The Chills: Snow Bound

A happy man is a platitudinous man. In his sixth decade, the Chills’ Martin Phillipps sounds this note of wary optimism. “Even bad sugar makes bitter taste sweet” goes the first chorus of Snow Bound, his classic New Zealand pop band’s sixth album in thirty years, barely a minute in. The same songwriter who penned…

Joyce Manor: Million Dollars to Kill Me

Even in the surprisingly experimental context of recent emo-leaning indie rock, Joyce Manor have always depended upon an impressive versatility. An accelerated, bashing cover of the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” served as the theoretical centerpiece of 2012’s Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired, while the band’s 2014 breakthrough, Never Hungover Again,…

Bun B: Return of the Trill

In the decade since the death of Bun B’s UGK partner and best friend, Pimp C, hip-hop’s A-list has handled him like a widowed, respected elder. They sat Shiva with him to share his grief, subsequently turning out in droves for his solo projects and to memorialize Pimp C and preach UGK’s greatness. But they…

6LACK: East Atlanta Love Letter

Do you remember the Weeknd? I’m not talking about the neon-painted Starboy seen collecting Grammys from Ariana Grande, jumping on collaborations with Ed Sheeran, whose songs are parodied by Stevie Wonder. I mean the strange figure who emerged in the early sparks of this century with a dazzling set of cold-as-ice mixtapes that desperately depicted…

Dave Rempis / Tomeka Reid / Joshua Abrams: Ithra

If you wanted to distill the last three decades of Chicago jazz down to a single disc, you could do worse than Ithra, a meeting of three formidable players on the scene: saxophonist Dave Rempis, cellist Tomeka Reid, and bassist Joshua Abrams. The tendons that connect the city’s jazz community to post-rock, folk, electronic music,…

Jungle: For Ever

The British soul collective Jungle wear their second-hand influences with pride. They come about disco by way of Disclosure, Marvin Gaye by way of Pharrell, and Sly and the Family Stone by way of Portugal. The Man. With less industry savvy they might just be a wedding band that does a mean “Get Lucky,” but…

Emma Louise: Lilac Everything

Emma Louise’s enchanting new album Lilac Everything is the product of a handful of successful gambles. The Australian singer-songwriter tried to break herself out of a funk by booking an impulsive flight from Melbourne to Mexico, where she found the inspiration she needed to write most of Lilac Everything. She sent a cold pitch with…

Noname: Room 25

If Noname’s 2016 debut Telefone was the musings of a young woman trying to write her way into a sense of place and self, then Room 25 is the blazing soliloquy that spills out after putting the pen down to live a life. Almost immediately, we’re met with one of the greatest lines of the…

Jóhann Jóhannsson: Mandy (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Film composers don’t always get to decide what their final score will be, whether it will constitute a career-capping classic or just another paycheck. While Bernard Herrmann finished the mournful saxophone score for Taxi Driver just hours before his death, the last entry in Henry Mancini’s mighty filmography is the best-forgotten Son of Pink Panther….

The Goon Sax: We’re Not Talking

Speak-singing is the enemy of strict choirmasters and the refuge of wannabe frontpersons too nervous to sing for real. Formally known as sprechgesang, a German word coined in the 1900s to describe the expressionist vocal technique used in operas, speak-singing has since shown up in practically every genre of popular music. And no matter how…

Orbital: Monsters Exist

Take a second to reflect on how remarkable Orbital’s initial run was. Since the British duo of Phil and Paul Hartnoll first put the eternal “Chime” to tape using their father’s cassette deck in 1988, the brothers spent the 1990s establishing themselves as one of the rave era’s most masterful dance teams, casually crafting side-long…

Gazelle Twin: Pastoral

In Kingdom Come, the final novel by the late British sci-fi author JG Ballard, the London suburbs fall under the spell of fascism. This isn’t the old-school fascism—born from the street, or the ballot box—but the product from a new and unexpected source: that cathedral to consumerism, the shopping mall. On its release in 2006,…

