Another week, another long list of albums to check out in order to bulk up our 2023 playlists. At first glance, the release schedule promised less than stellar results, with Mitski’s latest, The World is Inhospitable and So Are We, being the most noteworthy. But look a little further and the scope of releases — across artists and genres — is immense. From K-Pop, to metal, to a country star on the rise, there’s no lacking in diverse musicality. It’s an eclectic lineup, offering up a little something for everyone.
While not mentioned below, make sure to check out the following albums as well. From post-rock band Explosions in the Sky’s new album End, to Cleo Sol’s Heaven, to Woods’s Perennial, there’s plenty to discover. Tokyo based composer and producer Haruka Nakamura debuts their first ambient album, Aomori, as part of a project with Tsutaya Books, and the result is expectedly gorgeous, making for a perfect, early autumn listen and entry way for the pianist’s works.
All that said, here are six albums worth checking out this week.
Corinne Bailey Rae — Black Rainbows
With a blend of jazz and punk, singer Corinne Bailey Rae returns with her album Black Rainbows. Electrically charged, her fourth album plays with form and genre, inspired by an exhibition on Black history by artist Theaster Gates at the Stony Island Arts Bank in Chicago. The album is impassioned, dealing with joy and grief, past and present, a culmination of the artists range, the track “Black Rainbows” largely instrumental, purposefully glitchy, bleeding into the next track, “Erasure,” with vocal and instrumentation distortion which speaks to 90s grunge, with the next, “Earthlings,” playing with Afrofuturism elements. It’s a worthwhile whirlwind.
Key — Good & Great
A member of the K-Pop band SHINee, Key has been making a name for himself and establishing a presence in the entertainment industry for years. From becoming a mainstay on local variety series and his own solo releases, Key’s a formidable star in his own right. His latest EP, Good & Great, further cements this. “Live Without You” is the album standout but the six-track EP is packed with killer numbers that are demonstrative of his understanding of pop history, pulling from classics — from K-Pop and Western influences — while injecting it with his own signature energy.
Madison Beer — Silence Between Songs
With a vocal cadence similar to Billie Eilish and influenced by artists such as Ariana Grande, Madison Beer has all of the makings of a new pop star. With dance elements and heavy beats in songs such as “Sweet Relief” along with ballad style, and mid-tempo tracks like “Envy the Leaves,” the singer is exploring many facets of her range in her newest album. The album thrives in those more energetic tracks, though, with the single “Home To Another One” being a standout.
Margo Cilker — Valley of Heart’s Delight
Country and bluegrass singer Margo Cilker returns for her sophomore album Valley of Heart’s Delight following the 2019 release, Pohorylle. Shamefully, it’s the type of album I’d normally miss. Thankfully, Stereogum named it their album of the week which pointed me in its direction. The album bursts with Cilker’s striking, crisp vocals, laid against big band elements, brass instrumentals, and soulful lyricism that is witty and defiant against instrumentation that dabbles in timeliness. In Stereogum’s review, they remark on the inevitability of the singer being compared to those like “Emmylou Harris, John Prine, and Gillian Welch.” The comparisons are apt, with Cilker bringing her own distinctiveness, from the saloon piano in “I Remember Carolina ” to her meditations on life.
Mitski — The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We
Mitski releases are always hotly anticipated, the singer-songwriter having established herself as a must-listen. Her latest, The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We, produced by Patrick Hyland, plays on her established indie, alt-rock sound while dabbling in greater sonic expressions. From a choir that is incorporated into some of the tracks, to an Alex G guitar strumming reminiscent of the eerie ambience of We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, the album dabbles in folk and orchestral elements — such as in “Heaven” — that adds to her greater, expansive sound.
Vagabond — Sorry I Haven’t Called
It’s been four years since Vagabon delivered her incredible self-titled album, returning now with Sorry I Haven’t Called. The multi-instrumentalist turns away from some of her more somber-paced tracks for an album that embraces movement and dance, announced in her opening track, “Can I Talk My Shit.” The album marries her introspective lyricism with light beats, written in response to grieving the loss of a close friend. The result is an album packed with light and life.