In the coming weeks, Essential Tracks will likely be winding down for a seasonal respite, if in large part because much of what’s being released will be holiday music, and there’s really only so much of that we can handle in one sitting. But before embarking on an Essential Tracks sabbatical, we’ve got a roundup of four great new songs, including another new one from The Smile, the unexpected return of a great post-hardcore group, and more.
The Smile – “Wall of Eyes”
Since releasing A Light for Attracting Attention last year, The Smile haven’t slowed down and are now preparing to release their sophomore album in early 2024 (perhaps being a trio gives them the benefit of moving a little faster than Radiohead). “Wall of Eyes,” the second song to be released from the album, showcases their more cinematic, atmospheric side, a subtle bossa nova that gradually builds out into an eerie art-pop slow-burner with elements of Radiohead’s most subtly intense moments on A Moon Shaped Pool. Where the fun of the band’s first set of songs was its immediacy, it’s thrilling to hear them evolve into something even more nuanced and layered, revealing new and repeatedly rewarding aspects to this still-new(ish) band of art-rock vets.
From Wall of Eyes, out January 26 via XL
C.L.S.M. – “Behind the Sheltering Sky”
This week, Coliseum made their surprise return under the name C.L.S.M., and the Louisville post-hardcore group’s first new album in eight years in large part is a return to their crustier, blistering roots, comprising 10 songs that mostly barely cruise past the two-minute mark as they bash away with reckless abandon. “Behind the Sheltering Sky” is one exception, a spacier track heavier on effects and Ryan Patterson’s spoken-word delivery, along with his hypnotic saxophone playing for good measure. On a set full of barnburning d-beat wreckers, it’s a stunning moment of psych-punk majesty.
From Infinity Shit, out now via Equal Vision
André 3000 – “I Swear, I Really Wanted to Make a ‘Rap’ Album…”
The title of the first track on André 3000’s nearly 90-minute instrumental new age flute album (still getting used to saying that), looks like it’s a joke. Its full title, “I Swear, I Really Wanted to Make a “Rap” Album but This Is Literally the Way the Wind Blew Me This Time,” is a kind of response to years of people asking about when the OutKast emcee will finally make his solo rap debut (since his former musical partner Big Boi has kept going in that direction). And yet, hearing something this gorgeously hypnotic, built around subtle and soothing synths and André’s understated flute playing, such concerns fade into the background quickly. What he delivers here isn’t perhaps as exciting as an André solo album suggests based on his background, but that hardly matters with warm, immersive music like this, intertwining jazz and ambient music in something gentle and restorative.
From New Blue Sun, out now via Epic
Persher – “Elemental Stoppage”
This, however, is not very soothing. Not at all. The project of Jamie Roberts (Blawan) and Arthur Cayzer (Pariah), Persher combines the two artists’ electronic backgrounds with extreme music such as metal, hardcore and noise, and “Elemental Stoppage” is one of their most direct rippers yet. Jagged synthpunk at its most abrasive and intense, “Elemental Stoppage” offers some of the gnarliest permutations of electronic music you’ll hear this year or next, abrasive and distorted, powerful and pummeling, guided by unintelligible growls. With “Elemental Stoppage,” Persher suggest that a laptop is just as effective as a guitar at opening up this pit.
From Sleep Well, out February 23 via Thrill Jockey
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.