Best New Albums (Mar. 3, 2023)

Music Lists New Albums
Best New Albums (Mar. 3, 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 last week’s best albums to stream.

Kate NV: Wow
On WOW, Kate Shilonosova’s latest album as Kate NV, she assembles a panoply of curious sounds and visions to delight beyond what typical music can do. WOW isn’t fun like a class clown, per se, but more like a clown with class. Over the years, Shilonosova’s toying with busted instruments, manipulated vocals and everyday objects has led her to amass a treasure trove of recordings of all things spontaneous. Drawing on the boundless curiosity of her hero Nobukazu Takemura, Shilonosova’s own love for all things fun and vibrant has her eschewing traditional structures in order to construct pop songs so stimulating and multifaceted that they can be hard to keep track of. Her songs ask a lot of listeners not because they are overdetermined works of art but because they require dropping all pretense and submitting oneself to forbidden levels of whimsy. It’s a difficult exercise, but oh so rewarding. —Devon Chodzin


Gee Tee: Goodnight Neanderthal
Simply put: It’s the synths. At a time when it seems like everyone in Australia has a punk band, it’s the synths that set Gee Tee apart from the mob. More precisely it’s Kel Mason’s deployment of those synths—cheap-sounding, but clear in the mix and melodically indispensable—that elevates Gee Tee’s music out of the muck. (Not that there’s anything wrong with muck, to be clear.) After a years-long run of 7″ singles, splits and EPs, Goodnight Neanderthal is Gee Tee’s second full-length studio album, and first on American punk powerhouse Goner Records. Here, Mason’s songwriting is remarkably consistent: All 10 tracks run between 85 and 126 seconds long, and all are packed wall to wall with tattoo-gun guitar riffs, marble-mouthed vocals, breakneck drums and industrial-grade fuzz. And then there are those synths. They add some carnival-esque flair to the grubby post-punk of “Grease Rot Chemical” and turn the Ramones-trapped-in-the-sewer vibe of “40K” into a new wave roller coaster. They thread playground-game melodies through grimy tunes like “Heart-Throb” and “Stuck Down,” and they dance playfully (and so plainly!) on the album’s title track. It’s really quite impressive just how much bang Mason gets for his synth-bucks, and the result is an album that strikes a perfect balance between lo-fi and highly addictive. —Ben Salmon


Sharp Pins: Turtle Rock
Kai Slater has been busy. He plays in Lifeguard, the noisy, animated indie rock band that recently signed to Matador Records, and prints HALLOGALLO, a prolific zine that chronicles the young Chicago rock scene. But in his spare time, he manages to write inspiringly good power pop as Sharp Pins. Turtle Rock, the project’s debut, has the atmosphere of Bee Thousand and the melodies of ’70s greats like The Toms or Dwight Twilley Band if they were crunchier. Lead single “You Turned off the Light” is one of the year’s strongest pop songs, centered around strummed acoustic guitar chords, an incessant bass lick, and a handclap-filled chorus (“Girl, oh girl!”) that feels stolen right out of the ’60s. Opener “Breathing Air” leans on the twee side of things, while “Still a Straw Man” is a shot of freewheeling, riff-oriented energy that still has one of the album’s best hooks. Even with Turtle Rock’s many strengths, it’s on “Bye Bye Basil” where things come into focus. Sonically somewhere between “Ballad of Big Nothing” and “Maggie May,” Slater manages to write a melancholic triumph: “I’ll meet you out in Amsterdam with all my clothes out to dry” goes an extremely moving singalong. It’s emphasized by the middle chorus of “Bye Bye Basil,” where we’re left with only Slater’s pensive vocals, building guitars, and some contrasting melodies–a masterful moment on an album full of them. —Ethan Beck


Tanukichan: GIZMO
Tanukichan, the solo project of Bay Area musician Hannah van Loon, has been releasing striking dream pop for the last few years. Marked by van Loon’s distinct, disarmingly gauzy vocals and distorted guitar plucks, Tanukichan’s music feels singular in the broader dream-pop sphere. Her voice exudes the calming hum of ambient music, her guitar textures pull from gritty post-hardcore or grunge just as often as shoegaze and her floaty pop melodies contain hints of psychedelia and avant-pop, growing more tender each time you listen. While other dream pop gets its power from furious plumes of noise, her music is more economical, hinging on the gripping interplay of well-balanced textures. Her hushed, gossamer vocals intermingle with off-kilter guitars that alternate between chunky thumps and contorting squeals, resulting in a sound that feels both spacey and concise. Tanukichan’s music gives the impression that van Loon is less tethered to sonic reference points and more interested in finding weightier contrasts to her hypnotizingly weightless voice and poignant melodies. her second album, GIZMO, is more sonically adventurous than its predecessor. The synths, guitars and rhythms create a wider range of moods and sounds, from the trip-hop-meets-nu-metal of “Don’t Give Up” and the bare-bones rock of “A Bad Dream” to the string-laden closer “Mr. Rain” and her touching yet noisy duet with Enumclaw’s Aramis Johnson, “Thin Air.” It’s an adept sequel, full of intriguing dynamics, pillowy pop songwriting and thoughtful meditations. —Lizzie Manno


Whitney Walker: A Dog Staring Into a Mirror
Whitney Walker, a singer/songwriter out of Portland, Maine, knows a thing or two about darkness—and hopes that singing about his own can offer a bit of light. Having played in bands since he was a teenager in the ’90s—first in Boston and then Oregon, Chicago, North Carolina and eventually Maine—he became homeless off and on in the 2000s, after drugs got the better of him. The new album, A Dog Staring Into a Mirror on the Floor, captures some of his past woes in tracks like “Reverse Cowboy,” about a fellow transient man in Portland. Walker has been sober since 2011, becoming a social worker and helping others find treatment and rehabilitation. There’s plenty of despair captured in Walker’s off-kilter Americana, drawing inspiration from artists like Nick Cave and Violent Femmes, but the singer doesn’t wallow in it, and doesn’t want you to either. —Josh Jackson


And don’t forget to check out … Constant Smiles: Kenneth Anger, Daisy Jones & The Six: Aurora, Ella Vos: Superglue, Elvis Costello: The Songs of Bacharach & Costello, Fake Names: Expendables, Macklemore: Ben, Marc Broussard: S.O.S. 4: Blues for Your Soul, Ron Gallo:Foreground Music, Sharp Pins: Turtle Rock, slowthai: Ugly, Steve Mason: Brothers & Sisters, The Minks: Creatures of Culture, The National Parks: 8th Wonder, Whitney Walker: A Dog Staring Into a Mirror, Willie Nelson: I Don’t Know a Thing About Love, Xiu Xiu: Ignore Grief

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