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Music

Essential Listening: The week's best new music

@TylerGolsen

The first week of November has given music fans a wide range of artists and styles to pick up some great new music.

There’s the ascension of indie rock’s newest hero Snail Mail, the continuation of the great white soul with Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, and the cosmic return of 1970s legends ABBA. Along the way, we’ve also gotten singles like the ’70s fetishisation of Silk Sonic, the vibrant pop of Alfie Templeman, and the creepy electronica of Chvrches.

There’s something for everyone out this week, but sometimes it’s difficult to keep track of it all. That’s why we here at Far Out have compiled seven of the most notable albums and singles that have come out in the past seven days for you to preview.

Below, we’ve gathered up the week’s essential listening in one handy round-up.

Best new albums:

Snail Mail – Valentine

With her second album Valentine, Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan does more than just defy the sophomore slump. Instead, Jordan rises to the top of the indie rock world by evolving and improving just about everything from her first album while still retaining her signature voice as a songwriter. In the process, she makes a strong case for herself being crowned the new queen of indie rock.

Even during its more pedestrian moments, Jordan never lets anything on Valentine become boring, cliched, or redundant. The result is nothing less than a triumph from a 22-year-old ready to take on the world.

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats – The Future

The triumph of Nathaniel Rateliff over adversities is essential not just to his personal narrative, but also to the music that he plays with and without The Night Sweats. There were inklings of that in both Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats and Tearing at the Seams, but it’s more front and centre on The Future.

While it doesn’t always ascend to those delirious highs that he and the band are capable of, The Future does prove how essential Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats are to current popular music. Nobody is doing white boy soul at the same level they are, and with The Future, they prove that they can still hit those highs.

ABBA – Voyage

One of the most popular recording artists of all time are back! From outer space! The first album in 40 years from Swedish pop legends ABBA, Voyage is here to prove… something. Or maybe nothing. What’s there to prove anyway? ABBA have sold hundreds of millions of albums and have one of those rare afterlives where they just keep growing in esteem.

Will Voyage do anything to that legacy? Probably not, but there’s a chance that it simply exists to prove that, hey, the four members can still kick ass on a gigantic pop ballad if they want to. We all still had faith in them, so let the ABBA renaissance officially launch. Set course for pop music Valhalla.

Radiohead – KID A MNESIA

The collection of sessions that made up both Kid A and Amnesia proved to be the essential path forward for Radiohead, dispensing with any traditional ideas of what a rock band can and can’t do. It’s no surprise that the sprawling and experimental sessions would produce more material than was possible to put out, and now we’re getting a full view of the band’s massive left turn with KID A MNESIA.

The extra material gathered here isn’t quite as enthralling as the extended version of OK Computer, but there’s plenty to obsess over, including the rare cut ‘Follow You Around’ getting the official single treatment with a new video. It’s likely only for super fans, but KID A MNESIA still scratches that new Radiohead itch for all of us patiently waiting for the next album, whenever (or if ever) it happens.

Aimee Mann – Queens of the Summer Hotel

After a few Grammys, some prominent needle drops in popular media, and boatloads of acclaim, is it possible for Aimee Mann to be underrated? I would argue yes, considering that her latest LP Queens of the Summer Hotel isn’t necessarily at the top of most people’s new playlists.

That’s a shame because the jazzy new album reiterates the fact that Mann continues to be one of the most insightful songwriters of her, or anyone’s, generation. The race to become the next Joni Mitchell is actually quite a stiff competition, but Queens of the Summer Hotel and its evocations of The Hissing of Summer Lawns proves not only that Mann is in the lead, but that she’s doing it completely effortlessly.

Hard Feelings – Hard Feelings

Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard and New York songwriter Amy Douglas have teamed up to form a new disco-infused dance project called Hard Feelings, and after a few dance floor-ready singles including the wonderfully groovy ‘Holding On Too Long’, they’ve dropped their self-titled debut album.

Hard Feelings is the platonic ideal if you ever wished Hot Chip would drop all the rock band pretences and just go full house. It’s funky and creepy at the same time, like a Giorgio Moroder Halloween party or a John Carpenter/Studio 54 crossover. Too bad it just missed its perfect timing as a Halloween companion album, but no matter. The results are still wild, pulsating, and devilishly danceable.

Steve Perry – The Season

We’re officially done with Halloween, so you know what that means: it’s the Christmas season! Get your Christmas tree and earplugs ready, because Mariah Carey is already ramping up to invade your eardrums for the next two months. You’ve been warned. One person getting a jump on the festivities this year is former Journey singer Steve Perry, who has released a new Christmas album called The Season.

