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

Saba drops some hot ones and Jenny Hval experiments: 5 new releases we love

Saba (Photo: Cristela Rodriguez) and Jenny Hval and Håvard Volden, a.k.a. Lost Girls (Photo: Lasse Marhaug)
Saba (Photo: Cristela Rodriguez) and Jenny Hval and Håvard Volden, a.k.a. Lost Girls (Photo: Lasse Marhaug)
Image: 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.

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Saba, “Ziplock”/“Rich Don’t Stop

[Saba Pivot, LLC]

Saba has been relatively quiet since releasing his acclaimed sophomore LP back in 2018, coasting on a steady stream of one-off singles, low-stakes collabs, and killer guest verses until he drops his next full-length solo project. The Chicago emcee’s latest releases, “Ziplock” and ”Rich Don’t Stop,” continue that trend—if you were hoping these would be coupled with an official album announcement, you’ll be disappointed—but they also serve as a potent reminder of his strengths as a rapper. He opens “Ziplock” by recounting his journey from poverty (“I come from the part of town not talked about / But chalk get outlined if you blink”) only to express anxiety with his newfound status (“Not to sound ungrateful ’bout the blessings / But my best days are all in my past”). He continues that line of thought on “Rich Don’t Stop,” detailing the emotional toll non-stop pursuit of success takes, but closes with a triumphant declaration (“Got too much to keep it movin’ for / I won’t stop”). It’s not the album we’ve been waiting for, but it’s enough to keep us satiated. [Baraka Kaseko]

Lost Girls, Menneskekollektivet

[Smalltown Supersound]

You don’t need to know there was a deliberate strategy of improvisation and experimentation on Jenny Hval’s new project to feel the thrilling sense of unpredictability and invention at work in the music. Lost Girls, the moniker she and longtime collaborator Håvard Volden have chosen for their latest full-length Menneskekollektivet (Hval’s first since The Practice Of Love, the second-best album of 2019) is an apt name for artists finding their way as they go. Recording for the first time in a studio, the pair explored half-finished ideas from looped drum beats, guitar riffs, and wandering synths, letting inspiration dictate the direction and outcome of each work. The results are compelling: The 12-minute, multi-part title track, alternating from spoken word to repeated vocal melodies; the icy, haunting elegance of “Losing Something,” like a scene from a David Lynch film; the pulsing house beat in “Carried By Invisible Bodies” that slowly dissolves into Hval’s meta reflection on the very concept of fiction; and more. It all adds up to something unmistakably Hval—no one else could, or would, craft an album quite like this. [Alex McLevy]

Fitz, Head Up High

[Elektra]

With Michael Fitzpatrick’s first solo album, Fitz And The Tantrums fans will be pleased to see the lead singer step confidently out on his own while still holding on to the essence of what we love and have come to expect from his “Moneygrabber” and “HandClap” group. That balance of old and new is on full display with Head Up High’s title track, which incorporates the Tantrums’ signature horns and energy while infusing a bit of acoustic guitar. Other songs stray further from Fitzpatrick’s past work—like the dreamy “Still Cool,” perfect for a moonlit drive along the coast, and the R&B-tinged “Slow Down”—while a few could be unreleased Tantrums recordings. All 14 feel-good tracks are meant to put a smile on your face (there’s literally a song titled “Congratulations”), but Fitzpatrick seems to have the most fun with the massively produced “Spaceman,” which features an impressive sample of Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” [Patrick Gomez]

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Noga Erez, Kids

[City Slang]

The lush, slinky musical landscape Noga Erez and her musical partner Ori Rousso craft on sophomore album Kids is a fascinating mix of styles. Tracks can range from sugar-rush head-boppers to disaffected cabaret electro-pop to understated grooves à la Billie Eilish, without missing a beat. The cohesion is thanks to Erez and her honeyed vocals; the Israeli artist can shift from cool, honeyed purring to spitting rhythmic barks with elan. Like M.I.A. with a penchant for arena-ready grime, there’s a strong predilection for pop hooks and stuttering beats, but Erez’s focus on fusing the intimately interpersonal with the internationally provocative makes her lyrical couplets work on two levels simultaneously—both saucy wordplay and resonant confessional. It’s engaging and surprising in equal measure: The echoing line “spit in my face” from “Story” seems to dissolve the song into spare, brutal minimalism, before unexpectedly erupting into anthemic catharsis. Noga Erez takes the kitchen-sink pop approach of Gorillaz and does it one better. [Alex McLevy]

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Floatie, Voyage Out

[Exploding In Sound]

Math rock rarely sounds as carefree and ebullient as it gets on Voyage Out, the debut album from Chicago four-piece Floatie. Despite heavy, introspective lyrics that grapple—sometimes explicitly, and painfully so—with identity, gender, and the daily struggle to exist in one’s own skin, the ever-shifting time signatures and complex arrangements never feel too weighty or portentous. If anything, there’s an airiness to the instrumentation, an element of dreamy shoegaze that radiates outward rather than creating the dense insularity that so much of this genre demands. There’s a degree of late ’90s post-rock to the proceedings, with some tracks recalling the work of antecedents like Weights And Measures or June Of 44. But mostly, the band eschews aping these musical forebears, choosing instead to locate a uniquely charming and lo-fi approach to the music, whether in the space between riffs on “Shiny” or the sneaky shift from frenetic to languid on the title track. There are a few missteps and sections that don’t quite cohere, but overall it’s an immensely appealing record, a grand calling card for an intriguing new band. [Alex McLevy]

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