Best New Releases, Jan. 13: Belle and Sebastian, James Yorkston & Nina Persson and more

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Belle and Sebastian

It took a week for some of the cobwebs to get cleared out, for all of us to rub our eyes and get a few pots of coffee going before 2023 could really take off, but it’s safe to say we’re finally moving. The second week of must-hear new releases this year includes a surprise album from some indie veterans, a new album from a legendary death metal band, plus some great folk, shoegaze and prog-doom. Not a bad start, and it’s only going to get bigger from here. Check out our picks for the best new albums this week.

best new albums Belle and Sebastian

Belle and Sebastian – Late Developers

Belle and Sebastian broke seven years of relative quiet (minus a film soundtrack featuring some of their previously recorded songs) with last year’s A Bit of Previous, and then went ahead and dropped a follow-up with less than a week’s notice less than a year later. What did we do to deserve all this bonus Belle? (Revealed with a Jeff Rosenstock-written press statement that mentions System of a Down’s Hypnotize, no less.) It’s a lovely surprise, a bright and melodic set of songs that rings with the immediacy of classic Belle and Sebastian, but with rich arrangements featuring synths, organs, horns and even the guest vocals of Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell, who lends her mesmerizing presence to “When the Cynics Stare Back from the Wall,” a song that predates the band’s debut, Tigermilk. Late Developers is far from a no-frills album, but it also delivers a concise, clever and deeply satisfying pop experience, and that’s just the kind of thing Belle and Sebastian do best.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)

best new albums Ahab

Ahab – The Coral Tombs

Naturally, near the top of our recommended releases this week is our Album of the Week, Ahab’s epic The Coral Tombs, which finds the German group further embracing progressive rock in the pursuit of a more epic kind of funeral doom metal. In his review of the album, Langdon Hickman said that “Tombs confirms that this is the path forward, hand-in-hand with the extreme heft and emotional brutality the group already has so keenly mastered.” Doom fans, rejoice!

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)

Molly Picturesque
Sonic Cathedral

MOLLY – Picturesque

There will come a time when shoegaze coasts past its sell-by date, but not on MOLLY’s watch. The Austrian duo’s sophomore album, Picturesque, captures the best of hazy, melancholy guitar music through gorgeously seamless streams of effects that feel less like the regurgitation of tropes than something natural and fluid—like being submerged in a warm bath. They also don’t hesitate to let a song stretch and unfold as long as it needs to, only two of the songs on Picturesque clocking in under six minutes, while two are well over 10. It’s beautiful music that emphasizes a kind of psychedelic immersion rather than a rollercoaster ride, with a strangely comforting chill permeating it—as if you can see your breath as it plays.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

best new albums Obituary

Obituary – Dying of Everything

Tampa death metal legends Obituary return with their first new album in six years, capturing the murky aesthetic of their classic records while finding new territory to explore. In his review of the album, Brian Roesler said, “The atmosphere of Obituary’s tenth LP, Dying of Everything, is unmistakable: grimy and analogue in tone, a familiar vintage, all of its tracks equally compelling in plumbing the richness of the subconscious of death metal as a genre.” In other words: Turn it the fuck up.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)


James Yorkston, Nina Persson and the Second Hand Orchestra – The Great White Sea Eagle

Singer/songwriter James Yorkston has built up an impressive, ample and arguably underrated body of work over the past two decades, whether on his own, as The Athletes or his current work with The Second Hand Orchestra, or more uniquely intimate collaborations like 2020’s stunning Navarasa: Nine Emotions. His fourteenth album The Great White Sea Eagle continues this revolving approach to contemporary folk, this time in collaboration with former Cardigans vocalist Nina Persson, whose presence allows for a consistently stunning set of harmonies throughout. The songs on The Great White Sea Eagle range from relatively simple moments like the under-two-minute opener “Sam and Jeanie McGreagor” to more elaborately arranged songs such as “Keeping Up with the Grandchildren, Yeah,” or the more sedate and somber “A Forestful of Rogues.” Yorkston and Persson make their way through songs both playful and bittersweet, but even at its most animated or restrained the entirety of the album feels warm and welcoming.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)

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