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.
Juliana Hatfield, Juliana Hatfield Sings The Police
Juliana Hatfield follows up her reverent 2018 Olivia Newton-John covers album with another excellent collection of rock-oriented interpretations, this time of Police hits and deep cuts. Juliana Hatfield Sings The Police’s best moments—a jaunty “Canary In A Coalmine,” brisk “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da,” and a raucous “Rehumanize Yourself”—echo the Sting-led band’s energetic new-wave nerve. On other songs, however, Hatfield is faithful to The Police’s love of reinvention, with equally fantastic results. Originally a punk rave-up, “Next To You” now boasts a dreamy, longing vibe and a fuzzy electric guitar that twists like a lazy kite; the reggae-inspired “Hole In My Life” here is a driving, melancholy rocker with a waltzing tempo; and the buoyant hit “Roxanne” here is slower and more ominous, thanks to a layer of lo-fi guitar noise and ticking-clock rhythms. [Annie Zaleski]
Ganser, You Must Be New Here
Chicago quartet Ganser chews its black-painted fingernails to the quick on its new EP, You Must Be New Here, the first official follow-up to its 2018 debut album, Odd Talk. Lead single “Buio” opens with a propulsive drumbeat tempered by layers of Bauhaus-esque guitars; deep, throbbing bass; and luxurious keyboards, made even more seductive by Alicia Gaines’ deadpan voice as she moans, “I won’t pretend I know anymore / I don’t even know what I like anymore.” From there, the band continues to skip through a garden of thorns on the spiky “Act Natural,” the glassy-eyed “You Must Be New Here,” and the dreamy “Motivational Speaking,” which polishes Ganser’s goth-rock tendencies to a subtle shimmer. As a collection of songs, You Must Be New Here is both gorgeous and terrifying, a distinctive and refreshing take on post-punk and no wave that thrives on dissonance. [Katie Rife]
DJ Shadow, Our Pathetic Age
“If the first half of Our Pathetic Age is DJ Shadow pushing forward, his muse challenging and expanding his sonic palette in ways not always accessible or satisfactory, the back half is his class reunion, a trip through nearly all 30 years of his career that revisits sounds and styles across his output, rejiggering them for an anxiety-inducing, more contemporary aural aesthetic. It’s a triumphant blast of hip-hop revivalism to quell the stressed-out vibes of the first LP; together, the two create an impressive testament to DJ Shadow’s creative nomadism, uncompromising and imposing in its aggressive musical explorations.” [Alex McLevy]
Read our featured review of Our Pathetic Age right here:
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Yeule, Serotonin II
London-based producer Yeule perfects her glimmering, holographic dream pop with her debut, Serotonin II. The record’s aesthetics are rooted in the MySpace-era internet, Final Fantasy, and Donna Haraway’s cyborg feminism, but Yeule’s lyrics contrast and deepen her cyber-pop fixations with strikingly intimate poetry. Her voice throughout is carefully chopped and pitch-shifted, a digital persona constantly bleeding into its physical source. “Poison Arrow” and “An Angel Held Me Like A Child” anchor melancholic melodies against thumping bass; on “Eva,” Yeule chops her voice singing “Soft, soft, softly you” over a queasily oscillating organ. There are songs to dance to, songs that simply drift, and songs that collapse into overwhelming noise, but the record as a whole yearns for the ephemeral; for lives lived online that leave no trace when they’re gone. [Astrid Budgor]
Bonnie “Prince” Billy, I Made A Place
Musically, there is no rulebook or modern antecedent for Will Oldham, a.k.a. Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Monikers change, collaborations seemingly take place on a whim, as releases occur in manners utterly impervious to commercial concerns. These entropic proclivities continue on I Made A Place, his first album of originals in over eight years. It’s a twilit, baroque, and largely gorgeous album, one that certainly ranks amongst his best, and takes many listens to sink in. The album does bring to mind, in spirit, the line that opened his 1996 LP, Arise Therefore: “How could one ever think anything is permanent?” It’s a conundrum that’s guided Oldham’s entire artistic oeuvre, and one engendered with quixotic elan throughout the beguiling I Made A Place. It’s a place without answers, where gestures of sublime beauty reign supreme. [John Everhart]