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

There’s a reason Cheap Trick are legends: 5 new releases we love

Cheap Trick
Cheap Trick
Photo: David McClister

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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Cheap Trick, In Another World

[BMG] 

With the group’s 20th studio album, Cheap Trick (est. 1974) seems determined to prove that age really is nothing but a number. A few years in the making, In Another World is a triumphant blast, 13 cuts displaying a classic rock band that would never even consider slowing down. The glorious “The Summer Looks Good On You” should be the world’s post-pandemic anthem, “Here’s Looking At You” unearths the punk-rock riffs that date back to Cheap Trick’s earliest days, and the band even cheekily offers two versions of the catchy title track. The real surprises here, though, are the slower offerings: “So It Goes” is a mournful look back at a faded romance, while “I’ll See You Again” is a grief-filled goodbye to a friend. Trick novices should still start out with 1977’s exemplary In Color, but longtime fans will appreciate how much their favorite band still has to offer (as well as the inevitable tour following this release). [Gwen Ihnat]

Esperanza Spalding, TRIANGLE

[Concord]

TRIANGLE feels like a minor revelation. Even for those well-acquainted with Esperanza Spalding’s ever-expanding passion for exploring the boundaries of jazz with her restless creative muse, this new three-song release hits like an unexpectedly gentle catharsis. It’s the debut release from Spalding’s new Songwrights Apothecary Lab website, meant not only to incorporate therapeutic practices and knowledge into her own musicianship, but also to serve as a tool for other artists as well. To that end, “formwela 1-3” are all arranged toward different ends: The first seeks to move the listener to “self-soothe during acute moments of stress”; the second, as background music in a space to help de-escalate aggression; and the last, to help re-ground the listener after a difficult moment. The spare yet operatic sounds feel like a dialogue with other Black jazz artists through time who have sought the medium’s healing potential, but the results, lush and meditative, speak for themselves. [Alex McLevy]

The Living Pins, Freaky Little Monster Children

[Self-released]

Last spotted on stage together in 1996, Austin duo The Living Pins have reunited on a mission to remind the city what being weird is all about. (In the meantime, frontwoman Carrie Clark served as a member of the alt-rock four-piece Sixteen Deluxe, while guitarist and bassist Pam Peltz has built a career as a photographer and music producer.) The pair’s reunion EP, Freaky Little Monster Children, was born in exquisitely scrappy fashion, recorded late at night in the empty lobby of an artists’ collective. And the sound of this four-song set—equal parts sinister and sunny, with a knack for sinewy guitar riffs—has a rough edge to it as well. The Living Pins filter ’60s psychedelic grooves through the more straightforward sensibilities of ’90s alt-rock, a combination that’s both accessible and impossibly cool. Hearing Clark and Peltz harmonize over the garage-rock strut of opener “Raven,” or the sweet pop-rock hooks of “Jaguar,” you can see why Kim Deal of The Breeders counts herself as a fan. [Katie Rife]

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Milly, Wish Goes On

[Dangerbird Records]

“Teach Old Dogs New Tricks” is the name of the fourth track of Milly’s new EP, but it could easily double as a musical statement of purpose from this band, which has taken some well-worn sounds of mid-’90s indie rock and made them sound thrillingly, unexpectedly alive again. Borrowing from the thick, heavily distorted vibe of grungy American shoegaze like Catherine, and wedding it to slowcore rhythms of the time (think Rex, Codeine, or the more dreamy of the Chicago post-rock acts), the group fuses these styles with a distinctively modern ennui, thanks to the lovely, searching lyrics from singer Brendan Dyer, whose understated drawl makes for a perfect accompaniment to the catch-and-release musical tension. “You eyes, like your smile / It’s fucking with my life,” he sings on “Denial,” a great blend of rolling, Buffalo Tom-like jangle and spare, strummy intensity. Each of the songs fits like a puzzle piece with the others, creating a coherent whole that nonetheless erupts into singular moments of expansive, blissful beauty. [Alex McLevy]

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Wallice, “Hey Michael

[AWAL]

Bedroom pop rarely comes in as sardonic and incisive a flavor as Wallice’s “Hey Michael,” the kind of expertly delivered kiss-off of a song that takes the knowing tropes of a revenge anthem and reworks them to remind the listener that sometimes the person taking revenge isn’t exactly innocent. Over a burbling, slightly distorted beat, in which guitars and indie-rock riffs do battle with distant synths, the musician castigates the object of her scorn (“You don’t gotta say you like Pulp Fiction, I already know”), before revealing a less-than-ideal side to her narrator (“I think I wanna start a fight, which one is your girlfriend?”). It’s smart and slick in equal measure, and the unabashed nods to a more rock ’n’ roll spirit help the song rise among so many of its more laconic competitors. Her debut EP is still forthcoming, but already the artist is an exciting new voice with a gift for more electric, intense pop, and a voice that exudes the quiet cool of a Soccer Mommy at the punk show. [Alex McLevy]

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