The best albums of the week, featuring Lucinda Williams, Kali Uchis, and more
Another week, and another space vacated by a much-anticipated release pushed back due to the pandemic. Haim’s bitingly titled Women in Music Pt. III was set for release on April 24, but like Lady Gaga’s Chromatica, the Dixie Chicks comeback, and so many others, it’ll be coming our way much later this year. That said, there’s still a lot to like this week, including new releases from Lucinda Williams, a short-notice EP from Kali Uchis, and the first new album from an old punk band’s original lineup in 35 years.
Lucinda Williams — Good Souls Better Angels
Some of the best country-pop adjacent albums of the past few years have done nothing but validate Lucinda Williams’ mark on the genre. Waxahatchee’s stunning St. Cloud and Kacey Musgraves’ rise to stardom prove that one of their finest pace-setters deserves her due. After a number of slept-on highlights in the 2010s, Williams is back with her first album of new material in four years. Her husky, full-bodied voice is commanding as ever throughout Good Souls Better Angels, with fuzzy guitars howling on the edges. It’s about as fiery and incensed as late career albums can get.
Kali Uchis — To Feel Alive
Among the first high-profile artists to record and release something during quarantine, Kali Uchis announced her new EP just earlier this week. With an album cover to make My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy blush, Uchis has returned with a stopgap of sorts on To Feel Alive. On Twitter, she described it as “a 4 song ep i made in a couple days, during quarantine. recorded all of it alone, in my room, bcoz i won’t roll out my real album right now.” Given how vibrant and far-reaching her debut record, Isolation, still sounds, I’ll want to settle in with this one until whatever’s next gets here.
The Homeless Gospel Choir — This Land Is Your Landfill
The Pittsburgh-based Derek Zanetti has been recording upbeat, yelpy folk-punk for the better part of a decade. But for his sixth outing as The Homeless Gospel Choir, Zanetti's delivered a full-band effort brimming with newfound purpose and vigor. He recruited a number of punk lifers to collaborate, including members of Anti-Flag, Lucero, and more to give this an urgent, communal thrust. Zanetti's operating in that same lane as Jeff Rosenstock — incredibly catchy, political punk that never veers too didactic.
X — Alphabetland
Secondary to every obvious marker of 2020, it’s been a year of long-awaited returns. An aging punk institution will always be dubious to anticipate, but X is back with its original lineup in tow. They’d planned on releasing Alphabetland, their first since 1993 and first with this lineup in 35 years, in August, but felt this was the right time. As singer John Doe put it: “Let’s give people—at least our audience and maybe beyond that — something that is upbeat...something that’s new and vital,” he said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
Braids — Shadow Offering
After some intra-band squabbles bubbled up and resolved with a former member, Braids is back with its fourth record. Still chasing new textures as a three-piece, the Montreal-based indie outfit took their time with the latest collection of electro-pop. Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla, who has a way with oddly effective studio techniques, sat behind the boards and encouraged vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston to pursue new territory. "You’re allowed to be angry, don’t shy away from it because you feel you have to," she recalls him saying in a statement. The results are there, as they continue to expand in scope.