Five Notable Releases of the Week (10/26)
Happy almost Halloween! If you’re looking for spooky new music or Halloween-related events (mostly in and around NYC) to celebrate the occasion, browse our ‘Halloween’ section. Meanwhile, there’s tons of great non-Halloween-specific music out today too.
One note: I was taken by surprise by today’s digital release of Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus’ boygenius EP (I had been waiting for the announced November 9 release date, which is still the physical release date), and this column had already been written by the time I realized, but that EP is great and I’ll be writing more on it soon.
As for some this week’s honorable mentions: Chris Farren and Jeff Rosenstock’s Antarctigo Vespucci album, Julia Holter, NAO, Street Sects, Homeboy Sandman + Edan, Super Unison, Brendan Kelly and the Wandering Birds, The Skiffle Players (aka Cass McCombs, Neal Casal, members of Beachwood Sparks), Lycia, David Crosby, Dean Wareham & Cheval Sombre, Apollo Brown & Joell Ortiz, Typesetter, Laura Gibson, and the Eye of Nix reissue (which IO reviewed).
Check out my five picks below. What was your favorite release of the week?
Robyn’s career has long been one of pop’s great underdog stories, so it’s no surprise that the “indie” crowd has been cheering her along all these years. After starting out as a more conventional pop star, Robyn eventually parted ways with her major label, started her own Konichiwa label, and took her sound in a direction she believed in for 2005’s Robyn. She kept on sticking to her guns with the 2010 followup Body Talk five years later, and it clearly paid off, as Body Talk singles like “Dancing On My Own” and “Call Your Girlfriend” have basically become part of modern music’s DNA. Even if she’s still not as big as past tourmate Katy Perry like we wish she’d be, it’s beyond obvious that Robyn was right and whatever major label executive that tried to limit her creativity was wrong. As Body Talk kept gaining traction, eight long years passed without a followup (though Robyn kept busy with other projects). Waiting eight years to follow a career-milestone album is always gonna cause anticipation, and adding to that was the fact that Robyn had already shared part of the new album’s title track on Girls last year — the song was a fan favorite before anyone had even heard the finished version. Well, the wait is finally over, Honey is here, and so far it feels like the wait has been worth it.
The album includes the finished version of “Honey” and eight other songs, and its concise, almost-filler-less tracklist feels like a blessing in this era of releasing 20-song albums to game streaming service numbers. Other than “Because It’s In The Music,” which feels a little too regular for Robyn at this point, every song on this album instantly sounds like likable, forward-thinking pop. “Honey” remains a huge highlight, and feels on track to be her next major single, and some of the non-singles get real heady. “Send To Robin Immediately,” “Human Being,” and “Baby Forgive Me” (the latter two of which were collaborations with Metronomy’s Joseph Mount) are atmospheric downtempo pop cuts that best many of the young alt-pop artists Robyn surely influenced, and “Between The Lines” sees Robyn giving one of her finest vocal performances over the kind of innovative production you hear at underground dance clubs. You don’t call an album Honey and not deliver a sugar rush, but this is a more subtle confection than Body Talk. It’s one of the most experimental albums Robyn has ever made (if not the most experimental album), and it’s very cool to hear her making music like this after such a long career. It’s not always easy to age well in the ever-changing world of mainstream pop music, but Robyn sure does make it look easy.
This album is Thom Yorke’s score to director Luca Guadagnino’s remake of the 1977 horror classic Suspiria, but you don’t need to see the new film, the original, or know Goblin’s original score to appreciate this. A large handful of tracks on Thom Yorke’s 25-track, hour-and-twenty-minute Suspiria album are “score” type pieces that might not be your go-to choice for everyday music listening (especially the 14-minute “A Choir of One”), but actually a huge chunk of these songs are proper songs, and there are enough of them for Suspiria to qualify as a proper new Thom Yorke album. And it’s a really good Thom Yorke album at that. The eerie atmospheres of the “score” type tracks make for great lonely headphone-listening experiences, and with Thom’s unmistakable singing voice popping up every couple tracks or so, the album keeps you on your toes. The “song” type tracks are really strong, and they aren’t like much of anything he’s written recently. Words like “dark” and “haunting” unsurprisingly describe most of them, but they aren’t overtly spooky and they’ll still sound great once the Halloween season ends. (If anything, these sound more like cold, mid-winter songs to me than Halloween songs.) There are minimal piano ballads like “Suspirium” and “Unmade,” the warped psychedelia of “Has Ended,” the airy, very Yorke-ian art rock of “Open Again,” songs I don’t even know how to describe like “The Universe Is Indifferent,” and still more. You could make a really strong Thom Yorke EP by putting all the most pop-oriented songs in a playlist, but they flow even better as is. The instrumental pieces are often as gripping as the songs where Thom sings, and it’s satisfying to hear Thom’s voice come back in after one of the longer stretches of instrumentals. It’s clear that Thom approached this project as something that could function simultaneously as a film score and as an album on its own, and while I haven’t seen the movie yet, I can confirm that he succeeded at the latter.
