Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Kesha, The War On Drugs, and more music to expect in August

Kesha (Photo: David Wolff - Patrick/Redferns via Getty Images), The War On Drugs (Photo: Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images), and Ghostpoet (Photo: C Brandon/Redferns/Getty Images). Graphic: Marcus Nuccio.

Every Friday, dozens of new records are released into the wild. Some make big splashes, and others sink almost immediately. For most music consumers, it’s almost too much information, and save for those precious few who spend their hours glued to review sites and release calendars, it’s hard to know what’s coming out when. Thankfully, The A.V. Club is ready to help those struggling souls. Each month, we’ll publish a fairly comprehensive list of what’s coming to record stores and streaming services in upcoming weeks, complete with capsule previews so interested parties can know what to expect.

August 4

Dead Cross, Dead Cross

Dead Cross is a punk/metal supergroup formed when Slayer/Fantômas drummer Dave Lombardo recruited members from bands like Retox, The Locust, and Head Wound City, then landed Faith No More journeyman Mike Patton. The first few singles from the band’s self-titled debut show a surprising amount of ferocity packed into barely two-minute songs like “Seizure And Desist” and “Grave Slave,” while Patton injects a fun, energetic dose of personality to this band’s considerable rage. [Gwen Ihnat]


Briana Marela, Call It Love

The ethereal dream-pop musician returns with her second album for Jagjaguwar records and her fourth overall. The artist has always had a preference for the earnest and straightforward in her lyrics, perhaps to match the looping melodies and sunny bounce of the rhythms. This newest looks to continue that trend, offering a fusion of her ambient side and more beat-forward pop songs. [Alex McLevy]


Randy Newman, Dark Matter

Dark Matter—like Randy Newman’s previous album, 2008’s Harps And Angels—offers some sharp commentary on the current state of the world, couched in the legendary songwriter’s usual wry, poignant lyricism. The more direct “It’s A Jungle Out There” despairs, “Who’s in charge here?” and cautions, “Better pay attention or this world you love so much / Might just kill you.” But the timely “Putin” has the same sardonic tone as “Short People” or “I Love L.A.”: It’s a hilarious ode to the Russian leader that even includes a chorus from “the Putin girls.” Sadly, a song Newman says he wrote about Trump’s penis was deemed “too vulgar,” but there’s plenty of other catchy variations on the theme. [Gwen Ihnat]


Neil Young, Hitchhiker

“Lost” Neil Young album Hitchhiker arrives three years after its brief mention in Young’s memoir Special Deluxe. This all-acoustic set of 10 tracks was recorded in one single take (with Young “pausing only for weed, beer, or coke”) in August of 1976, between the releases of Zuma and Long May You Run. It offers an early look at songs that have since become Neil Young standards (“Pocahontas,” “Campaigner”) and an official record of two unreleased tracks—“Hawaii” and “Give Me Strength”—that the iconic songwriter’s been performing here and there for the last 40 years. [Kelsey J. Waite]


August 11

Blondes, Warmth


New York duo Sam Haar and Zach Steinman, a.k.a. Blondes, have long made a sort of intelligent techno that lives just as comfortably in the club as it does the art museum, favoring pulsating, slightly muted dance rhythms over which they build tasteful layers of synth, vocal samples, and alien atmospherics. For Warmth, their first release on R&S Records (a reliable stamp of quality in the electronic music world), they’ve streamlined their sound to be even more beat-forward—evidenced by the hypnotic first taste, “KDM”—creating an album of “lysergic techno” that’s billed as their “most significant and weighty record to date.” [Sean O’Neal]

Jen Cloher, Jen Cloher

The Australian singer-songwriter returns with her first full-length since 2013’s In Blood Memory. While her bandmate (and spouse) Courtney Barnett has become a breakout star of late, Cloher remains committed to honest, searching folk-rock songs of a personal nature, with the new record delving into her relationship, issues of gender inequality in music, and gay marriage in her home country—a place where her and Barnett’s own vows are still not recognized by the government. The music may be gentler and lo-fi, and her voice underplayed and thoughtful, but Cloher’s lyrics are as fierce as anyone’s. [Alex McLevy]


