Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Miley Cyrus travels back in time and Rico Nasty does her thing: 5 new releases we love

Miley Cyrus (Photo: RCA Records) and Rico Nasty (Photo: Jason Carman)
Miley Cyrus (Photo: RCA Records) and Rico Nasty (Photo: Jason Carman)
Graphic: The A.V. Club

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.

Miley Cyrus, Plastic Hearts

After the country-pop blandness of Younger Now (which even Cyrus herself didn’t seem to like), one of America’s best pop-star provocateurs returns to doing what she does best on Plastic Hearts—namely, reveling in the glam and over-the-top theatrics of great electro-pop. Much has been made of the album’s ’80s vibes, and it’s certainly a key element (especially on tracks like “Midnight Sky” and the Olivia Newton-John-esque hook of “Prisoner”), but the album casts a wider net than just pop radio from the Me decade. There’s the industrial-lite thrum of “Gimme What I Want,” the hard-rock-edged, Pink-echoing opener “WTF Do I Know,” and the ballad “Golden G String” conjuring visions of Florence And The Machine. Hell, there’s even a bit of Younger Now’s vibe in the Mark Ronson-produced “Higher”—which, unsurprisingly, makes it a bit of a sore thumb on the album. But overall, her wayback machine only hits the best marks of pop music’s past, and nearly all of it is cranked to 11, with her powerhouse vocals getting a serious workout on almost every track. It sounds like Miley Cyrus is just having fun again, and her music is all the better for it. [Alex McLevy]


Rico Nasty, Nightmare Vacation

[Atlantic Records]

The captivating fire that set Rico Nasty and Kenny Beats’ Anger Management ablaze is far from extinguished in the rapper’s pulsating follow-up, Nightmare Vacation; booming entries like the previously released “OHFR” confirm as much. This 16-track album blends Rico’s penchant for abrasive deliveries with a touch of something softer, just a little more melodic. “Don’t Like Me,” her collaboration with Gucci Mane and Don Tolliver, glides with the deceptive ease of “sugar trap,” a genre that she coined to describe her method of blending bubbly melodies with her usual bite and grime. But don’t let the dulcet tones fool you: Rico is as acerbic as ever, asserting her command over her corner of hip-hop with roof-blasting turns like “IPHONE” and “STFU” that merge rap, rock, pop, and EDM expertly. The latter track marks a hopefully fortuitous working relationship with rising producing duo Take A Daytrip, who match Rico’s unique verve beat-for-beat in one of the best of the collection. Contrary to its name, Nightmare Vacation is actually quite a lovely sojourn—and a killer showcase of everything Rico has to offer.  [Shannon Miller]

Jenny Lewis & Serengeti, “Unblu

[Loves Way]

Earlier this fall, The Postal Service stirred from hiatus to tease something that seemed like it could be a long-awaited follow-up to Give Up or maybe a future live performance of some sort, but turned out to be an impressively lengthy, star-studded get-out-the-vote sketch. (As compensation for dashed hopes, there’s the new live album and documentary, Everything Will Change, recorded during the band’s 10th anniversary tour in 2013.) One member of the group has been secretly working on new music, though: On Wednesday, Jenny Lewis and rapper Serengeti unveiled “Unblu,” which was written and recorded while the collaborators sheltered in place in Los Angeles and Chicago, respectively. With its chilly synths and twinkling pianos, it’s downtempo for lockdown—when Lewis mutters “Baby, I’ve been climbing,” the mind adds “the walls” before the singer actually finishes the line: “the mountain to your heart.” Either is a barrier, and barriers seem to be the focus of Serengeti’s elliptical verses and the song’s hook (“How long will I wait for you / To become unblu?”)—especially the ones that crop up in spite of personal intimacy. “Unblu” makes a beguiling introduction to a creative partnership that blossomed in spite of physical distance, a welcome throwback to the heyday of the electronic combo Lewis was most recently seen doing Zoom comedy/celebrity karaoke with. [Erik Adams]


Moore Family Band, Missy 

[Asian Man Records, December 4]

A bolt of lightning amidst these weepy winter doldrums, The Moore Family Band’s exhilarating debut delivers 11 hyper-caffeinated cuts evoking the pop-punk pioneers of yore. Alyssa, Randy, and Dylan Moore, siblings brought together in quarantine, know how to make a lot with a little, stuffing savage riffs, rich harmonies, and Jeff Rosenstock cameos in songs that barely pass the two-minute mark. Rosenstock’s noodling synths course through lead single “Raining Inside My Head,” a fierce and dirty ripper that highlights the siblings’ rich harmonies as it builds to a gut-punch of a climax. Their influences are evident and abundant—Green Day, Joan Jett, the Fat Wreck records of yore—but so is their chemistry, the result, no doubt, of a childhood spent jamming together before bedtime. [Randall Colburn]


Son Lux, Tomorrows II

[City Slang]

Tomorrows II, the latest from L.A.’s Son Lux (and the second in a planned three-album arc that began with August’s Tomorrows I), possesses a rare beauty. Unsettling in its dark, skittering percussive rhythms and oddly pulsing waves of sound, the whole enterprise feels fragile, as though one wrong note or misplaced vocal lament from singer and composer Ryan Lott would send the entire thing crashing back to earth. But instead, this more somber and elegiac installment to the multi-volume project achieves a transcendent mix of soul, icy electronic loops, and aching lyrical intimacy, sounding more like a open-nerve window to the soul than the middle act of some larger whole. The closest comparison might be more David Lynch than any musical compatriots (actually, that makes this somewhat akin to Moses Sumney’s recent work, so there’s a RIYL for the curious listener), as the album slides and stammers through its musical catharsis, pausing at times to offer gentle instrumental interludes or erupt in hip-hop-influenced grooves. But across it all is Lott’s raw, sincere vocals: “I’ve broken so much more than I can heal,” he marvels at one point, and the sentiment cuts deep. It will be fascinating to unpack it all when the Tomorrows project is complete, but this album stands powerfully on its own. [Alex McLevy]


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