Honestly, I’m just happy to hear Perry back at it. Age hasn’t robbed him of that golden intonation, and while he might sound older, you can still easily hear that same voice that belted out ‘Oh, Sherie’ and ‘Any Way You Want It’ all those years ago. If you’ve been dying to hear his takes on Motown-aping ‘Santa Claus is Coming To Town’ or his weirdly funky version of ‘Winter Wonderland’, why not put on The Season around the fireside this year?

Best new singles:

Silk Sonic – ‘Smokin Out the Window’

It’s wild that one of the most anticipated albums of the year is a retro 70s fetishisation of a time that most of the target audience has no direct connection to. But that’s the power of Bruno Mars and Anderson. Paak, easily two of the biggest pop stars in the world, and their new project Silk Sonic.

We’ve only gotten three songs from the project, but ‘Leave the Door Open’ landed at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and ‘Skate’ hit the Top 20. We’re only a week away from the official release of An Evening with Silk Sonic, and our final preview is a heartbroken song about cheating and sleeping around. It’s a simple and effective cut that ramps up the hype for the duo’s debut to a fever pitch.

Black Country, New Road – ‘Bread Song’

A wide-open and surprisingly beautiful tapestry of fingerpicked acoustic guitar and twinkling noises, the arrangement for ‘Bread Song’ is one of the most easily accessible from London experimentalists Black Country, New Road to date.

If the previous single ‘Chaos Space Marine’ signalled a strangely country-adjacent new path for the band, ‘Bread Song’ proves that they’re not afraid to lean into the softer and more delicate sonic spaces of their work. While contemporaries like Squid and Black Midi continue their full-throttle jazz-infused freakouts, BC, NR seem far more interested in playing with dynamics and stripping away their sound. 

Alfie Templeman – ‘3D Feelings’

With every new release, Templeman and Declan McKenna are locked in an eternal battle for England’s hottest pop-rock sensation. Templeman takes advantage with ‘3D Feelings’, a vibrant disco-electronica-indie rock hybrid that sounds ready-made for the dance floor. Your move, Declan.

The song is so infectious that the nonsense lyrics don’t even get in the way. Maybe lines like, “End of a rainbow, geometric, like a movie script / and now a touch feels so electric at my fingertips” have special meanings to Templeman, but on paper, they’re just complete pap. Normally these would be annoying standouts, but the track itself has so many melodies and hooks that nothing can hold it, or Templeman himself, back.

The Golden Age of TV – ‘What I’ve Been Through’

A densely packed guitar rocker that takes unexpected turns every couple seconds or so, ‘What I’ve Been Through’ is filled with wild six-string freakouts, dynamic shifts, and crashing drums from Leeds indie rockers The Golden Age of TV.

As the song careens and crashes into its different sections in a seemingly haphazard manner, every strangely discordant note or blast of distortion sends you reeling back and forth like a sonic rollercoaster ride. It all serves the song’s narrative, which takes on some weighty subjects.The Golden Age of TV are cranking out solid indie rock at a furious pace, with ‘What I’ve Been Through’ representing just the most recent success in the band’s ever-growing discography.

Alt- J – ‘Get Better’

‘Get Better’, the new effort from British indie rockers Alt-J, is one of the band’s most heartfelt and emotive, and singer Joe Newman really channels his inner Bon Iver. Acoustic, with added textures, it’s the perfect song to soundtrack a brisk autumn morning.

The lyrics are so emotionally charged, that keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton “broke down” after hearing only the demo. It was “a big, big cry”, he admitted, “A cry of the year”. Furthermore, ‘Get Better’ is accompanied by a brilliant pixelated video courtesy of artist Stefanie Grunwald. It’s safe to say, Alt-J are back, and we’ve missed them.

Nova Twins – ‘Antagonist’

The experimental, guitar-wielding duo Nova Twins are back with their new single ‘Antagonist’, and manic mix of styles and genres. It is that self-motivated, DIY approach that has made Nova Twins one of the most uncategorisable young bands on the scene

As you would expect from a band billed alongside such a diverse range of artists, ‘Antagonist’ is hard to pin down. If you were to throw Tom Morello (who just so happens to be a fan) and Avril Lavigne into a choke-chain blender and blitz them for four-and-a-half minutes then maybe, just maybe, you’d be getting close. But to limit Nova Twins to mere comparisons would be to do them a disservice. They’re obviously on the hunt for a fresh sound and it seems as though they’re nearing on it.

Chvrches – ‘Bitter End’

As spooky season officially winds down, the winners of this years Halloween festivities go to Scottish pop auteur Chvrches, who released the expanded ‘directors cut’ of their fourth studio album, Screen Violence.

The new version of the album includes three bonus tracks, including the creepy and frenetic ‘Bitter End’. Screen Violence, especially in its newly expanded form, continues to get better and better as the seasons change and the cold winds start to pick up.