Stream of the Crop: 9 New Albums for Heavy Rotation
L: Dave Pedley/Getty Images for SXSW
C: Patrick Kovarick/AFP/Getty Images
R: Andrew Chin/Getty Images
Every week, the Noisey staff puts together a list of the best and most important albums, mixtapes, and EPs from the past week. Sometimes that includes projects we’ve written about on the site already; sometimes it's just made up of great records that we want everyone to hear, but never got the chance to write about. The result is neither comprehensive nor fair. We hope it helps.
KIDS SEE GHOSTS: KIDS SEE GHOSTS
There’s a lot riding on KIDS SEE GHOSTS. Not only is it a reunion of sorts for Kid Cudi and Kanye, but it’s the third installment of an extravagant yet exhausting G.O.O.D Music rollout. The seven songs could easily fit as the soundtrack to a haunted house as ghastly giggles float over the rapper’s vocals. For the first time in their history, it feels like West and Cudi respect each other’s artistry. Instead of Cudi feeling like an ornament to their work, KIDS SEE GHOSTS gives the impression that the spotlight is on him, and for good reason.
Cudi doesn’t leave you time to wonder how he’s been—he reveals it all on the opening line. “I can still feel the love,” he shouts. It’s a hell of a re-introduction for a man who hasn’t released a project on G.O.O.D Music in five years. “4th Dimension,” is an interesting choice as an opener as PUSHA-T commands your attention in the first verse. It could be a strategic move to have the man who engineered the juiciest rap battle in recent memory against Drake, a common enemy, on your side. But Cudi seems too at peace to even want to revel in an argument he has no stake in. He brings back his immaculate hums on the title track, referencing the days he prayed his pain away. But songs like “Freeee,” and “Feel the Love” are clear indicators that Cudi has found what he’s looking for. “I don’t feel pain anymore / Guess what babe? I feel free.” It the sigh of relief his fans had been waiting for, as he makes mention of feeling reborn, a full circle moment from his Facebook letter. Kanye is more transparent on the album also, sharing lines about his opioid addiction in “Feel the Love.” But this feels like a second coming of Cudi. His lyrics come in the form of mantras, like when he sings, “Peace is something that starts with me.” In 23 minutes, Cudi and Kanye have buried their demons. They are, as they put it, moving forward. — Kristin Corry
Snail Mail: Lush
You may have already heard of Snail Mail: their first EP Habit arrived two years ago, and we interviewed [auteur Lindsey] Jordan earlier this year. But this marks their most concise and full-bodied release to date. At ten tracks long, Lush is the sound of suburban teenage boredom and love souring in the sun; of golden-coloured days and bleak, dusk-blue nights, made up of sweet, sprawling guitar anthems that somehow make sense of your emotions before you’ve even had a chance to look them in the eye. “It just feels like the same party every weekend / Doesn't it? Doesn't it?” sings Jordan on “Pristine”, her clear, soft voice floating over fuzzy open riffs. If you’ve ever felt a romance slowly fizzle into nothingness, you’ll totally know what she means. — Daisy Jones, Snail Mail’s Debut 'Lush' Is a Love Letter to Romantic Rejection
Big Red Machine: Big Red Machine
Had this collaboration between Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and The National's Aaron Dessner not been released on PEOPLE—a new "non-commercial," "artist-directed," ephemera-based streaming service—it might have dominated the music news cycle for a day. As it is, Big Red Machine's self-titled debut appeared inside a trove of semi-experimental new music from both established and unknown indie musicians on Wednesday, and received almost no attention as a result. The four-song EP itself is an exercise in minimalism, Vernon's vocal hooks mostly swirling around looping, open guitar riffs. It breathes the same sunny-winter air that Vernon exhaled on much of Bon Iver's 22, A Million, a world apart from Sleep Well Beast's indoor humidity. "Forest Green" is languid and falsetto-filled, "Lyla" has an irrepressible syncopation, and "Hymnostic" is a piano ballad with the type of rich harmonies that Vernon could only have dreamed of writing in his DeYarmond Edison days. But the almost indecipherable "Gratitude," with its spiral-shaped structure, is the most interesting. There are moments there—brief ones—in which Vernon slips into an Auto-Tuned trap flow. It's more by impulse than design, but then it would be—Vernon's had a hand in hip-hop melodicism since Twisted Fantasy. It's just fun to hear him loosen up. Apparently that's what PEOPLE is there for. — Alex Robert Ross
Etran de L’Air: No. 1
This group from Northern Niger are lifers in a style of music apparently called ‘desert blues,” which is a shockingly mundane descriptor for the colorful sort of guitar music they play together. Per the label Sahel Sounds—dedicated students and aficionados of the region’s music—Etran de L’Air are the workmanlike vets of a scene of celebratory music; their roiling, vibrant leads serve as the soundtrack for “weddings, baptisms, and political events” among other communal celebrations. But even that functional description doesn’t quite do it, the seven songs on No. 1 are downright ecstatic, slashing and whirling instrumentals that cast their eyes skyward, recorded by Sahel’s Christopher Kirkley with just the right amount of grit to keep it bound to the ground. “Hadija” is the moment where that tension is most evident, floating upward and getting pulled back down like a kite that desperately wants to break free of its earthly tethers. — Colin Joyce
Jorja Smith: Lost & Found
