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21 New Albums To Take You From Summer To Fall

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From new Mitski to the return of Neneh Cherry, here's our music reviews from our August/September issue—plus, a Spotify playlist with some favorites from each album.

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MITSKI

Be the Cowboy 

(Dead Oceans)

On Be the Cowboy’s opener, “Geyser,” Mitski begins to reveal her tumultuous relationship status: It’s complicated. This dispute fuels the entirety of the record, wherein she grapples with her nuanced passion, often to the point of explosion. Upbeat piano and synth-driven songs like “Washing Machine Heart” bounce with a half-hearted happiness, while the more transparent “A Horse Named Cold Air” reaches into the depths of her dilemma, emphasized by her ethereal vocals. Although most tracks hover around two minutes, they each meander between Mitski’s bravado and gloom as she exposes something she loves that also brings her despair. 5/5 –ANNA KAPLAN

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BAD BAD HATS 

Lightning Round

(Afternoon Records)

Bad Bad Hats may be from the Land of 10,000 Lakes (Minneapolis to be exact), but guitarist/vocalist Kerry Alexander’s serene vocals occasionally transport listeners across the pond with a lilting quality that leans more toward the United Kingdom than the Midwest. The follow-up to 2015’s Psychic Reader, Lightning Round is equally honest in exploring matters of the heart, but packs more of a pop punch. Lead single “Write It On Your Heart” illustrates the simultaneous sweet and sour of standing up to an ex; the hazy synth of “1-800” is perfect for a lazy day in the sun; “Talk With Your Hands” and “Girl” play with dynamics, flipping from wistful indie rock to catchy dance songs and back again. 4/5 –EMILY NOKES

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BODEGA

Endless Scroll

(What’s Your Rupture?)

Bodega’s debut album (produced by Austin Brown of Parquet Courts, with whom they now share a label) offers societal commentary via a danceable, art-rock/’70s post-punk era sound. Much of what they have to say (or shout) relates to consumerism and technological dependence—take “Bodega Birth,” which opens with an electronic voice saying, “I use my computer for everything/Heaven knows I’m miserable now.” The best moments on the record are when the band gets clever with lyricism, notably on “Jack in Titanic,” in which lead singers Nikki Belfiglio and Ben Hozie compare themselves to the ill-fated heartthrob in seemingly countless ways. Other standouts among the 14 tracks are “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” “Truth is Not Punishment,” and lead single, “How Did This Happen!?” 4/5 –KATHRYN HENSCH

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JENN CHAMPION

Single Rider

(Hardly Art)

With 2014’s Cool Choices, Jenn Champion had people in tears. With her follow-up, Single Rider, she has them on the dancefloor, starting with the sexy bop of “O.M.G. (I’m All Over It)” and the synth-driven yodel of “Coming For You.” The nu-disco track “Holding On” has a bassline that just won’t quit, and neither will Champion, whose “Never Giving In”—a vocoder-assisted rallying cry—is for all those who’ve spent the past year “choking on [their] own newsfeed” and marching for their rights. On Single Rider, Champion is dancing through these hard times, and you’ll definitely want to join her. 5/5 –SHANNON CARLIN

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BODY/HEAD

The Switch 

(Matador)   

The Switch is the second full-length studio album from Body/Head, Kim Gordon and Bill Nace’s experimental guitar project. Each of the five tracks is a self-contained noise-scape, 4.5 to 11 minutes in length. A tremulous dissonance rolls across each piece like heavy fog; on “You Don’t Need,” layers of drone open up slowly to reveal scraps of Gordon’s distorted vocals ricocheting off the background. “Change My Brain” itches and thrums, a melody almost forms, a ghostly voice periodically appears then dissolves back into static. Though the meditative cacophony feels overwhelming after a while, the hypnotic effect hidden within the buzzing is undeniable. 3/5 –EMILY NOKES

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EBONY BONES 

Nephilim

(1984 Records)

