Five Notable Releases of the Week (8/10)
We're always looking for more ways to talk about new music here on BrooklynVegan, and in addition to this column, the Bill's Indie Basement column, Invisible Oranges' Upcoming Metal Releases, and our monthly playlists, we just launched a new daily songs post this week. Check it out!
As for new albums this week, just a few honorable mentions: Jake Shears, The Beths (which Bill wrote about), and OMB Peezy. Nicki Minaj’s anticipated new album also came out around noon (after this week’s Notable Releases was written), and we’ll probably write more about that soon. Check out my five picks below. What was your favorite release of the week?
Sarah Beth Tomberlin, who makes music simply as Tomberlin, put out a seven-song, Owen Pallett-produced debut album called At Weddings as a limited release on Joyful Noise last year, and she since signed to Saddle Creek, expanded the album to ten songs, and gives it a wider release today. She cites longtime Saddle Creek artist Bright Eyes and Dashboard Confessional as formative influences, and more recently she released a cover of an early Perfume Genius song, and knowing that, you can probably get a feel for the kind of personal, delicate, singer/songwriter type music that Tomberlin makes. She's also gotten comparisons to more modern artists like Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers, and if you like either of those, you'll almost definitely like Tomberlin too. Her songs often have kind of a droning, Grouper-esque atmosphere going on in the background, but at their cores, these songs mostly rely on nothing more than Sarah's voice and a gently-plucked guitar -- or in the case of "Tornado," a sparse piano line -- and that's really all they need to win you over. Sarah is a truly talented singer, who can go from a plainspoken whisper to a soaring falsetto, and her lyrics can capture both the tiniest details ("I looked down at your hands, pretending I was looking at the floor") and monumental self-realizations ("It felt so strange when I said it out loud, that I look for redemption in everyone else"). The songs are so emotionally raw and honest, that it's hard to hear them without feeling like you're peeking at someone else's diary. But like Julien Baker or Conor Oberst or Elliott Smith or any of the great songwriters in this realm to come before her, Tomberlin is writing very personally about her own experiences, but in such a way where it's possible to instantly hear the songs applied to your own life, too.
UK artist Tirzah Mastin is the singer, songwriter, and namesake behind the electronic art pop project Tirzah, but she doesn't like to think of it as a solo project. Her music is all produced by Micachu & the Shapes singer-turned-film scorer Mica Levi, and Mastin told Pitchfork, "It’s mine and Mica’s work. Calling it 'Tirzah' was a split-second decision, and I didn’t have intentions to be a solo artist." Tirzah put out a couple promising EPs on Joe Goddard from Hot Chip's Greco-Roman label, and eventually inked a deal with the larger Domino (also home to Hot Chip), who is releasing her debut album Devotion today. Mica mixed the album with Warp-signed producer Kwes, and Kwes' brother Coby Sey contributes guest vocals to the title track.
The EPs proved that Tirzah was worth paying attention to, but Devotion really seals the deal. There's been a lot of art pop/R&B/UK club music crossover in the past decade or so, and even with this kind of stuff being everywhere (and being so popular), Devotion still instantly stands out amongst all of it. The songs are on the minimal side -- James Blake and Sampha and maybe even The xx come to mind as quick comparisons to make -- but they feel so much bigger than they are; they really grab you on first listen. The music is all over the place, in a good way. Ambient/atmospheric songs like opener "Fine Again" and drum-less piano ballads like "Affection" hit just as hard as dancefloor bangers like "Holding On." And then there's "Guilty," which finds room for distorted rock guitars, trap-style auto-tune, and chamber pop instrumentation in the same damn song. All these sounds are tied together by Tirzah Mastin and Mica Levi's sharp, refined vision, and they all pop out at you thanks to Mastin's truly gifted knack for writing strong hooks.
