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12 New Albums to Stream Now: Blood Orange, Ozuna and More Editors’ Picks

Blood Orange’s inspiring visions, Ozuna’s propulsive pop, Ka’s mythmaking and more new albums to stream now

Ozuna and Blood Orange

Ozuna and Blood Orange

Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images, Lexie Moreland/WWD/REX Shutterstock

EDITORS’ PICK: Blood Orange, Negro Swan
As Blood Orange, Dev Hynes frames heavy political themes with Eighties quiet storm soul and New Romantic drama (think Michael Jackson ballads and Martin Fry’s Sheffield dandies in ABC). It’s a sly, surprisingly potent combo, amplified here by star turns — A$AP Rocky, Puff Daddy, Janet Mock — and other collaborations, personalized with intimate lyrics and assorted testimonials on identity and empowerment. Sultry, heady, inspiring, visionary. Will Hermes

Ozuna, Aura
Few artists have achieved international ubiquity as quickly and emphatically as this 26-year-old Puerto Rican singer, who follows his rangy debut with a collection of propulsive beats and willowy hooks. The guests here are frequent and high-flying: J Balvin and Natti Natasha on the radio slam-dunk “Sigueme los Pasos”; veterans R.K.M. and Ken-Y on the sneakily effective “Besos Mojados”; and more surprisingly, Akon on “Comentale,” which is good enough to make you wish the “Smack That” singer/electricity entrepreneur would return with his own reggaeton-inspired album. But Aura doesn’t need features to hold your attention — Ozuna’s flexible voice and melodic savvy ensure that every song here is sticky. Elias Leight

Hermit and the Recluse, Orpheus Vs. the Sirens
Since his remarkable 2012 breakthrough The Knight’s Gambit, this Brownsville MC has released volumes of whispery, conceptually linked street poetry. On Ka’s latest release, a collaboration with with Los Angeles producer Animoss, he compares his journey into musical criminality to Greek myths. Animoss’ arrangements sound like a cold, wintry breeze; often they don’t have a beat at all, just harsh synths and eerie loops circling around asymmetric drums. Ka’s keen, perceptive lyricism, full of vivid lines like the title track’s “This tainted math ain’t a class at MIT,” sits at the eye of this thug quiet storm. He attempts a few experiments — slipping into an out-of-tune sing-song voice on “Sirens,” inviting soulful early Aughts singer-songwriter Citizen Cope to guest on “Hades.” But mostly, Ka sticks to form, and his fans wouldn’t want it any differently. Mosi Reeves

Jain, Souldier
With a flow jump-cutting between pan-African dancehall chat and Europop chirp with matter-of-fact fluency — think M.I.A. as ingénue — this Franco-Malagasy pop star is internationalist via upbringing and inclination. Her second LP is another sly charmer, sung in English but stylistically polyglot. “Star” is a cyber-ska skewering of celebrity-seekers. “Oh Man” consoles a heartbroken dude over skeletal samba beats and Sidiki Diabaté’s kora flourishes. The title track, a response to the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, is a reggae-folk jam about a man “fighting for love” with an armful of flowers. Quixotic, sure. But good pop can get away with that. Will Hermes

Ryan Culwell, The Last American
It took three years for this Texas-born singer-songwriter to follow up his bleak but marvelous LP Flatlands — and this 180 from that 2015 release’s spare sound was worth the wait. The Last American is informed by political unrest, parenthood and interplanetary life; lead single “Can You Hear Me,” inspired in part by the death of Eric Garner, is a swirling blast of Eighties sonics and UFO allusions, with Culwell chant-singing Garner’s dying words “I can’t breathe” over and over again. “Dig a Hole” is a hillbilly howl, chilling and full of impending danger. And the title track stands as Culwell’s self-portrait, an artist ruminating on being forever misunderstood: “what don’t kill you makes you jump into your car and drive away,” he sings. On “Moon Hangs Down” and “Tie My Pillow to a Tree” Culwell, a father of four daughters, finds his center — a family man committed to improving the world, however slightly, for those who come after him. Joseph Hudak

