The best albums of the week, from Haim, Arca, MIKE, and more

Photo credit Reto Schmid

So, who’s going to that “herd immunity” festival in Wisconsin? Despite coronavirus cases surging to record highs in numerous states and the highest single day of U.S. cases this week, a bunch of nu-metal bands will nonetheless convene in Ringle, Wisconsin in mid-July to spread the music and disease. It’s hard to think about concerts resuming in any capacity this year, but a number of artists appear ready to buck convention at any cost. Luckily, no one in this week’s album column is scheduled to appear in Ringle next month, but you can check out their new records in the meantime anyway. We have the latest from Haim, Hum, Bad Moves, and more to take in this week.

Haim — Women in Music Pt. III

Haim’s one of those bands where I’ve thought hmm, great singles! Since Days Are Gone, they’ve effortlessly funnelled decades worth of pop rock into songs like “The Wire,” “Falling,” and “Want You Back,” but something hasn’t quite clicked on an album level. Woman in Music Pt. III could be the one to change that. Despite its biting title, this is a deeply personal effort for the Haim sisters, cutting through past traumas and grief. Producer Ariel Rechtshaid links up again for something that’s a sort of cousin to Danielle Haim’s contributions on Vampire Weekend’s Father of the Bride last year. These are busy, magisterial arrangements that offer new wrinkles to the band without compromising their grasp on a huge chorus.

Hum — Inlet

Not to nitpick, but there are surprise releases — albums by currently working pop artists that you’re always kind of expecting in the back of your mind — and true surprise releases. Hum’s comeback after 22 years most definitely falls in the latter category, arriving this week with Inlet. It’s another Hum album, which is to say bruising, fuzzy monuments sitting at the intersection of shoegaze and space rock. So many recent bands have tried to approximate this sound without nearly approaching their level of scale or ambition.

Bad Moves — Untenable

The title says it all right? Our country’s a failed state, in its pandemic response, abandonment of the working class, and refusal to reckon with its racist history in a meaningful way. D.C. power pop band Bad Moves gets this. Even if the songs on their sophomore record were written before any of this really came to a head, the band identifies that it took a fundamentally broken country to give us this year. They’re kindred spirits with another great D.C. act, Flasher, cobbling together punk, new wave, surfy melodies into lockstep hooks. Even if Bad Moves grasp how bad things are, they’re going to make the end of the world sound more fun, fleet, and triumphant than it has any right to be.

Arca — Kick I

From her early work on Yeezus and FKA Twigs EP2, Arca’s been fracturing and rearranging pop music into new frontiers. Following this spring’s @@@@@, released as a single 62-minute track, Kick I is the ostensible pop counterpart to it. She’s turned to other contemporaries like Rosalía, SOPHIE, and Björk to lend a hand in a comparatively accessible direction, while still warping and pushing against the boundaries of everything that’s preceded it. While 2017’s Arca was the first to introduce her vocals into the mix, this casts an even wider net without compromising her strengths.

MIKE — Weight of the World

Grief’s a hallucinatory beast, constantly shape-shifting and assuming new forms than you'd encountered yesterday. MIKE's able to convey this confusion and deepness of feeling better than just about any other rapper working right now. His last album, 2019's Tears of Joy, was a gripping, poignant tribute to his mother who'd recently died, and the emotional wreckage lingers on Weight of the World. Taken best as a free-flowing whole that channels memories and cyclical ache through warped, slowed-down soul samples, this builds on each of MIKE's strengths. The collaborations from Earl Sweatshirt, KeiyaA, and Jadasea further cement them as one of the best, like-minded arms of underground rap.