The 10 Albums We're Most Excited About in September

Featuring Kacey Musgraves, Little Simz, Sufjan Stevens & Angelo de Augustine, and more

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The 10 Albums We're Most Excited About in September

If 2021’s second act was any indication, the third—into which we’ve just tipped this week with the onset of September—is going to be a doozy. We’ll be leaning, as always, on the music, and this month has plenty of it, from Kacey Musgraves’ much-anticipated Golden Hour follow-up and Little Simz’s career-best Sometimes I Might Be Introvert to Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine’s film-inspired team-up album and much more. In a September packed to the gills with appointment listening, here are the 10 records the Paste Music team is most eagerly counting down the days until.

September 3

Little Simz: Sometimes I Might Be Introvert

Age 101

While artists like Skepta and Dave have come to define the future sound of British rap, it’s Little Simz who might very well leave the most lasting mark this year. Her single “I Love You, I Hate You” is one of the best all-around tracks of the year. Produced by Inflo (who has had nothing short of a Midas touch on his work with SAULT, Michael Kiwanuka, Cleo Sol and Jungle), the song finds Simz sliding into each bar with dense lyricism that’s just flat-out impressive on a pointed track about her maligned father; there’s opening yourself up by being vulnerable and then there’s this:

Never thought my parent would give me my first heartbreak (I hate you)
Anxiety givin’ me irregular heart rate (I love you)
Used to avoid gettin’ into how I really feel about this (I hate you)
Now I see how fickle life can be and so it can’t wait (I love you)
Should’ve been the person there to hold me on my dark days (I hate you)
It’s easier to stargaze and wish than be faced with this reality (I love you)
Is you a sperm donor or a dad to me?

There’s emotional outpourings like this at every turn of Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, but it always sounds so grandiose. She’s as confident on the mic as they come and you can feel the cold, hard gaze in her eyes when she’s delivering lines like the one above. You vibe hard with how cool she is on “Woman,” saying, “Brooklyn ladies, know you hustle on the daily / Innovatin’ just like Donna Summer in the ‘80s.” She’s rapping for women, she’s rapping for Black women, she’s rapping for women all around the world, and she’s rapping for people who can appreciate how the hip-hop art form is built for marginalized voices to rise up. There’s broad appeal to her overall aesthetic, too, and now on her fourth album, Little Simz is poised to highlight the mighty British rap scene for good. —Adrian Spinelli

Spirits Having Fun: Two

Born Yesterday Records

The scene-mates of promising young rock bands like Moontype and Floatie, Chicago’s Spirits Having Fun—guitarist-vocalist Katie McShane, bassist Jesse Heasly, guitarist-vocalist Andrew Clinkman and drummer Phil Sudderberg—will make their Born Yesterday Records debut with their second album, the fittingly titled follow-up to 2019’s Auto-Portrait. Just like those of their aforementioned Windy City peers, Spirits Having Fun’s sound is far more complex than initially meets the ear, with dream-pop (“Picture of a Person”), math rock (“The Leaf Is a Chorus”), power-pop (“Hold the Phone”) and psych rock (“See a Sky”) each making their presence felt across Two’s 12 tracks. McShane and Clinkman’s vocal and instrumental interplay lends further depth to the record, making the music feel uniquely alive and in conversation with itself, growing and changing before our ears, yet unwavering in its forward motion. —Scott Russell

W.H. Lung: Vanities

Melodic Records

Manchester synth-rock quintet W.H. Lung are back with the follow-up to their acclaimed 2019 debut Incidental Music. Tom Sharkett, who shares songwriting duties with Joe Evans, called the lead track “a transition from the old W. H. Lung to new,” while Vanities as a whole documents a period of flux for the group, in which they lost a member to a move and were drawn to the inclusive community of dance music. Where Incidental Music found the band blending post-punk and krautrock guitars with synth-pop propulsion, Vanities shifts the scales towards the latter end of the rock show vs. dance floor spectrum. On lead single “Pearl in the Palm,” synth sounds evoking both Blade Runner and Giorgio Moroder swirl around uptempo drums and Evans’ reedy vocals, with funky guitar accents, group vocals and a sprawl that never slows evoking the best of dance-punk greats like LCD Soundsystem. W.H. Lung seem to understand that, in times this dark, the unconscious escape that dance music provides is not a luxury, but rather an urgent necessity, and with this record, they’ve risen to the occasion. —Scott Russell

