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

Pink Sweat$ delivers a masterful debut, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah returns: 5 new releases we love

Pink Sweat$ (Screenshot: YouTube); Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (Photo: Ian Shiver)
Pink Sweat$ (Screenshot: YouTube); Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (Photo: Ian Shiver)

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.

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Pink Sweat$, Pink Planet

[Atlantic Records]

From the opening organ riff that kicks off Pink Planet, the listener is transported back into another time and place. This is the sonic landscape of Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man, of En Vogue’s Born To Sing, of the Isley Brothers and Prince and Diana Ross—hell, there’s even some James Taylor in there, too, just to keep you on your toes. It’s an earthy, ambitious stew of numerous decades and styles, like a journey through torch-song R&B’s past, from bedroom-eyes come-ons to soulful ballads, all united by David Bowden’s buttery-smooth voice. It’s astonishing to hear a singer-songwriter demonstrate such masterful command of an entire genre on his very first LP, all to service the overriding thematic arc of the album: love, in all its many splendored forms. Bowden’s only been releasing music as Pink Sweat$ since 2018, but Pink Planet is as immersive and fully realized an album as anything a veteran could assemble, a testament to a singular talent and his unerring knack for silken soul earworms. [Alex McLevy]

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, New Fragility

[CYHSY/Secretly Distribution]

You either clap your hands or plug your ears when Alec Ounsworth starts singing. That was the case when Clap Your Hands Say Yeah self-released its 2005 debut, and it’s the case with New Fragility, the indie outfit’s engaging sixth album. Ounsworth’s distinctive vocals crack and quiver across these 10 tracks, exuding joy, weariness, frustration, and abandon against stately arrangements of guitar, piano, and strings. New Fragility is best in its moments of high drama, when Ounsworth longs for home from the bench of a lonely piano. Or when he wonders “what I’ve done wrong” against the weeping strings of “Innocent Weight” and its snarls of electric guitar. The theater of it all suits the weighty themes—depression, divorce, democracy—but it’s not all so sumptuous. Opener “Hesitating Nation” thrums with urgency and dance-friendly energy, while the aptly named “CYHSY, 2005” oozes with nostalgia for the blog-rock era that birthed the band. [Randall Colburn]

JPEGMAFIA, EP2!

[EQT Recordings/Republic Records]

There’s no verbal assault kicking off EP2!, no ferocious statement of purpose that one might’ve found on rapper JPEGMAFIA’s older work, like the blitzkrieg Veteran. Instead, this latest six-track release travels even further down the road carved out by 2019’s All My Heroes Are Cornballs, offering up smooth crooning and minimalist, almost whispered delivery, barely above the music (and even dropping below it at times). But Peggy’s ambitious flow continues to dazzle with his restless, free-flowing muse, from the airy synths accompanying his declamatory patter on opener “LAST DANCE!” to how closer “FEED HER!” begins by insisting “you alt-right trolls ain’t worthy,” before segueing into a sharp meditation on loss and jealousy. (And yes, there’s an exclamation point in every title.) There are layers to peel back on each track, verses that sound nearly free-associative at first listen before the connections start to reveal themselves. The continuing evolution of the rapper is fascinating to see, and this new wrinkle loses none of the entrancing oddity that has kept his music essential listening. [Alex McLevy]

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Tkay Maidza ft. Yung Baby Tate, “KIM

[4AD/Universal Music Group]

The idea for Tkay Maidza’s explosive track “KIM” stemmed from the recollection of one thoroughly celebrated childhood favorite. “The idea for the song came from Kim Possible, an iconic figure from my childhood—she always came out on top,” the Zimbabwe-born Australian rapper shared in a statement. From there, the track morphed into an anthemic banger about resilience and fortitude. It also provided an opportunity for Tkay to pay tribute to other buoyant Kims in pop culture, like Lil’ Kim and Kim Kardashian. With a little bit of assistance from Georgia party starter Yung Baby Tate and a clanking, garage-style beat, “KIM” settles like a euphonic suit of armor, tough and impenetrable. Pairing the confidence of Tkay’s previous release “Shook” with a zip of fiery vigor, she and Tate manage to carve out a space for themselves among other rising greats with this boisterous, utterly catchy declaration. [Shannon Miller]

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Flight Attendant, “Dogs

[Moraine Music/Membran]

God bless the simplicity of an ascending three-note melody. With the bass providing a classic, driving pulse that exemplifies that appeal of such bare-bones hooks, the Nashville group Flight Attendant proceeds to supply an excellent example of less is more. Building from that foundation, the quintet adds shoegaze-meets-post-punk guitar, with loping, sing-song vocals that erupt into an addictive falsetto in the refrain. “Keep on rising up, just a little longer,” singer Karalyne Winegarner exhorts, with just the right hint of Karen O in her delivery—an anthem for those of us simply trying to keep our heads above water these days. Pushing it into more distinctive territory is the viola, reminiscent of the early-’90s sounds of The Dambuilders while retaining a glammy appeal that is uniquely Flight Attendant. It’s not reinventing the indie-rock wheel, but it sure does remind you how good it feels to roll with it. [Alex McLevy]

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