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21 Albums To Hibernate With This Winter: Playlist

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We're bringing the heat with our October/November 2018 print issue album reviews, from Cat Power's first release in six years, to another raw and real compilation from Waxahatchee. It's the perfect time of year to listen to some jams—while commuting, with your new date, at that cute winter get together, or while you're bundling up and staying warm inside.  

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CAT POWER
Wanderer
(Domino)

It’s been six years since Cat Power, aka Chan Marshall, released her last album, which is a long time even by her standards. Thankfully, she’s back with Wanderer, a blissful return to form that will satisfy every corner of her fan base. On her last album, 2012’s Sun, Marshall played with on-trend synths and Auto-Tuned vocals, and while there’s a little bit of that on Wanderer, listeners who prefer her folksier offerings will appreciate this album as well. There are gorgeous, piano-based tracks that evoke “I Don’t Blame You”—most notably on an instantly classic cover of Rihanna’s “Stay”—as well as moodier songs like the acoustic “Black.” (If you miss Marshall’s depressive lyrics of yore, the latter track’s “angel of death” refrain will feel like a healing balm.) On “Woman,” Marshall teams up with her one-time tour mate Lana Del Rey for a driving anthem about learning to rely on yourself above all else, but the album’s real standout is the title track, repeated as an outro in a different key. Both versions will leave listeners haunted, in awe of Marshall’s ability to conjure whole landscapes using nothing but her voice. 5/5 – ELIZA THOMPSON

 

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AVA LUNA
Moon 2
(Western Vinyl)

Ava Luna’s fourth LP imagines what life could be like if Earth had a utopic second moon, exploring the pseudo satellite through its signature, genre-bending style. “Childish” and “Leaf” capture the expansive nature of outer space, building mysteriously echoing vocals over playful, semi-tropical beats; the ’80s-inspired chanting choruses on “Deli Run” and “Set It Off” will invade Earthlings’ eardrums for days. While a few tracks float too far out into the galaxy, overall, the quintet blends glimmers of soul, R&B, and post-punk to provide a promising soundtrack for life on Moon 2. 4/5 – ANNA KAPLAN

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BLACK BELT EAGLE SCOUT
Mother of my Children
(Saddle Creek)

On “Soft Stud,” Black Belt Eagle Scout—aka Katherine Paul or KP—softly admits, “I know you’re taken,” before crescendoing into sweet howls of, “need you, want you” over a killer guitar riff. The self-proclaimed “radical indigenous queer feminist” does this often on her debut, switching between riot grrrl and Earth mother, her vulnerability always on full display. “Indians Never Die” is a percussive meditation on environmental degradation, while the distortion-heavy “Just Lie Down” is about letting go of grief, and the relief that follows. Of course, by then you’ll be totally hooked on Black Belt Eagle Scout. 4/5 – SHANNON CARLIN

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CHAI
Pink
(Burger Records)

CHAI is an electro-pop/rock quartet from Nagoya, Japan, that finds the concept of kawaii—the celebration of “loveable” or “cute” in Japanese popular culture—to be restrictive. They instead rep a more inclusive “neo-kawaii,” which celebrates uniqueness in non-conforming bodies and accepts them all as cute. They also use “N.E.O.” as their own acronym: “New Excite Onna-band” (onna meaning “woman”), and as the name of their giddy, frenzied pop single, which points out just how boring homogenized beauty is. (You won’t regret watching the video for this song.) Naming influences like Tom Tom Club and CSS, CHAI also experiments with disco, rapid-fire hip-hop, and easy ’80s funk across Pink’s 11 tracks, hitting topics like small breasts, bad-hair days, and a love affair with gyoza dumplings. 5/5 – EMILY NOKES

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PIP BLOM
Paycheck
(Persona Non Grata)

