Wake me up cause September has ended! Fall is upon us and it looks like there are still contenders for album of the year that have yet to be released. Though the past month saw heavy hitters like Lana Del Rey, BROCKHAMPTON, Charli XCX, and JPEGMAFIA put out bangers, ballads, and blistered fingers, there is more yet to come from some of the music scene’s hottest and most critically revered acts. As artists evolve, flesh out their sound, or change it altogether, the month of October looks to have what could be some of the year’s (or perhaps the decade’s) best offerings in music. Here’s five records I’m personally looking forward to stream on repeat for this month.
Angel Olsen, All Mirrors (October 4)
With her latest release, the St. Louis-born singer-songwriter follows up 2016’s critically adored My Woman by further setting her sound apart from earlier releases. All Mirrors features boisterous, almost operatic production, a far-cry from previous records like Burn Your Fire for No Witness. Olsen’s feelings of lovesickness and cynicism, heavily apparent in her songwriting in the past, dissolves as she is now a woman seeking to find new love and love within herself.
Olsen said in a statement, “this record is about owning up to your darkest side, finding the capacity for new love, and trusting change even when you feel like a stranger.” The artist displays this and more on tracks already released. With 80s synths blaring everywhere on the track “All Mirrors”, Olsen hones a decade-defining sound she utilized throughout My Woman. Her intimate songwriting collides with her powerful voice, defiant against feelings of shame and inadequacy. On “Lark”, Olsen projects feelings of heartbreak and desperation to regain lost love, only to come to the resolution that it wasn’t meant to be. The overwhelming orchestral arrangement pairs perfectly with the singer’s raw intensity, devastating lyrics clashing with the messages of My Woman’s best singles like the passionate “Shut Up, Kiss Me”. With tracks like these, the album is setting up to be one of the year’s biggest and best indie records.
Danny Brown, uknowhatimsayin¿ (October 4)
“We got one foot in the grave, and one on a banana peel” opens the utter earworm that is “Dirty Laundry,” the first track previewed for what rapper Danny Brown calls his “stand-up comedy album,” uknowhatimsayin¿ The more comical tone of the record stands in stark contrast with Brown’s 2016 release, Atrocity Exhibition, a dark, morbid cry-for-help praised as one of the best rap records that year. Comparing the tracks from each album feels like going from one of the darkest episodes of Rick and Morty to the more absurd editions of the Eric Andre Show (the video for “Dirty Laundry” even plays like an Eric Andre sketch).
On Brown’s other preview track, “Best Life,” the throwback production from Q-Tip complements the opening verse, immersing listeners in the artist’s experiences growing up. Tip joins frequent producer and collaborator Paul White, along with the likes of Blood Orange, Run the Jewels, and the aforementioned JPEGMAFIA as contributors on what should be a more accessible album compared to Atrocity Exhibition. The tracks so far are reminiscent of 90s hip-hop acts like Digital Underground (whose song “Humpty Dance” referenced in “Dirty Laundry”) and Busta Rhymes, while never compromising Brown’s trademark lyricism.
Wilco, Ode to Joy (October 4)
For once I can actually say that I am excited for a Wilco release! Though this is the 11th studio album for the indie-rock legends, it can be argued that recent releases like Star Wars and Schmilco have been fairly unremarkable in terms of their sound. However, Ode to Joy acts as a return to the Chicago band’s late 90s sound, with the tracks released so far being worthy of comparison to albums like Summerteeth. The lively guitar chords from Nels Cline paired with the motivated though free-flowing songwriting from singer Jeff Tweedy presents an opportunity for the band to return to a position of glory not really seen since 2001’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
Often vocal of the current state of politics, Tweedy calls the record “defiantly joyful,” during an interview with NPR Music: “one thing that is worth feeling, that is worth fighting for, is your freedom to still have joy.” The band demonstrates that the struggle to stay resilient and maintain this feeling is complex, with tracks like “Love Is Everywhere (Beware)” pairing the desire to feel at ease with the fear of vulnerability in Tweedy’s somber vocals. The production and instrumentation on the track features ethereal background harmonies and twinkling percussion, with guitars reverberating throughout. The playful “Everybody Hides” has Tweedy dishing out whimsical lyrics that sound like a child being read a bedtime story, as the video sees the band engaging in an elaborate game of hide and seek with the reluctantly seeking couch-potato Tweedy. It feels good to look forward to something, especially a display of what we can and should have and why we should strive for it.
Devonté Hynes, Fields (October 11)
The only entry with no tracks out yet, artist Devonté Hynes steps away from his Blood Orange act in order to fulfill a longstanding passion. Though he has previously put out incredible hip-hop infused soul albums like Freetown Sound and Negro Swan, Hynes has chosen to instead return to his classical training and produce an orchestral composition through a collaboration with Grammy-winning quartet Third Coast Percussion. Hynes says when describing the production process, “This was the first time I’ve written music that I’ve never played, and I love that.” He truly does, as he says that classically arranged pieces are “the music I mainly listen to.” Though it is hard to form expectations for an album that lacks any preview samples, the fact that Hynes is attached to it inspires excitement regardless.
clipping., There Existed an Addiction to Blood (October 18)
Without a doubt inspired by the scores of horror auteur John Carpenter’s most famous movies, the trio of clipping. attempt the near impossible of outdoing what was by far their best album to date: 2016’s Splendor and Misery. One of my personal favorite records of the decade, the idiosyncratic space oddity plays like an Arthur C. Clarke sci-fi epic by way of Colson Whitehead’s condemnation of racial injustice. Though if anyone can pull of a follow-up of this magnitude, lyricist Daveed Digs (Hamilton, Black-ish) and his phenomenal producers can. On their latest project, the trio delve further into their pre-established industrial sound by trading sci-fi for slasher and really letting the inspiration take hold of them. The chilling keyboard intro on the track “Nothing is Safe” crescendos to a claustrophobic, atmospheric trap nightmare of getting manhandled by Michael Myers himself. Producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes kick up the industrial sound even higher on the psychotically visceral “La Mala Ordina,” with Digs and features from Benny the Butcher becoming increasingly distorted until they’re unrecognizable, like the chopped-up corpses described in the verses. Rough tracks like these bring pioneering industrial acts like Ministry, Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails to mind, which feels appropriate given that this is the month of Halloween and all things horror.