Sheck Wes (Screenshot: “Chippi Chippi” video/YouTube), Daniel Avery (Photo: Steve Gullick), Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born (Photo: Neal Preston/Warner Bros.), Reason (Screenshot: “The Soul” video/YouTube), and Colter Wall (Photo: Little Jack Films)

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.


Sheck Wes, Mudboy

[Young Razzle, October 5]

There’s a great moment at the end of “Kyrie,” when the bottom falls out on Redda’s dark-fantasy synthesizers, and Sheck Wes reacts like a trip just took a dark turn, repeating “Oh shit,” his voice growing warped and weird, a tour guide in a strange land mutating with every step. Sheck’s debut, Mudboy, is a frequently astonishing sonic space, turning the blown-out low ends and queasy horror samples of so many SoundCloud upstarts into a base for exuberant, impressionistic chest-thumping. Still, this isn’t the postmodern playground of Playboi Carti or the extremely online horrorcore of SpaceGhostPurrp; Sheck’s “mudboy” aesthetic recalls early DMX in its visceral, almost aspirational embrace of grit. Sheck was a highly touted high school basketball player who dabbled in modeling before single “Mo Bamba” caught Kanye West and Travis Scott’s attention. But the resulting record is focused, challenging, and strangely fun, a come-up story told with post-punk energy. [Clayton Purdom]

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Daniel Avery, Diminuendo

[Mute/Phantasy, October 12]

Daniel Avery’s recently released sophomore album, Song For Alpha, explored the DJ/producer’s ambient side, reframing his propulsive, shoegaze-inspired techno in a haze of reflective textures inspired by William Basinski, Brian Eno, and even David Lynch. Seven-minute showstopper “Diminuendo,” with its croaking, motion-sick melody and four-on-the-floor rhythm, is the jumping-off point for the three new tracks on the EP of the same name (succeeding offshoot EPs Slow Fade and Projector), finding Avery “squarely on the dance floor at peak hour.” This is, after all, where many listeners first got to know the Londoner (whether via his live sets or his 2013 debut, Drone Logic), and whereas Alpha was often one step removed from the club, on brutal acid/electro tracks like “Hyper Detail” and “Light Of Falling Rain” Avery is pushing his machines—and the dance floor—to a fever pitch. The word “diminuendo” means “a decrease in loudness or intensity,” but here it seems like a directive to the overactive mind: to submit to the body, the breath, the beat. [Kelsey J. Waite]

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Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born

[Interscope, October 5]

A Star Is Born looks poised to take movie soundtracks to a success level they haven’t seen in awhile, as Variety reports that “it’s expected to debut with more than 200,000 copies sold in its first week,” the highest soundtrack peak since 2014’s Frozen. The broad collection of songs on ASIB makes that success seem like an inevitability, beginning with Bradley Cooper’s Vedder-esque “Black Eyes” and Lady Gaga’s exquisite cover of “Le Vie En Rose.” Nothing else on the release can touch the twangy, emotive “Shallow,” the Cooper-Gaga duet that kicks off the pair’s relationship and does indeed make Gaga’s Ally a star almost instantly. But another duet, the searching, orchestral “I Don’t Know What Love Is,” is a worthy showcase for the pair’s odd-couple vocals. And it’s fun to hear Gaga sway from the insipid pop of “Why Did You Do That?” to the fervent emotionality of relationship snapshot “Always Remember Us This Way,” while previous non-musician Cooper holds his own in the gruffly sweet, acoustic “Maybe It’s Time.” The showstopper ballad that ends the movie, “I’ll Never Love Again,” transports Gaga into Whitney Houston or Celine Dion territory. It all adds up to an enjoyable yet poignant roller coaster of a listen that should tide you over until you have the emotional strength to go see the movie again. [Gwen Ihnat]

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Reason, There You Have It

[Top Dawg Entertainment, September 28]

Reason’s the most recent signing to Top Dawg Entertainment, the label home to Kendrick Lamar and SZA that has gradually developed a rich, artist-driven house style, apparent even on slight releases like this year’s sci-fi R&B odyssey by Sir and Jay Rock’s uncompromising and unfussy Redemption. But Reason’s debut for the outfit bucks the mold—a tidied-up rerelease of an older mixtape, lacking high-profile guest spots or flashy production. Instead, you meet the emcee directly, over minimalist beats the rapper sourced himself from YouTube. You can tell immediately why he got signed. He’s a natural fire-spitter, viewing hooks with disdain and growling at a Freeway-like roar about Fila jackets and lunch tickets, street dreams and better days. He’s got a filmic appreciation for production values—tracks are often almost over when the drums kick in—and a pen that strings the personal and the political effortlessly (“State We In”). It’ll be fun to hear him get to work with a proper budget. [Clayton Purdom]

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Colter Wall, Songs Of The Plains

[Young Mary’s Record Co., October 12]

Colter Wall emerged with his dusty, full-length debut last year, armed with an ancient-sounding voice and worn-in folk tunes that belied his young age. Already, the 23-year-old has returned with a record inspired by the songs and stories of where he’s from—the Canadian Prairies, and specifically, Saskatchewan. Manitoba gets a mention, too, and one of the world’s biggest rodeos shows up in his take on Wilf Carter’s “Calgary Round-Up.” With Songs Of The Plains, Wall pays tribute to the mythology of the region while simultaneously creating a new and vibrant one all his own. It’s this acknowledgment of his place in the tradition of Western and folk music that has allowed his mythos to arrive fully-realized and already feeling lived-in, like it’s been in the dirt and the wind and the big sky of those flatlands since time immemorial. [Matt Williams]

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