Downtown Boys, Cost Of Living

For its first record on Sub Pop, Downtown Boys—the industry’s foremost bilingual political sax-punk band—decided to work with Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto. That Dischord influence is evident here; some of these songs sound ripped straight from the Nation Of Ulysses. Since the band’s last album (2015’s Full Communism) a lot has happened politically, to say the least, and Cost Of Living definitely reflects that. Tracks like “A Wall” and lead single “Somos Chulas (No Somos Pendejas)” are rallying cries against xenophobia and white supremacy, with frontwoman Victoria Ruiz singing/shouting/screaming/shaming those sentiments back into hiding. [Leonardo Adrian Garcia]


Frankie Rose, Cage Tropical

With 2012’s Interstellar, Brooklyn’s Frankie Rose fully escaped the “former member of” designation that had identified her brief tenures in dream-pop groups Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls, and Crystal Stilts, breaking free with a name-making solo album that trafficked in wide-scope synth-pop sounds. But after a lukewarm reception for 2013’s Herein Wild and a short-lived run in the band Beverly, Rose moved back in with her parents, got a crummy day job, and all but gave up. Fortunately, she’s bounced back with the new Cage Tropical, a record she says is informed by her brief existential crisis—as well as ’80s sci-fi soundtracks. That’s borne out by first single “Trouble,” which features multi-layered, Heaven Or Las Vegas-era Cocteau Twins vocals over a percolating new-wave beat. [Sean O’Neal]


Guided By Voices, How Do You Spell Heaven


Less than six months after releasing the sprawling, carnivalesque double album August By Cake, Guided By Voices is back with another record, How Do You Spell Heaven. This time around, it’s a relatively less ambitious 15-track single album, recorded to “[capitalize] on the current incarnation’s tour-buffed shine without sacrificing eternal verities,” according to a press release. (In other words, “we’re all together, so why not?”) As long as those “eternal verities” include the eccentric takes on classic-rock riffs and equally weird lyrics that all come together into the beer-swilling party anthems that GBV is known for. [Katie Rife]

Kesha, Rainbow

It’s difficult not to look at Rainbow, Kesha’s first album in five years, through the lens of her legal battle with her longtime producer Dr. Luke. “Praying,” the album’s lead single, is a direct shot at her alleged abuser, opening with, “Well, you almost had me fooled / Told me that I was nothing without you / Oh, and after everything you’ve done / I can thank you for how strong I have become,” before eventually settling on a gracious turning of the other cheek, hoping that he can better himself through prayer. For Rainbow Kesha, living well is the best revenge. (And yes, it’s Kesha, not Ke$ha—another sign of the metanoia she’s experienced.) Though she’s dropped the dollar sign, she definitely hasn’t dropped the attitude, with second single “Woman” valiantly declaring (over the glorious Dap-King Horns), “I’m a motherfucking woman!” [Leonardo Adrian Garcia]


Milo, Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?!


Milo’s got an easygoing, low-key approach to hip-hop, delighting in the elemental pleasures of a well-cut drum loop and dazed, dazzling wordplay. It’s West Coast rap in the mold of Madlib—indoors and curtains drawn even though the weather’s always perfect—but the tracks reveal an uncommon intelligence, for all their spaciness. He’s flitted between projects throughout his career, but the new Who Told You To Think is his third under the Milo moniker, after excellent efforts in 2014 and 2015. [Clayton Purdom]

Oneohtrix Point Never, Good Time (OST)

Daniel Lopatin, a.k.a. Oneohtrix Point Never, makes haunting, deeply expressive electronic compositions that beg to be paired with films, so it’s crazy that only a handful have taken advantage of it (Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring and Ariel Kleiman’s Partisan among them). That seems poised to change with Good Time, the buzzed-about thriller that promises to recast Robert Pattinson in a new, edgy light, and also suggests it could finally do for Lopatin what Drive did for Cliff Martinez. Lopatin’s score is essential to the film’s noirish mood, recalling ’80s Tangerine Dream in its neon pulses, and it stands alone just as well. And the sole vocal track, featuring Iggy Pop in full Leonard Cohen croak, carries the same emotional weight as Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt.” [Sean O’Neal]