Ebony Bones has flown under the radar for a surprisingly long time, considering she’s been recording music since 2009 and counts Yoko Ono, Jay-Z, and Alexander Wang as fans. Nephilim, a bold, ambitious work released on the artist’s own label, may change all that. Ebony Bones plays with genre in innovative ways, mixing elements of jazz, ’90s house, classical, and punk in a percussion-heavy collage. Contributions from the Beijing Philharmonic Orchestra lend a moody, menacing air to an album that is otherwise quite minimalist and restrained. Nephilim’s strongest moments are tracks like “No Black in the Union Jack” that are propelled by politics. This is a strange and exciting release, and we can’t wait to hear what Ebony Bones does next. 4/5 –SARAH C. JONES

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JULIANA DAUGHERTY

Light

(Western Vinyl)

Light is a record of many faces. This debut from Charlottesville singer/songwriter Juliana Daugherty may lead with atmosphere—the faint motorik beat of “Player,” the gliding strings of “Sweetheart,” the intimate café-folk meets sparse dream-pop of it all—but it’s poetry at the core. Daugherty gets very real here, and her unflinching dive into the experience of depression feels like a mirror: the ugly struggle, laid bare, for everyone who knows it well. And while the romantic whisper of Daugherty’s songwriting is brilliant enough on its own, it’s that messy realism that makes Light so beautiful, important, and achingly true. 5/5 –MOLLIE WELLS

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DIRTY PROJECTORS

Lamp Lit Prose

(Domino)

It’s not just the sweeping melodies or effervescent rhythms that make Lamp Lit Prose—the ninth album by eclectic indie band Dirty Projectors—so perfectly timed for summer. Each track contains the essence of sunshine itself, its transformative strength. Demonstrated best in “Break-Thru” and “I Feel Energy,” lead singer/guitarist Dave Longstreth’s lyrics remind us that it is possible to break through the darkness of heartbreak, mental illness, and political corruption. Featuring guest appearances from Amber Mark, Syd, Robin Pecknold, and more, Lamp Lit Prose highlights tones of folk, soul, jazz, and electronica, staying true to the Projectors’ uniquely experimental composition style. 4/5 –MIA X. PEREZ

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NENEH CHERRY

Broken Politics 

(Smalltown Supersound)

Neneh Cherry broke out in 1989 with the landmark debut, Raw Like Sushi, and released three more studio albums in ’92,’96, and 2014. Now, Cherry is back with Broken Politics, offering up an ambient trip-hop backdrop rather than the in-your-face, hip-hop soul sound she is known for. Her lyrics reflect personal (the funky/upbeat “Natural Skin Deep”), social (“Deep Vein Thrombosis”), and political (“Kong,” “Synchronised Devotion”) points of view, demonstrating throughout that she hasn’t lost one bit of her nuanced vocal prowess. Broken Politics is a strong statement and musical representation of an artist creating and continuing to tell it like it is. 5/5 –MICHAEL LEVINE

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LOTIC

Power

(Tri Angle Records)

In many ways, Lotic’s debut LP Power is a concept album, given the producer’s vision of creating a work that explores the many manifestations of power. With 11 tight tracks, the Houston/Berlin-based musician not only delivers sonic embodiments of powerful purpose, but also aptly titles each composition. The dizzy opener “Love and Light” provides a sound bed that drums up the power of hope, while “Fragility” stirs the power of vulnerability. There’s “Resilience,” there’s “Nerve,” there’s “Heart”—a lot of tunes for a lot of moods. And at its core, Power is an instrumental soundtrack of how to channel inner strength, in all of its forms. 3/5 –KATHY IANDOLI 

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FLORENCE + THE MACHINE 

Free Download:  Great Dames!

Get inspired by some of our favorite interviews, featuring Dolly Parton, Solange, Tina Fey, Jessica Williams, Kathleen Hanna, Laverne Cox, the Broad City gals, and more! Plus, keep up with the latest from BUST.

