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20 Albums To Download Right Now

by Francesca Volpe

We’re getting musical at BUST with album reviews from our January/February 2019 print issue!

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What Chaos Is Imaginary
(ANTI- Records)

Girlpool’s Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad have always been in perfectly imperfect harmony with one another. So much so, that on their first two albums, the BFFs-since-high-school’s voices were often hard to tell apart through all the charming dissonance. With What Chaos Is Imaginary, they’ve both discovered their own voices, and together have found a new sound that’s more refined yet as earnest as ever. Tucker, who uses they/them pronouns, has gone through a transition, which they prefer to call a “gender flow,” that has deepened their voice, giving it a beautifully raspy timbre that vibrates on opener “Lucy’s,” a previously released solo track.

The album is filled with tracks that have been given the signature Girlpool treatment: droning guitars and sweeping harmonies that sound shambolic but are sneakily precise. Tucker and Tividad go back and forth taking the lead; Tucker works through an inner monologue on the upbeat rambler “Hire,” while Tividad’s “Where You Sink” becomes a hazy meditation punctuated by a clip-clop beat. The duo is still at its best when the pair joins forces—on the Johnny Jewel-sounding title track, Tucker’s tenor rumbles beneath Tividad’s soft vocals as they swell over a string accompaniment. And on the sleek, ambient album closer, “Roses,” they become a haunting choir. This album is a leap forward in the evolution of Girlpool. 5/5 –SHANNON CARLIN

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Black Velvet

Known as the “Screaming Eagle of Soul,” Charles Bradley sadly passed away in 2017, but his fourth and final album, Black Velvet, is perhaps the ideal send off. Opening with the sublimely textured “Can’t Fight the Feeling,” Bradley’s signature gruff coos glide through the brass-heavy instrumentation. Other songs like “Heart of Gold” smoothly shift in and out of gear as Bradley tells a story. Then there’s the hypnotic instrumentation of the title track, which sounds like it could be Bradley’s theme music. His legacy will live on forever, and fans will be grateful to have Black Velvet as his final offering to the world. 4/5 –KATHY IANDOLI

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Adeline, the lead vocalist of nu-disco group Escort, reveals just how much her sound has developed with her debut solo album. Close on the tails of Escort’s latest dance jam, “Slide,” Adeline’s solo work holds the same joy but oozes with confidence in its slow, chilled-out rhythms. Never overwritten or unnecessarily complicated, these songs are stylized without overcompensating. “Café Au Lait” is the definition of perfect discord: a Seinfeld-style bass line entwines with Adeline’s crooning French, punctuated with cheeky syncopations. A blend of ’70s synth and bewitching vocals, [ad-uh-leen] is sensual and funky easy listening to soothe whatever has you stressed. 5/5 –KELLI EBENSBERGER

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Negative Capability

On Marianne Faithfull’s 21st album, Negative Capability, an all-star team of collaborators lend their talents to help her shape songs about loss, loneliness, and love. On “The Gypsy Faerie Queen” (a duet with Nick Cave), “Born to Live” (written for Anita Pallenberg), and “Don’t Go,” the instrumentations are mostly acoustic. While “They Come at Night” (co-written with Mark Lanegan) rocks things up a bit. Highlights include remakes of her 1964 single “As Tears Go By,” “Witches Song” originally from 1979’s Broken English, and a masterful cover of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” 4/5 –MICHAEL LEVINE 

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Stuffed & Ready
(Secretly Canadian)

Led by Clementine Creevy (who started the project as a teenager in 2013), Cherry Glazerr’s mix of sweet vocals and big, surging guitars is the essence of what makes the band as great as it is. With each release, they refine that balance and become more polished than they were on the one before. From the explosive, intense ending of “Stupid Fish,” to the catchy chorus of “Wasted Nun” (“I’m a wasted nun/And I don’t have any fun”), to the icy refrain of “Daddi” (“Where should I go daddy/What should I say?”), Stuffed & Ready’s 10 tracks are Cherry Glazerr’s most impressive yet. 4/5 –KATHRYN HENSCH

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(Because Music)

French singer Héloïse Letissier began her career as “Christine and the Queens,” and now emerges as “Chris,” a powerful changeling, on her latest offering. Over a relatively short arc, Letissier made her name as a transformative, contemporary pop star influenced by golden era paragons. Her sound is retro-electric pop illuminated by a mellifluous voice that takes aggressive, cunning, and vulnerable turns. On the infectious romp “Girlfriend,” she waxes moody, while “The walker” is all airy pop. As Chris, Letissier unabashedly proclaims her wish to embody the swagger of any male rock kingpin, and on “Damn (what must a woman do)” she takes her new, meaner, leaner persona to its sharpest heights. 3/5 –CAMILLE COLLINS

