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

The Notwist’s new opus, Epik High’s bangers, and Ohtis’ must-hear single: 5 new releases we love

Epik High (Screenshots: YouTube)
Epik High (Screenshots: YouTube)
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.

Advertisement

You can check out our featured review of Weezer’s OK Human from earlier this week, as well.


Epik High, Epik High Is Here 上 , Pt. 1

[OURS Co.]

Epik High Is Here might sound like the title of a nascent group’s wide-eyed debut, but veteran Korean alt hip-hop outfit Epik High has been making music since 2001. The first part of the tenth studio album from Tablo, Mithra Jin, and DJ Tukutz continues their penchant for genre-warping bangers, deep introspection, and blessed collaborations with some of the most notable Korean artists in the industry. The 10-track effort’s greatest example of this is the Latin-infused leading single “Rosario.” Enlisting the star power of pop firestarter CL and rapper Zico proves to be an inspired move as both descend upon the mellow beat, matching the unwavering confidence of a group that correctly boasts of “[paving] the way for everyone that is paving the way.” The rest of the album cleverly borrows elements from EDM (Miso collaboration “True Crime”), ’90s-era hip-hop (“Acceptance Speech,” featuring former iKon leader B.I), and pop, courtesy of dreamy piano ballad “Based On A True Story” with singer-songwriter Heize. But for the all the genre-hopping it does, Epik High Is Here 上 , Pt. 1 is neatly connected by Epik High’s tireless verve and complex lyricism. [Shannon Miller]

The Notwist, Vertigo Days

[Morr Music]

Almost five years has passed since the victory lap that was The Notwist’s live album, to say nothing of its last proper studio release. But true to form, the restlessly creative German indie act sounds both wholly like itself and strangely evolved: The droning melodies and steady rhythms are there, right alongside the pop melodies and electronic flourishes (“Where You Find Me”) and quiet, lovely ballads (“Loose Ends”). But there’s also world music and Four Tet-like infusions of style on tracks like “Oh Sweet Fire” (courtesy of American genre-smasher Ben LaMar Gay), as the band welcomes a multinational array of guest artists. Few groups have proven themselves as adept at fusing the organic and inorganic elements of their sound—you could rightly call them either an old-school groove-rock band with electronic elements or vice versa—and with Vertigo Days, the Notwist again effortlessly blend the synths and samples into its Can-like rhythms and entrancing, hypnotic pulses. It’s rare to hear such expert balancing of styles, expressed with such languid, occasionally icy, beauty. [Alex McLevy]

Xiu Xiu (featuring Grouper’s Liz Harris), “A Bottle Of Rum”

[Polyvinyl]

Xiu Xiu’s style of vicious, black-hearted pop often sounds as if it were born in the darkness of a dark, isolated room. It’s refreshing, then, to see acidic frontman Jamie Stewart open his arms, if only slightly, on OH NO, an album of duets featuring Sharon Van Etten, Owen Pallett, Chelsea Wolfe, and Liz Harris. The latter’s delicate vocals, so spectral in her work as Grouper, intertwine with Stewart’s vampiric croon on lead single “A Bottle Of Rum,” a melodic and layered cut that shapes its harsh textures into something heavenly. Textures abound in these three packed minutes—acoustic strums, metallic chimes, clanging cymbals—allowing each listen to yield new discoveries. [Randall Colburn]

Advertisement

Terry Gross, Soft Opening

[Thrill Jockey]

It’s been too long since we’ve heard Trans Am’s Phil Manley strap on a guitar. Happily, his new group Terry Gross is here to fix that. The band sounds like a natural evolution of the oft-instrumental rock odysseys that made up a significant portion of his previous band, but there’s a commitment here to no-frills rock adventurism that makes Soft Opening a decidedly all-killer, no-filler affair. Fusing together elements of groove-heavy krautrock, pummeling hard rock, and expansive psychedelic jams, the record hits hard without ever feeling like it’s devolving into noise for noise’s sake. There are only three tracks, but 19-minute-plus opener “Space Voyage Mission” is essentially three or four songs in one, moving from Can-like rhythms to Melvins-esque pounding without missing a beat. “Worm Gear” is similarly ambitious, before closer “Specificity (Or What Have You)” creates the power trio’s version of a pop song, only six minutes long with some dreamlike vocal melodies laid atop the fiery yet occasionally shoegaze-inflected riffs. You probably already know if you’ll like this—and the answer is yes, you will. [Alex McLevy]

Advertisement

Ohtis, “Schatze (ft. Stef Chura)

[Saddle Creek]

It’s rare to get a genuine call-and-response song these days—and rarer still to discover one as gleefully, bracingly direct as this. Ohtis’ “Schatze,” the latest single from Saddle Creek’s ongoing Document series, is a frank and funny dive into the frustrations of dealing with your average entitled prick of a guy, as exemplified by guest vocalist Stef Chura’s exasperated “Fuck you very much, sir” refrain to singer-songwriter Sam Swinson’s matter-of-fact confessions of shitty behavior—with no plans to change his ways. Musically, it’s a Grandaddy-esque, fuzzed-out throb of a post-punk beat, the steadily pulsing bass making it a kiss-off song you can dance to, even as you picture the indie kids swaying in place, nodding out to the cathartic relief of the descending synth line. Even the guitar “solo” feels of a piece with the song’s mindset, more a mockery than a meaningful attempt at something sincere, as though reinforcing the attitude of someone with no incentive to try. Funny, catchy, and hummable as hell, it’s exactly what a single should be—an indelible statement of purpose, with Ohtis’ simple declaration, “Look how compelling we can be in only three minutes. Just wait ’til the next record.” [Alex McLevy]

Advertisement