You could spend October geeking out over those massive Belle & Sebastian and Sleater-Kinney reissues, or you could check out some new jams. They’re not mutually exclusive activities — we actively encourage you to do both. But if you are in the market for new albums, there are a lot of great ones out this month. Weezer don’t fail miserably at getting back to their heyday. Flying Lotus blows our mind. Ex Hex make us want to throw a dance party and invite only too-cool punk kids. Kindness gives us another mix overflowing with warm vibes.
Ex Hex — Rips (October 7, Merge)
There are any number of entry points into Mary Timony’s world, from early-’90s D.C. math-rockers Autoclave to mid-’90s Matador mainstays Helium to recent “supergroup” Wild Flag. But none have married Timony’s vision — which she shows off on her three ’00s solo albums — with the energy of a full band quite like Rips. Informed by the Ramones and the Buzzcocks, Timony and co. marry classic punk with Thin Lizzy riffs, ’60s pop “whoa-ohs,” and a touch of Riot Grrrl attitude. Most of all, Rips is the sound of a band having fun — something we could desperately use a little more of in today’s guitar music. (Stream Rips now via NPR First Listen.)
Weezer — Everything Will Be Alright in the End (October 7, Republic)
Twenty years and ten albums in, Weezer have seen more pans than Julia Child. With their early albums — 1994’s Blue Album and 1996’s Pinkerton — among the ’90s’ most revered, a crossroads seems inevitable when the LA band heads into the studio. After chasing commercial success as a pop-rock radio act for the last decade, Weezer have returned to the fold as a proper Rock Band looking to relive their glory days. The results are mixed: tacky metaphors, laughably rockist narratives, and some of the catchiest guitar hooks of 2014. More like Maladroit or Green than Blue or Pinkerton, but worth a listen even if Weezer’s broken your heart in the past. (Stream Everything Will Be Alright in the End now via iTunes Radio.)
Flying Lotus — You’re Dead! (October 7, Warp)
Years after Thom Yorke first co-signed him, Flying Lotus has officially moved to the mainstream — or perhaps the mainstream has gotten genre-agnostic enough to embrace his unclassifiable mix of electronic, hip hop, jazz, and funk. The producer, DJ, musician, and rapper born Steven Ellison said he wanted his fifth album to be a jazz record that would fuck up Miles Davis, but it’s so much more than that. On the album’s handful of lyrical songs, Herbie Hancock, Snoop Dogg, and Kendrick Lamar help FlyLo explore the topic of mortality with dumbfounding clarity.
Stevie Nicks — 24 Karat Gold (October 7, Warner Bros.)
Stevie Nicks has seen a few good years in recent times, from the release of her excellent 2011 album In Your Dreams to Fleetwood Mac’s big tour (including Christine McVie). So it’s interesting to see Nicks looking back amidst all this, via new album 24 Karat Gold — Songs from the Vault. The album is comprised of tracks written mostly between 1969 and 1987 (so, pre-Fleetwood Mac and throughout her solo golden age), with a couple more from the early ’90s. The recordings, however, are new: Nicks went to Nashville with trusted producer Dave Stewart and romped through her past with session pros. “Lindsey [Buckingham] will love it,” she told Rolling Stone. “Half the songs are about him!”
Zola Jesus — Taiga (October 7, Mute)
Zola Jesus, aka singer-songwriter-producer Nika Roza Danilova, has made some major stylistic changes with her fourth record. Taiga, a Russian term reserved for a type of forest, became something of a mantra for Danilova’s intense ambitions, the driving lyrical force of the album. Her underground sensibilities serve her well as she moves from goth-tinged art-pop to more mainstream electropop, the result being an alternate universe where Top 40 and Pitchfork overlap much more significantly. (Stream Taiga now via the New York Times .)
Kindness — Otherness (October 14, Female Energy/Mom + Pop)
Under the name Kindness, Adam Bainbridge makes warm electropop that’s often led by the sort of vocal performances you’d expect from disco divas of bygone eras, not a young male British singer. A big part of this stems from Bainbridge’s exemplary taste in guest vocalists, which ranges here on his second album from Robyn, Kelela, Blood Orange’s Devonté Hynes, and a few silky-voiced up-and-comers. Still, we shouldn’t discount the music as mere framing around the pretty picture painted by these talented vocalists. Though varied, these songs feel as though they could come from one artist’s particular worldview, where feel-good pop with a throwback house vibe slides right into a playlist next to piano-and-funk-bass gospel-soul.
