New Music Roundup, July 30th-August 5th

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TORRES – Thirstier

★★★★

Released July 30th, 2021 on Merge Records

Overblown, in the best way. Having spent a couple of albums ramping up to it, Mackenzie Scott dives full-on into bending her hooks into glittering alt-rock barbs. She collides arch-modern obscura pop like Deerhunter into more classic sounds: the wide-open electronic clatter of Garbage and the off-kilter crunch of the Breeders. If anyone could grow to challenge PJ Harvey for the title of Empress of the Alternative Nation, it would be her.

Lump – Animal

★★★☆

Released July 30th, 2021 on Partisan Records

Indie-folk darling Laura Marling and Tuung’s Mike Lindsay get busy deconstructing New Wave into strange new forms.

Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever

★★★★☆

Released July 30th, 2021 on Interscope Records

When your debut album blows up to a ridiculous extent, it’s a double-edged sword. It’s a blessing/curse situation that any number of artists could tell you about at length. Guns ‘n’ Roses released Appetite For Destruction and following it up took four years and a scandal-ridden circus. The Stone Roses defined a generation with their self-titled debut in 1989 and then didn’t release a follow-up until they were all but broken up. Billie Eilish released When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go? in 2019 and proceeded to eat the sales charts and the Grammys for breakfast. “Bad Guy” was at #2 on the Billboard charts for so long it threatened Missy Elliot and Foreigner for longest-running single at #2 without making it all the way, but eventually “Old Town Road” slipped. The expectations are, as such, too high for Happier Than Ever. There is no world in which it will do anything near the numbers of her first record, and the pop wags will inevitably call it “difficult” and “a failure” regardless of how many units it sells or how often you hear “Therefore I Am” on the radio.

Still: musically (and that’s what counts still, right?) it’s a success, an expansion on the sound of her debut and a progression in terms of songwriting. Like any young singer-songwriter she’s had “write what you know” drilled into her; these are songs about the trap of fame, the discomfort with the ever-present public gaze, the troubles with maintaining relationships at this level, and a response to the bullshit heaped on her by the vacuous trash media (see especially “Not My Responsibility”, which has its roots in a short video she started playing at concerts shortly before the plague put an end to concerts). It’s stellar stuff: she’s figured out how to get even more emotion out of her ASMR singing style, and her brother Finneas’ production expands on the strengths he showcased on the first record. Together they’ve proven that they weren’t just pop lightning in a bottle: these are kids growing into serious artists with decades ahead of them to find real roots. If the fickle public ends up being less enthusiastic this time around, let them: going platinum on your debut means never having to say you’re sorry.

King Woman – Celestial Blues

★★★☆

Released July 30th, 2021 on Relapse Records

Heavy female-fronted sludge that dips into doom metal on more than one occasion. The band brings a great sense of dynamics strung together with a rhythm section that crushes no matter what’s going on in the song.

Low Roar – maybe tomorrow

★★★☆

Released July 30th, 2021 on Tonequake Records

Sparse, ambient prog-rock in the vein of Pink Floyd and mid-period Radiohead.

Ty Segall – Harmonizer

★★★★

Released August 3rd, 2021 on Drag City Records

Ty Segall’s first Drag City record since 2019 is more of the crawling, squealing hard rock sludge that he has made his name on again and again and again.

Bleachers – Take The Sadness Out Of Saturday Night

★★★★

Released July 30th, 2021 on RCA Records

Jack Antonoff comes full circle back to making music again, after producing a pile of stars throughout the latter half of the 2010s. Imagine Dragons made big time, overwrought pop music ridiculous again, so here he resurrects his Bleachers moniker and works through a set of Seventies-vintage heartland rockers that hit all the right Springsteen notes, right down to the wailing saxophones and lengthy codas (oh, and the Boss himself on track two). I guess that’s just the other half of the decade that he worked on with St. Vincent.

Durand Jones & The Indications – Private Space

★★★☆

Released July 30th, 2021 on Dead Oceans

They nick their entire aesthetic from the suburban basement Seventies and they look like your local D&D play group, but goddamn they are a smooth-ass R&B band.

Yola – Stand For Myself

★★★★

Released July 30th, 2021 on Easy Eye Sound

The former Phantom Limb singer puts Dan Auerbach behind the boards again to double down on her status as the reigning queen of outsider-Americana rootsy soul.

Coast Modern – Going Mainstream

★★☆

Released July 30th, 2021 on +1 Records

Mediocre would-be-gonzo L.A. pop that is neither as charming as Superorganism nor as acidic as the Flaming Lips.

Horsey – Debonair

★★★

Released July 30th, 2021 on Untitled Records

Jazz inflections into more hardcore rock music is all the rage these days, but Horsey take a cornier definition of jazz as their main starting point.

Vial – Loudmouth

★★★☆

Released July 30th, 2021 on Get Better Records

Loud, fast, and coated with pop candy hooks, Loudmouth is the sort of album they used to call riot grrrl before the need to differentiate between men and women in punk lost some of its urgency.

Naia Izumi – A Residency In The Los Angeles Area

★★★☆

Released July 30th, 2021 on Sony Records

Slick, inventive neo-soul that would have sounded fresh had Bruno Mars not decided to come in and stomp all over everything.

Lotus Thrones – Lovers In Wartime

★★★

Released July 30th, 2021 on Disorder Recordings

Clanging, dour hard rock that borrows shamelessly from doom metal atmosphere-building but never really gets going past a certain point.

prisms – Hot Under The Collar

★★★

Released July 30th, 2021

Would have been the hottest release in the summer of 2004.

Liars – The Apple Drop

★★★☆

Released July 30th, 2021 on Mute

Twenty years ago my roommate put on an album and said that he couldn’t figure out if it was the greatest thing he’d ever heard or absolute trash. That album was They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top. Later, I became a fierce advocate of their willfully difficult second album, They Were Wrong So We Drowned. From there they have careened wildly from sound to sound, coming close to being accessible but then shying back from it. On their tenth album they go as accessible as they likely can, a choice that leads to some interesting moments but the sequencing leaves something to be desired. The album starts off slowly and it isn’t until about the halfway mark that the spark of life really flares. The focus on more ambient sounds is nothing new – that’s basically just Drums Not Dead again – but there’s something not quite as much fun this time around.

Isaiah Rashad – The House Is Burning

★★★☆

Released July 30th, 2021 on Top Dawg Entertainment

Rashad hasn’t put out a full album in 5 years but seems to have spent that time in a training montage; he rushes back with a definite level of growth about him, and he delivers songs that hit hard with a subtlety that speaks of newfound maturity. It’s just too bad he’s baby soft about critique.

Logic – Bobby Tarantino III

★★☆

Released July 30th, 2021 on Def Jam Records

Not to belabor the Zay Rashad point, but people are always talking in reviews about how Logic is a “corny motherfucker” who is “stuck in a holding pattern where he’ll never be on top” and how he’s “Redditcore bullshit” but does he bitch and whine about the reviewers on social media? I actually don’t know because I don’t follow him. But I’ve never heard of him doing it, so that counts for something.

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