More notable September 3 releases: Baby Queen: The Yearbook, Big Boi & Sleepy Brown: The Big Sleepover, Buck Gooter: Head In A Bird Cage, Drake: Certified Lover Boy, Imagine Dragons: Mercury – Act 1, Iron Maiden: Senjutsu, Keaton Henson: Fragments EP, LANY: gg bb xx, Meatbodies: 333, Motorists: Surrounded, Nico Hedley: Painterly, SUUNS: The Witness

September 10

Kacey Musgraves: star-crossed

Interscope Records / UMG Nashville

Just one week after Paste Music took stock of everything we knew about Kacey Musgraves’ much-anticipated fourth album, the country star finally announced it in earnest, detailing star-crossed and a forthcoming, Paramount+-exclusive film (dir. Bardia Zeinali) of the same name. The follow-up to her beloved 2018 “galactic country” record Golden Hour, star-crossed is a 15-track LP constructed like a classic tragedy, with five songs in each of the album’s three acts. Musgraves reunited with her Golden Hour co-producers and writers Ian Fitchuk and Daniel Tashian on the album, recording it in just under three weeks in Nashville earlier this year. Musgraves has characterized star-crossed as “a post-divorce” heartbreak record grounded in realism, inspired by her summer 2020 split from her ex-husband, fellow musician Ruston Kelly. Like its predecessor, star-crossed continues Musgraves and co.’s stylistically adventurous approach to country and pop music, rendering the singer’s heartbreak in bold, operatic strokes that feel both true to and larger than life. —Scott Russell

Low : Hey What

Sub Pop Records

On Hey What, their first new album since 2018’s excellent Double Negative, experimental icons Low have somehow found a way to dial up both their sonic and emotional intensity, using elements of distortion and heavy noise to chart a path forward through the darkness. These noisy elements cascade onto the listener like sheets of snow, thick and brutal, but invigorating and bursting with life. This ecstatic energy evokes a sort of spirituality throughout the album’s 10 songs, with tracks like “Disappearing” feeling like an apocalyptic hymnal constantly collapsing under its own weight, and “More” sounding like a traditional folk song from the age of the technological singularity. Hey What is Low at their most abrasive and urgent, but simultaneously their most thoughtful and inviting. —Jason Friedman

Militarie Gun: All Roads Lead To The Gun II EP

Convulse Records

Militarie Gun is the new project by Ian Shelton of Regional Justice Center. Both exist within the realm of hardcore, but take on vastly different influences, with the former being heavily influenced by the abrasion of ’80s and ’90s hardcore bands, and the latter taking pages from grunge and alternative rock of the same eras (plus a sprinkle of Fugazi). On their forthcoming EP All Roads Lead To The Gun II, Militarie Gun expand upon their reinvention of the expectations of hardcore to create something euphoric and brilliantly innovative. Threads of simple, melancholic guitar riffs unravel into a gorgeous blend of bass plucks and Shelton’s vocals that ooze of desperation and anger. Militarie Gun relish the uncomfortable in a time that makes it difficult to ignore, zeroing in on the strangeness of human nature with their truthful, refreshing aggression. —Jade Gomez

Sleigh Bells: Texis

Mom + Pop Music

Texis, the first album from Brooklyn duo Sleigh Bells since 2017’s Kid Kruschev, marks a return to the bombastic noise-pop that the group became known for. Continuing to hone their specific brand of extravagant, hook-filled, anthemic pop music, Sleigh Bells never stay put in just one genre on Texis, loading up the material with sonic references to drum and bass, trap, and production techniques that at times sound almost like leading hyperpop pioneers. These newfound modes of expression work wonders for the band, enabling them to blend their classic, punk-like aesthetic seamlessly into the digital age. —Jason Friedman

More notable September 10 releases: Adeline: Adi Oasis EP, Amyl and The Sniffers: Comfort To Me, Andrew W.K.: God Is Partying, Art School Girlfriend: Is It Light Where You Are, Colleen Green: Cool, Common: A Beautiful Revolution Pt. 2, Diana Ross: Thank You, Heartless Bastards: A Beautiful Life, James Blake: Friends That Break Your Heart, King Krule: You Heat Me Up, You Cool Me Down, Matthew E. White: K Bay, Metallica: The Metallica Blacklist, Park Hye Jin: Before I Die, Pokey LaFarge: In The Blossom Of Their Shade, Saint Etienne: I’ve Been Trying To Tell You, Slothrust: Parallel Timeline, Spencer.: Are U Down?, The Stranglers: Dark Matters, The Vaccines: Back In Love City

