Afraid of Heights
(Mom + Pop/Warner Bros.)
Sounds like: The fourth from Nathan Williams (and whoever’s joining him; this time, it’s bassist Stephen Pope) is a bouncy, lo-fi and great grungy surf record.
Free association: The pleasant halfway point between Nirvana and Weezer.
For fans of: Best Coast, Cloud Nothings/Male Bonding + Jenny Lewis, train wreck rock.
The Chronicles of Marnia
(Kill Rock Stars)
Sounds like: Her fourth is right in line with her trajectory of fret-tapping, guitar-shredding female domination, but doesn’t take any huge risks.
Free association: She doesn’t have Karen O’s charisma, but she’s a premier shredder.
For fans of: Sleater-Kinney x Don Caballero, Hella/Jack White, mandolin slicers.
The 20/20 Experience
Sounds like: The glorious reunion of JT and Timbaland has been seven years in the making, and they’ve made a sophisticated soul suite. All the haters can stop.
Free association: Like FutureSex/LoveSounds, this one’ll soon be a classic.
For fans of: Prince/Usher/Robin Thicke/Missy + Jay-Z, pop with big bands.
Sounds like: An outstanding fourth collection of folk-heavy, guitar-focused psychedelic rock from the New Jersey music Ph.D student and gifted weirdo.
Free association: He’s family with Ducktails and Real Estate, and they all rule.
For fans of: Kurt Vile/Ariel Pink x old Animal Collective, Sic Alps, NJ kush.
Sounds like: Brit glam experts who nearly became victim to their excesses regroup in middle-aged maturity to make the record they’ve been destined to.
Free association: This and Bowie’s new one? Old-man glam’s never looked better.
For fans of: Pulp/Oasis/Manic Street Preachers, Blur x The Verve, anthemic ballads.
(Groggy Pack Entertainment)
Sounds like: Less-than-superfluous hip-hop is always the best kind—a sick collection from the Orange County duo who focus on craft, not on bombast and guests.
Free association: Gave me a throwback to being stoned and listening to CRU.
For fans of: Mobb Deep + Neatuts, Inspectah Deck/RZA/GZA, blunt cruisin.'
Time for a big Bang breakthrough?