A weekly round-up of must-hear music from The Times staffers. This week's picks include a leader in the Los Angeles jazz community as well as a pair of artists continuing to push electronic boundaries.
Arca, "Anoche" (XL Recordings), and Perfume Genius, "Slip Away" (Matador)
Two auteurs working in electronic experiments, queer identity and ravishing visuals have new albums out soon. The new singles from Arca and Perfume Genius couldn't sound more different – one is a doom-dripping dirge, the other pastel-light – yet they each find a new exuberance that departs from their angstier early work.
Arca (the alias of the Venezuelan-born producer Alejandro Ghersi) came to prominence after working with Kanye West and Bjork. The rarefied pop airs definitely influenced him — his dark, feral productions now have some of his own untreated vocals. The results, like on the single "Anoche," are his most accessible yet most destabilizing work yet: heavy and operatic in feel, but hyper-intimate in his presence. Also notable: His videos have typically centered on gross-out digital animations, but the "Anoche" clip is apocalyptically sad and pretty.
Perfume Genius has found a new levity too. Singer-songwriter Mike Hadreas has flirted with pop structures and big productions before, but "Slip Away" is a relative blowout. Produced with Blake Mills (Fiona Apple, Alabama Shakes), "Slip" starts with a twisty little synth figure, and soon hits a noise-drenched crash so big you may startle at it. But Hadreas' pop melodies earn such a huge gesture, and just because it's a little funny doesn't mean it's not completely deserved. And its video – a fairy-tale fantasia where he's chased by a pair of baby Trump lookalikes – adds to the blown-out vampiness in the face of despair. — August Brown
Ronald Bruner Jr., "Triumph" (World Galaxy/Alpha Pup)
Part of the adventurous Los Angeles soul-jazz crew that also includes saxophonist Kamasi Washington and producer Flying Lotus, this young drummer fills the tunes on his debut solo album with as much musical movement as possible: grooves that suddenly go double-time, melodies that dart in unexpected directions, soft textures that harden out of nowhere (or vice versa).
Yet Bruner shares with his brother Stephen, known as Thundercat, a devotion to the idea that a song should be understood quickly and returned to often. So you may be dazzled by the dense web of percussion in "Sensation," but what'll grab you is the vocal hook he borrows from Mariah Carey. — Mikael Wood
Laurence Juber, "LJ Can't Stop Playing the Beatles!" (Hologram).