Best New Releases, July 7: PJ Harvey, ANOHNI, and more

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PJ Harvey

The year is officially half over! (And here’s our favorites from the first six months in case you missed them.) Q3 starts off strong, however, with a batch of new releases from some of our favorite singer/songwriters, as well as a young group of Chicago indie rockers and a veteran experimental dub group. Hear and read about this week’s best new releases.

pj harvey new album inside the old year dying

PJ Harvey – I Inside the Old Year Dying

The seven years since PJ Harvey’s last album, The Hope Six Demolition Project, has been her longest gap between studio albums, though she did issue a lot of music in that time—her entire reissued catalog, in fact, demos, b-sides and all. Which was a good reminder that every time Polly Jean Harvey does return with a new set of songs, it’s wise not to expect her to tread familiar ground. I Inside the Old Year Dying is a gorgeously understated album that follows fictional characters into shadowy woods, depicted through songs of eerily beautiful art-folk arrangements. It’s always welcome to hear what direction she’ll take, and this one carries traces of familiar moments in her catalog (a little White Chalk here, a little Is This Desire? there), but PJ Harvey continues moving forward, taking us into places we’d never expect to go. Next week we’ll have more on this album.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)

anohni my back was a bridge for you to cross review
Secretly Canadian

ANOHNI and the Johnsons – My Back Was a Bridge for You to Cross

ANOHNI, much like PJ Harvey, returns after seven years with a new set of songs that takes a dramatic step into a new direction. After the dancefloor-ready socially conscious anthems of 2016’s HOPELESSNESS, ANOHNI pares back the arrangements on My Back Was a Bridge for You to Cross for something more soulful and intimately aching. It’s currently our Album of the Week, and in our review of the album, Langdon Hickman said “these songs resonate with a luminous, nay, numinous love. The tone of her voice, the keen penmanship of the lyrics, not to mention the music its all married to sends that true message of love, that we witness how fucked up each of us is, inside and out, but that love endures, is mightier than the revulsion of those in pain.” Essential listening.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)


Lifeguard – Dressed in Trenches

Formed within the same youth-oriented Chicago scene as their Matador labelmates Horsegirl, Lifeguard recapture the excitement of indie rock in its most thrilling period in the ’90s—more in adventurous, boundary-unburdened spirit than in sound. With their latest EP Dressed in Trenches, the group hones in on a sharp-edged intersection of jittery post-punk a la late ’70s Wire and the sinewy grooves of early Unwound (who, incidentally, their peers in Horsegirl recently opened for). Though they’ve already released a handful of other records, Lifeguard still feel like they’re just getting started, and Dressed in Trenches is a breakthrough moment, an intersection of tension and immediacy that’s all too rare these days. More on this one soon.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)

Best new releases Julie Byrne

Julie Byrne – The Greater Wings

Singer/songwriter Julie Byrne’s music has always felt warm and nourishing without being elaborate or overwhelming, and The Greater Wings—her first new set of music in six years—is no different. But it begins in a place of grief and mourning, the songs on The Greater Wings largely written in response to the loss of her friend and collaborator Eric Littmann. As such, it’s a beautiful tribute, but more than that it’s a deeply moving and ultimately restorative album that speaks more to what it means to make connections with people and to cherish those feelings as opposed to being defeated by grief. The ache lingers, but Byrne’s is the most beautiful kind of therapeutic experience.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)

African Head Charge Best New Releases
On-U Sound

African Head Charge – A Trip to Bolgatanga

For more than 40 years, UK experimental dub outfit African Head Charge have been releasing records via Adrian Sherwood’s On-U Sound label, occasionally veering into industrial territory on albums like 1986’s Off the Beaten Track or darker ambient sounds on their debut, 1981’s My Life in a Hole in the Ground. With A Trip to Bolgatanga, the group continue their trip into what they once termed as a “vision of a psychedelic Africa,” with hypnotic and echo-laden production, massive beats, a more prominent presence of woodwinds and occasional synth-laden bliss-outs like on “I Chant Too.” One of the most idiosyncratic groups of our time only continues to evolve in strange and thrilling ways. Spend some time with this one and get lost in their swirling wilderness.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)

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