Tuesday, June 28, 2022
June 28, 2022

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5 tuneful new albums for spring

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Hester Chambers, left, and Rhian Teasdale of British band Wet Leg perform at Night & Day Cafe in Manchester, England, on Oct. 23, 2021.
Hester Chambers, left, and Rhian Teasdale of British band Wet Leg perform at Night & Day Cafe in Manchester, England, on Oct. 23, 2021. (Andy Von Pip/Zuma Press/TNS) (Daniel DeSlover/Zuma Press) Photo Gallery

PHILADELPHIA — There’s a song called “Fo Sho” on Kurt Vile’s parenthetically titled new album “(Watch My Moves)” in which the Philadelphia guitarist boasts of his impressive longevity in the music game.

“I know I’m right, and I’ve been doing this a long time,” Vile sings in his signature drawl over a loping, hypnotic groove. “Since before I was born.”

Well, maybe not that long. But the 42-year-old songwriter, who was raised in Lansdowne and lives in Mount Airy, does make timeless music that’s unmistakably his own while also consciously drawing from his classic rock forebears.

The top-notch new “(Watch My Moves),” which is a standout among this month’s new music releases, is a pivotal album for Vile, whose 2008 debut, “Constant Hitmaker,” was released on Matador Records.

After seven more albums on that indie label, Vile has moved on to Verve Records, where he now counts Jon Batiste and Diana Krall as label mates.

That doesn’t mean that Vile, whose music has always had an improvisational bent, has become a jazzer — though James Stewart of Sun Ra Arkestra does appear on the single “Like Exploding Stones.”

Verve is owned by Universal Music Group, so that makes “(Watch My Moves)” Vile’s first album on a major label.

Don’t expect concessions to commercialism, though. What “(Watch My Moves)” does, rather than shift Vile’s focus, is emphasize the casually entrancing, semi-psychedelic, Zen approach to songwriting he’s long been known for.

The album opens with Vile accompanying himself on piano on the characteristically charming “Goin’ on a Plane Today.” Along with 14 new songs, the album includes a smartly selected cover of the Bruce Springsteen rarity “Wages of Sin.” It was recorded at OKV Central, the home studio Vile built during the pandemic, as well as in Los Angeles.

The video for beautifully dreamy “Mount Airy Hill” captures Vile wandering in Wissahickon Valley Park, where he’s the masked man pictured with daughters Awilda and Delphine on the album cover.

And the newest video from “(Watch)” is for the acoustic mood piece “Flyin (Like a Fast Train).” It finds Vile playing guitar while walking along railroad tracks and riding commuter trains, and serves as an homage to the singer’s father, Charlie Vile, who worked as a SEPTA rail conductor. Like “(Watch My Moves)” at its best, the “Flyin” clip takes you on a quietly magical ride.

In addition to Vile’s latest, here are four more recommended releases that are new this month.

  • Wet Leg, “Wet Leg”: The most buzzed-about release of the month — or for that matter, the year — is the self-titled debut by Wet Leg, the duo of singer-guitarists Hester Chambers and Rhian Teasdale, who hail from the Isle of Wight, off the southern coast of England.

The song that catapulted the duo from anonymity is “Chaise Longue,” the clever and super-catchy first single that snuck its way onto year-end best of 2021 playlists. It instantly went into heavy rotation on public radio music stations.

“Chaise Longue” grates with repeated listens. But the pleasant surprise is that Wet Leg turns out to be full of nongimmicky songs about sex, friendship, and groceries, like “Wet Dream,” that put to rest any worries that the band is a one-novelty wonder.

  • Vince Staples, “Ramona Park Broke My Heart”: Vince Staples has been so consistently excellent in the years since his 2015 debut album “Summertime ’06” that his failure to become a household hip-hop name is somewhat puzzling.

Part of the answer is that the Long Beach, Calif., rapper tends to shift focus from project to project, and his clear, sharply observed missives from the streets are almost too matter-of-fact in their delivery for pop consumption. Despite its title, “Ramona Park Broke My Heart” is not as downcast as last year’s companion piece, which was simply called “Vince Staples.”

But although the West Coast funk backdrops, provided by a variety of producers including Mustard and DJ Dahi, are buttery and pleasing, Staples can bring the listener up short as he describes a world where violence is ever present. In “When Sparks Fly,” the protagonist’s most cherished relationship is with a firearm. And “The Beach” issues a caution: “In the city, baby, your first rap can be a murder rap.”

  • Jack White, “Fear of the Dawn”: The now blue-haired guitar hero has always been shrewd when it comes to presenting his retro rock and blues obsession in shiny packaging, going back to the red-and-white color-coordinated White Stripes.

“Fear of the Dawn” is the first of two albums due this year from the Third Man Records auteur, who got engaged and married to musician Olivia Jean at a show in his hometown of Detroit recently. (The second album, “Entering Heaven Alive,” is due on July 22.)

White doesn’t occupy the place in pop culture he did in the ’00s when White Stripes were at their zenith, though “Seven Nation Army” and “Fell in Love With a Girl” still rev up crowds at packed sports stadiums worldwide. But he’s still got plenty of tricks up his sleeve and knows how to deliver a lightning bolt solo or a creepy theremin interlude for maximum drama.

From “Hi-De-Ho,” which samples Cab Calloway and pairs White off with A Tribe Called Quest rapper Q-Tip, to the vampiric “Eosophobia,” White’s fourth album is a fun-house ride of thrills and chills.

  • The Linda Lindas, “Growing Up”: The most unadulterated fun to be had among these releases is without question on “Growing Up,” maybe because the music is not made by adults. The Linda Lindas are four Asian and Latinx punk rock girls, ranging in age from 11 to 17.

They came to fame last year via a viral video of their song “Racist, Sexist Boy” at the Los Angeles Public Library, with then 10-year-old drummer Mila de la Garza wearing a Bikini Kill shirt.

Much as with Wet Leg, “Growing Up” turns out to be a proving ground where the band, which takes its name from the 2005 Japanese movie “Linda Linda Linda,” demonstrates that they have a full album’s worth of smart, snappy songs.

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