Justin Timberlake — Man of the Woods

Thanks to an R&B- and pop-leaning sound crafted by production wizards Timbaland and the Neptunes, Justin Timberlake is arguably one of the greatest influencers in pop. Ahead of the release of his fifth solo album, Man of the Woods, the singer dropped three vastly different singles. “Filthy” stays true to his futuristic sound with a familiar-ish bop. “Supplies” takes a hip-hop approach with a video that features imagery from the 2017 Women’s March and Black Lives Matter. “Say Somethin’” dives deep into Timberlake’s country roots, tapping Chris Stapleton, who more than delivers. Then, just ahead of his viral Super Bowl LII performance in Minneapolis, Timberlake dropped the 16-track album on which pop, R&B and country collide at 100 miles per hour. Backed by triple-A production, Man of the Woods has a sound for just about everyone. | RCA

If you like: Michael Jackson, Maroon 5, Bruno Mars, NSYNC, Timbaland

Tiana Lewis

 

Zion & Lennox — “La Player (Bandolera)”

Reggaeton duo Zion & Lennox have released the first Latin summer anthem of 2018 in mid-February. Produced by Tainy, the song features syncopated guitar and synth melodies coupled with muted bass kicks, which push “La Player (Bandolera)” into the realm of A+ pop engineering. Seriously, anybody would sound like a star on this cut. Vocally, Zion is the absolute king of the reggaeton hook, and he stands out on the track’s dramatic chord progression. For real: he’s got me standing in the spring rain staring up at storm clouds with my shirt open hollering, “Ellaaaaaaa es una bandoleeeeerrraaaaa!” | Warner Music Latina

If you like: J Balvin, Daddy Yankee, Wisin & Yandel

Marcos Juárez

 

The Wombats — Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life

First of all, true. But more importantly, the Wombats are back. The band’s aptly-titled fourth album covers the ins and outs of a complicated relationship, from infatuation to intoxication and, of course, frustration. “Black Flamingo” nails the feeling of knowing you’re headed for total disaster but walking right into the trap anyway. It pairs well with the summery “Ice Cream” and “I Don’t Know Why I Like You But I Do,” whose title says it all. The band also tells the story’s sweeter side on the album’s massive opener, “Cheetah Tongue,” along with “Lethal Combination,” which is as romantic as a song about getting completely wasted can be. But Beautiful People’s crown jewel is “Turn,” a simple yet cinematic gem about recognizing that the things about someone that drive you crazy are the same things that make you crazy about them. Across 11 shimmering, guitar-driven psych-rock tracks, this album makes letting someone ruin your life sound like a pretty good idea. | KLS

If you like: Arctic Monkeys, the Strokes, Walk the Moon, the Killers

Stephanie Elkin

 

Nikki Lane — Highway Queen

Nikki Lane’s solidified her reputation as a pioneer of the budding Ameripolitan scene with her third album, Highway Queen. It earned Lane accolades from the music press and a slot at Pandora’s 2018 SXSW showcase. Lane’s dusty alto pairs perfectly with pedal steel and lyrics set deep in songs like the Levon Helm-inspired “Lay You Down” and the pull-no-punches title track. Equal parts ’60s country throwback and her own brand of new outlaw, Lane pairs her musical talents with vintage Western fashion — she even runs Nashville emporium High Class Hillbilly. Most of the time, however, you’ll catch Lane on the road playing shows with Chris Stapleton and Brent Cobb. | New West

If you like: Margo Price, Lana Del Rey, Lucinda Williams, Loretta Lynn

Rachel Whitney

 

Alexis Taylor“Beautiful Thing”

Hot Chip frontman Alexis Taylor is prepping his next solo album, Beautiful Thing, for release in April, and this week, he shared the title track. “Beautiful Thing” is the first collaboration between Taylor and DFA cofounder Tim Goldsworthy. The track begins pulsing with deep kicks, digital noise and stacks of grainy sampled vocals, all with an uptempo disco feel. Taylor’s lilting and densely layered vocals remain in the foreground, slowly building in intensity as dubby bass lines and a catchy piano house chord progression enter. “Beautiful Thing” represents a step forward for Taylor’s songwriting and, when combined with Goldsworthy’s production, builds upon the heartfelt and earnest dance music of Taylor’s past. | Domino

If you like: Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem, Cut Copy, Metronomy

Andrew Marcogliese

 

Samuel Lane — The Difference

I’m about five years late to the Samuel Lane train, but I’m tripping over my ears to get on board. This St. Albans UK worship guy takes you to places you didn’t think modern worship could go. I’m sure that’s why Lane’s debut, 2013’s The Fire, was the first-ever solo project greenlit by Vineyard, a label for churches. On follow-up The Difference, Lane has in spades what many worship leaders only pray for. Maybe it’s the stripped-down urgency of Lane’s voice, the album’s eclectic sonic treasure-chest or simply the B3 humming throughout, but whatever it is, it’s enough to make you rethink today’s neat-and-tidy Christian music categories. It’s what I imagine the Jesus Music of the ’70s — California hippies and street musicians singing about changed lives — would sound like in 2018. In fact, I’m pretty sure Larry Norman and Keith Green have a couple seats reserved in row three. | Vineyard Worship

