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.
You can read our featured review of Fiona Apple’s new album here.
Kid Cudi, “Leader Of The Delinquents”
“Hello friends, Cudder again / Gotta smack ’em with some shit before the world ends,” raps Kid Cudi on the opening verse of his swaggering return to solo music, “Leader Of The Delinquents,” the first single from his upcoming project, Entergalatic. Two years after his acclaimed collab with Kanye, and four since his last solo outing—the sprawling, messy Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’—the single finds the Cleveland emcee back at his most elemental. In it, he ditches the avant-garde production of his later projects, and instead calls back to earlier days, with a refined boom-bap beat—which makes sense since he first previewed the song at a show eight years ago. That coupled with his earnest lyricism, unabashed charisma, and infectious hums, “Leader Of The Delinquents” serves as a clear reminder of Kid Cudi’s allure as an artist. [Baraka Kaseko]
Elvis Depressedly, Depressedelica
A few years after Mat Cothran bid adieu to his Coma Cinema moniker with the gorgeous Loss Memory, the lo-fi alchemist has returned with a new LP from his Elvis Depressedly project, which began as a solo endeavor, but with the success of 2015’s New Alhambra, grew in scope. Depressedelica is indicative of Cothran’s ever-broadening palette, relentlessly toggling between stoned guitar pop (“Can You Hear My Guitar Rotting?”), psychedelic pop (“Chariot”) and oddball experimentation (“Primal Sigh,” which is constructed mostly of Nintendo 64 samples). The genre-hopping suits the LP’s lyrical themes, which find Cothran reckoning with a chaotic past while forging a future that preserves what good came out of it. As with all of his work, a heavy melancholy colors these 11 tracks, but there’s an optimism buried in his musings on trauma, death, and crash-landing chariots, evidenced in no small part by a closing track called “New Love In The Summertime.” [Randall Colburn]
Even as it gets incrementally harder to imagine ourselves experiencing much of a summer, Rich Brian still manages to come through with a shoulder-rocking seasonal beat that oozes island swagger and something more playful than we’ve seen thus far. “BALI” is the 20-year-old Indonesian rapper’s follow-up to his immersive 2019 EP, The Sailor, where fans got a taste of his innate vocal ability. Having connected with hip-hop titans like RZA and Offset, his recent collaboration with Oakland artist Guapdad 4000 leans more exuberantly into melodic rap as they both glide through tonal changes with aplomb. The guitar-laced track is the mark of a young artist who is growing comfortably into his own sound, dropping the deep-voiced persona of yore and infusing hip-hop with homespun instrumentals and his own natural, breezy flow. It’s a chill, promising reintroduction to an evolving musician, a tiny slice of paradise built by two deeply interesting talents. [Shannon Miller]
Rina Sawayama, SAWAYAMA
In her brazen studio debut, Rina Sawayama sifts through the sounds of her childhood, cherry-picking elements of quintessential “2000s music”—like nu metal’s syncopated guitar riffs and R&B’s rhythmic drum machine beats—to create modern pop perfection that’s as introspective as it is eclectic. By excavating the turn-of-the-millennium soundscape, SAWAYAMA employs just about every genre to carve out a path of its own, offering up tracks ready for the arena (“Who’s Gonna Save You Now?”), the dance floor (“Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys)”), and sometimes both (“XS”). But it’s all in service of Sawayama’s deeply personal approach to songwriting: As a queer Londoner born in Japan, the artist is reconciling with a past that made her feel like an outsider, and fighting for her place in a future that seems more uncertain than ever. SAWAYAMA is remarkably confident, addictive, and purposeful, marking Rina Sawayama as an artist worth paying attention to, even as the world falls apart around us. [Cameron Scheetz]
Gorillaz, “Aries (feat. Peter Hook and Georgia)”, Song Machine Episode 3
The Gorillaz trade their signature psychedelic ’70s bliss for some ’80s synthesizer sounds on the latest release in a string of Song Machine Episode EPs, which the band is releasing sporadically throughout the year. At times evoking the best of Depeche Mode, “Aries” is perfect for a mellow, Sunday morning solo dance party. Even the lyrics, sweet and melancholy, speak to our current crisis: “I’m standing on a beach in the distance / And even though you’re far away / Can you see my red light? / It’s waiting to turn green / ’Cause I feel so isolated without you / I can’t play a happy tune on my own / So stay by my side / High or low tide.” And if you’ve already streamed everything on Netflix, check out the Song Machine Episode music videos, which tell a continuous story. The ongoing narrative is also supplemented by short audio skits featuring the drama of the four animated band members, which were created by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, who recently added percussionist Remi Kabaka Jr. (the voice of Russel Hobbs) to the official band roster. [Patrick Gomez]