Five Notable Releases of the Week (4/13)
We're finally here: Coachella weekend. If you're going, check out the set times. If you're not, check out the online livestream and SiriusXM broadcast schedules. Whether you're going or streaming/listening from home, check out the acts we're excited to see. For even more Coachella deets, head here.
One the most anticipated Coachella 2018 sets is Cardi B, whose excellent debut album Invasion of Privacy came out last week. It wasn't in last week's Notable Releases because I didn't review it until this week. So I've included an excerpt of my review below as one of this week's five picks.
Check out my five picks below. What was your favorite release of the week?
Baltimore's War On Women have made a name of themselves as one of the most powerful and uncompromising punk bands of the last few years thanks to their great 2015 self-titled debut and their in-your-face, unforgettable live shows. (Seriously, if you haven't seen them, change that. They're on tour now and playing Brooklyn tonight.) Now they're back with their second album, Capture The Flag, and it's got all the same appeal as their debut but it's bigger and better in ever way. They're still attacking tons of injustices, like everyday sexism ("your skirt's too short, your dress too tight"), the president ("I don't care who's in office, there's more of us and you already lost, so fuck this fucking rapist / this flag does not make me a patriot"), systemic oppression ("Where do you turn when your pain is illegal in your state?"), and gun violence ("they don't care if you live, they don't care if you die, it's only ever been about control"), only this time they're doing so with noticeably sharper songcraft. Musically, they've got a handful of heavy influences and they mix them seamlessly. They channel a long history of hardcore, from the raw power of the classic '80s era to the dark melodic hardcore of the 2000s. They throw in real-deal thrash metal riffs and the occasional shredded solo, a couple lighter alternative rock parts, and there's a clean guitar arpeggio at the beginning of "Pleasure & The Beast" that could kinda pass for System Of A Down. And while they share more of a spirit than a sound with '90s Riot Grrrl, they do bring in Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna to provide guest vocals on "YDTMHTL." The musicianship is next level, as it needs to be for an album that aims to fit in as many riffs as this one does, and so is vocalist Shawna Potter, who gives a stunning performance that she only hinted at on the band's debut. She still whips out plenty of the angered shouts she's become known for, but this time her singing voice soars in a way it never has before. She's got Hole/Distillers-sized choruses, and she'll ring out a note at what you might think is the top of her lungs, before hitting an even higher and louder one. With all the painful topics that inform this album, there's no better cathartic release than hearing her wail like that. And you'll quickly be wailing along -- these are by far the catchiest War On Women songs yet. The heightened knack for melodicism and the crisp, clear production (courtesy of J Robbins of Jawbox and the band's own Brooks Harlan) make the album more accessible than their debut, but War On Women haven't gone soft on us at all. On "The Violence of Bureaucracy," Shawna's screams are nearly in death metal territory. War On Women's ability to combine brutally heavy stuff with genuinely catchy stuff is thrilling, and it's no small feat to do it as naturally as they do. There's just as much attention to detail in the sound of Capture The Flag as there is in its powerful message, and when those two things come together the way they do here, tuning out is not an option.
Portland indie-folk vet Laura Veirs is your favorite singer's favorite singer. She's been criminally underrated for most of her nearly-two-decade career, but her fans include artists like The Decemberists (who had her duet with Colin Meloy on 2007's great "Yankee Bayonet [I Will Be Home Then]"), Neko Case and k.d. lang (who she did a collaborative album with in 2016), and Sufjan Stevens and My Morning Jacket's Jim James, who are both on Laura's new album (and tenth overall), The Lookout. (Those are just a few examples of her collaborations with those artists and others.) If you haven't hopped on the bandwagon yet, The Lookout is a perfectly fine place to start, and if you're a longtime fan, it's a very satisfying album. It's mostly cut from the same cloth as Laura's best albums always have been. It's part '60s folk, part indie rock, and fleshed out by gorgeous arrangements that include viola, clarinet, synth, harpsichord, and more. She duets with Sufjan on "Watch Fire" and it's as wonderfully delicate as anything on Carrie and Lowell (which Laura also sang on). She honors her '60s folk influences with a show-stopping cover of the Grateful Dead's Aoxomoxoa deep cut "Mountains of the Moon," which more than earns itself a spot amongst Laura's originals on this album. Her voice, which could've fit in at Woodstock but sounds fresh today too, is the star of the show, and her songwriting is as effective as ever. She really knows how to turn a clever phrase or hit a pleasantly unexpected note, and she does so again and again on The Lookout. It's yet another effortlessly enjoyable listen from an artist whose music has been effortlessly enjoyable from the start.
