Five Notable Releases of the Week (7/20)
This week also brought the sad news that Minus the Bear are breaking up, but at least they’ve got one more EP and tour in them, and hey, on the bright side, maybe this opens up the door for Botch or Sharks Keep Moving reunions???
As for new albums, one big honorable mention this week: the new EP from Def Jam-signed rapper Bobby Sessions, that i reviewed HERE. Other honorable mentions: Ty Segall & White Fence, Skeletonwitch, the 88rising crew album, and the new Katie Ellen EP. Also, a new song out this week that I highly recommend is the excellent title track from Foxing’s upcoming Nearer My God. You can listen and read my track review here.
Check out my five picks below. What was your favorite release of the week?
The Internet began as just the duo of Syd (then known as Syd tha Kyd) and Matt Martians, but the lineup has since expanded into a five-piece band, most of whom released solo projects in the past year and a half or so. Maybe it’s because most members have now really had time to shine outside of the group, but their new album Hive Mind feels a lot more collaborative than their last album, 2015’s Ego Death (maybe the “Hive Mind” title is intentionally telling). Syd has always been the leader, and she still mostly is, but on Hive Mind, she sounds more like one part of a whole, and the other members’ contributions feel stronger and louder than ever. The album also has a more free-flowing spirit about it than Ego Death did. Outside of lead single “Burbank Funk,” which is an addictively groovy slice of psychedelic funk, most of Hive Mind is a lot less immediate than Ego Death, with The Internet favoring unexpected turns over instant satisfaction. As far as modern hip hop goes, it’s cut from a similar cloth as To Pimp A Butterfly, another album where a crowd-pleasing artist made something more challenging than ever, and also favored lush, live instrumentation. As a result, Hive Mind requires a little more patience than Ego Death (or than Syd’s very catchy solo record Fin), but the payoff is worth it. Once you play this thing loud and really sit down and listen, it’s clear that it’s a true work of art.
NYC’s Wild Pink debuted with their 2017 self-titled LP, which got some comparisons to late ’90s / early ’00s indie like American Analog Set and early Death Cab for Cutie, the latter often because of singer John Ross’ gentle, boy-ish vocals, but now they’re back with sophomore album Yolk in the Fur and the reference points that are coming up for this one are stuff like The War On Drugs and the new Amen Dunes album. Like both of those, Yolk in the Fur sees Wild Pink branching away from their smaller sounding debut and embracing the bigger, more wide-reaching sounds of indie-heartland rock. If you’re gonna attempt this kind of thing, you need the ambition to make a record that’s not afraid to leap out of its own skin, and Wild Pink have it. They’ve also got a spin on indie-heartland rock that many of their contemporaries don’t have. The big choruses, driving rhythms, jangly rhythm guitars, twangy leads, and background synths that tend to define this sound are all there, but that Ben Gibbard-esque voice that John Ross has makes Wild Pink sound a little more tender and youthful than most War On Drugs-y stuff. This can’t be “dad rock”; the teenage feelings are too strong for that. As with many good indie-heartland records, it’s got the ballads like atmospheric opener “Burger Hill,” the sweeping “Jewels Drossed In The Runoff,” and the U2-ish “Love Is Better,” and it’s also got the faster, more irresistible stuff like the ridiculously catchy lead single “Lake Erie” and the even more driving “John Mosby Hollow Drive.” Then Yolk in the Fur has some real wild stuff like its almost-seven-minute title track, which starts off on the gentle indie side, and then turns into something that almost sounds like David Bowie’s “Heroes,” before settling into featherlight jangle pop. After that, Wild Pink take the song into territory you can sorta call “sludgy,” and then it ends back on a more folky note. That’s a lot to put into one song, and Wild Pink pull it off. Their ambition is impressive, but if the album has any room to improve, it could benefit from John Ross shaking things up a little more in the vocal booth. That gentle, boy-ish tone is nice, but at times it gets a little too precious, and the album would really pack a punch if the singing was as dynamic as the instrumentation. Still, Yolk in the Fur is such a drastic step up from Wild Pink’s debut that if they keep progressing at this rate, it’s looking like they’ll have a very bright future.
