It’s hard to discern what’s behind the blonde bombshell personas favored by Billie Eilish and Annie Clark (St. Vincent) these days, though they seem to share a fascination for nostalgia filtered through a future lens. While we wait for Eilish’s late-summer release, the new St. Vincent album Daddy’s Home (Loma Vista) addresses her father’s return from a prison sentence for financial crimes. Clark’s appearance on Saturday Night Live mixed a throwback cabaret delivery with typically odd St. Vincent content, and the first side of her new album starts off just as perplexing.
But after wading through “Pay Your Way in Pain” and the title track, it’s clear this is one of those rare albums whose second side offers a much bigger payload than the first. “Down,” “Somebody Like Me” and “My Baby Wants a Baby” is one of the strongest pop-music sequences in memory. It’s the second St. Vincent album in which Taylor Swift collaborator Jack Antonoff aids in songwriting and production, giving her deeply personal narrative a footprint big enough for anyone to appreciate.
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Current Joys, Voyager (Secretly Canadian) – Nick Rattigan has an arresting voice suggestive of Okkervil River’s Will Sheff or The Cure’s Robert Smith, but his discipline in laying down each piano trill, each bass guitar track hews closer to Steely Dan or Death Cab for Cutie. Rattigan released six previous albums as Current Joys, but this is his first recorded in a studio, with a full band, and significant quantities of the physical album produced. It’s apparent in songs like “Dancer in the Dark” and “Altered States” why Rattigan has become a TikTok hero.
Teenage Fanclub, Endless Arcade (Merge) – The Scottish band from a Glasgow suburb has been around for more than 30 years, but the defining moment came in their third album, 1991’s Bandwagonesque. Their 12th album tries to preserve the collective songwriting method from the 1990s, but the departure of founder Gerard Love in 2018 gave the band more of a high-lonesome Americana feel akin to Feelies or Jayhawks. It’s beautiful and peaceful music for a lazy summer day, but the lyricism still isn’t quite at the level of the band’s heyday. But with a dozen albums this nice, that may be a minor quibble.