Welcome to another plate of my opinion-vomit of the music that I listened to and thought they were pretty good. This is gonna be a chonky one… a chonky plate of opinion-vom- I’ll stop. Here are the albums/EPs/singles, in no particular order.
Kayoko Yoshizawa – Akaboshi Aoboshi
Favorite tracks: Lucifer, Service Area, Gumi, New Hong Kong, Oni
The first half is absolutely stellar – with sound palettes playing with rich synth work and captivating guitar riffs between the five tracks. I really tried, but I can’t say I care for the second half all that much. The songs in the back half have more subdued and diluted production which kind of let me down. Still, if there is one thing that stays consistent throughout the album, it’s Kayoko’s vocals – they remain beautifully dynamic no matter what the instrumental palette they are on. The album art is gorgeous.
black midi – Cavalcade
Favorite tracks: John L, Marlene Dietrich, Chondromalacia Patella, Dethroned, Hogwash Balderdash, Ascending Forth
Cavalcade sounds more like a set of compartmentalized tracks in their own worlds rather than a procession of thematically cohesive tracks. Still, the quality of musical talent and the high production quality throughout the album is undeniable. Tracks like John L and Hogwash and Balderdash reminds me of the manic energy of Schlagenheim but taken to new heights. I also dig the more subtle cuts like Marlene Dietrich and Ascending Forth. There are points on this album that sound sort of mechanical, cold and strangely predictable in terms of their song structures – something that I didn’t feel was there in their debut. Still, I think this is another solid showing of the band’s sheer musical virtuosity, and I can’t wait to see what they come out with next.
Sons of Kemet – Black to the Future
Favorite tracks: Field Negus, Pick Up Your Burning Cross, Think of Home, Hustle, For the Culture, In Remembrance of those Fallen, Let the Circle Be Unbroken, Envision Yourself Levitating, Black
I have been loving every Shabaka-fronted jazz release since Your Queen is a Reptile, and this is no exception. It’s incredible, in fact. The starting and ending tracks feature soul-shaking, bold vocal performances from Joshua Idehen that feels attention arresting. There are groovy tracks like Hustle and the For the Culture which remind me of the addictive, kinda-danceable grooves from the band’s previous album. The second half feature more barn-burners of tracks with more surreal and erratic progressions, especially in tracks like Let the Circle be Unbroken and Envision Yourself Levitating. While the theme of the album is relatively looser than their previous one, I still think the lyrics remain as radical as ever. What else can I say? The UK Jazz scene has been putting out great projects in recent years, and this is certainly one of them.
Tyler, the Creator – CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST
Favorite tracks: Corso, Lemonhead, Wusyaname, Hot Wind Blows, Massa, Runitup, Manifesto, Sweet/I Thought…, Rise!, Wilshire
I see this album as an amalgamation of the hard-edged grit of his pre-Flower Boy stuff, the soul of Flower Boy and the left-field electronics in Igor – it’s the most “Tyler” album, and it shows his evolution as an artist. And for that, I personally think this is his best so far. Even though the LP shares instrumental palettes with his previous stuff, Tyler brings on DJ Drama for adlibs that hype up the energy, and his production has found the balance between hard-edged and refined on here. There’s something here for every type of Tyler fan – if you like bangers, there’s Corso and Manifesto. If you like soul-R&B sweetness, there’s Wusyaname, Hot Wind Blows and Sweet/I Thought… and Tyler’s raw inward-facing storytelling is riveting on Massa and Wilshire.
Natalia Lafourcade – Un canto por México Vol. 2
Favorite tracks: La Llorna, Cien años, La trenza / Amor completo, Nada es verdad, Recuérdame, Tú sí sabes quererme
Comparatively, volume 1 had shorter and livelier tracks but there is something in the mood and atmosphere in the longer tracks in volume 2 that made me come back to it now and then. This album somehow feels more cinematic without bringing in much of anything new in terms of its instrumental palette. Sure, there are points where the sound felt long-winded and fell flat for me like Alma Mia but there are songs like La Llorna (both versions), Cien años and Tú sí sabes quererme that easily make up for the flat moments. I still prefer Vol. 1 over this, but there’s some great moments on here as well.
Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee
Favorite tracks: All of them… except Sit
Gosh, I still can’t get over how delightful Paprika sounds as an opener to this album… it’s a rush, alright. There are different shades of chamber and synth pop and the production detail on almost every track feels as fresh and vibrant as those persimmons on the album cover. The chamber instruments coast over the synths so well, there are points on this album that remind me of Julia Holter’s music. Okay, enough about the production – Zauner’s songwriting sounds matured and attention-grabbing – her talent as a lyricist is undeniable. I love almost every song off this album, except maybe Sit, the mix which sounds a bit too bloated with synths and different ideas. What an amazing album, this is probably going to be among my favorites at the end of the year.