Of the three tracks on Moses Sumney's new EP, there's only one that can really be considered a "song" in the traditional sense, closing track "Rank & File." But even with that being the case, it's obvious from this very short EP that Moses has already made a noticeable progression from his great 2017 debut album Aromanticism. On that album (and his earlier material that prefaced it), Moses showed off a breathtaking set of pipes. Not only could he let his angelic voice soar in ways unlike most of his peers, he also could manipulate it and layer it in ways that made it sound even more unique. But on his new EP, he shows off a greater sense of purpose and a more powerful message than ever before. Moses says the EP "was ignited by the first and last time I attended a protest. It was in the fall of 2014, after a grand jury decided not to charge the offending officer in the Mike Brown murder," and all the anger, frustration, and sadness that's induced by something like that can be felt on this EP. Opener "Power?" starts with what sounds like an actual recording of an actual protest, and Moses toys with the clip in the studio, distorting it and fading it until the listener ends up in a daze, like in those moments where everything around you is so loud that it blurs until it feels like silence. And then you hear Moses' voice, aided by a robotic effect, asking, "Do we have power?" The next song is called "Call To Arms," and even though there isn't a single lyric in the whole song, it sure does sound like a call to arms. Moses dishes out wordless "oohs" and "ahhs" that kind of sound like a cross between The Beach Boys and Solange, and in the background a psychedelic jazz-rock jam is going on. It ebbs and flows, gets more and more intense, and ends with a spastic freeform sax solo before the song abruptly cuts without a second of ring-out. If all the craziness going on in the world right now could end by someone snapping their fingers, it might feel like this song. And then there's the aforementioned "Rank & File." On this one, Moses doesn't seem to worry at all about making his voice sound pretty like he did on Aromanticism. He just sounds clear and to the point, as he sings bluntly about injustice and again mimics the sounds of protest chants. It sounds like a spiritual descendent of political protest records like What's Going On and The World Is A Ghetto, but with the modern, electronic art pop touch that Moses has become known for. Like those two records were for the early 1970s, "Rank & File" is sonically and thematically representative of our times, and on top of that, it just sounds really, really good.
Cypress Hill's DJ Muggs helped shape '90s hip hop with his production on the group's early records, and -- if something like Riot Fest asking Cypress Hill to play Black Sunday in full this year is any evidence -- Muggs' work still holds up today. It makes sense, then, that '90s revivalists like Freddie Gibbs, Meyhem Lauryn, Mach-Hommy, Hus Kingpin, and Eto would jump at the opportunity to work with him. All of those rappers are on Muggs' new solo album Dia Del Asesinato and some have worked with him on other recent projects (Meyhem Lauren and Muggs released the collaborative Gems from the Equinox last year, and Freddie Gibbs is on Muggs' last solo album, 2013's dubstep-inspired Bass For Your Face). Muggs also, unsurprisingly, roped in fellow legends like Raekwon, MF Doom, and Kool G Rap. On Dia Del Asesinato, the veterans sound refreshed and the newer-comers sound prepared to compete with the legendary talent they're surrounded by. Production wise, Dia Del Asesinato is cut from a similar cloth as the aforementioned Gems from the Equinox (dark, raw, and cinematic), and all of the guests favor an aggressive, booming delivery that should please fans of how rap sounded circa 1993. It's being touted as "a thematic album with a vigilante concept where hip-hop takes corruption head-on, figuratively killing off powerful evildoers in positions of power as the story unfolds," and maybe the decision to follow a single theme is part of what makes Dia Del Asesinato sound so cohesive. Sometimes these "producer solo albums with tons of guest rappers" can sound more like a compilation, but Muggs really crafted an album that flows naturally from start to finish, and all the guests understand and contribute to his vision. And at just ten proper songs (with an intro and outro bringing it to twelve tracks), it flies by without ever dragging or overstaying its welcome.
I wrote a lot about Foxing's great new album, along with an interview, yesterday. Read an excerpt:
Nearer My God is Foxing's best album yet by a landslide, and already a frontrunner for the strongest rock album of the year. It's not every day that you come across rock music this inventive, this thought-provoking, this expertly performed, and this easy and fun to listen to all at once. It's modern-day art rock with the ability to unite the kids who frequent basement punk shows with the ones who flock to Coachella with the ones who sit at home and dissect Radiohead albums. It's an album that fully embraces the electronic and R&B direction that indie rock has taken over the past decade or so, but it's not an album by people who think guitars are dead -- "Lich Prince" has one of the most blazing hot guitar solos you'll hear on any album this year, and Foxing do it without sounding retro or pastiche. Lyrically, the songs are often fueled by the paranoia induced by the current state of the world, but they aren't blunt or explicitly political. The songs are often vague or full of imagery and metaphor, making it so you can feel the unrest that's driving this record while still leaving room for interpretation.
Foxing waste no time letting you know just how much of a leap they've taken on this album. Nearer My God opens with "Grand Paradise," a song powerful enough to knock you off your feet on first listen. It opens like an R&B rework of the first alt-J album, with maybe a little of Radiohead's Amnesiac in the mix, and Conor showing off a newfound knack for alien-pop falsettos. This goes on for about a minute and a half, until, without warning, Conor screams and the song turns into pounding post-hardcore fury. This album can be pretty cerebral, but the moment that fury hits is the moment you stop thinking about the music you're hearing and just get sucked into it.
You can read the rest HERE.