Summer concerts are on hold, but there is no shortage of new, good music to get into at home. In fact, you may be finding that this socially distant universe makes it easier than ever to appreciate an album from start to finish, a novelty in an era of playlists and streaming stations. Here are seven new(ish) albums to take for a spin; one is destined to become part of the soundtrack to your surreal summer.
Fetch the Bolt Cutters
I would have passed on Fiona Apple’s newest album had a friend not given it such a strong recommendation. After repeated listens, I came to love her bold blend of rhythmic music and cutting lyrics. It was mainly recorded in Apple’s Venice Beach home where even the walls were used as a percussive instrument, and its themes of breaking free of the chains that hold you back and being unapologetic about your beliefs feel made for this summer of protests and soul-searching.—Nicole Davis
Lianne La Havas
Lianne La Havas
Chill, soulful and seductive, Lianne La Havas’ third album has an easy-like-Sunday-morning vibe that is love at first listen. The British singer-songwriter is reminiscent of early Jill Scott, but with an indie bent. Along with grooves like “Can’t Fight,” she throws in a surprising cover of one of my favorite Radiohead songs, “Weird Fishes,” imbued with her warm, soft touch.—N.D.
Women in Music Pt. III
The three sisters of Haim are getting a lot of buzz for their latest effort, in part because it sounds like the most authentic and edgiest of their three studio albums to date. Contributor Kate Hooker finds a lot to love about it, too. “It’s breezy, summery, and poppy with a relatable dark edge to the lyrics that I really dig,” she wrote in her Culture Essentials round-up for July.—N.D.
Run the Jewels
Released a few days early, just on the heels of George Floyd’s murder, and subsequent protests that broke out globally, RTJ4 encapsulates all the righteous indignation, and dis-ease amidst our imploding systems, via rapid-fire flow and lyrical bite. It’s been a rough year, and sometimes it feels good to lean into the anger with superstar features and unwavering production value.—Regina Bresler
The Psychedelic Furs
Made of Rain
The veteran British post-punk group will always be synonymous for their song “Pretty in Pink,” which provided the title for the classic 1986 film starring Molly Ringwald. Led by founding members singer Richard Butler and bassist Tim Butler, the Furs will release Made of Rain on July 31, their first new album in nearly 30 years. This moody and melancholic record is a return to form, hearkening back to the band’s first three and excellent albums from the 1980s.—David Chiu
For a certain generation who came of age in the 1990s and 2000s, Brian McKnight’s smooth and uptempo R&B was the soundtrack of their lives. The multi-talented singer and songwriter released a string of memorable hits during that period, including “One More Cry,” “Love Is,” and “Back at One.” Exodus, McKnight’s latest record, continues in that vein of romantic slow jams—a huge majority of them inspired by his marriage. It’s a classic Brian McKnight record that also marks the end of an era, as it represents the singer’s final work of original material.—D.C.
This Houston trio’s musical vocabulary encompasses a wide variety of musical influences: Thai funk, Middle Eastern, fusion, R&B and even a little disco. They all add up to some of the most arresting, rhythmic instrumental music today, earning the band much critical acclaim and an ever-growing fan base. On their most recent album Mordechai, Khruangbin incorporates more singing, further complementing the scintillating grooves and melodies that will certainly lift your spirits.—D.C.