When she broke through in 2009, we were still capable of being shocked. But since Lady Gaga debuted, a lot more shocking and disturbing things have happened than seeing her in a meatdress or an egg or using religious imagery in a music video. So what is a Lady Gaga album if it isn’t meant to shock or challenge? If you ever asked yourself that question, her new album gives us an answer. Continue reading “JOANNE is Lady Gaga’s most radical transformation”
I’ve already written words on the great Solange album A Seat at the Table, but today I wanted to highlight a song that’s quickly becoming one of my personal favorites. “Cranes in the Sky” stuns by the sheer magnitude of its beauty and honesty. “I tried to drink it away,” Solange frankly sings at the open, diving in headfirst on a song about escaping demons, her own and those socially constructed. Drinking failed her, as did dancing, as did sex, as did breaking up. It turns out escaping, blocking out those demons is a lost cause; there’s only one way to wash them away. As the song reaches its finale, Solange reaches deep into her vocal register and delivers a soul-piercing falsetto. “It’s like cranes in the sky,” sings Solange on the chorus, “sometimes I don’t want to feel those metal clouds.” By the end of “Cranes in the Sky,” she rises above even those metal clouds. She’s out of her cage and ready to fly. Continue reading “Solange rises above on “Cranes in the Sky””
Okay, so, we’ve had some great weeks for new album releases in the past, but nothing has come close to the amount of astounding music unleashed onto the world today, Friday, September 30. Bon Iver, Danny Brown, Nicolas Jaar, Jenny Hval, Pixies, and DJ Mustard all released albums today, but the one that stands out as the week’s best is the newest from Solange, her first release since the True EP in 2012. A Seat at the Table is an album about black pride and resiliency, an album as personal as it is political. Continue reading “In a massive week of new releases, Solange sits comfortably at the front of the table”
Atrocity Exhibition arrived a few days before its official release date, and the album is as perfect as even the most optimistic Danny Brown supporter could have expected it to be. Through one listen, “Ain’t It Funny” not only stands out as the album’s best song, but up there with the best songs DB has blessed with his voice. Brown feels right at home riding the synthetic, propulsive beat, one that grows in intensity throughout the song’s brief run time. The song hones in on all the things Danny Brown does so well – his curt, concise verses, his confident wail, the forward-thinking instrumental – they are all here, yet none of it has sounded quite like this.
Paul White is the DJ Mustard to Danny Brown’s YG, a long-gestating musical pairing hitting their apex on Exhibition. His production here is somehow just as frenetic, chaotic as what’s going on inside Brown’s own head. Brown blows through his three verses, all while White’s production swirls, chugs ahead in all its synth-driven glory. “Ain’t it funny how it happen,” raps Brown on the hook, yet no one is laughing. We’re busy trying to catch our breath. Continue reading ““Ain’t It Funny” is Danny Brown distilled to his core”
Since the start of this decade, Nicolas Jaar has emerged as one of my favorite producers, his solo album Space Is Only Noise and the Darkside collaborative album Psychic both showing off what he does so well. No one can create an atmosphere quite like Jaar can, and with Sirens – out this Friday and streaming online now – he’s raised the bar for himself once again. Listen here.
1. Killing Time (11:14)
2. The Governor (6:49)
3. Leaves (3:29)
4. No (6:34)
5. Three Sides of Nazareth (9:54)
6. History Lesson (3:43)
Sirens is available for purchase beginning September 30 via Other People.
As the Weeknd transitioned from an enigmatic, leading voice in independent R&B to an explicit, leading voice in pop, he never lost any of the sordid worldview that made his 2011 trilogy of mixtapes so essential. He led 2015’s Beauty Behind the Madness with a track called “Can’t Feel My Face,” a narcotic funk jam that pushed him sonically to places he had never gone before. Now, just a little over a calendar year after he released his major label breakthrough, Abel Tesfaye is gearing up for his second LP in as many years. Starboy is led by the Daft Punk-assisted title-track, a song that continues to tap into the same thematic vein while pushing Tesfaye’s sound into yet another direction. When he sings “cut that ivory up,” he’s not talking about elephant tusks. But there’s a nimbleness to the way Tesfaye dances around the melody on the chorus, a finesse that is more in line with House of Balloons than Madness. Daft Punk produces, but their impact is felt more in the song’s tone than in its execution. The night-fueled production recalls the duo’s work on the Tron: Legacy OST, making a perfect synthesis between them and Tesfaye’s overarching themes. “Starboy” doesn’t hit as immediately as “Can’t Feel My Face” did – to be honest, not many songs do – but it also isn’t trying to. It turns out “Starboy” does exactly what it’s supposed to; remind us of what made the Weeknd so compelling in the first place while opening up avenues for him to travel down in the future. Maybe next time, he’ll shoot for the stars.
Stream “Starboy” via Apple Music.
The last two weeks have been responsible for an insane amount of great new music. And while Cymbals Eat Guitars and Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam are both worthy recipients of the “Album of the Week” title, the good music doesn’t stop there. This past Friday, September 23, Merchandise released their third album, and at least to these ears, it’s their best album yet. You can hear their inspired take on 80s goth, post-punk, and new wave throughout A Corpse Wired for Sound (an excellent album title by the way). While my personal favorite from the disc remains “Lonesome Sound,” a deep cut on the album offers the furthest deviation from the norm for the Tampa, Florida outfit. “Right Back to the Start” is a synth-pop gem, a track the recalls prime-Depeche Mode but is far from being reductive. Carson Cox’s vocals are pained, a longing emanates from his vocals. “I’m running right back to the start,” croons Cox, and from the sound of the track, he’s also starting from scratch.
A Corpse Wired for Sound is out now.
Listen to “Right Back to the Start” via Apple Music.
Or Spotify (track 3):