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BTS' Perfect Pop and 14 More Albums for Heavy Rotation

There is so much good music out today. So much.

Every week, the Noisey staff puts together a list of the best and most important albums, mixtapes, and EPs from the past seven days. Sometimes it includes projects we’ve written about on the site already; sometimes it's just made up of great records that we want everyone to hear, but never got the chance to write about. The result is neither comprehensive nor fair. We hope it helps.

BTS: Map of the Soul: Persona

There are seven tracks on Map of the Soul: Persona, seemingly one for every member of Korea’s global pop stars, BTS. The album’s title makes reference to Jung’s Map of the Soul, which explored the fundamentals of psychology according to Carl Jung. For 26 minutes, the boys of BTS are prepared to ask you the existential questions you’ve been avoiding as they do on the guitar-laden, soul sampling opener “Intro: Persona.” RM, the frontrunner of the group code-switches and weaves Korean and English into the track. “Who the hell am I?” he asks. “Where’s your soul? Where’s your dream?” At a glance, it feels like the beginning of a BTS-led psychoanalysis spread across sweet pop records like “Boy U Luv,” a collaboration with Halsey and the R&B-inspired “Home.” Class is in session on Map of the Soul and BTS wants to see who’s been paying attention. —Kristin Corry


Anderson .Paak: Ventura

There are few people who can get Andre 3000 to come out of hiding, but Anderson .Paak is one of them. Five months after releasing Oxnard last year, Anderson .Paak is flexing his connections by putting OutKast’s famed Andre 3000 on Ventura’s opening track. “Come Home” transports you to the “ain’t too proud to beg” rhetoric that was the thesis of soul music. “I’m begging you, please come home / No one even begs anymore,” .Paak sings on the hook. 3 Stacks picks up .Paak’s lead: “If your gut tells you to strut, then strut / Then I’ll hail you a car, but what man won’t beg?” The Atlanta rapper isn’t the only legendary feature .Paak snagged. Ventura is filled with collaborations like a posthumous feature from Nate Dogg (“What Can We Do?”) and “Make It Better,” which finds Smokey Robinson on its hook. This album, like Oxnard, is a musing on the sounds he was raised on and the West Coast singer is begging for the trappings of home. —Kristin Corry

Kevin Abstract: ARIZONA baby

A proud pop weirdo sheds some of his woolier layers, just in time for spring. Aided by Jack Antonoff, Kevin Abstract’s sound is a bit more concrete on this three-track EP, bolstering his slippery surrealisms with solid choruses and shimmery horns. Antonoff’s been both celebrated and scapegoated for the polish he brings to the iconoclasts he works with, but this level of sheen suits Abstract, who glistens here in the spotlight. There’s rumored to be more installments of this coming later on this month, which is worth being excited for, but these three songs are gems on their own. —Colin Joyce


Broken Social Scene, Let’s Try The After Pt. 2

As Broken Social Scene hits its two decade mark as a sprawling Toronto collective responsible for some of the finest indie rock albums of the 2000s, it’s clear their best songs are the ones where they really go for catharsis (“Superconnected,” “It’s All Gonna Break,” “Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl,” and many others). On their last of two 2019 EPs Let’s Try The After Part 2, they hit the mark with the boisterous and thoughtful “Can’t Find My Heart,” a roaring track that features fuzzy guitar leads and an explosive chorus. The rest of the EP goes in a decidedly more electronic direction with programmed drums and Auto-Tune (“Big Couches, “Wrong Line”), but while those flourishes are a shock on first listen, it’s still got the familiar hug of Broken Social Scene’s charm. — Josh Terry

Omar Apollo: Friends

You can easily hear Omar Apollo’s influences on Friends. He’s serving Prince in the basslines and falsetto of “Ashamed.” On “Trouble” there’s a little bit of Maxwell in his breathy croon. And throughout the EP, it’s hard not to draw similarities to Miguel in his voice. Apollo, who taught himself to sing by watching YouTube videos, has started to find his groove with this extremely relistenable seven-song project. It leaves us wanting more from the 21-year-old Indiana native. So we’ll make one request: Please, Omar, lean into that groove and make a full funk album. —Leslie Horn


Intellexual: Intellexual

The 12-track LP takes more cues from Paul Simon, Labi Siffre, and Joni Mitchell than it does any rapper that Chicago mainstays Nico Segal and Nate Fox have worked with worked with. But while there are acoustic guitars and live takes, there are a wealth of collaborators and fascinating sonic surprises throughout. No folk-inspired LP has ever featured footwork veteran DJ Spinn providing drums or a Bossa Nova-inflected interlude featuring Esperanza Spalding called “Boca." —Josh Terry

Roza Terenzi: Let’s Ride

One of Oz’s finest dancefloor fillers joins up with the inimitable Dekmantel label for a record of windows-down, wide-open-spaces techno tracks. Roza Terenzi offers a handful of different moods here—psychedelic headtrips like “Bricks,” low-slung quasi rap beats like “Freak n Tweak”—but they’re united in their openness. They’re tailor made for speeding through the countryside, without another soul in sight. —Colin Joyce

Kinlaw & Franco Franco: Mezzi Umani Mezze Macchine

The anarchic structure and hilarious name of the Bristol-based label/collective Avon Terror Corps says a lot about how they operate. It can be hard to tell exactly who’s involved in the project—there’s reportedly representatives of a wide swath of the UK freak scene—but like a multi-level marketing scheme turned into a militia, their numbers vast, hungry, and ready to fight. That was exemplified on their debut release a couple of months ago—the compilation Avon is Dead, which found them twisting and torturing tropes of techno, noise, and hardcore into this surreal cyberpunk melange.


