16 New Albums to Stream Now: Christine & the Queens, Prince, Brockhampton and More Editors’ Picks

EDITORS’ PICK: Christine & the Queens, Chris
Chris is an LP doubled,” writes Will Hermes. “First, there’s a mostly English-language set, with heavily accented lyrics, charmingly off-kilter syntax, and polyglot asides. ‘Let me taste/On a butch babe in LA,’ she pleads on ‘Damn (What A Woman Must Do),’ lamenting the extremes of ‘what must a woman do/Para follarse’ (sure, look it up). Then there’s a nearly-identical set sung in French, as the singer sucks, chews, and tongues verses in ways that communicate plenty, even if you don’t know a baguette from a bistouquette. The bilingual two-fer doesn’t feel superfluous; in fact, by having both sets share the spotlight, she effectively makes a case for internationalism as our so-called world leaders dismantle it. … Mirroring the music’s throwback electropop flavor, the English phrasing has clearer echoes of Eighties giants: Prince, Michael Jackson, and especially Madonna, though the tempo’s generally more measured, and the vibe more atmospheric, than those artists in their hitmaking prime.
Read Our Review: Christine & the Queens’ Sly, Seductive Chris

Prince, Piano & A Microphone 1983
This demo from the late visionary, recorded while he was working on Purple Rain, is “a fascinating look at a side of his brilliance we didn’t know existed at the time,” writes Kory Grow. “Essentially all by himself, he is loose, freewheeling and impressionistic, flitting between sketches — 90 feather-light seconds of ‘Purple Rain,’ a spacious reworking of 1999’s steamy ‘International Lover’ — exercising his fingers as he plays broad chords like a piano man noodling on some Sinatra classics at the Waldorf.”
Read Our Review: Prince’s Piano & A Microphone 1983 is a Revealing Snapshot of the Pop Genius in His Prime

Brockhampton, Iridescence
If this hip-hop collective’s fourth album often has a dizzying quality, it’s because its sundry members pile onto each track, splitting a bar or two between themselves, and forming into choruses that are nearly polyphonic. They create a chaotic house party where every voice is valued, no matter its race, gender or sexual orientation, and their communal perspective is part of their growing mass appeal. (On “Something About Him,” Kevin Abstract sings a tribute to his boyfriend.) “All my life I’ve felt inadequate… But I’m a master of believing my lies,” says Joba on “Tape,” a track that adds dreamy, melancholy strings to a bass rumbling with skittering percussion. They rhyme about achieving success despite unseen odds and their own personal inadequacies, and they seem suspicious of anyone who smacks of authority – journalists, the government, or anyone “looking down from they pedestals.” In the age of Chance the Rapper, Childish Gambino and intersectional rap, Brockhampton’s rise feels like an era-defining moment. But some things never change. “Fifty did it right,” Abstract says in a surprising homage to 50 Cent on “Honey.” “Wish I could call every successful rapper for advice.” Mosi Reeves

Beak>, >>>
Over the course of their first two albums, this Bristol trio synthesized a a handful of elements from across the vintage moodscape and murkiverse: the minimal throb of Young Marble Giants, the relentless rhythms of Neu!, the squinchy electronics of Silver Apples and the muffled vocals of Can among them. In short, it was a great way to turn crate-digger obsessions with psychedelic breakbeat music or Eighties synth soundtracks into a working, touring, motoriking rock band. Best known as the band of Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, they started as a fragile, semi-improvisational recording project averse to overdubs. But in the nearly nine years since they released Beak>, the band has toured around the world growing in both renown and ambition. Barrow has become a formidable drummer and his record label, Invada Records, has become a hotspot for the new generation of retro soundtracks: Invada released both Drive and Stranger Things; Barrow has been part of a co-writing team that’s made music for Ex MachinaBlack Mirror and Annhilation; and Beak> themselves provided a gaggle of tracks for the 2015 art film Couple in a Hole. Their third album is, by all measures, their boldest: vocals are emerging from the swamp, drums are getting downright funky (check out the incredible bongo breaks of single “Brean Down”) and the once-minimalist trio is now open to string arrangements. It would be a surprise if film music didn’t influence its stew of dead-eyed jams. “Allé Sauvage” feels like a mix between Blaxploitation and giallo, “The Brazilian” is like John Carpenter with fuzz bass and closer “When We Fall” could be the pastoral Brit-folk nightmare for another Wicker Man reboot. Cold, weird, retro and ready for a chase sequence. Christopher R. Weingarten

