September's Best New Music

  • Publish Date: September 30, 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).

ImageCelestial Lineage 89 (Southern Lord Records)
by Wolves in the Throne Room

Listen to "Woodland Cathedral"

The fourth album from the Washington state black metal band completes a trilogy that began with 2007's Two Hunters. Three of the disc's seven songs surpass the 10-minute mark, while two are brief instrumental interludes; in other words, it's designed to be experienced start to finish as a full album. Critics are admiring the broader sonic palette that combines "heaviness with solemn beauty" (Uncut) and is filled with "alien elements" (All Music Guide). The A.V. Club considers it the first WITTR album worthy of the label "masterpiece," while Pitchfork calls it the American black metal scene's "defining statement." More reviews...

Also by this artist:
Black Cascade 2009 75

Listen on Spotify
The Hunter 87 (Reprise)
by Mastodon

Listen to "Curl of the Burl"

Atlanta heavy metal outfit Mastodon have taken their genre to new heights over the course of four increasingly accomplished albums, including 2006's Blood Mountain and 2009's Crack The Skye . Fifth album The Hunter finds the group working with producer Mike Elizondo (Fiona Apple, Maroon 5) for the first time, but don't think the band has gone pop or mainstream—even if it has a slightly more stripped-down sound, shorter tracks, and is their first record since their debut not to have an overarching concept. Reviews are uniformly positive, though critics are split over whether it is Mastodon's finest LP or merely another good album. The Chicago Tribune's Greg Kot is in the latter camp, though he still praises the band members' "technical acumen," but Alternative Press feels that The Hunter confirms Mastodon as "one of the all-time great hard-rock groups." More reviews...

Also by this artist:
Blood Mountain 2006 82
Crack The Skye 2009 82
Live at the Aragon 2011 62

Listen on Spotify
Strange Mercy 85 (4AD)
by St. Vincent

Listen to "Surgeon"

Former Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens guitarist Annie Clark returns with her second 4AD album (and third overall) as St. Vincent, following 2009's lauded Actor and an appearance on the Twilight Saga: New Moon soundtrack. As on that previous album, John Congleton lends a hand with production, while Grammy winner Bobby Sparks and Midlake's MacKenzie Smith are among the guest performers. A handful of publications—including the BBC and Los Angeles Times—feel that Clark is clearly talented but that Strange Mercy suffers from a lack of focus and is a tad too clinical. But most reviewers range from impressed to blown away, with glowing reviews coming from publications in the UK (NME, The Telegraph, The Observer) and the U.S. (Pitchfork, Under the Radar, Spin, etc.). More reviews...

Also by this artist:
Actor 2009 81
Marry Me 2007 78

ImageThe Whole Love 85 (dBpm/Anti)
by Wilco

Listen to "I Might"

The Chicago band's eighth album (following 2009's Grammy-nominated Wilco (The Album) 76), The Whole Love marks the first LP that Wilco are releasing on their own dBpm label. The 12 self-produced tracks (culled from 20 that were recorded) include buzz-generating first single "I Might" and 12-minute closer "One Sunday Morning," while a deluxe edition adds four more songs. Reviews have been some of the strongest that Wilco have received in years, with critics praising the album's inventiveness, calling it "exciting" (Entertainment Weekly) and "audacious" (The Phoenix). The Observer, on the other hand, finds The Whole Love a bit too tame, while Pitchfork finds it a bit inconsistent. Still, most reviewers are landing closer to Paste, which declares the new LP to be Wilco's "finest album since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot."More reviews...

Also by this artist:
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot 2002 87
Kicking Television: Live In Chicago 2005 85
a ghost is born 2004 81
Wilco (The Album) 2009 76
Sky Blue Sky 2007 73

Listen on Spotify
Megafaun 83 (Hometapes)
by Megafaun

Listen to "State/Meant"

The fourth album for the North Carolina indie rockers continues to embrace American music history, moving through various styles—rock, blues, Americana—with ease throughout, though its emphasis on Southern rock means that it is actually a bit more conventional and less experimental than the band's previous records. The A.V. Club speaks for many of the reviewers when commenting that the band's newfound accessibility "sometimes comes at the expense of the band's personality," but that publication still finds the record distinctive and pretty; Dusted adds that "the balance between expectation and surprise is maintained neatly," and PopMatters simply describes it as a "beautiful, intricate album." More reviews...

Also by this artist:
Gather, Form & Fly 2009 80
Heretofore 2010 78

Listen on Spotify
A Creature I Don't Know 82 (Ribbon Records)
by Laura Marling

Listen to "Sophia"

The hyped 21-year-old English folk singer/songwriter (a one-time member of the band Noah and the Whale) returns with her best-reviewed album to date, meaning that a third appearance on the Mercury Prize shortlist would not be out of the question. There are plenty of Joni Mitchell comparisons to go around (though Pitchfork also throws in Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, and Leonard Cohen, and Spin adds Sheryl Crow, which is not meant as a compliment), and nearly every critic praises the album as being mature and accomplished despite being created by someone so young. In fact, a few publications wish that she would show her age a bit more (the BBC finds that her "worldly-wise tone can still come over a little smug"), while others, like DOA, consider her still to be a "work-in-progress," though this new album demonstrates impressive "artistic advancement."More reviews...