High As Hope 

(Republic Records/Virgin EMI)

On Florence + the Machine’s fourth full-length, frontwoman Florence Welch exerts an introspective vulnerability, searching for answers through an existential gaze. High As Hope tackles the pressure for performative happiness and the struggle to find a real connection with each other and the world around us. Welch’s vocals remain as iconic as before as she experiments with heady lows and soaring, spectacular highs against a backdrop of speckled bass and sauntering piano melodies. From the euphoric harmonies of “Grace” to the throbbing, string-led urgency of “South London Forever,” the album’s textured dynamics and assertions of universal truth are what make High As Hope so affecting. 4/5 –SAMMY MAINE

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THE INTERNET

Hive Mind

(Columbia Records)

On the Internet’s fourth studio album, the band continues to play by its own cross-genre rules. From woozy jams like “Come Together,” “Next Time/Humble Pie,” and “Hold On,” to melding the abstract with the tangible on “Bravo” and “Beat Goes On,” it seems like founding members Syd and Matt Martians are finally comfortable within their niche. The lead single “Come Over” is a testament to that, as they harness the powers of ’90s R&B to make a joint that sounds more futuristic than dated. When you know who you are, the rest is seamless, and that’s exactly how Hive Mind sounds. 4/5 –KATHY IANDOLI

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THE OPHELIAS

Almost 

(Joyful Noise)

Cincinnati four-piece the Ophelias formed when the members were still in high school, each sharing the experience of having been the “token girl” in various projects before combining their talents to make music that sounds both youthful and wise. Almost is their second full-length album, a collection of earnestly beautiful arrangements. Songs like “General Electric” and “Night Signs” showcase clearly articulated, contemplative lyrics. The cinematic “O Command” is dense with rhythms and quietly exasperated lyrics: “You act like you’re modest/You say what you don’t mean.” Idiosyncratic ingredients—like the surreal conversation snippets that bounce through “Lover’s Creep,” and the eerie vocal effects on “House”—complement the Ophelias’ penchant for violin flourishes and overall emotional gravity. 4/5 –EMILY NOKES

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NATALIE PRASS

The Future and the Past 

(ATO Records)

Natalie Prass chose an apt title for an album that’s thematically about the future and steeped in sounds from the past. In the three years since her debut release, she was motivated and mobilized by the election, current events, and volatile climate. Out came a collection of fight songs and rallying cries set to the music of ’70s and ’80s-reminiscent funk, pop, soul, and R&B. The anthemic “Sisters” promotes unity with a chorus of powerful female vocals and a laid-back groove; “Ain’t Nobody” is a disco throwback full of complex arrangements and layered effects, which is part of Prass’ signature style. Nobody says you can’t dance while you revolt. 5/5 –CINDY YOGMAS

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LUMP 

Lump

(Dead Oceans)

Lump, the first effort from Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay (Tunng), is dreamy. The self-titled album opens with “Late to the Flight,” which floats and unfolds hypnotically as Marling’s velvety vocals play with Lindsay’s electronic-folk instrumentation, creating a surreal landscape. In the single “Curse of the Contemporary,” trippy guitars and poppy drums lay the groundwork for Marling to serve up Kate Bush vibes, which are as haunting as they are catchy. This song, like much of the album, evokes both joy and melancholy. You might find yourself dancing until you realize you’re hearing lyrics like: “We salute the sun because/When the day is done, we can’t believe what we’ve become/Something else to prey upon.” 4/5 –CARLEE MCMANUS

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SERPENTWITHFEET

soil

(Secretly Canadian)