After a run of independent mixtapes, Tinashe took the R&B world by storm with the release of her 2014 debut album Aquarius. It helped make her a star, and it's still home to some of the best and most definitive modern R&B songs in recent memory ("2 On," "All Hands On Deck"). She announced the following year that she'd be keeping the momentum going and releasing a sophomore album, Joyride, but was later met by album delays, and in 2016 she instead released Nightride, a darker and more minimal album than Aquarius that seemed like it was intended to be a lower-profile release than Joyride, which Tinashe promised was still coming. Now, about a year and a half later, Joyride is here, and it's easy to see why Tinashe (or at least her label) built a lot more anticipation for this one than they did for Nightride. It's not necessarily better than Nightride (it may actually be less consistently strong, especially if you prefer Tinashe's dark and minimal side), but it seems like they wanted to make sure this one produced hits. The three singles all feature big-name rappers (compared to Nightride, which had no guests), and they sound like radio and chart bait. The best of them is "No Drama," which has Tinashe jumping on the trap-pop bandwagon with a perfectly fine guest spot from Offset of trap-pop leaders Migos. "Faded Love" probably would've been better off without Future, who sounds like he's just there because he was paid to be. "Me So Bad" sounds like a song Rihanna would've passed on (and actually the title track almost was a Rihanna song), and it features Ty Dolla $ign and an ill-advised French Montana verse. But as we should expect from Tinashe at this point, Joyride"s best songs are the ones that don't seem built for the radio. The album's only other guest is Little Dragon, who sound more natural working with Tinashe than the other guests do. Little Dragon appear on "Stuck With Me," an "All Hands On Deck"-ish song with an instantly catchy hook that should have been Joyride's lead single. Elsewhere on Joyride, Tinashe offers up the airy-yet-metallic "He Don't Want It" which kind of sounds like FKA twigs, the string-laden title track which kind of sounds like Imogen Heap meets self-titled Beyonce, the minimal, dubsteppy "No Contest," and "Salt," which sounds like a '90s R&B ballad with a dark twist. Those are the moments when Tinashe is at her strongest, and fortunately, those moments outnumber the radio-bait moments. At just 13 tracks, three of which are interludes, Joyride also flies by with ten proper songs in about 37 minutes. It's refreshing, especially in a time where mainstream artists are filling their albums to the brim to get better streaming results. The sense of quality control helps, and as long as Tinashe's quality is still high enough to give us songs like "Stuck With Me," "He Don't Want It," and "Joyride," we're lucky to have her around.
Matthew Politoski started Boston band Animal Flag back in 2009 as sort of a folky project, but they got heavier and louder as they went through several lineup changes, and Void Ripper -- their first with the four-piece lineup of Matthew, guitarist Sai Boddupalli, bassist Zach Weeks, and drummer Alex Pickert -- is both their heaviest and best album yet. Matthew's folky side is still present in his singing and songwriting (his shaky voice can often sound more than a little like Conor Oberst), but the songs on Void Ripper are big, bold rock songs -- save for the acoustic "Lord of Pain." You can hear a lot of influence from the kind of soaring, melodic post-hardcore that labels like Triple Crown (which Animal Flag are now signed to an imprint of) were putting out in the early 2000s, and sometimes they dip their toes into atmospheric post-rock or riffy '90s grunge too. It's not hard to make comparisons to other bands and Animal Flag aren't reinventing the wheel or anything, they're just really good at what they do. You can hear real passion in Matthew's voice and real emotion in his words, and these guys know how to write hooks. I already found myself humming along after just a few listens.
My full Cardi B review is HERE. Read an excerpt:
"Is she a stripper, a rapper or a singer?," Cardi mocks on the menacing, Migos-featuring trap banger "Drip," a sarcastic shot at all the public opinions that question Cardi's authenticity as a rapper. "That's when they came for me on Twitter with the backlash / 'Cardi B is so problematic' is the hashtag / I can't believe they wanna see me lose that bad," Cardi waxes on "Best Life," reflecting on more than one instance of call-out culture coming for Cardi in the wake of her increased fame. On "I Do," she laughs in the face of anyone who thought she'd be a passing fad: "They said by now that I'll be finished, hard to tell / My little 15 minutes lasting long as hell, huh?" It's clear that in between all the jokes, party-raps and sex talk, Invasion of Privacy is an album that takes shit very seriously. It presents Cardi as a layered, multifaceted person and artist.
Cardi also proves she's no one-trick pony when it comes to the sound of her music. She's got more of the menacing-yet-earworm trap of "Bodak Yellow" in the form of "Drip," the YG-featuring "She Bad," and "Money Bag," the latter of which has a hook addictive enough to become her next fan favorite. But she also strays from that path a couple times...
Read the rest HERE.