September's Best New Music

  • Publish Date: September 30, 2010
  • Comments: ↓ 6 user comments

The best albums released this month

Below, we look at the past month's best-reviewed releases, ranked by Metascore. The bar charts displayed for each album below represent the number of "great" critic reviews (with an individual critic score above 80), "good" 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 Guitar Song 90 (Mercury)
by Jamey Johnson

Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 6
Good bar 2
Mixed 0
Bad 0

The fourth studio LP from the Alabama-born country artist (previously best known for his hit "In Color") is a 25-track double album. While the first disc, titled "The Black Album," deals with darker themes, the corresponding "White Album" has more positive subject matter.

What the critics are saying: There is a lot of praise for Johnson's "jaw-dropping" songwriting (Boston Globe) as well as the production on the album, with reviewers most impressed by the artist's ambition and willingness to avoid playing it safe. The nature of the album doesn't come off as pretentious or showy, though you may be hard-pressed to find a radio-friendly hit among all those tracks. If there's any criticism, it's that the tempos can be a bit too relaxed at times; Village Voice advises listeners not to take in the entire album in one sitting.

Also by this artist:
That Lonesome Song 2008 81

My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky 88 (Young God)
by Swans

Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 6
Good bar 12
Mixed 0
Bad 0

Though singer/guitarist Michael Gira has spent the last decade-plus releasing music under other names (most notably, with the more melodic Angels of Light), it has been 14 years since he last recorded an album under the name of his intense noise-rock outfit Swans -- a band that got its start in the New York "no wave" scene in the early 1980s.

Listen to "Eden Prison":

What the critics are saying: Nearly every reviewer seems happy to have the Swans back. The album is an intense experience that is unmistakably Swans in its urgency and experimental bent, while also incorporating some of the Americana aspects of Gira's side project -- though, as Drowned in Sound points out, it "sounds more like the essence of Michael Gira than the Angels Of Light ever did." Some critics find the album so unremittingly dark that it could turn off some listeners, though many are intrigued by that bleakness. Don't mistake bleak for slow, by the way; as Pitchfork notes, "My Father grooves, and grooves hard."

Download this: Eden Prison

Related albums:
Akron/Family & Angels Of Light by Akron/Family & Angels Of Light 2005 81
The Angels Of Light Sing 'Other People' by Angels of Light 2005 80
We Are Him by Angels of Light 2007 77

Grinderman 2 86 (Epitaph)
by Grinderman

Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 9
Good bar 17
Mixed 0
Bad 0

A side project for veteran performer Nick Cave (as well as his backing band The Bad Seeds, many of whom also moonlight in this group), Grinderman offers a much more raw, bluesy, and vulgar take on rock music, with Cave playing guitar more than he does in his day job. This second album (again produced by Nick Launay), however, is a bit more polished and varied than the band's 2007 debut, almost like a hybrid between Grinderman and the recent output of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.

Listen to "Heathen Child":

What the critics are saying: Though a few reviewers find the new album relatively subpar by Nick Cave standards -- and some find it a bit too restrained compared to the band's "unhinged" debut -- most critics are pleased, especially with Cave's songwriting, which ranges from humorous to sinister to psychedelic to violent and intense (often all in the same song). Don't expect anything groundbreaking here, but do expect a raucous rock record, dealing with subject matter that's a bit more low-brow than Cave's typical work; as The A.V. Club's Sean O'Neal writes, "In The Bad Seeds, Nick Cave thinks with his brain; in Grinderman, he thinks with his dick."

Download this: Heathen Child
Also by this artist:
Grinderman 2007 83
Related albums:
Abattoir Blues / The Lyre Of Orpheus by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 2004 88
Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 2008 87
No More Shall We Part by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 2001 79
B-Sides & Rarities by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 2005 75
Nocturama by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 2003 73

Halcyon Digest 86 (4AD)
by Deerhunter

Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 6
Good bar 12
Mixed bar 1
Bad 0

The Atlanta-based indie-rock outfit returns with a fourth studio album that is perhaps their poppiest and cleanest-sounding release to date (especially in the vocal department), though the album still retains the hazy experimentalism of prior efforts, making it not unlike Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion (which utilized the same producer, Ben Allen).

