We’re sailing into springtime with a whole host of new releases. This is a quick roundup of the albums that caught our eye. Let us know what we missed in the comments. We’ve also included links to buy, should you feel so inspired.
Freddie Gibbs and Madlib, Pinata: A bold, enervating collaboration that reintroduces elasticity to Gibbs’s style. RECOMMENDED. Winston Cook-Wilson says:
Freddie Gibbs seems to have approached his collaboration with Stones Throw beatsmith Madlib as a singular challenge: a game with its own rules. Luckily, it’s a spectator sport; we can hear Gibbs working to lock in with the loops, which are as capricious as the worn LPs from which they are often sampled. In the process, he gives us some of his most memorable verses of the past few years.
The War on Drugs, Lost in the Dream: Simply put: a masterpiece — a deeply-felt, genuinely moving and masterfully constructed reinvention of the roots rock formula. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Dan Hyman says:
Lost in the Dream is the War on Drugs’ third effort and undoubtedly their defining moment. The album is an expansive, all-consuming experience, stuffed with massive late-’80s Springsteen hooks, tender, precise Mark Knopfler-worthy guitar work, Granduciel’s honeyed warble and an emotional heft that, while more elusive than Vile’s, lingers far longer.
Perfect Pussy, Say Yes to Love: A 20-ton atom bomb of an album that’s as tough and inspiring as you’ve heard. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Hazel Cills says:
Perfect Pussy’s debut full-length Say Yes to Love is a more sonically refined version of the intense noise-punk music they’ve released this far, and the new album plays it raw, instrumentally and lyrically. It’s a shame that frontwoman Meredith Graves’s vocals are often lost in the harsh dissonance of the band’s music, because there’s a story in these lyrics that demands to be not just heard, but arguably studied.
Le1f, Hey: His latest EP, via Terrible Records/XL Recordings, is slyly radical, outrageous and never too serious. RECOMMENDED Tayler Montague says:
Even on this short collection, you can hear the signature sound Le1f has developed: his deep, unchanging voice over danceable electronic beats and his unique bragging. The title track and opener “Hey” is filled with sexual innuendo embedded in ’90s cultural cartoon references: “Purple panther, he’s using all his pokeballs but no capture.” Also, plenty of fun quips like, “You can call me carnitas, cause my meat is the sweetest.”
Ibibio Sound Machine, Ibibio Sound Machine: The London-based but multinational group’s main goal is dancefloor chemistry. RECOMMENDED. Victoria Segal says:
It is the addition of British-Nigerian singer Eno Williams that gives this debut such an irresistibly authoritative voice, however, a distinctive focal point in a dizzying whirl of sound. Singing in a mixture of English and Ibibio, a language of Southern Nigeria, Williams alternately cajoles, seduces, enchants and upbraids, coolly in charge as the band’s afro-electro synthesis builds behind her.
Kylie Minogue, Kiss Me Once: Kylie Minogue makes another attempt to rejoin the mass American pop market. Maura Johnston says:
Sia Furler, who has had a hand in Rihanna’s “Diamonds” and Ne-Yo’s “Let Me Love You,” as well as Beyonce’s “Pretty Hurts,” is the album’s executive producer alongside Minogue; songwriting and production assists come from Pharrell, Enrique Iglesias, Ariel Rechsthaid, MNDR and MNEK, among others. It’s a blend of the uber-mainstream and the Fader Fort cutting-edge that speaks the lingua franca of radio programmers, fashion editors and music bloggers. But ultimately the guiding aesthetic belongs to Minogue, and as a result Kiss Me Once is less unpleasantly craven than, say, the Sugababes’ Sweet 7. (That 2010 album is the Goofus to Kiss Me Once‘s gallant; a naked crossover attempt that collapsed.)
White Suns, Totem: WHOAH. A fearsome, unholy batch of noise, Totems is the sound of a band putting on mittens and furiously pawing their guitars while their poet friend hollers on top of them. You can hear roots in free jazz — a little — but this is noisier and nastier and even freer with form. No surprise: it’s on The Flenser.
