Man, what a week. This could apply to anything — the merciless job loss spanning industries, the sense that the government just isn’t going to materially improve its pandemic response before reopening everything, or the little things, like a summer without pools. Through all of this, there’s still new music, and tiny glimmers of hope and community. This week brings an abundance of the year’s best, including new records from Perfume Genius, Future, Charli XCX, and more.
Perfume Genius — Set My Heart on Fire Immediately
It’s hard to wrap your head around just how far Mike Hadreas has come in a decade. The first Perfume Genius record, Learning, was a sparse, stunningly intimate collection of melodic, lo-fi piano balladry, on which he was literally still learning how to play in real time. This gradually expanded outward, becoming even more confrontational in subject matter and production value. No Shape was his first teaming with producer Blake Mills, who featured here last week with Mutable Set, and captured the amorphous lushness that he’d been chasing all along. From the pummelling distortion of slowcore burner “Describe” and club ready “On the Floor,” he hopscotches genres more smoothly than ever. Set My Heart on Fire Immediately feels luxurious and true to its name, an instant gratification of feeling, and brave new terrain.
Future — High Off Life
After a busy Mother’s Day of posting, Future is back with his latest studio album. There was a time when going more than a year between full length Future projects felt like an eternity, but he’s ensured that High Off Life is a buffet, clocking in at a sprawling 21 songs and 70 minutes. Eight albums and a several classics later, my metric for new Future albums boils down to: does this have 6-8 songs I could keep in rotation for more than a month? So far, probably yes: “All Bad” with Lil Uzi Vert, “Trapped in the Sun,” and “Posted with Demons” feel like early standouts. He had the good sense to back off an album called Life Is Good when it is decidedly not, but it’s still almost cruel to hear these songs designed for communal spaces and cars whizzing by, when it’s just...not the time for it.
Charli XCX — how i’m feeling now
The concept of a quarantine album would typically evoke dread, well for the first word, and the potential for maudlin reflections on these times. Luckily, Charli XCX is made for this kind of thing, with most every one of her closest peers and collaborators already crafting warped production from home as is, emailing it across the globe. With a five and a half week timetable to write and record, Charli proves that her tectonic collaborations with PC Music and 100 gecs work well off-the-cuff. Seeking input from fans at every step, she’s trying to genuinely capture something communal and also limited in scope. How i’m feeling now is just that: a moment in time to catalog these sensations for her and anyone else who basks in it.
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit — Reunions
Yes, it was shocking that some guy had to fend off 30-50 feral hogs ascending on his yard last August, but it was maybe more shocking that he revealed this in response to a Jason Isbell tweet about assault weapons. Isbell’s lifespan as a meme architect was short-lived, but his reputation as a country tearjerker lasts eternal. On his latest album with his band the 400 Unit, Isbell scales back some of the bracing character sketches that have defined his best work in favor of the personal. It’s hardly a comedown.
Moses Sumney — græ
In February, Moses Sumney released the first half of his sprawling second album, græ. Today, it’s available to stream in its entirety. Sumney is undoubtedly one of the most shape-shifting, virtuosic voices we have going right now, with a porous relationship to genre and form. I haven’t given the first half much play since it came out, but the finished product, complete with standouts like “Me in 20 Years” and “Bless Me,” really bring it all together.
I’m Glad It’s You — Every Sun, Every Moon
We tend to think about things like grief, guilt, and helplessness only in relation to the pandemic these days, but the Redlands, California emo band returns with a harrowing new record that provides a much different context. Every Sun, Every Moon explores the loss of a close friend and mentor to I’m Glad It’s You, through the lens of the accident and each emotional knot that would follow. The result is big, widescreen emo that scrapes for Britpop catharsis and every ounce of ambition they can muster.
Retirement Party — Runaway Dog
This Chicago pop-punk act is a real spark plug, leveling-up the energy and scope of its debut record on Runaway Dog. Bandleader Avery Springer pivots between disaffected and charging, as these songs swoop into liftoff. The title track is an excellent pacesetter for the record, with little reprieve on what’d surely be a summer, windows-down staple in normal times.
Arthur — Hair of the Dog
Hey, another dog album! The Philadelphia-based indie pop oddball Arthur, who toured with (Sandy) Alex G last year, shares a penchant for collapsing decades and genres into one sugar-coated funhouse of his own making. Hair of the Dog lands on a new sticky, warped melody by the second, with strange downbeat observations bristling underneath it all.