Five Notable Releases of the Week (9/1)
With it being Labor Day Weekend and all, today is pretty slow on new albums, especially compared to last week, when it seemed like countless major artists were squeezing in releases before the end of summer. (Though today does have one of the most anticipated albums of the year: LCD Soundsystem's first album since 2010.) Given the circumstances, today's list includes a couple of last week's albums which deserve some more attention.
If you're looking for musical plans this weekend, check out our NYC Labor Day Weekend event guide or maybe head to Philly for Made In America festival (here's 15 acts we think you should see). Also, start looking forward to the next season with our list of anticipated indie rock albums of Fall 2017.
Check out my picks below. What was your favorite release of the week?
LCD Soundsystem released their first album in seven years, American Dream, today. Here's an excerpt of Bill's review:
Lyrically, there is no doubt we are in darker, sadder territory. The sardonic aging hipster of "Losing My Edge," quick with the joke, is now pushing 50, and these days more inclined to muse on his own mortality than fire off quips. When quips are fired, they tend to go pitch-black, like on "Tonite." "Yeah all the hits are saying the same thing / there’s only tonite tonite tonite tonite / man, life is finite / but, shit it feels like forever." Loss is everywhere on this album, be it love ("Oh Baby"), a down-in-flames friendship (the very bitter "How Do You Sleep?"), youth (the title track), and, again, the touching, regret-tinged Bowie tribute "Black Screen."
"Tonite" is probably the most quintessential LCD track on the album, dancey with stream-of-consciousness style ranting, loads of quotable lines, and just a dash of the Fall (it doesn't get more Mark E Smith than "sent to parry the cocksure mem-stick filth"). The other classic-style song here is "Emotional Haircut," with its shouted chorus and finale that has the band really cutting loose and rocking out -- though lyrically it's less jokey than it first seems.
As Bill also points out in the review, there are still some angered fans about LCD Soundsystem coming back at all, after hyping up their breakup so much, but this album truly was worth coming back for.
When Kip Berman emerged with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's 2009 self-titled debut album on Slumberland, he and his band were making a mix of twee pop and shoegaze that may have sounded like it could've been recorded 20 years earlier, but it broke through in a way true indiepop bands don't tend to. It was a triumph for the genre, but, not content to be pigeonholed, Kip continued to quickly change it up. That album's 2011 followup Belong was recorded with Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness producer Flood and it had noticeable hints of The Smashing Pumpkins' wall-of-sound guitars, while 2014's Days of Abandon was a cleaner pop album than anything the band had done before. This year's The Echo of Pleasure, TPOBPAH's first full length released on their own Painbow label (which they also released their 2007 debut EP on), changes things up once again. Kip recorded it with Jacob Danish Sloan (Dream Diary), horn player Kelly Pratt (Beirut, David Byrne & St Vincent, much more), and Jen Goma (A Sunny Day In Glasgow, Showtime Goma), the latter of whom takes lead vocals on the album's could-be hit, "So True." With a whoo-hoo melody that sorta echoes Chairlift's "Bruises," it sounds like it has true radio (or iPod commercial) potential more than any previous Pains song, and it should instantly drill its way into your brain. Another standout is the electronics-fueled "When I Dance With You," which is one of the danciest things Pains have ever done and sorta crosses over into mid/late '80s New Order territory. While those two break the mold most, the rest of the album tends to favor a sort of classic, midtempo pop with flashes of the shiny '80s but never tied to one particular decade. As Pains go on, they tend to remind me more and more of Saint Etienne, who are such scholars of pop that one of their members literally wrote the book on it. Like that band, Pains seem to effortlessly boil down the past five decades of pop into one sound, and Kip's natural talent as a songwriter makes the songs appealing to more than just fellow music nerds and record collectors.
We said it when they released their last album too, but before Death Grips, Run the Jewels, and Yeezus took industrial rap mainstream, Dalek had already mastered it. The group had a dark, uncompromising sound that was out of step with the mainstream during their initial run, but since it's much more popular now, it's a perfect time for them to come back. And it's nice that they're staying prolific too. Just a year after releasing the great Asphalt for Eden, they're back with yet another album that finds them in fine form, Endangered Philosophies. For this one, they're back on Mike Patton's Ipecac label, which released every Dalek album from 2002-2009.