September 15

Injury Reserve: By the Time I Get to Phoenix

Self-Released

Injury Reserve refuse to be put in a bubble, constantly reimagining their sound to test the boundaries of experimentation. Discontent with being characterized purely as experimental or alternative hip-hop, the trio went pedal to the metal on abrasive sounds and darker subject matter for their ambitious self-titled debut in 2019. In 2020, tragedy struck when Stepa J. Groggs passed, and the group remained silent aside from a few features until August of 2021. By the Time I Get to Phoenix is Injury Reserve’s first release as a duo since Groggs’ passing, with his contributions being preserved. The album is the group at some of their most abrasive, dissonant and melancholy yet, as evident by the spectacular singles “Knees” and “Superman That.” Parker Corey pushes his production to new heights, and Ritchie With a T and Groggs are happy to oblige, giving fans a heartwarming glimpse of their unbeatable chemistry. It is a beautiful tribute to their loss and a cathartic cleansing to prepare for what hopefully isn’t the last of Injury Reserve.—Jade Gomez

September 17

Moor Mother: Black Encyclopedia of the Air

ANTI- Records

Moor Mother’s Camae Ayewa cannot be bound by time or space. For her new album Black Encyclopedia of the Air, the artist echoes the sentiments of her Black Quantum Futurism collective, focusing on ideas about time, memory and violence. Recorded at home during the pandemic, the album is darker, more focused and more epic than what we’ve heard from Moor Mother in the past. Through the album’s stuttering beats and jazzy influence, Ayewa writes both candidly and cryptically, like on the rancorous, “sudden violence”-influenced “Zami,” or on the chill groove of “Shekere.” Though the production is often minimal, Moor Mother’s talent for creating layers of dynamic, textural noise to complement the music and lyrics never leave a track feeling hollow, instead lending each one a sense of perpetual cosmic expansion. —Jason Friedman

More notable September 17 releases: Adia Victoria: A Southern Gothic, The Album Leaf: One Day XX, Alexis Taylor: Silence, Bad Bad Hats: Walkman, Bea Troxel: Gettin’ Where, The Beths: Auckland, New Zealand, 2020, Cynthia Erivo: Ch. 1 Vs. 1, José González: Local Valley, Lil Nas X: Montero, Lindsey Buckingham: Lindsey Buckingham, Lizzie Loveless: You Don’t Know, Melissa Etheridge: One Way Out, Mild High Club: Going Going Gone, Mini Trees: Always In Motion, Porij: Baby Face EP, Thrice: Horizons/East

September 24

Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine: A Beginner’s Mind

Asthmatic Kitty Records

The first collaborative full-length from Asthmatic Kitty labelmates Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine, A Beginner’s Mind is something of a concept album. While spending a month writing together at a friend’s upstate New York cabin, Stevens and De Augustine watched nightly movies to unwind from their workdays, which, naturally, inspired more songwriting. Operating in accordance with “the Zen Buddhist concept of shoshin (literally ‘a beginner’s mind’), the I-Ching and Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies,” per press materials, the duo constructed their 14-track LP by bouncing off films like 1985’s Return to Oz and 2004’s Bring It On Again, treating these disparate stories like songwriting prompts to explore with open minds. The resulting record is instrumentally light and delicate, yet lyrically existential and epic—Stevens and De Augustine grapple with good and evil on “You Give Death a Bad Name,” and consider “what it means to be human” over somber piano and synth on ”(This Is) The Thing.” Tracks like “Fictional California” and “Cimmerian Shade” find the songwriters at their most intimate and gentle, harmonizing sweetly over acoustic guitars, while the electric guitar solo on “Back to Oz” and the sweeping strings of “Lost in the World” suggest (but don’t insist upon) a bombast more befitting the duo’s lofty meditations. Ultimately, the album is the work of two veteran singer/songwriters sharing one beginner’s mind, opening themselves up to let their creativity flow. —Scott Russell

More notable September 24 releases: Ada Lea: one hand on the steering wheel the other sewing a garden, Angels & Airwaves: Lifeforms, Anna B Savage: These Dreams EP, Billy Strings: Renewal, Boys Noize: +/-, Brittany Howard: Jaime Reimagined, Caleb Landry Jones: Gadzooks Vol. 1, Cold War Kids: New Age Norms 3, Hayden Pedigo: Letting Go, Joey Purp: UpLate, Mac McCaughan: The Sound of Yourself, Macie Stewart: Mouth Full of Glass, Nao: And Then Life Was Beautiful, One Step Closer: This Place You Know, Poppy: Flux, Public Service Broadcasting: Bright Magic, Sad Park: It’s All Over, The Body and BIG|BRAVE: Leaving None But Small Birds, The Specials: Protest Songs – 1924-2012, Various Artists: I’ll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute to the Velvet Underground and Nico