Gothenburg circus metallers Avatar have always toyed with eclectic sounds while keeping things unmistakably on brand. But just when it feels like there’s nothing left to explore, their ninth studio album pulls them in new and surprising directions. It’s a breathless assault on the senses, jam packed with creativity and variety, with riffs and hooks for days.
Harris’s sophomore effort marks a bold step forward for this country-folk-leaning singer-songwriter. It is an arresting, ambitious song-cycle that explores the generational arc of family, the stranglehold of addiction, and the fragile ties that bind us together as Americans. This is a record that understands that love and grief are two sides of the same coin.
Kelela emerges from the tides of her higher self’s oceanic orbit with a fifteen-track, continuous play LP exploring autonomy, belonging and self-renewal as healing. With all the sonic, visual, and physical sensualism that magnetized her early core fanbase, Kelela’s new album finds her more certain and at ease with her creative fluidity’s exceptionality, no matter how high or wide its waves.
Andy Shauf’s songs unfold like short fiction: they’re densely layered with colorful characters and a rich emotional depth. On his new album, Shauf’s songwriting veers decidedly more oblique, hinting at sinister happenings and dark motivations. The result: an intoxicating collection of mellifluous melodies and levitating synth-laden atmospherics driven by Shauf’s beguiling lyrics and storytelling.
All of This is Chance is full of both cinematic orchestral masterpieces as well as stirring meditations on nature, birds, berries, bees, and blood that ring out over a clacking banjo, dusting and devastating all those in its wake. It takes O’neill’s – one of the most evocative songwriters in contemporary Irish music today – inimitable voice to greater heights, or depths, depending on which way you look at it.
Striking a nerve with pop-punk fans once more, Paramore’s return to music is as surprising as their decision to shy away from the anthemic style their previous release offered. This Is Why shows the band are much deeper than their 2017 album would give them credit. A dance-punk revival meets with great artistic growth on tracks full of great lyrical work, fits of biting anger found not just in its energetic wordplay but in its pacing and tone.
Here are two artists at their prime, each a human library of musical knowledge and experience, entirely distinctive in their songcraft and sound. Janet Weiss' galloping drums and Sam Coome's punk-symphonic Rocksichord and their intertwining vocals make something gigantic, anthemic. Exquisitely melodic songs that glitter with rage and wild humor and intelligence, driven by a big bruised pounding heart.
In the personal reflections on loss of innocence and inferiority, Benjamin Woods spins interweaving narratives about survival, desperate acts of violence and the limitations of community in the face of gentrification. It’s grounded by Woods’ deep voice as he delivers the sort of meticulously written lunar wisdom worthy of Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner, or the tidy yet revelatory moans of Silver Jews’ David Berman.
Fuzzy, linear jams punctuated by spasmodic guitar freakouts; wistful indie-pop tunes that sound like they’re being whispered; an oddly poignant polaroid of suburbia at night. This is familiar YLT territory, but that’s no complaint. It’s their most exciting, most engaged, most breathtaking album this century. The longer the trio resist the lure of the obvious chorus, the more valuable they become.
Katherine Paul aka Black Belt Eagle Scout continues to develop her take on indie dreampop, which is infused rather than overloaded with her unique perspective as a queer Native American raised on the Swinomish reservation in Washington state. The album rises and falls, in darkness and in light, but even in its most melancholy moments it is never despairing. That is the beauty of returning home.
Indie-pop band Tennis’s enduringly twee and lovelorn songs play as bleary homages to the sounds from the 1960s to the ’80s, drawing a connection between nostalgia and the naďveté of young love. On their sixth studio effort, husband-and-wife duo Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley take one step closer to the present by interspersing their 20th-century callbacks with nods to turn-of-the-millennium pop-rock.