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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Cowboys, queens, and marauders: The 31 most-anticipated albums of August

Cowboys, queens, and marauders: The 31 most-anticipated albums of August

Photo: Paul Banks (Jim Dyson/Getty Images), YG (Kevin Mazur/Getty Images), Mitski (Scott Dudelson/Getty Images), Graphic: Natalie Peeples

The last weeks of summer may be fast approaching, but at least they’ll have a stellar soundtrack. In addition to Nicki Minaj’s overdue Queen, August brings new releases from Interpol, Blood Orange, Mitski, YG, Steve Hauschildt, Animal Collective, Wild Nothing, and many more. These are the 31 new albums we’re most looking forward to this month.

August 3

Dorian Concept, The Nature Of Imitation

The Nature Of Imitation is the third album from Austrian producer Oliver Johnson—a.k.a. Dorian Concept—and his debut for Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label. His previous LP, 2014’s Joined Ends, was elegant and restrained, full of electronic music that breathed and shimmered. This new work, though, is borrowing a bit of the soulfulness from his new labelmates, taking Johnson’s talent for carefully constructed tunes and livening up the proceedings with some wild-eyed funk. [Matt Gerardi]

Felicita, Hej!

Experimental Anglo-Polish producer Felicita, real name Dominik Dvorak, makes his full-length debut on longtime label PC Music with Hej!, expanding on some of the musical themes of last year’s Ecce Homo EP and incorporating influences from his collaborations in the worlds of art and dance. “Coughing Up Amber” reworks buoyant older track “Coughing Up Pearls” by plunging it into a pool of phasing ambient textures, while “Marzipan” features a haunting interpolation of the Polish lullaby “Był Sobie Król” by Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek. Expect Hej! to be darkly surreal and enjoyably unpredictable. [Kelsey J. Waite]

Helena Hauff, Qualm

Hamburg DJ and producer Helena Hauff makes brutal, minimalist electro from nothing but analog machines, jams that are equally transportive and physical. Following 2015’s Discreet Desires and last year’s Have You Been There, Have You Seen It EP, second full-length Qualm digs even deeper into her driving force—“trying to create something powerful without using too many instruments and layers”—and delivers some of her rawest songs to date. There’s a dark sci-fi thread running through the album, too, as heard on singles like “Hyper-Intelligent Genetically Enriched Cyborg” and “Qualm”/“No Qualms.” (Pro tip: Don’t miss the short film of the same name released by “HH253” a few weeks ago.) [Kelsey J. Waite]

Steve Hauschildt, Dissolvi

Former Emeralds synthesist Steve Hauschildt has continued to explore a misty strain of ’70s kosmische on his solo albums, but the new Dissolvi updates his frames of reference to the more modern sounds of minimalist techno, as well as the glitch-pop IDM that dominated electronic music in the ’90s and early 2000s. Warm, fuzzed-out clicks and pops sparkle and fade under his usual synth pads and arpeggios, recalling the recent era when artists like Oval, Mùm, and Isolée were experimenting with blissed-out, bit-crushed textures. Meanwhile, the muted four-on-the-flour drum pulses on every track make Dissolvi his most rhythmically focused work yet. It’s also his most collaborative, with Julianna Barwick and Gabi lending vocals to two tracks. [Sean O’Neal]

YG, Stay Dangerous

YG specializes in leering, open-air West Coast anthems, from 2014’s “Bompton” to 2016’s instant classic “Twist My Fingaz.” That’s not all he does, of course—My Krazy Life is a California concept album as far-reaching in its scope, if more focused in its aesthetic, as Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. City. The two singles released so far from the forthcoming Stay Dangerous show the MC’s superlative quality control fully intact. [Clayton Purdom]

August 10

Shooter Jennings, Shooter

Shooter Jennings has a fun frame for the first three songs off of his eighth album, Shooter: The videos are all preceded by a Hee Haw takeoff. It’s an inspired way for the son of Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter to both pay tribute to and poke fun at his considerable country legacy. While the plodding “Denim & Diamonds” is downright Seger-esque, revved-up ballad “Rhinestone Eyes” is appropriately love-soaked, and “Fast Horses & Good Hideouts” pines for the days of Tombstone and Deadwood, a look backward that’s miles more poignant than Hee Haw. [Gwen Ihnat]

