Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

5 new releases we love: The National’s Matt Berninger goes solo, METZ gets raw, and more

Matt Berninger (Photo: Chantal Anderson); METZ (Photo: Norman Wong)
Matt Berninger (Photo: Chantal Anderson); METZ (Photo: Norman Wong)

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.

Matt Berninger, Serpentine Prison

[Book’s Records/Concord Records, October 16]

The smartest move Matt Berninger made in crafting his solo debut was moving away from the arena-ready catharsis of his day job in The National, and getting iconic musician Booker T. Jones behind the console as the producer. The longtime songwriter and producer strips away Berninger’s usual bells and whistles to arrive at something ethereally pure on this quiet and meditative record. Not spare, mind you; there’s plenty of orchestration and instrumentation backing many of the undulating Americana-soul tracks on Serpentine Prison. But it has a timeless flavor that traverses decades of musical influences and singer-songwriter flourishes, ending up somewhere between ’70s confessional balladry and smoky barroom poetry, underlined by gently drifting rhythms and achingly earnest lyricism. It’s a truism that when rock-band frontmen do the solo artist move they inevitably shift into more classic, tried-and-true musical structures and melodies from pop music’s past. Berninger is no exception—but the key difference is, he sounds like this has been inside him along. [Alex McLevy]


METZ, Atlas Vending

[Sub Pop, October 9]

On the one hand, it’s simple: Fuck yeah, a new METZ album! But on the other, it’s worth pausing to note the evolution and expansion of the band’s sound on Atlas Vending, a shift in dynamics that pushes past the primal fury and technical prowess that normally defines the post-hardcore act’s output, to reach something (dare we say) more sensitive. True, nobody’s mistaking them for Low anytime soon, and tracks like single “Blind Youth Industrial Park” still throb with a feverish intensity. But there’s also the addictive melodicism of “No Ceiling” and “Hail Taxi,” as well as the rolling chant-along of “Draw Us In” and the restless, searching experimentation of seven-and-a-half-minute closer “A Boat To Drown In.” METZ still cooks and burns with the roar of Jesus Lizard and the pounding noise of Stnnng, but four albums in, the band is discovering new sonic routes to travel. So: Fuck yeah, new METZ album. [Alex McLevy]

Bartees Strange, Live Forever

[Memory Music, October 2]

Who needs genres anymore? “Genre-defying” has become a common phrase when describing the music of younger generations, and for good reason. If you’re under 40, you probably grew up with Napster and Limewire. If you’re under 30, you likely listened to more playlists than LPs. Still, few artists so successfully embrace the peripatetic like Bartees Strange, whose debut is a vivid and daring mishmash of punk, emo, rap, R&B, and even country. “Boomer,” a scorcher that channels DaBaby before barreling into a chorus you’d swear you heard on Silent Alarm, is one gateway into the artist’s hydra-headed aesthetic, as is “Flagey God,” a seductive cut draped in haunted synths and falling shadows. But, varied as these tracks are in style and mood, not a single one feels out of place, strung together as they are by Strange’s charismatic vocals. [Randall Colburn]


Victor Internet, “Hollow

[Terrible Records, October 6]

Immersive Chicago-made artist Victor Internet may not have a ton of years behind him at only 19, but his ability to mesh seasoned sentimentality with futuristic, titchy pop is the work of a confident wiz. His latest offering, “Hollow,” catches the unique despair one experiences the moment they realize that they’re falling out of love—when the cocoon that once protected such a connection begins to erode. There are moments where hazy vocals and low grooves sound reminiscent of Zayn Malik’s favorable solo work (in the best way) until a pulsating beat breathes in new life and a clarity that ultimately sets him apart. Pendulating emotions—sorrow to anger, confusion to resigned acceptance—find their melodic fellow when pensive R&B pivots to frenetic electro-pop with a reverb that echoes like heartbreak. Self-produced and unguarded, “Hollow” is befitting of a young wonder unafraid to explore sticky emotions with fresh verve and a killer beat. [Shannon Miller]


Gia Woods, Cut Season EP

[Disruptor Records, October 9]

If the colloquial “cuffing season” is about settling down, then “cut season” takes the opposite approach: Lose the baggage. That philosophy is at the heart of Cut Season from emerging queer artist Gia Woods, whose first EP finds her working through personal demons with her exhilarating, contemplative pop—each track an exorcism you can dance to. Cut Season establishes her dark, dreamy world, with lyrics both frank and feisty as she tackles her own self-destructive behaviors. Woods has big things on her mind, but playful production keeps things thundering along, like the rhythmic drums of “Sabotage” and the fuzzed-out guitar of “Hungry” (with a chorus that insists, “I’m not hungry, bitch, leave me alone”). Woods’ vocals flit between the raw energy of Lorde and Charli XCX’s spirited punch, uncovering surprising new dimensions with each song. Confident and vulnerable, Cut Season makes a compelling case for Gia Woods’ ascent to pop stardom. [Cameron Scheetz]


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