To hear some people tell it, rock is dead. Yet somehow, promising young musicians keep cropping up. One such person is Pip Blom of Amsterdam, who began her career by writing a bunch of songs in her room. Those first few releases, in 2016, were all breezy pop-rock constructions that landed somewhere between Courtney Barnett and Kate Nash—buoyant, but not very revolutionary. Paycheck is something else entirely. Backed by a full band and armed with a newfound wistfulness, Blom cranks up the vocal distortion and plows through four tracks of sinewy alt-rock. Shrugging off some of the cheeriness in favor of Brit-pop sardonicism serves Blom and co. well. Paycheck is a rewarding listen. What’s that you were saying about death? 4/5 – SAM CHAPMAN

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BOYGENIUS
Self-Titled
(Matador)

Boygenius is the new project of indie mavens Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus, catalyzed by an upcoming tour and a mutual affinity for one another, both personally and musically. The six-song seven-inch is collaborative, but balanced by each artist’s own devastating songwriting abilities. Dacus’ album opener, “Bite the Hand,” sets the tone with pared-down instrumentation that builds into beautiful harmonies—each voice distinct yet complementary to the whole. Bridgers’ “Me & My Dog” is a wistful snapshot looking back at an unraveled relationship; and then there are the gut-wrenching lyrics on Baker’s “Souvenir,” asking: “When you cut a hole into my skull/Do you hate what you see/Like I do?” Go ahead and feel those feelings. 4/5 – EMILY NOKES

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ELYSIAN FIELDS
Pink Air
(Elysian Music)

On Elysian Fields’ 11-track offering, Pink Air, the cult-rock band (formed by co-composers Jennifer Charles and Oren Bloedow) maintains its sonic integrity while delivering social commentary. Cuts like opener “Storm Cellar” sound like a simple rock track, yet the lyrics present a metaphorical environmental discussion with lines like, “I don’t need to hear the forecast/but it’s coming for me.” Other songs like “Philistine Jackknife” get political, and you can read between the lines to find out who they’re talking about. This is far from Elysian Fields’ first rodeo; with Pink Air being their 11th album and Charles already conquering Broadway, you can hear how seasoned they are. There are definitely more seasons to come. 4/5 – KATHY IANDOLI

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FRONTPERSON
Frontrunner
(Oscar St. Records)

Frontperson is the collaboration you didn’t know you needed, but kinda sorta can’t live without now that it’s here. This debut tag-team of Kathryn Calder (the New Pornographers) and Mark Andrew Hamilton (Woodpigeon) sends folk-pop into wild new territories: orchestral swells over 808 beats, pounding rhythms under finger-picked guitars, and some of the most heartbreakingly lovely vocal harmonies this side of Fleetwood Mac. From the sweet bounce of “Long Night” to the ominous stutter of “This City is Mine,” Frontrunner is a front-to-back delight—especially when it leans hard into its ’60s-Baroque inspirations. This is definitely a duo to watch. 4/5 – MOLLIE WELLS

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MADELINE KENNEY
Perfect Shapes
(Carpark Records)

A year after her modest debut, Madeline Kenney teamed up with Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner and found her signature sound: pure, unabashed, blissed-out pop. It’s the perfect complement to her timely lyrics that deal with the societal pressures women face. On the synth-driven “The Flavor of the Fruit Tree,” Kenney sweetly laments, “I keep getting old, you keep getting younger,” while “Cut Me Off” is a jumpy chorale that staves off redundancy, but in a way that won’t completely harsh your mellow. Listening to Perfect Shapes is a dream, one that you won’t want to wake up from. 5/5 – SHANNON CARLIN

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LALA LALA
The Lamb
(Hardly Art)

Lala Lala’s second LP, and debut on Hardly Art, is a sometimes-dreamy sounding and often soul-baring look into the life of its vocalist, Lillie West. The album opener “Destroyer” burns slow until it explodes into a repeating chorus of, “You are the reason my heart broke behind my back.” Throughout The Lamb’s 12 tracks, West continues to be just as frank about her feelings on topics such as death, friendships, and herself. “Dove,” “Spy,” “When You Die,” and “Copycat” are must-listens, but The Lamb is stellar overall—a release you won’t want to miss. 5/5 – KATHRYN HENSCH

