October's Best New Music

  • Publish Date: October 29, 2010
  • Comments: ↓ 8 user comments

The best albums released this month

Below, we look at the past month's best-reviewed 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). Note that all song download links go to Hype Machine, where you can find the indicated MP3s on a variety of music blogs.

The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964 86 (Columbia)
by Bob Dylan

Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 1
Good bar 8
Mixed 0
Bad 0

While, technically, it may not be "new music," it is a new album. The ninth volume in the singer-songwriter's "Bootleg Series" is a two-disc set of solo demo tracks recorded across several sessions by Dylan (performing on the acoustic guitar, piano, and harmonica) while in his early 20s, and includes 15 songs never officially released in any other form.

What the critics are saying: Critics are praising the complete package (including the 59-page book which accompanies the two discs), which brings new context to Dylan's music and career, though casual Dylan fans may not be as intrigued as diehards. The recordings, as expected, are "intimate" and "raw" if inconsistent, and while, as EW writes, there may be "nothing truly revelatory," the reviewers seem impressed by the talent on display.

Also by this artist:
Love and Theft 2001 93
Modern Times 2006 89
Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8 2008 86
Together Through Life 2009 76
Christmas In The Heart 2009 62

Marnie Stern 83 (Kill Rock Stars)
by Marnie Stern

Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 7
Good bar 8
Mixed bar 2
Bad 0

The singer-songwriter's eponymous third album is a varied but often rocking and unusually personal set of songs backed by frequent collaborator Zach Hill (of the band Hella).

Listen to "For Ash":

What the critics are saying: "Where her [previous] recordings have been emotionally abstract; Marnie Stern is direct," writes All Music Guide, and the result is some of Stern's best reviews to date. Stern's "shrill" voice is still an issue for some critics, but her superlative guitar skills and energy (or, as NME writes while comparing her to Eddie Van Halen, "controlled chaos") are showcased throughout the album, and her songwriting has never been better.

Download these: For Ash, Transparency Is the New Mystery
Also by this artist:
This Is It & I Am It & You Are It & So Is That & He Is It & She Is It & It Is It & That Is That 2008 82
In Advance Of The Broken Arm 2007 79

Love Remains 82 (Lefse)
by How to Dress Well

Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 3
Good bar 3
Mixed bar 2
Bad 0

How to Dress Well is the alias for German singer Tom Krell, who makes his LP debut with Love Remains, an album that includes tracks previously released on a series of EPs. His style blends R&B with a low-fi, dream-pop sensibility.

Listen to "Ready for the World":

What the critics are saying: The album is very low-fi and deliberately imperfect; it is filled with echoes, hisses and many distortion-filled "in the red" moments. While most critics find that this production style gives the music an appealing, hazy, dreamlike quality that enhances the album's themes, Under the Radar finds it "exhausting." Either way, the sounds -- combined with Krell's sharp falsetto and "indecipherable lyrics" -- create a chilly atmosphere, and even many of the critics who are praising the album seem to consider it more of an abstract, academic exercise than something emotionally gripping, though The A.V. Club does find it emotional and "haunting."

Download this: Ready for the World

Recitation 81 (Temporary Residence)
by Envy

Critic Review Distribution:
Great 0
Good bar 6
Mixed bar 1
Bad 0

Japan's Envy is one of that country's best-known hardcore bands. Their sixth album in a career that has spanned over a dozen years, Recitation finds the group continuing to move their sound in a more post-rock direction; think Sigur Ros with a harder edge.

What the critics are saying: Most of the tracks feature a long, slow build that some listeners may find enthralling and others may find tedious. While some critics feel Recitation is Envy at its best, Absolute Punk feels that it is a weaker album than past releases.

Download this: A Breath Clad in Happiness

The Age of Adz 80 (Asthmatic Kitty)
by Sufjan Stevens

Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 11
Good bar 13
Mixed bar 5
Bad 0

The increasingly popular singer-songwriter -- who is typically lumped in with the indie-folk scene -- returns with his first LP of new songs since 2005's Illinois. The Age of Adz, which incorporates a surprising amount of glitchy electronica in addition to orchestration, and closes its 11-song tracklist with a 25-minute-long piece called "Impossible Soul," debuted at #7 on the Billboard 200 album chart.

Listen to "Too Much":

What the critics are saying: While many critics laud Stevens' ambitious effort here, a few reviewers feel that he might be trying too hard. The surfeit of ideas on display makes for an inconsistent listen, according to some critics in the latter group, while Uncut complains of a "a maddening tendency to sabotage his best tunes." Most critics, however, are pleased with the artist's new approach, with some even feeling that The Age of Adz ranks among his best work.

