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.
Tame Impala’s The Slow Rush is also out today. Read our featured review of it here.
Cindy Lee, What’s Tonight To Eternity
Pale shades forever floating in the liminal space between worlds need love, too, and What’s Tonight To Eternity bridges the gap between Valentine’s Day and Halloween with a set of love songs that sound like a ghostly ’60s girl group performing for a crowd of teenagers killed in motorcycle accidents at a haunted sock hop. In practical terms, that means an acute awareness of negative space and loads of echo on spare musical arrangements dominated by toy piano and thin, sharp electric guitar, as well as distorted vocals placed far back in the mix for maximum uncanny effect. Cindy Lee is the latest project from former Women lead singer Patrick Flegel, who uses their spectral retro-pop alter ego as a vessel to explore their complicated, and sometimes harrowing, experiences with mental illness and gender dysphoria—as well as pay tribute to Karen Carpenter, whose tragic life provided inspiration for What’s Tonight To Eternity along with her fellow vocal icons Patsy Cline and The Supremes. [Katie Rife]
Tennis, “I’ll Haunt You”
The new LP from Tennis, Swimmer, starts off with some strong strokes. Swimmers’ release was heralded by the percussive snap of “Need Your Love” and a nifty little nod toward early Madonna called “How To Forgive,” and the whole album kicks off with a simmering piano ballad that splits the difference between fleeting memories and eternal devotion. “I’ll Haunt You” pulls some deft lyrical tricks, but Alaina Moore’s most affecting vocal work on the song is wordless: In ascending vocal harmonies and upper-octave ad libs over the outro. Moore and her partner in Tennis and life, Patrick Riley, don’t give “I’ll Haunt You” resolution, instead allowing it to taper off into the clattering hi-hats of “Need Your Love.” Like the commitment it promises, “I’ll Haunt You” doesn’t really end. It just goes and goes and builds and builds until it doesn’t anymore—and that’s pretty damn haunting. [Erik Adams]
The trap-soul aesthetic of slurry vocals, muted laptop vibes, and louche male sexuality seems to be finally loosening its grip on mainstream R&B, thanks in part to artists like H.E.R. and Summer Walker. On the surface, that makes Brent Faiyaz’ latest project an anachronism, especially when he opens the title track with the chorus, “Fuck the world, I’m a walking erection.” But the Maryland singer best known for his chorus on Goldlink’s hit single “Crew” plumbs his Eros with more self-awareness than a mere Ty Dolla $ign banger. He has a lovely voice that flutters into a high register, which gives his introspective verses a heartbreaking fragility. He admits to being exhausted by his appetites on “Been Away,” and seems alienated by anyone who tries to embrace him on “Bluffin.” “Who can I love when they tell me I can’t love myself?” he sings on album highlight “Let Me Know.” “How in the hell could I possibly love someone else?” [Mosi Reeves]
We’re collecting our A-Sides recommendations over on a Spotify playlist updated every Friday. Tune in and subscribe here.
Beach Bunny, Honeymoon
It seems all too fitting that Beach Bunny’s debut full-length is named Honeymoon and comes out on Valentine’s Day. On every track of the Chicago band’s positively explosive record, singer-guitarist Lili Trifilio sounds like she’s vibrating with so many feelings that she’s bubbling over. Bliss, pain, jealousy, love, it doesn’t matter—it’s all messy and it’s all glorious, the tunes propelled in wild fashion by punchy, rocket-fueled guitars and Trifilio’s delivery, recalling the reckless abandon of Hop Along’s Frances Quinlan. The abundance of righteous riffs (“Ms. California”) and swooning, wordless melodies (“Dream Boy”) never get old, and they make the sparse solitude of a song like runner-up lament “Racetrack” all the more heartbreaking. Besides being deliriously fun, Honeymoon is a power-pop reminder that, in a time when it’s easy to get defeated by our feelings, it can still feel really goddamned good to rage against or alongside them. [Matt Williams]
Iyla, Other Ways To Vent
Iyla’s 2018 EP War + Raindrops was both a velvety-toned revelation and a tough act to follow: Tunes like the lo-fi wonder “Juice” and the whimsical “Flowers” left little room for error. Follow-up Other Ways To Vent complements her previous, tightly curated collection of anthemic cries with something that is somehow even more emotionally raw. There is less playfulness here, leaving plenty of room for growth by way of soul-baring confessions and unpredictable beats. While War + Raindrops bore the lessons she’s learned from romance gone wrong, this new seven-track EP actively wades through the messier aspects of love and relationships. “Bad Side” strips away most of the slick production, leaving behind nothing more than a gently strummed guitar and Iyla’s syrupy vocals to broach the end of a precarious relationship. Other Ways To Vent balances anguish with clean melodies, turning heartbreak and frustration into vibrant catharsis. [Shannon Miller]