Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

5 new releases we love: Billy Woods gets weird, Nick Cave begins again, and more

Billy Woods
Image: jed rosenberg

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 our Spotify playlist.

In case you missed it earlier this week, check out our review of Freedom To Spend’s reissue of Ernest Hood’s Neighborhoods, an early American ambient gem.

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Nick Cave, Ghosteen

[Ghosteen Ltd., October 3]

Ghosteen is both Nick Cave’s most solitary recording since 2001’s No More Shall We Part and impossible to imagine without the contributions of The Bad Seeds. Long one of rock’s most versatile and visceral bands, here they’re tasked with wrapping swirls of atmospheric sound—braids of synth, vibraphones that echo from a mile away—around Cave’s elegant piano playing. He sounds simultaneously alone at the edge of the world and surrounded by benevolent spirits, a fittingly biblical cloud of witnesses who haven’t seen the power of God so much as they’ve moved through the fallout of their own atomic blasts; theirs is a communion of radiation. So it’s a bit of a surprise that Ghosteen is also Cave’s most accessible album since The Boatman’s Call, the 1997 turn to classic songwriting that cemented his reputation as one of rock’s most finely tuned lyricists.” [Marty Sartini Garner]
Read our full review of Ghosteen right here.

Billy Woods, Terror Management

[Backwoodz Studioz, October 4]

When Billy Woods began to establish a viable solo career with 2012’s History Will Absolve Me—after years of busking in NYC’s subterranean scene with projects like Super Chron Flight Brothers—his appeal was that he sounded like an antique from the glory years of Definitive Jux-style hip-hop. But his music has grown progressively weirder, evading easy categorization. Terror Management encompasses seamy, sax-fueled jazz (“Suzerain”), percussive noise rock (“Dead Birds,” with guesting Illinois band The Funs), and the kind of jagged samples and pummeling bass on which he has built an impressive cult following. As always, Woods raps like an angry man in an urban dystopia—wailing after a Christmas-morning breakup on “Great Fires,” and feeling the tension of environmental extinction on “Marlow.” It’s unapologetically intense, but there is humor and joy if you know where to look. “Used to live in that building, I used to love your wife / Used to lie naked, looking at the ceiling, we used to get stupid high,” he raps. “That was then, this is now.” [Mosi Reeves]

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Lindstrøm, On A Clear Day I Can See You Forever

[Smalltown Supersound, October 11]

Everything about Hans-Peter Lindstrøm’s latest solo album, On A Clear Day I Can See You Forever, reverts to the past—including its title, a reference to the 1970 Barbara Streisand film. A step away from the space-disco commonly ascribed to the Norwegian producer, Lindstrøm takes his inspiration from classical music and expands on ideas he used when composing a commissioned piece celebrating the semicentennial of Oslo’s Henie Onstad Kunstsenter art center. Each of the album’s four exploratory tracks clocks in at almost 10 minutes, meandering through different moods along the way. Analog synthesizers and physical drum machines give warmth to the bubbling title track, depth to the plinking echoes of “Really Deep Snow,” movement to the ambient warbles of “Swing Low Sweet LFO,” and a melancholic air to “As If No One Is Here.” Listened to in its entirety, the album plays like the soundtrack to a ’70s sci-fi television show. [Lily Moayeri]

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We’re collecting our A-Sides recommendations over on a Spotify playlist updated every Friday. Tune in and subscribe here.

Carla dal Forno, Look Up Sharp

[Kallista, October 4]

To quote a late viral sensation, Carla dal Forno’s world is roughly the opposite of “everything happens so much.” Her music moves at such a modest pace and contains so few instruments that her songs veer on non-existence, their nothingness propelling listeners toward profoundly deep bouts of introspection. On her 2016 debut album, You Know What It’s Like, dal Forno’s cavernous minimalism took the form of songs that smothered post-punk and trip-hop with a playfully droning, sinister pillow. That album’s follow-up, Look Up Sharp, sharpens the formula via clearer vocals (though bleary instrumental interludes still abound) and an open-armed embrace of ambient synths. Where coldness once festered, warmth now exists, such as in cooing opener “No Trace,” the empowerment-via-breakup narrative of “So Much Better,” and the organ-like plinking of “I’m Conscious.” Even in high-definition, dal Forno doesn’t need much to shine. [Max Freedman]

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DaBaby, KIRK

[Interscope, September 27]

DaBaby enters the beat like someone owed him money inside it. On “Off The Rip,” he kicks down the front door (“you know I don’t wait for the drop”) with a boast about going out to eat with his kids and his mom, then proceeds to black out on the flute loop, slapping the shit out of the listener and everyone else for two breathless minutes. DaBaby entered 2019 like this, too, dropping his charmingly goofy “Walker Texas Ranger” video on January 1, followed by the smash “Suge,” then a make-good mixtape, and then a zillion scene-stealing guest verses. KIRK’s more focused than any of those: DaBaby raps with a chip on his shoulder, like he still has something to prove, his gravelly timbre and light Raleigh drawl packed into endless, effortless bars. He’s had the type of stratospheric growth this year that could easily lead to overexposure, but on KIRK, he proves that he knows the only way to beat that curse: Continue to out-rap everyone around him, and he’ll be just fine. [Clayton Purdom]

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