It’s only the second week of 2024 and already the big releases are starting to stack up. This week we have the new album from a Latin/R&B superstar who continues to challenge mainstream ideas of what a pop album should sound like, as well as a brief release from some heavy metal miscreants, an introspective major label debut from a singer/songwriter on the rise, and more. Check out our picks for this week’s best new releases.
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Kali Uchis – ORQUÍDEAS
Kali Uchis follows up her excellent 2023 release Red Moon in Venus in short order with the similarly stunning ORQUÍDEAS, merging a kind of ethereal, psychedelic quality with hook-laden neo-soul and reggaeton. Singing in both English and Spanish throughout, Uchis intertwines nocturnal grooves with slow-jam sensuality and atmospheric pop. The album is rife with highlights, whether the immersive, pace-escalating opener “¿Cómo Así?”, the stunning bolero of “Te Mata,” or the laid-back funk of “Heladito.” In just over five years, the Virginia-born artist has expanded her repertoire and grown into a dazzling and eclectic artist that reinforces her status as one of the most fascinating and innovative figures in pop right now.
Marika Hackman – Big Sigh
British singer/songwriter Marika Hackman returns with her fifth album, following her 2020 set of covers with a major label debut that’s both introspective and grand, focused on interior thoughts and feelings while offering a set of arrangements that aim for grander, more ambitious sounds. A song like “No Caffeine” hits harder, with a deep groove and a palpable tension, but with a backing of strings, while “Blood” intertwines guitar and piano in a hazy dream pop dirge, and “Slime” escalates into a bigger rock sound. These songs are dark, spacious, better fit for late-night hours, but a captivating listen no matter what time of day it is.
Escuela Grind – Ddeeaatthhmmeettaall
Escuela Grind more than earned their place in our list of the best metal albums of 2022 with Memory Theater, which they’ve followed with a set of—you guessed it!—raw, badass death metal. They follow the pattern of their two prior EPs, Ggrriinnddccoorree and Ppoowweerrvviioolleennccee, both of which offered exactly what they promised. This time out, the songs are a bit longer and meatier, temporarily putting aside their 90-second bursts of mayhem in favor of some ugly-face mosh pit groove, and even an appearance from Napalm Death’s Barney Greenaway. We’ll have more to say on this one soon.
Nicholas Craven and Boldy James – Penalty of Leadership
Nicholas Craven and Boldy James previously teamed up on 2022’s Fair Change No Robbery, and the duo’s follow up is similarly soulful and vivid. James addresses his near-fatal car accident for the first time in these songs (as well as on the cover illustration), while offering his share of gritty crime narratives and introspective reflections against Craven’s backdrop of chipmunk soul and rich beds of samples. The duo delivers a stellar sequel to their first collaboration, which hopefully is only the second in an ongoing series.
Infant Island – Obsidian Wreath
Fredericksburg, Virginia’s Infant Island descend from their home state’s rich history of screamo while adding some rich, atmospheric elements of post-metal on a mesmerizing and agitated set that sounds. Obsidian Wreath, their third, is their best album to date. In our review of the album, Wil Lewellyn said the album comprises “a swath of artistic contradictions that fall into place just as the band intended. There is much grace in the bloody mess they’ve made here.”
Nailah Hunter – Lovegaze
Los Angeles artist Nailah Hunter’s first proper solo LP is a lush collection of beautifully arranged songs that reflect her talents as a multi-instrumentalist, each one layered with synths, piano, harp, and on moments like standout “Through the Din,” even trip-hop beats. Lovegaze is a remarkable reintroduction to an artist who first emerged with a series of great EPs, but has delivered a full-length set of pop songs truly her own, made for deep headphone listening for the sake of letting the outside world disappear. We’ll have more to say on this one soon.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.