Uranium Club. The same thing, but a little different this time—and utterly unlike anything else bubbling up from the Bandcamp underground. [Erik Adams]