Parannoul – To See the Next Part of the Dream
Favorite tracks: Beautiful World, Excuse, Analog Sentimentalism, White Ceiling, Youth Rebellion, Chicken, I Can Feel My Heart Touching You
With an instrumental palette that rides between the intersection of drone, noise and shoegaze – Parannoul paints a picture that feels soul-crushing but there’s a strange celebratory aspect to the album. Even with the production being sort of lo-fi and claustrophobic, the textures are vibrant, the smoky guitar and the sporadic bubbly synths cooks up a overwhelming, tempestuous atmosphere that I haven’t heard a lot of, it’s like a mix of Asobi Seksu and Weatherday. Most of the album sounds like a tempest of emotions, although there are portions of it that felt like Parannoul was recycling their ideas a bit, I loved the overall sound the album was going for. Reading the description of the album’s Bandcamp page brought me more emotional context on the album, I suggest you go read that before listening to the album.
Cosha – Mt. Pleasure
Favorite tracks: Berlin Air, No Kink in the Wire, Lapdance from Asia, Run the Track, Hot Tub
I was anticipating this release after listening to her teaser tracks, and I was expecting a nice collection of sensual, minimal R&B tracks – and I think that’s pretty much what I got from the record. The production is minimal but it features these floral, blooming synth patterns and good detail on the bass – it’s really easy on the ears. There is an outlier from her previous EP, Do You Wanna Dance, that doesn’t really fit the aesthetic of the album, and there are couple of meh songs at the backend. Still, the majority of the album’s great. The track Hot Tub, in particular, caught me off guard with the samples and brass that produce this strong sensual atmosphere that’s infectious. Go check out the album, it’s short and sweet.
Spellling – The Turning Wheel
Favorite tracks: Little Deer, Always, Turning Wheel, The Future, Awaken, Boys at School, Legacy, Queen of Wands
Following up from Mazy Fly, this is a huge change of pace for Spellling. Most of the witchy mysticism in the instrumentation is exchanged for a grander and richer instrumentals – mixing orchestral with electronics to make musical tides, with Cabral flexing her insanely talented vocals. Songs like Awaken, the title track and Boys at School sound gorgeous and have timeless qualities to them. While the first half is more instrumentally vibrant, the second half sees a return of the witchy side and the production relies a lot more on the atmosphere than instrumentals. Queen of Wands is probably my favorite from the last leg of the album in terms of the atmosphere it conjures. I feel that I ended up with the same issue I had with Mazy Fly, the last half feels a bit too long-winded and sparse in terms of great moments. Still, I think this is a solid art pop album – and a surprisingly instrumentally accessible one at that.
Seiko Oomori – PERSONA #1
Favorite tracks: Persona, Girl Zone, Momentary maximum me, Who Is Baby, Lady Baby Blue, Pikarin Future, Mugen Climax, Rude
It seems like as long as the sun rises every morning, Seiko Oomori will keep making good albums. How can a self-covers album be this good? And with her releasing this right after Kinstugi and the ZOC album (which I haven’t listened to yet), I’m impressed with the consistency in quality. She really made her songs her own… you could say she PERSONAlized them into her own brand of pop (no, I’m not sorry). There’s that restless energy beneath the veneer of cutesy pop, especially in tracks like the opener Persona, Girl Zone, the song with Noko, and the Moonlight Sonata fused-with-breakbeat banger Mugen Climax. Those songs delivered exactly what I was missing from Kinstugi. There are smoother, danceable jams like Pikarin Future and Who is Baby (which is an earworm and a half). Then there are absolute storms for songs like Lady Baby Blue and Rude. Rude might be the most beautiful, intense and most “Seiko Oomori” kind of song for me since Re: Re: Love. What an impressive collection of tracks this album boasts. Damn.
St. Vincent – Daddy’s Home
Favorite tracks: Pay Your Way in Pain, Daddy’s Home, Live in the Dream, The Melting of the Sun, Down, My Baby wants a Baby, …At the Holiday Party
Swinging between catchy hooks and patient-testing but worthwhile instrumental builds, Daddy’s Home is a buffet of psychedelic ’70s jams. In Pay Your Way in Pain and Down, the production is spazzed out and sassed out with fun salon piano and synth patterns and Clark’s equally fun vocal effects. But it’s the hypnotic guitars in Live in the Dream and the transportative, bass-y production in The Melting of the Sun that make for my absolute favorite moments in the album. While I didn’t get much out of the interludes in the later half, the vocal performances in (sort of?) ballads like My Baby Wants a Baby and …At the Holiday Party that eliminated my doubts on an underwhelming last leg. The album has a lot more personality than the seemingly kitschy ’70s elements initially lets on.
