Beginning this month, we're going to start highlighting some of the great new music dropping into rotation. After sitting back and surveying the landscape, it became clear just how much ridiculously great and horrendously bad music comes out each month, making this list more difficult to compile than originally thought.
But the music speaks for itself. Here are 10 of the best new albums released in September - in no real order, though Volcano Choir's latest would probably get my personal nod for the best of the bunch. Leave hearty agreements and vehement dissent in the comments section below. We'll meet again on the back end of October.
The steady dirge that opens the album is a sign of the complexities to come. Comprising the guys from Collections of Colonies of Bees and Bon Iver's own Justin Vernon, Volcano Choir gets super abstract on their sophomore album. "Byegone” remains a highlight of the album, what with its triumphant chord ascension. Cropping up in each song, however, are all sorts of atmospheric ephemera - sonic odds and ends that take the song from being more than just the sum of its verses and chorus.
10 Ft. Ganja Plant
Widely ranked among the greatest dub reggae bands still in existence, 10 Ft. Ganja Plant has dropped another collection of spirited tunes. The mysterious band, which rarely plays live and offers very little information about who its members are precisely, has cultivated a reputation for on-point reggae albums that are perfect for late-night sessions with your headphones or some friendly glassware.
The album sounds like a slow-mo disco party stretching out toward the wee hours of a sun-baked Mojave morning. This is Josh Homme-inspired desert rock on quaaludes. The sounds originally parsed out during 2009’s Humbug have matured into something refreshingly danceable here. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the radio hits are among the flattest spots on the album. Take “One for the Road” for a spin; that’s where the album truly opens up.
The Julie Ruin
The riot grrrl spirit is alive and well with Kathleen Hanna’s latest work. The Julie Ruin’s first album as a band is less a nostalgia trip and more so a distillation of what made the third-wave feminist movement so important and culturally resounding. Drawing on the band members’ lineage of Bikini Kill, Le Tigre and other influential punk bands, the new music pushes feeling to the forefront. Hanna will make your brain quiver while you dance.
The Bones of What You Believe
Sugary and complex, the Scottish trio's debut album is a nonstop party. Singer Lauren Mayberry holds down the band's swell of music with care and precision and a damn fine voice. “Lies” offers a great example of what they do best: the art of the chugging, hook-laden pop tune. Likewise, Martin Doherty jumps on vocals on "Under the Tide," which offers a more reserved sound while still maintaining that danceable vibe.
Sounding at times more like a vibrant ecosystem than an arrangement of beats, the songs that fill out FKA twigs’ latest offering do more to advance electronic music than most other material released this year. The clockwork crocodile rhythms of “How’s That” introduce the listener to a humming, buzzing world of blood flow and growth. And the halfway-nightmarish vocals of “Ultraviolet,” when they’re not delivering chills to your brainstem, present the appropriate contrast to twigs’ often lushly alluring singing voice.
Mountains Beaches Cities
Perfect for both the heady atmosphere of the stage and the internalized lushness of headphones on an autumn walk in the woods, Moon Taxi has dropped another terrific album. This latest outing is a bit poppier than previous efforts (Cabaret being the high-water mark for now), but the band still hits on its refreshing blend of psychedelia and pure emotion. For instance, the bulk of “Morocco” is just a straight-up catchy bastard of a tune, but the bridge on the back-end reels in the band’s jammier tendencies for a hot minute. If the band is looking to be bigger than ever before, this should be the album that’ll get them there.
After a couple of songs were released to the public, Phantogram announced this latest EP (just in time for their Oct. 8 appearance in Cleveland). “Black Out Days” brings the duo’s hip-hop-tinged blend of indie pop into 2013 with aplomb. And "Never Going Home," with Josh Carter taking a spin on the mic, may be the best song the band has written. In fact, most everything about this latest release eclipses the terrific music that came before it.
The Silver Gymnasium
“Pink-Slips” is a certain highlight on the album, followed up in short order by “Lido Pier Suicide Car.” There’s plenty of great stuff across the collection of songs, with a shifting mood moving around the album’s sands with nuance and care. Everything you love about the band is present, though there's a shimmer to the music that now gleams along the surface rather than dwelling in the darker corners of the compositions.
Nine Inch Nails
Proving that NIN still has plenty of gas in the tank, Trent Reznor's latest batch of industrial-strength cynicism hits the spot in ways that recent albums just hadn't. (The music hasn't sounded this good since 2005's With Teeth.) The grimy fun really picks up on "Came Back Haunted," which combines the best of Reznor's self-indulgent darkness and the poppy sensibilities he's slowly worked toward during his career.