The days of summer sun and the opening plucked strings of “Despacito” are behind us (if not in terms of the weather, then at least spiritually speaking). As we head fully into the fall season, sweatshirts cloaked over our shoulders, the Ringer staff has a handful of music suggestions.
Alison Herman: Given that some of the tracks on Half-Light are a decade old, Rostam Batmanglij’s debut album isn’t a cohesive artistic statement so much as a survey of a sensibility. Pop music fans have come to know Rostam over the years somewhat obliquely: first as a member of Vampire Weekend, to which his sonic contributions become increasingly obvious over the course of Half-Light’s 15 tracks, then as a producer working with critical favorites like Charli XCX and Carly Rae Jepsen. So the chance to get to know Rostam on his own terms—not just his sound, but also his voice, a gorgeous murmur that’s front and center here for the first time—is a welcome opportunity. Lead single “Bike Dream” is a perfect entry point, with city life vignettes and a richly textured arrangement that makes heavy use of strings (listen to its Song Exploder episode!), but this is an album it’s easy to get lost in. I like to put it on shuffle during my morning routine; something about its airiness pairs well with an early start.
Kelela, ‘Take Me Apart’
Hannah Giorgis: It may not feel like fall yet in New York, but Kelela’s Take Me Apart is the autumnal record we’ve been needing since before this strange summer began. Sultry and tender, Take Me Apart, Kelela’s debut album, traces everything from romance to her own restlessness as an artist. Standouts like “LMK,” the funky, confident lead single; “S.O.S.”; and the titular track all paint a portrait of an artist who isn't just grown ’n’ sexy but just plain grown now, too. Her voice is stronger, sharper, and clearer than it’s ever been; her vocals carry the album and match its bold, eerie production. The record sounds like the dizzying, reflective 3 a.m. cab ride home from a perfect party, the liminal space that encourages you to reflect on just how lucky you are to be experiencing all the love in your life. Tracks like “Bluff” and “Enough” gnaw gently, a reminder that the best growth happens as your seasons change.
A Savage, ‘Thawing Dawn’
Sean Fennessey: Imagine a Flying Burrito Brothers album fronted by a droll semiotics professor. Doesn't that sound grand? As the lead singer of Parquet Courts, Andrew “A” Savage is part of a band that favors rollicking, discursive indie rock. Their songs sound like they might grow legs and run off a cliff at any moment. Savage’s voice—a flat, unnervingly direct instrument—gives the band’s songs a “take it or leave it” urgency, like a tollbooth worker passing the time with a wry crack. Thawing Dawn is more leisurely, more puritanical, and maybe more mature. “Phantom Limbo” is the highlight, a straightforward honky-tonk ballad, like if Hank Williams spent the week reading n+1. “The shape you take in my dreams doesn’t fit my waking world,” Savage sings. Rarely has growing up sounded so lowdown.
OMB Peezy, ‘Humble Beginnings’
Micah Peters: It was probably a Monday morning when a friend of mine sent me “Lay Down,” a catchy little number about well, murder—there’s no two ways about that, it’s right there on the hook. The nursery rhyme pat and nasal griminess of it was pretty Boosie to me, but, unlike in plenty of other situations like these, I did not Google it first. I demanded to know, in all caps, “WHO TF IS OMB PEEZY.” He’s a rapper, originally from Mobile, Alabama, who now lives in Sacramento. He recorded his debut mixtape, Loyalty Over Love, in 48 hours, according to a vlog, but, as of now, there’s no release date for it. Humble Beginnings, his first official release, out last Wednesday, will have to hold us (me) over, a six-song introduction that’s mostly about empty pockets and plans to fill them.
Haim, “Little of Your Love”
Kate Halliwell: Haim’s second album, Something to Tell You, has been out since July, but the video the ombre-haired sisters made with Oscar-nominated director Paul Thomas Anderson for “Little of Your Love” has me appreciating the song anew.
The “Little of Your Love” video is the third collaboration between PTA and Haim, and while it may not be as ambitious as their ”Valentine” short film, it’s a damn-sight peppier. Why is the beloved auteur behind The Master and There Will Be Blood spending his time directing music videos for a trio of women who bear an uncanny resemblance to circa-2015-Oscar-night Jared Leto, you ask? (I mean that as the highest of compliments, Leto’s recent reputation aside.) Turns out it’s because their mother was PTA’s former art teacher, which is both adorable and extremely on-brand for all involved.
The Boogie Nights–esque video for “Little of Your Love” is a gift that the world should not take for granted. I, for one, am content to sit back and watch the Haim sisters line-dance on repeat for the foreseeable future. Who needs PTA’s upcoming Daniel Day-Lewis collaboration, Phantom Thread, when we’ve got Danielle Haim’s exquisitely faded tees and cropped jeans right here?
