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10 New Albums to Stream Now: Amanda Shires, YG, Travis Scott and More Editors’ Picks

Amanda Shires’ bold reworking of Americana, Travis Scott’s cameo-filled tour de force and more albums to stream now

YG and Amanda Shires

YG and Amanda Shires

Scott Dudelson/Getty Images; EMG/REX Shutterstock

EDITORS’ PICK: Amanda Shires, To The Sunset
The seventh full-length from this fiddle-playing singer-songwriter is also her first as a mom – but as Will Hermes points out, “if anyone expected sentimentality, her writing’s just gotten bolder, with arrangements that stretch the definition of ‘Americana’ to the point of meaninglessness. ‘Parking Lot Pirouette’ opens the set like an aerial shot, zooming in on a romantic moment outside a bar, framing it in cosmic terms against a 3/4 waltz pulse, with shivering organ clouds and trippy electric guitar from [husband Jason] Isbell. It’s more Pink Floyd than Floyd Tillman.”
Read Our Feature: 
Amanda Shires, Americana Visionary, Makes Her Rock-Star Move
Read Our Review: Amanda Shires Tells Powerful Stories of Working-Class Survivors on To the Sunset
Listen: Amazon Music Unlimited | Apple Music | BandcampSpotify | Tidal

YG, Stay Dangerous
This Los Angeles MC’s 2016 single “Fuck Donald Trump” became a national rallying cry, but on his third album, he’s focusing on issues closer to home. “The title came from the streets,” he told Rolling Stone. “L.A. The gang culture. It was really something that the homies started saying a long time ago. Like the Blood community — the homies just kept saying ‘Stay dangerous, stay dangerous, stay dangerous, stay dangerous.’ And that was like the lingo of the city. Now it’s bigger than the Bloods. The whole city’s saying it now. It was just like the mindset of the city, mindset of the homies, that’s where I’m at.”
Read Our Feature: YG, the Architect of ‘Fuck Donald Trump,’ is Getting Back to the Basics
Listen: Amazon Music Unlimited | Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

Travis Scott, Astroworld
The Houston MC’s latest album – named after a shuttered amusement park in his home city – is stacked with big-name guests (Drake, Frank Ocean, Quavo) and fame-chronicling lyrics.
Read Our Feature: The Stakes for Travis Scott Are Higher Than Ever With Astroworld – and So Are the Potential Rewards
Listen: Amazon Music Unlimited | Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

Mac MillerSwimming
The fifth album from this Pittsburgh MC, who’s achieved a kind of middle-class rap existence through several Top 10 albums, feels like an aesthetic response to his recent gossip-page woes — including his breakup with Ariana Grande last year (it doesn’t mention her by name), as well as his subsequent arrest for driving while intoxicated. Swimming, sonically, resembles his 2016 future-soul escapade The Divine Feminine — except this time, the wavy blues are mostly muted and narcoleptic, as if Miller’s numbing himself to his inner pain. Even when judged against the relatively low standards of sing-rapping, Miller doesn’t have the best voice, and he does a lot of crackly, slightly out-of-tune harmonizing here. Yet despite his modest vocal talents, he’s has long excelled at the alchemical art of creating good songs, and Swimming has a couple of standouts, like the bubbly “What’s the Use,” a collaboration with Snoop Dogg, Syd and Thundercat that has the same bounce as 2016’s excellent “Dang!,” and the groovy boogie-funk platter “Ladders.” Mostly, Miller knows how to deploy talented producers while attempting to face up to his inner demons. “I think I know it all,” he raps on “Small Worlds,” then adds: “But I don’t.” Mosi Reeves
Listen: Amazon Music Unlimited | Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

H.E.R., I Used to Know H.E.R.: The Prelude
Over the last two years, this former Artist You Need to Know has been slowly emerging from the shadows while offering up brutally honest snapshots of young black womanhood in the 21st century. Her new EP – the first release since she revealed herself at June’s BET Awards – opens with a bit of a gauntlet-throw: “Lost Souls,” a broadside against celebrity’s illusions, borrows from Lauryn Hill’s “Lost Ones” and features H.E.R. (a.k.a. Gabi Wilson) rapping in a no-nonsense manner that adds heat to her biting cultural critique. She shows off a more laid-back flow on the gently blooming “Against Me,” while the regret-filled duet with Bryson Tiller “Could’ve Been” and the dreamy “As I Am” show her talent for bridging the lush instrumentals and matter-of-factly gorgeous vocals of the Quiet Storm era with the more restrained aesthetics of recent R&B. H.E.R.’s early disguising of herself was, she once claimed, a way for listeners to focus on her music; this sterling EP shows that even after unmasking herself, her own focus has only become sharper over time. Maura Johnston
Listen: Amazon Music Unlimited | Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

