Stream of the Crop: 11 New Albums for Heavy Rotation
This week we're stoked on a surprise new project from Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers, as well as some cosmic pastorals, scary sci-fi synth music, jittery techno, and a punk-gone-pop.
Better Oblivion Community Center photo by Nik Freitas / William Tyler photo by Chantal Anderson
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.
DAWN: new breed
True to the spirit of her solo efforts after rising to fame in the aughts with Danity Kane, DAWN’s new one new breed is full of future-facing R&B productions full of stuttery drum programming and prismatic synth work that places the sound somewhere in the vast universes between Timbaland and Tangerine Dream. But as much as this one’s intent on charting new sonic courses for the genre, it’s also focused on the past—her own to be specific.
DAWN went back to visit family in her hometown of New Orleans which inspired her to draw her story there—the rich harmonies of New Orleans mellifluous musical traditions (most evident on the colorfully resonant “we, diamonds”) as well as her own family history (multiple spoken word segments nod to her roots in the Washitaw Nation Tribe). Most music is personal inherently, and surely DAWN’s worked that way before, but you can sense how explicitly she went to weave herself into the fabric of this record. It’s not just boundary-pushing for its own sake, all the sounds show up in service of telling her story—always a noble goal.— Colin Joyce
William Tyler: Goes West
Having made Los Angeles his home over the last two years, Tyler’s latest record, Goes West sounds more hopeful, but its creation might just have been Tyler’s way of coping with the last few years (hell, there’s nothing wrong with that). The guitarist has traded the electric tones of his last record for an altogether more bucolic, acoustic affair, backed by a full band including Meg Duffy of Hand Habits and warm, sun-dappled synthesizers. His proclamation that he makes “rural new age” feels more apt than ever before. — Lewis Gordon, "William Tyler Sees Hope in the Dark Heart of America"
Better Oblivion Community Center: Better Oblivion Community Center
On this out-of-almost-nowhere LP, 24-year-old Phoebe Bridgers and 38-year-old Conor Oberst sound tight enough as songwriters to bely the chasm between their generations. Of course there's plenty of gentle melancholia, all of which will please the bedroom-bound. But Better Oblivion is more interesting when they pick up the pace—the Digital Ash-esque "Exception to the Rule" and the Petty-like "Dylan Thomas" in particular. It's also worth listening for those rare moments when they give up on straight octaves and get to some deft harmonies, like they do at the end of "Dominos," touching on some lyrical impressionism while they're at it: "Carpooling to kingdom come / Into the wild purgatory." — Alex Robert Ross
DJ Speedsick: Nothing Lasts
As the name on the tin implies, Wisconsin-based producer DJ Speedsick makes rave music for the uppers-addled. The project’s first outing for the New York techno-torturers at Bank Records more or less lays out what that means in practice. The seven tracks are fast as fuck and scoured by noise, drawing heavily on the history of grayscale beats that aren’t really for dancing so much as they are for nodding your head really fast and grinding your teeth down into a mealy paste. The tracks here are cloaked in titles that feel like warnings (“Deathtrips,” “No Euphoria”). Ask your doctor if your heart can handle this sorta action.— Colin Joyce
Kush Jones: Strictly 4 My CDJz 3
The third installment of a planned 40 volumes of a genre-hopping series (holy shit!) from this ultra-prolific New York producer finds him further branching into the undefinable realms between house, techno, acid, breaks, and the footwork that he came up making. There’s squelchy attempts at garage that take dives into sci-fi juke (“This Started as a Garage Track”) and jittery beats that draw on jungle (“VF”), and worlds even more delirious and strange packed into this release’s six tracks. These are bold steps into the unknown, which always prompts one of a question full of possibility: Where to now? — Colin Joyce
Tim Presley’s White Fence: I Have to Feed Larry’s Hawk
Tim Presley's newest draws from a different palette of references to older White Fence records. The album is sparse and crystal clear; there’s no mistaking it for a lo-fi record. It is also a lot more meditative than previous efforts by Presley; the record is built around a bold, emotive ballad centerpiece (“I Can Dream You”) and generally feels more heavily weighted towards Presley’s lyricism than ever before. The more traditional rock songs on the album are as wonderful as ever, but it’s quiet, insular tracks like “Indisposed”—built around a mesh of drum machine and live drums—and the hymnal “Fog City” that make the most impact.
