Five Notable Releases of the Week (4/29/16)
It's probably no surprise at all what the first two albums on the list this week are. I know you're tired of hearing about them, but they're here because they deserve to be, but they aren't the only albums out this week worth talking about. So I picked three others too.
Check out my picks below. What was you favorite release of the week?
Beyonce's new album Lemonade is of course the top pick this week, but I already published a review of that one. It begins:
If you're still thinking Beyonce is too pop or not authentic due to working with songwriters, you're boring and you're missing out on one of the most vital artists around. She made the jump from Singles Artist to Album Artist with 2011's retro-soul-inspired 4, she blew that album away and turned "alternative R&B" into "mainstream R&B" with 2013's self-titled LP, and it's quite possible that the newly-released Lemonade blows its predecessor away as well. All three albums are different, all three defy trends, and all three take the kind of risks that could alienate a lesser artist's fanbase, but only grow Beyonce's.
Read the rest HERE.
Last year, Drake became the biggest rapper alive. He's pretty much at the point in his career where Jay Z was in the early 2000s, and that's not an easy place to get to. That puts a lot more weight on a new album than most artists have, and while VIEWS might succeed as a great album by someone else, early listens have it feeling like merely a good Drake album. (I only heard this thing less than 24 hours ago, so it might require more attention than I've been able to give it.) Every Drake album up until this point has been a clear progression. Take Care, his first classic, was miles ahead of anything he'd done up until that point. Its followup Nothing Was the Same had a similar flow to it, but the sounds within it were new ground for Drake (like his first true pop song, "Hold On, We're Going Home"). Then Drake had to switch the flow up on us, shit was gettin' too predictable, so he released If You're Reading This It's Too Late, which abandoned the "album" structure of the previous two (he called it a mixtape) and experimented with harder raps and more minimal production. Everything on VIEWS sounds well put together and well delivered, and there are even a few surprises (like the massive drums on opener "Keep the Family Close"), but it's the first Drake album that feels safe. He's mostly confirming that he can deliver exactly the type of rap/R&B we associate with Drake, and even some of the flows feel lifted from previous Drake songs. It's enjoyable for longtime fans and a fine entry point for new listeners (yes, there are still humans living and not-yet born who have not heard Drake), but not the noticeable step forward he's conditioned us to expect each time. To go back to the Jay Z comparison, this feels a little like The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse, which did have a few genuine hits and which was followed by one of the top three Jay Z albums released. So even if VIEWS ends up as often-forgotten as The Blueprint 2, it's still not a bad place for any artist to be.
Stream it on Apple Music.
Is Aesop Rock kinda underrated? He was the talk of underground rap in the early 2000s but while his old pal El-P is more famous than ever and someone like Del the Funky Homosapien is forever-legendary, Aesop doesn't come up like he used to. And even if his output rate has slowed down, his quality hasn't lessened. His last two records were 2007's None Shall Pass and 2012's Skelethon, which were both fantastic, and he remains impressive on The Impossible Kid. On a purely technical level, Aesop can still out-rap half the guys on the radio and he sounds like no one but himself. And the production, done entirely by Aesop Rock himself (with Grimace Federation providing instrumentation), is still weird and psychedelic, retro yet futuristic. Not to get all "bitter indie guy," but imagine if this album got all the thinkpieces and live tweeting when it hit the web that VIEWS did? It doesn't fit into a "narrative" right now like that one does, but it just might sound better in ten years.
Indie vet Britta Phillips has been at it for years as a member of Luna and Dean & Britta with her husband Dean Wareham (not to mention she provided Jem's singing voice in Jem and the Holograms, among still other things), but this is her first solo album. It's half covers, including Evie Sands' "One Fine Summer Morning," The Cars' "Drive," Dennis Wilson's "Fallin' In Love," Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide," and Agnetha Fältskog from ABBA's "Wrap Your Arms Around Me," but Britta makes the whole album sound like one cohesive piece of work. It's got a modern update on classic pop, kind of like if Nancy Sinatra's '60s material was recorded by a '90s trip-pop band. It's a sound that's tough to not enjoy, whether you're into the most indie stuff around or whatever's on the radio. Even her arpeggiated-synth take on "Landslide" is great, and I thought I never wanted to hear that song covered again.
(Soundcloud via Wall Street Journal)
North Carolina indie-punks Museum Mouth have been at it for all of the current decade, and Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig is their fourth album overall, first for Say Anything frontman Max Bemis' Equal Vision imprint Rory Records, and best yet. (They're also currently on tour with Say Anything, plus mewithoutYou and Teen Suicide.) Their last album, 2013's Alex I Am Nothing, was about frontman Karl Kuehn falling in unrequited love with a straight man, and much of Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig is the sound of Karl being over it. "I spent all of 2013 trying to make a straight man love me, wrote an album about it (Alex I Am Nothing), and then got over it LOL!!! As cheesy as this sounds, just writing those songs helped me get through it," he said. It's a record that anyone who's overcome heartbreak can relate to (aka everyone), and it tells the heartbreak to fuck off with crunchy power chords, killer riffs, big choruses, and some quiet parts too. In between the ragers, Karl works in the solo acoustic songs "Bugeyed" and "Roadkill," and the band strips things down for the slower "Koopa Breeders" too. It's an approach not unlike Modern Baseball's You're Gonna Miss It All, Joyce Manor's Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired, or really anything by Radiator Hospital -- albums by songwriters who can't decide between playing in punk bands and recording acoustic songs in their bedrooms.
(Soundcloud via SPIN)