Best New Albums (April 6, 2023)

Music Lists Best Albums
Best New Albums (April 6, 2023)

Paste is the place to kick off each and every New Music Friday. We follow our regular roundups of the best new songs by highlighting the most compelling new records you need to hear. Find the best albums of the week below, from priority picks to honorable mentions. Special shout out to a couple EPs not listed below: Michigander’s It Will Never Be the Same and Barrie’s 5K.

Blondshell: Blondshell
Three months ago, I thought it was obvious that Sabrina Teitelbaum—better known by her stage name Blondshell—was going to be a big deal by April. However, I might have undersold Blondshell’s starpower potential at the time, as she just performed on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon before her self-titled, debut album was even officially out. Most of Blondshell was written at the genesis of COVID in 2020, as a result of, as Blondshell puts it, “not a lot going on and having a lot of big feelings that I need to talk about.” She sings like a classically trained vocalist while injecting her charisma with the bravado of Courtney Love and the pop likability of Avril Lavigne. As a songwriter, she instills a complexity throughout the record that perfectly mirrors her own humanity. She is vulnerable, funny, painfully honest and doesn’t hide behind vague language. Her work is a true foil to that of folks who love metaphors. No two songs sound alike, yet Blondshell is not a collage of subgenres. Instead, it’s Blondshell tinkering with her own renditions of sonic palettes previously mastered by the artists she got really stoked on during the pandemic, like Hole, Nirvana and Patti Smith. It’s indie pop fused with grunge, but it also, thoroughly, rebuffs getting lost among other ’90s alternative imitations. That’s all thanks, in most part, to Blondshell’s songwriting and compositional finesse, both of which allow her to attach a glaze of bubbly acoustic guitar and synths atop the heavy lyrical shit that might necessitate a litany of spell-binding distortion. Blondshell is a triumphant debut from the next indie superstar. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a project that’s more confessional, urgent or needed than this one. —Matt Mitchell

Devon Church: Strange Strangers
Devon Church’s vocals conjure flashes of all of our best wordsmiths: David Berman, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave. But his songwriting stands on its own, beyond the forefathers’ talismanic blueprint. His latest LP, Strange Strangers, is a terrific, spiritual balm of textures. On it, Church considers the birth and death of Jesus Christ, laments the apocalypse and Biblically incandescent love and hope. Songs like “Slouching Toward Bethlehem,” “Ephemera” and “Flash of Lightning in a Clear Blue Sky” show off his dynamic compositional abilities, as he weaves in and out of acoustic and piano numbers that properly compliment his philosophical explorations. —Matt Mitchell

Jana Horn: The Window Is the Dream
The tracks on The Window Is The Dream are still as dainty and minimal as ever, but, now, there’s a new edge to all of them. Horn doesn’t get too personal in her storytelling, but she doesn’t need to. The songs evoke visceral emotion through the architecture of her sonic vision. It doesn’t hurt that she has an incredible ecosystem of musicians around her, including Jared Samuel Elioseff, Adam Jones, Jonathan Horne, Daniel Francis Doyle and Sarah La Puerta Gautier. The Window Is The Dream is a bit more electric than Optimism was, thanks to Horne’s splendid guitar work. That aural upgrade pairs well with Horn’s hypnotizing soprano vocals, which are sharper than ever. Though it’s only been a year since Optimism was put back on all of our radars, Horn has grown exponentially between records, making The Window Is The Dream a small triumph at the beginning of—what will likely be—a long, winding career. —Matt Mitchell

Ruston Kelly: The Weakness
On Ruston Kelly’s best songs, you’re able to tell he’s an emo kid at heart. With thundering drum machines and gloomy acoustic guitars, “The Weakness,” the opener from his new album, makes this even clearer. It’s a thesis statement for The Weakness, a remarkably honest album about upheaval, divorce, and exhaustion “It’s been a long year / I feel fat and old and dumber and I’m watching time disappear,” sings Kelly on “St. Jupiter,” a straightforward folk song that’s got a sense of upward momentum and optimism. Sitting between those moments of hopefulness, there’s also a wonderfully doofy sense of humor. Take “Michael Keaton,” where Kelly gets too high and starts overthinking Multiplicity. Between the multi-tracked vocals and arpeggiated keys, “Dive” is a shining example of The Weakness’ melancholic core. Yet the song’s key line is “It feels good to trust myself again,” which helps “Dive” come across affably, like a half-believable smile. —Ethan Beck

Wednesday: Rat Saw God
There’s something about the South that’s sort of impossible to explain. It has this je ne sais quoi that hovers like the sticky humidity-you can’t pinpoint it, but you can feel it in the air. It comes in flashes, the machine guns, crushed Four Loko cans, stock car races, Bible verse bumper stickers and awkward glances around the classroom when you get abstinence-only sex education, feel like heat lightning. It’s sacrilegious and sacred, it’s pregaming in a church parking lot before heading to the high-school football game. Wednesday, get it. They lived it. On their latest album, Rat Saw God, they capture the off-kilter magic of one of the most confusing places. Lyrical precision is what makes the record shine, the fact that singer Karly Hartzman can recall the exact video game, in this case, Mortal Kombat, that someone was playing when her nose started bleeding at a New Year’s Eve party she didn’t even want to be at. There’s something striking in how sentimental the details feel, how she can weave these intimate narratives out of “piss-colored bright yellow Fanta,” and a Planet Fitness parking lot that makes their country-gaze so alluring. There are moments on the album where Hartzman’s one-liners serve as a knock-out punch. Whether they express it through private symbolism or get straight to the point, it doesn’t matter. Wednesday is the woman who thinks “America” is “a spoiled little child” but still gives out king-sized candy bars on Halloween. They’re the kids with crew cuts and the rest stop on the way to Dollywood. They’re the exhilaration of sneaking into the neighborhood pool and only going to school three days a week. They’re everything they document on Rat Saw God and more. —Samantha Sullivan

More Notable Releases Today: Daughter: Stereo Mind Game, Devon Gilfillian: Love You Anyway, Matthew Logan Vasquez: As All Get Out, Mudhoney: Plastic Eternity, Overcoats: Winner, Yaeji: With a Hammer

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