Bill Callahan's Existential Pastorals and 7 More Albums for Heavy Rotation

This week's essential listening also includes gothic synth recordings and watery R&B.

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.

Bill Callahan, Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest

On one of Bill Callahan’s new singles "The Ballad of the Hulk," he croons in a soothing baritone, "Oh, I try to be a good person / I wonder if it's annoying / Or worth pursuing" It’s a line that somewhat neatly sums up his entire career. He’s made transient and pastoral songs about doubt, loss, love, and meaning, oscillating between emotional territory as low stakes as talking a walk and as serious as the apocalypse. His latest LP Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest finds him at his most grounded as a recent husband and father, asking "What Comes Next After Certainty?" It’s a question that propels the 20-song album into an essential document of wrestling with stability. —Josh Terry


Baroness, Gold & Grey

The proggy complexities on Baroness’ latest Gold & Grey are the result of sessions that frontman John Baizley described to NPR, in which things like “brevity” and “efficiency” were not concerns. It’s there in the name even, their auspicious choice of colors to end, apparently, their long-running tradition of naming their records after pigments. These recordings are gilded in shimmering metallics and complicated detailing—like the chrystalline chorales that underpin gnarly interludes like “Can Oscura” or the spiderwebbing riffs that propel tracks like “Borderlines.” After more than a decade drawing from the stoic, gravelly anthemics of hard rock and heavy metal, they’ve earned some indulgence. —Colin Joyce

GoldLink, Diaspora

While GoldLink's debut LP At What Cost celebrated his hometown's go-go scene, Diaspora finds the D.C. native leaving the comforts of his home to explore the various sounds of Black music across the globe. "Joke Ting," the album’s second track, creates an opulent tapestry of Afrobeat and dancehall rhythms and intricate musicianship. It sets the tone for the rest of the album, which pulls together influences from all across the globe to bolster GoldLink's colorful raps. At its title suggests, Diaspora is filled with sounds and styles that showcase the vibrant diversity of Black music and how it's heard around the world. —DeAsia Paige

Crumb, Jinx

Atmosphere is the most crucial ingredient in Crumb’s debut album Jinx. The Brooklyn band are experts locking into a groove and maintaining the anxiety-laced vibe throughout. It’s a lean LP at 28 minutes, but it’s rewarding. This is especially the case with singles “Nina,” with its feverishly swirling synths, and “Fall Down,” which propulsively broods over three minutes. Though it’s tension-filled music, the band’s tangible tightness makes it an inviting listen. —Josh Terry


Aaron Aye, F.E.A.R.

In his colorful genre-hopping sound, the L.A. based musician Aaron Aye clearly borrows a few nubs from Chance the Rapper’s crayon box, but on his sophomore album FEAR, he makes it clear that he’s approaching his gleeful sing-rapping from a different perspective. Like his debut Orphan, he meditates on the particular circumstances that turned him into the person he is today—heavy-lidded, wise beyond his years, but still enthusiastic. “Roots” is the one that engages with this, singing at its opening: “Guess this what happens when your momma dies young and your daddy ain’t there and you’re lost in the world.” He leaves the “this” deliberately vague, but you could take it to mean his whole worldview, his deep introspection, his tendency to rap about societal ills from a widescreen, emotionally engaged perspective. It’s moving stuff, even if the sound itself if a little familiar. —Colin Joyce

Eryn Allen Kane, a tree planted by water

Eryn Allen Kane’s voice is so powerful it’s undeniable and astounding. Her dynamic and room filling vocal presence is the reason that early on in her career as a rising Chicago soul singer, she was co-signed by Prince and collaborated on songs with the late icon, and now, as a Los Angelino she’s working with Quincy Jones. Listening to her a tree planted by water EP, he first release in two years, it’s easy to see why these musical legends gravitate toward her talent. Lead single “fragile” vulnerable tackles generational trauma with its opening line, “My mother was a blind architect, her mother was too / Designing huge walls no man could ever get through” and her voice is more than capable of capturing that pain. —Josh Terry


SadGirl, Water

Water is a heartbroken record, but it doesn’t linger on heartbreak. It’s emotionally available, which is where a name like SadGirl matches the music made by three dudes. This is something Lindes has thought about endlessly and something he still struggles with. “When I started the group I was trying to challenge the like macho punk mentally shit that I knew coming out of Venice growing up as a kid, and having a group that didn’t have some violent machismo name was my way of challenging that headspace,” he says. It’s less ironic than a direct confrontation of a hyper-masculinity that still pervades Los Angeles and the music scene, although in a different way than it did when Lindes was growing up. —Will Schube, “ SadGirl Make Music to Soundtrack LA and All of Its Contradictions

Pinkish Black, Concept Unification

Four albums deep, the experimental Pinkish Black still draws on all sorts of gothic horrors in the creeping music they make together. The opening track alone on Concept Unification describes of bending bones and unscrewing skin as synthesizers slink and swirl over one another in a nauseating malaise. The rest of the record continues in kind—they sing of cosmic annihilation and anxiety and death—well-trod material for many of the doom metal bands to whom they are compared. But their unearthly mumbles hit even harder than those peers since they’re focusing on more electronic atmospheres, there’s no sense of humanity to temper their grave lyrical concerns. There’s just steely electronics, and the cold, dark void. —Colin Joyce