Sublime: 40oz. to Freedom

Most Sublime fans have only ever known Bradley Nowell as a ghost. The frontman overdosed in a motel just two months before his band’s self-titled blockbuster 1996 album, never living to witness its impact. And so, tasked with promoting a cheery, summertime record now indelibly associated with death, Sublime’s label MCA and imprint Gasoline Alley…

Hailu Mergia: Lala Belu

Before setting foot in America, Hailu Mergia and the Walias Band had already spent a decade leading revolutionary Ethiopia’s nightclub scene. With raucous sets blending funk, traditional music, and prototypical Ethio-jazz, they played to upper-crust crowds in white tuxes and bowties, at hotels that swerved the country’s strict curfew with all-night lock-ins. But local acclaim…

Nipsey Hussle: Victory Lap

It’s taken Los Angeles MC Nipsey Hussle longer than most to create his moment. The seasoned mixtape veteran has been on the indie-rap circuit for almost a decade and was once touted as a future star. When fame didn’t come, he made his own seat at the table, infamously selling copies of his Crenshaw tape…

Johanna Warren: Gemini II

Johanna Warren sometimes seems like a psychic medium moonlighting as a songwriter. The Portland native makes dreamy folk music that sparkles and sprawls with new age flourishes and crystal shop percussion, inspired by tarot cards, metaphysics, and the monastic teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. Even beyond her recorded work, Warren comes off like a person…

Moneybagg Yo: 2 Heartless

Memphis rapper Moneybagg Yo’s voice falls somewhere between the monotone largesse of his mentor, Yo Gotti, and the watery warble of Kevin Gates. It’s a voice that, at first listen, is unremarkable, but, after a few songs, reveals its humor and dexterity like a magic trick. Like his voice, Moneybagg himself is a revelation hiding…

Tyga: Kyoto

Tyga is preposterous. He’s a platonic doofus, a happy-go-lucky heel, and a distillation of Los Angeles’ most garish impulses. The canary-yellow Lamborghini shrieking through red lights on Sunset Boulevard? That’s Tyga. A pseudo-pensive pose on the glass-ringed balcony of a rented Hollywood Hills mansion, Instagram captioned: “it took alot of grindin to get here”? That’s…

Kodak Black: Heart Break Kodak

Kodak Black stands accused of sexual assault. It’s an inconvenient truth, but it’s the lens he invites when he releases a so-called R&B album on Valentine’s Day. Over the course of 17 tracks, the Florida rapper grants entry into his troubled affairs with women through a combination of crooned love letters and woeful screeds. But…

Loma: Loma

On paper, the creative marriage of Shearwater and Cross Record doesn’t necessarily sound like the most productive union. Shearwater, the indie-rock band led by Jonathan Meiburg over the last two decades, favor big moments and dramatic sweeps where Meiburg’s expressive voice can leap and pirouette from chord to chord. Cross Record prefer subtler execution, letting…

Belle and Sebastian: How to Solve Our Human Problems, Pt. 3

On the first two editions of their EP trilogy, How to Solve Our Human Problems, Belle and Sebastian catalogued all manner of psychological stressors, from the fear of aging into irrelevance (“Sweet Dew Lee”) to parental pressures (“I’ll Be Your Pilot”) to soul-crushing despair over the state of the world (“The Girl Doesn’t Get It”)….

Wild Beasts: Last Night All My Dreams Came True

From the beginning, Wild Beasts’ music has been a story of two voices. At the forefront was Hayden Thorpe, with a falsetto that sounded like a punchline, swerving between low, horny grunts and operatic trills. In 2009, when he described a scene “equally elegant and ugly” in a song called “Hooting and Howling,” it was…

Mach-Hommy: Bulletproof Luh

Mach-Hommy thinks a lot about what his labor is worth. Very little of the Newark MC’s music is available online, and the physical editions are always limited. His last project, the seven-track EP Fete Des Morts AKA Dia De Los Muertos, mostly produced by Earl Sweatshirt, costs $111.11 to download on Bandcamp. If you don’t…

Ride: Tomorrow’s Shore EP

In a 1990 interview with the long-defunct UK music program Rapido, a very young Ride can be seen talking about what young indie bands tend to talk about: their favorite groups from their scene. It’s a typical list of anorak icons including My Bloody Valentine, the House of Love, and the Wedding Present. Bassist Steve…

