This is probably going to be one of the bigger roundups because, in addition to albums, I have a handful of amazing EPs featured here. October has been a great month for music – I say that almost every month – but there are legitimately a lot of great releases I have to share in this post.
Angel Olsen – All Mirrors [Album of the Month]
Favorite tracks: ALL OF THEM
Angel’s previous albums haven’t really clicked with me until this one, the first listen floored me… damn, what an overwhelming record. The opening two tracks are gigantic, they lay down the sonic foundation of the album really well. The production makes the album sound gargantuan, the strings are gorgeous, the reverb on the vocals always drowns me every time I give this a spin, the lyricism isn’t as dense as her previous works, but it’s as powerful as ever.
There are indie-pop motifs found in Too Easy, New Love Cassette, What It Is, Spring, and Summer but even then Angel’s vocal performances remain as revealing and potent as they do in the overwhelming string-backed and sweeping synth chord-riddled tracks like Lark, All Mirrors, Impasse, Tonight and Endgame. Chance is another blow to the heart, it sounds so intimate that it swells my eyes with tears. Angel lets the titanic production drown her often throughout this album, but strangely that makes her performances all the more vulnerable and revealing, so revealing that it leaves my head feeling giddy and light after each listen. The replay value on this record is strong, too – no reason why I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone, even if you are not familiar with Angel Olsen, give this a listen.
Caroline Polachek – Pang
Favorite tracks: The Gate, Pang, New Normal, Hit Me Where It Hurts, I Give Up, Look at Me Now, Ocean of Tears, Caroline Shut Up, So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings, Door
With excellent singles leading up to her album release, Caroline delivers with her brand of bittersweet art-pop. This is not an upbeat album like the tracks So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings and Ocean of Tears but rather the production takes a more introspective and spacey route. And Caroline’s dreamy vocals mesh into that really well. So even though it’s not the richly textured experimental pop album most of the teaser tracks hinted at, the spacey and cerebral aesthetic of the record packs an equally sweet rush from her songwriting and vocal performances. Especially in tracks like The Gate, Hit Me Where It Hurts, I Give Up, Look At Me Now, Caroline Shut Up and Door.
Still, there are more “poppier” tracks with interesting synth textures like Pang and New Normal. Overall, this LP gets a solid recommendation from me.
Lightning Bolt – Sonic Citadel
Favorite tracks: Blow To the Head, Air Conditioning, Hüsker Dön’t, Big Banger, Halloween 3, Don Henley in the Park, Tom Thump, Bouncy House, All Insane, Van Halen 2049
The legendary noise rock duo is back with another helping of tightly and brutally composed drum and bass passages… but this time around, they have more melody and the brutality is toned down to the point where I didn’t get dizzy from the first listen as I did with Wonderful Rainbow. There’s a flavor of arena-rock in the riffs, especially in Air Conditioning, All Insane, Big Banger. But the dizziness of unbridled chaos that Lightning Bolt is known to unleash in their LPs isn’t missed particularly in the track Van Halen 2049, and again, Big Banger.
Overall, this is a delightful noise rock album, almost all of the tracklist left an impression on me. And if you are looking to dip your toes in the genre, I think Sonic Citadel would be a good starting point – I think it’s among the more digestible albums from what I have heard from their discography.
Boris – LφVE & EVφL
Favorite tracks: Away From You, Coma, EVOL, uzume, LOVE, Shadow of Skull
I wrote a review of it last month. It’s a classic Boris revival. Read it here.
Danny Brown – uknowhatimsayin¿
Favorite tracks: Change Up, Theme Song, Dirty Laundry, Savage Nomad, Best Life, Negro Spiritual, Combat
It has taken me a while to warm up to Danny Brown’s music. If this album didn’t exist, I would have a hard time fully “getting” what Atrocity Exhibition was about. While Atrocity Exhibition was a feverish downward spiral to the depths of Danny Brown’s darkest psyche, uknowhatimsayin brings me a new image of Danny – a more hopeful and “cleaner” one. This change has made me appreciate his last work even more, and sort of like a positive feedback loop, it has elevated my appreciation for this new album as well.
The production feels fresh as hell on this one, with the psychedelic tinges in Change Up, Theme Song, and Savage Nomad, and the pure blissful arrangement of Best Life. Danny’s sharp writing and flow aren’t missed, especially in tracks like Change Up, Theme Song, Dirty Laundry and Combat. The only dud on this LP is probably Belly of the Beast, the vocal sample is kind of overkill. Otherwise, I’m really enjoying this album – the length is perfect, too.
SCJ – Escapizm
Favorite tracks: Roll Out, Bobbit To The Beat, My Bed’s On Fire, Stretch My Feet Out, WWWelcome To Online, La Haine, G.F.U.T.U.F.U., Escapizm
Listening to this album front to back is like taking an adrenaline shot. It rockets up within the first two tracks and it never falters down throughout the entirety of its 35-minute length. It’s pretty amazing how well curated this whole mix is with its transitions, sampling and just the control and creativity SCJ has on the chaotic elements in the mix – it’s kind of crazy to think that the whole thing was made in 3 weeks. The last leg (last 7 tracks or so) delve into gabber territory and it peaks there and plateaus out. And by the end the mix ends, it stops mid-flight and leaves me coming back to get that feeling back. I recommend this to anybody looking for some good workout/running music.