David Rawlings, Poor David’s Almanack

Poor David’s Alamanack sees guitarist-songwriter and longtime Gillian Welch partner David Rawlings shed the Dave Rawlings Machine moniker and add some fresh faces to his collaboration with Welch: Willie Watson and Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show, Paul Kowert of Punch Brothers, and brothers Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith of Dawes. These 10 new songs promise a “wry mixture of acoustic and electric music rich in ageless American vernacular,” and that sounds about right—even though Rawlings’ solo outings tend to be tonally looser than the Gillian Welch catalog, they share a preoccupation with transcending time or trend. Expect well-crafted songs with some real pretty harmonies and guitar phrasings, at the very least. [Kelsey J. Waite]


August 18

Ghostpoet, Dark Days & Canapés

Ghostpoet’s 2011 debut album was nominated for a Mercury Prize, which is an already impressive feat—and then he was nominated again in 2015. His forthcoming album will be his fourth full-length, and released track “Freakshow” points to more of the British vocalist and musician’s moody but piercing efforts. The album’s title, Dark Days + Canapés, recalls his debut (Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam), but the whimsical titles belie the fierce humanity of songs like “Immigrant Boogie,” with lyrics like “No one knows how many on the boat / Violent skies won’t show us where to go / Huddle close, we wanna, shall we jump?” gently sung over an angry bass line. Obaro Ejimiwe has chosen an apt stage name with Ghostpoet, and his haunting lyrics and dark verse are an appropriate soundtrack for the nationalist political climates he addresses. [Laura M. Browning]


Grizzly Bear, Painted Ruins

Painted Ruins arrives a full half decade since Grizzly Bear’s last full-length, the pleasant but slight Shields. New singles “Neighbors” and “Four Cypresses” show the band’s characteristically rich sonic palate and immaculate, sweeping production. If nothing else, the record will sound absolutely gorgeous, but also don’t rule out a fuller return to the grandeur of Yellow House or Veckatimest. [Clayton Purdom]


Rainer Maria, S/T

It’s been 11 years since Rainer Maria last released an album, and it’s fantastic to note that time has not mellowed or weakened the band whatsoever. The emo torchbearers turned indie-rock stalwarts return with S/T (a fun misnomer; it’s not actually self-titled). This collection of raw tracks picks up where 2006’s Catastrophe Keeps Us Together left off, with Caithlin De Marrais, Kaia Fischer, and William Kuehn providing emotional, propulsive, smartly engaging rock songs. [Leonardo Adrian Garcia]


Unkle, The Road, Pt. 1

James Lavelle’s long-running, collaboration-heavy electronic project returns for its first album in seven years, The Road, Pt. 1. Strings swoon and guitars chug on the single “Looking For The Rain,” featuring Mark Lanegan and Mercury Prize nominee Eska, implying that Unkle is still making melodramatic, dystopian rock. This time around, guests include members of Primal Scream and Queens Of The Stone Age. [Clayton Purdom]


August 25

Action Bronson, Blue Chips 7000

Flamboyant, food-loving, Flushing-born rapper Action Bronson spits some of the most exuberant verses in rap. Over the course of his Blue Chips mixtape series and his 2015 major-label debut, Mr. Wonderful, he broke out of his Ghostface-soundalike reputation to make a name for himself as a lewd, outre arbiter of the good life, like Rick Ross with better taste. Bronson has described the new Blue Chips 7000 as “U2 on steroids,” which is, um, something for you to get hyped to in the meantime. [Clayton Purdom]

Gogol Bordello, Seekers And Finders

You’d think a former bandmate suing their frontman and accusing them of stealing money from the rest of the group would be a death knell, but it appears Gogol Bordello really is “Undestructable.” Seekers And Finders is the veteran gypsy punks’ seventh album in 18 years, and the first since that seemingly bygone lawsuit. From the sound of singles like “Saboteur Blues,” that fissure hasn’t put much of a damper on the band’s frenzied Balkan-rock fusion. [Matt Gerardi]


Cymbals, Light In Your Mind

Surviving a tumultuous few years and a series of lineup changes, the core of Cymbals—British songwriting duo Jack Cleverly and Dan Simons—returns with a follow-up to its 2015 debut, The Age Of Fracture. Stripping the band down to its essence and working with producer Kristian Robinson helped the band refine its sound, bringing an ’80s electropop-meets-chillwave vibe to the fore, especially on songs like single “Decay.” The new-wave elements still remain, welded to a groove that works for dance floors and late-night headphone sessions alike. [Alex McLevy]


