Lorelle Meets The Obsolete – De Facto
(January 11th on Sonic Cathedral Records)
Psychedelic noise-rock that walks the thin line between being artistically and willfully difficult. Avoids becoming lost in a gauzy haze by virtue of an excellent rhythm section that knows instinctively how to ride a groove.
Santigold – 99 Cents
Released February 26th, 2016 on Atlantic Records
Santigold – born Santi White in Philadelphia – is at a strangely awkward place in her career. After wowing the indie-blog glitterati in 2008 with her debut Santogold, she followed it up four years later with Master Of My Make-Believe, a record that received more muted applause despite being a generally stronger album. The trend continues on 99 Cents, an album that has been largely slept on by critics despite being the strongest recording of Santigold’s discography to date.
Part of the problem, perhaps, is that she’s no longer new and shiny. It’s fairly obvious by now that the blogosphere – spearheaded by Hipster Indie Bible site Pitchfork – is enamored with artists when they’re new and exciting and ditches them as soon as they release follow-ups that build upon strengths in increments. Santigold has fallen victim to that phenomenon; witness the number of outlets that have reviewed 99 Cents as “restrained”, “empty”, and “unambitious”. This, to describe an album that playfully encompasses any number of styles without ever committing to a generic reading of genre. Lead single “Can’t Get Enough Of Myself” bounces on a summer-breeze pop groove while “Big Boss Big Time Business” adds some solid weight to its Carribean bass-boom. “Rendezvous Girl” switches things up for an Eighties-tinged New Wave-inspired rocker while “Who Be Lovin Me” (featuring ILoveMakonnen) puts her squarely in the ambient-shaded singalong world of modern hip hop. 99 Cents goes in a lot of directions at once, but it manages to strike the right path in those directions a lot more than it wanders off. Only “Chasing Shadows” and “All I Got” come off as forgettable; the rest have their own individual character , one infused by the warm, sarcastic vision of their creator.
Santigold may no longer be the shiny hype-draw that blogs are looking for to draw readers in, but 99 Cents is an extremely solid record and Santi White is an artist who’s still willing to take risks and explore sounds.
And the rest…
Jesu/Sun Kil Moon
Jesu/Sun Kil Moon
01/22/2016 on Rough Trade
The combination sounds like a wild winner – post-rock masters of ambient dread and the Neil Young-inspired folkie without any lyrical filter whatsoever – until you realize that Jesu and Mark Kozelek is just Jesu and Mark Kozelek. Every song is squalling chords dripping with fuzz that have Kozelek getting unhinged over top. While it’s a nice effect in general, it gets exhausting in the long run.
02/06/2016 on Epic Records
Easily the best thing the Atlanta trap star has put out, EVOL shows a willingness to push forward both musically and lyrically. “In Her Mouth” is the most hilariously over-the-top he’s ever gotten, and Weeknd-collab “Low Life” shows that crossover success is a when, not an if.
The Dirty Nil
02/26/2016 on Dine Alone Records
Ontario punk rock is a beast that keeps savaging everything in its path, year after year. I first saw the Dirty Nil in a tiny bar backing the always-amazing Single Mothers and their debut LP is a welcome addition to the canon. Treads a tightrope between crushing brutality and soaring sing-along.
03/04/2016 on Caroline Records
An inoffensive enough electronic record that is nonetheless too heavily indebted to Boards Of Canada to generate any thrills.
Once the composer-in-residence for the Scottish Symphony Orchestra, now crafting odd, off-kilter electronic songs that have a strangely chiptune bent to them.
03/04/2016 on DFA Records
The Boston noise band takes junk shop sounds and welds them together in the backyard to create something willfully abrasive and strange.
Of Course You Are
03/04/2016 on Fire Records
Look, if you know anything about Robert Pollard, you know exactly what you’re getting from a Robert Pollard record, or a Boston Spaceships record, or a Ricked Wickey record, or (soon, again) a Guided By Voices record. It’s guitar-driven British Invasion inspired stuff with a strong sense of melody and a lysergic tendency in the lyrics.
03/04/2016 on Concord Records
Artful, lyrical, and jazzy as all hell, like Janelle Monae and Joni Mitchell had a jazz baby and that jazz baby liked to blaze it.
Thao & The Get Down Stay Down
A Man Alive
03/04/2016 on Ribbon Music
Saved from being an exercise in tUnE-yArDs lite indie-clatter by the presence of a heavy, thumping bass that makes those speakers push more air than they have a right to.
03/04/2016 on Ignition Records
There was this band in the Nineties – The Tea Party – that really wanted to be Led Zeppelin (later Nine Inch Nails) with a singer who really wanted to be Jim Morrison. The Coral, as a parallel, really wants to be Faust but the singer really wants to be Alex Turner. Either way it’s hot garbage.
Future – DS2
So, what’s the point of all the praise that’s been heaped on Future, exactly?
Let’s be serious here for a moment. Atlanta’s Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn is about as meat and potatoes as you can get in hyped-up hip hop. He’s a man of simple pleasures. Like A$AP Rocky, he’s all about pussy, money, and weed, although with Future you replace the weed with lean, a southern cocktail made out of codeine-based cough syrup and soda. He’s also a man who’s gritty from the streets: he came up from poverty, cooking crack and slinging it on the corner to fund his original mixtapes (such as 2011’s Dirty Sprite, with which DS2 shares a name). So what, though? Most middle-tier and entry-level rappers rap about women, drugs, and platinum whips, and most of them claim to be from some form of grind or hustle. Pretty much any of them could have written a song like “Trap Niggas” or “Rich $ex”, or especially “Slave Master” (’cause he’s got a new whip, geddit?). His flow isn’t particularly interesting, especially when you take into account that he doesn’t change it up from song to song. He puts a light AutoTune on his voice, making it glitch underneath; it’s interesting at first, but “at first” was two albums ago. T-Pain actually called him out on not using AutoTune correctly (!) back in 2013, and very little has changed since then (except that a whole host of aspiring mixtape rappers are doing the same thing).
Young Metro’s production doesn’t add much value either. It’s straightforward trap music: tension in the kicks, clattering hats running under everything, simple samples, menacing atmosphere. It’s what damn near everyone is using for hip hop right now, meaning that, combined with Future’s straightforward lyrical content and flow, DS2 sounds like everyone’s mixtape, minus the DJ signatures. “Kno The Meaning” manages to drop the beat here and there for some moody piano passages, but that’s one track out of 90 some-odd minutes; the rest follow the same pattern of moody, no-frills flow over moody, no-frills beats. It was fun and novel four years ago, but literally every up-and-coming rapper has done it to death now.
For me, DS2 cements Future in my mind as a singles rapper. Any of these songs would make a decent individual track, but put together as a whole they become oppressive and honestly boring. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard a dozen mixtapes this year that sound just like it, and Future’s seeming inability to come up with memorable hooks kills it quickly. He’s like Bad Company or Sham 69: after a couple of tracks, you’ve heard everything, so why bother?