Look, we posted so many stories about Kendrick Lamar’s absolutely jaw-dropping new album DAMN. this month that I jokingly referred to the site as “Kendroxx” at one point. So no, I’m not going to bother including his incredible opus in this list — it’s designed to get your attention on the albums you might have missed this month. Which is why Father John Misty — another well-covered artist — and his own opus Pure Comedy won’t be on here either. But rest assured, I think both those records are phenomenal and will probably be toward the top of my own personal year end list.
For now, I want to direct your attention to some other great records that came out in April that you may have missed while you were bumping “DNA” or cry-laughing/puzzling over “Total Entertainment Forever.” I’m also not going to write anything more about The Chainsmokers album that I have grown to love. Instead, we’ll have a mix of indie rock, a great f*cking country album, an enormous R&B comeback, some overlooked rap releases, and a couple of folk records all guaranteed to blow your mind. April isn’t just for the heavyweights.
Future Islands, The Far Field
Future Islands have been slowly building from cult Baltimore favorite into honest-to-God national indie rockers since their breakout record Singles in 2014, which was their first for the storied indie label 4AD. The Far Field is their second for that label, and continues to expand on their expressive, introspective synthpop. One of the best parts of the band remains frontman Samuel T. Herring’s unabashed commitment to the music. Herring was memed by Letterman a couple years ago for his wildly earnest dance moves during the band’s TV debut on the show in 2014. Perhaps that’s the best way to explain the approach Herring and his band take with their evocative, delicate music — it goes all the way to the point of no return, and doesn’t ever apologize for feeling as much as it does. Mock it only if you’re too scared to fall in.
Joey Badass, All-Amerikkkan Badass
Instead of trying to add anything more to how spectacularly prescient this Joey Badass album is, how much it displays his growth as an artist, how much it builds off hip-hop’s history while looking directly into the eyes of our own American future, how it brings him into his own realm as a rapper, I will point you toward the review we published earlier this month where Aaron Williams already did all that. Read it, and give this record a listen, it will blow you away. Joey more than exceeded my expectations, give him the chance to do so with yours.
Diet Cig, Swear I’m Good At This
It’s so strange to me how frequently women are attacked when they try to make art. It certainly happens disproportionately to women, specifically young women, than it does to men. And it certainly comes from people who fall all over the gender spectrum, I see as many women hating on other women as I do men dismissing art that is femme or girly. Well, Swear I’m Good At This, Diet Cig’s debut album driven by Alex Luciano, is one of the most effeminate, flippant, giggly and cute albums of the year — and that’s part of what makes it so f*cking good. Whether she’s lamenting slut-shaming, losing friends over an ex (don’t worry Alex, those were sh*tty friends anyway), or tackling the specific challenges that face a woman pursuing the pop-punk ethos, Luciano and her thrilling guitar work are accompanied at every turn by Noah Bowman’s steadying, unassuming percussion. I, for one, find it nice to hear such an unabashedly female voice dominate an entire record — and one as good as this one, at that. Less songs about dudes who are existentially lost, more songs about summer camp kisses and sleeping in.
Mary J. Blige The Strength Of A Woman
How do you have a woman as undeniably magnificent as Mary J. Blige in your life and f*ck it up? Men remain unfathomably idiotic, and women remain as gracious as they can possibly be in the face of such ignorance. Strength Of A Woman pulls no punches, as Blige flexes both her voice and her historical significance on the man who was stupid enough to evoke such a deep sadness and betrayal. But, like most women before her, Blige finds inner strength in the loss, enlisting Kanye West for the trumpeting opener “Love Yourself,” and rounding up one of rap’s most promising up-and-comers, Quavo, alongside Missy Elliott and DJ Khaled for “Glow Up.” This is R&B of the highest order, whether or not A-list guests like Kaytranada and BadBadNotGood appear or not. Don’t call it a comeback, call it catharsis, call it a grief-stricken thing of beauty. Truly, there is nothing on the earth stronger than a woman — and Mary might be the strongest of us all.
