Stream of the Crop: 10 New Albums for Heavy Rotation
L: Ben Rayner via Domino Records
R: Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
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.
Blood Orange: Negro Swan
[Negro Swan] is wholly fresh, and yet remains very much his own: You can hear the soft, 80s synth of previous albums (opener “Orlando” glides out the speakers like cream from a silver jug), as well as the familiar, soulful tone of his voice (tracks like "Saint" and "Charcoal Baby" serve as reminders that Hynes is an exceptional vocalist.) Even the lyrics—which speak of nighttime, city life, romance, racial politics and queerness in a way that render them intertwined – are typical of what we’ve come to expect from Blood Orange. He always writes as if he is projecting a film onto the listener’s mind, each song twinkling and glistening like passing cars on a city freeway in the dark. He doesn’t have to tell you he’s a synesthete; you can feel it all over his sound. — Daisy Jones, Dev Hynes Has Slowly Built an Extraordinary Canon
Nothing: Dance on the Blacktop
This Philadelphia four-piece's debut album, 2014's Guilty of Everything, was lead singer Domenic Palermo's attempt to work through the two-year prison sentence, for aggravated assault, from which he'd just been released. Their follow up, 2016's Tired of Tomorrow, had him grappling with the fallout from a brutal mugging after a show that left him near death. Both times, the distorted guitars and echoes behind him resonated and uplifted, giving his introspection a dream-like feel. Dance on The Blacktop, however, is one disaster too far. In the space between records, Palermo was diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a direct result of the physical trauma he suffered three years ago. Concerned with decay, his voice is exhausted, occasionally dissonant, disturbingly plain—the sound of an individual who's staring into the mirror and frankly contemplating a scary future. And this time the band—completed by Brandon Setta, Kyle Kimball, and Aaron Heard—are right there with him, echoing the despair, usually in minor keys. "Emotionless / Emotionless / Empire of rust," Palermo drones on opener "Zero Day"; "Bracing for more fatigue / I won’t stand on two feet, or fall / I’ve hit the wall" on the strained "Plastic Migrane." Darkest of all is "I Hate the Flowers": "Stop all the clocks in my brain / Clog all the veins in the drains / Build a coffin around this house / Dismantle the soil from the couch." This is a record that will weigh you down to your bedsheets for hours if not days. —Alex Robert Ross
Fire-Toolz: Skinless X-1
Angel Marcloid—a Chicago-based producer and songwriter who records as Fire-Toolz, among a nigh uncountable list of other monikers—has built a chaotic discography over the last couple of years, with this open-minded approach as part of the driving energy behind her work[...] Skinless X-1 on Hausu Mountain (her second full-length for the Chicago purveyors of discombobulation and discontent), [is] a 13-track collection of strange sounds from across the galaxy of underground music—from speed-demon techno to dewy laptop ambient, icy jazz samples, the colorful clicks and pings of online messenger services, mathy nu-nu-metal riffing, and well, just about anything else, swirled together in a loopy collage. It’s an extension of the works she’s been making under this moniker since 2015, which is universally digitalist, delirious, and otherworldly, but it feels tighter and more composed, the furthest step on a journey away from her upbringing in the Midwest punk scene. — Colin Joyce, Fire-Toolz’s New Album Finds Beauty and Chaos in the Old Internet
Devon Welsh: Dream Songs
On Dream Songs, which is, simply put, a very good record, Welsh showcases his progressive skill as a songwriter—tapping into the intimate sound that helped Majical Cloudz resonate with introverted weirdos everywhere—while still feeling like a step forward. Songs like "Vision" and "Chances" have his heavy voice soaring over strings, channeling that feeling of standing at the end of the ocean, shouting, trying to make some sort of sense of… well, everything. — Eric Sundermann, Devon Welsh Is a Voice of Reason on His Solo Debut 'Dream Songs'
Hermit and the Recluse: Orpheus Vs. the Sirens
Ka fights the fires of the world with the fire of Hades on the first collaborative record he’s made with the Los Angeles producer Animoss. Ever the street-corner mythmaker, the Brownsville rapper tells tales of epic proportions, reinforcing his tales of moral perils with imagery borrowed from the Greek pantheon. Surrounded by Animoss's dusty-yet-lush sample flipping, Ka adopts a nimble but weighty tone, as if he’s not reading bars from a notes app but from some ancient scroll, imbuing each invocation of mythical beasts with grave importance. He casts himself as Orpheus, a fallible hero hopes to emerge from hell unscathed by interpersonal strife, old regrets, and the burdensome power structures of society. It’s a wonderful record, one of the best of the longtime vet’s long career, and he seems aware of that fact too. He lays it out his own appeal nicely on "Argo": "My discretionary tales, for some unnecessary, for some irrelevant / The people love me deeply ‘cus I speak that ugly elegant." — Colin Joyce
Murder By Death: The Other Shore
For their eighth album, The Other Shore, Murder By Death penned a space Western opera. That might be a peculiar addition to most bands' catalogs, but not so much for Murder By Death, who have spun long tales of redemption for their ne'er-do-well protagonists in their albums. The Other Shore is just another solid addition to their already rich discography, one that sees them perfectly harnessing their truly unique style of goth-folk. — Dan Ozzi
Simple Affections: Simple Affections
Over the past couple of years, the Los Angeles imprint Recital Program has issued a series of strange collaborative releases inspired by various saints. Labelhead Sean McCann and a rotating cast of friends would pay tribute to, say, Joan of Arc with these longform collages swirling together orchestral composition, goofy spoken passages (like this prayer that God keep one of the prime players away from the New York sceney club space China Chalet), borrowed snippets from from Justin Bieber songs, electronic drones, and a whole lot more. These releases are truly something else.
