My take is ultimately: “I don’t think that Tierra Whack’s 15 songs, 1 minute each concept was merely a marketing tool, nor do I think it totally worked artistically.” And maybe I’m biased. Though I like the work of say Minor Threat, and pick up one of those four song demos on cassette from a punk band that really delivered at their show, at the end of the day, I tend to value the part of careers where people who come from those origins flesh out their sound at bit more.
Yes, many felt like Solange’s latest was under-cooked and maybe my love of Some Rap Songs is a bit of a double standard, but I just feel like they do different jobs. Solange gives her simple phrases plenty of room to breathe with seemingly boundless repetition, whereas Earl simply distilled his music to what he does best—verses. For me, Whack World felt more like a sketch than anything else.
All that to say, I’m glad that Tierra Whack is make full bodied songs now and “Only Child” can run with the best of them. Built on a wobbly DIY-adjacent foundation, Whack’s soft vocals speak to a selfish person who comes across as formerly spoiled by the ‘rents. The track is packed with the personality that found its way onto her previous work, between the flippant vocals at the hook and the humorous digs in the quick verse—“use to arch my back for you/and now you’re my arch nemesis.” Whack World was certainly vividly accomplished and I’d expect nothing else as this artist continues to grow.
Hatchie sounds ready to continue her pop bliss on Keepsake—her upcoming debut album for Double Double Whammy. Both singles for the project are unabashedly driving and pristine, emotionally legible without mindlessness—continuing the sentimental energy of her Sugar and Spice EP. First single, “Without a Blush” mimicks the energy of the EP’s tentpole title-track—the washed out beat skyrockets forward throughout alongside plainly joyous vocal melodies—and “Stay With Me” showcases the emotional nuance that could make her album truly remarkable.
Opening with a slightly pulled down texture, the tune waxes poetic about a relationship gone wrong, but is nontheless missed. When the drums and guitars really show their teeth in the last two minutes the tune takes off into another realm. Admittedly the washed out vocal work may lean too heavily into ever-popular shoegaze textures for some, but Hatcie’s somber cotton candy world aligns with the likes of Sir Babygirl and Kim Petras who’ve wielded pop as a weapon of reclamation in recent memory.
Album drops June 21st
Save their crossover faux-rap, faux-alt-rock hit “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked,” Cage the Elephant have always been something of a retro outfit. Songs like “James Brown” and “Back Stabbin’ Betty” graced their 2009 debut, meanwhile Melophobia is practically a 60’s concept album. Their new single “House of Glass” reflects that to a degree, but somehow the sound resembles post-punk more than anything—it’s the most transcendent and raw they’ve ever sounded. Singer Matt Shultz bounds between smoldering talk-singing and distorted yelps as the guitars roar over the manic beat.
Admittedly, the song feels like something of a fluke amidst their other singles—Beck features on some gentrified reggae, “Ready to Let Go” could’ve been on any of their albums, and no one needs a Cage the Elephant ballad—but it showcases that the band is capable of much more if they were to abandon their alt-rock radio roots a bit more and maybe get Will Toledo on production duties.
“Everyday” is a pretty collasal statement from Weyes Blood. Though she doesn’t abandon the cosmic folk that made her, the song is her most anthemtic as she seemingly takes a step back and belts out “I need love everyday!” with clashing backing vocals, chugging guitars and soaring piano and string lines.
Lyrically, the song twists out of control a bit. First speaking about her need for more from her partner, verse three is the most interesting, opening her scope to a much bigger statement: “true love is making a comeback, for only half of us the rest just feel bad.” It’s an ode to the communities of those hopeless romantics who seemingly always end up with those less enthused.
The sonic quirks are matched by the words, which value humor and absurdity—that quote when read aloud feels like it should be notated as such: “True love is making a comeback!!! for only half of us? 😦 the rest just feel…bad *shrug.*” Admittedly I didn’t feel drawn to Weyes Blood initially, but this is a great gateway in.
What do we want from an artist who keeps us waiting? There’s albums like American Football’s LP2 which mostly act as fan service, and then there’s albums like Blonde which are more of a recreation; and maybe Fiona Apple falls somewhere in-between.
“Downhill Lullaby” is a pretty substantial rekindling. With huge sweeping strings and brooding drums, the thing aches on in the trip-hop influenced style of Is this Desire? era PJ Harvey (of course also landing near Beth Gibbons, who happens to be releasing a string-assisted album this week). Whereas Ferreira’s Night Time, My Time saw compressed pop more indebted to Garbage, “Downhill Lullaby” sounds like a whole mountain range.
