Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

5 new releases we love: Elton John opens the vault, AC/DC is back from the dead, and more

Bernie Taupin and Elton John (Photo: David Gahr/Getty Images and AC/DC (Photo: Josh Cheuse/Columbia Records)
Bernie Taupin and Elton John (Photo: David Gahr/Getty Images and AC/DC (Photo: Josh Cheuse/Columbia Records)
Graphic: The A.V. Club

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, and if you like what you hear, we encourage you to purchase featured artists’ music directly at the links provided below. Unless otherwise noted, all releases are now available.

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Elton John, Jewel Box

[UMe/EMI, November 13]

Elton John fans who lean more toward the “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” era than the “I’m Still Standing” portion of his career may be interested in investing in Jewel Box. This extensive new box set features a multitude of deep cuts and rarities, from the early days of his career all the way to his duet with Taron Egerton in last year’s biopic Rocketman. Those looking for songs they immediately recognize will likely be disappointed (give or take a “Philadelphia Freedom” remix), but some of these tracks are so exemplary (curated by the artist himself) that it’s hard to believe they got lost in the shuffle of John’s meteoric rise. Standouts include early emotive collaborations with lyricist Bernie Taupin, like 1969’s previously unreleased “Sing Me No Sad Songs” and “Watching The Planes Go By,” offering full sagas of heartbreak in just a few captivating minutes of pop. The hilariously titled “Gotta Get A Meal Ticket” hints at the fierce piano rocking to come on “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting,” while the acoustic duet “Snow Queen” with Kiki Dee offers a flip side to their radio hit “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” It may take some digging through the avalanche of Jewel Box’s tracks to find the gold, but for fans, it’ll be a worthy enterprise. [Gwen Ihnat]

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Masego, Study Abroad EP

[EQT Recordings, November 13] 

Rapper-singer-saxophonist Masego is an artist who is incapable of remaining still. Consider it the fortunate side effect of someone who has seriously nurtured his talent and stage presence in the two years since his debut, Lady Lady. Rather than sequester himself in one genre, the Jamaican American virtuoso trots from trap to jazz, hip-hop to dancehall. So it seems fitting that moments from his latest EP, Study Abroad, explore his international palette, infusing island grooves with brass and soul. The enchanting collection is also the mark of a killer storyteller, as Study Abroad is—above all else—a concept album that traces the journey of a relationship, from its dreamy beginning in the reggae-infused “Silver Tongued Devil,” to creeping doubt in the pensive “Mystery Lady,” to its curt end in “Bye Felicia.” The latter track is a clear favorite (and an all too brief one, clocking in at less than three minutes), heightened by a masterful sample of R&B luminaries 112 and Masego’s ability to swagger into a hook before deftly pivoting to searing saxophone runs. Grab your earbuds and your passport; Study Abroad is a worthy trip. [Shannon Miller]

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Molchat Doma, Monument

[Sacred Bones, November 13]

Even if you’ve never heard of Molchat Doma, you’ve heard Molchat Doma—if you’re terminally online, anyway. That video of a bunch of bats upside down that looks like they’re hanging out at a goth nightclub? That’s Molchat Doma’s “Судно (Sudno)” on the soundtrack. The TikTok meme where teens pine to trade the cheerful consumerism of suburban America for the gloomy concrete of Soviet Russia? Same band, same song. The Belarusian post-punk trio is already a big deal in Europe, but—thanks in part to their success on social media—they recently signed with Sacred Bones Records, where they’ll fit right in with labelmates like Zola Jesus and John Carpenter. Molchat Doma’s first proper American record, Monument, is out this week, and both elder goths nostalgic for the good old days of Joy Division and Bauhaus and high school students who wear oversized black sweaters in July will find the severe yet danceable vibes of songs like opener “Утонуть (Utonut)” and singles “Не Смешно (Ne Smeshno)” and “Дискотека (Discoteque)” to be just what the plague doctor ordered. [Katie Rife]

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Kylie Minogue, Disco

[BMG Recordings, November 6]

It’s been 20 years since Kylie Minogue pleaded, “Your Disco Needs You,” and, oh, how the turntables have turned—these days, it’s we who need the disco. One of our most reliable pop stars for three decades and counting, Minogue returns (from the twang-and-tinsel-inflected Golden) to completely own the dance floor with her 15th studio album, Disco, a dazzling burst of joy and levity. As the twinkling synth of opening track “Magic” fades in, the record lures you into its fantasia—a proper Xanadu where the sounds of ’70s and ’80s radio swirl into a blend of escapist dance pop. While many contemporaries have recently (and successfully) cribbed from the disco era, Minogue proves why this is still her sweet spot, her spritely vocals at home with the throwback strings and enthusiastic hand claps that punctuate some of the album’s best songs (though, in truth, they’re all bops). As a bonus, she chases Disco with Infinite Disco, a live performance of her catchiest hits, seemingly filmed at an intergalactic discotheque. Kylie Minogue’s Disco invites you to once again come into her world—and after a year like this one, you owe it to yourself to join her. [Cameron Scheetz]

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AC/DC, Power Up

[Columbia Records, November 13]

There’s something comforting in knowing that, even in 2020, AC/DC will still be out there, kicking ass. After the band’s seeming demise (following the death of rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, bassist Cliff Williams’ retirement, and more), the return of the legendary hard-rock group was improbable, to say the least. Yet here we are, with a brand-new collection of 12 tunes, most of which—such as lead single “Shot In The Dark”—sound ready to go toe-to-toe with anything in the band’s discography. Honestly, how many groups are this consistent? AC/DC found a formula that works, and they’ve stuck with it, nary a deviation, for almost 50 years. More unbelievable is how good singer Brian Johnson still sounds; you’d think the guy shredding those vocal cords on “Back In Black” in 1980 would have his voice like a wet paper towel by now. But no—AC/DC aren’t stopping, and with material this strong, why would they? To quote the Boss, don’t stop till you’re in the ground, boys. [Alex McLevy]

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