A breakout album from Lil Baby, a self-critical record from Courtney Barnett, and a wordy reckoning from Parquet Courts top this week's list of essential new projects.
L-R: Pooneh Ghanam; Cam Kirk; Ebru Yildiz.
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.
Lil Baby: Harder Than Ever
All of Lil Baby's exploits might make him look like a perfect rapper, but they wouldn't mean nearly as much if Lil Baby weren't also making incredible rap music. And yet, in just a year, Lil Baby has managed to end up with not only the career of someone far more experienced but also the technical ability. His music works within the expanded dimensions of vocal manipulation and melody Future and Young Thug injected into Atlanta trap over the last half decade, but his own style tends toward a nimble-tongued sing-song that naturally matches the quick patter of his conversation. — Kyle Kramer, Lil Baby Is Destined for Rap Greatness
Courtney Barnett: Tell Me How You Really Feel
Although Barnett is doing better than ever career-wise, a deep-seated malaise still courses through Tell Me How You Really Feel, manifesting in a brutal lyrical honesty that verges on the masochistic. Take, for example, “Charity,” Tell Me How You Really Feel’s best (and most heart-wrenchingly self critical) track. “So subservient, I make myself sick,” Barnett sings on the chorus, spitting out the hard ‘k’ like it’s bile. It’s the kind of raw self-criticism that’s probably felt, at some point, by nearly everyone, but hardly spoken about. Hearing her sing it out loud is thrilling. — Shaad D’Souza, Courtney Barnett Is a Lot Like You
Parquet Courts: Wide Awake!
Parquet Courts' sixth album opens with a slurred manifesto from Andrew Savage: "We are conductors of sound, heat, and energy / And I bet that you thought you had us figured out from the start." The key word there is "us," and it sets up a song about unionization, white privilege, and "emancipation." The collectively minded Dutch national soccer team of the 1970s—a response to the reactive, defensive Italians who dominated the sport in the past—lounge in the background, cigarettes likely dangling from their lips. This is a protest record in the most direct sense, and there are fewer convoluted raves than you'd expect after the breathless "Violence" early on. (And, anyway, he's right, why are there no folk songs about ATMs? Or banks? Or piss tests? I guess the answer depends on whether or not you consider Open Mike Eagle a folk singer.) Savage—who co-wrote the album alongside guitarist Austin Brown—is at his most impactful when he's taking himself to task, inspecting whether or not it's good to laugh at white supremacists getting clocked in the face, reckoning with the brutality that he's willing to witness in a K2-riddled Brooklyn neighborhood that he only has to pass through. Danger Mouse produced the record, and he's clearly challenged a band who were more than ready to move on sonically. Devo, Parliament, Big Boys, and Minutemen all work their way in here, but it never seems forced. Or, at least, the homages are respectful. I'm also willing to bet that Danger Mouse had plenty to do with the closer, "Tenderness," easily the best pop song Savage has worked through. Don't turn up searching for answers—Parquet Courts don't have any more than any other group of caucasians in New York City, and they know it. But do turn up for a guy desperate not to be "undone by nihilism," finding a little hope in good basslines. — Alex Robert Ross
Wussy: What Heaven Is Like
I've never really thought of Wussy as a "psychedelic band" anyway, even if 2015's Forever Sounds did bubble up and almost bury Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker beneath the buzz. This is the band that wrote "Don't Leave Just Now" and "Jonah" and "Little Miami," heart-wrenching country-rooted songs that seem otherworldly only in the sense that Cleaver and Walker are able to articulate love and death and pain in ways that few rock bands from this world can right now. What Heaven Is Like, their seventh LP, leads with astronauts and "Aliens In Our Midst" and a three-song suite for Keith Burns' mutative graphic novel, Black Hole; Walker's voice does have a far-out reverb on it over "Skip"; the Kath Bloom cover "Oblivion" is hazy and heady. Psychedelic, though? "Gloria" is a tribute to Fargo's Gloria Bugle, and it's one of the most engrossingly plaintive rock songs of this year so far. Wussy are on and of this planet. Occasionally they just see it a little clearer than everyone else. — Alex Robert Ross