The debut LP from Simple Affections, released this week on Recital, isn’t technically part of that saint series, but it finds McCann and his cast of collaborators (which stretches across four lines of text on the label’s site) applying a lot of the same compositional tricks from those releases. The three long pieces that make up Simple Affections are stitched together with a hallucinatory logic. Sung and spoken vocals—as well as nonsense mouth sounds—bleed and overlap with jittery electronics, string flourishes (both played and sampled), and abstract concrete elements. But the way they overlap is never really linear, it’s sort of just flits from one to the next. Lots of music gets called dreamlike, but Simple Affections really is, abandoning traditional compositional logic so that you just float along until you find yourself in a beautiful clearing of piano minimalism or a terrifying underbrush of noise. You’re not sure exactly how you got there, but that doesn’t really matter. — Colin Joyce
Ogikubo Station: We Can Pretend Like
[We Can Pretend Like is] an indie punk record that is at times fun and at times tender. On some tracks, the album employs a full-band sound and on others, it quickly slides to gentle acoustic duets. Park and Weaver trade off on vocal duties throughout the songs, with neither of them really fully coming into the forefront, but both always feeling present. The strongest example of Ogikubo Station’s spiraling duet approach comes at the very end, on the album’s closer "Let the World Know." Sounding like a Jets to Brazil-era Blake Schwarzenbach, [lead singer Mike] Park is backed up by [Mixtapes' Maura] Weaver as they ask, "When will the papers confirm happy things instead of the constant of war and bad dreams?" The two plea for a world of "love and compassion without so much greed," an ethos that Asian Man Records was pretty much built on. — Dan Ozzi, Hear the Debut LP from Ogikubo Station, Featuring Mike Park and Mixtapes' Maura Weaver
Hiro Kone: Pure Expenditure
The record, insomuch as it is about anything, concerns itself with the exchange of this sort of energy. Disregarding the structural tropes of music that prefigures it sonically—the measured plod of industrial music, the twitchy energy of more experimental forms of techno— Pure Expenditure stretches out, moving more free-associatively between themes and sounds. The sequenced synthwork oozes like algae blooms, spreading toxically over the surface of abstract rhythms—and just when you’ve settled into something you can nod your head to, Mao pulls the rug out in favor of something else altogether. There are moments that feel club-like in their energy, like the aqueous Drexciyan passage in "Outside the Axiom," or in the prickly forward momentum of the title track, premiering here, but Mao says that she’s never been terribly interested in making dance music as such. — Colin Joyce, Hiro Kone’s New Album Is an Electronic Exploration of "Morbid Energy"
Frail Hands / Ghost Spirit: Split
Ghost Spirit and Frail Hands put together a transcontinental split LP that sees the two hardcore bands trying to outdo each other. After six songs of LA’s Ghost Spirit putting an urgent and sometimes noodly spin on screamo, Nova Scotia’s Frail Hands kick in with half a dozen of their own rippers that sound even more dire. Most of Frail Hands’ songs barely crack the minute mark but somehow feel like devastating epics. Where Ghost Spirit occasionally allow themselves some breathing room, like on their drawn-out closer, "In Parting," Frail Hands suck all the air out, compressing everything into a singular, frantic punch. There’s really no point in pitting the two sides of this record against each other, though. Both bands are at their bests here and complement each other well, comprising one of the strongest hardcore releases in a year chock full of them. — Dan Ozzi, Brace Yourself for This Screamo Split Between Frail Hands and Ghost Spirit
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