albums of the week

SZA’s Ctrl and 4 Other Albums to Listen to Now

SZA. Photo: Scott Dudelson/WireImage

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.

Vic Mensa, The Manuscript EP (Roc Nation)
Of all the rappers pushed into the spotlight in the 2010s resurgence of the Chicago scene, Vic Mensa has taken the longest to launch a definitive full-length album. It’s not for a lack of connections: He came up in the same crew as Chance the Rapper and enjoys an audience with Kanye West and a deal through Jay Z’s Roc Nation. It’s not for a lack of talent, either, ’cause the boy can rap. This week’s The Manuscript offers a quick taste of what he’s capable of. The four-song “capsule” serves up sharp bars, earnest reflection, bratty party songs, and guest spots from Pharrell and Pusha-T in just over 15 minutes. Come see what the fuss is about before the long-awaited album drops. —Craig Jenkins (@CraigSJ)

SZA, Ctrl (Top Dawg Entertainment/RCA)
For months, SZA has been trying to tell her story. She threatened to quit music altogether if the powers that be at her record label silenced her any longer and, now, after fighting for a voice, it’s here. Ctrl is SZA’s debut album after a series of self-titled EPs (one letter at a time) that ties her artistic vision together. Like so many of her generation — thinking of peers Bibi Bourelly and Willow Smith — SZA’s a fearless songwriter who makes no apologies for what flies off her tongue. Her album opener begins, after a woman warns of how loss of control would be fatal, with the casual anecdote for an ex-whatever that she’s “secretly been banging your homeboy while you were in Vegas, all up on Valentine’s Day.” The honesty’s intoxicating, backed by seamless transitions from R&B to indie rock to folk that boast SZA as one of the more stylistically versatile artists on her label. And she’s in company with Kendrick Lamar, whom SZA invited on Ctrl for an ode to the power of the pussy. Which just about sums up SZA’s appeal. — Dee Lockett (@Dee_Lockett)

Glen Campbell, Adiós (Universal)
Arkansas country legend Glen Campbell is a fighter. In 2011 — over 50 years into a career that made smash hits out of “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Rhinestone Cowboy,” and more — Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and presented with the choice between going out quietly and soldiering on with his work. He chose to keep touring and recording as long as his brain would allow, a process documented in 2014’s crushing film I’ll Be Me. This week’s Adiós is the 81-year-old’s final album and a collection of heartbreakingly prescient covers aided by a backing band including three of his children. Campbell’s renditions of “Funny How Time Slips Away,” “Everybody’s Talkin’,” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” and “She Thinks I Still Care” are all the more devastating considering his condition, but his perseverance and pristine voice are inspirations to anyone holding on to hope against insurmountable odds. —CG

Big Thief, Capacity (Saddle Creek)
Naming your debut album Masterpiece is a bit like shooting yourself in the foot — your career will hopefully go on, but it might have a bit of limp ahead. That’s not the case with Brooklyn band Big Thief, whose sophomore album of a more modest name affirms that initial proclamation. Capacity is another album where its title figures into the work; it’s about how much emotional weight the human brain can hold before it reaches capacity. It gives on this album, with lead singer Adrianne Lenker spilling all the painful memories from her past, like being born into a cult and how her life was almost cut short as the result of a freak accident when she was just a child. It’s sad stuff — this kind of visceral gutting of the mind tends to be that way — but if Lenker can get through it and sing of herself as a bird taking flight on the title track, you’ll survive the secondhand experience. —DL

Chuck Berry, CHUCK (Dualtone)
Similarly to Glen Campbell, Chuck Berry has left this Earth with a parting gift. Before Berry died in March at age 90, he spent his last years recording CHUCK, his first album in 38 years. It’s dedicated to the love of his life, Themetta, and as such, was a family affair to record; he made the album with his kids and grandson — plus his spiritual successor Gary Clark Jr., and Tom Morello — and produced it himself. There’s only one stated sequel to the Chuck Berry classic “Johnny B. Goode” on this album (and its aptly called “Lady B. Goode”), but all ten tracks are a sum of that song’s parts. (“Big Boy” especially recalls the hit.) Though it may sometimes rewrite the book, CHUCK is a fitting final chapter for a legacy that never tried to do more than excel at rock’s fundamentals, leaving room for future generations to see how far they can evolve his handiwork. —DL

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