Stream of the Crop: 11 New Albums for Heavy Rotation
New projects from Future, Deerhunter, Steve Gunn, and Pedro The Lion top this week's list.
Every week, the Noisey staff puts together a list of the best and most important albums, mixtapes, and EPs from the past seven days. Sometimes it 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.
Future: The WIZRD
Every time I go too long without listening to Future, I come back convinced he makes the best music ever. For whatever reason, none of the 2018 projects really stuck for me, so playing The WIZRD feels like popping in on an old friend, who’s just as as ornery, overwhelmed and ecstatic as they were when you last left them. He’s made some talk in recent interviews about this record being the start of a new era. It doesn’t really feel that way, but that’s for the best. Familiarity suits his music—embrace those old bad habits. — Colin Joyce
Deerhunter: Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?
Like Halcyon Digest, Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? skeptical of the past. The opening track “Death in Midsummer” has a dramatic refrain in which Cox yowls “There was no time to go back.” The rest of the record follows in kind. It is decidedly forward looking, full of the instrumental experimentation and formal contortions that the band started exploring on 2015’s Fading Frontier. It’s a bold step into the unknown, the sort that the band has always made.— Colin Joyce, "Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox Begrudgingly Ranks His Band’s Albums"
Steve Gunn: The Unseen in Between
Another record of luxuriant cross-country road jams from a master choogler. You’ll know from the first dusty strums whether this is your thing or not, but if it is, what a path to wander down. It’s full of the visions of a country wracked by the effects of automation, mechanization, and the clueless despots who’ll do nothing to repair it, either on a personal or cosmic level. Gunn surveys the state of things from the asphalt of the interstate, remarking on what beauty and pain he can see as it blurs in his periphery. Get lost in the swirling dust, the misty mountaintops, the great rolling plains... while you can. — Colin Joyce
Pedro the Lion: Phoenix
You never get the impression that David Bazan leaves things to chance. Every lyric, harmony, anecdote, chord change, and repetition on his records seems to have been considered and whittled down with precision. Each song is like a detailed sculpture in sandstone. Phoenix, his first album as Pedro the Lion in 15 years, is an interrogation of faith and memory, and it moves with a rare grace and lucidity, even by Bazan's high standards, and little moments burrow in as a result. Early on, free for the first time, the world at his pedals: "That little ache inside / My kingdom for someone to ride with." At the end, terrified, calling back to a future past: "If I swung my tassel to the left side of my cap / After graduation, will there be no going back?" — Alex Robert Ross
Toro Y Moi: Outer Peace
Cynical as I remain about production whizzes and experimental weirdos edging ever closer to straight pop spheres, Chaz Bear’s always made music that’s pretty hard to deny. Outer Peace is full of the same cheery charm and outsized charisma that he’s grown into over the last couple of records, but this one’s a little closer to my heard because hey, he’s turning into a cynic too. Over the bleary sophisitpop instrumental that makes up “Ordinary Pleasure,” he sings of the diminishing returns of aging: “Does sex even sell anymore / I feel like I've seen it all / Or maybe I'm just old.” Teenage angst has paid off well, you know how the rest goes. —Colin Joyce
James Blake: Assume Form
Assume Form is Blake’s most hopeful album yet, and the “sad boy” cliches feel especially off-base. Blake has spent the last few years taking hard and necessary steps for his mental health, including therapy. He’s also been in a long-term relationship with former BBC1 personality and The Good Place actor Jameela Jamil, a romance he credited as a source of stability in his panel appearance. Tucked near the end of the album, “Don’t Miss It” isn’t even an unequivocal bummer. It’s a clear-eyed warning not to take things for granted. When Blake sings, “Don’t miss it / Like I did,” he laments not appreciating the moment while depressed. It’s an observation like that can only come from growth. —Josh Terry, "James Blake Just Made a Gorgeous Album About Being Happy in Love"