EMA, Exile In The Outer Ring

EMA’s productions can sound, at times, like aching chamber pop and pained electronic abstraction, equally at home with Badalamenti-style synthesizers and wall-of-sound girl-group melodies. She weaves dark, lovely albums out of this tableau, particularly 2011’s Past Lives Martyred Saints. Its follow-up, The Future’s Void, was essentially an album-length meditation on the internet, and the next year she soundtracked the post-J-horror flick #Horror. The new Exile In The Outer Ring looks to address the rising tide of nationalism. [Clayton Purdom]


Iron & Wine, Beast Epic

Sam Beam has delicately added more intricate arrangements to his one-man folk band Iron & Wine over the course of seven albums since 2002. I&W’s previous release, 2015’s Sing Into My Mouth, was all covers, so Beast Epic shows a return to form for Beam and his most famous output (as well as a reunion with his former label Sub Pop). First single “Call It Dreaming” culminates in layers and layers of strings, as well as a variety of handheld percussion instruments—a production that’s much richer than Beam’s earlier efforts, but still a sure crowd-pleaser for fans. [Gwen Ihnat]


Filthy Friends, Invitation

So-called supergroups seldom deliver on the promise of their personnel, but Filthy Friends may be one of the few to pull it off. Composed of Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney), Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Bill Rieflin (R.E.M., Ministry, King Crimson), Kurt Bloch (Fastbacks), and Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows), Filthy Friends has the pedigree, but it also has the songs: sharply written power pop with Tucker’s inimitable voice. The band has released a handful of solid songs so far—most recently the excellent “The Arrival”—all of which will appear on Invitation. [Kyle Ryan]


The Fresh & Onlys, Wolf Lie Down

The Fresh & Onlys have veered way off the path you might expect for a band with roots in San Francisco’s late-’00s garage-rock explosion. After 2010’s excellent Play It Strange, the four-piece cleaned up its sound into something that had more in common with The Cure than any of your typical fuzzed-out touchstones. The two singles released ahead of the band’s upcoming fifth album split the difference, with the title track taking things back to those shaggy, propulsive beginnings while “The Impossible Man” delivers bouncy new-wave magic. [Matt Gerardi]


Liars, TFCF

Now essentially on his own (co-founder Aaron Hemphill departed earlier this year), Liars frontman Angus Andrew is free to indulge his most idiosyncratic impulses—which is saying a lot, considering the band. While Liars’ twisted sound has more or less found its droning groove after years of evolutionary leaps, going from dance-punk to scabrous noise to a fusion of krautrock and dark wave, TFCF still offers a few surprises. For one, “There’s acoustic guitar all over this record! How ridiculous is that?” Andrew asks, noting the unexpected flamenco flourishes amid all the electronic groans and bursts of distortion. But despite Andrew recording TFCF in the Australian outback and even incorporating screaming bird sounds, it’s far from a hippie-folk record. Rather, it promises to be unpredictably, yet unmistakably Liars. [Sean O’Neal]


Oh Sees, Orc

John Dwyer’s garage-psych outfit Oh Sees (formerly Thee Oh Sees, The Oh Sees, etc.) follows up last year’s two full-length releases, An Odd Entrances and A Weird Exits, with the expansive, wandering Orc. Instrumental seeds sown on previous albums fully bloom into psychedelic, proggy jams and heavy-metal sounds on the group’s 19th LP, with laser-like synths and burrowing organs opening up to bass-heavy grooves and string-laden walks around castles and hedgerows. The album is generally less feverish than most of (Thee) Oh Sees’ output (lead single “The Static God” excluded); rather than run the show, here Dwyer’s signature whoops and fiery guitar riffs anchor the band’s peregrinations, keeping Orc from descending too far into its medieval imagery and morbid growling. [Laura Adamczyk]


Pvris, All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell

Nearly three years after the release of its acclaimed debut, White Noise, Massachusetts trio Pvris follows up with the theatrically named All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell. From the sound of grandiose single “Heaven,” the sophomore album retains Pvris’ pop-circa-metalcore sound, with dreamy vocals atop alternatingly delicate and sludgy arrangements. Frontwoman Lynn Gunn told Alternative Press in April that “with this record, we have a lot more ideas. We have a lot more experiences to draw from, and just overall maturity as humans and writers.” [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]


