A ranked selection of notable new recordings we heard in April.
1. Todd Terje, “It’s Album Time”
The dance floor is a place for sweat and romance and euphoria, so why not laughter? That’s the question this Norwegian producer seems to be popping on his quirky debut album, a neo-disco suite judiciously committed to silliness and bliss.
2. Ryley Walker, “All Kinds of You”
If Nick Drake was a 24-year-old werewolf from Chicago, he might be this guy, whose new album stitches together moody folk lullabies that could turn hairy if you rub them the wrong way.
3. Gucci Mane and Young Thug, “Young Thugga Mane La Flare”
Five years ago, it would have been impossible to envision a mixtape on which Gucci Mane played the straight man. But here we are, living in a weird rap universe (partially) made in his image. It’s a place where his acolyte and duet partner Young Thug can rhyme in gasps, cackles, whimpers and hiccups while still sounding like the coolest rapper in the game.
4. Leon Vynehall, “Music for the Uninvited”
The latest from this U.K. house producer couldn’t be much more of a delight — seven servings of highly carbonated dance music, full of sugar, sparkle and fizz.
5. Fennesz, “Becs”
Electronic composer Christian Fennesz‘s record label is calling his new album a sequel to his 2001 stunner, “Endless Summer,” but it sounds not of this world. On it, calming sounds begin to sizzle violently, like some sort of cosmic spa soundtrack sent crashing back to Earth.
6. Erica Campbell, “Help”
If gospel music is a salve, the solo debut from Mary Mary singer Erica Campbell is a pharmacy of an album. Through traditional foot-stompers, springy R&B and extra-strength funk, Campbell sends a beautiful message in her haphazardness: There are many ways to heal.
7. Tweens, “Tweens”
Admirers of the Go-Gos, X and “Bleach”-era Nirvana are all likely candidates to fall for these Cincinatti punks, but 18 seconds into her band’s debut, 21-year-old singer Bridget Battle shouts, “I’m too young to be this tired!” That’s a gripe that should resonate with rock fans of every age.
8. SZA, “Z”
“Your skin tastes like Brussels sprouts,” this 23-year-old R&B rookie exhales on her dreamily seductive and quietly complex new EP, proving that R&B is still the pop frontier where honesty and sensuality collide most vividly.
9. The Devil, “VIOLENCE”
For those unfamiliar with the Devil’s work, Atlanta producer Derek Schklar (a.k.a. the Devil) has spent the past year slicing up visceral audio collages and releasing them as rap mixtapes. His latest lives up to its title — the lines separating camp, shock and horror often get blasted away in a hail of gunfire.
10. Future, “Honest”
For a ballyhooed, blockbuster rap album, this one is only so-so. But don’t skip “Special,” a ballad in which Future scrapes the most wounded pop hook of the season from the back of his throat: “You ain’t even tryna be special.”
11. Wye Oak, “Shriek”
Remember that LCD Soundsystem lyric about the band that swapped its guitars for turntables? It’s a joke about abandoning craft for cool. Thankfully, that’s not what Wye Oak guitarist Jenn Wasner — who’s abstaining from six strings for synthesizers — is doing on this new album, which studiously pushes toward new new romantic plateaus.
12. Slutty Boyz, “Da New Cool”
Aside from their name, the most memorable thing about this rising D.C. rap crew is its collective ear for pop hooks. They still have a ways to go before they catch up to their pals (Migos, Rich Homie Quan) and their patrons (Wale, Fat Trel), but this new mixtape sounds like the start of something good.
13. Black Label Society, “Catacombs of the Black Vatican”
On its ninth studio album, the Los Angeles quartet, led by heavy-metal journeyman Zakk Wylde, continues churning the sludge that Alice in Chains first stirred up two decades back. It’s the opposite of fresh. In fact, it’s reasonably rotten. But it might hit the spot.
– Listen to a Soundcloud playlist with selections from the month’s best recordings below. (And because certain tracks in this month’s column aren’t available on Soundcloud, they’re streaming beneath the playlist.)
WARNING: Some songs contain explicit lyrics.
– The month’s best music
– Leon Vynehall
– Erica Campbell