The Smile, "Wall of Eyes"
The second album from the Smile, the side project featuring Radiohead principles-turned-film composers Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood and Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner, "Wall of Eyes" manages to combine the most familiar of musical elements into something bracingly, thrillingly unexpected. Yorke's whiny croon and knack for unnerving hooks is still in full splendor here, while Greenwood poststructural approach to the electric guitar always finds new ways to surprise, and Skinner keeps things from ever lapsing into overfamiliarity with his inventive rhythms. Not that there was ever much danger of predictability in songs like "Under Our Pillows," a proggy tune that worms its way under your skin without ever quite staying in place. -- Andrew Barker
EMF, "The Beauty and the Chaos"
Of the ‘90s artists one might expect to see making a creative comeback in the ‘20s, EMF might not be at the top of the list, if only because they hadn’t really shown a great deal of interest in offering up new material since the ‘90s. But then came 2022’s Go Go Sapiens LP, which found the band back in top form with solid new material, and now, only a few years later, here’s yet another full-length effort, this one even featuring a guest bit by Stephen Fry on the first single (“Hello People”). If you haven’t checked in on EMF since the “Unbelievable” days, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised with how solid they still sound. -- Will Harris
Torres, "What An Enormous Room"
The sixth album from singer-songwriter Torres offers a quiet, singular viewpoint, delivered with a true voice. The album's overall arc has hints of longing and lingering, but for every downward spiral the record takes, the sharp turns of piercing guitar (“Collect”) or the haunting bass drum kick for “I Got the Fear” grab your hand, coaxing you to come out of the dark. “I think you can hear it in the songs, someone reaching, leaning over the boundary between known and not, probing the almighty,” wrote Boygenius’ Julien Baker in her bio for Torres. With “Jerk Into Joy”’s repeated incantation “what an enormous room,” we see that person breaking out of society’s limitations. -- Amy Hughes