Anna Meredith, Anno

Several years ago, the conductor of an experimental string group known as the Scottish Ensemble got talking to Anna Meredith, an electronic musician and acclaimed contemporary composer, about the similarities between her music and that of Antonio Vivaldi. One thing led to another, and in 2016, Meredith and the Scottish Ensemble created Anno, a live experience where listeners were surrounded by visuals and musicians performing Meredith’s latest, which combined original material with the famous sounds of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. Two years after its live debut, the musical half of the piece is being released, and in an attempt to emulate the original 360 degrees of sound, it’s been recorded using binaural technology—meaning headphones are a must. [Matt Gerardi]

Nicki Minaj, Queen

Nicki Minaj is back to claim her throne on Queen, the new album she announced, in true royal style, on the red carpet at this year’s Met Gala. Her beef with Cardi B may be (mostly) manufactured by a media that can’t imagine two women on the hip-hop charts at the same time, but on “Barbie Tingz” and “Chun-Li,” Minaj comes out swinging with the sharp-tongued lyrics and exaggerated wordplay that made her famous, over classic East Coast boom-bap beats that give Nicki plenty of room to do her thing. It’s now been more than three months since those singles were released, but Minaj has managed to stay in the spotlight since then, both in good ways (her sultry duet with Ariana Grande, “Bed”) and bad (her guest spot on controversial rapper 6ix9ine’s “Fefe”), with pressure mounting with every PR snafu and Twitter callout. Hopefully the album will be worth it. [Katie Rife]

Tirzah, Devotion

A fixture in London’s post-grime and garage scene, U.K. singer-songwriter Tirzah Mastin makes her overdue full-length debut with a set of dreamy, downtempo love songs produced by childhood friend and longtime collaborator Mica Levi. As captured in “Gladly” and the title track, Devotion is charmingly tender and intimate. Levi’s spare, looped arrangements give Mastin’s understated R&B melodies plenty of room for rumination, and fans of the composer’s more experimental noise pop will find plenty to enjoy in the album’s subtly mind-bending production. [Kelsey J. Waite]

August 17

Animal Collective, Tangerine Reef

Ever since peaking with 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, Animal Collective’s albums have gotten denser and sweeter and harder to grasp, sonic sugar rushes that lose much of the focus that made MPP a career best. But Tangerine Reef is engineered to be the polar opposite of Painting With’s gummy, jittery pop. Made to commemorate 2018 being the third International Year Of The Reef and to help raise awareness for the plight of Earth’s coral reefs, it’s a double LP and audiovisual album made in collaboration with Coral Morphologic, a production team that’s made a career of artistically documenting the beauty of marine life. The visuals involve time-lapse and slow pans of fluorescent underwater life, and the music has been stripped down to a watery, meditative hum. [Matt Gerardi]

Julee Cruise, Three Demos

She may have decided to very publicly lambast her artistic association with David Lynch, but that doesn’t mean Julee Cruise wouldn’t still like to get paid, please and thank you. A companion piece of sorts to the 25th anniversary reissue of her sophomore album, The Voice Of Love, Three Demos is a document of the very first demos recorded by Cruise, Angelo Badalamenti, and Lynch at the beginning of their artistic collaboration. Three songs, “Floating,” “Falling,” and “The World Spins” (all of which ended up on their debut LP, Floating Into The Night), are notably different than the final studio versions, and are a must-have for fans, most of whom probably drift into a Twin Peaks reverie the second “Floating” begins. [Alex McLevy]

Death Cab For Cutie, Thank You For Today

The 2000s indie boom’s sharpest chronicler of change returns to a favorite theme on Death Cab For Cutie’s “Gold Rush”: Over a groove nicked from Yoko Ono’s “Mindtrain,” Ben Gibbard pictures a neighborhood whose renovations and rehabilitations are built on top of old haunts and fond memories. “It didn’t used to be this way,” he sings, and the same could be said of Death Cab, which has extended the digital sheen of 2015’s Kintsugi to Thank You For Today, its first album without founding member and longtime producer Chris Walla. It’s been 20 years since the flinty heartbreak anthems of the band’s debut, Something About Airplanes, and like the best Gibbard compositions, Thank You For Today makes you feel that distance. But as he asks on “I Dreamt We Spoke Again,” “Is anything the way it used to be?” [Erik Adams]