Serpentwithfeet’s soil is a liturgy on authenticity, free identity, and the universal joys and sorrows of love. A choirboy during his​ Baltimore​ childhood, singer Josiah Wise’s voice has an emotive, tremulous quality. The standout numbers are striking in their ability to leave a lasting impression on the heart. The plaintive “mourning song” is typical of the forthright honesty that characterizes his compositions; “whisper” is equally passionate and tender, while “messy” casts Wise in the role of difficult lover. With contributors including mmph, Katie Gately, Clams Casino, and Paul Epworth helping create the mood, soil marks the emergence of a fresh interpreter of soul with sentiments that are pure, ghoulish, and heavenly. 4/5 –CAMILLE COLLINS

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SOPHIE

Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides

(Transgressive Records/Future Classic)

In the summer of 2013, a trickle of one-off singles—polymerized bursts of carbonation with strange names and chipmunk-ified vocals—began emanating from a shadowy producer mononymously known as SOPHIE. For a time, SOPHIE’s career was mostly understood as a grand conceptual exercise, simultaneously deconstructing and ecstatically reveling in pop music’s artificiality. On Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides, her first real full-length release, that thesis is wildly expanded in almost every direction. Songs like “Ponyboy” and “Faceshopping” could have feasibly existed alongside her earlier singles, but “Infatuation,” and “Pretending,” are much more akin to the work of electronic composers Oneohtrix Point Never and The Haxan Cloak in scope and structure. And certainly the hot-pink kineticism of “Immaterial” and sensitivity of “It’s Okay to Cry” have benefitted from SOPHIE’s recent experience producing for Charli XCX and Madonna. There are moments on Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides that feel slightly unfocused, but when the material lands, one begins to suspect SOPHIE might alter the tectonics of pop music. 4/5 –SAM CHAPMAN

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WET

Still Run

(Columbia)

Wet’s sophomore record starts off with an exuberant shout of happiness, something fairly unusual for the trio. “There’s a Reason” and “You’re Not Wrong” incorporate cheerful horns and skipping piano keys—an unexpected risk that brings a sweet reward. While these tracks may reveal a newfound hope through lead singer Kelly Zutrau’s tender vocals and candid lyrics, about halfway through, Still Run reverts back to the ominous sadness that Wet is known for, as Zutrau gets sincere about the darker emotions that come with staying in a toxic relationship until the bitter end. 4/5 –ANNA KAPLAN

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TIRZAH

Devotion 

(Domino)

Following up three solid dance EPs (often described as “wonky pop”), London singer Tirzah debuts Devotion, her first full-length album. Written with longtime friend and contributor Mica Levi (Micachu and the Shapes), who handled the music and production, Devotion is Tirzah at her most intimate and down-tempo. The 11 tracks are songs of aching passion—on slowburner “Gladly,” she escapes into the embrace of a true love; on “Affection” sparse piano and warped soul vocals echo and overlap; “Guilty” shifts Tirzah’s voice into several futuristic R&B layers, twisting them around synth and guitar lines like incense smoke. Standout track, the stirring “Go Now,” is reminiscent of a ’90s breakup slow jam with close harmonies and the refrain, “Ain’t good enough for me.” 4/5 –EMILY NOKES

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TANCRED

Nightstand

(Polyvinyl)      

Tancred’s 2016 album Out of the Garden was everything I didn’t know I needed as a preteen pop-punk fan who never saw herself reflected on Warped Tour stages. While front woman Jess Abbott draws the best candy hooks of that genre, the album is a thousand times cooler than anything those dudes ever made: it was all Buffy references and lyrics about falling in and out of love and distorted guitars. Nightstand picks up where Out of the Garden left off, finding Abbott in a more tender and introspective place, investigating what it means to be strung along by your feelings. But it’s not without its bangers. “Queen of New York” is the ’90s teen movie anthem of the summer, an ode to the soaring butterflies of a one-night stand that solidifies Tancred as a punk rock dream come true. 4/5 –ROBIN EDWARDS

Top photo via Youtube / mitski mitski

This article originally appeared in the August/September 2018 print issue of BUST. Subscribe today!

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