5 great 2018 albums you may have missed
It's Friday which normally means I would be posting my Five Notable Releases of the Week column, but with the holiday this week, there's hardly anything in the way of new albums (though there's some stuff worth hearing like the Bodega album which Bill reviewed and the great new Meek Mill EP), so I'm taking the opportunity to catch up on five worthy albums I missed earlier this year. I'm not necessarily saying these albums are "overlooked" in any broader sense of the word (though none of them are super popular or anything), just that they're five albums I like that I think haven't gotten enough (or any) attention here on BrooklynVegan. Some of them have been mentioned on BV before, but none have been reviewed for Notable Releases or anywhere else on the site.
Check out the five I picked below. Any albums you like that you feel have gone overlooked this year?
Sweden's highly unique Anna Von Hausswolff returned this year with a followup to 2015's The Miraculous, and this one was her first album produced by Randall Dunn (who she previously collaborated with on Wolves in the Throne Room's 2017 album Thrice Woven). Randall is also known for work with such artists as Sunn O))) and Marissa Nadler, and Anna's music sort of falls right in the middle of those two artists. It shares a haunting, folky quality with Marissa Nadler and a droney, doomy quality with Sunn O))) though it's neither folk nor doom. It's hard to know what exactly to call it, which is part of what makes it so remarkable. As you know if you've listened to Anna's music before, her main instrument of choice is the organ, and the instrument's ominous, droning vibe helps separate her music from artists who are perceived as "similar" to her, most of whom base their music around guitar or synth. And above all the eerie, swirling atmosphere is that voice. Anna can be calm and ethereal but she can also bring her voice to a wild, unhinged scream. Diamanda Galas and Kate Bush are frequently mentioned as forebears, but even knowing that doesn't fully prepare you for the force that is Anna Von Hausswolff. On Dead Magic, she finds brilliant middle grounds between quiet and loud, ugly and beautiful -- and it's a space that isn't occupied by many other artists right now.
Toronto's MorMor didn't actually come out of nowhere -- he released some music that got some attention a few years ago but then pulled it and started putting out singles again this year -- but even knowing that detail, his Heaven's Only Wishful EP sounds wildly impressive for an artist who's mostly still getting his footing. MorMor's music is very of the moment -- it sounds readymade for a world where artists like Frank Ocean, Blood Orange and Moses Sumney have basically erased the lines between R&B and indie rock. And while MorMor should appeal to fans of those artists, he doesn't necessarily sound like them. He's got an awesome voice (and an awesome falsetto), and he's really got his own vibe. His music is clearly experimental but also easily accessible, and all five songs on the EP sound like they could already be staples of today's underground and overground music. He's got stuff like the title track and "Whatever Comes to Mind," which see MorMor mostly overtly blurring the lines between R&B and indie rock, and then there's the more atmospheric/electronic "Lost," and then "Waiting on the Warmth." The latter is the closest he comes to a pop banger (though still with a fuzzy guitar solo), and, in the context of this not-exactly-pop EP, it feels like the light at the end of a tunnel. Finally, there's closer "Find Colour," a shoegazy/dream poppy song that almost sounds like an R&B version of M83 or Beach House. If you remember the excitement you had for those artists when they were starting out, that's kind of the excitement that MorMor now deserves too.
We've said this before but June was an amazing month for rap music. Drake released a double album; Kanye released his own album, a collaborative album with Kid Cudi, and produced a Nas album; Beyonce and Jay-Z released a collaborative album; Jay Rock released a killer album... and that's not even close to all of it. And within the same 24 hours those last three dropped, Rico Nasty dropped her Atlantic Records debut, Nasty. At the moment, Rico is the smallest of all the aforementioned artists (her upcoming tour includes a NYC show at the small rite-of-passage club SOB's), but going by the immediacy and the skillset that she shows on Nasty, she shouldn't be small for very long. Rico Nasty already has a few different personas -- the punk-ish Trap Lavigne, the more melodic Tacobella, and her usual Rico Nasty -- and she shows off a little of all of them on Nasty. There are rap ragers on Nasty like "Bitch I'm Nasty," "Countin' Up," and "Transformer" (which has a mosh-rap guest verse from Lil Gnar), and she's also got pop magic like "Why Oh Why" and "Lala." (She has a mixtape series called Sugar Trap and that can be a good descriptor of how she sometimes sounds.) Her hooks can get stuck in your head in no time, but her ability to back up her pop side with strong, athletic bars suggests that she's probably gonna have a little more longevity than your average Soundcloud rapper. Nasty is at times one of the hardest new rap records and at other times one of the catchiest, and that's a big feat for a rising artist who dropped the same month as Kanye, Drake, Nas, and The Carters.
You won't hear many albums like Anna & Elizabeth's third LP, The Invisible Comes To Us. It's folk music that will sound instantly familiar to any fan of the last several decades of folk music, but it also sounds unmistakably modern. If certain parts do sound very, very old, it's because they sort of are. Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle sourced much of the music for this album from the Helen Hartness Flanders archive at Vermont's Middlebury College, which includes nearly 5,000 field recordings by Vermonters and New Englanders. (It makes sense to hear that this album was picked up by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the Smithsonian Institution's nonprofit record label which is also home to recordings like "This Land Is Your Land.") But what Anna & Elizabeth do with these old folk songs is what makes them sound so fresh. They teamed up with producer Benjamin Lazar Davis and drummer Jim White (of The Dirty Three and Xylouris White) to interpret the folk music they discovered in a context where synthesizers and acoustic guitars co-exist. There are parts of this album that sound like 1950s Greenwich Village and other parts that sound like ambient drone. Electronic and acoustic sounds have often proved to work well together, but Anna & Elizabeth still manage to do it in a way that feels unique. Not to mention they've got powerful voices that are perfect for this kind of thing. They sing in close harmony and they channel traditional folk styles without sounding retro. "It was all these people who were singing for their families, which is so different than 'What record's coming out this week?'," Anna said to NPR about the source material for this album. That quote gives you an idea of why Anna & Elizabeth's execution of this music in 2018 feels so genuine. It sounds like they fully immersed themselves in this world of field recordings, far away from the Hottest New Songs. Sometimes the best way to write a vital record is by letting yourself remain entirely unaffected by the current zeitgeist, rather than trying to capture it.
Light Will Consume Us All is the second album by Sacramento's CHRCH and their first for Neurot Recordings, the label run by post-metal giants Neurosis. Like a lot of music on Neurot, there are some clear comparisons to Neurosis to be made, but CHRCH are far from just another post-metal band. They've got the moments of towering, plodding sludge-doom that 21st century Neurosis are basically the leaders of, but there's also so much more than that across Light Will Consume Us All's three tracks (one of which is over 20 minutes long and one of which is nearly 15). They have blasts of Deafheaven-esque black metal, doses of psychedelia, and lots of stuff that's more post-rock than post-metal. CHRCH have enough harsh screams on the album that it'll always fall under the "metal" umbrella, but the several passages of clean, atmospheric guitar actually remind me more of stuff like Caspian or This Will Destroy You than NeurIsis-style bands. But what really separates CHRCH from the pack is vocal powerhouse Eva Rose. She brings an overwhelming amount of melody and clean tones to the music, even during the heaviest parts, and it gives CHRCH a wider appeal than your average modern doom band has. She's also far from an average metal vocalist. She doesn't really do the bellowing type of singing that doom bands with clean vocals tend to do. She's got a lot more restraint than that -- she almost sings as if CHRCH were a shoegaze band -- but her vocals are never faint or thin. For music that's heavy yet melodic, Light Will Consume Us All is some of the best new stuff you'll find this year.