Yet, Ferreira’s vocal work fits a newfound subtle mold. Singing at the absolute bottom of her range for verses, she pulls off the sluggish tempo expertly. Choruses are slightly ornamented by a backing vocal, but this isn’t necessarily the singer who belted out “I wish these 24 hours would never end.” The lyrics are also more directly dark rather than tinged with hedonism. Initially singing directly about abuse “you leave me open/when you hit me/no one can hear me/then you hurt me,” the song speaks about a partner pulling Ferreira down with them. “Downhill Lullaby” is dark in a new way–a perfect step for an artist who’s kept her fans waiting for a mighty long time.
Tame Impala have like REALLY gone disco. Kevin Parker’s project that once sounded like if Daptone Records was really committed to Psychedelic Rock rather than Soul splashed into the mainstream with Currents (not to mention some help from Rihanna and Travis Scott) and have again furthered their more wide ranging appeal. Sporting lavish strings and big Conga’s the song floats along like Off the Wall era MJ. Perhaps the lyrics are the main attachment to the hippie vibes that made Parker: “I’m just growing up in stages”/”Time waits for no one”–you can almost hear the hippie guy from that 70’s show saying “man” at the end of every line– but this is certainly a new band.
The project’s jump from Lonerism to Currents frustrated some fans, but I’d argue that Parker is continuing down a great and respectable path. It’s tough when a band you love widens their lens, but Currents is one of the decade defining records. You can hear its sound all over the rap scene now and it reflects some of the same poptimism of the likes of Phoenix and LCD Soundsystem from last decade in a new way. We’ll see how it sits with everybody else and especially on first glance its kind of funny, but “Patience” is going to sound amazing both headlining Coachella and on vinyl at your house and I kinda think you should dig it.
(p.s. my mention of MJ in this review is not intended as an endorsement, I just really believe it was the best example for the purpose of this review, I believe and support his victims)
Lizzo is uber talented, but I can’t say I completely get behind all of the results. She can undeniably dance, rap, sing, command-a-stage, but I promise you, you don’t actually want a flute solo on Ellen and “Juice” plainly has Bruno Mars syndrome, sounding like a Target-curated version of the 80’s. “Tempo,” on the other hand, clicks perfectly. If you asked me yesterday how a song with the two of them should go I’d probably basically describe what happens. They both rap with utmost emboldened energy over stripped-back but electric production. They don’t try to out-rap each other but they sound utterly perfect alongside one another, meeting each other halfway on the quest to sexual empowerment. There’s no over-stated hook, no overwrought break-down, it’s perfect. I prematurely find the album to be too much, but certain things can’t make anybody mad–this track should be one of them.
Though a major risk taker–bar none, Dust is up there in the rankings of most ambitious album of 2017–Laurel Halo has never abandoned her expert dance floor taste buds. Whether it be sneaking a tune like “Moonwalk” onto an abstract vocal thesis, or yielding a pounding Boiler Room Set, the ability to get people moving has always been in orbit and “Sweetie” is perfectly on the pocket. Sporting pounding bass work right out of the gate, the tune passes seven minutes bye with one stroke of a paintbrush. A metallic snare-adjacent sound dissolves into a steal drum like melody before collapsing into an impossible-to-pin-down ambient texture; the bass kicking into higher gears the whole way through. It feels a bit like a reduced jungle tune, or a slightly more loose answer to Robert Hoods’ minimalism, and naturally, wholly of Halo’s eclectic world.
Kicks Set Drops Friday.
If Jamila Woods’ first real ‘moment’ was “Sunday Candy,” HEAVN, the debut album that followed, was a slightly more multifaceted exploration of the wholesome identity that gave “Candy” its familial tone. Still, there was a little bit left to be desired from the work that offered a lot of healing energy with little edge or bite. “Zora” immediately rectifies any lack of attitude or confidence with a beat sporting a bit of electronic buzz–and in this youtube studio version, a distorted guitar flourish–to complement Woods’ bolstering delivery.
The song is sung from the perspective of Zora Neale Hurston, a black author who became one of the most successful of the early 20th Century on the back of her winning charm and charisma; you can read about her entrance to the 1925 Opportunity Magazine Literary awards on her website. The opening lyric sounds almost like her mission statement: “must be disconcerting how I discombob’ your mold.” Each tune named after a significant, discombobing black figure, Legacy! Legacy! promises to be a confident record that’ll buck expectations and safety for an emboldening experience.
If Show Me the Body initially came across as a straightforward-yet-scorching hardcore outfit primed and ready for an era where Death Grips is likely the most relevant band in this lane, Camp Orchestra proves that they’re going to defy categorization and deliver unpredictable expanse as their career really gets going. Here’s the roadmap of this song–the first off their upcoming album Dog Whistle–ambiguous string textures start to put you on edge before a scalding metal riff cracks your skull open. This whole thing then becomes mathy with the drum entrance, as Julian Cashwan Pratt barks through a twisting road of forms and patterns, including a capital-H-Hefty half-time bridge. It’s a five minute behemoth that truly lives up to a title sporting “orchestra” and might just lead off the best punk album of the year.