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.
Don’t miss our featured review of Vampire Weekend’s excellent return, Father Of The Bride, which is also out today. Consider the following five more strong recommendations for your week.
New Orleans wordsmith Tarriona “Tank” Ball crafts lyrics that wash over you like secrets between friends: sincere, vulnerable, occasionally hushed, and delightfully dramatic. Unlike a secret, Green Balloon—the sophomore album from Ball’s genre-bending band Tank And The Bangas—is an amalgam of lilting vocals, poetry, comedy, and versatile instrumentation that should be relished aloud. Each immersive track makes it harder to define the group’s sound. Within this collection alone their style floats casually from Southern-flavored hip-hop to easy jazz, from soul to a symphonic gem like “Mr. Lion,” which could easily pass for a film score. “Happy Town,” which features rapper-songwriter Pell and marvelously oscillates between trap and childlike whimsy, is likely the song most emblematic of Green Balloon and the band as a whole. Ball’s theatrical wit and Louisiana charm are two of the only through-lines between all 17 tracks. Otherwise, attempting to sequester their work to a singular box is futile. This album is a mark of growth, both creative and personal, that progresses like a hot-air balloon ride to the clouds. Fire it up, then ascend. [Shannon Miller]
Pile leaned further into experimental areas on 2015’s You’re Better Than This before orienting into more melodic focus on 2017’s A Hairshirt Of Purpose. Throughout it all, the Boston four-piece’s core sound always prevailed: swinging drums, toothy bass, two guitars backing up Rick Maguire’s country-like vocal croon and lyrics that sit halfway between Shel Silverstein and H.P. Lovecraft. Though the band’s bassist and second guitarist changed before recording Green And Gray, the difference is in the production cooking, not the indie-rock recipe. Songs still creep and crawl across the haunted house of Maguire’s words, the bass remains as gritty as a Philadelphia mascot, and the guitars blast off when the vocals don’t take focus. It all sounds like a fresh paint job on the Pile of old, but the finale gives the melody the spotlight it deserves, hitting its apex on “Hiding Places.” It’s always a treat when an artist tries new things but still remains true to itself. [Dan Bogosian]
The ultra-minimal falsetto-R&B Mike Milosh exhales as Rhye is usually about being in love—or something like it—with a person, but “Needed,” the single he dropped today, is also about being in love with an instrument. Milosh says the track (and the eight-song record, Spirit, out online May 10 and on vinyl in June) took shape after his girlfriend gave him a piano, and playing it became a morning ritual. That might make it sound more impromptu than it is; “Needed” was recorded with Dan Wilson, who penned “Closing Time” in Semisonic and co-wrote Adele’s “Someone Like You.” Impeccably sultry and gentle, the tune lands as softly as rose petals, its tender piano line swept by electric guitar caresses, fretted bass moans, strings like sighs, and exploratory percussion. It seemed like Rhye maxed out the art of delicacy on “Please” and “Song For You,” but he refines it exquisitely here. We already got Blood Remixed; consider this new piano project Blood Unplugged. [Brian Howe]
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There are a lot of short rap records out there, but it’s hard to imagine withstanding much more than 18:47 of Rico Nasty’s latest. That righteously airbrushed metal cover tells it all: Anger Management is a portal straight into the howling depths of the rapper’s id, delivered via the liquid fire of her flow and Kenny Beats’ most maxed-out production work. She flips “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” into an act of regal disdain on “Hatin,” indulges her inner rock god on “Big Titties,” and scorches her post-fame hangers-on in the elegiac “Relative.” It’s only after a few listens that the sonic assault subsides, and the through-lines become clear. Anger Management is a concept album about telling people to fuck right off, delivered the only way it should be: raw and bloody, like an uncooked steak. [Clayton Purdom]
Bad Religion’s latter-day career has been as vital as any period in its history, thanks to the post-2000 addition of superb drummer Brooks Wackerman and the return of founding member and songwriter Brett Gurewitz. Now, with the departure of both Wackerman and longtime guitarist Greg Hetson, the band has followed a back-to-basics approach for Age Of Unreason. Taking a page from the more straightforward tracks off True North (more than six years old now, the longest gap between albums in the band’s history), the overall tone is even bleaker than usual, presumably the result of an especially dire state of political and cultural affairs in America. All but one of the tracks clock in under three minutes, delivering the usual pissed-off inveighing against stupidity (“Chaos From Within”), sarcastic homilies to the decay of democracy (“Candidate”), and—as always—handy indicators as to what BR’s been reading (“Do The Paranoid Style,” “End Of History”). Age Of Unreason is more akin to the uneven Dissent Of Man than the elegant rock-and-punk balance of True North, but hey, it’s a new Bad Religion album. It’s about damn time. [Alex McLevy]