If you like: John Mark McMillan, Daniel Bashta, Josh Garrels

Melissa Chalos

 

AnenonTongue

Now that spring is on the horizon, I encourage you to take a quiet, sunny Saturday afternoon to listen to Anenon‘s Tongue. Recorded during a month-long stay in Tuscany, the album intimately explores the spaces between ambient music, minimalism and avant-garde jazz. Its first track, “Open,” awakens with birds chirping and the rustle of ambient noise. Ethereal piano unfurls in background as a saxophone solo pulls the listener deeper into the song. Electronic producer and saxophonist Brian Simon demonstrates exquisite control of melody and rhythm, making it easy to get lost in his music. All the more reason to do so. | Friends of Friends

If you like: Terry Riley, Gregg Kowalsky, Harold Budd, Yasuaki Shimizu

Lee Robinson

 

Ruby BootsDon’t Talk About It

It isn’t pop, it isn’t rock, but it ain’t quite country, either. Only this can be said with certainty: Perth-to-Nashville transplant Ruby Boots is a paragon of feminine swagger, and her sophomore album, Don’t Talk About It, revels in the unexpected. Boots is of the opinion that the Old West’s lyrical tropes — heartbreak, longing, not-needing-no-man — sound better riding weapons-grade guitar fuzz and muscular drums than tired honky-tonk. She makes a convincing point on tracks like “Somebody Else” and opener “It’s So Cruel,” both more riot grrrl than rodeo. But the album’s versatility is what ultimately seals the deal. “Easy Way Out” strikes radio rock gold, while “I Am a Woman” strips away all but Boots and her sung truth. | Bloodshot

If you like: Tom Petty, Elle King, Courtney Barnett, Lydia Loveless

Julian Ring

 

Miracle — The Strife of Love in a Dream

Like a downer Depeche Mode wandering through a day-glo dystopia, the duo of Steve Moore (Zombi) and Daniel O’Sullivan (Grumbling Fur, Ulver) returns with a second dispatch of moody synth-pop miserablism. The Strife of Love in a Dream fuses Carpenter car-chase tension, lush futurescapes and late-night motorik mesmerism into a brooding and pensive sprawl that unfurls like creeping twilight. Within this framework, Miracle manage to sculpt their sound into more avant iterations, touching on Krautrock and modern minimalism, but this experimentation remains forever wreathed in a gauzy veil of gothic melancholia. Miracle’s slow-motion collision of retro electro and faded futurism at times sounds like a pop version of the soundtrack to Beyond the Black Rainbow. At others, it’s like a long-lost musical world lit by a dying black sun. | Relapse

If you like: M83, Perturbator, New Order, Goblin, Tangerine Dream, Carpenter Brut, Gost, Depeche Mode, Sisters of Mercy

Andee Connors

 

Painted Doll — Painted Doll

A comedian and a death metal legend might seem like an unlikely pairing until you’ve heard Painted Doll’s eponymous debut album. The backstory goes something like this: comedian Dave Hill (who also plays guitar in Valley Lodge and Cobra Verde) and Chris Reifert from Autopsy and Death were getting drunk together at a Goblin show in Texas. As music nerds tend to do, the duo began an inebriated conversation about vintage Dutch and British psych. Before either of them could black-out or barf, Reifert slurred a suggestion that they form a band inspired by that music. Unlike most impassioned drunk-talk, this plan actually stuck. Sure, the opening “Together Alone” sounds more inspired by “Don’t Fear the Reaper” than anything recorded by Wally Tax or Reg King, but “Carousel” comes closer to sounding like something that old guys who still wear suede Beatle boots would like. Similarly, “Hidden Hand” has enough fuzz guitar to satisfy anyone who ever identified with the second Nuggets box set. | Tee Pee

If you like: Blue Öyster Cult, Ghost B.C., the Pretty Things, Q65, the Outsiders

Eric Shea

 

The NightcrawlersThe Biophonic Boombox Recordings

A few decades ago in Philadelphia, a gate opened granting access to the furthest reaches of outer sonic space — or so it would seem. Underground electronics trio the Nightcrawlers plugged transmissions from this extra-dimensional portal directly into a boombox tape recorder. From 1980–1991, they documented these pulsating alien soundscapes across over forty releases, most of them limited-edition, DIY tapes. This prolific group was like an ’80s cassette-culture version of Tangerine Dream, and is reminiscent of subsequent synth acts like Emeralds today. Their lo-fi synth-splorations are by turns drifting and melodic, propulsive and sinister and always compelling. Why they didn’t make the move to Hollywood to score straight-to-VHS sci-fi and suspense films like Tangerine Dream did, we’ll never know. At least now you can tune into some of their choicest material via this sprawling and spacey collection. Featuring 14 tracks, with quite a few boasting double-digit durations, this archival retrospective perfectly conjures spaceship Nostromo vibes while also evoking the lonely allure of cosmic vistas beyond that even adventurous New Agers may dig. | Anthology

