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10 New Albums to Stream Now: Ashley Monroe, J. Cole and More Editors’ Picks

Ashley Monroe’s Countrypolitan drama, J. Cole’s reckoning with fame, Kimbra’s future-forward pop and more albums to stream now

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Ashley Monroe, Sparrow
Miranda Lambert’s sidekick in Pistol Annies loves vintage Countrypolitan drama, and she channels it here in Technicolor, with lots of orchestral strings and “Ode To Billie Joe” folk guitar via retro-wizard producer Dave Cobb. It’s kitsch, emotionally weaponized: See “Hands On You,” a contender for sexiest Seventies cheatin’ song of the new century. Will Hermes
Hear: Amazon Music Unlimited | Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

J. Cole, K.O.D.
Once seen as an understudy to generational talents like Kendrick Lamar and Drake, the North Carolina musician didn’t reach artistic fruition until 2014 Forest Hills Drive, when he abandoned rap’s typical cameo-heavy big-budget formula for an idiosyncratic, self-produced organic sound that plumbed his neuroses and uncertain beliefs. K.O.D. continues that tradition, but it sounds less warm and more angst-ridden than 2016’s 4 Your Eyez Only. The tracks have an episodic feel – he rues how his “Friends” have fallen victim to drugs and he picks at his own sex addiction on “Kevin’s Heart.” He finds little joy in occasionally regurgitating trap tropes, instead using those sounds to suggest that he’s stuck in the rap Matrix. As a sometimes-bitter look at the consuming nature of fame, K.O.D. doesn’t offer much solace. But it’s gripping stuff: J. Cole has always been more than the sum of his parts. Mosi Reeves
Hear: Amazon Music Unlimited | Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

Brothers Osborne, Port Saint Joe
The country duo covers an incredible amount of territory on their second album, named for the Florida Gulf Coast town where they recorded it with producer Jay Joyce. Lead single “Shoot Me Straight” is a six-minute rock epic about breaking things off, with singer TJ Osborne demanding “lay my six-foot-four-inch-ass out on the ground” in his chest-deep baritone, and guitarist John Osborne serving up a dazzling fireworks display for the song’s back half. They also tackle Jerry Reed-style country funk on “A Couple Wrongs Makin’ It Alright,” hard-driving rock on “Drank Like Hank” and glistening country soul on “Pushin’ Up Daisies (Love Alive).” In “Weed, Whiskey and Willie,” the Brothers make a turn back into boozy country, proving they’re just as adept at the fundamentals as they are at playing with the formula. Jon Freeman
Read Our Feature: Why Brothers Osborne Are Country Music’s New Working-Class Heroes
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Joshua Hedley, Mr. Jukebox
When Jack White signed his label Third Man’s second country artist, he got the deal of a lifetime. Nashville honky-tonker and longtime sideman Joshua Hedley is a multi-tooled ace: an expert fiddle player, deft songwriter and pristine vocalist. All of those skills are on display on Hedley’s superb debut, which embraces not the tired Outlaw-country trend du jour but the often-minimized Countrypolitan sound of Music City past. “Let’s Take a Vacation” mixes a crooned delivery with a “He Stopped Loving Her Today”-like recitation. (“Oh honey, it’s been a long time, since we last fanned the flame,” Hedley whispers.) “I Never Shed a Tear for You” features smooth Anita Kerr Singers-type backing vocals. And the upbeat “Weird Thought Thinker” is Roger Miller-like in its goofiness. But Hedley is at his best when he’s playing the sad sack, as in the devastating “Don’t Waste Your Tears.” Joseph Hudak
Hear: Amazon Music Unlimited | Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

Kimbra, Primal Heart
The New Zealand spelunker’s sprawling third album offers a slightly more claustrophobic – yet still catholic – vision of “pop” than 2014’s gleaming The Golden Echo. Here, as is perhaps appropriate for 2018, the feeling is a bit more uneasy: the sumptuous synthpop track “Like They Do on the TV” pairs wearily hopeful lyrics about the electronically mediated life with a sax straight out of a Miami Vice montage. The disco-ball-lit “Light Years” exposes the dread lurking beneath the search for romance, and the gritty “Top of the World” shows off Kimbra’s MC side, her breathless self-affirmations casting aside any doubt through the insistence of a rumbling low-end loop. But Kimbra’s innate willingness to let her music take her wherever it may cracks open the darkness, making Primal Heart an invigorating listen. Maura Johnston
Hear: Amazon Music Unlimited | Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

