Best New Albums (March 24, 2023)

Music Lists Best Albums

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 week’s best albums to stream.

Caroline Rose: The Art of Forgetting
The Art of Forgetting, the latest album from Nashville singer/songwriter Caitlin Rose is a departure in both theme and production from their previous release. While Superstar paid homage to ’80s cinema and a culture obsessed with celebrities, The Art of Forgetting finds inspiration through Balkan cries and the natural life cycles of handcrafted instruments. Although Rose has created fictionalized characters before, here they delve deep into their vulnerabilities and pain in The Art of Forgetting: a memoir of healing. Caroline Rose’s portrayal of a new beginning during the first three tracks is visceral and guttural. “Tell Me What You Want,” is undoubtedly the best track on the album. The witty and literal lyrics are bolstered by gritty guitar and Rose singing, “I just gotta take a beat / To get some fresh air in my lungs.” It’s fabulously dynamic in texture with different fortes and meticulous phrasing. Rose has reached new heights on this record, executing her ideas flawlessly. —Rayne Antrim


Debby Friday: GOOD LUCK
Debby Friday knows how to have fun. Whether she’s enticing you to party or embracing her “red-hot libido,” the Toronto-based maker of electropunk and hip hop wants to transform you the way she’s been transformed in the night. A celebrated DJ before embracing production, Friday fell hard for the boundlessness of Canadian nightlife at a young age, greatly preferring the freedom it offered over the strictures of her home life. A smattering of personal problems threatened to derail her nightlife career, but Friday recognized these as a call. She redirected her energies, teaching herself production, studied filmmaking and embraced the world of the mystical (astrology remains a favorite). Now, for her debut full-length on Sub Pop, GOOD LUCK, the trials of the past and the beauty of the stars come together in a striking, sensual, brilliant record. Whether it’s the grinding punk of “WHAT A MAN” or the thumping beats of “I GOT IT,” GOOD LUCK plays in the dark with expertise. Her tracks are eerie at times, hot at others, often playing in the sandboxes of industrial, hip hop, and dance, much like you might hear at the club. Friday’s voice can get muted, but at other times she places her voice front and center—distorted and unfamiliar on “SAFE,” falsetto and smooth on “SO HARD TO TELL.” GOOD LUCK is a record that doesn’t quit and shows Debby Friday’s imminent promise to be the next best thing in indie pop and dance. —Devon Chodzin


Depeche Mode: Memento Mori
Even now that they’re both past the age of 60, Depeche Mode’s David Gahan and Martin Gore are still capable of making music that’s every bit as brooding as their classic catalog. The iconic electronic outfit’s 15th studio album Memento Mori finds frontman Gahan and multi-instrumentalist Gore consumed by the same attractions—anguish, yearning, religion—that have long defined their work, a remarkable feat considering how mature and settled they come across in interviews these days. It’s this maturity, in fact, that’s helped keep Depeche Mode’s music so vital. Gore and Gahan may still be tapping the same emotional well, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t grown with every album. Over the last two decades, Depeche Mode have more or less successfully balanced between referencing their past and breaking new ground. Memento Mori, with its fresh production courtesy of James Ford and Marta Salogni, tilts rather decisively towards the latter. Sure, tracks like “My Favourite Stranger” and “Don’t Say You Love Me” contain nods to fan favorites from their holy trinity of albums—1987’s Music for the Masses, 1989’s Violator and 1993’s Songs of Faith and Devotion—almost as if the band is paying homage to itself. But “Wagging Tongue,” “Before We Drown,” “People Are Good,” and others update that familiar Depeche Mode recipe in myriad ways, proving that DM can hold their own with current artists across the entirety of the electronic-dance-pop spectrum. Few, if any, acts in music have been able to make inner turmoil sound as sexy as Depeche Mode, and they don’t disappoint this time. A record that’s permeated by such a heavy sense of mood it creates a kind of humidity out of sound, Memento Mori doesn’t actually stay in the same musical gear from start to finish. As it turns out, Depeche Mode still have a few tricks left up their sleeve. They also have quite a lot to tell us about human nature, the search for meaning, memory, mortality and—most of all—life. It’s been a long time since Depeche Mode have sounded this alive, or powerful. Memento Mori sees them in fine form as they come damn close to recapturing the creative reach we came to expect during their prime. —Saby Reyes-Kulkarni


Kate Davis: Fish Bowl
Fish Bowl is Kate Davis’s best work yet; a unique movement inspired by Greek epics and A Hero’s Journey. In a lot of ways, the album twists and turns like a big, romantic concerto with Davis firmly in the eye of the storm. While other artists saw their music releases halted or postponed at the beginning of COVID in 2020, Davis used that time to start piecing together the glass of Fish Bowl. The songs are wondrous and confessional, and Davis chronicles a life full of people standing at a distance from one another. Perhaps that’s why the songs are astronomical and poetic. On “Confessions,” she talks of a black hole tearing into the part of her heart that had forgotten about fragility and tenderness; on “Call Home,” she ponders if the last gasps of freedom should be spun into an apocalyptic romance or social commentary. There’s a bit of embellishment at play, which Davis zeroes in on nicely by taking up the persona of an otherworldly character—FiBo (short for Fish Bowl)—a vehicle in which Davis feels most comfortable telling her confessional stories, serving as a mirrored experience of what she had been living through but in a world that had nothing to do with her own reality. —Matt Mitchell


Nickel Creek: Celebrants
With the line “My god, it’s good to see you,” Nickel Creek welcomes you back after nine years with Celebrants, their first original album since 2014’s A Dotted Line, and quickly acknowledges that we have work to do. The trio, composed of Chris Thile, Sean Watkins and Sara Watkins, and joined by Mike Elizondo, has been making Americana music together in ebbs and flows for more than 20 years. By now, they know something about working together. What might lie ahead is “something we can sing through”—having incisively clever-sounding harmonies like theirs certainly helps. The group rapidly weaves together and apart on this album, from the tearing pace of Thile’s mandolin or Sara Watkins’s fiddle to the quick wit of their lyrics. There is patience for moments of rest and quiet, but they do not suffer inactivity. The music demands an awareness of movement—“Celebrants” has literal stomping, whereas on “Strangers” the instrumentation takes on the sureness of footsteps, whether through the dancing lightness of Thile’s mandolin, or the certain stepping of Mike Elizondo’s bass. The mix of instrumental tracks with vocals reminds us that more than anything, Nickel Creek are avid musicians, full of feeling accented by their technical prowess. Sara Watkins’s jazz-inflected vocal slides on “Thinnest Wall” are made all the more exhilarating by their unexpectedness, mischievously playing with their usual bluegrass sound. At the heart of this album is a feeling of running a losing race, with words of panic and love jumbling together until you can’t separate the notions anymore. To love anything or anyone right now is to agree to go through a period of immense change and dread together, and to risk losing each other. You have to choose your partners in forging ahead carefully, and Nickel Creek is more locked in and together than ever. —Rosa Sofia Kaminski


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