Best New Albums (March 17, 2023)

Music Lists Best Albums
Best New Albums (March 17, 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. And check out the current best albums to stream.

Aly & AJ: With Love From
The latest album from Aly & AJ, With Love From, is yet another change of pace from the sister duo, showcasing how good they are at building upon what has come before while delivering something surprising and memorable with each new release—this time, tapping into an Americana and country-inspired daydream. With Love From shuffles through mementos of various experiences on the road. The upbeat and energetic “After Hours” invokes a hotel dance party in a nameless city in the south. “Way of Nature Way of Grace,” with smokey featured vocals from Joy Oladokun, feels like staring at a starry night sky during a pit stop in a desert out west. The sing-speak bridge on “Sunchoke,” a regretful anthem of self-doubt and anger defined by its earworm bassline and chorus, is reminiscent of a confession-laced voicemail, calling from a payphone just off the highway. In that way, Aly & AJ have cataloged their travels, taking fans on the road with them as they navigate both the joy and the price of the nomadic life of a touring musician. And there is a price, but With Love From finds the sister duo making peace with it. More than anything, Aly & AJ have proven once again that they are so much more than the music they made when they were teenagers. Aly & AJ are releasing career-defining music (and have been for the past six years), and With Love From might top a touch of the beat as their best album to date. —Anna Govert

Doug Paisley: Say What You Like
Veteran Canadian singer/songwriter Doug Paisley comes around every few years with a new collection of songs that are easy to love. In between, you might forget about him, because he’s steadfastly understated when he’s in the public eye and he truly disappears when he’s not. Drawn from around 250 unrecorded songs he has stockpiled over the years, these 11 spill over with exquisitely captured acoustic guitars (both strummed and plucked), subdued country boom-chick rhythms, Paisley’s warm sigh of a singing voice and a softly glowing vibe that, in the past, has been provided by synths, but here is the purview of steel guitars. For 15 years, Paisley’s songs have sounded like faded signs, framed in neon and reflected in a dusty storefront window. Say What You Like starts out at a relatively quick pace, actually, with a subtle hint of country-funk on the opening (and title) track, a honky-tonkin’ second track with a high-flying chorus (“Sometimes It’s So Easy”) and a third track, “Wide Open Plain,” that rambles and roils like a long horseback ride across its namesake landform. In these three songs, it’s not hard to hear the influence of producer Afie Jurvanen, who makes soulful folk music under the name Bahamas. The recurring themes on Say What You Like include love and lost love, changes of heart and fear of change, bygone times and trying to move on. Blessed with a voice that’s endlessly tender and understanding, Paisley is the perfect person to impart this kind of wisdom, even when it’s hard to hear. That, after all, is what friends are for. —Ben Salmon

m83: Fantasy
M83, Anthony Gonzalez’s long-running, cinematic indie-pop project, hinges itself on the unknowable. He achieves that on an uncanny level, discarding reality entirely in lieu of imagination and mythic world-building. That sense of yearning has never been clearer than on the fittingly titled Fantasy. One of Gonzalez’s main goals with this new record was to create the sensation of “being in a bubble that protects you from all the bullshit that we get in society nowadays,” as he tells me via Zoom from his home in Los Angeles. Another was to be more vocally present than he ever has before. Still, Fantasy isn’t completely devoid of guests. “Kool Nuit,” a late-album highlight, features Kaela Sinclair. The track abounds with lush, swelling strings and Sinclair’s mesmerizing alto, until the song disrupts halfway through its eight-minute runtime with sputtering synthesizers and slowly crescendos into a minor-key wash of noise; the notoriously quiet Gonzalez bursts into a near-scream. —Grant Sharples

Unknown Mortal Orchestra: V
Portland-based psych-rock band Unknown Mortal Orchestra has mastered the use of space and sound in their lofi genre. Their mix of wah-wah pedals, reverb, groovy syncopation and stripped-down production led to the commercial and critical success of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and II. Hawaiian-New Zealander Ruban Neilson’s double-album is half composed of groovy, funk instrumentals and half of sun-kissed melodies. V was recorded in both Palm Springs and Hawai’i with his brother Kody Neilson and longtime band member Jacob Portrait. The records also features Neilson’s father playing saxophone and flute. It’s obvious how much influence both locations have over the Hapa-haole (“half-white”) record, quite literally representing Neilson’s ethnic background as half Hawai’ian and half Kiwi. The tracks were also heavily influenced by ’70s AM radio rock with “Messugah” and ’80s pop with “Weekend Run.” V is a fun, water-glistening record that waves hi to the palm trees and lies down to take a sun-nap with the sleepy sand dunes. Unknown Mortal Orchestra continues to expel their creative boundaries in their timeless, vintage nature. —Rayne Antrim

Yves Tumor: Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)
Yves Tumor—alias of Miami, Fla.-born artist Sean Bowie—sings in a layered falsetto on “Parody”: “See your face and name on a postcard / Parody of a popstar / You behave like a monster.” The swelling, sauntering track arrives in the middle of Bowie’s fifth full-length album, Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds). It marks the latest bold step in the progression from their ambient/sound collage-inspired debut, 2015’s When Man Fails You, to 2020’s critically lauded art-rock opus Heaven To A Tortured Mind and 2021’s EP The Asymptomatical World, the former of which brought forth apt comparisons to the likes of Prince and the other Bowie. Still, to drop those names—suggesting the cover-band-level imitations others have attempted as of late—feels like it does the all-consuming world that this Bowie creates a disservice. The thing they have most in common with experimental forebearers like these is their inability to fit the mold provided for them, as well as their incessant need to reinvent themselves every time we turn our backs. On Praise A Lord…, with the assistance of producer Noah Goldstein, their work still contains that urge to reference other genres and periods of time in music history, but it never feels like pastiche. If anything, Bowie is more interested in detaching it from any nostalgic context and placing it in the framework of their own immersive collage of sound. It’s psychedelic, but not dreamy or spaced-out; if anything, Bowie’s psychedelia is metallic—all intense greens and blues and purples that shade their maximalist, deconstructed vision. On each track, influences drop in and out against the buzz of a rattling bassline, trying on different styles without ever fully fusing them to the song’s skeleton. —Elise Soutar

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