Leon Thomas, Genesis
The former child star/Babyface mentee’s new EP is “clearly made with the airwaves in mind,” writes Elias Leight. “Genesis is best when Thomas mixes creamy guitar soul with easygoing breakbeats. That’s the source of ‘Sunken Place,’ a snapshot of post-heartbreak isolation, and ‘Beg,’ an attempt at romantic reconciliation that’s both earnest and amusing: ‘Please don’t make me beg/ Fuck it, I’ma beg.’ Nothing else is as loop-able as the brief ‘Blessing,’ but there are enough good ideas to encourage optimism about whatever comes next.”

Ólafur Arnalds, Re: Member
The Icelandic composer’s first solo album since 2013 “adds a new element — robots! — to his mix of post-minimalist repetition, indie swoon, film score frisson and ambient drifts,” writes Christopher R. Weingarten. “Re: Member is a conversation between Arnalds and algorithms, the programmed and the human, his own intentions and new inspirations, composed with a software called Straus connected to two player pianos.”

Gabriel Kahane, Book of Travelers
The day after the 2016 election, this New York composer-pianist-singer ditched his devices and hopped a train, eventually logging 8,980 miles on his rail travels across the country. This 10-song travelogue, adapted from a longer work he debuted in his home borough last year, is a bare-bones meditation on being in tune with one’s surroundings even (and perhaps especially) during tumultuous times. When he “left his cellphone for a suitcase,” as he puts it in the glimmering “8980,” Kahane opened himself up to hearing his fellow passengers — the dining-car companion describing her lived experiences with racism in “What If I Told You,” the pre-emptively grieving father of “Friends of Friends of Bill” — closely and without distraction, and this stunning portrait of a singular moment in America demands similar attention. Maura Johnston

Crack the Sky, Crackology / Living In Reverse
The long-running West Virginia prog act — whose 1975 debut placed at No. 47 on Rolling Stone‘s Best Prog Albums of All Time list — reintroduce themselves with the best-of compilation Crackology and their 17th studio album, which adds banjo and drum machines to their maximalist, witty mix.
Read Our Feature: Crack the Sky: The Strange Survival Story of the Best U.S. Prog Band You’ve Never Heard

Steady Holiday, Nobody’s Watching
Los Angeles-based Dre Babinski’s second Steady Holiday album derives much of its dark-cloud mood from her spry, yet icy soprano, which darts through the wild-west rave-up of “Trapping Season” and matter-of-factly outlines boardroom bloodlust over the title track’s cocktail-hour bubbles. Nobody’s Watching frames its storytelling in gorgeous ways — the electronic wobbles and swooping strings of “Mothers” add heft to its central character’s existential dilemmas, while the encroaching gloom of “Eastern Comfort” is illuminated by spindly synths. But Babinski’s hovering vocals and pointed lyrics reveal the bleakness within even humans’ most stunning creations. Maura Johnston

Fire-Toolz, Skinless X-1
The fourth album from Chicago artist Angel Marcloid, continues her harsh, info-overloaded cry from the uncanny valley, like Max Headroom gone Maximumrocknroll. Is this vaporwave metal? Collage ambient? Chino Amobi for agoraphobes? “Screamography” and “Lethe” bubble along like giddy PC Music jams until Marcloid yowls shards of black metal lightning. “Interbeing” is a glitchy vaporwave jam that’s turns reverbed chillvibes into a punk rock riot — and the next song starts with an alert for “incoming mail.” At once deeply nostalgic, deeply modern and deeply strange. Christopher R. Weingarten

Justice, Woman Worldwide
The New York Dolls to Daft Punk’s Stones, Justice are brilliant thieves who remind you of what made their role models great. This is basically a studio remake of their current live set. Some songs are radically altered, others less so; it generally improves on the baroque originals from 2016’s Woman. Necessary? No. Fun? Definitely. Will Hermes

In This Article: Blood Orange, Ka

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