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.
Weyes Blood, Titanic Rising
“The key term when attempting to put Titanic Rising into words is ‘layered’; ‘Wild Time’ builds on [Natalie] Mering’s clarion alto with piano, strings, trumpet, and even a full-throated French horn solo worthy of The Beatles in their post-Revolver period. The tape warble that overlays lead single ‘Andromeda’ tacks a smooth yacht-rock sheen onto an already complex arrangement, and even the sparest song on the album, penultimate track ‘Picture Me Better,’ adds a cushioning overlay of velvety strings before hitting its one-minute mark. Where traditional orchestration is absent, cascading synths—and, in the case of ‘Mirror Forever,’ electric guitar that blasts through the song like the tractor beam of a UFO—come in.” [Katie Rife]
Priests, The Seduction Of Kansas
Priests would hate for you to call them a “political punk band,” but no one who heard The Seduction Of Kansas would dare label them as such. On the follow-up to its 2017 breakthrough Nothing Feels Natural, the D.C. rock trio dabbles in R&B, AM Gold, and newly sparse arrangements while employing character sketches to subtly trace the influence of capitalism and sex on the American psyche. Across the steady, haunting tease of “I’m Clean,” a woman perceived to lack any unique feelings or features actually reflects the sickness of the male gaze. The melancholically rolling “Carol” is a treatise on suburban ennui, and the riotous barrage of “Jesus’ Son” peers into the mind of a deluded mass murderer “young and dumb and full of cum.” A merry-go-round of styles and themes, The Seduction Of Kansas isn’t a departure so much as a reminder of the band’s foundations. [Max Freedman]
Quelle Chris, Guns
Quelle Chris has a billion albums, and tons of them are good. But Guns might be great. Check the cover: It looks to Erykah Badu’s New Amerykah for influence in more ways than one. Throughout, Chris weaves the personal and the political, the baleful and the brash, melting his pitch-shifted voice over honeyed keys and hard-knock drums. The beats (largely from Chris) are somehow elegant and antsy, the rolling keys of “Wild Minks” growing dissonant for Mach-Hommy, grand for the hook. “Obamacare” is one of the most spine-rattling musical environments you’ll enter in 2019, destined for ciphers and overeager freestyles for years to come, but Chris savors the moment, unspooling his fury across long-playing verses and a malevolent, understated hook. That’s when it clicks: Those other albums were good, but they were preamble to this. [Clayton Purdom]
We’re collecting our A-Sides recommendations over on a Spotify playlist updated every Friday. Tune in and subscribe here.
Mike Adams At His Honest Weight, “Pressing Mesh”
Mike Adams At His Honest Weight is a breath of the freshest damn air. This week, the Indiana-based outfit announced its fourth LP, There Is No Feeling Better, a record whose title belies the bright, optimistic air of its namesake singer’s heart-on-sleeve retro-pop. Just listen to swooning lead single “Pressing Mesh,” which sets Adams’ uplifting croon against punchy guitars and a hopeful sigh of violin. Adams says the song tracks his journey toward a “Moral Denominator,” one that can help him “build my thoughts on a positive, trustworthy foundation.” That’s some high-minded shit, but also the kind of thing that makes his infectious melodies more satisfying with each listen. The 11-track release is due out on June 14 via Joyful Noise. [Randall Colburn]
Laura Stevenson, The Big Freeze
Laura Stevenson’s fifth solo LP is lovely and harrowing, an immersive dive into topics that range from loneliness to self-harm to the mundanities of age. There are fewer adornments here than on previous albums, with Stevenson’s rippling vocals and bold lyrics taking center stage over folk-rock guitars, cello, and twinkles of piano. It’s a good thing, too, as many of The Big Freeze’s best moments unfold in repetition, be it in melodies or lyrics. “There’s a sweetness to that,” she asserts again and again on album opener “Lay Back, Arms Out,” while “Big Deep” finds the singer positively blossoming with every soaring utterance of “I am honest.” There’s a muscular quality to it all, one that suits the album’s themes of struggle; Stevenson sounds as if she’s willing herself out of depression and toward whatever light shines on the other side. [Randall Colburn]