If you like: Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Cluster

Allan Horrocks

 

Kali Uchis“After the Storm”

Colombian-American singer Kali Uchis brings steam to the sauna on this single. The timeless feel of “After the Storm” makes sense, since BADBADNOTGOOD handled production at legendary funkster Bootsy Collins’ studio in Ohio. Uchis’s silky vocals float over top-shelf vintage synths and classic funk bass. Bootsy borrows a stellar line from Tyler, the Creator’s Flower Boy: “You gotta be careful, baby, and look both ways before you cross my mind.” In turn, Tyler trades a similarly surreal verse. This blurring of generations, a cross-pollination between old and new, is a trademark of Uchis’ collaboration-minded music. Her visual identity is also highly stylized, an amalgamation of the clinical and couture, rendering her a kind of low-key Lady Gaga. She’s currently on tour with Lana del Rey and freshly laden with a Latin Grammy nomination, so expect much from Uchis and friends in 2018. | Rinse/Virgin EMI

If you like: Daniel Ceasar, Jhené Aiko, Little Dragon

Lisa Light

 

Michael and the Machines — Mantras and Melodramas

Although you won’t see Michael Padilla in Dig! (the 2004 Brian Jonestown Massacre documentary), he was definitely there back when all that beautiful chaos was going down. Along with similarly psychedelic bands like the Rosemarys and Orange, Padilla’s bygone dream pop band Dora Flood was an integral part of the early-’90s San Francisco scene that celebrated The Scene That Celebrates Itself. A move to Nevada City, CA found Padilla assembling the Soft Bombs before teaching himself how to play Latin boleros. Now performing as Michael and the Machines, he swirls all these influences and experiences into one gorgeous debut album. Padilla recorded and produced Mantras and Melodramas at his own Soundport Recording Studio, where he also played most of the instruments. “Way Beyond the Sun” opens on a Spanish guitar unlocking the gate to a garden of bombastic, pulsing rhythms and dreamy, lysergic soundscapes that recall the best moments of the Telescopes and early Spiritualized. The aptly-titled “Blinking Lights” makes good use of strobing guitar effects, a seductive rhythm section and clever pop hooks before “Weapon” reveals a Beatles-inspired songwriting sensibility that never yields to campy pastiche. | Soundport

If you like: the Stone Roses, the Church, the Psychedelic Furs, George Harrison, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Eric Shea

 

The Rising StormCalm Before…

Fans of unknown ’60s psych are always searching for a rare glimpse into an era when any rock combo with a few fans could score enough studio time to immortalize a set of primitive sounds. They’ll get their fix with the Rising Storm’s Calm Before… . This band of six young gents from Massachusetts only pressed 500 LPs in 1967, just as they were graduating prep school. To this day, the album remains one of the most prized garage rock artifacts of all time (a copy sold for $6,500 in 2012). Thanks to this reissue, no one needs to fork over a four-figure sum to hear Calm Before… . Unlike most recordings of the era, nearly half the songs on Calm Before… are originals, including “She Loved Me,” “Frozen Laughter” and “The Rain Falls Down.” They’re all a surprisingly subtle and moody shade of folk-rock that suggests the faint influence of the psychedelic revolution that was just beginning to emerge. The covers, particularly their version of Love’s “Message to Pretty,” would fit harmoniously onto the Velvet Underground’s eponymous third LP. Acolytes of ’60s garage will no doubt find the Rising Storm attractive from both a musical and historical perspective. | Sundazed

If you like: Nuggets, the Remains, the Chocolate Watchband, the Count Five

Michelle Solomon

 


Bonus Tracks


 

Lethal InjektionCovered Up

Badass rap-rock / nü metal. Heavy and hooky. One of the few bands still doing this stuff, and doing it well. | RuffLife

– Andee Connors

 

Chamber BandGovernor’s Square

A barebones, Decemberists-meets-xx collection inspired by H.G. Wells. Store away from sunlight in a cold, dark place. | Self-Released

Julian Ring

 

Orquesta Akokán“Mambo Rapido

The lead single from this Cuban ensemble earns its title. Can’t wait for more horn stabs and conga flurries. | Daptone

Julian Ring

 

Time RivalThe Possibilities of Talking with Other Species

Beautiful, textured ambience with delicate piano set amid fields of soft noise and blurred whirs. | Triplicate

– Andee Connors

 

Woqlz“Island”

Sleek future bass. Each drop double-times the beat, dialing up the manic energy. | Simplify

Julian Ring

 

The PhilterWaves of Death

Super gloomy shoegaze/surf rock/garage. Druggy and delirious with deep goth vox reminiscent of Crystal Antlers. | Self-Released

– Andee Connors