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On her fifth release, Julia Holter retains some of her trademark experimental qualities while dialing up the scale. The sweeping orchestral sound of the opening track, “Turn the Light On,” reappears throughout the album, adding an air of drama and tension. Like Holter’s previous work, Aviary utilizes baroque instrumentation in a fresh, modern, and lighthearted way. Many of the songs are sparse, lovely, and dreamlike (“Voce Simul” and “Another Dream”), while others are playful (“Les Jeux to You”). Simultaneously experimental and accessible, ambitious and enjoyable, Aviary is the work of a masterful composer and musician who’s not afraid to take risks. 4/5 –SARAH C. JONES

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Crush Crusher
(Hardly Art)

With a sound bordering on shoegaze, IAN SWEET capitalizes on fuzzy guitars and Jilian Medford’s occasionally sugary voice. As with the band’s debut album, Crush Crusher explores neuroses, anxiety, and depression. The first single and album opener, “Hiding,” is about being so consumed by stressful situations that you lose track of your own needs. “Ugly/Bored” and “Spit” play with feelings of insecurity and uncertainty, while “Borrowed Body” deals with the emotional sacrifices made for loved ones. This is an emotional album, sorting out what it means to care for others—and for yourself. 3/5 –MARY KINNEY

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Beast On Beast
(Yellow K)

Gabrielle Smith (aka Eskimeaux, then Ó) returns under the new alias “Gabby’s World” for an album of bedroom pop magic. Beast on Beast bounces with loud pop-punk drumbeats and melodic keyboards. It appears, at first, to be reminiscent of late-’90s pop-punk/emo à la Vagrant Records. But Smith’s voice transports listeners to a place that is unique and totally contemporary. The band’s full energy and orchestration are at their peak on the album’s first single, “Rear View.” The lyrics are sensitive, observant, and vulnerable, making this the perfect album to jam out to on your next self-care day. 4/5 –MIA PEREZ

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Heart To Mouth 
(Panik Records)

LP has a voice and she can definitely use it. It carries, it falters, and it splinters like beautiful antique wood. Heart To Mouth is an album of beautiful pain. Songs like “Dreamcatcher” describe the emptiness of a one-sided relationship: “I can see you with your eyes/So far away/No answer.” But that’s not to say LP’s lost her pop heart. On “When I’m Over You” she delivers an almost country disco ballad with heavy drums, tambourine, and shimmering vocal crescendos. Heart To Mouth stitches together a broken heart, walking through each stage of grief, but dancing all along the way. 5/5 –CLAIRE MCKINZIE

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(Suicide Squeeze)

Following the band’s self-titled 2017 debut, L.A. Witch is back with a five-song EP comprising some of their earliest songs, re-imagined in the studio to give them new life. Or perhaps afterlife is more appropriate, as these tracks offer a glimpse of the Los Angeles trio’s darker side. Opener and standout track “Haunting” is a heavy dose of psychedelic garage that resonates with a narcotic, ominous energy. “Sleep” is equal parts woozy love song and garage-rock hair shaker. Intricate acoustic guitar frames a distant duet on “Heart of Darkness,” blowing through like a tumbleweed from another time. Octubre’s ghostly elixir was made for the longer nights and colder days. Imbibe. 4/5 –EMILY NOKES

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(!K7 Records)

Releasing its sixth studio album after a seven-year hiatus, Ladytron has come a long way since the band’s inception in the late ’90s. Still combining shoegaze and indie synth-pop, the British foursome has stepped back from the blunt lyrical stylings of earlier hits (think 604’s “He Took Her to a Movie” or “Seventeen” from Light & Magic) to create a more complex sound, hinting at a world full of discontent. The unmistakable voices remain intact, carried by smoother, heavier dance tracks—most notable on the dystopian-feeling “You’ve Changed” and opening anthem “Until the Fire.” The result is a complementary combination, like adding syrup to effervescence. 5/5 –BREE MCKENNA

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Quiet Signs
(Mexican Summer)

Jessica Pratt spins a mood—hushed, hazy, and beautifully off-center. In fact, the entire world of Quiet Signs seems to live in a single, smoky room, mottled with late-day sunlight. Despite its neofolk quietude—many tracks are pared down to only guitar, flute, and a few room sounds—this follow-up to Pratt’s 2015 release On Your Own Love Again feels absolutely enormous. From the small hypnosis of “As the World Turns” to the rolling trills of “Poly Blue,” each moment throws Pratt’s enigmatic soprano into a strikingly eerie spotlight, all but begging you to drop everything and just listen. Heed that call. 4/5 –MOLLIE WELLS

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Waiting eight years for Robyn’s eighth studio album felt like a lifetime. But finally, Honey has arrived. One of Robyn’s strongest talents is crafting boldly poignant lyrics and weaving them within danceable tracks. Opener “Missing U” re-introduces that skill, but from there she shifts. Gone are the ultra-bubbly Body Talk-style vibes—replaced by more subdued, yet still synthy sounds. While the title track is the first indicator of a softer touch, other songs like “Because It’s In The Music” and “Between The Lines” emphasize that sentiment. Honey was totally worth the wait and brings fans a brand new style of Robyn to love. 4/5 –KATHY IANDOLI