Djrum, Portrait With Firewood

On his second full-length as Djrum, Portrait With Firewood, U.K. techno producer Felix Manuel abandons the sample-heavy approach of earlier work in favor of rediscovering his childhood training in jazz piano and working with his first hardware synth. Taking its name and inspiration from the work of Marina Abromović, Portrait is exceptionally emotionally raw, and its blend of immaculate electronic textures with experimental piano improvisations—plus cello from Zosia Jagodzinska and vocals by Lola Empire—reveals a new dimension to Manuel’s work. [Kelsey J. Waite]

Ariana Grande, Sweetener

On Sweetener, Ariana Grande’s fourth album in five years, the diva still excels at interpreting pop songs that showcase her considerable vocal chops. “No Tears Left To Cry” is a surprisingly uptempo ode to the victims of the bombing at her concert in Manchester last year, but as she tweeted, “a fast, uplifting song is what i needed. i feel strong.” She reclaims more power in the moving “God Is A Woman,” ready to rain hellfire down on “those who attempt to poison and destroy my sisters.” And the isolated vocals on the trailer for the title track are nothing short of astounding, pegging Grande as a superstar with more to offer than just the next club hit. [Gwen Ihnat]

Mitski, Be The Cowboy

The mononymous Mitski’s Puberty 2 was a highlight of 2016, an urgent and deeply felt portrait of a life in transition bathed in the divine noise of Pixies-style guitar rock. Two years after that breakout record, she returns with Be The Cowboy, an album that sees Mitski pushing her sound in danceable new directions. Album opener “Geyser” continues the barely repressed tumult that characterized Puberty 2, but second single “Nobody” teases an exciting new sound that sets her emotional emptiness to a perky disco beat. A press release announcing the album says it “introduces a persona who has been teased before but never so fully present until now—a woman in control.” [Katie Rife]

Oh Sees, Smote Reverser

Within a 15-month window, one-man garage-rock institution John Dwyer released five albums, bounced between three different bands with three distinct sounds, and even renamed his most famous group, dropping the “Thee” from Thee Oh Sees. That restlessness is seemingly bubbling over on his next Oh Sees album, Smote Reverser, which sees the band reconvene in one of its biggest, most flexible configurations yet. On the first two singles alone, Dwyer and company explore distant extremes of his psych-rock obsession, basing “C” in the placid keyboard-filled hooks of his Damaged Bug albums while pushing the band into a blast of pounding metal on “Overthrown.” [Matt Gerardi]

Uniform, The Long Walk

Following a recent collaborative record with The Body, New York noise rockers Uniform will forge ahead with their own latest release The Long Walk, the group’s follow-up to 2017’s Wake In Fright. However, the band is mixing things up a bit, as the new release features a trio lineup, with drummer Greg Fox (Liturgy) lending his pummeling chops to the former duo. As is to be expected, it sounds like it’ll be heavy as hell, with gritty production values and an overriding sense of existential anger. Uniform’s Michael Berdan says the album is based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name (penned under his Richard Bachman pseudonym), a story that “speaks volumes to many of the ugliest parts of the human condition.” Don’t expect any mellowing, in other words. [Alex McLevy]

August 24

Autechre, NTS Sessions

Eight straight hours of Autechre’s disorienting, mutant electronics sounds like either a godsend or a hard pass, depending on your level of interest in the duo’s alien, increasingly insular world. But there were myriad pleasures to be found on the way down the rabbit hole of the radio sessions broadcast earlier this year on London’s NTS, which are being collected here in one physical, downloadable release. Having the tracks all separated now makes it easier to find those moments: If you don’t like the abrasive glitches of “bqbqbq” or the stuttering fritz of “carefree counter dronal,” you can skip ahead to the electro squiggles of “four of seven” or the warm ambient embrace of “column thirteen.” Still, the tracks work best as a cohesive piece, seamlessly flowing into one another, slowly bending even the most resistant mind to their own idiosyncratic musical language. [Sean O’Neal]

