Drake – Certified Lover Boy
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Republic Records
The album is fine – and that’s about as far as it goes. Someone I read yesterday had the opinion that Drake albums are like FIFA releases and that’s an excellent metaphor for pretty much everything Drake has done since Views. Like FIFA games, you know exactly what you’re going to get year after year: Drake, being Drake over beats that sound like they were made for Drake songs, some Future, and a whole lot of talk about how morose his love life is, how conflicted he feels about the industry and his place in it. There’ll be some good lines (the one about him being a lesbian too, the one where someone says he rules the country and he responds ‘true, doh’) and a bunch of lines that are whatever because it’s less about what Drake says and more about the vibe he brings. It’s a lot like the Migos album from earlier this year – a vehicle for some singles and a bunch of tracks for kids who’ve just moved into residence to vibe to.
Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
Released September 3rd, 2021 on AWAL Recordings
Donda? Drake? Little Simz. The London artist taps into a few different veins in hip hop to create her wide-ranging second album. There are the orchestral bits a la ’03 Jay-Z; there are the grime bangers (“Speed”, “Rollin Stone”); there are a couple of tracks that would fit in perfectly on a couple of radio stations I listen to out of Nairobi (“Point And Kill”, “Fear No Man”). The orchestral parts are probably the least interesting parts of the record, next to the interludes (which, artist’s prerogative and all, should still have been edited down or cut entirely); the rest of the album puts certain much bigger artists to shame.
DJ Seinfeld – Mirrors
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Ninja Tunes
Chrome-plated future garage work that’s a total vibe.
Sunns – The Witness
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Secret City Records
Call this Montreal band haunted minimalism, because there isn’t much physically happening in these songs and yet every motion is imbued with anxiety and dread.
Petey – Lean Into Life
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Terrible Records
The TikTok sensation said prior that he wants to sing like Isaac Brock and play guitar like Death Cab For Cutie and on his debut record he manages to hit both goals.
Tom Misch – Quarantine Sessions
Released September 3rd, 2021 on AWAL Records
Didn’t realize what I was walking into – didn’t even read the tracklist, obviously – and kept thinking “goddamn, this melody sounds familiar. Isn’t this Solange?” Then “Smells Like Teen Spirit” kicked in and I realized what I’d been listening to. “Cranes In The Sky”, the aforementioned Nirvana, and James Blake’s “The Wilhelm Scream” are all done quite well here. The rest are fine, but don’t really live up to those three.
Sprits Having Fun – Two
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Born Yesterday Records
If Deerhoof had put out their late 90s-early 00s records and stopped, say, after The Runners Four, I can see a band like Spirits Having Fun getting some buzz and goodwill about reviving a sound that died too soon (much as The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart at first rode on C-86 nostalgia). We don’t live in that reality, though. We live in a reality where Deerhoof averages just under one stellar album per year, and so this attempt at putting out a sort of Deerhoof-lite falls flat.
Blockhead – Space Werewolves Will Be The End Of Us All
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Future Archive Records
Funk-inflected, sample-heavy instrumental hip hop that doesn’t take itself all that seriously and therefore has some real, honest to god fun.
Liz Cooper – Hot Sass
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Sleepyhead Records
Liz Cooper’s day job band the Stampede is Nashville Americana all the way, so when it came time for her to explore other parts of her songwriting personality she needed to drop the “& The Stampede” and do some solo work. Her second album, Hot Sass, is swampy alt-rock but can’t quite shake all of the drops of Americana that still cling to her voice. The result is an album for hot nights and bright lights, from the smashing punk rock highs to the boozy, lurching-down-the-street lows.
Cowgirl – Cowgirl
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Safe Suburban Home Records
In and out in just under twenty minutes, Cowgirl makes a case for shorter collections of woozy, heartfelt indie rock that don’t outstay their welcome.
Motorists – Surrounded
Released September 3rd, 2021
Equal parts Parquet Courts and R.E.M., Motorists make a case for the idea that maybe underground alternative rock isn’t dead after all.
