November's Best New Music

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  • Publish Date: November 30, 2011

The best albums released this month

Below, we look at the past month's best-reviewed new LP releases. For each album below, we list the percentages of "great" critic reviews (with an individual critic score above 80), "good" critic reviews (61-80), "mixed" reviews (40-60), and "bad" reviews (below 40).

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Sepalcure 90 (Hotflush)
by Sepalcure

Listen to "Pencil Pimp"

It's only available digitally (so far, at least; a CD release should happen in January) from the dubstep label Hotflush, but this self-titled debut album by New York duo Sepalcure has collected a handful of enthusiastic reviews. Dubstep might be too narrow a term to label the duo's sound; Pitchfork describes it generally as "politely mysterious rhythms put to life by haunted vocal samples" representing "an evolutionary moment, familiar and brief enough to gloss over, rich enough to return to." XLR8R is among the other publications offering similar praise, hearing "10 impeccable tunes that unfold more and more brilliantly with each consecutive listen." Other critics offer terms like "atmospheric" and "luxurious," while Spin admires how Sepalcure "kicks and caresses in equal measure." More reviews...

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50 Words for Snow 87 (Epitaph)
by Kate Bush

Listen to "Wild Man"

It's only the singer-songwriter's second album of new material in 17 years, but she seems to have used the extra time wisely: 50 Words for Snow has received near-universal praise, with a dozen reviews scoring 90 or higher. This ambitious and mature album contains seven lengthy (and, indeed, wintry) songs that blend elements of jazz, electronics, and orchestral arrangements with Bush's truly unique writing style and vocals that showcase her range. (Oh, and it also includes cameos by Elton John and actor Stephen Fry.) Be prepared for music that is "weird" and "peculiar"—there's certainly no "Running Up That Hill" here—but, notes Uncut, "the cumulative effect is remarkable," and, in the words of NOW, the result is "one of the year's most imaginative albums."More reviews...

Also by this artist:
Aerial 2005 81
Director's Cut 2011 81

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Weather 84 (Naive/Anti-)
by Me'Shell NdegéOcello

Chris Connelly and Benji Hughes guest on the Joe Henry-produced ninth album for the Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, who is no stranger to critical acclaim. Reviewers are finding Weather to be "direct" and "consistent," though the Village Voice describes it as an example of "freak folk" and hears echoes of both Leonard Cohen and Animal Collective. Regardless of how out there the album is, All Music Guide simply concludes that "Ndegeocello is making some of the finest music of her life." (And that's saying something.) More reviews...

Also by this artist:
The World Has Made Me The Man Of My Dreams 2007 84
Cookie: The Anthropological Mix Tape 2002 82
Devil's Halo 2009 78
Comfort Woman 2003 70

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Parallax 83 (4AD)
by Atlas Sound

Listen to "Terra Incognita"

When he isn't busy fronting the acclaimed indie band Deerhunter, Bradford Cox releases music under his side project, Atlas Sound. Actually, you may as well throw an "acclaimed" label on Atlas Sound too; the project's previous two releases each scored an 81. The science fiction-influenced Parallax, Atlas Sound's third studio album, is scoring even more highly with reviewers, who consider the album coherent and consistently strong, if perhaps a touch too restrained. The A.V. Club also considers Parallax to be surprisingly "approachable," and there's plenty of praise for how the music sounds, even if a few critics find it "slight" and lacking grit. More reviews...

Also by this artist:
Halcyon Digest by Deerhunter 2010 86
Logos 2009 81
Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel 2008 81
Microcastle by Deerhunter 2008 81
Rainwater Cassette Exchange by Deerhunter 2009 80
Cryptograms by Deerhunter 2007 77

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Four the Record 83 (Sony)
by Miranda Lambert

The country star's fourth album (she what she did there with that title?), which includes a duet with hubby Blake Shelton, is already the highest charting LP of her career. A couple of critics felt it was one of Lambert's weaker efforts, but the vast majority had the opposite reaction, praising both her songwriting and her singing. More reviews...

Also by this artist:
Revolution 2009 85
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 2007 85

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Carrion Crawler/The Dream 82 (In the Red)
by Thee Oh Sees

Listen to "Carrion Crawler"

It might be Thee Oh Sees' second album released in 2011, but Carrion Crawler/The Dream sounds like it could have been recorded in 1967. And, in this case, that's not a bad thing. The prolific, San Francisco-based, psychedelic garage-punk outfit are best known for their live act, and All Music Guide notes that this LP "captur[es] the range, energy, and freedom of their notoriously raging live performances in a way none of their previous records have." Other reviewers use terms like "manic," "frantic," and "unruly" to describe the sound here, and though it might be "straightforward" by Thee Oh Sees standards (i.e., "it would break the needle on the bizarre meter for a more conventional band," says Paste) it could be the group's best album yet. More reviews...