Tycho, Awake: Highly anticipated new record from San Francisco producer Tycho is full of clean lines and songs that cruise forward gently, like a car on an empty highway as the sun is going down. You can hear elements of early M83 in spots, but Tycho’s songs are less likely to open into anthemic choruses; more often they’re content simply glide or blink.
Lyla Foy, Mirrors to the Sky: Latest offering from Sub Pop delivers twinkling, low-wattage electronic music topped by breathy, late-night jazz-club vocals. Think a sleepy Lykki Li and you’re getting close.
Evian Christ, Waterfall: The latest from UK beatsmith and Yeezus-contributor Joshua Leary take the gut-rumbling drops of the US strain of dubstep and uses them to detonate songs that are singularly spooky, streaked with neon-blue synths, their backgrounds populated with odd, clattering noises.
Beth Israel, Dental Denial: The latest offering from Dull Tools, the label run by Andrew from Parquet Courts, alternates between dust-covered lo-fi punk primitivism and wobbly, woozy instrumentals that feel like fog expanding out over the water in the morning.
Hauschka, Abandoned City: The German musician writes a tribute to ghost towns. Philip Sherburne says:
With the exception of “Who Lived Here?” every song is named for a different ghost town, from Pripyat, site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, to Craco, a crumbling hillside village in southern Italy. There’s also Agdam, an Azerbaijanian city that was depopulated during 1993′s Nagorno-Karabakh War, and Sanzhi Pod City, a kitschy architectural experiment in Taiwan. The distance between those examples suggests that Bertelmann is less interested in any specific critique of modernity than in a generalized melancholia; that’s certainly reinforced by “Agdam,” whose stately melody is reminiscent of Yann Tiersen’s Amélie theme. But even as a largely sentimentalist project, he does justice to his subjects
Various Artists, Movements, Vol. 6: I’ve got a thing for these comps. The sixth in the excellent series is full of another great batch of dusty old soul songs, most of them on the rare side. Stylistically, it runs the gamut, from torchy R&B slow-burners to a whole batch of floor-shaking soul poppers. Guess what? RECOMMENDED.
Y.G., My Krazy Life: Debut from West Coast rapper Y.G. delivers a record clearly informed by the hip-hop of his birthplace — listen to those whistling synths! — but tweaks it with a more conscious melodic sensibility.
Foster the People, Supermodel: An effort as maximalist as its immensely popular predecessor. I cannot get on board with these guys. Maybe you feel differently. Dan Hyman says:
It’s still too easy for them to rely on derivative material, nowhere more apparent than on the flaccid Afrobeat bounce of opener “Are You What You Wanna Be?” and the MGMT-pillaging “Best Friend.” But when they color just outside these lines, it becomes apparent what this technically adept but still slightly faceless band could become. On the Flaming Lips-esque freakout “A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon,” Foster’s voice taking on a menacing quality (“Open your eyes and share this burden somehow”). On “The Truth,” he confesses “I’ve been floating within your walls of opinion.” He might feel stuck in his lane, but he doesn’t need to: The hints of more challenging material popping up on Supermodel beckon like an off-ramp.
George Michael, Symphonica: One more pop album about GM not wanting to be a pop star. Barry Walters says:
Symphonica picks up where his least rewarding release, 1999′s Songs from the Last Century, left off. Like that string-packed covers album, it’s overseen by veteran studio whiz Phil Ramone — it’s actually the last project the late jazz-pop producer worked on. Ramone may be revered for the clarity and class of his recordings, but Symphonica features a peculiar sound mix that bathes Michael’s voice in arena reverb while backing him in largely orchestral arrangements that sound as if they were meticulously recorded in a state-of-the-art studio. Much of these ballads are quite quiet, yet the audience is loud — you can hear individual hoots and hollers.
Black Lips, Underneath the Rainbow: The Black Lips get a little looser and a little poppier on this, their seventh record. Trivia: A Shazam’ed a song used in the closing moments of a recent episode of Girls and discovered it was the Black Lips. I’m not sure what that has to do with this batch of greasy garage numbers, but it seemed worth mentioning.
Onyx, Wakedafucup: A new Onyx record! The slightly chintzy production courtesy of Snowgoons — whose typically apocalyptic production style should be a natural match — doesn’t sound like it’s doing them any favors but, moodwise, they sound as tense and worked-up as ever.