Another Friday, another great new batch of music for your eardrums. Here are a few new albums that are worth your time.
Lorde: Solar Power
Lorde’s long awaited follow-up to Melodrama is a sparser affair, reveling in chill vibes and subdued production as Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor dispenses her observations about wellness culture and the ups and downs of the pursuit of happiness. She sounds less tortured than she has on previous outings, but there’s a lot of satire here too, poking fun at GOOP-type self-care grifts. Listen close for contributions from the likes of Phoebe Bridgers, Robyn and Clairo.
Angel Olsen: Aisles EP
Angel Olsen is one of her generation’s sharpest lyricists, so an EP of ’80s covers would seem to rob her of one her greatest strengths. But this collection of covers like Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face” and Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance” is how a demonstration of how a great cover and open up new emotions in even a well-known song. In her hands, these huge pop hits shed their Reagan-era cheesiness for something urgent, human and gorgeous. Her take on Alphaville’s “Forever Young” loses the awkward prom dance feel for true, dreamy romance. These may be covers, but they’re some of Olsen’s finest work yet.
One of the consistent bands in the American rock canon is back with interrobang, an album that plays to Switchfoot’s strengths by bringing back some of the retro surf rock vibes the band cut their teeth on back into the mix. The result is something a little darker than we’ve heard from the San Diego band of late, with Jon Foreman’s vocals sounding more desperate and the band right there with him.
Nathan Salsburg: Psalms
Louisville’s Nathan Salsburg has been crafting quietly stirring folk for years now, but his latest effort is something new: a collection of Psalms put to his Americana stylings, sung in the original Hebrew. “I wanted to do something Jewish, even if only for myself,” Salsburg said in a press release. “It occurred to me that the psalms would be a great place to look as they’re written in a largely first person voice and part of what they are are injunctions to sing. It made for a wonderful, almost daily practice.” Fans of Will Oldham, Joan Shelley, James Elkington, Spencer Tweedy and Noa Babayof will catch their contributions throughout the ten-track album.
Sturgill Simpson: The Ballad of Dood and Juanita
Sturgill Simpson is back with yet another stab at redefining a genre as American as it gets. Simpson and his new backing band, dubbed the Hillbilly Avengers, have crafted a mythic bluegrass tale of the American West. A concept album, The Ballad of Dood and Juanita follows an Eastern Kentucky tough guy named Dood whose heart is melted by love when he meets Juanita. But when the no-good outlaw Seamus McClure kidnaps Juanita, Dood must set off into the frontier on a rescue mission, with only his mule and an old dog named Sam for company. It’s a classic yarn and Simpson knows his way around this form, letting the music get thrilling, playful, mournful and romantic all in just the right degrees. This is what happens when a talent at the top of his game attempts a true challenge, and succeeds.
Tyler Huckabee is RELEVANT's senior editor. He lives in Nashville with his wife, dog and Twitter account.