Julian Lynch: Rat's Spit
Like a lot of Lynch's work, it's slow, meandering, unfurling in this discursive way that feels like an ambient piece or a raga. It's peaceful, on the surface—the sort of song you might throw on to fill an empty room on a lazy Sunday morning. But if you listen closely, there's a tension in the record. On "Meredian" he's mired in "a season of dust and smoke," and plays a tenuous, freaked-out sounding solo in the middle of the piece, creating a low hum of anxiety amid the otherwise spacious piece. It's a confusing message, but a relatable one, balancing an impulse toward stillness with the need for action. — Colin Joyce, Julian Lynch's First Single in Five Years Is Peacefully Freaked Out
Maggie Rogers: Heard It In A Past Life
Pairing Maryland-born drama-pop phenom Maggie Rogers with uber-producer Greg Kurstin makes sense as commerce, and there's nothing on this, Rogers' major-label debut, that sounds like a misstep as such. But the highlights—like the Rostam Batmanglij-co-written "fallingwater," the irrepressible one-two of "Retrograde" and "Burning," and old singles "Alaska" and "Light On"—are too easy to pick out from the wash. That's fine in some sense. Most artists would kill for some of Rogers' choruses. It just makes Past Life a promising start to a long and hopefully fascinating career, rather than the groundbreaking and intricate pop record she's so clearly capable of making. Fingers crossed that she keeps getting the freedom and backing to show off her full range as a songwriter. — Alex Robert Ross
Sharon Van Etten: Remind Me Tomorrow
Sharon Van Etten was overwhelmed in the five years between Are We There and this, her fifth full-length. She enrolled at Brooklyn College to study psychology, took on two major acting projects, scored Katherine Dieckmann’s drama Strange Weather, and, most earth-shatteringly of all, gave birth to a child. Remind Me Tomorrow deals with this rush of mostly welcome (but occasionally disorienting) emotions without creating an impenetrable swirl of sound. Instead, synths fizzle behind her deft and robust voice, and Van Etten mostly relies on a swell of melodies to underpin her memories in miniature. ("In the little red car that don't belong to you / Yeah, that little red number / Driving down the road," she sings on "Malibu," an airy and utopian love song.) There's also an undeniable hit here in "Seventeen," a howl back into memory at the heart of a record that tries to make sense of the present. — Alex Robert Ross
J. Albert, skilled of bruised techno tracks, dips into unfamiliar territory here as Jio, offering prismatic, grief-laden R&B refractions as Jio. J’s got this wonderfully thin voice, which suits the subject matter here—every plea for all the heartbreak to end comes out as this whispery gasp, as if it’s all just too much to bear and he might totally give out before the song’s over. The productions aren’t as heavy as his dance work, but they are as heady, full of elliptical arpeggiations and dazed delay manipulations—a muddled and mottled sound environment befitting the busted headspace that informs the record. The loopy, mournful “Circular Thinking, Pt. 2” is the most magical moment, a hymn for the broken-spirited—a fitting soundtrack for any day you have to lay in bed and think about the cumulative effects of all your mistakes. — Colin Joyce
NKISI: 7 Directions
Sonic activist and boundary-pushing producer NKISI’s debut LP pushes techno tropes into new dimensions by drawing on Congolese rhythmic twists and the cosmology expressed by writing of Kongo scholars like Dr Kimbwandende Kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau. In the record’s press materials, NKISI expressed her belief in the communitarian potential of sound—that creating new, unfamiliar energy, or introducing ideas that run contrary to accepted ways of thought allows us to shift “collective behaviour and allows for new ways of producing knowledge.” Can seven fleet-footed dance tracks change the world? It seems like a tall task, but NKISI’s unpredictable programming does have a sort of rewiring effect. Rhythms may start out feeling unfamiliar, but like jumping into a cool pool, you slowly adjust to them, your body slowly attuning to what was once a strange sound. It’s a useful metaphor for approaching the world around you with openness and curiosity. — Colin Joyce
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