Best Albums to Stream Now: Janelle Monae, Autechre and more - Rolling Stone
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10 New Albums to Stream Now: Janelle Monae, Willie Nelson and More Editors’ Picks

Janelle Monáe’s genre-dodging masterpiece, Willie Nelson’s witty look at time’s march, Speedy Ortiz’s coy toughness and more albums to stream now

10 New Albums to Stream Now: Janelle Monáe, Willie Nelson and More Rolling Stone Editors' Picks

Janelle Monáe and Willie Nelson.

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer
A genre-dodging, pop-funk-rock-rap-avant-R&B tour de force, the Wondaland leader delivers a masterpiece that feels both of-the-moment and enduring. The anthems are empowered, the politics both sexual and intersectional – and impressively, she evinces no significant disconnect between preaching and partying. “You fucked the world up now, we’ll fuck it all back down,” she declares in the apocalyptic bubblegum romp “Screwed.” Somewhere, Prince is beaming. Will Hermes
Read Our Cover Story: Janelle Monáe Frees Herself
Hear: Amazon Music Unlimited | Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

Willie Nelson, Last Man Standing
The latest album by the country legend  – who turns 85 on Sunday – takes on topics like dementia, reincarnation and lost friends. “This record finds the honky-tonk prophet satirizing the slow march of time with humorous musings set to a comfortable blend of Western swing and roadhouse blues,” writes Jonathan Bernstein. 
Hear: Amazon Music Unlimited | Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco, You’re Driving Me Crazy
Coinciding with Ryan H. Walsh’s excellent book Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968 – a meta-narrative involving Morrison’s greatest album – this set doubles down on the singer’s jazz love in tandem with Hammond B-3 organ master (and occasional trumpeter) Joey DeFrancesco. Morrison’s in fine voice, mixing standards (including a bluesy swing through Cole Porter’s “Miss Otis Regrets”) with his own stuff. Highlight: A marvelously spry revisiting of Astral Weeks’ “The Way Young Lovers Do,” with a loose lyricism that flickeringly recalls Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things.” Will Hermes
Hear: Amazon Music Unlimited | Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Until Death Call My Name
A solid piece of Southern striver rap. YoungBoy lives the life of a “Villain,” and talks a lot about choppers and beef, but he also admits on “Overdose” that this is just music, not real life – an important distinction since he has tangled with Baton Rouge, Louisiana law enforcement for years. The production is the kind of symphonic keyboard trap that marks the genre’s golden years in the Aughts, and the rapper encourages the connection: “Diamond Teeth Samurai” revives the hook from Lil Wayne’s “The Block Is Hot” and Cash Money CEO Birdman shows up for “We Poppin.” (Youngboy and Birdman are reportedly working on a mixtape.) He’s not entirely a throwback, though. Like most rappers these days, he spends as much time singing as rapping, but at least his harmonizing voice presents more than just pop ambition. On “Solar Eclipse,” he conveys real emotion as he sings, “Ain’t mean to break your heart but, baby, that’s what thugs do.” Mosi Reeves
Hear: Amazon Music Unlimited | Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

Speedy Ortiz, Twerp Verse
Speedy Ortiz bring back the mathy, contorted-guitar side of Nineties indie-rock, with songs that seem to rock out and fall apart in the same moment, turning inspired indecision into an engine of epiphany for singer-guitarist Sadie Dupuis. On her Philadelphia band’s third LP, she taps the coy, coiled toughness of Liz Phair all over songs like “Lean In When I Suffer,” which wanders through a series of panic-attack images over a twisty time signature, and the direly churning “Villain,” where Dupuis has to fend off a dude on the bus who harasses her with questions like “I want to know what kind of porn you like.” Every song here is languidly tuneful, delivered with an offhanded worry that makes each one feel at once suspenseful and catchy. It’s the kind of record you’ll be happy getting lost in. Jon Dolan
Hear: Amazon Music Unlimited | Apple Music | BandcampSpotify | Tidal

