The Week's Best New Music: Chris Stapleton, Blondie, Logic & More
It's Friday, and that means new music is upon us. From Chris Stapleton's first new album since breaking through to Blondie's collaboration-heavy (and incredibly fun) new LP to Logic's sci-fi fable, these are the week's best new albums.
Chris Stapleton, From a Room: Vol. 1
From a Room: Vol. 1 is the first album Chris Stapleton released since that fateful night he took the stage with Justin Timberlake at the 2015 CMA Awards and became a crossover country star. His earthy growl from Traveller remains intact on his new album, and the lyrics are sharper than before. There's plenty about boozin' and heartache, but he also tackles a prisoner's final day on earth on "Death Row" and hilariously bemoans getting to the end of his stash on "Them Stems."
The new wave/punk pioneers worked with a variety of genre- and generational-spanning artists on Pollinator, from pop powerhouse Sia ("Any association with Sia is an honor," frontwoman Debbie Harry tells Billboard) to Charli XCX ("She's an extraordinary talent") to Joan Jett to YouTube viral stars the Gregory Brothers (of Songify the News fame). Eclectic collaborators aside, Pollinator is pure Blondie pop pleasure, with synths, disco drumming and snarling NYC guitars swirling to create their best album in a long time.
Perfume Genius, No Shape
After breaking through to a wider audience (relatively speaking) with 2014's Too Bright, indie auteur Perfume Genius is back with his fourth album, No Shape, a record that's surprisingly gorgeous and inviting for how experimental it is. While there's a lot going on instrumentally, it never feels cluttered -- every syncopated beat, pulsing synth or clanging piano note is given ample room to breathe and wash over your ears. It's a strange satisfaction that Perfume Genius provides with No Shape.
Though standard-setting ‘90s shoegazers Slowdive hadn’t released an LP since breaking up shortly after 1995’s Pygmalion, their reputation has gradually swelled thanks to the hazy timelessness of songs like “Alison” and “Catch the Breeze,” and the cosigns of dozens of dream-pop disciples who followed in their wake. Slowdive doesn’t make up for lost time so much as reinforce how relative time is in the first place; the group’s wavy melodies and amorphous soundscapes turning the decades into short outros between tracks, and reminding us that the reason we were still hungry for more Slowdive was because none of their acolytes bettered them in their absence. – Andrew Unterberger
Diana Krall, Turn Up the Quiet
Even when vocal jazz was topping the charts in the '40s, not every singer could pull off the trick of delivering winking wordplay without sacrificing the beautiful sadness inherent in those (future) Great American Songbook classics. In the 21st century, that elite club is even smaller, but Diana Krall might be its de facto leader. With new album Turn Up the Quiet, Krall brings her smoky contralto and considerable piano-playing skills back to jazz standards by the likes of Cole Porter and Johnny Mercer. Can't find music you and your parents can agree on? The solution is Diana Krall.
While the 27-year-old rapper gets more personal than ever before on his new album Everybody, addressing being biracial for the first time in detail on an album, he also maintains his penchant for fantastical storytelling. Per Billboard's Steven J. Horowitz, "But the album is also presented as a sci-fi fable about a man named Atom (voiced by radio personality Big Von) who dies and, upon meeting God (played by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson), learns he must be reincarnated as different people before he can enter the afterlife." In other words, yeah, this kid has ideas.