The list of essential new spins out each Friday is getting a little longer each week, and today we’ve got an overflowing set of great records to hear. Today’s Best New Releases include returns from some indie heavyweights, a stunning new darkwave record that we named our Album of the Week, post-punk veterans, some gorgeously minimal drone, some murkily mesmerizing drone-doom metal and more. Dive into this week’s Best New Releases.
Blurbs by Jeff Terich (JT) and Mia Euceda (ME).
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Helado Negro – Phasor
A post-pandemic pivot of sorts from the solitary dance party of 2021’s Far In, Helado Negro’s new album Phasor was written by Roberto Carlos Lange with the idea of a more social, physical experience in mind. And indeed, there’s a lot of groove swirled in with his lush psychedelic pop daydreams, whether through the urgency of opening track “LFO (Lupe Finds Oliveros)” or the spacey synth vibes of “Colores Del Mar.” It’s at once a relaxed and laid back album that carries a lot of movement through its nine tracks, and another stellar addition to the Helado Negro catalog. We’ll have more on this one soon. – JT
Chelsea Wolfe – She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She
After releasing an album of acoustic songs and collaborating with Converge, Chelsea Wolfe returns with a more deeply electronics-heavy album of ominous textures and introspection. It’s also one of her best yet, which is why we named it Album of the Week. In our review of the album, I said, “In her saga of self-improvement and a newfound sobriety, Chelsea Wolfe has delivered one of the most stunningly dark albums of her career.” – JT
Brittany Howard – What Now
Brittany Howard dives deeper into the realms of psychedelia on her sophomore album What Now. And that takes all kinds of shapes, whether on the more retro-leaning aesthetic of “I Don’t,” the lush and immersive maximalism of opener “Earth Sign,” the electrified TV on the Radio-like pulse of the title track, or the layered swirl of sonic elements on “Red Flags.” On What Now, Howard takes more stylistic diversions, pursues a number of unexpected impulses, and the payoff is an endlessly entertaining headphone record that reveals new aspects of an already strong artist. More to come on this one soon. – JT
Sonic Youth – Walls Have Ears
Sonic Youth’s Walls Have Ears is both legendary and infamous, a bootleg live recording originally released without the group’s consent, but it’s finally been released officially via the band’s own Goofin’ label. It’s chaotic, intense, raw and thrilling. In my In Concert column on the newly released, 38-year-old live record, I wrote, “the release of Walls Have Ears feels like a gift—the chance to hear and discover something previously unexplored from a band who left the stage over a decade ago.” – JT
Itasca – Imitation of War
Singer/songwriter Kayla Cohen has kept up a brisk pace of releasing new music since her 2012 debut, issuing eight records in 12 years. Imitation of War arrives after the longest gap, following 2019’s Spring, and bringing with it a gorgeously lush array of psychedelic Americana. She weaves in between electric arrangements and gentler, reverb-laden folk strums, achieving a kind of rich cosmic beauty on standout moments like “Under Gates of Cobalt Blue.” Imitation of War is an album that reveals itself slowly, but the unraveling of each new layer brings with it a newly gorgeous discovery. – JT
Pylon Reenactment Society – Magnet Factory
The reincarnation of Athens, Georgia’s criminally underrated post-punks, Pylon Reenactment Society, has finally dropped its debut record 10 years after its formation. Pylon frontwoman Vanessa Briscoe Hay returns to deliver her sharp and energetic vocals, while its new members (from Athens indie rock band Casper & the Cookies) channel the original band’s distinct jangly galvanizing sound throughout. Oh, and there’s also a duet with B-52’s vocalist Kate Pierson, whose legendary yelps delightfully complement Hay’s growls and Jason NeSmith’s catchy, angular guitar. Don’t be deceived by the name; this project is not just a mere shell of the original group, it’s a spiritual successor that breathes new life into the Pylon sound. – ME
Kali Malone – All Life Long
Drone artist Kali Malone returns a year after her five-hour opus from 2023, Does Spring Hide Its Joy?, with a relatively concise set of compositions that merge austere minimalism with moments that feel like sacred music, particularly in the choral opener “Passage Through the Spheres.” Once again, she’s joined on several tracks by Sunn O)))’s Stephen O’Malley, as well as Anima Brass, whose arrangements evoke the juxtaposition of drone and horn on Pauline Oliveros’ Deeper Listening. A considerably leaner record at only 70-plus minutes, All Life Long is patient, breathtaking music worthy of uninterrupted attention. – JT
Spectral Voice – Sparagmos
Colorado death-doom metal group Spectral Voice last released 13 minutes of music last year in a split with death metal outfit Undergang, and that 13 minutes comprised just one solitary song. That’s par for the course for the band, whose compositions stretch and swell to immense lengths, and Sparagmos is no exception. Comprising four tracks, three of which stretch beyond 10 minutes apiece, the album finds the group plumbing depths of putridity with a strange, psychedelic sheen amid the murk. There’s a mesmerizing mysticism woven amid more earthly growl, presenting a stunningly slow moving but multifaceted set of doom. – JT
Ducks Ltd. – Harm’s Way
There’s something immediately warm and inviting about the bright jangle-pop that Toronto group Ducks Ltd. play. Alternately reminiscent of The Go-Betweens, ’80s-era Flying Nun acts or, more recently, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, the group specializes in tuneful and immediate pop songwriting that shimmers and sparkles with no bloat or excess whatsoever. The duo gets in and out in just a little over 27 minutes on Harm’s Way, and not a moment is wasted, delivering urgent slices of guitar-pop sheen on “The Main Thing” and “Train Full of Gasoline,” dreamy post-punk pulse on “Deleted Scenes,” and jittery, caffeinated strumming on “On Our Way to the Rave.” Catchy as hell and overflowing with fun, Harm’s Way was built for repeat spins. – JT
Amiture – Mother Engine
Amiture first caught our attention with the single “Billy’s Dream,” a seductively sinister bit of David Lynch trip-hop that sounded a little like Chris Isaak produced by Trent Reznor. The album on which that song appears, Mother Engine, is similarly darkly surreal throughout, merging seemingly disparate sounds like blues, Western twang, industrial and avant garde elements into a gloriously gothic hallucination. It’s seamy and sordid but consistently fascinating, even when it doesn’t feel like it would make sense on paper (see: “Baby,” with its noise rock guitar juxtaposed against Jack Whitescarver’s Elvis croon). A record unlike much else you’ll hear anytime soon, but more importantly one where the stylistic experiments and fusions consistently pay off. I’m not sure I’ve fully wrapped my head around Mother Engine’s myriad subtleties, but I’m looking forward to diving back in and continuing to explore. – JT