After a solid run of mixtapes, Mick Jenkins released his proper debut album with 2016’s The Healing Component. With that album’s themes of spreading love, it was spiritual and uplifting and a very strong debut, but things feel a little darker this time around. Mick’s delivery is sharper and more aggressive, his words are more biting (and he brings in Ghostface Killah on “Padded Locks” to sound even more brutal and diss auto-tune rappers and Trump), and he’s also got a noticeably superior selection of beats. The production on Pieces of a Man is warm and alive and full of dazzling instrumentation. The album tends to favor glistening keys, rubbery bass, and rhythms that rotate between head-nodding hip hop beats and skittering live jazz drumming. It’s the kind of thing fans of past Mick Jenkins collaborator Noname’s new album might dig. It’s music where you can spend hours mulling over the deep thoughts and the clever wordplay, but the overall vibe of the songs is so inviting that it can also just be music to relax to. (As the temperature continues to drop, it’s worth noting that this is a very good cold-weather album.) There’s been no lack of warm, jazzy, soulful hip hop albums coming out lately (in fact, I’m about to discuss another one in this very article), and Pieces of a Man ranks among the best of it.
Georgia Anne Muldrow is an expert singer and an expert producer, and while her past few albums have been self-produced, she decided to go for something more collaborative this time around. Overload is her first album for Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label, and FlyLo worked as an executive producer on it, along with Aloe Blacc and Georgia’s partner/frequent collaborator Dudley Perkins (aka Declaime), and Mike & Keys, Khalil, Dutchman Moods, and Lustbass contributed production as well. The album sounds right at home on Brainfeeder, and it rivals plenty of other entries to Georgia’s own discography. As Georgia’s albums have in the past, Overload finds ways to take classic psychedelic soul and vocal jazz and make them sound at home next to modern-day hip hop. The album simultaneously sounds like a lost gem from 1974 (and the cover art follows suit) and like something that could only come out today. One of the most obvious examples of this is when she covers The Gap Band’s “You Can Always Count On Me,” which is literally from 1974, and makes it sound like the kind of bubbly electronic hip hop that Flying Lotus tends to make. A song like “Vital Transformation” sounds ready to beat today’s radio-R&B at its own game, while the lively jazz of “These Are The Things I Really Like About You” and “Bobbie’s Dittie” sound plucked straight from your parents’ (or grandparents’) record collection. And the album is as instantly-timeless as it is pleasing to the ears. Georgia’s voice has always been out of this world, and that’s no different on Overload. She’s a true powerhouse, but she knows how to reel it in when she needs to as well. And the production is so lush, polished off with a shine but deep with layers. Georgia has long been one of soul and hip hop’s underrated treasures, and Overload is proof that she hasn’t lost her touch one bit.
It’s become pretty common for beloved bands to reunite and make good albums again, but it’s still rare for bands to reunite and make something that may very well be their best album, and that’s exactly what Daughters have done. The Providence band normally gets tagged as “noise rock,” and while there is plenty of abrasive noise on You Won’t Get What You Want, it’d be pretty misleading to slap that tag on this one. These are dark songs, full of atmosphere and the clearest production of any Daughters album. They often bring to mind the brooding post-punk of ’80s Nick Cave or the eerie experimental rock of early ’90s Swans. There are still blasts of cacophony, especially on “The Flammable Man,” but for the most part, the melody outweighs the dissonance this time around. (They are sinister, sometimes unsettling melodies, but melodies nonetheless.) The result is truly something awe-inspiring. It’s an album like Daughters have never made before, and it’s an album that doesn’t really sound like anything else coming out right now. It entirely ignores trends, defies genres, and exists outside of any real music scene. And it’s executed so well. The guitars can simultaneously sound like nails on a chalkboard and shimmering wind chimes, the drums are thunderous, and the singing on this album is stronger and more accessible than ever before, while still sounding creepy and threatening enough to send chills down your spine. It’s the sound of a band channelling all the terror and fear in the world and putting it right into their music. It’s also the sound of a band, who already proved themselves over a decade ago, insisting on pushing forward and taking their music to a level they’ve never taken it to before.