Metric, Art of Doubt
“While it’s easy for bands to languish in — and cash in on — the stuffy purgatory of nostalgia, Canadian indie-pop band Metric has been steadfast in dodging such complacency for over 15 years,” writes Suzy Exposito. “Always forward-thinking, yet self-effacing, their latest record Art of Doubt wrestles with the impulse to create with your head cast backwards towards the past. Bolstered by pulsating synths and the urgent push-and-shove of guitar, the thesis of their LP is never more clear than in four-on-the-floor gem ‘Now or Never Now,’ a cautionary tale of living one’s life like a wallflower at the discotheque. To be forever young, imply Metric, is to be forever in stasis.”

Richard Swift, The Hex
The prolific sideman and producer — who spooned instant-vintage stardust onto records and live performances by the Black Keys, the Shins and others — completed this gorgeous solo LP just weeks before his alcoholism-related death in July. “I don’t know if I can make it through/Every color now is black and blue,” Swift sings on the sweet, lonesome “Dirty Jim,” which has lyrics that sum up this album’s deep tones of loneliness and regret. Offsetting some of that weight are Swift’s generous studio arrangements, which he tracked almost entirely on his own, with a deft touch that recalls Curtis Mayfield, Todd Rundgren and Brian Wilson. Listening to The Hex is a fitting way to honor his troubled spirit and golden ear. Simon Vozick-Levinson

Macy Gray, Ruby
Good news: There are still few voices like Macy Gray’s. Whether she’s working with Will.I.Am (2007’s Big), paying tribute to Stevie Wonder (her 2012 version of Talking Book) or trying her hand at cocktail jazz (2016’s Stripped), Gray’s voice remains wonderfully idiosyncratic, scratchy and crackly and stubbornly irreducible. On Ruby, Gray returns to her home base of mellow modern soul, often recorded with help from a New Orleans jazz-leaning horn section and an energetic bassist. “Sugar Daddy” mixes doo-wop come-ons and modern drum programming; it has become Gray’s biggest hit on Adult R&B radio in over a decade. Even better is “Jealousy,” an amusing girl-group cut about a relationship mired in suspicion and distrust. And on “White Man,” Gray links a peppy Motown beat with a cheerful warning: “You come for me, let me make it clear, I’ll whip your whoo-oh-oh-oh.” Elias Leight

Joyce Manor, Million Dollars to Kill Me
“Clocking in at just over 20 minutes, Joyce Manor’s A Million Dollars to Kill Me is a power-pop snack that packs a crunch,” writes Suzy Exposito. “Swapping their battered emo-punk Chucks for Teenage Fanclub kicks, the band pushes to evolve their songcraft with the same unfettered passion they’ve deployed since their brackish 2011 debut. Singer-guitarist Barry Johnson spouts tender professions in whole-hearted yawps — ‘If you were aimless, I’d be what you were aiming for/If you get anxious, I’ll put on Law & Order for you,’ he shouts in ‘Big Lie’ — and eases into soft-serve harmonies in ‘Silly Games’ and ‘I Think I’m Still in Love With You.’ Joyce Manor are a new class of New Romantics.”

Adam’s House Cat, Town Burned Down
“More than a decade before Drive-By Truckers released their first album, singer-songwriters Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood formed a fledgling North Alabama band called Adam’s House Cat…. Town Burned Down, the sole lost album from Adam’s House Cat that’s now being released for the first time, lays bare the band’s many influences,” writes Jonathan Bernstein. “The specter of bands like R.E.M., late-period Replacements, and even Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers loom large on Town Burned Down, which today sounds like a long-lost scrappy southern indie staple.”
Read Our Review: Adam’s House Cat’s Town Burned Down Doubles as Drive-By-Truckers’ Origin Story

Maggie Rose, Change the Whole Thing
Half a decade ago, this Nashville-based singer was vying for country-pop stardom, mixing attitude and polished hooks on Cut to Impress. Its proper follow-up (she released a series of EPs and singles since that 2013 album) correctly positions Rose as a gifted and versatile pop-soul belter. Backed by a crack live band, she shifts gears between the Bonnie Raitt-style blues rock of “I’m Yours” and Bill Withers-style acoustic soul on the title track, a gentle plea for less frenzied, more long-term thinking about the world we’ll leave behind. She nabs a springloaded new wave groove for “Hey Blondie,” simultaneously paying tribute to Debbie Harry and laying down a feminist manifesto for any woman who’s been reduced to a physical attribute. Various shades of R&B are present, from the stuttering rhythms of “Magic Man” and the low-down dirty funk of “Smooth” to the simmering soul of “Pull You Through,” the latter of which is a knockout vocal showcase for Rose. The album wraps with a strutting cover of “The Letter,” in the style of Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen — a convincing assertion that Rose belongs right at the same intersection of musical styles. Jon Freeman