Their first proper LP, care of the duo Kinlaw and Franco Franco, further demonstrates the sort of firestarters Avon are. Trap signifiers and scabrous noise get thrown into the magic bullet here, with Franco Franco dizzily spitting in Italian over the top. In a post-Death Grips world, there’s a fair amount of freaks playing with these sounds. Bands like Deli Girls and Prison Religion are spiritual cousins to what’s going on here, but Kinlaw and Franco’s take on the sounds is a little different. It’s wounded, wheezing, and worldly bathed in the scum of stagnating puddles on the street. “Cuore Molle Palle Mosce” was the project’s debut single, but it’s still the best bite-sized summation of what the duo do well—take familiar sounds and set them aflame. —Colin Joyce

Damien Jurado: In The Shape of a Storm

Since his ninth album 2010’s Saint Bartlett, Damien Jurado has enjoyed a near-unmatched string of excellent LPs like his Maraqopa trilogy (2012’s Maraqopa, 2014’s Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son, and 2016’s Visions of Us on the Land, all recorded with the late producer Richard Swift) and 2018’s The Horizon Just Laughed. Where The Horizon Just Laughed stripped back the psychedelia and sci-fi elements of his previous efforts with Swift thanks to Jurado’s self-production, his latest In The Shape of a Storm is entirely barebones. It’s Jurado and his guitar and some of his most affecting songwriting to date. The sparse recordings don’t hinder these tunes as “Throw Me In Your Arms” and the peppy “Where You Want Me To Be” are both immediate and infectious. —Josh Terry


Inter Arma: Sulphur English

The Richmond heavies Inter Arma have this knack for writing songs that feel at once claustrophobic and anthemic—ornamental and crushing. Their new album, Sulphur English, is full of moments that unite these two sides of their sound. The riffs on songs like “Citadel” are twisted and serpentine, full of these lovely flourishes and unexpected lead fills. But they’re muddy and crushing too. It kinda feels like they’ve taken the whole of the palace at Versailles and dropped it right on your head. You can appreciate the proximity to such beauty and craft, but it hurts too. Something tells me they like it that way. —Colin Joyce

Glen Hansard: This Wild Willing

Glen Hansard's fourth solo album This Wild Willing feels like a reinvention in the Irish songwriter's almost three decades long career. The hard-working journeyman Frames and Swell Season frontman, who launched into prominence thanks to his Oscar-winning work on Once, throws a curveball on this latest LP, ditching straightforwardly accessible folk-rock for knotty arrangements and dissonant experimentation. Opener "I'll Be You, Be Me" kicks off with a gnarly sample of Queen's "Cool Cat" and slowly builds to be one of the weirdest and most compelling songs of his discography. Recorded in Paris, the album features, among many others, classically trained Iranian musicians the Khoshravesh brothers and electronic musicians Dunk Murphy and Deasy who welcomely disrupt these intimate songs with searing bursts of noise. —Josh Terry


Emily Reo: Only You Can See It

After a decade making dazed pop songs, the songwriter and producer Emily Reo’s Only You Can See It finds her snapping into alertness and focus. She shirks the reverb that was once a hallmark to see the world in all its vibrancy. It’s proggy in places—like on the amoebic skittering that underpins “Ghosting,” one of it’s finest tracks. But in spite of her complex harmonic work, for the most part this is pure pleasure—songs built to stick in your head forever. Her music’s no longer like a dream, no, it’s better. Also, if you don’t believe me, ask Ice-T. —Colin Joyce

Pixel Grip: Heavy Handed

It’s easy to get lost in the endlessly danceable and brooding synth pop of Chicago’s Pixel Grip. On their debut LP Heavy Handed, the self-described “goth disco” trio lock into a groove of bubbly bass, throbbing drum patches, and mesmerizingly brooding vocals from lead singer Rita Lukea. Songs like “Can’t Compete” boast menacingly bass-y synth riffs and Lukea’s piercing yelps while single “Diamonds” pulsates with a beat that wouldn’t feel out of place in Caribou’s catalogue. It’s a left-field entry in Chicago’s musical landscape but these songs are strong enough that Pixel Grip can easily rise above the crowd and carve their own necessary niche in the city. —Josh Terry

Rare DM: Vanta Black

Erin Hoagg, the songwriter and producer behind the project Rare DM, named debut album under that moniker Vanta Black, a reference to a substance that has been called “the darkest material on earth.” It absorbs 99.99% of the light that touches it, and has the effect of making any three dimensional objects to which it is applied look flat and uncanny. Yet, it’s sorta paradoxical when applied to Hoagg’s work. She deals in heavy subject matter on occasion throughout the record—the boys that waste her time, generalized loneliness and despair—but its rendered in vibrant chromatics. Her synth programming shimmers, her drum machines burst with vintage warmth. There’s a gothic air about the whole project, but make no mistake, there’s some amount of joy, or at least ecstasy informing this whole thing. But maybe that’s the point—that there’s color even in the deepest darkness. —Colin Joyce

ymtk: What You Wish For

The concept of wishing runs deep on the nine-track EP, but “Wish (Interlude)” provides the listener with the thesis to What You Wish For. “A wish? It’s like a deep feeling or expression of a strong desire. You know, like hope for something that’s not easily attainable,” a woman’s voice says on the track. “Not so much a request, but more of an invocation. A want for something probably won’t or can’t ever happen. But I wish that…” Her monologue could serve two purposes in that she’s longing for something more romantically, but also hoping for solidarity in the world around her. Audio from a Donald Trump rally opens What You Wish Forwith Trump pointing out a black person at the Redding, California event. “Look at my African American over here. Look at him. Are you the greatest? You know what I’m talking about?” It's enough to make you wonder about ymtk’s musings on a wish, and why the world’s current landscape makes wishing feel impossible. —Kristin Corry