Remember Sports: Slow Buzz
What started out as a fun college project among friends has proven itself to have more potential than the members anticipated. The proof of their initial lack of commitment is right there in their former, flippant band name, which is not only astoundingly unGooglable, but was also already claimed by another band. Now armed with a tweaked name and new members, Remember Sports is intent on taking themselves a bit more seriously since their days at Kenyon College. They’ve relocated from Ohio to Philadelphia and are ready to give their band the old college try. Or, more accurately, the old post-college try. Their commitment is starting to show, too. While Slow Buzz stays true to the endearingly scrappy sound the band established three years ago, they try a few new tricks on for size towards the album’s end, as they stretch out a bit. “Unwell,” the album’s four-minute closer, swings big with a long build-up that creeps into an all-out sprawl. — Dan Ozzi, Remember Sports? Remember Sports Sure Hope So
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks: Sparkle Hard
Sparkle Hard feels like more of Malkmus at his best. The album is built on the kind of melodic cacophony that gave Pavement its sense of urgency and independence out the gate, but also ventures into new sonic territory for both the Jicks and Malkmus, ranging from country twangs and gauzy orchestral ballads (“Solid Silk,” “Refute,”) to Autotune, Mellotron (“Rattler,” “Shiggy”), and a guest spot from Kim Gordon. As a songwriter, Malkmus has made a speciality of snapshotting the ephemeral in both feel and storytelling. On Sparkle Hard, he casts off much of the obtuseness and cultural in-jokes in which that’s usually couched for more overt social critique and observation. Tracks like the motorik, thumping “Bike Lane” hone in on political dysphoria and ideological bubbles, contrasting gentrified laments of “another beautiful bike line” with the death of Freddie Gray: “The cops, the cops that killed Freddie / Sweet young Freddie Gray / They got behind him with their truncheons / And choked the life right out of him / His life expectancy was max. 25.” — Andrea Domanick, Stephen Malkmus Isn't Horsing Around Anymore
Gladie: everyone is talking but you
Cayetana’s Augusta Koch will never be able to blend into the background of a song. Her voice, unsteady and crackling, is instantly identifiable and makes her stand out on anything she does. So within the first few seconds of Goldie’s debut EP, everyone is talking but you, her unmistakable presence is felt. With Gladie, Koch has teamed up with Three Man Cannon’s Matt Schimelfenig, and the two expertly and intimately feed off each other’s styles. everyone is talking but you tosses around some cleverly worded little phrasings that worm their way into your brain. There's a Didion-meets-South-Street vibe on "the problem is us": "Slouching towards Philly / the beautiful mundane / simple routine / rewire my brain" and a Bull Durham-goes-indie-rock feel to "back bench": "Played baseball 'til the arthritis came / not for the stats but the love of the game." — Dan Ozzi
Michael Rault: It's a New Day Tonight
It's a New Day Tonight isn't a somnambulant-sounding record on first listen. Rault's proto-psych is certainly less scuzzy than it was on his last record, 2015's Living Daylight, but things are vibrant here. From the twangy, falsetto-laden Big Star allusions of opener "I'll Be There" through the McCartney-like delicacy of "Oh, Clever Boy" up to the playfully simple "Out of the Light," Rault seems to be wide awake and grinning. But his lyrics often tell stories of daydreams and subconscious breaks. He writes his distractions down in real-time: "Waves of indecision while I sit and write this song," he admits on the languid "Sitting Still"; "Oh, it's just a mystery / Unravelling in front of my open eyes," he sings on "Pyramid Scheme." — Alex Robert Ross, Michael Rault's 'It's a New Day Tonight' Is Dreamy in Every Sense
Mary Lattimore: Hundreds of Days
