October's Best New Music

  • Publish Date: November 1, 2011
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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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Empros 91 (Sargent House)
by Russian Circles

Listen to "Mladek"

There are only six tracks on this dynamic fourth album by instrumental metal band Russian Circles, but they are heavy. While previous albums could almost be classified as post-rock, that's not the case here; "Empros is by far the closest thing to a true metal album that Russian Circles has ever made," reports the A.V. Club. Absolute Punk feels that Empros is ample evidence that Russian Circles are the best instrumental band working today, and several other reviewers think that this album is the band's best yet. More reviews...

Also by this artist:
Geneva 2009 79
Station 2008 73

ImageBad As Me 88 (Anti-)
by Tom Waits

Listen to "Bad As Me"

The legendary Tom Waits' first album of new material since 2004's Real Gone contains 13 new songs (and another 3 in the deluxe version), co-produced as usual with his wife Kathleen Brennan. And critics love it, with many calling it his best album in years. A vital, energetic, balanced, filler-free mix of ballads and "wild, rattling bawlers," Bad As Me appears to be classic Waits, suitable for newcomers and long-time fans alike. While the latter group may have heard similar things from the artist before, the Alternative Press (like many publications) doesn't seem to mind, saying the album works as a "'greatest methods' collection."More reviews...

Also by this artist:
Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards 2006 92
Alice 2002 90
Blood Money 2002 84
Glitter And Doom Live 2009 79
Real Gone 2004 78

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Looping State of Mind 85 (Kompakt)
by The Field

Listen to "Then It's White"

Swedish minimal techno artist Axel Willner, who records as The Field, hasn't shown any progression in album cover design since 2007's From Here We Go Sublime. Fortunately, his quality level has remained almost that consistent as well, with critics admiring his considerable composition skills on this third album, which should re-convert fans who were disappointed in Willner's second LP. Indeed, even the less enthusiastic reviewers here consider Looping to be a step up from the last album. But most critics are in fact enthusiastic about the new album, calling it "blissful," "awe-inspiring," and "magnificent," despite nearing (but, as the A.V. Club suggests, never quite reaching) "experimental" territory. And several publications consider it Willner's best album to date. More reviews...

Also by this artist:
From Here We Go Sublime 2007 90
Yesterday And Today 2009 79

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Glass Swords 85 (Warp)
by Rustie

Listen to "All Nite"

Glass Swords is the debut LP from Scottish electronic music producer Russell Whyte, who records under the name Rustie. And this fun, high energy album has made quite an impression on critics so far. Resident Advisor comments that Rustie's overall template is "influenced equally by progressive rock and video games," and that no matter how "self-consciously cheesy" his sounds may be, the quality of the songs and the overall flow of the album make everything work. Other critics note that the album is densely packed with sounds, but that Rustie "shows just the right amount of restraint to prevent total disarray," and knows "when to stick with it and when to move on." More reviews...

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On the Water 82 (Thrill Jockey)
by Future Islands

Listen to "Balance"

The Baltimore-based synthpop trio return with their second Thrill Jockey release and third album overall, a loose concept album intended to take the listener on a journey through his memories. Critics are noting a new maturity in the band's approach; Pop Matters admires how Sam Herring's distinctive vocals (which fall somewhere in between David Bowie and Tom Waits territory) have been turned down a notch, to better showcase the lush and textured music; the result is "a seriously melancholy—and quietly brilliant—album." Dusted agrees, finding that On the Water successfully balances the "previously competing dynamics" of chilly synths and emotional lyrics, though that publication also notes that the "smooth edges may inspire mixed reactions" among fans of the band. Some critics, however, find the new album to be a more difficult and confusing listen. More reviews...

Also by this artist:
In Evening Air 2010 74

ImageGhost People 81 (Brainfeeder)
by Martyn

Martyn is the alias of Dutch producer and DJ Martijn Deykers, who released one previous album, 2009's techno/dubstep blend Great Lengths. While this second LP may not be a classic, reviews are solid across the board. What does it sound like? Resident Advisor describes Ghost People's sound as "a skewed breakbeat house that forgoes the elegance his earlier material in favour of tough dancefloor material," adding that what it lacks in the first album's "sterling innovation it makes up for in confidence." The BBC admires how multi-faceted the album is, while Dusted similarly notes Martyn's "broad vocabulary" and also notes that despite the diversity, the LP features an "uninterrupted flow." Pitchfork, however, finds that while the album boasts "some engagingly slippery beats" and "plenty of intensity ... there's not a ton of immediate personality to this music." More reviews...

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Metals 80 (Interscope)
by Feist

Listen to "How Come You Never Go There"

While Metals may not boast any one track as catchy as "1234" from 2007's The Reminder, it captures some of the serenity of the Big Sur location where it was recorded, while also incorporating an organic feeling from its mostly live (rather than overdubbed) recording process. Ranging from poppy and peppy to string-enhanced ballads, the 12 tracks were recorded with musicians such as Chilly Gonzales and Bjork collaborator Valgeir Sigurðsson. A handful of critics find Metals a bit too atmospheric and "monochromatic," verging on "dull" at times. But others admire its sheer beauty, with No Ripcord declaring it to be a near flawless work, the L.A. Times describing the LP as "truly gorgeous," and Entertainment Weekly calling it "an artfully arranged opus with such natural beauty, it should be certified organic." More reviews...

Also by this artist:
The Reminder 2007 79

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Breaks in the Armor 80 (Merge)
by Crooked Fingers

Listen to "Typhoon"

The indie rock band led by former Archers of Loaf frontman Eric Bachmann return with their first new album in three years and sixth LP overall. Many critics point out that the sound of Breaks in the Armor is more stripped-down and spare than previous efforts, though several, like Under the Radar, find that it's still a great showcase of "Bachmann's strengths as a songwriter and as a compelling singer." More reviews...

Also by this artist:
Red Devil Dawn 2003 82
Dignity And Shame 2005 75
To The Races by Eric Bachmann 2006 69
Forfeit/Fortune 2008 68

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The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams 80 (Columbia)
by Various Artists

As the album title suggests, this compilation—curated by Bob Dylan—combines never-before-heard lyrics by the country legend with newly created music performed by an all-star roster that features Jack White, Sheryl Crow, Norah Jones, and Lucinda Williams, in addition to Dylan himself. While critic Robert Christgau misses Williams' voice (he finds that some of the artists here "lack character"), other reviewers find that many (though not all) of the singers acquit themselves well on the album. Indeed, the main problem here appears to be consistency, which pretty much is par for the course with such multi-artist compilations. More reviews...

More Well-Reviewed October Albums
Album Label Metascore
Lenses Alien by Cymbals Eat GuitarsBarsuk79
Biophilia by BjorkNonesuch79
Hurry Up, We're Dreaming by M83Mute78
Conatus by Zola JesusSacred Bones78
Ashes & Fire by Ryan AdamsCapitol78
Creatures of an Hour by Still CornersSub Pop78
Howl Of The Lonely Crowd by Comet GainWhat's Your Rupture?77
Revelation Road by Shelby LynneEverso Records77
How Do You Do by Mayer HawthorneRepublic76
4everevolution by Roots ManuvaBig Dada75
In the Pit of the Stomach by We Were Promised JetpacksFat Cat75
Days by Real EstateDomino75
Avoid these:
Clear as Day by Scotty McCreeryInterscope55
The Awakening by James MorrisonRepublic54
The Great Escape Artist by Jane's AddictionCapitol 53

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 October 31, 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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