Monnone Alone – Stay Foggy
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Emotional Response Records
Off-kilter lo-fi psychedelic pop with a spacey vibe, made just for the mid-afternoon shift on the first day of a three-day stoner festival.
Ropes Of Night – Impossible Space
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Golden Antenna
It sounds like what a movie producer’s idea of a goth band is. Like goth rock made by a versificator.
Bad Bangs – Character Building
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Blossom Rot Records
Sturdy garage rock from Melbourne that makes a case for itself as an up-and-comer.
Zanias – Unearthed
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Fleish Records
There’s a touch of italo disco in here that offsets the otherwise typical brooding downtempo pop stuff.
caro♡ – Heartbeats/Heartbreaks
Released September 3rd, 2021 on PC Music
Hyperpop without the bouncy chipmunk hyperactivity. An album that presents PC Music style stuff in a way that slows it down and allows the heartache to ooze through in just the right places.
Bad Waitress – No Taste
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Royal Mountain Records
Roiling and seemingly vicious, but restrained. It keeps threatening to break through full-throated and then never does.
Joy Anonymous – Human Again
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Universal
Major label neo-soul from the UK, better than many of their contemporaries. Plus it finally happened: I heard a New Jack Swing influence. Time is a face on the water.
Nala Sinephro – Space 1.8
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Warp Records
A surprisingly straightforward improvisational jazz record, given the label it’s on.
Dntel – Away
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Morr Records
Impossibly cool glitch pop that sports some real late-night dance club radio potential here and there.
Hot Mustard – Mothersauce
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Color Red Records
A fun and funky record, thick gravy with chunks of meat (or whatever floats your boat). Horns by the trombonist from TV On The Radio and trumpeter Jordan McLean from Antibalas.
L’Orange – The World Is Still Chaos, But I Feel Better
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Mello Music Group
He samples from even older jazz than I do and likes to pepper in snippets of radio broadcasts too; this is beatcraft at its dustiest.
Jenevieve – Division
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Joyface Records
Slamming R&B that takes many of its cues from late Nineties sounds and swagger.
LANY – gg bb xx
Released September 3rd on Polydor Records
No, no. We’ve already been through Passion Pit, we don’t need another glossy synth band with big empty hooks and lyrics like “You wouldn’t be caught dead wearing yoga pants / You’re more Paris, Texas than Paris, France / You know every word, some ’bout Kurt Cobain / Look, you’re perfect, that’s what I’ve been trying to say.” Like come on. This is Snow Patrol level shit.
Pell – Floating While Dreaming II
Released September 3rd, 2021 on PellYeah LLC
Thoughtful, jazz-inflected southern hip hop with a penchant for delivering low-key great hooks.
Carnifex – Graveside Confessions
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Nuclear Blast Records
Strongly reminiscent of 1349, production warts and all. Has some interesting groove riffs embedded among the blackened death, but the more subtle mids tend to get a little drowned out.
Iron Maiden – Senjutsu
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Parlophone Records
Look: the last truly great Maiden record was 1988’s Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son and there was a regrettable period from about 1995-2006 that’s best forgotten entirely. For the last ten years, though, Maiden have been making some decent trad metal records again and Senjutsu is the best they’ve put out in this period yet. The tempo may have slowed but the signature riffs are all very much there, and Bruce Dickinson’s voice is holding up pretty well despite age and some recent health issues.
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic II
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Nuclear Blast Records
Forty years ago bands like Journey, Foreigner, and Rainbow defined hard rock for an entire now-lost generation. Sweden’s Night Flight Orchestra has come to bring you back to those sweaty days of big keyboards, pre-shred riffing, and soaring heroic frontman vocals. Nuclear Blast is, uh, branching out slightly.
Portrait – At One With None
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Metal Blade Records
Staunchly old-school New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Portrait gallops through an hour of low-slung riffs that aren’t creative by any stretch but still slam in the stretches like nobody’s business.
Bokassa – Molotov Rocktail
Released September 3rd, 2021 on Napalm Records
Big. Dumb. Fun. ’nuff said.