Listen to "Desire Lines":

What the critics are saying: Halcyon Digest is Deerhunter's best-reviewed album yet. Critics agree that it's not necessarily an easy (or even cohesive) listen, though the challenge of putting the puzzle together seems to be one of the LP's selling points -- it rewards repeat spins and offers a wealth of sonic detail to those who pay close attention. The word "lovely" pops up in several reviews, and reviewers also have a lot of praise for the band's growth, which finds Deerhunter in new territory that is somewhere between their previous albums and the sound of frontman Bradford Cox's Atlas Sound side project.

Download these: Revival, Helicopter
Also by this artist:
Microcastle 2008 81
Rainwater Cassette Exchange 2009 80
Cryptograms 2007 77
Related albums:
Logos by Atlas Sound 2009 81
Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel by Atlas Sound 2008 81

Band of Joy 85 (Rounder)
by Robert Plant

Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 8
Good bar 9
Mixed bar 2
Bad 0

As he did on his acclaimed 2007 collaboration with Alison Krauss, the former Led Zeppelin frontman once again ventures into folk, bluegrass, and country music territory, backed by a band (named after his very first group, Band of Joy) that features Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller. Band of Joy's tracklisting consists almost exclusively of covers, including two songs by the slowcore band Low as well as works by Los Lobos and Richard Thompson.

Listen to "Angel Dance":

What the critics are saying: Critics admire that -- even though it is a covers album -- Plant is moving forward rather than rehashing his past; The Guardian finds that Band of Joy is "marked by the fresh excitement of mapping out new territory rather than the more craven pleasure of wallowing in nostalgia." Some critics also find the album to be a bit more ambitious than Raising Sand, and they also have praise for the choice of material (in addition to Plant's interpretations and Buddy Miller's strong production work). That said, a few reviewers find the album too timid, predictable, and tame.

Also by this artist:
Mighty Rearranger 2005 78
Dreamland 2002 73
Related albums:
How The West Was Won by Led Zeppelin 2003 97
Raising Sand by Robert Plant & Alison Krauss 2007 87

Album of the Year 83 (Fat Beats)
by Black Milk

Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 3
Good bar 5
Mixed 0
Bad 0

This self-produced fourth album from Detroit-based hip-hop producer and rapper Curtis Cross (aka Black Milk) chronicles the past year in his life. Royce da 5'9" guests on the lead single "Deadly Medley."

Listen to "Deadly Medley feat. Royce da 5'9"":

What the critics are saying: While not every critic loves Black Milk's rapping (though he has improved in that department), there's no question about his "adventurous" and "innovative" production, which incorporates a number of genres (from funk to rock to jazz) and more organic, less sample-based instrumentation (think live drumming, for starters). It's a fun, consistent listen, even if it doesn't always scale the wildly ambitious heights of his previous record, Tronic, in the minds of some reviewers. Several critics also point out that while J Dilla was once the most obvious comparison for Black Milk, Album of the Year brings him closer to The Roots in sound.

Download this: Deadly Medley
Also by this artist:
Tronic 2008 84

Majesty Shredding 83 (Merge)
by Superchunk

Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 2
Good bar 11
Mixed bar 1
Bad 0

The 21-year-old Chapel Hill indie-rock band last released an album (Here’s to Shutting Up) nine years ago, though they certainly have been busy in the interim: band members Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance have been busy running Merge Records, and McCaughan has also released numerous albums with his Portastatic side project.

Listen to "Digging for Something":

What the critics are saying: While most critics are happy to have the band back, Dusted faults the album for being uninspired and sounding more like Portastatic than Superchunk. Spin also notes "a more thoughtful pace at times" -- the sound of a classic 1990s indie rock band growing older -- but the vast majority of reviewers hear plenty of, as Pop Matters states, "that unmistakable Superchunk sound ringing in your ears." In other words, if you liked previous Superchunk albums, you'll likely enjoy Majesty Shredding too.