Also by this artist:
Help 2009 81
Castlemania 2011 77
Warm Slime 2010 70

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Take Care 81 (Cash Money)
by Drake

The second LP from Canadian actor-turned-Cash Money recording artist Drake has been building buzz for months, becoming one of fall's most-anticipated albums. And the reviews suggest that it was worth the wait, as Take Care has arrived as an even stronger release than Drake's 2010 debut Thank Me Later, drawing a few comparisons to the work of Kanye West. The impressive guest roster here includes Rihanna, Andre 3000, The Weeknd, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Wayne, but don't expect a standard hip-hop record. Instead, Take Care is "dense," "downbeat," moody, and, according to the A.V. Club, also "gorgeous, an immersive headphone masterwork that's tender and intimate like little else in contemporary rap and R&B." The production might be a bit stronger than Drake's vocal abilities or songwriting, but only a few critics found major faults with the record; that latter group complained that Take Care was "narcissistic" and insular, and "a toal downer." More reviews...

Also by this artist:
So Far Gone [EP] 2009 76
Thank Me Later 2010 75

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Replica 80 (Mexican Summer)
by Oneohtrix Point Never

Listen to the entire album:

Oneohtrix Point Never is the solo project for Daniel Lopatin (also of the electronica duo Ford & Lopatin, aka Games), who previously impressed critics with last year's Returnal. Here, he returns with a concept album (best listened to as a whole) composed chiefly of samples taken from old television commercials, accompanied by his usual retro synths. Spin notes that the result is less frenetic than past efforts; instead, Replica comes across as "languid" and "hypnotic." XLR8R admires this "brilliant new direction" for OPN's sound, and Resident Advisor deems it "madder, weirder and altogether more enticing" than typical drone music, though The Guardian admits that at times it veers "too close to the whiffy bongs and flotation tanks of 90s chillout." More reviews...

Also by this artist:
Channel Pressure by Ford & Lopatin 2011 78

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Komba 80 (Enchufada)
by Buraka Som Sistema

Listen to "Hangover (BaBaBa)"

African techno music from Portugal? Welcome to the world of Buraka Som Sistema. A variety of guests, ranging from rapper Afrikan Boy (who also appears on the recent DJ Shadow album) to Portuguese singer Sara Tavares provide vocals, but, as Okayplayer states, "It's all about the beats here." The New York Times concurs, describing the music as "insistently kinetic," while several critics suggest that Komba will leave you dancing or "rejoicing." Yet Clash Music somehow finds the venture boring. More reviews...

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Special mention: Box set
The SMiLE Sessions 98 (Capitol)
by The Beach Boys

It's not as polished as Brian Wilson's solo take (2004's SMiLE 97) on the same material, but that's not the point. One of the most legendary "lost" albums in rock history, SMiLE was originally recorded by the Beach Boys in 1966 and 1967 as the group's follow-up to Pet Sounds, but was never completed or released. Now, for the first time, the studio recordings from the original sessions are getting an official release, and a comprehensive one at that. Compiled from the 45-year-old master tapes with the participation of original band members Wilson, Al Jardine, and Mike Love, the SMiLE Sessions double-CD set is designed to approximate the album as it was originally intended (with plenty of bonus tracks), while a comprehensive 5-disc box set adds dozens of alternate takes and mixes and even studio chatter, offering hours of good vibrations (and literally over an hour of "Good Vibrations") for die-hard fans. Needless to say, many of the reviews use the word "brilliant." More reviews...

More Well-Reviewed November Albums
Album Label Metascore
Dive by TychoGhostly International79
The Dreamer by Etta JamesVerve78
Treefight for Sunlight by Treefight for SunlightFriendly Fire78
Humor Risk by Cass McCombsDomino78
9 1/2 Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s
and Early '80s
by Luke Haines
Fantastic Plastic77
An Album by Korallreven by KorallrevenAcephale77
Ceremonials by Florence + the MachineIsland76
Hello Sadness by Los Campesinos!Arts & Crafts75
Camp by Childish GambinoGlass Note75
Tumble Bee: Laura Veirs Sings Folk Songs for Children by Laura VeirsBella Union75
Without You by King Midas SoundHyperdub75
Avoid these:
The Vision by Joker4AD58
Here and Now by NickelbackRoadrunner Records57
Ersatz G.B. by The FallCherry Red56
Someone To Watch over Me by Susan BoyleSony Music56
At Your Inconvenience by Professor GreenVirgin46
Lulu by Lou Reed and MetallicaWarner Bros.41

The Metascore is a weighted average of scores from top professional critics, on a scale from 0 (bad) to 100 (good). User scores represent an average of scores assigned by Metacritic.com site visitors on a scale from 0 (bad) to 10 (good). All scores are from November 29, 2011.

What do you think?

What new albums or songs are in heavy rotation on your MP3 player? Let us know in the comments section below.

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