The Best New Releases: July 8

Switchfoot

Switchfoot, Where the Light Shines Through

On their first full-length for Vanguard, San Diego’s Switchfoot dive deeper into the sun-kissed melodies and dreamy beach grooves they unveiled on 2014’s Fading West. As “Shake This Feeling” and “Hope Is the Anthem” attest, the band remains rooted in its trademark blend of guitar-driven alternative rock and CCM, yet it now comes wrapped in warm psychedelic ripples, iridescent reverb and touches of electronica. Thematically speaking, they straddle the line between the secular and devotional to the point that often they blur together. “Holy Water,” for example, speaks to both their faith and their spiritual-like love of the ocean. After all, Switchfoot just aren’t Christians; they’re SoCal surfers as well. –Justin Farrar

The Avalanches, Wildflower
The Avalanches, Wildflower

The Avalanches, Wildflower

A mere 16 years after turning the pop music world on its head with its sample-driven debut, Since I Left You — a dizzying, beautifully orchestrated work of true fanatics — The Avalanches finally released the follow-up, Wildflower. Oddly, it feels like little time has passed at all. The Australian outfit’s second album draws on many of the same sources, reviving the big beat sound of Fatboy Slim on “Frankie Sinatra” and lapping up the psychedelic sunshine in “Colours,” which perfectly employs Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue. Despite the epic wait, head Avalanches Robbie Chater and Tony Di Blasi never sit still for long, careening between glitchy funk, abrasive garage rock and manic soul — making you wonder if it didn’t take that long just trying to contain all their ideas. –Aidin Vaziri

Schoolboy Q, Blank Face
Schoolboy Q, Blank Face

Schoolboy Q, Blank Face

With his second major label album, Schoolboy Q continues to assert himself as the Top Dawg camp’s grimiest member. If his colleague Kendrick Lamar — who briefly appears as a backing voice on “By Any Means” — appeals to our intellects, then Q fulfills our desire for seamy street antics. He asserts, “I’m a gangbanging deadbeat father and drug dealer” over the crackling live drums and gospel overtones of “Lord Have Mercy,” then claims, “We used to run from the cops/Now we buying the block” over the post-disco EDM of “Whateva U Want.” He resurrects the slovenly growl of Ol’ Dirty Bastard on “Kno Ya Wrong,” and trades verses with Jadakiss on “Groovy Tony” and Kanye West on “That Part.” The aura of Blank Face is of stark, thuggish menace. –Mosi Reeves

Chevelle, The North Corridor
Chevelle, The North Corridor

Chevelle, The North Corridor

Chevelle are devout minimalists who rarely, if ever, clog up their sound with trendy hooks in hopes of attracting a more pop-oriented audience. As The North Corridor demonstrates time and time again, the veteran power trio like their alt metal stripped down, jagged and downright nasty. The ominous “Door to Door Cannibals” sets the stage with an absurdly muscular groove that locks horns with Pete Loeffler’s beastly, tortured howls. A gloriously sneering rebuke of rock stardom, the static-soaked “Warhol’s Showbiz” reveals their longtime love for uncompromisingly pummeling art metal à la Tool and Helmet. On the dystopian brooder “Punchline,” they make a rare detour in dark, spacey contours, yet even at their most atmospheric Chevelle have a unique ability to infuse their music with a dense and resolutely titanic sense of heaviness.

Shura, Nothing's Real
Shura, Nothing’s Real

Shura, Nothing’s Real

Shura embarks on a career as a moody pop princess with Nothing’s Real. The album hails forth with lo-fi synth-driven pop that is sometimes dark, but consistently intricate IDM and electro Casio sounds counter Shura’s pop-star voice. “Touch” is a catchy, meandering anti-love song with warm pads and spare programming, while “2Shy” examines the predicament of love lost as Shura condemns herself for her inability to engage due to shyness, building  to a dramatic percussive crescendo. “The Space Tapes” is a leftfield B-side gem with an eerie echoing refrain of “Kill them all” resonating through an off-kilter synth, offset by Jetsons-era spacey loops. –Sara Jayne Crow

Biffy Clyrio, Ellipsis
Biffy Clyrio, Ellipsis

Biffy Clyro, Ellipsis

Ellipsis finds Biffy Clyro putting considerable distance between themselves and the new prog genre that they helped pioneer throughout the ’00s. Instead of complex arrangements and expansive soundscapes, they deliver a pleading, urgent and, at times, emotionally tormented mix of indignant rockers and aching ballads. On the opening “Wolves of Winter,” the band lash out against derisive music critics with a riff-raging pomp that would make Queen proud. They then launch into “Animal Style,” a feral examination of obsession and self-loathing powered by prickly post-punk beats. Maybe the most unexpected number is “Small Wishes.” At first blush, it’s a country-tinged mediation on Scottish independence. But when Simon Neil chants the phrase “For this is not what we chose,” it becomes all too obvious that the song also speaks to a restless, existential yearning for freedom that simmers inside the singer’s soul. –Justin Farrar

BadBadNotGood, IV
BadBadNotGood, IV

BadBadNotGood, IV

BadBadNotGood are truly a singular entity. The Canadian jazz outfit’s debut album, released in 2010, boasted improvisation-heavy covers of songs by the likes of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Nas and J Dilla. Its last release, Sour Soul, was a collaboration with Wu Tang’s Ghostface Killa. In between, the members have backed Frank Ocean at Coachella, written songs with Rihanna and Drake and won the endorsement of Odd Future’s Tyler the Creator. The Toronto band’s fourth studio album, IV, meanwhile, shows even more versatility. It’s the first to feature vocalists and the band takes full advantage of the new frontier, moving effortlessly from the brooding soul of “Time Moves Slow,” which features Future Islands’ Sam Herring, to the insistent funk of “Lavender,” a showcase for vocalist Kaytranada. –Aidin Vaziri

The Knocks, 55.5
The Knocks, 55.5

The Knocks, 55.5

The electronic power duo Ben “B-Roc” Ruttner and James “JPatt” Patterson are The Knocks and return with 55.5, a follow-up to their debut 55, with collaborations from such luminaries as Fetty Wap, Cam’ron, Wyclef Jean, Justin Tranter, Carly Rae Jepsen, Matthew Koma, Magic Man, Alex Newell, POWERS, X Ambassadors, Phoebe Ryan and Walk the Moon. The Knocks are known for their work with pop princesses Ellie Goulding, Britney Spears and Katy Perry as well as Taylor Swift remixes, and 55.5 conjures this hard-hitting pop hit history, especially in “Classic,” a rework of the original from 55, featuring vocals from alternative pop duo POWERS and Fetty Wap. The reimagined “Best for Last” is a dancefloor stunner with solid breaks and vocals from Walk The Moon. For DJs who have tired of oft-played hits from 55, 55.5 supplies new material to refresh the mix. –Sara Jayne Crow

DENM, Lit
DENM, Lit

DENM, “Lit”

California producer DENM emerges with the debut “Lit,” a summery track reminiscent of classic late-’90s UK garage with lyrics crafted for Bacchanalian day party indulgence: “I just wanna dance/I just wanna feel good/I just wanna love you.” A bath of warm synth pads forms a stronghold for janky percussive overlays, giving way to a euphoric break midway through the track. The freshman producer launches strong with the single from the forthcoming Dreamhouse EP. –Sara Jayne Crow