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MISERABLE
Loverboy/Dog Days
(Sargent House)

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Vocalist/instrumentalist Kristina Esfandiari, of King Woman, makes dark, shoegaze music as Miserable. The follow-up to Miserable’s 2016 full-length, Uncontrollable, this release combines two EPs—a new set of songs titled Loverboy, and a re-mastered reissue of the 2015 cassette Dog Days. “Loverboy,” is heavy and has a profoundly emotional quality in line with what you might expect; the bruised power-pop of “Gasoline” showcases Esfandiari’s powerful, guttural voice. The second half, Dog Days, is lighter and trades distortion for a dreamier pop approach, but pain still seeps across the album’s eight tracks. The result is melodic, intimate, and highly cathartic, like crying it all out in your best friend’s room after your first heartbreak. 4/5 – EMILY NOKES

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MARISSA NADLER
For My Crimes
(Sacred Bones)

Instrumentally sparse but thematically complex, Marissa Nadler’s eighth release advances her signature style of lo-fi indie-folk full of mystique. With songs ruminating on relationships, her soft strumming and fingerpicking send her sweetly seductive vocals into an eerily serene dreamscape. On the title track, a Southern-gothic ballad, she sings from the perspective of a death-row inmate, while friend and fellow songwriter Angel Olsen lends backing vocals. In “Lover Release Me,” her blunt lyrics about a breakup perfectly counter the melody of a woozy love song. Nadler sees darkness, and she transforms it into a story well told. 4/5 – CINDY YOGMAS

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YOKO ONO
Warzone
(Chimera Music)

Yoko Ono has always been a unique, avant-garde, multimedia artist, and her music is no exception. She began recording over 50 years ago, releasing eight collaborative albums with her late husband, John Lennon, and 13 solo studio records. For her latest, Warzone, Ono revisits 13 songs from previous works spanning from 1970 to 2009. “Warzone,”“Hell In Paradise,” the 1970s feminist anthem “Woman Power,” and “Why” are presented across a stripped-down musical soundscape, and there’s even a version of the iconic “Imagine,” co-written by Ono and Lennon. Ono’s vision of world peace, love, feminism, and positive change are more relevant than ever. Oh, Yoko! 4/5 –MICHAEL LEVINE

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TY SEGALL + WHITE FENCE
Joy
(Drag City)

The ever-prolific Ty Segall has teamed up with White Fence (Tim Presley) to produce Joy, which is, in some ways, an extension of their 2012 collaboration, Hair. While more polished than Hair, this mind-meldis exactly what you’d expect: psychedelic riffs and buzzed-out guitars permeate Joy, but at its core, many tracks are like twisted pop songs. “Body Behavior” features dynamic harmonies that sound like they’re played in reverse,Twin Peaks-style. From the dissonant “Hey Joel, Where You Going With That?” to the folksy track “My Friend,” Joy has many tricks up its sleeves, even if it’s a little frenetic. 4/5 – MARY KINNEY

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TUNDE OLANIRAN
Stranger
(Magic Wheel)

On his second full-length, pop stylist Tunde Olaniran works his warm voice against the backdrop of a carnival of styles. On the catchy “I’m Here,” Olaniran bangs it out like MJ for the 21st century. On “Miracle” he tries on a de rigueur pop trope—the self-acceptance anthem, bringing freshness and fun to a blueprint laid out by Whitney, Pink, et al. He waxes playful on “Celine Dion,” and shows off on “Coins,” snapping a picture of what a mash-up of Big Freedia, Cardi, and CupkakKe might look like. Olaniran goes big on “Enemies,” proving that the pop-power ballad is far from dead. On a couple of tracks, his innate charisma and invitingly smooth crooning distract from the lyrical sparseness, but Stranger is still the pop caffeine you’ll need to pull through those long, fall subway rides. 4/5 – CAMILLE COLLIN

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KURT VILE
Bottle It In
(Matador)

