In a massive week of new releases, Solange sits comfortably at the front of the table

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”

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“Ain’t It Funny” is Danny Brown distilled to his core

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”

Nicolas Jaar returns with SIRENS, his first LP since 2011

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.

Sirens tracklist:

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.

The Weeknd doubles down on “Starboy”

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.

Merchandise goes in an exciting new direction on “Right Back to the Start”

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):

‘I Had a Dream That You Were Mine” signals a fruitful partnership between Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam

Kevin Garnett retired from the NBA on Friday at the age of 40. Since his debut in the Association back in 1995, KG – along with Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki – helped usher in a wave of elite, game-changing power forwards, players who could sway entire seasons in their favor. He was a transcendent talent, a force not so much to be reckoned with as one you got the fuck out the way of. And now, at 40, he’s retired.

Hamilton Leithauser is 38 years old. While he has never won an NBA championship – or made north of $300,000,000 – (that I know of) he’s also accomplished quite a bit at his relatively young age. Five years after KG made his NBA debut, the Walkmen formed in New York, a band that would grow to become one of indie rock’s defining voices, largely based off of Leithauser’s bared vocals. The band would release 7 albums, their last being 2012’s glorious swan song Heaven. And now, at 38, he’s not retired. He just released one of the year’s best albums.

Partnering with ex-Vampire Weekend member Rostam Batmanglij, A Dream That You Were Mine is exactly what one would expect from members of two of the 00’s most important bands, especially considering how vital each were to their respective bands’ sound. Yet even though the album is in no way shocking in its technical brilliance, the sounds they pull into orbit are. There’s a rustic charm to many of the tracks, including the raucous “Sick Like a Dog” and “Peaceful Morning.” Acoustic guitars, harmonicas, banjos, they all populate Mine, and they all carry with them a pop sensibility. There are plenty of fantastic moments throughout Mine, but one I keep gravitating towards is during “The Bride’s Dad.” “I think I have worn out my welcome,” sings Leithauser before unleashing his trademark yelp. “I swear I saw you smiling,” he sings, and while I’m not sure who he’s singing to, it might as well be us.

I Had a Dream That You Were Mine is out now.

“Really Doe” is a headstrong monster from Danny Brown, Ab-Soul, Kendrick Lamar and Earl Sweatshirt

It’s been a while since we’ve heard four rappers at their peak on the same track, but that’s what happens on the latest single released ahead of the hotly anticipated Danny Brown album Atrocity Exhibition. “Really Doe” features Ab-Soul, Kendrick Lamar and Earl Sweatshirt, each bringing something vital to the track. Ab-Soul, while being the least well-known of the four, is as heady, grounded as ever – I love the way his words get swirled as he talks of being a “writer” as well as his ending proclamation that, “A nigga living good but good could be better.” Kendrick Lamar delivers the hook and yet another technically outstanding verse – he doesn’t have a miss this year – while it’s perhaps Earl Sweatshirt who mesmerizes the most. He’s not that kid anymore, he’s hardened, maybe not less optimistic but certainly more cognizant. “I’m the type of nigga it ain’t ever been an honor to judge,” he bites at one point, and to get his message across, he adds, “I just broke up with my bitch cause we don’t argue enough” a little later on. When you bring in big name contemporaries like Danny Brown does here, more often than not the parts weigh down the whole. But working under DB’s hyperactive umbrella, that’s hardly a problem on “Really Doe.” It’s the rare instance where the song is really as good as the artists under its watch.

Atrocity Exhibition is out next Friday, September 30 via Warp.