20 year-old Fifth Harmony expat Camila Cabello proves her new career path viable on her consistently solid debut. There’s the moments that will sound familiar. Her voice fits into the small-yet-powerful category shared by Brittney or Ariana. Tunes like Into It fit into the “punchy electronic beat with slick pitched sample” mantra of today’s pop–not to mention the pretty direct similarity to Lorde’s Sober. Also, there’s the relatively drab ballads, particularly Something’s Gotta Give.
Nonetheless, the record has its addicting moments. Single Havana is a sleek update of the Miami sound, Young Thug offering the perfect dose of oddball sensuality to give it a fun flair. She Loves Control sees Camila at her most emboldened, whereas Inside Out is cute and coy.
Maybe in one sense or another Camila is already taking over the world, but to really define her stamp, she still needs to grow up and out of the rest of the pack a bit. Still, her debut is rife with fun songwriting and energy, sure to dominate a lot of high-school earbuds throughout 2018.
“I thought I came but I peed on the dick”
There aren’t many who start a verse better than cupcakke. Her most widely heard moment thus far was propelled by a hype-man yelling HUMP ME/FUCK ME and lines like “I want to eat your dick,” establishing her an icon of queer club life everywhere. Ephorize is an acceleration of this one-liner mastery and brash club readiness, also leaving a little bit of room to grow-up.
Self Interview sees introspection at the surface level (“Why the fuck do I do the things that I do?”), but a song like Total adds nuance to her raunchy brand. Sex in abundance is a radical act of self-care to some and confronted with a potential partner she poses the question: “Is it worth not being solo?” Following the gruesomely specific Spoiled Milk T*****s (“Spread my ass cheeks out/While your dick is deep”), the song showcases the extremities of sexual youth.
Sonically, she’s also at the top of her game, fitting nicely into the dance-hall influenced electronic iciness of current pop. Duck Duck Goose points towards Big Fish Theory, whereas queer anthem Crayons sounds right out of a hot Latin House mix. Cupcakke may have difficulty fitting into the FCC regulations for radio play, but her music is wide-reaching—perfectly tuned to tell young folks everywhere that their desires are valid.
Riding a wave of arpeggiated synths, minimal drum machines, and dance-able bass lines, Noah Anthony’s Profligate conjures a seething aura on Somewhere Else. A mainstay of the DIY electronic community, Anthony steps into somewhat of a new realm here. The ominous landscape that sets in with distant percussion and oscillating keyboards on the title track finds a mood not unlike 2014’s Finding the Floor, but the rhythmic drive is left up to swells of the instruments and noise at his disposal rather than a consistent techno sensibility.
After Somewhere Else sputters out, A Circle of opens with screaming shots of noise, eventually jolting itself into a post-punk feeling groove highlighted by eerie high vocals from Anthony’s new collaborator Elaine Kahn. Enlist exhilarates with a punchy bass line and another spike in energy as a massively distorted melody draws viciously outside the lines. The project is remarkable in its unity, always seeming to pick up where the last track left off and over the first three tracks, the album evolves from a muttering wind to a barreling freight-train.
Elsewhere, the rhythmic momentum stalls and Kahn’s lyrical side adds complementary poetic imagery to the anxious darkness of the sonic pallet. After the haunting melodic line on Lose a Little dissipates, she takes over the droney landscape, speaking about “the water’s grey narcotic web” and how “to live is to disorganize.” Anthony’s vocals tend to remain contained and monotone and Kahn’s ability to both match that and add instances of heightened energy elsewhere helps flesh out the swells of activity.
Between the loosened rhythmic feel and the edition of Kahn, Profligate has reached a new zone. There’s room to grow from here, but Somewhere Else is a masterful amalgamation of DIY experiments. Who’s counting but a singular work spanning noise, spoken-word, post-punk-rock, electronic feels so right on Wharf Cat Records and so fresh in the year of our lord 2018.