Download this: Digging for Something
Related albums:
Bright Ideas by Portastatic 2005 83
Be Still Please by Portastatic 2006 81
Summer Of The Shark by Portastatic 2003 81
Who Loves The Sun OST by Portastatic 2006 67
Autumn Was A Lark by Portastatic 2003 64

Harlem River Blues 83 (Bloodshot)
by Justin Townes Earle

Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 1
Good bar 7
Mixed 0
Bad 0

The son of Steve Earle, the 28-year-old Justin Townes Earle has followed in his father's footsteps as an acclaimed singer-songwriter working in various Americana-related genres.

Listen to "Harlem River Blues":

What the critics are saying: Many critics feel that Harlem River Blues is Earle's best album yet, a fulfillment of the potential he demonstrated on earlier records. Some reviewers note that the album never coheres stylistically or thematically, though they are divided on whether that eclecticism is a positive or a negative. The production and musicianship are also drawing praise.

Download this: Harlem River Blues
Also by this artist:
Midnight At The Movies 2009 82
The Good Life 2008 67

Lisbon 82 (Fat Possum)
by The Walkmen

Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 5
Good bar 13
Mixed bar 2
Bad 0

The New York indie-rock band's sixth album was produced by John Congleton of The Paper Chase.

Listen to "Stranded":

What the critics are saying: A mellower, less raucous affair than prior outings (though a bit less dour than their previous LP, You & Me), the atmospheric Lisbon nevertheless sounds very much like the albums that preceded it, slightly refining The Walkmen's consistent and unmistakable sound. While it is the band's best-reviewed album to date, only a few critics actually singled it out as their best (many cite 2008's You & Me as their high point), with most reviewers declaring it "solid" at worst.

Download this: Stranded
Also by this artist:
Bows & Arrows 2004 78
You & Me 2008 78
A Hundred Miles Off 2006 70
"Pussy Cats" Starring The Walkmen 2006 67
More Well-Reviewed September Albums
Album Label Metascore
Losing Sleep by Edwyn CollinsHeavenly81
Le Noise by Neil YoungReprise80
Solo by Vijay IyerAct Music + Vision80
Public Strain by WomenJagjaguwar80
You Are Not Alone by Mavis StaplesEpitaph80
Castle Talk by Screaming FemalesDon Giovanni80
Everything in Between by No AgeSub Pop78
Heretofore by MegafaunHometapes78
Clapton by Eric ClaptonReprise78
Innundir Skinni by Ólöf ArnaldsOne Little Indian78
Root For Ruin by Les Savy FavFrench Kiss77
Maximum Balloon by Maximum BalloonFiction77
Body Talk, Pt. 2 by RobynIsland76

Only albums with seven or more reviews are eligible for inclusion. The Metascore is a weighted average of scores from top professional critics, on a scale from 0 (bad) to 100 (good). All scores are from September 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 (6)

  • Mitch Tough  

    Superchunk rocks.....

  • nick m  

    you guys should add the dear hunter albums to your records, their amazing

  • HentaiKnight  

    Poetry for the Poisoned, end of story

  • Kirby  

    Bad Religion's The Dissent of Man currently has an 85. Should be on this list. I'm glad the site is still doing these "best of the month" lists. Still want the old metacritic back.

  • A.C.  

    From what I've listened to, the new Grinderman is awesome, and I really enjoyed Superchunk's new album, although b/w Learn to Surf and the closer, it falters a bit. Band of Joy is quite boring, and I really can't get behind the new Deerhunter album. I love the first and last tracks, and nothing in between. It feels too much like B-sides from Atlas Sound.
    This upcoming month: really digging the new Sufjan Stevens album.

  • Thomas  

    I thought "Desire Lines" shoudl've been the single off the new Deerhunter album. Good track, and good album, but Microcastle is still their best for me. Definitely excited for Age of Adz, although I'm a little cautious after the boring "All Delighted People."

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