Elephant Micah, Genericana
Professional folklorist and experimental musician Joseph O’Connell, who has been behind this project for well over two decades, was raised in Louisville, which may explain Elephant Micah’s occasional Will Oldham vibe. This swirling, immersive set is its own thing entirely, however; it combines vulnerable old-time singing with electronic soundscapes, guitar noise and home-cooked synthesizers – some of which are courtesy of O’Connell’s brother Matt, who’s worked with the Asheville-based gear company Moog Music. The title’s a pun on generic Americana sounds, but this modern Southern roots music is anything but. Will Hermes
Listen: Amazon Music Unlimited | Apple Music | BandcampSpotify | Tidal

Bad Bad Hats, Lightning Round
The latest album from this Minneapolis trio adds pop polish to its folk-tinged sound. “[Lead singer] Kerry [Alexander] and I were kind of thinking, ‘Yeah, we’ll pretty much just do the same thing again,” multi-instrumentalist Chris Hoge told Rolling Stone. “But [producer] Brett Bullion really pushed us to make something different.”
Read Our Feature: Bad Bad Hats’ Upside-Down Pop Hits
Listen: Apple Music | BandcampSpotify | Tidal

Free Cake For Every Creature, The Bluest Star
Katie Bennett’s voice rarely rises above a whisper on her lo-fi indie-pop band’s new album, on which thinly strummed guitars and gingerly tapped drums sound like they’re being played by a band of Smurfs struggling to wake up after a very successful Sunday nap. But her sturdily crafted songs still echo around in your head, full of vivid personal detail, melodic charm and the thrill that comes with witnessing a wide-open heart and mind discovering the world — even when the people in it don’t always reflect her generosity back. The guitars of “Around You” swirl and chime as Bennett sings about finding someone new to hang out with; the slowly drifting “Be Home Soon” wrings every instant of joy from a work-week-ending subway ride home; “Tom Or Mike Or Pat Or” is a gentle spree of sensual imagery (a mouth full of sunflower seeds, a fast car, bare legs, red lips, a bug bite on her ass) over glistening jangle. Though they are slight, the snow globe sound worlds Free Cake For Every Creature create have a summery verdancy, and Bennett displays a sneaky way with one-liners all over the place (“our bodies were like spaghetti, tangled and sauce-less,” she observes on “Whole World Girl”). Pretty impressive for a band that doesn’t play loud enough to disturb a lounging cat. Jon Dolan
Listen: Amazon Music Unlimited | Apple Music | BandcampSpotify | Tidal

Little Ugly Girls, Little Ugly Girls
In the Nineties, this Tasmanian outfit shared bills with Bikini Kill and Fugazi, scattering cassettes and one-off tracks as their live shows, led by the towering presence of yelper Linda Johnston, became renowned throughout their home country. Nearly three decades after they formed, thanks to some hard-drive wizardry and new sessions, they have a debut full-length that doubles as a reminder of how metal-edged punk could get. Johnston’s uncompromising wail is ferocious even when it’s in restrained mode; her brother Dannie’s grimy guitars, Mindy Mapp’s thudding bass, and Brent “Sloth” Punshon’s galloping drums amp up up the intensity, resulting in time-machine trips like the high-speed “Jimmeh” and the grinding “Dead C” that recall the chaotic assault of Nineties comp stalwarts like Kreviss and Karp. Maura Johnston
Listen: Amazon Music Unlimited | Apple Music | BandcampSpotify | Tidal

Nostrum Grocers, Nostrum Grocers
Milo and Elucid, the two rappers behind this project, excel at the Bandcamp-financed model of crusty, elliptical beat loops and abstract, literate lyrics. Elucid’s style recalls New York’s super-scientific early-aughts glory days, while Milo is a reincarnation of the Los Angeles underground’s noodling, jazzy jabberwockies (although he now lives in Maine). But as a small slice of “black brilliance,” as Milo puts it, Nostrum Grocers is hardly a nostalgia project. Instead, it reveals an underground far removed from the opiate indulgence and macho toxicity afflicting mainstream rap in 2018. Tracks like “Where’ing Those Flowers” and “’98 Gewher” travel on a different kind of planetary logic, borrowed from a place where Elucid can talk shit and elliptically make boasts like “I’m a hex-breaker for hire,” while Milo frets over life as a new father and budding music entrepreneur. The freedom of rapping for rap’s sake, without the pressure of generating fake streaming hits and corny viral memes, is the point of this exercise in late-night, basement-style philosophizing. Mosi Reeves
Listen: Apple Music | BandcampSpotify | Tidal

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