stream of the crop

Stream of the Crop: 8 New Albums for Heavy Rotation

In this week's roundup of essential new projects: Janelle Monáe gets free and futuristic, Speedy Ortiz get hooky captures

L-R: Gary Wolstenholme/Redferns; Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Atlantic Records; Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Every week, the Noisey staff puts together a list of the best and most important albums, mixtapes, and EPs from the week just gone. 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.

Janelle Monáe: Dirty Computer

Janelle Monáe planned out Dirty Computer before the release of her debut LP, The ArchAndroid, nearly a decade ago. Exploring the idea that what makes us “dirty” makes us unique, Monáe’s futuristic voyage feels eerily prescient. Dirty Computer is dystopic in nature, with a glimpse of a hopeful America in the midst of chaos. On “Crazy, Classic, Life,” she makes a declaration that carries itself throughout the album: “I am not America’s nightmare / I am the American Dream.” With this, Monáe reimagines Americana through pop’s landscape. The spirit of her mentor Prince, is heavily embedded in a handful of tracks like “Take a Byte,” and “Americans,” with a modernized groove of the '80s synths he made popular. “Screwed” and “I Got The Juice” are affirmations of sexual liberation, while “So Afraid” shows Monáe at her most vulnerable—a side she’s kept hidden behind her alias Cindi Mayweather. Dirty Computer isn’t just a doctrine for how the world should be, it’s a reminder that our history hasn’t always been spotless. — Kristin Corry

Speedy Ortiz: Twerp Verse

Sadie Dupuis said that she wanted to exorcize her "control-freaky demons" on Slugger, her debut solo album as Sad13. It seems to have worked. The Speedy Ortiz auteur has always been at her best when singing through oppositional clatter, holding true while guitars spit and spark and occasionally catch fire. On Twerp Verse, her band's third full-length, she's uncompromising, often cutting down her enemies—internal and external—in fifteen words or fewer. "He drew a bath and floated there / He cares a lot / We're strictly speaking self-care," she sings between some jagged edges; "I'm blessed, I am a witch / And I float above everyone who would do harm on me," she mutters later, making sure that nobody fucks with her. Now that Speedy Ortiz have decided to cram every song with as many hooks as they can, all of this lands—albeit at a strange angle. They're an increasingly dangerous proposition, and Dupuis probably wouldn't have it any other way. — Alex Robert Ross

Grouper: Grid of Points

Liz Harris described a mix she made recently as like a postcard, a small document of a headspace in an unfamiliar place. You could think of her new album as Grouper, Grid of Points, as a similar gesture. Its seven songs run less than half an hour, and they were recorded while she was in Wyoming to work on the record and visual art. That trip was interrupted by a sudden illness and a high fever, so these tracks—with fluttering piano lines and clear-headed vocals—are the sound of the calm before the storm. Like her last album Ruins, these pieces are more song-like than the cosmic drones she spent most of her career making, but they still feel wonderfully ephemeral, like attempts to bottle a morning’s mist, knowing you’ll never be able to capture it—not exactly. — Colin Joyce

Imaabs: Discretización

Perhaps due to an affiliation with NAAFI, a Mexican consortium of academically minded club futurists, it’s easy to file the Chilean artist Imaabs away in your brain under “dance music,” but the art he’s made over the last half decade has always been a lot more than that. Pinging from fractured beats to tongue-scraping noise, to all other sorts of experimental electronic ephemera, it’s always seemed like he’s been concerned with the ways these sorts of sounds can reflect emotional states, than he was in ever really getting your feet to shuffle or whatever. His debut album Discretización pushes further into those outer realms and inner spaces. A text that accompanies it as an to create “a cartography of the nervous and affective processes in the body.” That’s a heady allegory, but in this case means crafting delirious blends of grayscale ambience, blistered drum loops, and throat-closing sound design in a way that feels strangely moving—full symphonies taking shape in static. — Colin Joyce

Various Artists: I'm Not Here to Hunt Rabbits

This collection of songs by Botswanan solo musicians, released by the Berlin-based Pirhana Records, makes for a brilliant introduction to a unique style. The vast majority of these artists play standard guitars, but only usually string up three treble strings and one bass. And, most importantly, they play with their left hands over the neck rather than underneath, allowing for new shapes and rhythms in the open tunings. (Here's the video that got the project rolling; it's mesmerizing.) Anyway, enough with form. Even in a vacuum, this is one of the best guitar albums of the year so far. The grating strings of Oteng Peet's "Ngwana Wa Dichabeng (Lonely Days)" and Motlogelwa Barolong's "Ke a Tsamaya (I'm Leaving)" are a challenge, and Annafiki Ditau's "Re Babedi (I Will Never Forget You)" is a strange keyboard-heavy interlude. But Molefe Lekgetho, who contributes "Machikiliani (Security Guard)," has an effortlessly rich voice and Sebongile Kgaila drifts between the bass and treble so smoothly you won't notice the transition. Go buy it too—there's a good-looking 36-page booklet that's worth the read. — Alex Robert Ross

Elysia Crampton: Elysia Crampton

Following three other LPs of voluminous, vibrant, and incredibly hard to pin down electronic music, Elysia Crampton’s self-titled release is a thing of strange wonder. The press materials say she “draws on various Andean styles such as kullawada, huayño, tarqueada, quirqui / tundique, khantus, & morenada, together with genres like metal, psychedelic, & jazz fusion, to tell a story of her movement in the world.” But even if your ears aren’t tuned to the frequencies of the specific reference points, its possible to see the complicated joy in the underlying narratives—a story of stillness among flurries of movement, standing amid chaos and marvelling at its beauty. — Colin Joyce

Launder: Pink Cloud

The three already-released singles from this EP—"Annie Blue," "Fade," and "Keep You Close"—seem to have picked themselves. The first two fall back on looping, laconic guitar lines that would play as well in an arena as they would inside a small club in LA. Those are the songs that will likely turn [John] Cudlip into an indie rock fixture over the next year or so. But he's got a brilliant knack for melody, and he knows when to let a song breathe. "Wonder" is a glacially paced song, delivered in breathy whispers, exhaling into its chorus whenever it gets the chance. There's more than enough here to suggest that Launder could construct a fascinating full-length. — Alex Robert Ross, Launder's Breathy Shoegaze Could Turn Him Into an Indie Star

Post Malone: Beerbongs & Bentleys

Rap tourist Post Malone, who famously said that he would play Donald Trump's inauguration if the money was right, has a song on Beerbongs & Bentleys called "Rich & Sad." At the top of the second verse, he sings: "Plenty sluts grabbin' on my nuts." What an unpleasant coda to a fucking horrible week. — Alex Robert Ross

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