Sia - '1000 Forms of Fear' (RCA/Monkey Puzzle)
There are traditional songwriters, and then there are songwriters whose musical sensibility is so of-the-time they can't help but produce hit tracks. Sia files nicely in the latter category -- a highly developed manufacturer of pop songs so huge we have to look up just to listen. In 2013 alone, Sia wrote songs for cream-of-the-crop pop stars like Beyoncé, Rihanna, Britney Spears, Katy Perry, and even Celine Dion. But 2014 is the year the Australian songwriter focuses once again on her solo career with '1000 Forms of Fear,' her sixth solo album. We got a preview in May with first single 'Chandelier' -- whose video stars dancer Maddie Ziegler, from Lifetime show 'Dance Moms' -- and this week, we'll get to hear the album's 11 other tracks, including hit single 'Elastic Heart,' featuring The Weeknd and Diplo.
Braid - 'No Coast' (Topshelf)
In 1998, Braid released their third album, 'Frame and Canvas.' This week, the seminal emo band will finally release its follow-up, 'No Coast.' For perspective, this means babies born when that third album dropped can either drive or are about to start driving, which also means this new album could inspire a whole new generation of kids to momentarily stop all that driving, pick up guitars, and write "expressive" music with "confessional" lyrics. Does this mean emo will break into the mainstream for the second time with some sort of Dashboard Confessional-ish act a few years down the line? Who knows. For now, check out 'No Coast' and either re-live its aesthetics or experience it anew, depending on your age.
Wolves in the Throne Room - 'Celestite' (Artemisia)
As if 2011's audacious 'Celestian Lineage' weren't enough, Wolves in the Throne Room have upped the ante once again, this time with a companion release to that album called 'Celstite.' With help from producer Randall Dunn (Earth, Sunn O))), Master Musicians Of Bukkake), the lauded black metal band used buried sonics from 'Celestian Lineage' as a starting point from which to explore even more provocative, experimental sounds, driven not by guitar and drums, but by a host of vintage synths and a wind ensemble. The band assures us that the future will likely see them returning to more rock-/metal-oriented pummelling. But for now, we're left at the threshold, with the band stopping time just long enough for us to experience something like a transformation.
The Skygreen Leopards - 'Family Crimes' (Woodsist)
After taking a break to release a joint album with Six Organs of Admittance's Ben Chasney as New Bums, Donovan Quinn has hooked back up with buddy Glenn Donaldson for his main act, The Skygreen Leopards, who have prepared yet another tarnished collection of sunshine strums and psych-pop theatrics. They call it 'Family Crimes,' and if their previous releases are anything to go by, this Calfornia duo's brilliant invocation of the almighty jangle might just convince us that summer is not a passing season, but a year-round sensibility.
Viet Cong - 'Cassette' (Mexican Summer)
Viet Cong has a cassette for vinyl. It's called 'Cassette,' a previously tour-only tape release that is now, thanks to Mexican Summer, remastered and pressed on beautiful polyvinyl chloride -- with a digital release to boot! The band, which features members of both Calgary's acclaimed rock group Women and Chad VanGaalen's group, retains a similar energy and approach to both acts, with retro garage-pop tempered by darker moments of drone and fizzled-out rock. It's equal parts bold and classic, challenging and charming, with such gleeful psychedelia you're bound to dissolve into the music.
Gucci Mane - 'Trap House 4' (1017 Brick Squad)
In a recent audio message via SoundCloud, Gucci Mane boasts, "Even though I'm locked up, I still run the streets from jail." He then proceeded to name off some upcoming releases, which started last month with his World War 3D trilogy that featured albums by Migos, Young Thug, and PeeWee Longway. Fourth in line was this release, 'Trap House 4,' a 19-track album with family-friendly song titles like 'Spit In Yo Face,' 'Top in the Trash,' and 'Drugs Like You.' It's the latest installment in a series that kick-started his whole career back in 2005. Next up is 'Trap God 3,' which is out September 13, followed at some point by his just-announced collaboration with Chief Keef.