New releases for 29 September 2023

This week’s blockbusters open with The Harmony Codex. This seventh solo album by Steven Wilson takes you on a trip: it’s a genre-spanning collection that opens up like a musical puzzle box, presenting a series of endlessly beautiful vistas that roll out and shift in front of you. Arguably the best album Wilson has made during a career that’s spanned more than three decades both as a band leader and as a solo artist, it represents the apotheosis of a life spent fully absorbed in music. While The Harmony Codex nods to records from Wilson’s recent past, at times echoing the paranoid rumble of 2008’s Insurgentes, the crystalline electronics of 2021’s The Future Bites and the expansive storytelling of 2013’s The Raven that Refused to Sing (and Other Stories), here he has managed to create something entirely unique, a record that exists outside of the notion of genre. And although The Harmony Codex is a record made with spatial audio in mind, it’s not one that needs an elaborate sound system to lift you out of body – two speakers and an open mind will do just fine.

Growing up in a family of music lovers, a lot of the songs Megan and Rebecca Lovell have always gravitated towards learning have been with them since childhood. In 2015 they started a YouTube series dedicated to paying tribute to their musical heroes that unexpectedly took off; then, when fans of Larkin Poe began requesting recorded versions of the songs, the sisters started daydreaming about how an interpretive album might take shape. In recording Kindred Spirits, their admiration for the artists who originally wrote and performed the songs blossomed into an even deeper reverence. Bringing these songs into the studio, stripping them back to the bones and recording them live and raw felt like a ritual.

Proud Kentucky rockers Black Stone Cherry emerge triumphantly from a challenging few years with a behemoth of an album, Screamin’ at the Sky. The four-piece band’s eighth album explodes with urgently emotive pop-rock hooks, heartfelt, redemptive lyrics, headbanging riffs, powerful dynamics, thunderous drums and its most thrilling musicianship yet. The 12-song collection is also BSC’s biggest and best-sounding album. The self-produced studio record was tracked at a classic Kentucky theatre, and it sounds like the guys are smashing down the hammer of the gods.

Ed Sheeran is an era-defining artist who has sold over 52 million albums and 150 million singles across the globe. Through his fusion of thought-provoking songwriting, universal pop and multi-genre influence, his rich tapestry is not only perfectly suited to his audience; it’s something that transcends generations. Like (‘Subtract’), which came out in May, Ed’s second album of 2023 was produced by Aaron Dessner, guitarist for The National. The 14 tracks on this collection explore shared emotions of love, heartbreak, depression and loneliness among Sheeran and his friends.

Distinguishing itself from Animal Collective’s expansive catalogue, Isn’t It Now? is their first album since Centipede Hz (2012) to be recorded with all four members in the same room at the same time. To bring it all together, the band enlisted multi-Grammy-winning producer Russell Elevado (D’Angelo, Al Green, Alicia Keys, The Dandy Warhols) to co-produce alongside the band. Across its 9 tracks, Isn’t It Now? has something for everyone, from the catchy bassline on the highly-repeatable single ‘Gem and I’ to the heady 22-minute centrepiece, ‘Defeat’.

Our release of the week is Wilco’s thirteenth studio album, Cousin, which was recorded in the band’s legendary Chicago studio The Loft over a period of two years. The ten new tracks were written by band leader Jeff Tweedy and feature musical performances by the long-time line-up of Nels Cline, Mikael Jorgensen, Glenn Kotche, John Stirratt, Pat Sansone and, of course, Tweedy on lead vocals. After a short detour back into their country-influenced roots via last year’s Cruel Country double album, Cousin finds Wilco back in their more familiar progressive and experimental rock territory. Tweedy’s singular songwriting voice is in full evidence, with lyrics weaving across a variety of topics from the iconoclastic to the introspective.

Wilco - CousinSteven Wilson - The Harmony CodexLarkin Poe - Kindred SpiritsBlack Stone Cherry - Screamin’ at the SkyEd Sheeran - Autumn VariationsAnimal Collective - Isn’t It Now

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