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Stream These Albums: April 2019

Here are the best LPs of the last month: Vampire Weekend’s brilliant California pop, Beyonce’s live homecoming, Weyes Blood’s timely American vision and more

april albums to listen to

Monika Mogi, Luke Gilford

Vampire Weekend, Father of the Bride
Father of the Bride (which is out this Friday) is so zealously detailed and meticulously contoured that you easily sink into its inventions: the whirl of country picking, surf-guitar twang and classical interlude in “Harmony Hall”; the loopy hip-hop of “Sunflower” with its creeping-vocal riff; the Soweto-like bounce and AutoTuned-Beach Boys-style chorale in “Flower Moon.” But this is ear candy loaded with trouble. Frustration, helplessness and romantic crisis come just like the songs, in grenade-like bursts, as Koenig delivers bad news like the “wicked snakes” in “Harmony Hall” (“Inside a place/You thought was dignified”) with disarmingly clean-cut vocal brio. David Fricke 

[Find it on Amazon Music]

Lizzo, Cuz I Love You
“Be eternal.” That’s the advice Lizzo got from one of her first high-profile fans, Prince. And she lives up to the Purple One’s words on her legend-making Cuz I Love You, the breakthrough album where she finally claims her baby-I’m-a-star crown as a mega-pop queen. Melissa Jefferson can do it all: she sings, she raps, she plays the flute, she speaks her mind, always ready to dedicate an R.I.P to the memory of her last fuck. Lizzo’s the perfect star for right now — but she also aims for the timeless. Like the lady says: “Ho and flute are life.” Rob Sheffield

[Find it on Amazon Music]

Beyoncé, Homecoming
So much of the mythology of Beyoncé as being a god-level artist, even before she released two industry-changing albums (2013’s Beyoncé and 2016’s Lemonade), came from her live shows, where her craft shines. So it wasn’t surprising that her 2018 Coachella headlining set was nothing short of awe-inspiring, with Beyonce finding yet another way to outdo herself with an entirely new, two-times only concert experience. Listening to the live album version of Homecoming, it’s clear that Beyoncé and her musicians met the call. Brittany Spanos

[Find it on Amazon Music]

Cage the Elephant, Social Cues
It is a long rock & roll tradition: writing songs about the high price of success in exhaustion, sanity and lasting relationships. Modern-rock stars Cage the Elephant take a turn on Social Cues, their fifth studio album. And the bill comes due with a vengeance. Cage the Elephant are not the first band to make a record about the reckoning and crossroads in rock & roll life. They won’t be the last. The lesson is obvious: Be careful what you wish for. But when it comes, get it down in vivid detail. By that measure, Cage the Elephant pay these dues in full. David Fricke

[Find it on Amazon Music]

Weyes Blood, Titanic Rising
It’s a strangely addictive mix, comfort-food nostalgia that telegraphs knowingness without sarcasm, parody or airquotes. The title invokes a cultural metaphor of terror lurking beneath privileged luxury — an awfully timely American vision. Yet Titanic Rising suggests there’s still reasons to be hopeful, if only for the pleasure of un-deluded ravishment. And so the blissfully shiny synths of the title track are rusted with flickering pulses of distortion, morse code tapped out as if from the sea floor. Will Hermes 

[Find it on Amazon Music]

Anderson Paak, Ventura 

Ventura‘s grooves are scintillating, with percussive filigree sputtering like fireworks across the album’s mix, and at its best the LP conjures vintage soul with modern beat science underpinnings, an elegant mix of tough and plush. Paak’s skill set is substantial — drummer, writer, producer, rapper, singer — and it’s a sign of the 33-year-old’s standing that the likes of Dre, Pharrell, Brandy, Kendrick LamarPusha T, Snoop, Q-Tip, and J. Cole all made time for the Oxnard/Ventura sessions. Paak’s output is keeping pace with his ambition. Will Hermes

[Find it on Amazon Music]

Jeff Tweedy, Warmer
Warmer (a vinyl release for Record Store Day we hope to see on streaming services soon) is the Amnesiac-like companion album to Tweedy’s 2018 solo LP Warm, recorded during the same Chicago session and released in a limited run of 5000 vinyl copies for Record Store Day. If you liked Warm, you’ll like Warmer. It’s Tweedy at his most self-findingly laid back, low-key and ruminative, leavening intimate recreational folk-rock with offhanded guitar tastiness. Tweedy never comes off as pretentious or self-indulgent, because he’s always reaching out for connection and consolation rather than spinning off into no-one-gets-me disaffection. Jon Dolan

[Stream Warm on Amazon Music]

Aldous Harding, Designer
Aldous Harding uses oddness as both lure and armor. Harding’s from Christchurch, New Zealand — a far-flung spot that, before becoming yet another poster town for racist violence, was best-known for its thriving indie-rock community in the ‘80s and ‘90s, with bands like The Bats and Bailter Space, and the touchstone Flying Nun label, Harding’s first home. The singer’s got range, and she plays in it like a sandbox, pushing her contralto up to Kate-Bushy highs and Nico-conjuring lows. She also has an inviting sense of melody, seemingly rooted in the folk traditions of the British Isles, but which opens up on Designer with lilting grooves suggesting other islands, Caribbean and South Seas. Will Hermes

[Find it on Amazon Music]

Craig Finn, I Need a New War
Finn’s empathy has only grown over the years; you never sense him looking down at characters. His people are cut largely from a particular cloth, mostly working-and-middle class U.S. kids who grew up with the promise of unlimited freedom only to find that freedom illusory, maybe even oppressive. But in their vivid specificity, and even repetition, Finn’s stories channels truths that are timeless and universal. His trilogy shows he’s up to more than main-gig moonlighting, and he’s got a body of elliptical tales to show for it, tales that deserve a fuller telling. So here’s hoping he does that, and maybe gets in on the new musical theater renaissance, while still finding time for a new Hold Steady record. Will Hermes

[Find it on Amazon Music]

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