REVIEWS ON THE FLY: J Cole, Austra, Jon Hopkins, and more

Olympia artwork

Olympia artwork

ARTIST Austra

ALBUM Olympia

LABEL Domino

RELEASE DATE 18.6.2013

8.0 | 10

Austra doesn’t need a ton of things going on behind her to command a room. Her vocals recall Florence Welch, albeit with more constraint. Album opener “What We Done?” introduces the album with dark, pulsating synths before Austra comes in with her powerful vocals, which is able to cover tons of emotional ground.

The album is held together by wonderful production, that is able to sound both organic and synthetic all at once. “Home” is an instant pleaser, with its energetic and upbeat piano rhythm, while “We Become” has one of the most wonderful productions on the album. Closing track “Hurt Me Now” is a beautiful track, held tightly together by lovely synths and the singer’s ability to sell the emotions of the song, sounding more vulnerable here than anywhere else.

Obsidian artwork
Obsidian artwork

ARTIST Baths

ALBUM Obsidian

LABEL Anticon

RELEASE DATE 25.6.2013

8.2 | 10

“It’s not a matter of / if you mean it,” LA-based musician Will Wiesenfeld sings on “No Eyes,” his painstakingly gorgeous new album, before finishing the couplet by commanding, “come and fuck me.” It’s that kind of upfront and unapologetic lyrical style that makes Baths music so captivating, and the incessant electronic clicks-and-clacks give the words an added intensity.

“Worsening” and “Miasma Sky” are a wonderful one-two punch to open the album, and it’s a credit to the producer that he is for the most part able to successfully work within the framework established with those opening tracks.

Born Sinner artwork
Born Sinner artwork

ARTIST J Cole

ALBUM Born Sinner

LABEL Roc Nation

RELEASE DATE 18.6.2013

7.8 | 10

J Cole’s sophomore studio LP serves as a meá culpa to Cole’s dedicated followers, many of whom derided Cole World: The Sideline Story (2011) for its inclination to pander to a larger audience through several radio-ready singles. One of those tracks, “Work Out,” was so damning to Cole in large part due to Nas’ disapproval of the single, a fact made known through “Let Nas Down,” where he recounts the painful story of releasing his debut LP.

While that album eventually became one of the year’s best-selling rap albums, 2013’s Born Sinner largely scrapes those recordings and paints Cole in a different light. Cole serves as the album’s producer as well as rapping on 19 of the 21 tracks here (two of the tracks are ‘skits’ that are efficient in their story-telling, and in no way compromise the album’s flow). While Cole’s productions tend to play it too safe, his lyrical clarity is fantastic throughout. Released on the same day of Yeezus, Sinner is a reminder of Kanye’s first two studio LP’s, albeit with less personality. J. Cole is a fantastic lyricist and is constantly improving as a producer, but his biggest fault is his inability thus far to command the mic for the course of a full album.

Immunity artwork
Immunity artwork

Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 11.36.33 AM

ARTIST Jon Hopkins

ALBUM Immunity

LABEL Domino

RELEASE DATE 4.6.2013

8.4 | 10

Who’s the common chain between Coldplay, King Creosote, and Brian Eno? That would be London-based producer Jon Hopkins, who until now has been artist more known for his high profile collaborations rather than his own recordings. Immunity gives Hopkins his time in the spotlight, and the producer exceeds all expectations, releasing one of the year’s best electronica records.

Immunity lacks any semblance of the pop melodies of his collaborators, rather falling more in line with Burial, Kode9, and Four Tet’s more frenetic, rhythm based recordings. The tour de force of the opening “We Disappear” and “Open Eye Signal” serve as a fantastic entry way into this more urgent, relentless sonic space explored further here than anywhere in Hopkins’ previous recordings. “Collider,” as well as the gorgeous “Immunity,” are the album’s other peaks, making for an album that is just as breathtaking heard as a whole as it is taken piece-by-piece.

Field Of Reeds artwork
Field Of Reeds artwork

ARTIST These New Puritans

ALBUM Field Of Reeds

LABEL Ais

RELEASE DATE 9.7.2013

8.2 | 10

These New Puritans’ left field pop is brought to new heights on the stunning Field Of Reeds. The piano hook on “Fragment Two” will pull you in, while the grandiosity of tracks such as “The Light In Your Name,” and “V (Island Song)” unravel slowly, with the former containing gorgeous, tight harmonies before reaching its glorious climax, while the latter toys with the audience’s expectations, never blowing its lid, maintaining a steady simmer.

Overall, it’s an album that for all it’s intricacies is a worthwhile exploration, one that rewards the patience of those who wait.

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