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. Unless otherwise noted, all releases are now available.
Billie Eilish and Rosalía, “Lo Vas A Olvidar”
At first listen, there seems to be a bit more Eilish than Rosalía in the musical DNA of “Lo Vas A Olvidar,” the new single from the pair of superstars, teaming up for the first time. The minimalist thrum of bass-heavy synth and distant, sparse percussion; the digitally affected vocals; the occasionally near-whispered lyrical delivery—all of it is, at this point, vintage sonic style for the young pop star. But Rosalía’s influence soon starts to become apparent, far beyond the Spanish-language vocals that dominate the track. The swooning sadness of the melody carries it into the realm of the Catalan-born artist, lending a fragile, wounded vibe to the proceedings that not only creates a potent vibe of melodrama, but also pulls Eilish’s sometimes too-restrained sensibility into a more vulnerable, instantly affecting orbit—a melancholy hanging over the music like a fog. In other words, it’s a best-of-both-worlds situation, a single that fuses their musical personalities as effectively as their dual-language delivery conveys the bitter heartbreak of a romance’s aftermath. [Alex McLevy]
Imagine it’s a warm, rainy evening and you’re approaching a house party. As you walk nearer, you hear the booming bass and eventually the strings of a disco-era dance floor. But, when the door opens, it doesn’t bombard you—the music maintains a muted quality, restrained but still funky. That’s the effect of Rhye’s fourth album, Home, which invites you over and then revels in the anticipation. It’s the strongest effort from multi-instrumentalist Mike Milosh since Woman, a debut that astonished with its mystery. Fans have come to expect a certain quality of sexy, midtempo balladry from Rhye, and Home re-captures that alluring ethereality by exploring new textures of sound. “Come In Closer” builds from a soft rainfall to a gorgeous, violin-accented climax, and then there’s standout “Black Rain,” Rhye’s most danceable track yet. Bigger, yet soft and graceful, Home plucks just the right strings to keep you tantalized. [Cameron Scheetz]
After securing a Stateside audience with 2019’s PUNK, Japan’s CHAI will make their Sub Pop debut this year with WINK, an album that promises the quartet’s “mellowest and most minimal music.” That’s something of a surprise, considering that the chaotic arrangements and riotous clang of PUNK was integral to their appeal, but lead single “ACTION,” despite being a beat-forward affair, remains plenty playful. Meditative scraps of English and Japanese drift over the track’s deceptively simple soundscape, a pulsing blend of neon-tinged synths and blunt-force beats that all but swallows the band by song’s end. Like all of CHAI’s music, however, the song feels communal, a raging, joy-filled party with an open door. [Randall Colburn]
Matthew Sweet, Catspaw
Matthew Sweet’s 14th album, Catspaw, kicks off with a blistering guitar line straight from the wee hours of an FM hard rock radio station in the ’70s. But this is Matthew Sweet—meaning that first track, “Blown Away,” soon segues into a line of exemplary pop songs, which all fall into categories like “sweet,” “sad,” or “angry” (this one’s angry). That intro paves the way for the rest of the record, which finds an almost-solo Sweet (aided only by longtime drummer Ric Menck) framing all his lovelorn anthems within the thorns of emotional riffs. Instead of having guitar gods like Television’s Richard Lloyd take over the solos, all of these fervent axe rants are Sweet’s own, wearing his heart on his guitar strap as he explores his insecurities in “Best Of Me” (“What if the best of me isn’t good enough?”). Fans of Sweet’s landmark album, Girlfriend, will find a worthy successor here; there aren’t as many standout tracks, but the ones that do rise to the top—like the spirited “Challenge The Gods,” the poppy “Give A Little,” and mournful “Come Home”—practically soar. [Gwen Ihnat]
Ashley Kossakowski has a voice born for Groupie’s brand of art-damaged rock. The singer and bassist for the NYC-based act has a perfect fusion of Slits-esque sing-song, Kim Gordon rasp, and Chrissie Hynde coo—like a more unimpressed version of Bully’s Alicia Bognanno. And the songs come across like the Platonic ideal of sharp East Coast post-punk, blending Raincoats-like vocals and tones, angular guitars, and early Talking Heads into a heady stew of indie rock that would feel right at home in a downtown jukebox from just about any time in the past 30 years. Despite the disparate influences and sometimes unusual blend of lo-fi songcraft (replete with proudly oft-tinny guitars) and high-gloss production, all the songs on Ephemeral, the band’s raucous and addictive debut, end up feeling of a piece, whether teasing K Records-style minimalist groove (the Polish-language “Daleko”) or fuzzed-out ’90s rock reminiscent of Helium (“Thick As Glue”). It’s a record that sounds like the greatest-hits post-punk compilation you found hidden in an old used record bin—endearing, impressive, and essential. [Alex McLevy]