Okkervil River, In the Rainbow Rain
Will Sheff, the indie-rock singer-songwriter who has led Okkervil River for 20 years, taps his peerless rock history know-how and the humanist vibes he’s recently been picking up at Quaker meetings to come up with the best album of his band’s often-excellent run. In the Rainbow Rain opens with “Famous Tracheotomies,” a Roxy Music-level plush, Mountain Goats-level vivid exploration of human frailty that begins with an image of Sheff’s near-death asphyxiation as an infant, then dwells on the images of famous trach patients like Gary Coleman, Motown great Mary Wells and poet Dylan Thomas as well as the Kinks’s Ray Davies, who we witness staring out at Waterloo as a teenager on a hospital balcony. It isn’t all that heavy; “Don’t Move Back To L.A.” is a funny, yacht-y lament from the friend-starved East Coast (“don’t get your license back,” Sheff sings), and “Pulled Up the Ribbon” is a pop-rock sunburst worthy of Todd Rundgren’s A Wizard, A True Star or the Raspberries. Sheff’s knack for blurring Seventies soft-rock and the synths-and-sad-saxes side of Eighties New Wave calls to mind Destroyer’s Dan Bejar, a sterling erudition balanced by an easeful generosity that comes through in his writing and singing. The folkie lope “External Actors” advises us to “learn how to hang with the freaks and the hicks in the heat of the lot,” an image of high-school-burnout utopianism on an album that gathers a lifetime of close listening and warm wondering into something uniquely, delicately grand. Jon Dolan
Hear: Amazon Music Unlimited | Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

Autechre, NTS Session 4
The fourth and final 119 minutes of Autechre’s streaming internet radio show completes the release of nearly 8 hours of new music from the boundary-pushing electronic duo. Feel free to get lost in this batch, since it’s full of slow-grinding android ambient – “All End” is a 58-minute spaceship glint-scape like a stretched and throbbing update of the Solaris soundtrack. This stream contains perhaps some of their most minimal music to date, letting drones slowly mutate (“Mirrage”), allowing beats to kick along like cyber-nightmare Harmonia (“Column Thirteen”) or sounding like a hissing, dripping, exploding 24-minute walk through the Alien spaceship Nostromo (“Shimripl Casual”). Christopher R. Weingarten
Hear: NTS Radio

Dylan Carlson, Conquistador
This dry and dusty electric guitar record comes courtesy of the long-running pioneer of slowpoke ambient metal, Dylan Carlson of Earth. This record hearkens back to the tumbleweed-tossing desert doom of the band’s 2005’s Hex; Or Printing in the Infernal Method, but without the drums to push it along. A bright, overtone-heavy churn that can hold you over until someone reissues Neil Young’s Dead Man soundtrack. Christopher R. Weingarten
Hear: Bandcamp

Elysia Crampton, Elysia Crampton
A California-based electronic artist with Aymara roots, Crampton makes dense, fierce, cryptic and inviting music. This concise second LP swirls breaking glass and dancehall airhorns, turntablist flourishes and electric guitar roars with apparitions of Andean, Arabic, African and Brazilian beats, among others. Crampton generally engages issues of identity, though words are few here. On “Nativity,” a voice croaks what sounds like “Golgotha…” – it’s a flash of spiritual tributaries in a provocative data stream. Will Hermes
Hear: Amazon Music Unlimited | Apple Music | BandcampSpotify | Tidal

Varsity, Parallel Person
This Chicago quintet’s sweet-tart guitar pop splits the difference between defiant and melancholic, with Stef Smith’s lilting soprano and Paul Stolz’s rolling basslines serving as a fulcrum for chiming riffs and gently pointed lyrics about alienation and disappointment, both self-inflicted and not. (“Line ’em up, knock ’em down/Nice tries are thin on the ground,” she sighs on the swooning “Settle Down.”) Varsity’s keen knowledge of what makes indie-twee work – crunchy rhythm sections, quivering guitar lines, plainspoken observations of interpersonal minutiae – leads to surprising experiments; the lost-friendship chronicle “Krissy” shudders to a stop after Smith trills “Hate to break the news to you/You never can go home again,” then restarts in a way that recalls the first phone call after a big blowup, while the final track “Alone In My Principles” closes out with an extended psych-pop swirl, its analog synth squiggles and guitar feedback rising up as Smith’s vocal fades into the mist. Maura Johnston
Hear: Amazon Music Unlimited | Apple Music | BandcampSpotify | Tidal


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