Every month Uproxx Cultural Critic Steven Hyden compiles a playlist of his favorite songs from new albums.
Greta Van Fleet, “Age Of Man”
When I interviewed Greta Van Fleet singer Josh Kiszka earlier this month, I asked specifically about this song, the opening track from the Michigan band’s hit debut, Anthem Of The Peaceful Army, in which he seemingly quotes directly from Led Zeppelin III. He called it both a “wink,” implying intentionality, and an “unintentional homage.” I still have no idea what to make of that answer, and I admit I’m still confounded by this band, which is thoroughly derivative… and also pretty damn fun and pleasurable. Perhaps allowing for contradictions is the key to understanding Greta Van Fleet. Or maybe it just requires turning your brain off.
Sharon Van Etten, “Comeback Kid”
Is this the melancholic folkie we all know and love or is it a rebooted rocker making her own anthems for the peaceful army? (Sharon Greta Van Fleet Etten?) This audacious single from the forthcoming Remind Me Tomorrow (due January 18), is by far the biggest music she’s ever made, with an enormous synth-rock hook buoying Van Etten’s strong, confident vocal. Consider me psyched for the new record.
Deerhunter, “Death In Midsummer”
Few American bands have been as great or surprising in the past ten years as Deerhunter. The curveball on “Death In Midsummer” is the prominent harpsichord, which grounds Bradford Cox in a pop-baroque mode that’s reminiscent of a late-’60s AM radio wonderland where Zombies and Left Banke songs play on a loop. It’s a surprisingly fitting representation of the upcoming Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared (due January 18), the most purely beautiful album Deerhunter has made since Halcyon Digest.
Young Jesus, “Deterritory”
Back in February, I called this LA group “one of the best and most adventurous young indie rock bands of 2018.” Based on the new The Whole Thing Is Here, the full-length follow up to 2017’s S/T, Young Jesus has only gotten better and more experimental. When I interviewed the band’s singer-songwriter John Rossiter, he expressed admiration for The Grateful Dead and improvised music in general, and you can hear that all over The Whole Thing, including the walloping lead track “Deterritory,” which meanders powerfully to some overwhelming peaks.
Colter Wall, “John Beyers (Camaro Song)”
Earlier this month, I spent a week in Arizona staring at breathtaking red-stone mountains and listening Songs Of The Plains by 23-year-old Canadian country singer Colter Wall. The album sounds like it was recorded on a desert night next to a campfire, with Wall — whose deep baritone makes him sound like a soulful cartoon basset hound — strumming a mix of originals and ancient cowboy songs. It’s an incredibly evocative and atmospheric record considering how stripped-back and simple the music is, and it finds Wall coming into his own after his 2017 self-titled debut album.
Gang Of Youths, “Let Me Down Easy” (MTV Unplugged version)
I’ve done more than my share of stumping for this pathologically inspirational Australian band and their great 2017 release Go Farther in Lightness. While the group has made significant in-roads in the US, including a recent stint opening for the Foo Fighters on an arena tour, Gang Of Youths are still much bigger at home, evidenced by this new live album recorded as part of Australia’s MTV Unplugged series. How amazing is it that MTV Unplugged remains a vital franchise somewhere in the world, and that it features a young band as promising as Gang Of Youths? I want to live in the alternate “Aussie” dimension.
This long-running instrumental Chicago band signed to prestigious indie label Drag City specialize in lengthy psychedelic jams that critics liken to eternally credible Krautrock bands like Can and Neu! But on Cave’s great new album Allways, they sound uncannily like another jammy outfit that likes to extend funk grooves into minimalist, near-ambient bliss: Phish. Whether the average Drag City fan is willing to admit that is another story, but as a lover of both Silver Jews and A Live One, this band hits a special sweet spot.
Steve Gunn, “New Moon”
The previous album by this genius Brooklyn guitarist, 2016’s Eyes On The Lines, is a modern fall classic, marrying winding guitar solos that nod to Marquee Moon to Gunn’s knowing, questing narratives. Gunn’s forthcoming release, The Unseen In Between (out January 18), is a more eclectic release, as evidenced by the cinematic “New Moon,” though it is equally suited for cold-weather introspection.
FIDLAR, “Can’t You See”
These now-veteran skate-punks expand their sonic palate considerably on the upcoming Almost Free (out January 25), but even if the pop hooks are sharper on “Can’t You See,” the snotty insouciance remains. “Don’t talk, just like my sh*t,” Zac Carper sings — I think that’s supposed to be a comment on social media, though you can probably also take it at face value as worthwhile advice.
Jessica Pratt, “This Time Around”
When I first heard this beguiling singer-songwriter around 2012, I assumed that she was a cult artist who put out one album in 1971 and promptly disappeared. Thankfully, Pratt only sounds like an ethereal ghost who can conjure long-disappeared worlds with only her guitar and unique, luminously cracked voice. The spell continues on this, her first single from the upcoming Quiet Signs (out February 8), her first new album since 2015.