Blood Orange, Negro Swan

Dev Hynes surprised fans in July with news that his fourth studio album as Blood Orange, Negro Swan, would arrive just two years after the sprawling, highly acclaimed Freetown Sound. Singles “Charcoal Baby” and “Jewelry” emphasize the jazz tones in Hynes’ intimate synth pop, with voice-overs and lyrics exploring “[Hynes’] own and many types of black depression, an honest look at the corners of black existence, and the ongoing anxieties of queer/people of color.” And here’s hoping the album’s 16 tracks include even one of Freetown’s high-profile collaborations. [Kelsey J. Waite]

Interpol, Marauder

Interpol embraces its anthemic side on Marauder, continuing the swing away from the dark side that began on 2014’s El Pinto. Album opener “If You Really Love Nothing” and lead single “Marauder” both kick down the doors of post-punk with a big, swinging percussive backbeat interspersed with bright bolts of electric guitar, a boisterous sonic entrance befitting the boorish character for whom the album is named. Of the titular marauder, frontman Paul Banks says, “Marauder is a facet of myself. That’s the guy that fucks up friendships and does crazy shit. He taught me a lot, but it’s representative of a persona that’s best left in song.” And while you might not want him as a roommate, he’s certainly a lot of fun on record. [Katie Rife]

The Lemon Twigs, Go To School

Brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario might be inching toward the other side of 20 now, but their youthful exuberance and off-the-charts talent hasn’t flagged a bit on The Lemon Twigs’ second 4AD album, Go To School. While prior cuts pointed to dramatic epics in the line of David Bowie and Elton John (and “If You Give Enough,” featuring a musical saw, still hangs out there), many of these newer songs (“Foolin’ Around,” “Tailor Made”) point to a different section of a 1970s record store, like an extremely welcome baby Badfinger or Big Star. [Gwen Ihnat]

Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood, With Animals

Despite working together on solo projects in the interim, With Animals is only the second proper album from Mark Lanegan and Duke Norwood, following up 2013’s Black Pudding. The two are continuing to explore sparse, bluesy soul music, often accompanied by a minimalist electronic beat and the wavering, ethereal sounds of multi-instrumentalist Norwood that accompany the ex-Screaming Trees singer’s wood-grain voice. But if new single “See Me” is any indication, they might be moving away from the more acoustic guitar-backed tones that grounded their first collaboration, and leaning toward the stranger and darker vibes of some of Lanegan’s solo material. [Alex McLevy]

Midori Takada and Lafawndah, Le Renard Bleu

You can already listen to all of Le Renard Bleu, since the video for the EP’s single, 20-minute song was released last month. But the collaboration between Japanese percussionist and composer Midori Takada and London-based singer-producer Lafawndah sees its official release on the 24th. It’s Takada’s first new music in nearly 20 years and arrives a year after the reissue of her seminal 1983 debut, Through The Looking Glass. The new EP explores the myth of the blue fox, with Lafawndah singing a dialogue with the fox himself over Takada’s lively arrangement of chimes, handbells, marimba, waterphone, and more. [Kelsey J. Waite]

August 31

Anna Calvi, Hunter

In the five years since releasing her excellent sophomore album, 2013’s One Breath, English art-rocker Anna Calvi has kept extremely busy: writing a song for the film Insurgent, releasing a David Byrne-featuring EP, appearing on two David Bowie tribute albums, and, oh, writing an entire rock opera. On third full-length Hunter, the British singer-songwriter and guitarist returns to the sparer arrangements of her debut, this time boldly “exploring sexuality and breaking the laws of gender conformity.” With production by Nick Launay (Nick Cave, Grinderman) and featuring Bad Seed Martyn Casey and Portishead’s Adrian Utley, Hunter promises to be as compelling musically as it is thematically. [Kelsey J. Waite]