The harpist and composer Mary Lattimore isn’t afraid of repeating melodies, or writing memorable passages, the music she’s made over the last decade definitely has its share of those moments. But the joy of following her work is that it feels like its constantly unfolding, like you’re watching a long scroll being written in real time. To that end, her new record Hundreds of Days feels unpredictable and enlightening even when its emotional gestures are obvious. The overlapping harp melodies, organ drones, and wordless chorales of songs like “Never Saw Him Again” are pure rapturous, cloud-busting bliss, but Lattimore never really allows you anything to latch onto. The melodies, however beautiful, are arranged in such a way that you can never fully contain them. Instead, you float aimlessly, as the ecstasy surrounds you you—so close, yet so unattainable. — Colin Joyce
Beta Librae: Sanguine Bond
Bailey Hoffman’s chosen moniker as a DJ and producer, Beta Librae, nods to the brightest star in the Libra constellation, which apparently posed a trick of the eye on early observers. It’s a big star, a hydrogen-fusing behemoth almost five times the size of the sun, which usually appears somewhere between blue and white if you look up at it at night. Those who first saw though it described it as more of a dull green, an illusion, perhaps, that science largely still seems to not be able to explain. Beta Librae’s debut full-length, Sanguine Bond, features a similar sort of perceptual trickery, little tics and warbles in its creeping rhythms that make the downtempo charms feel somehow hallucinatory. Like visiting a planetarium in a dream, everything’s about where you’d expect it to be but its a little off—the colors are a little richer, the movement a little slower, the strange joys a little harder to account for, at least in a strictly scientific sense. — Colin Joyce
Alex Crispin: Open Submission
Oakland label Constellation Tatsu specializes in the sort of meditative electronic music that you can lose whole days to, but even by their high standard the batch of tapes they just put out is something special. Four producers and composers from across the world—and across the spectrum of misty ambient music—each offer up career best collections of glossine synth work, translucent guitar drones, and the distant sighs of other instruments. Each, however, seems suited to a slightly different mood. — Colin Joyce
Big Ups: Two Parts Together
Two Parts Together is the Brooklyn band’s most streamlined batch of songs and their most transparent. While Galarraga’s lyrics still focus on mundane interactions, they read as curt in-jokes instead of combative screeds. “Look into the crystal and see what you wanna see,” he screams on “PPP,” and on “Fear,” he admits his anxiety about both the known and unknown. Each song drips with a bit of gallows humor, playing like [vocalist Joe] Galarraga loudly declaring “We’re all fucked” with a crooked smile and hearty chuckle at the very end. — David Anthony, Big Ups’ New Album Kicks a Big Ol’ Hole into Post-Hardcore
Ryley Walker: Deafman Glance
Throughout Walker’s career, he’s never been one to stick with a single sound. He’s done everything from specializing in noisy squall with his earliest noise bands like Heat Death, to being 60s-inspired open tuned fingerpicker, and a collaborative open-ended improviser. With his excellent fourth album Deafman Glance, out May 18 via Dead Oceans, the 28-year-old guitarist has finally settled into his own voice after years trying to find what works. In other words, when he hears the new LP’s electric and freewheeling nine songs, like the propulsive single “Opposite Middle” Noisey is premiering below, he doesn’t instantly hate it like he does his early catalog. — Josh Terry, Ryley Walker Is Experimental Music’s Merry Prankster
Quiet Slang: Everything Matters but No One Is Listening
At the advice of his manager, [James] Alex has pumped the brakes on Beach Slang this year to give it some breathing room. The band’s touring schedule is comparatively light over the next few months, and although Alex says he’s written a third Beach Slang LP, he’s deliberately holding it for a 2019 release. Seemingly incapable of resting on idle hands, though, he’s [released] an album through Polyvinyl Records under the name Quiet Slang, Everything Matters But No One Is Listening, featuring gentle lullaby versions of Beach Slang’s rock ragers, reframed with orchestral violins and pianos. — Dan Ozzi, Beach Slang’s James Alex Is Whoever You Think He Is, Man
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