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Georgia Anne Muldrow is a legend in the making with a rich, aerobic voice, unusual grooves, laid-bare lyrics, and a prolific output. Overload—her 17th record, but first for Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label—is the kind of avant-soul classic that commands an instant following. From the psychedelic funk of “Aerosol” to the cosmic R&B chill of “Canadian Hillbilly,” Muldrow weaves a polished, subtle love story through every skittering beat and astral hook. Even less romantic tracks like “Blam”—a deeply real look at inequality and brutality—radiate an anxious warmth that puts the starkness in sharp relief. The album is fierce, unexpected, and unmistakably Muldrow. 4/5 –MOLLIE WELLS

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Highway Hypnosis

Highway Hypnosis is the kind of record that club basements were made for. The experimental songs are quick—tailored for those who like a clear beat and have a short attention span. A few tracks sound somewhat predictable, but the collection takes a turn halfway through. In “Money Don’t Grow On Trees,” Sneaks (aka D.C.’s Eva Moolchan) repeats the title line over an eclectic mash-up of synth and percussion, creating a hook of sorts. The overall effect of the album is interesting anti-pop, though some might find the experience a bit distant and chilly. 3/5 –CLAIRE MCKINZIE

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Crush On Me

In early 2018, Sir Babygirl—the nom de guerre of musician Kelsie Hogue—erupted onto the pop scene with the release of her debut single, “Heels.” The song, about breaking up and running home without shoes, felt like a revelation. Crush On Me, her debut on Father/Daughter records, is even more of a triumph. Over the course of nine tracks, Sir Babygirl manages to hotwire queer desire, inject it with manic abandon, and drive it straight to Claire’s. Album standout “Haunted House” is the frenetic saga of a bygone party. “Pink Lite” is a bittersweet treasure from the opening line: “I smoke too much for a non-smoker.” The songs are outrageously catchy, but more importantly, they capture something essential about being young and gay and weird—of kissing the wrong people and losing oneself in a pop song, of having crushes and watching them evaporate into nothingness. Then doing it all over again. 5/5 -SAM CHAPMAN

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Remind Me Tomorrow

Sharon Van Etten hasn’t released an album since 2014, but you’ve probably seen her around—perhaps on Netflix’s sci-fi drama The OA, or in the much-praised Twin Peaks reboot. Thankfully, her foray into Hollywood hasn’t dampened Van Etten’s ability to make a killer album. Like Are We There (2014) and Tramp (2012) before it, Remind Me Tomorrow is packed with emotional shredders anchored by Van Etten’s deep, swooping voice. On “Comeback Kid” and “Seventeen,” Van Etten abandons the sparser sound of her earlier records in favor of synthesizers and more instrumentation, but her vocals (and her lyrics) remain as potent as ever. 4/5 –ELIZA THOMPSON

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Olympic Girls
(Ba Da Bing Records)

On Tiny Ruins’ third release, Hollie Fullbrook returns with complex and cryptic lyrics, touching and emotional vocals, and intricate guitar work. Fullbrook eschews a tight, predictable pop structure in favor of songs that change sound and mood during their duration, never meandering and always captivating. Lyrically, she often conveys idealism contrasted with cynicism. On the title track, she seems to contemplate female empowerment and revolution, noting progress but also the journey ahead by singing, “We were only inches away/Still have a long, long way to go.” The song “Stars, False, Fading” starts off with a dynamic doo-wop influenced melody, and lyrics discussing a love that she knows very well might fade once the harsh sting of reality sets in. Olympic Girls celebrates moments of fleeting joy in a flawed world. 5/5 –ADRIENNE URBANSKI

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Utopia Teased 
(Western Vinyl)

Utopia Teased is beautifully rough around the edges—full of shadows, intimacy, and storytelling that reflect the vulnerability of the human experience. While a few tracks, like “Maximum Sunlight,” have fictional lyrics inspired by a book of the same name, much of the album is the result of grief and processing in the wake of the 2016 Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland. Steinbrink’s lyrics are honest and introspective, echoing the surreal feelings of being alive, particularly after tragedy. His dulcet, high melodies are layered throughout. Synth drumbeats and pop guitar dominate “Bad Love,” while “Mom” hints at a mid-century folk sensibility with acoustic guitar and plucky keys. “Zappa Dream” gives perhaps the best lyrical insights into Steinbrink’s perspective, and “Coming Down” removes vocals entirely. With minimal guitar and keys, the song creates space for a feeling that lasts. 4/5 –CARLEE MCMANUS

This piece originally appeared in the January/February 2019 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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