PJ Harvey: Rid of Me

On September 24, 1993, Polly Jean Harvey made her “Tonight Show” debut with a peculiar solo performance of the title track from her second album, Rid of Me. Her black hair looked crunchy and wet, so shellacked with product it gleamed. Sloppy streaks of raspberry lip liner ringed her mouth, and thick brows framed eyes…

Seinabo Sey: I’m a Dream

Released in 2014, Seinabo Sey’s “Younger” was one of those hits that bubble up every week or so from the cauldron of PR and algorithms, but it was one of the good ones. The gimmick that got it streaming was clear—the singsong pitch-warping on Sey’s repeated “younger”s—but what made it work as a song were…

Guerilla Toss: Twisted Crystal

Since their formation in 2010, Guerilla Toss have maintained an appealing mix of hyperactive exuberance and sonic innovation. From their dance-punk palette to their homages to LSD, the New York-based quintet’s outré energy seems to grow with each new project. Their uncanny and otherworldly instrumental concoctions complement their uncanny and otherworldly themes, whether they’re singing…

Sarah Davachi: Gave in Rest

Something unexpected happens almost exactly one minute into “Auster,” the opening track on Sarah Davachi’s Gave in Rest: The song goes silent. It happens abruptly, as though someone has hit the pause button on the Canadian composer’s dial-tone drone. Then, after a few soundless seconds, the tone cluster springs back to life, except deeper and…

Dilly Dally: Heaven

In 2009, when high school pals Kate Monks and Liz Ball moved to Toronto to chase their rock’n’roll dreams, they got identical Dilly Dally tattoos even before properly starting the band. “The artist was like, ‘I really don’t think you should get these tattoos,’” Monks recently recalled in an interview. “And we were like, ‘We’re…

Spiral Quartet: Voodoo Magic

Is there any practice likelier to strike fear into the heart of the right-thinking music fan than the jam session? True, there have been bands—Can are a notable example—that have turned their improvisational nous into wonderfully adventurous music with the benefit of strict editing. But for most musicians outside the actual jam-band scene—jazz players excepted,…

Slowthai: RUNT EP

Kids in Northampton used to call Tyron Frampton “Slow Ty” because he’d zone out and float away into an observational bubble. He slurred his words, too. Through his music as Slowthai—a rap name that repurposes and reclaims the nickname—you get the sense he’s fed up with being seen and not heard. His verses shoot out…

Kilo Kish: Mothe EP

One of the key tricks that video game designers use to facilitate immersion is to beautify lag. Using a range of visual and audio cues, games fill gaps in play with skeletal but engrossing ephemera: animations, jingles, loading screens. These transitional sequences are virtually never the highlight of playing a game, but they epitomize the…

G Perico: Guess What? EP

”Shit goin’ better than ever,” G Perico barks giddily on the a cappella intro before running down all the ways they are. It’s an oddly inelegant way for a G Perico project to begin, considering how his music typically speaks for itself. He’s usually a bristling, unflappable OG who answers to no one. Yet after…

Amnesia Scanner: Another Life

The Berlin experimental duo Amnesia Scanner renders club music as pure chaos, but producers Ville Haimala and Martti Kalliala are just as interested in equilibrium. It’s a quality best captured in the “AS Crust” video, from their 2016 EP AS, and its looping visual of a robot dog stumbling to regain balance after receiving a…

Masego: Lady Lady

It doesn’t take long to reach the heart of Masego’s debut full-length album, Lady Lady. It’s a meditation on women, strong women: those loved and lost, some who’ve taught him hard lessons along the way, others who haven’t entered his life yet. Through real and imagined narratives, the singer navigates the nuances of black romance,…

Swamp Dogg: Love, Loss, and Auto-Tune

If all Swamp Dogg was was weird, would we still care? The man born Jerry Williams Jr. found LSD and Frank Zappa in the late 1960s, and these discoveries prompted his transformation into R&B’s weirdest weirdo. He planted his freak flag on 1970’s ebulliently funky Total Destruction of Your Mind and the following year’s Rat…