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 Spotify.
Thome Yorke, Anima
[XL Recordings, June 27]
Being Thom Yorke seems exhausting, and that’s never been more apparent than on the Radiohead frontman’s third solo album. But he always manages to fashion something striking from his malaise, twisting anxiety and claustrophobia into pop hits on some occasions and inventive, challenging mood pieces on others. Anima falls squarely into the latter category, its words and music both scary and chilly. Sussing out where Radiohead ends and Yorke solo begins is pointless in 2019; to the casual fan, any of Anima’s nine songs wouldn’t sound out of place in his main band’s catalog—from the minimal “Last I Heard,” with its curtsy toward techno godfathers Kraftwerk to “I Am A Very Rude Person,” which features some welcome bass guitar in what is otherwise a sea of minimal, clattering electronics. What ties it all together—and stretches it brilliantly toward an emotional breaking point—is Yorke’s outlook: He woke up with a feeling he could not take, if he could “do it all again, big deal, so what,” he needs “a goddamn good reason / Not to jack it all in.” A summertime album this surely isn’t, but add it to the stack of Yorke records to be pored over and picked at until they inevitably reveal something beautiful. But maybe save this one for a time you’re not already feeling down. [Josh Modell]
[Tiny Engines, June 28]
Rock ’n’ roll is at its best when it’s really loud, a little bit messy, and overflowing with righteous anger. Summer Cannibals’ new album Can’t Tell Me No checks all of those defiant boxes, with barbed guitars and steady, stone-faced bass that match the “don’t you fucking tell me to smile” energy of Jessica Boudreaux’s fed-up lyrics. The record’s very existence is a middle finger to creeps and abusers: Can’t Tell Me No was recorded at Boudreaux’s home studio after the band collectively decided to scrap the record they had been working on for more than a year so that, as Boudreaux puts it, “someone abusive and manipulative couldn’t benefit from it.” That willingness to burn it all down fueled the burst of creative energy that became Can’t Tell Me No, and when Boudreaux sings about “standing up to a man who loves the power of abuse as much as he loves you” on album opener “False Anthem,” it connects like an especially satisfying punch to a predator’s jaw. [Katie Rife]
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, Bandana
[Keep Cool/RCA & Madlib Invazion/ESGN, June 28]
“There’s no such thing as a turning point in [Madlib’s] discography—everything coils back in on itself—but Bandana stands out, perhaps owing to its genesis with [Kanye] West. It’s as dusty as you’d expect from Madlib but more widescreen and bombastic, like a grindhouse auteur briefly working with a Hollywood budget. It’s 15 minutes shorter than Piñata but twice as dense, full of deep-in-the-mix flourishes that zip by and lyrical change-ups from [Freddie] Gibbs that unfurl in the span of a single bar. The first record was a grower, gradually establishing itself as one of the great producer-emcee efforts of the young millennium, but Bandana seems designed to dazzle, to assert a joint legacy.” [Clayton Purdom]
Read our featured review of Bandana here.
We’re collecting our A-Sides recommendations over on a Spotify playlist updated every Friday. Tune in and subscribe here.
Gabrielle Marlena, Manners
[Breakstone, June 28]
The genteel “coffeehouse-poet chanteuse” groove-folk genre currently soundtracking family-friendly cafés and elevators around the country actually sounds sharp and fiery again, thanks to Gabrielle Marlena. The arrangements on Manners are instantly familiar—languid grooves, acoustic guitar strums, pulsing electronic keyboards—but the singer-songwriter has managed to locate the compelling heart of this oft-worn sound, investing it with a potent edge of fuck-it bravado and lacerating lyrical wit that rescues it from the pit of sub-Spektor platitudes that doom so many others who attempt this kind music. The seemingly weary longing on tracks like “Anxiety Dreams” and “Manners” is belied by Marlena’s fierce anger and intelligence, turning them into reclamations of identity and anthems of uplift. These six songs cut through the fog of mellow soul and connect in a deeply satisfying way. [Alex McLevy]
Georgia Anne Muldrow, Vweto II
[Mello Music Group, June 21]
Just seven months ago, The A.V. Club named Georgia Anne Muldrow’s Overload one of our favorite albums of 2018. It was a sharp, celebratory statement of love that showcased the L.A. legend’s multifaceted talents as vocalist, songwriter, beatmaker, and more. On the new Vweto II, however, Muldrow is primarily back in the producer’s chair, offering up 16 instrumentals heavy on the funk and the low end (“Mary Lou’s Motherboard,” “When The Fonk Radiates,” but really, take your pick), with only the occasional vocal fragment wafting through (“Bronx Skates”). The focus on the music only serves to emphasize Muldrow’s mastery behind the boards; her tracks are impossibly intimate and rich, at once anchored in her West Coast roots and driven to explore the outer limits of genre. It’d be a blast to hear Muldrow or another skilled vocalist/MC on these songs, but they’re a spiritual experience all their own. [Kelsey J. Waite]