There is a single feature on Feist’s new album, Pleasure, and it comes for the legendary indie rock Jarvis Cocker. I like to take this as a statement of intent as much as any other feature on her passionate, angular return, her first record in six years. Originally, Leslie Feist made her name off some insanely sweet pop melodies and the butterfly-wing-sweep of her voice, something that feels at once very small and intimate, and so strong that it might take over your whole body. When she is singing about pleasure, you might be thrown off guard by how much the wanting will get inside your bloodstream. When she’s singing about loss, your own will bubble up to the surface. Here, Feist takes her old sweetness and drives a spike of experimental noise right down the center. Pleasure has its sights set on the kind of unassailable rock that it joins the canon, it’s nothing short of a masterpiece, and yet no one is even talking about it! That’s the curse of timing, that’s the curse of our celebrity-narrative-driven age. Still, when you find Pleasure, it will immediately suck you in and bring you nothing but, well, the kind of ecstacy that a truly incredible record provides.
DJ Quik & Problem, Rosecrans
While one Compton kid was dominating every headline on the world wide web this month, another was quietly releasing a record that paid homage to California in its own way. DJ Quik and Problem, another Compton native, followed up last year’s Rosecrans EP with a full-length album that’s practically a love letter to the west coast hip-hop scene that formed them. This is a huge slab of swaggering G-funk that finds delight in putting its own neighborhood on, with each guest dropping in to praise another element of South LA. Even if you’re not from here, you’ll find yourself tapping into the hometown love sheerly based off the unchecked pride this crew brings to their music.
Wilsen, I Go Missing In My Sleep
Wilsen is the Brooklyn folk project driven by the songwriting and silvery, mesmerizing voice of Tamsin Wilson, and their debut I Go Missing In My Sleep has been years in the making. Good, some things need time to steep and crystallize, and this devastating album is well worth the wait. The hallmark of these tracks is their ability to start off small and dim, and build into bright, enormous songs that sound like they will overtake you if you get too close. Within the crescendo of every entry, Wilson’s voice carries you along, keeping you safe amid the storm, and rescinding when you really need to feel it.
Aye Nako, Silver Haze
Aye Nako are a Brooklyn emo band who take the genre and twist it to meet their own needs — which are plentiful. As New York natives unpacking the queer black experience, this band has higher stake struggles than perhaps some of the more notable forbearers in the genre, and they tackle them with more aplomb and insight, too. Still, the undercurrent of centering emotion remains at the heart of their sophomore album Silver Haze, whether it’s stretched to the noisiest limits or curbed into more orderly pop punk. This is traditional punk rock sung by untraditional narrators, a process that needs to continue if we want to keep rock at the forefront of the cultural ethos of resistance that has slowly been building. Sometimes, that means other people need to be quiet and help amplify. Listen to Aye Nako not just because they need to be heard, but because you need to practice listening instead of speaking.
Angaleena Presley, Wrangled
Angaleena Presley pulls no punches on her gutsy sophomore record Wrangled. Like the title suggests, Presley is unafraid to get her hands dirty revealing the behind-the-scenes struggle of a female country star. The album’s lead track “Dreams Don’t Come True” challenges the expectations of making it as a big star, and from there Presley skewers high school, southern traditional expectations of a woman’s role in the world, and of course, the bitterness of a doomed romance. Presley is at her best when she’s taking a match to her sadness like it’s a trail of kerosene, tracing it all the way through to a big explosion. It may hurt along the way, but damn if the fireworks at the end aren’t worth the pain. This is country music for those who love complaining about the pop-leaning sensibilities of a country singer like Raelynn — I’m not one, but I know the antidote if you are, and it’s below.
White Reaper, The World’s Best American Band
For a brief preview of just how deadly serious White Reaper are about their music, read the borderline hilarious interview that their frontman Tony Esposito did with Steven Hyden earlier this month. His band is four guys from Louisville, Kentucky who are adamantly faithful to the power chords of traditional blues and riffy garage rock that were the bedrock of early American sounds. While I may not consider them the singular very best American band, I have found myself returning to this record again and again for a dose of early-twenties energy and uncanny diehard choruses.