Queens Of The Stone Age, Villains

Josh Homme and his strutting Californian cavalry took a serious chill pill on their last record, …Like Clockwork, a collection of slower, moodier desert rockers. If early reports are to be believed, they’ve strayed even further out of their comfort zone with their four-years-later follow-up. Produced by Mark Ronson of “Uptown Funk” fame, Villains allegedly augments the band’s crunchy racket with what Rolling Stone calls “easy-breezy disco beats and chilly synths.” Lead single “The Way You Used To Do” corroborates these reports, putting buzzsaw guitars into a funky tango, egged on by a persistent cheering section of handclaps. Here’s hoping, though, that Homme and co. haven’t given up completely on writing songs for the deaf (and dead). If the QOTSA sound can accommodate a little U.K. boogie, the dance floor can probably withstand some stoner stomp. [A.A. Dowd]


Joseph Shabason, Aytche


Best known for his work with Destroyer and in the Toronto band DIANA, saxophonist and composer Joseph Shabason offers up a deliberate and moody solo debut via Western Vinyl. Shabason uses experimental effects to reimagine his instrument as “dense” and “choral,” creating dreamlike textures that reference genres like jazz and ambient without committing to the confines of either one, and that likewise reflect emotional ambivalence. The title track, for example, eddies meditatively around a bright central progression while melancholy, even pained, melodies ring in around the edges—a strange pool of peace and anxiety. [Kelsey J. Waite]

Nadine Shah, Holiday Destination

English singer-songwriter Nadine Shah turns fully political on her third full-length, Holiday Destination, with songs inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis and her own experiences as the daughter of a Pakistani immigrant. She told The Quietus, “I think artists need to document the times that [they] live in and what I wanted to do was to humanise the dehumanised by narrating first hand testimonies. I wanted to give people a voice who don’t normally have one.” First single “Holiday Destination” is an intense, Siouxsie-esque rocker with a chorus asking repeatedly, ambiguously, “How you gonna sleep tonight?” Buckle up for this one. [Kelsey J. Waite]


Susanne Sundfør, Music For People In Trouble

A hugely popular singer-songwriter in her home country of Norway, Susanne Sundfør’s transcendental pop music reached new heights on her 2015 album, Ten Love Songs. The follow-up, Music For People In Trouble, is being billed as her “most poignant and personal” work yet, an album about the anxiety and instability of modern living inspired by Sundfør’s recent globe-spanning travels. [Matt Gerardi]


Too Short, The Pimp Tape

When they blow up Mount Rushmore and chisel West Coast rappers’ faces on it instead, Too Short will be there—a titanic talent with three decades of stone-cold verses full of feckless misogyny and filthy disses. The Pimp Tape is his first in five years, his 20th overall—and if you believe Too Short himself, his swan song. Ty Dolla Sign, 2 Chainz, and Juicy J, among others, stop by to pay their respects. If it sucks, just listen to Get In Where You Fit In instead. [Clayton Purdom]


The War On Drugs, A Deeper Understanding

Three years after coming into its own on the grand, reverb-drenched manifesto Lost In The Dream, The War On Drugs is set to make its major-label debut with A Deeper Understanding. It doesn’t stray far from the band’s winning formula, taking the familiar sounds of classic-rock radio mainstays and blowing them out to lush, shimmering sprawls. And early cuts, including the placid 11-minute journey “Thinking Of A Place” and the towering guitar solos of “Strangest Thing,” show Adam Granduciel and co. pushing that ethos further than ever. [Matt Gerardi]


Widowspeak, Expect The Best

On its fourth full-length, Expect The Best, “cowboy grunge” band Widowspeak—once a duo, now a four-piece—harnesses the nostalgia of its twanging, windswept arrangements to explore themes of restlessness, expectations, and a modern sense of isolation. Singer Molly Hamilton wrote these nine songs after a move back home to the Pacific Northwest, and the region’s influence is felt in the album’s subtly amplified angst. Lead single “Dog,” with its shoegazey gallop and wistful musings, is enough to make you want to hitchhike out to the High Desert and get lost for a while. [Kelsey J. Waite]


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