Frank Ocean, “Provider”
Jordan Coley: I’ve listened to “Provider” by Frank Ocean approximately 4.6 trillion times since he premiered it on Episode 7 of his Apple Music show Blonded Radio in late August. Ocean proceeded to play it on repeat for an entire hour. However, each time he played it back, something would change. The pitch be would lower, the tempo would be faster, the filter over his voice would be slightly different. You felt the song morph listen after listen. It was trance-inducing.
The final version of the song has retained much of that hypnotic quality. Like all great Ocean songs, it’s a strange collage of unexpectedly pretty metaphors (“Holyfield keep your ears split for me”) and clever pop culture winks (“Is you a natural blondie like Goku”). The verses alternate between mumble and shriek, and its wandering, airy bridge all but puts you to sleep, whispering, “Tonight, I might change my life … all for you … all for you.” The general effect is a pretty ballad with striking, if unconventionally beautiful, features. It’s a pop song if a pop song were a couture model. Which, for Frank Ocean, sounds about right.
Jessie Ware, “Alone”
Kate Knibbs: Now that we’re in October and it’s acceptable to wear a sweater and not go anywhere at all, I’ve been seeking softer songs than what I wanted during the summer. So far, I’ve found that sound in “Alone.” The third single off Jessie Ware’s new album, Glasshouse, fits the bill delightfully. It’s the sonic equivalent of curling up with a blanket and ordering takeout—comforting, warm, but still a little melancholic. Even when Ware’s singing about happiness, she always belts like she’s longing for something.
Donnie Kwak: It’s rare for me to arrive late aboard the bandwagon of a Korean American musician—call it ethnic pride, or maybe ethnic obligation—but such was the case with Yaeji. Oh, I definitely was aware of Yaeji and her artfully oversized clothing and trademark circular specs. Having skimmed a couple of Yaeji’s videos, I also knew that she rap-sung mostly in Korean and a little in English. I even partook in group chats about Yaeji, because—well, ethnic pride and ethnic obligation. But honestly I hadn’t paid particularly close attention to Yaeji’s music.
That all changed a few weeks ago when I saw the following question in our Ringer office Slack: Does anyone else listen to Yaeji? It was posted not by one of my Korean American colleagues, but Kevin O’Connor, who seems to be as obsessive about music as he is the NBA. My curiosity was piqued. “Drink I’m Sippin On,” Yaeji’s biggest song thus far, has me hooked. “Hip-house” is what I’ve seen to describe Yaeji’s music; “ASMR rap” would be my moniker. Call her 21 Serene. (Her regular speaking voice is no less enchanting.) So thanks, Kevin. I was so used to being an evangelist that I forgot how it feels to be a convert.
Four Tet, ‘New Energy’
Andrew Gruttadaro: I came onto Four Tet because of 2010’s There Is Love in You, which makes sense: You will not find me in the house music streets all too often, and There Is Love in You was, by far, Four Tet’s most accessible record. New Energy is a close second, though, a sprawling instrumental album that ties together all of Kieran Hebden’s musical influences—jazz, electronica, classical, pop—and puts them on top of a beat. “Two Thousand and Seventeen” leans on plucked strings and a murmuring bass line to make a fantasy out of this year, far more peaceful and serene. “Lush” is an upbeat club jam driven by marimba. “Daughter” utilizes vocal loops and hip-hop-evoking percussion. New Energy has highs and lows, interludes and drawn-out reveries, contemplations and exultations. It’s a journey of an album, one that I didn’t know I needed; one that says plenty without saying anything at all.
Faith Healer, ‘Try ;-)’
Lindsay Zoladz: One of my favorite new musical discoveries of the year has been Faith Healer, a Canadian indie-rock duo who last month released a quietly excellent album called Try ;-). (Yes, the winky emoticon is included in the title! And yes, the album is good enough to justify that kind of whimsy!) The best way I can describe their sound is “cosmic garage rock”—boots stomping on the ground, eyes on the constellations. Frontwoman Jessica Jalbert sings with this deadpan cool that reminds me of Trish Keenan, the dearly departed voice of the great British band Broadcast. (Faith Healer was previously Jalbert’s solo project, but for this album she achieves a fuller sound with the addition of the multi-instrumentalist Renny Wilson.) Her lyrics are straightforward but wise: “Nothing is as good as the feeling of waiting,” she sings on the opening track, to the beat of an old telephone’s busy signal. Faith Healer have quite a few tricks up their sleeve: “Might As Well” bounces along to a bluesy guitar lick; “Sterling Silver” has the incense-thick atmosphere of early Beach House. But my favorite song on the record has got to be “Light of Loving,” an ominous, kraut-rock-ish drone that eventually explodes into a freewheeling jam session. Good vibes all around.