Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

5 new releases we love: New Pornographers surge to life, Tegan And Sara look back, and more

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.


The New Pornographers, In The Morse Code Of Brake Lights

[Concord, September 27]

Roughly two decades after the New Pornographers formed, their glimmering studio alchemy has lost none of its luster. The troupe’s buoyant eighth full-length, In The Morse Code Of Brake Lights, pairs keyboard-cushioned pop full of meticulous detail—vocal melodies darting like a game of tag; shimmering harmonies; confetti guitar bursts—with lyrics alluding to society’s darker corners. (Of particular note is “Falling Down The Stairs Of Your Smile,” a misty Hall & Oates echo about deceptively positive façades—a not-so-subtle allusion to today’s political landscape.) In The Morse Code Of Brake Lights also boasts lively orchestral accents: The latter flash like heat lightning on “Colossus Of Rhodes,” while the string quartet Strength of Materials adds solemn classical contrast to “Higher Beams,” which seethes at being dragged along into an unwanted situation by people hoodwinked by their environment. Despite lyrical weariness, there’s a lightness to the music this time around that’s intoxicating—and, oddly enough, life-affirming. [Annie Zaleski]

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Tegan And Sara, Hey, I’m Just Like You

[Warner Bros., September 27]

As a collection of re-recorded, previously unreleased demos, Tegan And Sara’s Hey, I’m Just Like You is a perfect companion to the duo’s recently released memoir, High School. They’re both retrospectives that have been brought into sharper focus with hindsight, without losing any of the wonder and earnestness of those past lives. While the album could easily provide the soundtrack to a teen movie, it’s really made up of Tegan and Sara Quin’s songs of love and devotion to each other. Promises are made and kept to each other on “Hey, I’m Just Like You,” one of the sweet and lively lead tracks. With a memoir and this treasure trove of unreleased demos, Tegan And Sara are sharing more of themselves with their fans, while also solidifying their sisterly bond. [Danette Chavez]

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Fumio Miyashita, “Wave” Sounds Of The Universe

[Personal Affair, Sept. 20]

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After learning acupuncture in Los Angeles in the 1970s, prog rocker Fumio Miyashita returned to his native Japan and devoted himself to the composition of healing music, which is exactly what its name suggests: sounds arranged as much for their therapeutic benefits as their aesthetic impact. Like the environmental music of his countrymen Hiroshi Yoshimura and Satoshia Ashikawa, with whom he shares space on February’s excellent Kankyō Ongaku compilation, Miyashita’s “Wave” Sounds of the Universe outshines its utilitarian origins. Much of the Japanese ambient music of the 1980s values tidiness, and while Miyashita’s arrangements are as orderly as a sonata, the textures are pleasingly rough — “Wave” is meant to make your body vibrate, after all. Well-tended rows of sawtooth waves form the background of these tracks, their one-chord drones nearly mimicking bagpipes in their sonic depth. Miyashita shoots ragged notes that fade across this firmament, leaving behind tracers that linger long after they should’ve decayed. Turn it off and feel like you’re standing up from a massage chair. [Marty Sartini Garner]

Chris Laufman, Greatest Hits

[Future Gods, September 20]

Pittsburgh artist Chris Laufman made a splash as Wise Blood earlier this decade, dropping two EPs and an LP, id, that found Laufman’s sampling mastery buoying his warped, chaotic brand of pop. Laufman disappeared for a while after that, citing personal reasons, but returned last week under his given name. “This is not a ‘polished studio album’ and shouldn’t be thought of as such,” he writes, calling Greatest Hits “a collection of field recordings from the past few years of my life.” It certainly feels that way, as the album veers—often wildly—between straightforward, if decidedly off-kilter, pop (“Graceland,” “When You Need Somebody”) and tactile mood pieces that swallow Laufman in a maelstrom of delicately arranged samples (“Dope Swinger,” “Soak Up The Sun”). For all its chaos, though, Greatest Hits is filled with beautiful flashes of clarity, both lyrically and in his arrangements. “As Long As You Love Me” wouldn’t sound out of place in a church, nor would the tender, gospel-flavored vocal scraps bobbing throughout the lovely “Queen Mab,” a pure sunbeam of a song. [Randall Colburn]

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Men I Trust, “Days Go By”

[Self-released, September 13]

Oncle Jazz, the new album by Montreal trio Men I Trust, is the type of modest behemoth that defines the streaming-music era: 24 tracks, 70 minutes long, combining new songs with swooning one-offs that previously made their way to Spotify and Bandcamp. It’s a lot of music to digest, none of which overstays its welcome; most of the songs on Oncle Jazz—like the golden-hour cruise “Days Go By”—clock in around a tight three-and-a-half minutes. The track is a good entry point into Men I Trust’s percolating synthesis of yacht rock and dream pop, a sound that makes the group a fitting companion to fellow Quebecois nostalgists TOPS. Heartsick and unstuck in time, the song pines for days that won’t stop going by, culminating in an instrumental outro that tiptoes right up to the smeary edges of a postmodern subgenre that peaked in popularity a decade ago this year—though there’s still plenty of freshness to be found in “Days Go By”’s chill (and the rest of Oncle Jazz, for that matter). [Erik Adams]

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