Old Crow Medicine Show, Volunteer
The string band’s eighth full-length, recorded in RCA’s legendary Studio A with producer Dave Cobb, is a series of character sketches that splits the difference between the boisterous and the gently longing. “It’s so easy to just focus on the stunning moments – you know, Merle Haggard whispers in your ear or Emmylou Harris asks you to carry something for her – that you overlook the times when you passed something or someone by,” founder Ketch Secor told Rolling Stone Country. “But through the spiritual journey that a life in music is, those things that you pass by end up returning, and you get to make the choice all over again.”
Read Our Feature: Old Crow Medicine Show on ‘Wrecking Ball’ Approach to Nashville
Hear: Amazon Music Unlimited | Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

Sleep, The Sciences
It’s been nearly two decades since Sleep put out their last album, the sprawling stoner-metal New Testament Jerusalem, before breaking up. In that time, they managed to miss two New Release Tuesdays that landed on 4/20, so you can only imagine the amount of planning they put into dropping their first LP since reuniting in 2009 on the smoker’s holiday. The trio still has the same spark (har, har) they did in the Nineties, aping every riff Tony Iommi didn’t write for Master of Reality, then stretching them out and bellowing lyrics about weed. Highlights (inhale) include the bong flutter that introduces “Marijuanaut’s Theme,” the entire 10-minute song “Giza Butler” (“Marijuana is his might and his salvation”) and, naturally, Matt Pike’s devastating guitar tone throughout, from the all-noise intro “The Sciences” to his acid-blues soloing on final track “The Botanist.” Kory Grow
Hear: Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

Autechre, NTS Session 3
Another 1 hour and 59 minutes of expansive programming jams from electronic music’s brain-boggle kings. This session features electro with the lurching gait of a twisted ankle (“Clustro Casual,” “Flh”), a tippy-tappy 22-minute excursion into vintage IDM drum skitter (“Tt1pd”), subterranean bass gulps (“Ninefly”) and a gorgeous, drumless burst of exploding fireworks that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Prurient record (“Acid Mwan Idle”). As with the other Autechre NTS sessions, it plays in a loop until Thursday. Christopher R. Weingarten
Hear: NTS Radio

Melvins, Pinkus Abortion Technician
“The idea that I’m in a band right now with the bass player from Redd Kross and the bass player from the Butthole Surfers is really fucking weird to me,” Melvins leader Buzz Osborne told Revolver. “If you had told me in 1986 that someday that was gonna happen I wouldn’t have believed you.” The sludge institution has absorbed Steve McDonald of power-poppers Redd Kross and Jeff Pinkus of demented art-punks Butthole Surfers, and have released an album that leans closer to hooks than horks: The opening track is a joint cover of James Gang’s 1969 groover “Stop” and the Surfers’ 1985 stumbler “Moving to Florida.” The five originals here are weirdo stormers but the highlight is an alt-metal cover of the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” arranged with push-pull-pause. Christopher R. Weingarten
Hear: Amazon Music Unlimited | Apple Music | BandcampSpotify | Tidal

Jenny Wilson, Exorcism
Since her 2005 solo debut, this Swedish synth scientist has released razor-edged records that combine electro experimentation with gimlet-eyed observations. Her fourth album is a shattering look at the aftermath of sexual assault; opener “Rapin*” pairs searing lyrics about her experiences, delivered with alternating shock and defiance, with world-closing-in synths. “It Hurts” drapes Wilson’s wail over grooving post-disco, turning it into a siren alert for her torment and longing in the wake of her trauma. Wilson’s sharp poetry highlights the way in which picking up the pieces after an assault results in even more boundary-trampling by intimates and strangers alike, while her uneasy compositions add to the feeling of dread. Exorcism is a harrowing listen at times, but Wilson’s talents and willingness to rip open her inner workings make it a vital one. Maura Johnston
Hear: Amazon Music Unlimited | Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

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