Big Red Machine, Big Red Machine

Between Justin Vernon’s lyricism and Aaron Dessner’s creative instrumentals, Big Red Machine is a match made in indie heaven. After meeting online in 2008, the Bon Iver frontman and the National songwriter caught a glimpse of what could be while recording “Big Red Machine” for Red Hot’s Dark Was The Night AIDS benefit compilation. Almost a decade later they’ve formed a band under the same name, and, inspired by the success of their partnership, started an online platform for other artists to connect and collaborate. There you can check out the first four songs off of Big Red Machine, a dreamy, musing collection that highlights the best of both artists. [Maggie Donahue]

Bun B, Return Of The Trill

Bun B’s barreling, no-shit bars were a reliable source of joy for most of the 2000s, whether solo or as half of the pioneering duo UGK. He’s quieted down significantly since then: Return Of The Trill is his first record since 2013, and his once-ubiquitous guest spots have even slowed to a crawl. (Last year’s only one was with, um, Parquet Courts.) Still, he has an ageless voice that’s weathered decades in the spotlight already, and the fact that he announced the record via a recipe for seafood patties shows his sense of humor is intact. [Clayton Purdom]

Mogwai, Kin OST

Kin looks like a strangely personal sci-fi saga, the story of a young scrapper stumbling across a massive sci-fi laser gun and taking on armies of possibly robotic pursuers. (James Franco plays a scumbag.) Still, that’s a fine enough setting for a mountain of huge, dreamy Mogwai tracks, which range from trilling guitar histrionics to glacial cliffs of minor-key synthesizers. It’ll sound big, and probably great in the theaters. [Clayton Purdom]

Muncie Girls, Fixed Ideals

Back with their first collection of songs since 2016’s near-flawless From Caplan To Belsize, Exeter’s Muncie Girls latest, Fixed Ideals, sees the group making cautious steps toward a more expansive pop sound, while retaining the scrappy energy and pop-punk spark that animated their earlier work. But even the production is a bit cleaner and more polished, indicative of the broader set of influences that pushed the band’s songwriting in new directions. To wit: First single “Picture Of Health” is a major-chord barn-burner that sounds like a stomper of old, while more recent single “Falling Down” is a much more restrained and pop-rock number. Either way, the trio’s fiery energy and singer Lande Hekt’s excellent lyrical blending of personal and political themes make the new album something to look forward to. [Alex McLevy]

Troye Sivan, Bloom

He’s one of the biggest rising talents in pop music right now, and, like a true Gen Z star, he got there through YouTube. Six million subscribers and boldly queer electro-pop songs have propelled 23-year-old Australian singer Troye Sivan to stardom and earned him a spot in the Billboard Top 200. His sophomore album, Bloom, is moodier and dancier than 2015’s Blue Neighbourhood (see the guitar-based “The Good Side” and the Ariana Grande duet “Dance To This”) but revisits themes of love, longing, sexual expression, and heartbreak. Between Bloom’s August release, a fall tour, and his role in the upcoming film Boy Erased, it’s shaping up to be a big year for Sivan. [Maggie Donahue]

Thou, Magus

Thou keeps busy. Although it’s been four years since these Louisiana sludge rockers released their last full-length album (the towering Heathen), they’ve filled the time in between with a vast supply of splits, collaborations, compilation contributions, and apocalyptic Nirvana covers. Magus, their fifth LP, arrives on the heels of three stylistically dissimilar EPs, and promises to contain traces of each: distorted doom, acoustic folk, anvil-heavy grunge. Those just hoping to have their bones rattled can rest easy, though; the first released track from Magus, “The Changeling Prince,” is a six-and-a-half-minute swamp-monster rampage, all fury and feedback. [A.A. Dowd]

Wild Nothing, Indigo

What better way to close out a summer than with a shimmering, wistful record from Wild Nothing? Jack Tatum’s indie-pop project returns to longtime label Captured Tracks for its fourth full-length, Indigo, an album uniting the “vintage Wild Nothing” of Tatum’s 2010 debut, Gemini, with “a bold, new leap into a bigger arena.” Working as intentionally and concisely as possible, Tatum set out to make an unapologetically hi-fi record inspired by Roxy Music, Kate Bush, and Fleetwood Mac. Latest single “Partners In Motion” submerses listeners in a slow, sultry funk, complete with a shoulder-padded ’80s sax solo—this is pop music at its most luxurious. [Kelsey J. Waite]

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