Download this: Too Much
Also by this artist:
Illinois 2005 90
Seven Swans 2004 87
Songs For Christmas 2006 80
The Avalanche: Outtakes & Extras From The Illinois Album 2006 76
The BQE 2009 73
All Delighted People EP 2010 63

There Is a Hell, Believe Me I've Seen It, There is a Heaven, Let's Keep It a Secret 80 (Epitaph)
by Bring Me the Horizon

Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 3
Good bar 4
Mixed bar 1
Bad 0

Winner of our coveted Longest Album Title of the Month award is this third record from the British metalcore band, who were part of this year's Warped Tour.

Listen to "Fuck":

What the critics are saying: We're not sure Revolver was listening to the same album; while that publication hears cliches and "by-the-numbers breakdowns," the other critics hear an ambitious, powerful, brutal record that shows a clear progression when compared to the band's two prior releases. AbsolutePunk finds improvement in every aspect of the band's sound, calling Hell "a behemoth of an album."

Easy Wonderful 80 (Republic)
by Guster

Critic Review Distribution:
Great 0
Good bar 9
Mixed 0
Bad 0

Easy Wonderful is the sixth studio album for the veteran guitar-rock band from Massachusetts, and it stays pretty true to the formula established on their prior releases.

What the critics are saying: Every reviewer so far is finding the album to indeed be easy listening -- though not that kind of easy listening. Most critics agree with All Music Guide's assessment of the record as "big-hearted, easy-to-swallow guitar pop," with many reviewers highlighting the "cheerful" album's numerous hooks and expert pop craftsmanship. That said, while every review was positive, it's hard to say that any of the critics absolutely loved the album, and Wonderful doesn't offer anything in the way of experimentation or rocking the boat.

Also by this artist:
Ganging Up On The Sun 2006 76
Keep It Together 2003 74

Swanlights 80 (Secretly Canadian)
by Antony and the Johnsons

Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 2
Good bar 20
Mixed bar 3
Bad 0

Antony Hegarty's fourth LP again showcases the singer's striking voice with a collection of heartfelt -- though sometimes avant-garde -- chamber-pop songs. Björk guests on one track.

Listen to "Thank You for Your Love":

What the critics are saying: Swanlights is yet another collection of sophisticated, fragile, emotional songs for the group, even if Hegarty is "too mannered for mainstream acceptance," according to Q. The album is less straightforward and thematically transparent than prior releases, but it is a bit more positive and upbeat, and offers greater stylistic diversity and ambition.

Download this: Thank You for Your Love
Also by this artist:
I Am A Bird Now 2005 88
The Crying Light 2009 80
Another World [EP] 2008 75

Lucky Shiner 80 (Ghostly International)
by Gold Panda

Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 3
Good bar 12
Mixed bar 1
Bad 0

This is the debut album for British electronica producer Derwin Panda.

Listen to "You":

What the critics are saying: Nearly every critic finds that Lucky Shiner suggests a bright future for Gold Panda; the debate is over whether this first album itself is a worthy album in its own right. While The A.V. Club and Uncut find that it doesn't cohere into a solid album, most reviewers are more positive, and several make comparisons to Four Tet. The best reviews find that the disc combines a thought-provoking adventurousness with club-ready beats.

Download this: Snow & Taxis
More Well-Reviewed October Albums
Album Label Metascore
Down There by Avey TarePaw Tracks78
Speak Now by Taylor SwiftMercury78
The Fool by WarpaintRough Trade76
Belle and Sebastian Write About Love by Belle & SebastianMatador75
1,000 Years by The Corin Tucker Band Kill Rock Stars75
Olympia by Bryan FerryVirgin74
Avoid these:
Funstyle by Liz PhairRocket Science53
The Incredible Machine by SugarlandMercury Nashville59

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 29, 2010.

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.

We're sorry, but comments are closed for this article.

Comments (8)

  • Lucas  

    Lot of pretension on this site

  • Jayson  

    Far East Movement? Good luck seeing that in "best new music". A bunch of clowns, those guys. I died a little inside when I saw they were number 1 on itunes downloads. America, come on. Oh, and about death metal? Critic sites critique music not loud noise with lots of screaming. But sputnikmusic is the onyl place to go for that stuff.

  • A.C.  

    Ashley, it's because death metal is not mainstream enough, and does not get enough attention from major publications such as rolling stone, pitchfork media, entertinment weekly, etc to garner enough of an opinion. Juts how it is, how it's always been. Check out sputnikmusic, they tend to have a large demographic of European participants who give the genre a chance.

    And Jackson, probably because far east movement is a joke.

  • Jackson  

    umm.. what about far east movement's new album free wired??

  • John  

    It's more because they only post music that gets reviewed by major websites and publications. How many of those review death metal?

  • FoReal  

    Because they only review music

  • Spencer  

    Cuz Death Metal kinda blows?

  • Ashley  

    How come u guys dont put up or review any death metal bands, albums, etc.

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