albums of the week

Halsey’s Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, and 5 Other Albums to Listen to Now

Halsey. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Every week, Vulture gathers new albums you can listen to right now. We don’t have a problem admitting it: keeping track of everything that’s released can be overwhelming, but finding out about interesting music doesn’t have to be work. Read our picks below, and share your thoughts in the comments.

Bleachers, Gone Now (RCA)
The veneer of nostalgia has a tendency to smooth over the bumps of the past. We’ve all been there: The taco place you remember loving as a kid that doesn’t hold up to your grown-up palate, or the record that carried you through the best summer of your life that, upon re-listening, now sounds lame and dated. That side of nostalgia — the side that doesn’t hold up — is something that Jack Antonoff might just be physically allergic to. On Gone Now, the pop songwriter’s second album under the Bleachers name, Antonoff dips into his own teenage drum-machine nostalgia, but what he comes out with is, amazingly and almost without exception, free of anything “retro,” or anything that doesn’t sound like it has a place in the now. “I Miss Those Days” can be heard as the album’s sonic and lyrical thesis. Speaking of his teenage years with a grown-up wisdom, Antonoff admits “I know I was lost/But I miss those days,” a sentiment that captures the way our minds and hearts can contradict each other when matters of the past are concerned. For his summer tour, Antonoff has rebuilt his teenage bedroom, which he’s taking on tour with him. That’s the literal version of what he does figuratively on Gone Now. — Gabe Cohn (@gabescohn)

Chastity Belt, I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone (Hardly Art)
From taking playful press shots that look like they were staged in a Sears photo studio in the ‘90s to giving songs titles like “Giant (Vagina)” and “Cool Slut,” Seattle indie-rock four-piece Chastity Belt have had a knack for padding their serious musicianship and worthwhile lyrical messages with humor. The band’s third album is still charmingly candid, but this time vocalist Julia Shapiro turns that humor inward, singing about loneliness and depression with a frankness that’s equal parts funny and sad. “Do you ever dream about what it’s like to give up?” Shapiro drones over meandering guitar lines on “Complain.” It would sound like a dreamy track for a summer day if you weren’t listening, but the beauty is that you are. —Samantha Rollins (@SamanthaRollins)

Halsey, hopeless fountain kingdom (Astralwerks)
While put through the wringer of yet another headache of a promotional cycle, Halsey has been telling the world — and mostly herself — that she’d like to be regarded as an alternative artist, versus a pop star. It’s fine to resist limitations and give your art room to breathe, but her sophomore album is what it is: a solid pop album and an improvement from her debut. Halsey now sounds like a pop singer, not just an anti-star, and one who has starting making considered song choices that play to her vocal strengths. Her voice has never sounded better than it does on the crushing “Sorry,” an introspective ballad about feeling undeserving of love. Elsewhere on the album, she toys with making songs that might impact beyond the bubble of her Tumblr-age fandom — the sex-positive LGBTQ bait with Fifth Harmony’s Lauren Jaurequi, “Strangers,” should be a summer hit. And make Halsey a pop star, even if she’d like to be anything else. — Dee Lockett (@Dee_Lockett)

Dan Auerbach, Waiting on a Song (Nonesuch)
Dan Auerbach’s best work, both as a frontman with the Black Keys and the Arcs and as a producer for Lana Del Rey and Dr. John, has been in the business of pulling from the past to conjure tonal landscapes that feel simultaneously timeless and present. On Waiting on a Song, Auerbach’s second solo album and the follow-up to 2009’s Keep it Hid, Auerbach (with help from songwriting legend John Prine) mines the stoned twang of ‘70s Southern rock and soul with a group of players seasoned enough to sound casual, even when things get busy. The album sounds like what it is: A group of great musicians hanging out, banging out unserious tunes in a style that they love. That makes Waiting on a Song a fun ride, even if it’s not one that, 40 years from now, another band would similarly worship. — GC

Amber Coffman, City of No Reply (Columbia)
It took Amber Coffman ten years to discover who she wanted to be as a solo artist. Presented with the opportunity now that she’s left Dirty Projectors, the band she’d been with all her career, it took a move out to the West Coast to give her independence some clarity. Her debut album sounds like California feels: sun-kissed, fanciful, and imbued with a resilient sense of optimism when a defeatist attitude might be easier. Coffman worked on this album with her ex-boyfriend and ex-bandmate Dave Longstreth, whose electro-R&B cadences are a frequent presence, particularly on “If You Want My Heart” and “Kindness.” But, as Coffman told us, making this album with him was not all sunshine, and there are moments, like the confessional “Brand New,” where you can hear Coffman working through the uncertainty and mixed emotions in real time. There’s nothing braver an artist can do than trusting that their artistic integrity won’t steer them wrong. Now that Coffman’s finally in the driver’s seat of her career, she might have an even more promising road ahead than the one she was on with Dirty Projectors. — DL

Benjamin Booker, Witness (Rough Trade)
When Benjamin Booker enlisted the 77-year-old gospel singer and civil rights icon Mavis Staples to join with him on the title track of his second record, Witness, the message was clear: Namely, that the topic of the song — police brutality and the fight to end it — is not just directly connected to the civil rights movement, but a continuation of it. The image reflected in the rest of the album’s nine tracks is of a country that’s more confused and more dangerous than ever before, evident from the very start in the ignorant youthful innocence of “Right on You,” where Booker boasts about drinking gin and tonics and living forever before acknowledging, simply, that “Death is sad to imagine.” Sad or not, death is omnipresent here: “Now everybody that’s brown can get the fuck on the ground,” he says, in one of the album’s bluntest moments. “Believe” opens with strings that echo Sam Cooke (in keeping with the record’s tonal shift from the punky blues of Booker’s first record towards R&B), but Booker is bleaker, not sure anymore whether a change is gonna come: “I just want to believe in something,” he says, “I don’t care if it’s right or wrong.” He quotes another forebear in the blues singer Blind Willie Johnson, weaponizing the ancient line “If I had my way, I’d tear this building down.” When Booker declares “Hallelujah, we’re off the ground,” it might be difficult, out of context, to know whether we’ve transcended or entered into a tail spin. Safe to say his money is sitting solidly on the latter. — GC

6 New Albums to Listen to Right Now