Seeing coverage from NPR, The Fader, and Stereogum not two weeks into 2018–and her new album’s lifespan–Sidney Gish promises to explode. No Dogs Allowed’s reception is earned though, showcasing masterful songwriting and playful disposition. Her consciousness flows in monotonously perfect melody as jagged guitars float above a foundation of diy/classroom sounds. Sometimes the songs fall a bit too heavily into the posh npr pop aesthetic with melodies a bit ham-fisted (i.e. I’m Filled With Steak, and Cannot Dance) but charm seeps from the project’s pores, indicating a great-deal of success to come.
The album is a testament to polarizing youth. Opening with “Sin Triangle,” Gish depicts herself torn between wanting to go out, wanting to stay in, or perhaps wanting some sort of disease rather than this inner strife. She knows her bad habits but no way to absolve them; wants affirmation but she’s “not a lot like you” or her peers. Between her deep dive on the pronunciation of Persephone and her toying with the idea of life as a dog, Gish stands out in a crowd. Yet, relatability reigns throughout in her depiction of the terrifying period in life where we have to define who we are.
Riding his usual wave of intimate, self-produced beats and sputtering, rhythmically disorienting flows, rapper milo continues his wave on his latest Scallops Hotel project. Toying with ideas of anti-capitalism and systematic racism, milo often finds himself torn. “And I know property is theft/but it’s still some things I’m wanting” he admits on the opener, before wondering about a life outside of the experience of people of color he takes pride over: “To live without fear of penalty, penance, gangs, wrong, shit.”
Humor and childlike awe pull him away from his anxieties. “This no roundabouts, I play the Yes album for round about the thousandth time,” a young music obsession flourishes. “I’ve never hit the creatine/Ain’t no muscles big enough to stop the guillotine” sees his darkness, whereas the outro of Wherearewe finds bliss, falling out of time as milo discusses Captain Caveman with a slightly different-aged millennial.
Sporting an energetic verse from YOUNGMAN and an addicting, lilting beat, “Private Temple Hours” is the standout track. “Youngman in the house like a foyer/And when I punch Nazi goys they say oy vey, enjoy hey,” it’s a match made in heaven.
The first Scallops Hotel project was a 40 minute collage of stream-of-conscious thoughts and arrogant face has the same sensibility with a few moments yielding standalone value, including the closer Sedans, a Steel Tipped Dove co-produced track that bursts the usual sluggish tempo and reaches for loftier crowds. His current work is for heads and heads only, but his lyrical footing is ridiculously strong. More hyped up tracks and quantized flows could see a little bit of world-conquering in the coming years.
Miguel maintains a certain luster on War and Leisure. His crystalline voice and acrobatic melodies are constantly accompanied by a Tame Impala-esque Rock&B warmth, but the album didn’t shatter anything on it’s high risk December release date and it’s reliance on vibes seems to see it doomed to fade from memory.
Single Told You So sticks out with it’s high pitched angular synth line, breezy guitar sound, and punchy hook. Admittedly the video’s political aspirations seem over blown–you can’t just throw in the word “doublespeak” dude–but as a sort of modernized rockist, prince hit, it burns.
Elsewhere, Miguel wanders at a slower tempo, lacking memorability. Opener Criminal stunts his success over a sparse landscape, rehashed by its colder kindred spirit Anointed. Wolf and Harem both bore at the heart of the project. Caramelo Duro is a close second to Told You So’s urgency with a nice Kali Uchis feature, but king-of-the-boring-beat J Cole pulls through for the appropriately drably named “Come Through and Chill” right after, softening the blow.
It’s a decent place to vibe, but War and Leisure’s highlights are few and far between.
Adding to a long, eclectic discography, Phantom Brickworks sees the English electronic musician’s acoustic side ruminating in ambient space. Although Bibio describes the work as a collection of improvisations, there’s an effortless flow between the tracks, particularly in the first six, where he alternates between hollow, somber energy and more uplifting piano flourishes, culminating in the stunning moment of clarity in “Phantom Brickworks III” where loud pillars of piano descend in shimmering glory. Perhaps this could be seen as a return to his pastoral explorations, but these productions are more muted and meditative with an amplified sense of vulnerability — a hauntingly beautiful collection.