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

Wild Pink’s majestic new record, and Chung Ha’s audacious debut: 5 new releases we love

Wild Pink’s John Ross (Photo: Mitchell Wojcik); Chung Ha (Photo: MNH Entertainment)
Wild Pink’s John Ross (Photo: Mitchell Wojcik); Chung Ha (Photo: MNH Entertainment)

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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Wild Pink, A Billion Little Lights

[Royal Mountain Records]

It seems Wild Pink got tired of waiting for the world to notice its outsized appeal, so the band just went ahead and made a record spacious and ambitious enough to justify any hyperbole about its newfound skill for Wilco-level masterworks. John Ross passed the baton to a host of guests and session players to fill in the dazzling arrangements and intricate melodic pathways, the better to map out a collection of songs that finds his earnest, pure voice carrying the art-damaged Americana of the music in new directions. It’s evident in the Broken Social Scene bombast of “Amalfi” how the album demonstrates a leveling up of both beauty and bravado, while retaining the Communist Daughter-like folk vibes of “Bigger Than Christmas.” It continues in a similar manner, alternating styles while never losing the hushed intimacy of Ross’ sensibilities, even when indulging straight-up ’80s Brit-pop like “The Shining But Tropical.” And after the pained confessions of “You Can Have It Back” and album closer “Die Outside,” the results are clear: Wild Pink is ready to roam bigger pastures. [Alex McLevy]

Chung Ha, Querencia

[88Rising]

For years, Chung Ha has firmly planted her flag in the Korean pop landscape, both as a girl-group veteran and a solo artist. Her long-awaited debut album, Querencia, is a revealing stroll through a few genres—pop, dance, and indie rock, primarily. Tracks like “X,” an electric-driven ballad, and “Dream Of You,” a sultry, English-language disco break, feel like they’re worlds apart, yet they similarly showcase her readiness to test the boundaries of her own artistry. The Texan doesn’t shy away from international influences either: Afro-Latin beats underscore “Demente,” her collaboration with Puerto Rican rapper Guaynaa. Of all the entries, “Byulharang,” a vulnerable, sway-worthy dedication to her fans that glides on crisp vocals and gentle strums of an acoustic guitar, might be the most meaningful; the day that it dropped, Chung Ha revealed that Querencia was inspired by her experience with therapy. It’s a fitting comparison: In many ways, this 21-song debut serves as her safe space, a way to reveal more shades and tones of the polished artist who has been an industry standout since her solo debut four years ago. This time, she’s getting more personal—in a thoroughly lovely fashion. [Shannon Miller]

Lael Neale, Acquainted With Night

[Sub Pop]

As long as we’re indulging in nostalgia for the dying days of the old millennium, won’t you please spare a thought for lo-fi bedroom pop? Born in the liminal space between handmade cassette tapes and demos uploaded on MySpace, DIY four-track recordings featuring unadorned vocals over tinny drum machines and expansive analog hiss became their own genre in the mid- to late-’90s. That aesthetic of introverts murmuring into microphones returns as spare and exquisitely kitschy as ever on Lael Neale’s Sub Pop debut, Acquainted With Night. For many, making a record in your room alone with a synthesizer—Neale’s is an Omnichord, an ’80s relic known for its harplike timbre and resemblance to a keytar—is a first step, a compromise made out of necessity. For Neale, it’s a deliberate musical choice, one she made after multiple attempts to record her compositions with a full band. Stripped of the excess weight of drums, bass, and guitar, songs like the title track and lead single “Every Star Shivers In The Dark” take on an almost sacred quality, pure and intimate as a whispered prayer as they float up to heaven on a cloud of droning keyboards. [Katie Rife]

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Florida Georgia Line, Life Rolls On

[BMLG]

“I like pop, and rock, and rap / I like Skynyrd,” Florida Georgia Line sings on “I Love My Country,” the lead single off their fifth studio album. That fusion of genre is exactly what made them crossover stars with 2012’s record-breaking “Cruise” and 2017’s “Meant To Be.” Life Rolls On is a much more conventional country album by FLG standards, but for every generic party anthem like opener “Long Live” (on which it’s declared, “Long live the Walmart parking lot / Turning to thе midnight party spot”), there’s also moments where Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley throw things for a loop—one that Kenny Chesney would never venture to pull off. These diversions from the “bro-country” party anthems mainly occur on slower tracks like “Countryside” and “Hard To Get To Heaven,” which—aside from the thick twang—both sound one recording session away from being a Post Malone B-side. But not all of FLG’s successes require breaking Nashville norms: Straightforward love song “Long Time Comin’” is a prime example of how to please country fans of all stripes. [Patrick Gomez]

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Edie Brickell And New Bohemians, Hunter And The Dog Star

[Thirty Tigers]

Even just a few years ago, if you had told this critic they would be describing a new Edie Brickell And New Bohemians album as “kind of a banger,” you would have been laughed at. And yet, here we are: Hunter And The Dog Star is joyously, infectiously loose—a record filled with the kind of playful insouciance toward genres and tones that makes it a delight to hear, start to finish. Whether it’s the bouncy Stevie Wonder grooves of “Don’t Get In The Bed Dirty” or the Three Dog Night-like rhythm section drive of “Stubborn Love,” there’s an immediacy and urgency to the songs that keep the album from ever feeling weighted down or dated. Even a loping ballad like “I Found You,” with its fey paean to love, comes across more endearing than trite. By the time the group’s Toto-meets-Regina Spektor anthem “My Power” closes things out, you won’t want the party to stop. What a terrific reminder to never count Brickell and company out. [Alex McLevy]

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