Amy Helm, This Too Shall Light
The daughter of Levon Helm zeroes in on her artistic true north on her second solo LP, a set of groove-rich, gospel-steeped Southern soul and country-blues with massed vocals at the fore. Her own have never sounded stronger or more confident, fitting the thematic through-line of holding fast in hard times. And her bandmates, many of whom played in her dad’s Midnight Ramble group, are A-listers all. Standouts: a stirring cover of Rod Stewart’s “Mandolin Wind,” and “Michigan,” a haunting farewell song with a satisfying shadow of The Band, because apples don’t fall far from the tree. Will Hermes

JP Schlegelmilch / Jonathan Goldberger / Jim Black, Visitors
When great musicians put genre concerns aside and just play, good things tend to happen. That’s that the case on this new collaborative album from guitarist Jonathan Goldberger, synth player JP Schlegelmilch and drummer Jim Black, all best known as members of New York’s jazz vanguard. The trio’s fuzzed-out, groove-driven, often brightly melodic sound might bring to mind various touchstones — Tortoise, early-Seventies King Crimson, Black’s own (and excellent) Alasnoaxis — but this band is playing songs (two by Goldberger, six by Schlegelmilch) rather than any predetermined style. The trio’s chemistry is apparent whether they’re digging into a proggy fusion groove, nursing a chaotic noise-jazz swell or simply letting a tender theme breathe. Are they playing gritty post-jazz? Emotive, wordless rock? Regardless, it just works. Hank Shteamer

Voivod, The Wake
Album No. 14 from the Canadian metal stalwarts “offers definitive proof that the old, weird Voivod is back: It’s arguably their most hyper-detailed, gloriously geeky album since the Eighties,” writes Hank Shteamer.
Read Our Review: Voivod Recapture Their Proggy Eighties Glory on The Wake

Sumac, Love In Shadow
On their third (and longest) album, this extreme metal power trio stretches out with four massive uglyscapes that cross the 12-minute mark. The multiple chapters of 21-minute opener “The Task” play out like Tortoise’s avant-sampler platter “Djed,” linking multiple ideas — blackened Mastodon pummel, mathy turnarounds, Stooges-esque free noise, doom stomp and itchy mosquito drone — into a cinematic whole; toward the end, the rhythm section slowly urps out a 11/4 ostanato while Turner provides a bluesy, noise-flecked guitar solo that’s more like Bill Frisell or Mark Ribot than, say, Kirk Hammett. “Arcing Silver” starts with an AmRep-style sludge riff while Turner wheedles and explores and crackles or stays silent. After its share of churn and tumult and void, there’s a pause and a coda that sounds like a 59-second grindcore Hüsker Dü. Closer “Ecstasy of Unbecoming” recalls everything from the “scum tapes” of Wolf Eyes to the primitive guitar avant-blues of Bill Orcutt to leader Aaron Turner’s old band, Isis. Christopher R. Weingarten

MHD, 19
“The rapper’s new album 19 refines the ideas from [his debut] MHD,” writes Elias Leight. “The hooks are more distilled. The guitars gurgle and glitter, playing intricate, winding patterns that sometimes bring to mind other African musical styles like Coupé-Décalé, a form popular in Côte d’Ivoire and its diasporic communities. The slim, propulsive drumming on 19 frequently points elsewhere, to the 3-2 pattern found in the popular Nigerian export afrobeats. That’s especially true on a pair of tracks where Nigerian stars Yemi Alade and Wizkid make guest appearances.”
Read Our Review: French Rapper MHD Burnishes His Afro-Trap Credentials On 19

The Field, Infinite Moment
Few EDM artists marry rhythmic propulsion and ambient drift as deliciously as Axel Willner, whose plush, maximal-minimal techno releases as The Field are as reliably pleasurable as any other brand in the genre. The Swedish swami dials back tempos on his sixth LP, with exercise-ball beats lofting swarms of loopy melody lines. It’s tremendously calming music, but not in a couch-lock way — consider it an all-purpose hybrid strain. Will Hermes

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