Queens rap crew World’s Fair — aka Remy Banks, Jeff Donna, Lansky Jones, Nasty Nigel, Prince SAMO, DJ THOTH, and Cody B. Ware — have been at it since the beginning of this decade, and though they’ve never made an album until now, they’ve been a crucial part of defining the current New York rap sound. If you’re into A$AP Mob, Joey Bada$$/Pro Era, Flatbush Zombies, The Underachievers, Action Bronson, Wiki (who Nasty Nigel collaborated with on the great “Livin’ with My Moms”), or any other artists like that, you’ll probably find that World’s Fair’s long-awaited debut album is right up your alley. There are moments that sound like all of those artists, but World’s Fair also have their own distinct vibe. They probably could’ve brought in some of those more famous rappers to help put New Lows on the map, but they kept things almost entirely in-house, and they’re probably better off that way anyway. There are a handful of very skilled rappers in this group, and they all get plenty of time to shine on this album. The only guest rapper they bring it at all is Freaky Franz, who at this point is probably better known as the bassist and sometimes-lead-singer of the great hardcore band Turnstile. The only other guests are two singers: Kilo Kish and Dounia. Like World’s Fair’s contemporaries, World’s Fair have soaked up the influence of their city’s rich rap history, and they honor it by actually giving a shit about the skill of rapping in a traditional sense, but also by being their own weird selves. There are bars on “Win4″ that sound like they could’ve come out of Queens in the mid-’90s, and then the next song “Elvis’ Flowers (on my grave)” is dark, psychedelic weirdness that sounds like the future. World’s Fair blend this stuff together so seamlessly, that whether you prefer throwback sounds or forward-thinking ones, it’s hard to resist New Lows either way.
As just a teenager, Compton rapper/singer Buddy caught the attention of Pharrell and released a couple Neptunes-produced singles like “Awesome Awesome” and “Staircases” (the latter of which features Kendrick Lamar), before dropping his Pharrell-assisted mixtape Idle Time around the time he hit drinking age. He’s since gone on to work with a handful of major artists (A$AP Rocky, Chance the Rapper, Nipsey Hussle, DJ Quik), and then released a Kaytranada-produced EP last year, and now he’s finally releasing his debut album, Harlan & Alondra. It’s safe to assume that a good amount of people are anticipating this album, and I don’t think they’ll be very disappointed. Buddy pulled all the stops: introspective, instrumentation-heavy, Kendricky stuff like opener “Real Life Shit,” aggressive bars like the A$AP Ferg-featuring “Black,” radio-friendly, trap-ish stuff like the Ty Dolla $ign-featuring “Hey Up There,” straight-up funk music like the Snoop Dogg-featuring “The Blue,” lusty R&B like “Speechless,” poppier stuff like “Shine,” and more. It’s got so much packed in to one 12-song album, but it’s cohesive, and it doesn’t sound like Buddy is doing it just to increase his chances of connecting with a variety of audiences. These sound like artistic choices, not commercial ones. Even at his most radio-friendly, Buddy isn’t dumbing down his sound — he’s got serious talent as both a rapper and as a singer in a way you really don’t come by every day, and that’s clear on Harlan & Alondra from start to finish. Buddy showed a lot of promise on those early Neptunes-produced singles, and six/seven years later, he’s proving that he can not only live up to that promise for the length of an entire album, but often exceed it.
Long Beach punks Struckout have releases dating back to 2013, but they didn’t cross my radar until this year’s self-titled album, which I partially noticed because it was produced by the great Jack Shirley (who’s produced Deafheaven, Loma Prieta, Jeff Rosenstock, Joyce Manor, and more, and played in the sorely-missed Comadre). Records that Jack works on rarely disappoint, and Struckout’s new LP is no different. It’s a rush from start to finish. I wrote more about it earlier this week, and here’s an excerpt:
Aside from having awesome song tiles like “Accrued Vacation Days (Daniel Listens To Krautrock Once),” “I Kind Of Think Emo Music Is Fucking Pointless,” and “We’ve Tried Nothing And We’re All Out Of Ideas,” Struckout has eight tracks of awesome, ripping, noisy punk that fans of other Jack Shirley collaborators will surely dig. There’s bits of all kinds of familiar music, like The Jesus Lizard’s swampy post-hardcore, more experimental stuff like Slint or Sonic Youth, raging grunge-punk like Nirvana’s faster songs, and more, but Struckout bring all these familiar sounds together and come out with something that feels fresh. It’s a really fun record.
Read more (and see their upcoming tour dates) here.