Jorja Smith’s been busy getting the world acquainted with her honeyed vocals since the release of her EP Project 11 and guest spot on Drake’s More Life. Today, she debuts Lost and Found, a beautiful compilation of songs in search of herself. I'd fallen hard for her voice on “Teenage Fantasy,” “Where Did I Go?,” and “Blue Lights,” which were songs she’d penned long before finishing high school. But aside from familiar favorites, Lost & Found is an incredibly strong case for the whirlwind of emotions love and loss breed. The title track is a rousing exploration of love, but most importantly it’s honest. “How am I ever going to find love with you / if I do not even know what I want from you,” she asks, admitting her own faults as she goes. Over 12 tracks, she demonstrates the range of her voice, speaking fluently in falsettos as she does on “February 3rd,” a plea to get lost in love. She has the ability to make feeling adrift feel fulfilling, as she sings about trying to find direction on “The One.” Her debut finds her not just experimenting with life’s experiences, but how she presents herself, as she raps on “Lifeboats,” a conscious record about UK’s economic disparities. It’s an ambitious debut for the 20-year-old singer, but her voice will carry her wherever she’s looking to go. — Kristin Corry
Wandering through New York’s New Museum a few months ago, I stumbled into a strangely comforting installation. A film by the multimedia artist Wu Tsang projected in one corner of a carpeted room, featuring the poet and thinker Fred Moten twirling peacefully in vibrant sunlight, folds of a billowing garment flapping wildly with the movement. The voice of Josiah Wise rang out unaccompanied from speakers around the room, like a confident whisper, and it struck me that the visual was a good metaphor for the music he’s made over the last few years as serpentwithfeet—spinning euphorically in the afternoon sun, a heavenly oasis amidst the trials of life. Darker themes that stalked his older work—the specters of lost lovers, queer desire, and cosmic disappointment—are still present here, but the careful orchestration of songs like “cherubim” makes these pieces feel impossibly self-assured. It’s full of the joy of making it through the troubles unscathed, relatively speaking. — Colin Joyce
Zeal & Ardor: Stranger Fruit
Manuel Gagneux's gospel-spiritual-metal fusion project is no longer a bedroom response to a 4Chan shithead. The Swiss-American artist has a full band onside now, and you can hear their presence fully on this, the follow-up to 2016's debut Devil Is Fine. His voice has retained its versatility and power—he can still flit between a chilling scream and a crackling, soulful low-end, and both of them are terrifying when the lyrics are firmly fixed on the grave. But the interplay between Southern soul and Nordic brutality is different on the first side of Stranger Fruit. The immersive and chaotic black metal guitars are mostly absent, replaced by precise, arena-worthy chugs. It's fine without being remarkable—rare for Gagneux, regardless of genre. But "Ship on Fire" hints at a return to the necro-majesty of Zeal & Ardor past, and from there things pick up. "Waste" is relentless, "You Ain't Coming Back" would be an R&B-pop song the guitars didn't signal doom every time they re-enter the mix, and the title track is one of Gagneux's most impressive attempts to pull together disparate forms of sonic despair. The instrumental and disquietingly spare interludes—"The Hermit," "The Fool," and "Solve"—show that Gagneux has plenty more to explore as Zeal & Ardor. Let's hope that, rather than slotting into a formula, he gives into that restlessness. It's served him well so far. — Alex Robert Ross
Centered around a deliberately vague ideology she dubs Curiosity Liberates Infinite Truth (or C.L.I.T.), the New York-based composer’s latest is a deliberate push into other realms, deeper even than the cyborg folk concoctions of the two records she released in 2015, RIP Chrysalis and Metalepsis. The instrumentation tends toward surreal electro-collages, alien-limbed percussion programming and densely overlapping synth patches. But the true innovation here is how this one trades more standard song structures to center instead on the malleability of the voice at the center of the Eartheater project—which floats handily from seraphic chorales to whispered raps, piercing squeals, and power-tool screeches. It suggests that the other worlds to explore—that “infinite truth”—were right there inside her all along, waiting to be shaken loose from the twists and tangles of her own vocal chords. — Colin Joyce
Uniform & The Body: Mental Wounds Not Healing
Over the last few years, [heavy duos The Body and Uniform] have established themselves as some of heavy music’s great universalists, scuffing the imagined borders between noise, industrial, hardcore, and metal and further illustrating that it all comes from similar places. Couple that similar approach with The Body’s general prolificness (In addition to their warped solo records, one of which premiered here just last week, they’ve also made records with Thou, Full of Hell, Krieg and the Haxan Cloak since 2014), that they’d one day intersect with Uniform for a record named for a lyric from “Crazy Train” is almost too perfect. [Uniform's Michael] Berdan and Ben Greenberg—Uniform’s guitarist and producer, who also holds many other roles in New York’s underground—decamped to a studio in Providence, Rhode Island where The Body were putting the finishing touches on their latest album. They had some beats and musical fragments already in the works, which Berdan and Greenberg sent through the Uniform woodchipper, ultimately landing on a sound somewhere in the lurching middle section of the venn diagram between their two sounds. — Colin Joyce, Uniform and The Body's Chaotic Collaboration Is Unsettlingly Perfect
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This article originally appeared on Noisey US.