Also by this artist:
I Speak Because I Can 2010 81
Alas, I Cannot Swim 2008 73

Listen on Spotify
Relax 82 (Greedhead Music)
by Das Racist

Listen to "Michael Jackson"

When they released their novelty hit "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell" three years ago, it was difficult to tell whether the New York hip hop trio Das Racist would settle for Lonely Island-style spoofs or attempt something more serious. Following two much-blogged-about mixtapes, Relax serves as the band's first album proper, and while the lyrics still emphasize DR's humorous side, the beats—from main producer Patrick Wimberley and guests Diplo, El-P, and Blood Diamonds—are seriously good. Tracks range from the poppy dance number "Girl" to more straight-ahead rap tracks like "Michael Jackson," but the eclecticism comes at a price, according to many critics: the album is uneven. Pitchfork calls Relax "frustrating" but "occasionally thrilling," though filled with too much "dead air," while One Thirty BPM comes to the opposite conclusion, writing that "the dead air that seemed to sometimes crop up previously has been filled or chopped out completely, creating a record with taut and purposeful momentum." More reviews...

Listen on Spotify
Wild Flag 82 (Merge)
by Wild Flag

Listen to "Romance"

Wild Flag's four members—Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney, Portlandia), Janet Weiss (Quasi, Sleater-Kinney), Mary Timony (Helium), and Rebecca Cole (The Minders)—have played key roles in the indie rock scene over the past few decades. That made the supergroup's self-titled debut, a blend of new wave, punk, and indie rock that was recorded live (except for vocals), one of the most anticipated albums headed into fall. Fortunately, Wild Flag mostly succeeds in living up to those elevated expectations. Some critics find the LP "jumpy" or "jagged," with some unmemorable filler among the album's 10 tracks. But most of them have plenty of compliments for the album, calling it "fun", "vital," and "absurdly good." The Chicago Tribune considers it "a debut for the ages," while Paste adds that the songs "are like shit-eating grins from ear to ear."More reviews...

Related albums:
The Woods by Sleater-Kinney 2005 88
All Hands On The Bad One by Sleater-Kinney 2000 86
One Beat by Sleater-Kinney 2002 85
Ex Hex by Mary Timony 2005 77
The Golden Dove by Mary Timony 2002 76

Listen on Spotify
Paradise 82 (Moshi Moshi Records)
by Slow Club

Listen to "Two Cousins"

Produced by Luke Smith (who also produced Foals' Total Life Forever), Paradise is the second album from Sheffield, England folk-rock duo Slow Club. While the group's music has the potential to cross over into overly adorable, twee territory, most critics feel that Slow Club avoids that trap here; Pitchfork admires that the songs avoid being "overly saccharine," Q calls the disc "charming without being cloying," and Drowned in Sound declares it "an album of exceptional and understated maturity and beauty." More reviews...

Listen on Spotify
Veronica Falls 81 (Slumberland)
by Veronica Falls

Listen to "Bad Feeling"

This 36-minute self-titled release serves as the debut album for the C-86-style Scottish noise pop band fronted by Roxanne Clifford. All Music Guide decides that though fans of jangly, reverb-heavy indie pop will like the album, "the band never feels derivative at all," and the record manages to be simultaneously polished and "rough enough to be exciting." No Ripcord finds the debut "catchy as hell," though musicOMH also notes that it is "dark" and "gloomy."More reviews...

More Well-Reviewed September Albums
Album Label Metascore
Velociraptor! by KasabianColumbia80
The Year of Hibernation by Youth LagoonFat Possum80
Gentle Spirit by Jonathan WilsonBella Union80
4everevolution by Roots ManuvaBig Dada79
The Wanting by Glenn JonesThrill Jockey78
The Devil's Walk by ApparatMute US78
Seeds We Sow by Lindsey BuckinghamMind Kit Records78
Father, Son, Holy Ghost by GirlsTrue Panther Sounds77
Go Tell Fire To The Mountain by Wu LyfPIAS77
Era Extrana by Neon IndianMom & Pop Music77
Worship Music by AnthraxMegaforce77
Cole World: The Sideline Story by J. ColeRCA76
On a Mission by Katy BColumbia76
The Old Magic by Nick LoweYep Roc76
The High Country by Richmond FontaineEl Cortez76
Elsie by The Horrible CrowesSide One Dummy76
Avoid these:
Credo by The Human LeagueAis / Wall of Sound57
SuperHeavy by SuperheavyUniversal Republic55
Junk of the Heart by The KooksAstralwerks54
Panic of Girls by BlondieEleven Seven53

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 site visitors on a scale from 0 (bad) to 10 (good). All scores are from September 30, 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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