In sharp contrast to the scarily intimate nature of most of her recordings, Chicago alt-folk pixie Angel Olsen here delivers a cracking-good wallop of fuzz-blasted indie rock.
Did you know that Majical Cloudz’s Devon Welsh is the son of the guy who played Windom Earle on Twin Peaks? Somehow the David Lynch connection makes sense of this dark piano ballad. That and the LSD–taking mentioned in the lyrics.
The Belle Comedians
A perfect distillation of paisley-nation pop, peyote-dipped country, and vintage college rock. Which is to say that if you like R.E.M., the Sadies, and the Three O’Clock, your next mixed cassette tape is now complete.
Ages and Ages
Divisionary (Do the Right Thing) (Partisan)
Choral-pop band from Portlandia goes on a polyphonic spree and ends up with the feel-good song of the year. Or, given lyrics like "you’re not the only one suffering", the it-could-be-a-lot-worse song of the year.
Innocence (Last Gang)
If you’re going to name your band after a Debbie Gibson LP, you have a lot to make up for, and fortunately Electric Youth does so via pastel-hued cloudtronica that neatly captures what kids born in the ’90s probably think the ’80s sounded like.
Heavy (OK! Good)
Dovetail singer Philip Creamer is one of those guys who’s perfected the art of sounding like he’s spent a lifetime in a small rural town, drinking to the point where he delivers every golden Americana line with a nicotine-cured slur. Pop a warm Schaefer beer and enjoy.
The Return (Bulk)
As the world holds its breath for something that’s never coming—a new Handsome Boy Modeling School record—Dan the Automator, Kid Koala, and Del the Funky Homosapien take some of the sting away with a slinky cyberpunk hip-hop jam.
Bad the John Boy (Sacred Bones)
Speaking of David Lynch, the man himself returns to fucked-up song-making with a down-tempo loop and a mangled spoken-word performance that will live in the same part of your brain where Throbbing Gristle’s harrowing "Hamburger Lady" festers.
Ali & Matthias (Mute)
Anthony Gonzalez goes all Fantastic Planet on us with this dreamy wisp of an instrumental. Somehow this ’70s-style soft-pop gem fits into You and the Night, which is a film about an orgy involving characters named The Slut and The Stud. Can’t wait!
Driva Man (Columbia)
Jazz-blues brilliantly done the old-school way, complete with mournful back-alley sax and trumpet, and lyrics about chop- ping cotton, cat-o’-nine-tails whippings, and being generally sorry about ever having been born.
White Ash Falls
Big Country (Light Organ)
Once you get over the disappointment of what it isn’t (a cover of that Big Country bagpipe song), you can start to love this White Ash Falls wonder for what it is: guitar-driven country for those who spend every Sunday afternoon staring into a Bud at the end of the bar.