A ranked selection of notable new recordings we heard in April:
1. Young Thug, “Barter 6”: This Atlanta insurgent continues to forge his own language out of smeared syllables and electric pockets of dead air. How he wrangles it all into the shape of rap music remains the most intoxicating pop mystery of right now.
2. High Risk, “Molten Sunset” and “Cardinals”: Even the most violent wallops of sound feel dreamy on the excellent forthcoming album from High Risk, a mutant jazz quartet featuring trumpeter Dave Douglas and electronic producer Shigeto. The full-length itself lands in June, but its bookends – “Molten Sunset” and “Cardinals” – are streamable online. Consider them a head start.
3. Sicko Mobb, “Super Saiyan Vol. 2”: If you’re looking for music that scrambles the brain and moves the body, you’re looking for Lil Trav and Lil Ceno of Sicko Mobb, fraternal pioneers of Chicago “bop,” a form of hyper-melodic dance music that’s as exhausting as it is ecstatic.
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4. Speedy Ortiz, “Foil Deer”: There are two reasons to fuss over Sadie Dupuis’s lyric book. 1. It’s filled with fuss-worthy lyrics about the rot and bloom of human relationships. 2. The strange crash-and-swing that she and her bandmates in Speedy Ortiz manage to conjure with guitars and drums is just as easy to admire but much harder to pin down with, y’know, words.
5. ILoveMakonnen, “Drink More Water 5”: The best songs on ILoveMakonnen’s new mixtape are the ones in which it’s hard to tell whether the Atlanta hairdresser-turned-rapper-slash-crooner sounds more like Gucci Mane or Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock.
6. Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen, “Hold My Beer Vol. 1”: Bromance springs eternal at our multiplexes, so why not on our country music radiowaves? On their new album of duets, these formidable Texas troubadours are having too much fun to ask the question outright.
7. Sheer Mag, “II”: Sometimes, against the odds, a hopeless punk band will transcend its shame and brazenly dabble in the guitar heroics of Thin Lizzy. And sometimes, against the odds, it sounds terrific.
8. Dwight Yoakam, “Second Hand Heart”: If there is an actual crossroads between country music and rock ’n’ roll, you’ll find this man standing there, comfortably posted up in his too-small jeans and too-big hat, ready to convince you that you’re actually visiting this place for the first time.
9. Colleen, “Captain of None”: Plucking away at a somewhat-obsolete string instrument that dates to the Renaissance, French pop composer Cecile Schott sounds as if she’s whispering her dubbed-out lullabies from the bottom of the ocean.
10. Ronnie Reno and the Reno Tradition, “Lessons Learned”: This veteran singer, songwriter, bluegrass maestro and Merle Haggard tour-buddy presents himself as a traditionalist concerned with the more brutal facts of life. And, like Hag, he can make the heaviest truths sound light.