This Week’s New Music: March 10, 2017

It’s another week of great new music releases. Take a look at what’s grabbed our ears this week. 

Valerie June artworkValerie June, The Order of Time

Only a musician from Memphis, where blues, rock and country are never terribly distinct from one another, could make an album that subverts genres as brazenly as The Order of Time. Of course, Valerie June always was difficult to pigeonhole, but now she’s downright impossible. Country soul (“Love You Once Made”) sits alongside garage-bred gospel swing, which in turn gives way to folk-rock that finds a halfway point between Appalachia and postmodernism (“If And”). Featuring loads of electric guitar, atmospheric haze and even strings, The Order of Time also is June’s most fleshed out album to date, yet the star of the show remains her idiosyncratic drawl, which can flip from innocent and starry eyed to vengeful and defiant at the drop of a dime. –Justin Farrar

brian fresco artworkBrian Fresco, Casanova

Brian Fresco hails from Chicago and one of the hottest scenes in current hip-hop. His latest mixtape, Casanova, boasts plenty of star power, including a cameo from Grammy winner Chance the Rapper on “Higher,” a vocal from BJ The Chicago Kid on the SWV-inspired “Lonely,” and other hometown heroes like GLC (“Transition”), CJ Fly (“Lean”) and Katie Got Bandz (“Lit”). Ironically, the best songs feature no one but himself. On “Call,” he rhymes in a wheezy, drunken voice about texting his dreams and desires to a girl while “Honey” finds him rocking and bouncing lyrics over a midtempo house beat. –Mosi Reeves

pentatonix artworkPentatonix, “Imagine”

A capella group Pentatonix covers John Lennon’s infamous “Imagine.” Harmonizing vocals and beat boxing take the place of the original track’s piano and background music as each member of the group trade verses. PTX showcase their stunning vocal range at the height of the single with passionate interchanging high notes belting out the statement “live as one” which also serves as a finale as they sing in unison and in the same key end together “as one.” —Jazmyn Pratt

the shins artworkThe Shins, Heartworms

The Shins’ first full-length since 2012’s Port of MorrowHeartworms is an album obsessed with new wave. It’s punchy, plastic and vibrantly romantic. This largely was by design. After all, in interviews leading up to its release James Mercer cited both The Cars and Buzzcocks as inspirations. But there’s also a lot of early Squeeze lurking in the endearingly cheeky wordplay flowing through “Name for You” and the punky “Half a Million.” Of course, it wouldn’t be a Shins album without a few ear-tickling curveballs. One of them, “Dead Alive,” still possesses an early ’80s sensibility, yet it’s been encased in flickering electronic pop that’s thoroughly 21st century. –Justin Farrar

josh turner artworkJosh Turner, Deep South

His sweet-tea-smooth baritone dips even deeper to close the John Anderson-worthy title-track opener, and Josh Turner quickly establishes on his first album in five years that “deep” doesn’t just refer to all the land-of-cotton states he namechecks. In both “Deep South” and around-the-way country hit “Hometown Girl,” he praises multiple generations marking territory while “Southern Drawl” taps regional pride as well. But what holds the album together is guitars: back-porch blues on “All About You” and “Beach Bums,” jangling western rock in “One Like Mine,” then finally, “Hawaiian Girl,” which features an island-steel hula that hillbilly music first danced nine decades ago. –Chuck Eddy

Folk_Hop_N_Roll_Official_Album_Cover_-_1600x1600_grande_e91afbae-abda-4aaa-bb1d-49ee0e6b1784_grandeJudah & The Lion, Folk Hop N’ Roll

With Folk Hop N’ Roll Judah & The Lion banish all those nagging Mumford and Sons and Avett Brothers comparisons to the trash heap. The band still loves its Americana, but it’s now filtered through a dizzying array of ideas, from hip-hop and psych-rock to EDM and pure pop. One minute, the quartet is weaving mandolins through funky breakdowns (“Take It All Back”); the next they’re riding waves of reverb into the cosmos (“Insane”). The music’s grand sonic ambitions are matched by singer Judah Akers’ huge, passionate cry and boundless optimism. As he sings on “Graffiti Dreams,” the album’s opener, “I want to breath life into dead ones/I want fly high and touch the sun.” –Justin Farrar

goldlink artworkGoldlink, “Meditation”

It’s no longer unusual for rappers to dip into deep house beats, but few do it with as much sincerity and commitment as Goldlink. The Washington, D.C. rapper continues to build momentum toward his major label debut with “Meditation,” a track with rising electronic producer Kaytranada and Jazmine Sullivan. The song has a propulsive energy that will make you want to move –- at least until it shockingly ends with the sounds of crowd noise and gun shots. –Mosi Reeves

astrid s artworkAstrid S, “Breathe”

Astrid S is love crazy in her debut single “Breathe.” With its dance-inducing electronic production, Astrid sings about her nervousness while being around a new love interest and how she has to stock up on oxygen. She even asks if she was slipped a “magic pill” because of her overwhelming feelings. Although the lyrics sound like she’s uncomfortable, her cheerful voice and  the song’s groovy beat lift things, which end up making the track a perfect spring fling. So grab your friends and hit the dance floor, but don’t forget to breathe! —Jazmyn Pratt