McKinley Dixon – For My Mama and Anyone Who Look Like Her
Favorite tracks: Never Will Know, Bless the Child, make a poet Black, Protective Styles, Swangin’, brown shoulders, B.B.N.E., Mama’s Home
Dixon creates a hip-hop album that shakes you by the shoulders and pushes you into a room with unkempt, passionate jazz instrumentals contrasted by buttery yet emotionally volatile vocal delivery. Of course, there’s going to Kendrick and Quelle Chris comparisons, but Dixon has cooked up something unique here. The mix is sort of claustrophobic but the musical virtuosity is there, and it sounds organic and human. The lyrics have this anxious clashing of tides between nostalgia and disillusionment that rings very intensely in tracks like make a poet Black and Never Will Know. I think a line in the track Protective Styles sums up the feeling of the album pretty well: “Want this to sound soft like poetry, but came strong as her veins”. This LP is, by no means, an easy listen but I think it’s very much worth it.
Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend
Favorite tracks: Lipstick on the Glass, Smile, Safe from Heartbreak, How Can I Make it Okay?, Play the Greatest Hits, Feeling Myself
Even with the very in-your-ear mixing, the run from Lipstick on the Glass to Feeling Myself is near-perfect, with the memorable melodies, the thick textures, the enveloping bass and Roswell’s genre-shifting vocals that seem to adapt to a new genre of instrumental like it’s nothing. Almost every stylistic avenue that the band explores in this 6-track run comes off as authentic. However, the other tracks didn’t leave much of an impression on me, in comparison. The Last Man on Earth came off as particularly cheesy, maybe it’s Roswell’s vocal approach… I can’t put my finger on exactly what went wrong. Despite all that, I still came off enjoying the album on the whole.
Kimishima Ohzora – Sode no migiwa
Favorite tracks: ALL OF THEM
With their previous couple of EPs sounding like a Mid-Air Thief-esque blend of folktronica and rock, this is a change in pace. The blend is still present in some of the tracks but, overall, the production is more subdued and acoustic. I think the songs on here sound more “complete” than their previous ones in previous EPs, and the atmosphere in the production is more compelling. I really don’t have much to gripe about this one, it’s amazing.
Soul Glo – DisNi**a Vol. 1 & 2
Favorite tracks: FL Style Permz, Rolling Loud Hear Me Cry, All three tracks from Vol. 2
Vol.1 is the more stylistically versatile of the two with the opening track edging out punk with hip hop elements, like that rattling high hat. The second track rips and the energy is absolutely infectious but the third track feels kind of long-winded.
But Vol. 2 hit me like a shower of bricks. The bass lines on each song are insane, the vocal performances are unrelenting, and the energy is animalistic and blood-boiling. All three tracks on this EP are amazing – Vol. 2 is probably the best punk release I’ve heard this year so far. AAAAAH.
If you’ve read/skimmed through my previous “GOOD Music” posts, you’d know that I don’t write about a lot of singles here because I don’t listen to a lot of singles – I tend to listen to full albums… and I’m not sure whether I should change that, maybe I should try out those Spotify playlists. Eh, we’ll see. But here’s a couple I’m enjoying.
aespa – Next Level
I’ve been catching up with some Kpop releases over the summer (as I usually do) and I think the new aespa song is pretty great. Apparently, it’s a remake of a song (of the same name) off a Fast and Furious soundtrack, and frankly, this sounds way better than the original. I like the multi-phased song structure of the song, the rap section is actually one of the better Kpop girl group rap sections I’ve ever heard – there’s swagger to it. I dig the buzzing, yet bass-y main synth line. The choreography in the MV is pretty snappy and cool.
fhána – Love Supreme!
This is the opening song for the new season of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid – and it’s a joyous, celebratory song. The choir vocals and the brass arrangement makes the production sound so lively and organic, the pop-rap section is playful. towana’s vocals are sweet and they lead each part of the song structure into the other so well. I can’t say enough nice things about the song – it felt shorter than its 4:44 minute length. This is probably going to end up as one of my favorite OPs by the end of the year, judging from the animation sequence.
And that’s a wrap for this long, long post. I should stop cramming in 15+ entries into one post, geez.