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.
While the rest of us were grousing about the polar vortex, Chicago’s Pivot Gang—Saba’s eight-man crew, featuring his brother Joseph Chilliams and other long-time collaborators—were outside filming an ebullient video for “Jason Statham, Pt. 2,” a track that ends up being a fine intro to the new You Can’t Sit With Us. Named after an old Friends reference, Pivot Gang are pop culture obsessives rapping for the pop culture obsessed, with a keen understanding for the way references like these flower among friends and turn into shared touchstones. (“Colbert” is about late-night pining, for example; “Edward Scissorhands” is about, um, personal grooming.) Saba’s last solo release scraped symphonic heights, but he falls in easy among these old friends, kicking end-of-night confessions and deep-cut in-jokes to each other over a suite of finely tuned instrumentals. It’s a luminous rap record, all the more so for its low stakes. [Clayton Purdom]
Hot on the heels of last fall’s Rhododendron comes “Supernatural,” a new single from Seattle’s Valley Maker, whose thoughtful, spectral folk is here enlivened by a smoky gauze of saxophone. Recorded in Cardiff, Wales with Novo Amor’s Ali John Meredith-Lacey, the enveloping track’s ghostly air reflects its lyrics, which, as is common in the work of songwriter Austin Crane, mines spirituality from the wonders of nature as it cleverly renders time and identity fluid. “You’re nothing like I thought I knew,” he sings, “but maybe I’m not who I thought I’d be.” Still, there’s a gorgeous optimism emerging from the song’s elegiac strain of electric guitar, one that transcends the uncertainty: “Maybe I’ll get what I dreamt I’d get / Maybe I’ll meet you before I’m dead.” A lovely thought, that. [Randall Colburn]
“Except for, of course, ‘Juice,’ the track where Lizzo rides the line between her down-to-earth personality and aspirations towards pop stardom most effectively is on album closer ‘Lingerie.’ That song straddles tongue-in-cheek production and credible emotion quite effectively, featuring lusty spoken-word vocals over ironic Midnite Vultures synths and guitar. ‘I lounge around in my lingerie / I want to be ready for you just in case,’ Lizzo coos, letting us all in by greeting her lover at the door in see-through bra and panties. Although, as she confidently notes throughout Cuz I Love You, she’s also got a pretty face and an ass that won’t quit, Lizzo’s best asset is her personality, and she’s at her best when she lets it shine bright—no major-label gloss required.” [Katie Rife]
We’re collecting our A-Sides recommendations over on a Spotify playlist updated every Friday. Tune in and subscribe here.
In all the excitement surrounding Coachella weekend one—Donald Glover and Rihanna’s Guava Island, Aphex Twin’s mind-melting Mojave Tent closer, even Homecoming’s arrival on Netflix—it’d be easy to miss a quieter surprise like “Teenage Birdsong,” the new track Four Tet dropped this week alongside a recording of his own Saturday set. Though lower-key than the decimating Nelly Furtado edit that finally saw its official release in March, the new song finds the British DJ-producer at his wide-eyed best, blending organic and electronic elements in an absorbing arrangement; it could easily live alongside New Energy highlights like “Lush” and “You Are Loved.” “Teenage Birdsong” feels perfectly timed, too, as a rejuvenating prelude to summer: fleeting and sun-dappled, with a blithe mid-tempo groove and melodies plucked right out of the budding forest canopy. [Kelsey J. Waite]
Morbid Stuff’s been out a few weeks now, but the ringing PUP’s latest set off in our ears clangs louder with every spin. Drunk, hooky, and fucking furious, the Toronto four-piece’s third album is a torch-wielding mob crashing down on the toxicity of the industry, of codependency, of our own self-pity, the latter spewing like a split vein throughout. What Morbid Stuff gets so right, though, is the caterwauling joy of the downward spiral, the sense that self-destruction is fun as hell and self-rehabilitation is a total drag. As always, the band’s soaring, shout-along melodies pop like fireworks, Stefan Babcock and Steve Sladkowski trading verses as if they were lit cherry bombs. It’s a cleansing listen, honestly—especially in an era where anger floods our ears and eyeballs on an hourly basis—with tracks like “Scorpion Hill” painting a portrait of utter desolation before “Bloody Mary, Kate And Ashley” summons Satan to consume us in fire. “Sibling Rivalry” and “Bare Hands,” meanwhile, combine unmitigated fury and pop bliss in ways that nearly no other modern rock band feels capable. Burn it all down, for Christ’s sake, and never stop laughing. [Randall Colburn]