It’s time for another batch of recommendations for music from this year that I’m enjoying. Today, we have an even split between albums and EPs. 10 entries in total. That’s a good number to cap off the post at.
Bladee – The Fool
Favorite tracks: The Fool Intro, Let’s Ride, Hotel Breakfast, I Think, Thee 9 is Up, desiree, I Want it That Way, BBY, Inspiration Comes, Search True
This is not just a consistently good album… it’s amazing. Bladee’s vocals here are in the best form I’ve heard in any of his albums so far, the production throughout the track list sound more cohesive and mesh well with the vocals. The instrumentals often sound blissful and pretty, and I love how the ad-libs are incorporated into songs like I Think and I Want it That Way. Bladee’s vocal melodies are infectious in songs like Inspiration Comes, Let’s Ride and desiree. For the first nine tracks or so, I don’t there’s a single song that I don’t love to some extent. Sure, some of the instrumental motifs are re-used to some degree but they get incorporated in newer contexts. The last four tracks feel slightly underwhelming compared to the first nine, but I still don’t find myself skipping any of those songs. Maybe this album is my gateway drug to really get into Drain Gang’s music and that’s exciting.
ALEPH – EGO DEATH
Favorite tracks: R.E.M., POLYMER, BREATHE, NOISE FLOOR, ▌▌▌▌▌▌▌█▓▓▓▒▒▒░░░░░░░░░, RETROSPECT, EGO DEATH, ENDLESS DREAM
With my only reference point being Jon Hopkins, the sound design of Ego Death is a lot more layered and versatile than it initially lets on. The first two tracks sound like almost dead-ringers on Jon Hopkin’s Immunity but I can’t deny how well paced and interlinked those two tracks are. Breathe brings a breath of new, bubblier synth passages. The sound gets more house with Noise Floor with these wonderful phases that evolve into a storm of a track (the one which I can’t pronounce). Things go wonky until we reach the title track which is probably the most cinematic sounding track with these interesting ebbs and flow of ambience. The arpeggiated sequence in Endless Dream sticks the landing to this album. This album is quite the journey, but I wish there were more moments on the LP that felt equally as immersive as my favorite tracks do.
Squid – Bright Green Field
Favorite tracks: G.S.K., Narrator, Boy Racers, 2010, Global Groove, Pamphlets
Squid’s instrumental ideas for their own brand of post-punk are refreshing. Even with long-winded song structures in some of the tracks, the band still has a weird intimate aura – it feels like I’m listening to some cool friends hanging out on the field and jamming out. There’s some nice Radiohead-esque guitar lines in songs like 2010 and Narrator. Narrator‘s an epic song: it has my favorite instrumental build of the year so far, the vocals lines are earworm-quality, and Martha’s feature was the icing on top. There are still patches in the track list where the songs didn’t really grab my attention as much, probably because they don’t switch up the vocal delivery as much, but it’s undeniable that this a really creative and risk-taking debut LP. I have a feeling that they are going to come out with something that’s incredible in the near future.
Xiu Xiu – OH NO
Favorite tracks: Sad Mezcalita, I Cannot Resist, The Grifters, OH NO, Rumpus Room, Fuzz Gong Fight, One Hundred Years, A Classic Screw, It Bothers Me All the Time, Saint Dymphna, A Bottle of Rum
Apparently (according to this interview and their Bandcamp page), the making of this album of duets sprouted from a feeling of love and friendship that Jamie Stewart felt from the support around him after having long-standing relationships get abruptly cut in a short period of time. And I feel that warmth emanating from the fuzz in the synths and the vocal delivery in Jamie in some of the tracks. Xiu Xiu’s lyrics still feel as cryptic as ever but I think this quite an accessible album for a casual Xiu Xiu listener as myself. The choruses on some of the songs are memorable as hell; some of the songs being Sad Mezcalita, Rumpus Room, Saint Dymphna, and A Bottle of Rum. Others have these beautiful yet haunting sonic textures, tracks like Fuzz Gong Fight, One Hundred Years and It Bothers Me All the Time. Even without being the most cohesive sounding album in their discography, I’m still digging this album just as a solid collection of songs where most of the duets share good chemistry.
