Medium Rotation —Versions of Modern Performance; Farm to Table; Remember Your North Star

HORSEGIRL Versions of Modern Performance (Matador) — It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Versions of Modern Performance, the debut album from the Chicago band Horsegirl, starts exactly as it should: Gigi Reece’s thumping drums all alone for a few second before Nora Cheng and Penelope Lowenstein join in succession with their guitars, the cut “Anti-Glory” sounding both headlong and artfully disaffected in the manner of a indie rock template that is now decades old. Considering the members of Horsegirl are all right around the age of transitioning from high school to college, that makes them left-of-the-dial old souls. These whippersnappers perform with remarkable assurance as they evoke their aural ancestors, whether on “Beautiful Song,” fulsome as lilting storm clouds in the manner of toned-down Sleater-Kinney, or “Electrolocation 2,” which is like a Sonic Youth buzzy rumination that’s blessedly, uncharacteristically approachable. Every note, chord, lyric, and drumbeat lands just right, as satisfying and sturdy as a nicely worn-in pair of Doc Martens. In addition to the cuts noted above, take a galloping ride with “Live and Ski,” “The Fall of Horsegirl,” “Option 8,” and “Homage to Birdnoculars.”

BARTEES STRANGE Farm to Table (4AD) — If Bartees Strange’s debut album, Live Forever, was a toy box that sprung open and sent different musical ideas careening around the room in a dazzling swarm of sound (and it was), the follow-up from the Washington, D.C.–based stylistic polymath explores a more controlled version of the same glorious freedom. Farm to Table is more focused while still spilling forth with pent-up ambition as ranges from the easygoing epic “Heavy Heart” to the tender and comparatively spare “Tours.” As before, Strange lyrically preoccupied with his place in the world, expressed through reckoning with family, his inner emotions, and the broader culture. Listening to the record is like being immersed in the encyclopedia of Strange’s soul. The offhand intensity of his creative expression and relentless invention is paralleled by few other artists in this given moment, and fewer still who as restlessly prolific as him. Go deeper into the album and serve up “Mulholland Dr.,” “Hold the Line,” “Black Gold,” and “Hennessy.”

YAYA BEY Remember Your North Star (Big Dad) — Smooth and cool, seemingly effortlessly so on both counts, the new album from Yaya Bey is a catharsis you can groove to. A R&B creator from Brooklyn, Bey worked on much of the material on Remember Your North Star in the wake of a messy divorce, building music as she rebuilt her sense self. The result is neither a croon of ache and disturbance like Kacey Musgraves’s Star-Crossed nor the angry swing of a baseball bat that is the one true queen’s Lemonade. This is instead of sound of someone straightening herself up, brushing away whatever detritus is still clinging to her, and speaking her plain truth. And it’s a striking truth to be sure, delivered with a wide-ranging looseness within her chosen sonic sphere. The album is consistently engaging as it shifts its boundaries. “nobody knows” is like TLC after a chillwave immersion. and “meet me in brooklyn” has an irresistible lounge shimmy. With its jazz-flecked verve, “reprise” might be the real centerpiece as Bey exposes all her wounds — from lovers, from friends, from family — as context for her statement of purpose and survival: “What would I know?/ And who would I be?/ If I had not been who I needed to be?” Follow the high, shining lights of the following: “keisha,” “pour up,” “don’t fucking call me,” and the pointed, achingly hopeful “blessings.”

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