Every American rock icon eventually makes a road record—that irresistible document of planes and highways, bars and stadiums—and this is Kurt Vile’s. Recorded over two years in studios across the country, Bottle It In really does feel like a journey: the 60-mph sprawl of “One Trick Ponies,” the bright but claustrophobic “Hysteria,” the beautifully monotonous “Mutinies,” all sent through the looking glass of Vile’s cool, dry wit and warm, easy guitars. Think Neil Young on tour with Blonde Redhead, perhaps. It’s the perfect combo of unexpected and familiar, and the freshest evolution of Vile’s wistful swagger yet. 5/5 – MOLLIE WELLS

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SWEARIN’
Fall Into the Sun
(Merge)

After officially calling it quits in 2015, beloved Philly punks Swearin’ have returned. And while there’s no doubt that this is a Swearin’ album, the passage of time is clearly something the trio internalized on Fall Into the Sun. Tracks like “Grow Into a Ghost” and “Oil and Water” question how the past might impact their future, enveloped in distorted guitars and energetic melodies. Alternating between Allison Crutchfield’s evocative vocals and Kyle Gilbride’s twang throughout the album, Swearin’ cultivates a daring and more mature sound as it uses this record in an attempt to heal some ofthe wounds that time couldn’t. 4/5 – ANNA KAPLAN

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JON SPENCER
Spencer Sings the Hits
(In the Red Records)

Jon Spencer knows that all you need in order to write a stompin’ rocker is an old guitar, a beat-up amp, and a bit of attitude. On his solo debut, Spencer (of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Pussy Galore, Boss Hog) serves up 12 tracks, all glowing withgritty, golden fuzz just begging to be played at your next late-night after-party, when things start to get a little sweaty, loud, and broken. On the song “I Got the Hits,” Spencer shouts, “C’mon! You wanna feel good? How ‘bout it?” A challenge for anybody drowning in their own existence to shut up for a minute and take a shot of Jon Spencer’s pure rock ‘n’ roll hits. 4/5 – NICKY PHELPS

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WAXAHATCHEE
Great Thunder
(Merge)

Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield strips down both emotionally and musically on Great Thunder, the same title of a now-defunct experimental group she was in. The material was written between 2013 and 2015 and has been given a home on this EP. Aided nearly exclusively by piano or acoustic guitar, the clean sounds on all six tracks allow the listener to focus on Crutchfield’s voice and lyrics. “Singer’s No Star,” “Takes So Much,” and “Chapel of Pines” are highlights, the last of which is a track Waxahatchee has performed live for yearsand has now finally recorded. 4/5 – KATHRYN HENSCH

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WARM DRAG
Self-Titled
(In the Red Records)

Warm Drag’s self-titled debut feels like a hot summer night out: dark, jagged, a bit off-the-cuff, and memorable. Made up of Paul Quattrone (Oh Sees and !!!) and Vashti Windish (Golden Triangle), the band’s sound consists of amp feedback, fuzz-soaked guitar, and ’70s percussion, all swathed in Windish’s filtered, crackling vocals. This record is not for the soft or tender. Tracks like “Cave Crawl,” “Someplace I Shouldn’t Be,” and “Cruisin’ The Night” feel hedonistic and bursting with desire. This album also isn’t for those attracted to whimsy—but it certainly celebrates what happens when the lights go out. 3/5– CLAIRE MCKINZIE

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SPIRITUALIZED
And Nothing Hurt
(Fat Possum Records)

After a six-year hiatus, off-kilter space-rock outfit Spiritualized has returned with a new album that is certainly well worth the long wait. Frontman Jason Pierce opted to record on a limited budget in his own home, which gives it a highly intimate feeling. Starting off the album is “Perfect Miracle,” a whimsical and upbeat sentimental song that conjures the glowing feeling of a new love. “I’m Your Man” is a loud, rousing number with backing choir vocals and layered guitar work. Meanwhile, the bittersweet “Let’s Dance” laments on aging and the passing of time. And Nothing Hurt runs the gamut of emotions, offering songs worthy both of the dance floor and of times of quiet reflection. 5/5 – ADRIENNE URBANSKI

This piece originally appeared in the October/November 2018 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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