Pi’erre Bourne – The Life of Pi’erre 5
Favorite tracks: Switching Lanes, Couch, 42, Biology 101, YNS, 40 Clip, Retroville, Groceries, Butterfly
Look, right off the bat, the songwriting on this record is ass. But… the beats on the tracks make me return to the album now and then. The dude assembles seamless transitions that make this hour-long album feel butter-smooth and a lot more easier to vibe to. Yes, I used the word “vibe” in a serious way, and I think it’s a great album to “vibe” to. Similar to how people vibe to ambient music/ field recordings. In terms of lyrics, they are often whimsical, and the hooks are often hypnotic. The production is a minimalist, soothing mesh of psychedelic, flowery and repetitive synth lines and there’s some sweet detail on the bass – tracks like Couch, 42, Butterfly, and Groceries. I think Mr. Pierre is finally coming out here with this record.
Kero Kero Bonito – Civilisation II
Favorite tracks: The Princess and the Clock, 21/04/20
KKB is back with a collection of three tracks that sounds sweet on the ears but the lyrics sound dystopian, much like Civilisation I but this time, it feels all the more real in the context of the pandemic. The second track, in particular, alludes to that feeling. The Princess and the Clock is a return to their Bonito Generation era sound but more layered and dense with groovy bubbliness. The chiptune house track at the end is something I admire more than enjoy, though.
Sam Gellaitry – IV
Favorite tracks: A New Dawn, Duo, Assumptions
This EP is euphoric and groovy almost from track to track. The first track is the least danceable one but the synth-play, guitars and Gellaitry’s sweet vocal melodies intermingle to reach a euphoric peak. Duo reminds me of Neon Indian’s nu-disco magic in the best way possible. Games has a trap flavored production that’s interesting but it really doesn’t go anywhere, but Assumptions is finishes off the EP strong with a delightful dance pop tune, the synth line is infectious. Great stuff.
Lil Mariko – Lil Mariko
Favorite tracks: Hi I’m a Slut, I’m Baby, Disgusting, Shiny, Catboys
This is short, fun, hypersexual batch of bangers that draws from trendy instrumental palettes but they still go hard. The first track is an exception with soft, bubbly synths contrasting the stupidly vulgar lyrics. The lyrics are sexually explicit to the point where Mariko’s delivery make them sound like absurd, PC-music-like comedy, and that makes for some hilarious one-liners. One such track is Catboys which makes me crack up every single time. Her signature trap-metal vocals and Full Tac’s heavy production brings an infectious flair to most of the tracks here. Solid EP.
Yves Tumor – The Asymptotical World
Favorite tracks: Jackie, Crushed Velvet, Secrecy is Incredibly Important to the Both of Them, ….And Loyalty is a Nuisance Child
The Asymptotical World sounds like a noisier, more chaotic extension of Yves’ last album. The highlights are stacked at the front end, the run of tracks is cohesive and the production is as rich as some of the best tracks off their previous record. But I still think Yves wasn’t adventurous enough in this set of tracks and that the other two tracks, Tuck and Katrina, didn’t really grab my attention at all.
YUKIKA – timeabout,
Favorite tracks: Insomnia, Love Month, Time Travel, Secret
This was a grower for me. At first, I wasn’t too enamored by Yukika continuing to make city-pop-revivalist music, but on subsequent listens it became clear to me that some of the tracks on these EP are easily some of the best produced material she has put out so far. The shimmery synths and light brass on the chorus of Love Month makes it one of the catchiest K-pop tunes I’ve heard this year. She has really honed her vocals from her last LP, and it’s evident on Secret which sounds like a sweet IU dance-pop tune. I don’t love all the songs equally, but it’s undeniable how polished this track list is.
Shygirl – BDE (ft. slowthai)
I love the whirring synth against the deconstructed-club groove, Shygirl’s flow goes over it so naturally. Slowthai really came through with that “don’t be scurrrd” line – I was cracking up. What else can I say? This is a certified horny-ass banger.
Chiaki Mayumura – Individual
This is like the most Mayumura-like track she made in recent memory. It’s an oddball amalgamation of her tried and tested styles of vocal delivery and instrumental palettes. It’s pretty easy to mess this up but I think the mixes are done very tastefully. I really liked that small brass section at the hi-hat bridge part, and then it picks up again – very fun.
And that’s a wrap for now. See ya!