Ought: Room Inside the World

The best songs from Montreal post-punk band Ought contain the rapture of humble truths you might chance upon while spacing out on the subway, staring at the stars, or communing with a cup of coffee. “I am no longer afraid to die because that is all that I have left,” singer Tim Darcy posited on…

American Pleasure Club: A Whole Fucking Lifetime of This

Sam Ray seems relatively happy. He’s married, knows some cute dogs, had a lovely little Christmas. And the oldest of the prolific Baltimore musician’s three core projects has changed its name, from Teen Suicide to American Pleasure Club—maybe not quite a 180 degree turn, but at least a hard 90. Earlier this month, in a…

Bell & Sebastian: The Boy With the Arab Strap

Stuart Murdoch spent the heart of his 20s suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, engaging his intellect with music, film, and literature while daydreaming about being in a band. Indoors and alone for seven years from the end of the ’80s into the early ’90s in his native Scotland, he found comfort in piano and guitar…

Brandi Carlile: By the Way, I Forgive You

One of Brandi Carlile’s strongest points, to her admirers, is her ease with the tonal switch, moving abruptly from honing pin-sharp details at full volume to whispering evocative commonplaces. There’s a similar quality in her relationship to genre: Her deft straddling of country and folk suggests Americana, but Carlile is too restless for that. After…

Fischerspooner: Sir

It’s 2018 and Fischerspooner have returned after a nine-year absence as an in-studio supergroup. Sure, why not? The group began as the performance-art project of frontman Casey Spooner and co-writer/producer Warren Fischer before finding surprising success as electroclash’s signature act. That genre’s celebration of artifice, coupled with the suspicion that it was all an art-school…

Mark Renner: Few Traces

The name Mark Renner has been on the lips of the Baltimore fringes for decades. In the early 2000s, I heard whispers of a lone wolf artist from the county who made music like Ultravox and Cocteau Twins circulating through at least one Charm City house party. Awareness of his existence was a sort of…

Alva Noto/Ryuichi Sakamoto: Glass

A third of the way into his 2017 comeback album, async—Ryuichi Sakamoto’s first solo album in eight years and his first since recovering from throat cancer—a rustling noise arises on “Walker.” It’s a hushed, uncanny piece, full of faraway electric drones mixed with a much closer and more personal sound, of leaves crunching underfoot. It’s…

Car Seat Headrest: Twin Fantasy

With his band Car Seat Headrest, Will Toledo has constructed the perfect vehicle for his obsessions. Since its inception in 2010, it’s become a highly referential project with a series of related album titles (2015’s Teens of Style preceded 2016’s Teens of Denial) and nods to other songs and bands from the Cars to Modest…

Songs: Ohia: Travels in Constants EP

Jason Molina’s prolificacy is at once extraordinary and anxiety-inducing. The leader of Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. created an immense and unexampled body of work in his 39 years, teeming with an assemblage of images drawn from nature, travel, his relationships, and his experiences as a boy on the banks of Lake Erie—the moons,…

Zaki Ibrahim: The Secret Life of Planets

The most pernicious lies about Canadian culture—that it is fledgling, subpar, or one-note—are self-generated. A month ago, I read a 1964 short story where the late novelist Mavis Gallant describes a photo of an expat family taken on a “Canadian-looking lawn.” It takes skill to make something as dull a patch of grass seem even…

Poliça/ s t a r g a z e: Music for the Long Emergency

You have to admire Poliça’s willingness to break their own mold. In 2016, with two albums’ worth of hazy breakup songs under their belts, the Minneapolis five-piece abruptly pivoted into political consciousness and traded some of their rock instincts in for a smattering of pop motifs. The resulting album, United Crushers, faltered at times, but…

Hovvdy: Cranberry

If there’s anything you’re nostalgic for, Hovvdy’s second album, Cranberry, is likely to dredge it up. It’s not that the Austin duo invokes a particular time or place—Will Taylor and Charlie Martin aren’t revivalists, and they don’t seem to hold any sentiment for a mythical suburban teenhood. It’s more that their music simulates the mysterious…

Anenon: Tongue

Brian Allen Simon’s Anenon project has slowly grown out from the electronic beat-scene into the freewheeling modern classical universe, taking cues from every crevice of experimental music in the process. The bookends of this progression, 2012’s Inner Hue and 2016’s breakout Petrol, act as counterweights within Anenon’s discography. Petrol is a culmination, a study in…