Every month Uproxx Cultural Critic Steven Hyden compiles a playlist of his favorite songs from new albums.
The 1975, “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)”
A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships finally drops today, but The 1975 have been teasing their third album since May with a series of very good-to-incredible singles, with this delectable sonic equivalent of an ice cream sundae being the latest. Those singles are also the best part of the album, which has some ambitious if not entirely successful genre experiments among the filler tracks. But that’s what 1975 albums are — big, messy, inconsistent, and full of charisma. As a singles act, however, The 1975 rarely falls short of great.
Bob Mould, “Sunshine Rock”
Speaking of artists who rarely fall short of great, Bob Mould has been making melodic punk-rock corkers for more than 35 years. His forthcoming album, Sunshine Rock (due out Feb. 8), caps a late-career renaissance and stands as his most engaging record since Sugar’s 1992 classic Copper Blue.
For those of us who grow tired of waiting four or five years for new Japandroids albums, Spielbergs provide a valuable service, churning out rousing and unapologetically energetic rock songs about the power of rousing and unapologetically energetic rock songs. On the upcoming This Is Not The End (due Feb. 1), the Oslo band elaborate on the emo-punk formula with huge-sounding, shoegazer-style flourishes that only amp up the romantic melodrama.
This duo is responsible for more than its share of perfect songs, but “Hire” is a little more perfect than the rest, particularly for those of us who never got over losing Elliott Smith.
Martin Frawley, “End Of The Bar”
If you know this laconic Australian, it’s probably as the co-leader of the under-appreciated indie-pop group Twerps. That band drew on the tradition of wistful Flying Nun guitar bands like the Chills — on his own, Frawley plays a kind of sleepy-eyed version of outsides Americana, as evidenced by the rollicking “End Of The Bar.” On his upcoming solo debut, Undone At 31 (out Feb. 22), he reflects on the aftermath of a devastating breakup with similar grace and wit.
Nap Eyes, “I’ve Always Known You Care”
This Canadian band put out one of the year’s more understated (and underrated) indie-rock albums, I’m Bad Now, back in March. This song comes from a recent single, and it spotlights Nap Eyes’ unerring ability to evoke classic bands (namely the Velvet Underground and Silver Jews) while also expressing contemporary millennial ennui. (Maybe the point is that ennui itself is timeless.)
It Looks Sad., “Drool”
I had to triple-check It Looks Sad.’s Bandcamp page to confirm that it’s actually a 2018 band from Charlotte, North Carolina and not a 1988 band from London or Manchester. If you enjoy the glistening melancholy of “Drool,” the rest of the new Sky Lake should be similarly beguiling.
Sloucher, “Up And Down”
This Seattle band doesn’t reinvent the wheel on their debut full-length Be True — if you’re familiar with indie rock in the Pacific Northwest, you’ll recognize Sloucher as a hybrid of Fleet Foxes’ rusticity and Built To Spill’s stateliness. Even the band name evokes the introspective shyness endemic to acts of this ilk. However, Sloucher executes it all so well that I’m already tempted to pencil them into the great Northwoods guitar-band continuum.
William Tyler, “Fail Safe”
This Nashville guitarist and composer makes records that unfold like ’70s road movies — his music is full of sunshine and darkness and it’s constantly moving towards an uncertain horizon. His upcoming album, Goes West (out Jan. 25), is his most cinematic effort yet, like Ry Cooder’s score for Paris, Texas with the epic sweep of David Lean leavened with the chilled-out left-coast vibe of Hal Ashby.
Strange Ranger, “The Wires”
No indie label had a better 2018 than Tiny Engines — the releases by Wild Pink, Illuminati Hotties, and Restorations rank among my favorite albums of the year. On this month’s mixtape alone there are two more Tiny Engines bands — the aforementioned It Looks Sad. and this gloriously shambolic psych-folk outfit. Strange Ranger run through a range of styles on its great recent EP, How It All Went By, but my favorite might be this sweetly rumbling ballad that sounds like a lost Neil Young gem performed by J. Mascis.