The title track feels like a riff on John Carpenter’s classic Halloween theme, with its hauntingly solitary central synth line, and centers on the monotony of the song’s protagonist’s central task: feeding Larry’s hawk. The action of feeding the hawk, for Presley, is tied to the idea of feeding addiction, whatever that kind of addiction may be, describing the motif as relating to “the constant loop of repetition or recurrence or feeding a ‘beast’ of any kind.” — Shaad D'Souza, "Tim Presley’s New White Fence Single Is a Stunning, Sparse Left Turn"
Dreezy: Big Dreez
Big Dreez isn’t an official follow up to her 2016 debut No Hard Feelings, but the growth from her nearly three-year gap is strewn across its 10 tracks. “Chanel Slides,” a lead single featuring Kash Doll, was a precursor to “RIP Aretha,” which both showed the Chicago rapper’s flow could artfully bob and weave across any production. She enlists Jeremih’s falsetto on “Ecstasy,” a sensual sequel to 2016’s “Body.” Dreezy is all grown up.—Kristin Corry
Sneaks: Highway Hypnosis
Eva Moolchan, raised a D.C. punk, makes her New York record with Highway Hypnosis—drawing in a pair of collaborators she met after moving up the coast (producers Tony Seltzer and Carlos Hernandez) as well as the chattery, eclectic energy that runs along the city streets. Moolchan made her name making sparse short songs—her earliest efforts offered little more than a bass, a drum machine, and her own mantra-esque vocalizations—but that approach only shows up in shades here. Moolchan largely favor of kitchen-sink sampledelia and heaving drum programming, stuff that allows her to reflect a wider diversity of moods and sounds in her bite-sized songs. It’s exciting to hear this new approach, but if you listen to what she sings on “Beliefs” this might just be the start: “All I want to do is start again.”— Colin Joyce
Lil Aaron: Dark Matter
It's rare that an artist boils their aesthetic down to one lyric, but Lil Aaron does a fine job of it at the top of his new EP: "I tried to call you but it fucking hurts / I wrote you a song but I forgot the words / Wish I didn't wanna die as much as I wanted her / Used to give me butterflies, now you make my stomach hurt." So, yeah, he hasn't really cheered up since Christmas, but he's still finding some interesting details at the intersection of pop-punk and trap. Soccer Mommy could cover the title track; Saosin could take "Tonite I Feel Like Dying." I'd give "Last Time I Checked" to some combination of Usher and Mark Hoppus, I guess. That's an achievement on its own. — Alex Robert Ross
Pavel Milyakov: La Maison De La Mort
The man best known as Buttechno drops the smile and the rhythmic contortions on his latest amorphous record under his given name. I’ve seen people calling it an ambient record, which is true in the sense that there’s lots of synthesizers and no drums, but not in the sense that its like, pleasant. The 16 pieces here are greying and moldy, not so much like the cosmic horrors that define much of what people call “dark ambient” even, but a more intimate, mundane sort of terror. “FFF” is built around these color-drained gasps and moaning drones that feel like the rasp of a radiator in an old cabin, or the creaking door of a grizzled man arriving home to no one. It’s not music for zoning, it’s music for the The Zone.— olin Joyce
G.S. Schray: First Appearance
It feels like Akron, Ohio’s G.S. Schray makes music for home listening. At least that’s how I’ve used it. His 2017 album Gabriel misty, billowing tracks that expand to fill whatever room you play it in, casting this brilliant shimmery glow over everything in sight, the perfect accompaniment to any dreary, hungover Sunday morning on which you’re reexamining every moment in your life that’s led to you to this moment laying on this couch. Which is to say, it’s been a pretty constant and trustworthy companion.
His new record First Appearance, which like the last, surrounds Schray’s elliptical guitar lines with a multitude of other instruments; there’s horns and synths and bass and digital loops all presented with breath, clarity, and purpose. But it’s all laid out in this woozy, dazed bliss—Schray moves between styles and sounds elegantly, and slowly, covering lots of ground but never rushing. It’s not ambient as such, but it’s similar in effect—a collection of worlds to go lose yourself in, or to overlay onto this one, when you need it to feel a little more bearable.— Colin Joyce