Like a lot of music has been in this scary political climate, Endangered Philosophies takes a stand against all of the injustice America is still plagued with. On the great opening track and lead single, "Echoes Of...," MC Dalek shouts out the black civil rights activists who came before him: "We the echoes of Martin, of Malcon, of Evers, of Hampton, of Seatle -- my people won't kneel!" On "The Son of Immigrants," he snaps, "I'm your worst nightmare / educated and born here / prepared for warfare / we ain't going nowhere," which sounds like a direct reply to Trump's racist travel ban. On "Sacrifice," he raps a line that's especially resonant given our current president: "Elected leaders shout with zero research." These cutting remarks all come with dizzying rhyme schemes that, paired with the dark production, make Endangered Philosophies not just a powerfully uplifting album but a total sonic mind warp.
Wiki's first solo album for XL, No Mountains In Manhattan, truly captures New York culture and it proves that Wiki is emerging as one of the city's most uniquely skilled MCs. Here's an excerpt of my review:
From the skit where he orders a bacon egg and cheese at a bodega (a theme that's also popped up at live shows and in this funny video), to celebrating queer culture and shouting out now-closed club The Tunnel on "Pretty Bull," to rapping about playing stick ball with a Spalding, to a Ghostface Killah guest verse, No Mountains In Manhattan is a true snapshot of New York culture. New York can seem like a dirty, ugly place from the outside, but its inhabitants know otherwise. "How you gonna say ain't no mountains in Manhattan?" Wik asks on the title track. And in the spoken word portion at the end of that song, a voice lovingly adds, "I remember growing up [...] when I'd like, you know, be driving into New York, you know from the airport, driving on the BQE, and you see all the skyscrapers, and you're like 'Fuck man, that's my mountain range right there.'" It's as good a metaphor as any for how beautiful this city is.
Wiki's far from the only rapper to release an album that's "New York to the core" this year -- or hell, this month -- but it's been a while since I've heard one that's this classically New York and still weird, different, and totally new.
Read the rest of the review HERE.
San Marcos, Texas' Brockhampton have been emerging as one of the most prolific new hip hop groups around. Their debut mixtape All-American Trash came out last year, and this year they released their debut album Saturation in June, its sequel Saturation II last week, and they already put out the single from the forthcoming Saturation III. Not to mention group leader Kevin Abstract released his own new album American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story last year. These guys are on fire. They've gained more than one comparison to early Odd Future, and Kevin himself called Odd Future his heroes and said they paved the way for a group like Brockhampton to exist. Similar to Odd Future, Brockhampton seem to do whatever the fuck they want. They're a rap group but they call themselves a "boy band." Their albums span multiple genres; their sound is clearly new but it's not inaccessible or totally unfamiliar. But while Odd Future's lyrics stuck in your head due to shock factor, Brockhampton's do for a type of LGBTQ pride that's not often heard in rap. "Why you always rap about being gay?," Kevin Abstract mockingly asks himself on album highlight "Junky." "Cause not enough niggas rap and be gay," he quickly replies. It's on a song where Kevin dives deep inside himself and tackles the difficulty of coming out to his mom, being attracted to straight men (with great use of masc/mask wordplay), and growing up in a place where "niggas get called 'faggot' and get killed."
And again, the sounds on Saturation II are all over the place. They've got songs with fiery bars spit over hard-hitting electronic production, and they've got "Jesus," which puts spoken word and soulful singing over minimal piano, or "Teeth," where Ameer Vann raps about feeling out of place in white schools over a cappella gospel harmonies. "Fight" uses sitar prominently enough to accurately be called raga rap, and Ameer once again battles racism on this one: "My teachers would say 'little black boys have a place in the world'... like hanging from trees or dead in the street like I seen on TV? All them boys they killed, they look just like me." The album addresses some pretty serious stuff, but they go out on a lighter note with "Summer," an R&B love song sung by bearface with a real-deal guitar solo. It's one last reminder that Brockhampton have set no limits for themselves.