Cigarettes After Sex get extra intimate, Guided By Voices hits heavy, and more

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.


Anna Meredith, FIBS

[Black Prince Fury, October 25]

If electronic pop were battle rap, “Nautilus” would be its “Simon Says,” a juggernaut of brass battalions spoiling for a fight. It propelled Anna Meredith from the contemporary classical to the experimental pop world and stomped out a rough template for Meredith’s 2016 debut, Varmints, which combined nervy boss-fight music and brainy, bracingly direct electro-acoustic composition. Well before it calls back that evil brass on “Bump,” new album FIBS comes in hot with “Sawbones,” where a giant’s harpsichord and an EDM bass riser twist upward in a kind of mad ecstasy. Literally brilliant, almost blinding, Meredith’s music barrels at you, huge, hammering away, yet drenched in soft, subtle colors. The runaway patter of percussive synths and poised art-pop vocals extend the intensity through “Inhale Exhale.” “Calion” offers a minimal-house respite, but only until it goes full Blade Runner after a pretty filthy drop. Meredith just can’t help it; she effuses. Her idiom is one of headlong generation, but with a sophistication befitting someone who writes music on staves. Try it with your favorite 16-bit RPG; you’ll level up so hard. [Brian Howe]

[Self-released, October 18]

Guaranteed Broken Heart is a guaranteed heartbreaker. On queer country heroes Karen & The Sorrows’ third record, there isn’t much room for sunlight. In equal measures, dark, bluegrass-imbued Americana and beautifully polished country—the production often nods to the genre’s ’90s shine—serve as the vessels for songwriter Karen Pittelman to deliver her meditations on love and the loss of it. She tries to make her escape on the winds of the title track’s stormy pedal steel, but it’s to no avail. She gets a little biblical with the bouncy and bruised “Jonah And The Whale,” addresses existential despair on “There You Are,” and conjures fire-and-brimstone vibes on “Your New Life Now.” Buoyed by Pittelman’s dramatic, expressive voice, Guaranteed Broken Heart is rich with the textures of classic twang and writing that will resonate with anyone who needs a little glue to put the pieces of their own ticker back together. [Matt Williams]

Cigarettes After Sex, Cry

[Partisan, October 25]

If Cigarettes After Sex’s eponymous debut made you weak in the knees and gave you the frantic urge to make out, then its follow-up, Cry, will have a similar effect. Written right after the 2017 release of Cigarettes After Sex, Cry shares that album’s dreamy, seductive qualities, plus an even more intimate and tender delivery by vocalist Greg Gonzalez. The lyrics to Cry were written after Gonzalez fell in love, and it shows. In his androgynous voice, he gives you all the sensual compliments your ego could ever need—as well as all the naughty declarations you didn’t know you needed. Admittedly, Cigarettes After Sex songs all mine similar sonic territory, but then there are standouts such as the swooning “Heavenly,” the spine-tingling “You’re The Only Good Thing In My Life,” and the utterly enchanting “Hentai” that are so toe-curling, you might get a foot cramp. [Lily Moayeri]

Steve Hauschildt, Nonlin

[Ghostly International, October 25]

Steve Hauschildt wants to keep you safe—but that doesn’t mean he wants you to feel safe. Nonlin expands on the low-tension jewel-box aesthetic Hauschildt honed to an expert degree on last year’s excellent Dissolvi, allowing him to fire off more jagged sound waves and frequency-busting noise without drifting away from the slant-lit ambient techno the former Emeralds frontman has perfected over the last decade or so. As the title suggests, this is spatial music; the soundscapes here are large, and he lingers patiently over them, drawing in close to examine a feature of the drone-clouded landscape—a quickly dripping arpeggio, a tangle of synth patches—before jetting off to another spot. He flashes flairs of static across the space with the dark impulses that guide Tim Hecker and Ben Frost, but Hauschildt’s violent light comes suddenly and dissipates quickly, like heat lightning in the West Texas desert. The action here follows its own unseeable logic, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of control. [Marty Sartini Garner]

[GBV Inc., October 25]

Guided By Voices’ output since reforming in 2016 has leaned into bandleader Robert Pollard’s love of prog and arena rock, and Sweating The Plague, the hyper-prolific group’s third release of 2019, is no exception. Sweating The Plague has the musical diversity of GBV’s 2017 double album, August By Cake, but in a more focused, harder-hitting rock ’n’ roll package. Kevin March’s drums and Mark Shue’s bass hit heavy and precise throughout the record, giving weight to Pollard’s soaring, off-kilter balladry and tying together the record’s array of guitar sounds, from churning psychedelia to shimmering power pop. It’s the most cohesive statement yet from the latest incarnation of GBV, a solid foundation upon which to build the group’s next 100 albums. In true keeper-of-the-flame style, Sweating The Plague is out now as a physical object; you’ll have to wait another week for the ephemeral digital version. [Katie Rife]

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