Notable Releases of the Week (7/26)
There aren't as many new albums I recommend out this week as usual, so maybe it's a good opportunity to catch up on one of the many great albums already released this year. Might I suggest the new Dead To A Dying World, which appeared in this column back in April and which I've been listening to a lot since witnessing their killer live show earlier this week.
I picked five new albums to highlight this week, but before I get to those, some honorable mentions: Violent Femmes, Caleb Giles, Cherubs, the first Death Before Dishonor album in ten years, All Out War, Clark, Mini Mansions, Maneka (ex-Speedy Ortiz), Strange Ranger, E-40, Nastie Band, Sanction, Dude York, Mikey Erg, the first Cable album in 10 years, the guest-filled DJ Snake album, and the Spoon best-of.
P.S., the Chance the Rapper album that was promised for today is still not here, but Chance is featured on one of the albums I wrote about below. Also fun fact: two of my picks today feature Anderson .Paak.
UPDATE: Chance the Rapper's album is here. Guests include Justin Vernon, Ben Gibbard, CocoRosie, Nicki Minaj, DaBaby, Megan Thee Stallion, Smino, Timbaland, and more.
Check out my five picks below. What was your favorite release of the week?
It's good timing that Burna Boy's new album African Giant comes just one week after the release of Beyonce's The Lion King: The Gift album. Not only does Burna Boy have a standout track on that album, but the whole Lion King album sees Beyonce working with a cast of both American hip hop artists and Afrobeat/Afropop artists, and Burna Boy takes a very similar approach to that hugely publicized album on his own new LP. He brought in an impressive cast of American (and British) hip hop artists including YG, Future, Jeremih, and Jorja Smith, and there's also a song featuring two other global crossover artists, Damian Marley and Angelique Kidjo. Beyonce (and Drake, who Burna Boy has some history with) have been getting the American mainstream ready for a major hip hop/Afrobeat crossover moment, and on African Giant, Burna Boy is ready to assume his position as one of the movement's leaders. The 19-song album is maybe slightly longer than it needs to be, but it's loaded with great, instantly catchy songs that break down the boundaries between genre and region (an early favorite of mine is "Gum Body," a collaboration with British neo-soul singer and Drake collaborator Jorja Smith that beats Drake at his own game). It should easily cross over with fans of modern hip hop and R&B, but it's not really either of those things. Burna Boy is pulling sounds from all over the world and coming out with something he can truly call his own, and there's no better time for it than right now.
Also: Burna Boy is on the new DJ Snake album that's out this week.
YBN Cordae initially emerged as a promising second-stringer to YBN Nahmir in the YBN crew (who released the great YBN: The Mixtape last year), but those days already feel far behind him. Cordae has entirely become a breakout star of his own, and he now seems ready to take the world by storm with his debut solo album, The Lost Boy. He landed some pretty huge guests for the album, including Chance the Rapper and Anderson .Paak, both of whose breakout periods I'm reminded of when listening to YBN Cordae. Like Chance and Paak, Cordae has a skill set that should impress classic rap fans, and an agreeable, soulful vibe that makes his music easy to throw on whenever. The album also boasts appearance from currently-hot greats Pusha T and Meek Mill, and even with all that star power surrounding him, Cordae has no trouble remaining in the spotlight. The album doesn't include my favorite of his recent singles ("Locationships"), but it does include the great "Have Mercy" and a handful of other songs that seem poised to become fan favorites in due time. Cordae's got the kind of delivery where you can really take in his every word on first listen, and he's got a real knack for casually working hooks into his rhymes (like Chance and Paak). Both of those traits make for a batch of songs that goes down easy and doesn't take long to stick in your head. And, compared to the promising-but-often-aimless YBN: The Mixtape, The Lost Boy has a real sense of focus that proves Cordae is even better outside of his group.
Emily Sprague records ambient music under her given name and bedroom pop under the name Florist, but both probably count as "solo projects," especially the new Florist album which is called Emily Alone. The name comes from the fact that Emily recorded the album at her home in Los Angeles during a period where she was "living alone and separate from many of the things she once held most close," and even without knowing that backstory, the title fits. Most of these songs are just Emily with an acoustic guitar, and maybe some light atmospheric textures in the background, and it should definitely appeal to those who like bare-bones folk music. Emily has a wonderful singing voice -- and she sometimes effectively utilizes spoken word too -- and she really knows how to write the kind of delicate melodies that win you over on first listen.
While we're still waiting on that Chance the Rapper album, another Chicago artist's new LP is out today that should scratch a similar itch. Even if you've never listened to soul singer BJ the Chicago Kid's own music before, you've probably heard his voice if you listen to hip hop; he's sung on Chance the Rapper's music and on multiple Kendrick the Lamar albums, as well as albums by Schoolboy Q, Freddie Gibbs, Rapsody, Big K.R.I.T., Joey Bada$$, Anderson .Paak, Solange, and more. The guy is everywhere, and for good reason. He's got a gorgeous voice and he really knows how to use it. The first voice you hear on his new album 1123 is actually not BJ, but a rapped verse by Anderson .Paak. It's one of Paak's most attention-grabbing verses in a while (with some head-nodding, hypnotic production to boot), and it's a great introduction to this album, but then BJ takes the spotlight from there and he keeps you hooked. He hasn't had as much crossover success outside of soul music as Paak has had, and this album quickly reminds you how criminal that is. Any fans of his many aforementioned collaborators should have no trouble getting sucked into this LP. Other guests include JID, Buddy, Rick Ross, Offset, and more, but BJ carries the bulk of the album on his own and he does a fine job of it.
Long-running alternative singer/songwriter Lloyd Cole reunites with two former members of his '80s band The Commotions (guitarist Neil Clark and keyboardist Blair Cowan) for the first time since the '80s on his new solo album Guesswork, but it's not a return to the Commotions' jangle pop roots. It's an electronic pop album, and a pretty good one at that. "When I was 27, the concept of the washed up older guy seemed very entertaining," he says. "Now I’m starting to think that old age could be a lot more fun." Bill's got a longer review of the album in Bill's Indie Basement.