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.
In case you missed it earlier this week, you can read our review of Angel Olsen’s All Mirrors right here.
Wilco, Ode To Joy
Perhaps the most distinct element on Wilco’s 11th album is Glenn Kotche’s deceptively simple percussion, purposely employed to conjure the vibe of marching—“a powerful act utilized on both sides of the authoritarian wall,” the album bio points out. On Wilco’s side, with Ode to Joy, the Chicago band is marching to stand up for our right to feel that jubilation the title alludes to, especially among all other doomy feelings we’re stuck with these days. But it wouldn’t be like Jeff Tweedy to leave out the heartache. Ode To Joy presents a striking, realistic balance, as gloom (the twisted, apocalyptic, Neil Young-esque “We Were Lucky”) sidles up next to quixotic optimism (“Hold Me Anyway”) and bright, ’60s pop dreaminess (“Everyone Hides”). Despite weariness—“I remember when wars would end,” Tweedy sighs on “Before Us”—Ode To Joy feels woven in the service of warmth, reminding us what we’re fighting for on this side of the wall. [Matt Williams]
Chromatics, Closer To Grey
Chromatics’ Closer To Grey dropped Wednesday with almost no notice, a pleasant surprise undercut only by the fact that it’s not the noir-gaze outfit’s near-mythic Dear Tommy. Closer To Grey is a lovely listen, nevertheless, stark and cinematic but also decidedly eerie, as if the band’s still headlining Twin Peaks’ Roadhouse. The album begins, after all, with the anxious tick of a clock and a ghostly cover of “The Sound Of Silence” that’s just begging to underscore the Quiet Place sequel’s trailer. Johnny Jewel and singer Ruth Radelet spice things up on the following track, the disco-flecked “You’re No Good,” but routinely return to haunted cuts like “Move A Mountain” and “Wishing Well,” which may as well be climbing over the lip of an unfilled grave. October just got its official soundtrack. [Randall Colburn]
that dog, Old LP
That dog was one of the most overlooked pop-punk bands of the ’90s, and stayed that way in part because the group was too busy being labeled “power pop” and “alt-rock” to get the credit it deserved. To be fair, bands can fluctuate between genres, and that dog certainly did. But after 22 years, the Los Angeles band returns as a three-piece with the coyly titled Old LP—its fourth album and follow-up to 1997’s Retreat From The Sun—where it owns each label. Armed with orchestral strings and an extensive list of collaborators (Graham Coxon, Josh Klinghoffer, Maya Rudolph, among others), that dog commit to graceful indie rock (“Least I Could Do,” “Bird On A Wire”) and poppy alt-rock (“Down Without A Fight,” “When We Were Young”), but sound happiest when revisiting the jubilant pop-punk hooks of its heyday with “Just The Way” and “If You Just Didn’t Do It.” It’s about time that dog settles once and for all just how good it is at it. [Nina Corcoran]
Boris, LOVE & EVOL
Restless Japanese trio Boris hasn’t stopped working since its debut in 1996, building a chameleonic catalog rooted in repetitive, overwhelming drone metal. But Boris’s worrisome past decade has seen the band stray into dream pop and alt-rock with a string of scattershot albums; the threesome may be as productive as ever, but they’re far less consistent. Double LP LOVE & EVOL is a welcome reminder that Boris remains a vital, hungry act, capturing the effortless, molten flow of its live shows rather than falling into the overbearing eclecticism of New Album (2011) and Noise (2014) or the stiff fan-service sludge of 2017’s Dear. It’s withholding—virtuosic minimalist Wata’s screaming lead guitar isn’t unleashed until deep into the third track—and patient, constructed in one solid chunk like classic all-or-nothing behemoths Flood (2000) and Feedbacker (2003). The record trudges upward through slowcore and viscid drone, and reaches a peak with the gauzy, wailing “EVOL” before locking into the tense, ritualistic doom modulations of “uzume” and “LOVE.” Grim closer “Shadow Of Skull” offers the screech of feedback as resolution. For the first time in forever, Boris is worth waiting for. [Astrid Budgor]
Danny Brown, uknowhatimsayin¿
The first track on Danny Brown’s new album is called “Change Up,” and he isn’t kidding. Over his last three albums, the emcee detailed a pilled-out downward spiral against increasingly post-punk beats, his silly-putty flow stretching between dissonant yelps and head-down wrecking-crew shit. But on uknowhatimsayin¿ he pulls influences from stand-up comedy and Native Tongues hip-hop, giving each word room to breathe. (Everyone will catch, for example, the way he pronounces LinkedIn with three syllables, so it rhymes with “impotent.”) Brown’s always been an artist of furious focus, but it’s hard not to credit executive producer Q-Tip with some of this shift; there’s a clarity to every breezy hook and kick-drum snap that directly recalls The Renaissance, if not The Infamous. Still, this is no revival—it’s Brown’s album, as eccentric as you’d expect, still rapping with a hunger and wanderlust unmatched in the field. The pair sync most indelibly on album closer “Combat,” a free-jazz skronk that sits among the best tracks either has ever put to wax. [Clayton Purdom]