Essential Tracks: Sufjan Stevens, Actress, and more

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Sufjan Stevens

It’s official: New release season has become overwhelming. From now until mid-November, it’s going to be a flood of new releases, more music than we possibly know what to do with. It’s a good problem, but the problem is simply finding time to hear it all. We’ll do our best—starting with this week’s Essential Tracks, which include great new songs from Sufjan Stevens, Actress, Dave Aju, Tomb Mold and Bad Nerves.

Sufjan Stevens – “Will Anybody Ever Love Me?”

There’s no discernible pattern to Sufjan Stevens’ album releases, only the knowledge that after every return to his homebase of intricate and vulnerable indie folk, he’s delve into ambient, classical, and perhaps electronic pop before he makes a point of dusting off an acoustic guitar again. This year’s Javelin, due in a few weeks, is a long-awaited return to those gentle ashores, as evident by new single “Will Anybody Ever Love Me?” But what’s remarkable about this open- and broken-hearted ballad is not so much where it starts but where it ends up, an architecture of gorgeously arranged art pop being built around his gentle plucks. It feels like a kind of magic, the sort of trick you wouldn’t want to lean too heavily on, but which merits revisiting every four or five years. – Jeff Terich

 From Javelin, out October 6 via Asthmatic Kitty.

Actress – “Game Over (e 1)”

Darren Cunningham has long made music steeped in techno, house and IDM, but he’s never played it straight, instead preferring to steer beat patterns through darkened lo-fi tunnels and shadowy realms. “Game Over (e 1)” is just such a track, notable as much for what’s absent as what it contains. Cunningham leaves wide swaths of space open as sputtering, yet stark beats shuffle beneath, and the faintest texture of human vocals echoes throughout. It feels like a late night walk through an empty city, with only the slightest suggestion of human contact just beyond the horizon. – Jeff Terich

From LXXXVIII, out November 3 via Ninja Tune

Dave Aju & the Invisible Art Trio – “Next 2 You”

In the third fiery release from Dave Aju’s Elbow Grease imprint, “Next 2 You,” a deep jam session-based composition that began overseas over eight years ago with an elusive LA-based musical squad takes flight. The OG underground era is represented in a different-sounding and -looking America. It’s Donald Byrd with a bass cabinet, low-end funk inspired by various concepts from the sci-fi futurism of VanderMeer’s Annihilation, Pharoah Sanders hovering above giving cosmic map-points, while Detroit techno rhythmic paths drive all these points home. As with most Dave Aju releases, hold space for the reprise track that outlines the atmospheric hues hidden beneath the bump. – John-Paul Shiver

Out now via Elbow Grease

Tomb Mold – “Will of Whispers”

Tomb Mold have occasionally dipped their axes into the well of progressive rock, but not nearly as much as their guitarist Derrick Vella has with his doom metal project Dream Unending. Those worlds collide on “Will of Whispers,” which introduces itself via a sequence of shockingly beautiful grace and openness. It’s scarcely recognizable as the work of a death metal band at first, Vella’s guitar even slightly resembling a saxophone as it cuts through the crystalline textures. Of course, that’s just the beginning, and it’s only a matter of time before the song plunges into the depths and murk of a proper death metal basher. Still, Tomb Mold are nothing if not masterful at crafting intricately appealing structures of riffs and melody, and before long, that polarization reaches a kind of harmony, closing out on a towering coda that’s both heroic and gorgeously crafted. – Jeff Terich

From The Enduring Spirit, out now via 20 Buck Spin

Bad Nerves – “U.S.A.”

“U.S.A.” isn’t a complicated song. The new single from the London garage punks is less than two minutes long and prominently features a recurring shout of the song’s title, which is perhaps the most obnoxious chant you can start in any random setting—made all the more curious or perhaps ironic by the fact that they’re not an American band. But that’s sort of the fun of punk—and as punk rock goes this is wildly entertaining stuff. It doesn’t matter if “U.S.A.” makes sense or not, it’s loud, it’s fast, it’s short and it’s raucously hedonistic. If this sort of thing ever loses its appeal, then rock music truly is dead. – Jeff Terich

Out now via Lowly

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