ESCAPIZM by SCJ (FKA Smith Comma John)
Clipping – There Existed an Addiction to Blood
Favorite tracks: Nothing is Safe, He Dead, Club Down, The Show, Blood of the Fang, Story 7
This is one of those albums I admire more than enjoy. As much of an ambitious, riveting and atmospheric narrative the trio present on this record, it’s not something I see myself revisiting all that often. I think a lot of the tracks lose their edge on re-listens and the interludes don’t really add much cohesion to track-by-track play. I wish the album felt more cohesive rather than just a collection of horrific vignettes. After each listen, the album leaves me with a stronger feeling that I’m missing something, that I’m not “getting” it.
Still, there are some tracks I see revisiting on their own are Nothing is Safe, He Dead, Club Down, The Show, Blood of the Fang and Story 7. I mean, this album is getting rave reviews and I get why, but I am not digging it all that much at the moment.
Lim Kim – Generasian
Favorite tracks: ALL OF THEM
What IS this? Lim Kim’s transition from making dreamy Kpop tunes to putting out one of the wildest concoctions of hip hop, and Korean folk and club I have heard so far. She carries so much infectious, commanding swagger in her vocals and the production is pristine despite hosting such a stark clashing of genres. Her English lyrics pack as much of a punch as the vocal performances do, with Kim addressing people’s narrow views on women in the Kpop industry and Asians in general.
Her lyrics also charges into countering male dominance and racial discrimination – these are topics that most artists in the Kpop industry aren’t always willing to speak up about. Anyway, whew – what a trailblazing artistic statement this EP is – and I think this is needed from Kpop now more than ever, with newer people getting into idol-groups and developing a certain image for singers from the industry, and the industry just feeding into that.
Kero Kero Bonito – Civilisation I
Favorite tracks: ALL OF THEM
KKB has done it once again – it’s amazing how willing the band is to transform their brand of sound between releases and still be so good at it. The band returns to their synth-driven roots (from Bonito Generation) but brings some dream-like mystical edge to it.
The synth passages sound really colorful and in contrast to them, the lyrics are rather socially-charged and paint a bleak picture of a potential future of our civilization. It’s just under 13 minutes in length, I don’t see a reason why you wouldn’t want to put your ears on this.
Polkadot Stingray – Hyper Horn
Favorite tracks: Bakenokawa, Otoshimae, Oyasumi, A-Un
I listened to the band’s album that they dropped earlier this year, and I found it to be kind of bloated with tracks that more or less reconstructed the similar tunes track after track (there are some great songs on it though) – it was pretty tiresome to listen through. But this EP has more polished pacing, and that immediate elevates the overall listening experience for me.
I think Polkadot sounds better in EP form than in LP form. The guitar passages hit the colorful tone the band always seems to strive to curate in their tracks, the bass is bubbly – it’s the sweet brand of Japanese pop-rock tunes you expect yourself to find in anime OP/EDs. Give it a try.
Guerilla Toss – What Would the Odd Do?
Favorite tracks: What Would the Odd Do?, Plants, Future Doesn’t Know Me
I tried to get into Guerilla Toss’ music in previous years, but never really found anything that stuck with me. But this EP is different, this is the type of richly textured and melodic yet psychedelic synthy-dance-punk energy I had been looking for in their previous stuff. The vocal lines are clearer. And the shortness only adds to the replay value of this EP. It’s a lot of fun, check it out.
xiangyu – My First Picture Book
Favorite tracks: Go Mistake, Poo Pad Pong Curry, Mycorrhizal Fungi, Human Evolution, Gyoza
On my first listen to this EP, the production reminded me of Wednesday Campanella, and it didn’t surprise me when I found out that Kenmochi HIdefumi was behind it. Xiangyu as a vocalist is pretty nondescript but I think the hip-house-inspired beats don’t really demand a lot of vocal fidelity. Nonetheless, I think there’s a handful of catchy tracks on this EP. IF you are looking for some cool, easy-on-the-ears poppy house beats, look no further.
MINAKEKKE – Oblivion
Favorite tracks: Luminous, Young & Shame, Golden Blue, Oblivion
This EP is a pleasant surprise. I dig the somber nocturnal aesthetic to the production, Minakekke vocals feel more dynamic than in her previous release (Tingles), or maybe the skeletal production in that project made her sound that way. Either way, in terms of atmosphere, this EP marks a huge step up. The grainy guitars sound great on this EP.
I wish Minakekke went a bit further into packing more distinctive elements into other tracks like she did with Luminous and Young and Shame. Golden Blue and the title track are good, but I think a bit of trimming wouldn’t hurt the atmosphere of the EP and instead concentrate its intended aesthetic more effectively. But if you are looking for some slightly anthemic yet spacey and dark sounding art pop-rock, this Oblivion will scratch that itch and probably more.
tricot – Afureru (Single)
tricot delivers again with this single. The band seems to revisit their older sound in Afureru, with the bass and guitar taking over percussion, but with added math-rock playfulness. Naka (the B-side) leaps to their current sound with a heavy emphasis on adding layers of riffs on top of each other, and more skeletal instrumentation. Good stuff front to back.
I think that’s all I have for now. Thanks for reading.