There’s no way of sugar-coating it, really: November of the year of our lord 2016 is a pretty dismal month for album releases. Novembers in general are usually bleak, functioning as a sort of deep breath before the Christmas-time rush of big pop star releases and such, but for whatever reason, this year is particularly dire — you can count the number of decent album releases on two hands… so we’ve done just that for you! Here’s the result: eight albums that are worth hearing over the coming month.
Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions — Until the Hunter (November 4)
At this stage of her career, you feel like you know what you’re going to get with Hope Sandoval — her instantly recognizable voice, still the same some 25 years after we first heard her with Mazzy Star; languid, country-tinged arrangements; and an abiding sense of melancholy. She’s certainly not messing with this formula, but she is expanding on it — Until the Hunter features a duet with Kurt Vile, which is a treat (and features a guitar lick that sounds a lot like the first part of Wings’ “Band on the Run”), along with some interesting songwriting excursions. Most memorable is “A Wonderful Seed,” which plays like a dark fairytale, an impression heightened by Sandoval’s sinister, childlike delivery. The album is streaming on NPR now.
Martha Wainwright — Goodnight City (November 11)
Remember Martha? Her first album — 2005’s self-titled effort — was fantastic, heralding her as a songwriter and performer entirely worthy to be an heir to one of music’s most distinguished family names. Since then, though, she’s suffered from the dreaded tortured-artist-who-got-happy syndrome: she married producer Brad Albetta in 2007, and her albums since have largely reflected her contentment. Clearly, we begrudge her none of this — quite the opposite! — but the fact remains that it’s not made for especially interesting listening.
Goodnight City‘s lead single “Around the Bend” suggests perhaps things haven’t been quite so idyllic of late: “I’ve been going round the bend/ I’ve been taking lots of pills and things/ I’ve been seeing him again/ There are things I’ve seen and done/ That I would not wish on anyone.” Not coincidentally, it’s the best thing she’s recorded in years. As a listener, it’s not exactly a heartening or pleasant realization that an artist you admire and whose work you enjoy seems to work best when she is in emotional pain. But the fact remains: if its first single is anything to judge by, this is going to be good.
Various Artists — Killed by Deathrock Vol. 2 (November 11)
Just in time for Halloween — well, OK, not actually in time for Halloween at all, but who’s counting, really? — comes the second volume in Sacred Bones’ excellent deathrock compilation series. Both this record and its predecessor were compiled by Sacred Bones founder Caleb Braaten — selected as one of Flavorwire’s NYC culture makers a few years back — and it’s obviously a labor of love, because this album feels like a carefully curated mixtape, right down to the hand-drawn cover art. This is definitely music that you have to be in the mood for, but if that mood strikes you, then this compilation is the business.
The Rolling Stones — Havana Moon (November 11)
Yes, there is a Rolling Stones album on this list. Specifically, it’s a live album, and it should probably come with a disclaimer that this is an album you should hear if, like your correspondent, you have never quite gotten your ass into gear to go and see the band live. It’s been decades since a new studio album from Jagger, Richards et al brought anticipation and excitement, but a live record — especially one recorded during a one-off show in Cuba! — is a different matter, and in a lean month, it should provide plenty of good listening.
Body/Head — No Waves (November 11)
Also on the live album tip: Body/Head, a band still referred to by all and sundry (including us) as “Kim Gordon’s new band,” despite the fact that she has been working with Bill Nace for some five years now. This album was recorded in 2014 during the duo’s tour for their album Coming Apart, and it’s great.
E-40 — The D-Boy Diary Books 1 & 2 (November 18)
The grandee of Bay Area hip hop shows no sign as he approaches his 50th birthday — indeed, in the last few years he’s been more prolific than ever, and this double album is either his 14th or his 26th and 27th, depending on how you count them. The confusion comes from the great man’s recent liking for issuing series of albums under the one banner — The D-Boy Diary follows 2010’s Revenue Retrievin’ (four discs!), 2012 and 2013’s The Block Brochure (six discs!), and 2014’s Sharp on All 4 Corners (only two discs, but the title suggests there may be two more to come). E-40 himself marvels at this creative purple patch — in this album’s press release, he proclaims, “What’s happening at this point in my career defies logic. I still spit the realest and rawest shit of anyone in the rap game right now. The D-Boy Diary will lace the unlaced, will tutor the truant — it’s a guidebook for a street life.”
Julia Holter — Bleed For This OST (November 25)
Bleed For This is a film about boxing, produced by Martin Scorsese, so who better to soundtrack it than… Julia Holter? There’s no denying that this seems like a curious fit, but it’s not the first strange project she’s taken on in recent times — she’s also contributed an (excellent) cover of “Gold Dust Woman” to the soundtrack of video game Dishonored II, and her acting skills to, um, a film about talking cats. Anyway, there is no hint of Bleed For This‘s soundtrack online as yet beyond gorgeous first single “Fighting Duran” (above), but here at Flavorwire, we’re keen to hear pretty much anything Holter releases, and thus we are hanging out to hear this.
Kate Bush — Before the Dawn (November 25)
And finally, one more live album to round out the list. Kate Bush is notoriously averse to playing live, so when she announced a series of shows at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in 2014, 35 years after she last played as how, the tickets sold out faster than you could click “Refresh.” If you weren’t lucky enough to get to one of these shows — and we certainly weren’t — you’ll appreciate the release of this three-disc live record. There are 29 songs in total, spanning the length of Bush’s career — no “Wuthering Heights,” though, sadly — and you can also splash out on a four-LP set of the show, if you’re so inclined.