Master Mix: Red Hot + Arthur Russell (October 21, Yep Roc)
For the last 25 years, the organization Red Hot has been “fighting AIDS through pop culture.” That has entailed live events and TV programs through the years, but what many people know them for is their incredible compilation albums, often featuring some of the most influential artists across whatever genre Red Hot mines for inspiration. (The National-led Dark Was the Night was a recent popular comp.) Their latest subject of celebration is Arthur Russell, the experimental musician who worked across a staggering number of artistic scenes until his AIDS-related death in 1992. The tracklist alone is a testament to Russell’s versatility: Robyn, Blood Orange, and Hot Chip hold it down for Russell’s pseudo-disco side projects; while Phosphorescent, Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry (plus other Arcade Fire members), and Glen Hansard pay homage to his more straightforward work in rock and folk. It’s a great way to acquaint yourself with an artist we don’t remember often enough, and yes, it is an amazing cause.
Jessie Ware — Tough Love (October 21, PMR/Island)
If you didn’t catch the bug for British soul-pop sensation Jessie Ware when her debut, Devotion, broke stateside throughout 2012 and 2013, Tough Love will have you hooked. Devotion was impressive because, unlike so many other mainstream pop albums, it was singular in its aim: a sophisticated heartbreak album of down-tempo electro-R&B. In this sense, Tough Love is more conventional in that it’s more of a mixed bag of speeds, styles, and collaborators (Ed Sheeran, Miguel, Benny Blanco, etc). When Ware offers up variation, it’s tasteful enough to feel like experimentation and a plea not to be defined by one trend or another (be it house or disco revivalism, or ambient R&B), rather than a play at mainstream success (it’s also that, practically speaking).
Taylor Swift — 1989 (October 27, Big Machine)
Your guess is as good as mine as to what Taylor Swift, who’s skewed more pop than country since 2010’s Speak Now, means when she calls 1989 “her first documented pop album.” The Max Martin and Swift-produced LP’s on lockdown at the moment, but here’s what we do know (via Swift’s recent Rolling Stone cover story):
“…There are no diss tracks dishing about Swift’s exes. A few of the songs are about her relationships and love life, but they’re mostly wistful and nostalgic, not finger-pointy or score-settling.” [Note: Katy Perry beef may be the only exception.]
“1989 was influenced by some of Swift’s favorite Eighties pop acts, including Phil Collins, Annie Lennox and ‘Like a Prayer’-era Madonna.”
Grouper — Ruins (October 31, Kranky)
Ruins is the ninth album Liz Harris has made under the moniker Grouper, which is quite a lot of emotion when you consider the type of music Harris makes. It’s sparse, ambient, and lo-fi, often made in isolation with little more than her voice and guitar or piano. Ruins feels haunted and full of secrets, not to mention found noises that tether the listener to reality every so often. Harris recorded it in Portugal in 2011 on her own, between daily hikes to the beach and exploration of ruins. “It was the first time I’d sat still for a few years; processed a lot of political anger and emotional garbage,” she explained when announcing the record, which she called a document. Such a simple aim wouldn’t work for most, but for Harris, her instincts and emotions are enough.
Also out this month:
The Vaselines — V for Vaselines (10/7) In any other month, The Vaselines would have made the cut in the main list, especially considering this is somehow only their third album ever. The Scottish duo known to many as Kurt Cobain’s favorite band offers up more killer pop melodies matched with clever punk piss-offs.
Johnny Marr — Playland (10/7) After The Smiths guitarist released his first-ever solo album, The Messenger, last year, he just keep writing.
Betty Who — Take Me When You Go (10/7) The Katy Perry tourmate finally arrives with her big RCA debut, which stays mostly in the mainstream mid-tempo posi-pop zone, with a few stylistic forays into ’80s electro-pop.
Tinashe — Aquarius (10/7) So far, chart-storming singer Tinashe has been able to bridge the gap between R&B-pop and hip hop with guests like A$AP Rocky, Schoolboy Q, and Future. Her debut offers some more experimental fare, with a little help from Dev Hynes.
Dntel — Human Voice (10/21) Jimmy Tamborello is best known as the beats behind Ben Gibbard, but as he proves again on his latest album under his Dntel moniker, he’s more than just some knob-turner. He says a lot in these eight wordless electronic transmissions.
Thurston Moore — The Best Day (10/21) Former Sonic Youth frontman offers up first proper solo LP in four years. He describes it as “signature thrashing electric guitars” and “blissful 12-string acoustic ballads.” I’ll take his word for it, because it’s still too painful to listen to Thurston without Kim.
Run the Jewels — RTJ2 (10/28) If you didn’t get with the program on the first hard-hitting Run the Jewels album from Killer Mike and El-P, you best correct your mistake later this month.
Lil Wayne — Tha Carter V (10/28) Oh, that’s finally coming out.