Juice WRLD's Neon Bummer Jams and 8 More Albums for Heavy Rotation
This week's essential listening also includes razor-sharp indie rock songwriting, Crayola ambience, and the literal sound of black holes colliding.
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.
Juice WRLD: Death Race for Love
Emo-rap’s boy king makes his glorious return with a 22-track record that deals—almost entirely—with the ways that love with both save and destroy him. The opener “Empty” suggests that he views his place as the pained voice for a generation of bummed out kids with the appropriate gravity such a designation would demand (“I was put here to lead the lost souls / Exhale depression as the wind blows”). But the records a lot more fun when he decides to let loose a little, as on the shredded banger “Syphilis” on which he unleashes the delightfully high-school punchline: “My gun is a dick / Let me fuck your face with it.” His WRLD contains multitudes. —Colin Joyce
Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs
Beware of the Dogs, Donnelly’s debut album, complicates the idea of Stella Donnelly, Feminist Rock Savior. Across the record’s 13 tracks, Donnelly makes good on her assertion that she’s not trying to be the voice of a movement; Beware of the Dogs is first and foremost a personal, intimate document, not the work of someone attempting to capitalize on a moment. If Thrush Metal, her previous tape release, was brazenly political enough to earn Donnelly her fair share of admirers, Beware of the Dogs, its complex and nuanced companion piece, will be the linchpin that turns them into devotees. — Shaad D’Souza, “Stella Donnelly Is Ready to Piss a Lot of People Off”
Helado Negro: This Is How You Smile
The story that Roberto Carlos Lange tells about the making of “Running” one of the singles from his new album This Is How You Smile, is kinda illuminating about the whole project’s disposition. Feeling “awkward and anxious” alone at a restaurant in Mexico City, he decided stillness was the move. He sat and listened to the commotion around him and came up with a little melody amidst the stress, singing it into his phone.
It highlights the promise of the title, that trying times can be transmuted into quiet beauty that, if you choose to “be still and listen” you can find a way to smile. Across the record he demonstrates this in a multitude of ways, in slow, self-assured songwriting, slivered field recordings, and patient lyrics that seem to be, at least in part, about a search for wholeness and fulfillment in a fractured world. In spirit, if not in sound it reminds me of Prefab Sprout songwriter Paddy McAloon’s lonely, lovelorn solo experiment I Trawl the Megahertz—which is similarly about confronting the pressures and complexities of existence with gentleness and humility. It’s a hard way to live, but one to aspire to. —Colin Joyce
Though Sasami Ashworth has spent most of her career on the periphery, playing keys with Cherry Glazerr, and collaborating with acts like Wild Nothing, Hand Habits, and Vagabon, her solo work as SASAMI has already transcended her indie rock bonafides. Based off the fantastic singles she’s released in “Jealousy,” “Not The Time,” and “Callous,” three incredible first impressions which prove her self-titled debut album should be on any fan of thoughtful guitar music’s most anticipated albums list. Her songs are dynamic, introspective, and cathartic and as SASAMI explained, the album is inspired by “everyone I fucked and who fucked me last year. —Josh Terry, “SASAMI Finds Catharsis in the Thoughtful Rock of Her New Song ‘Free’”
JAB: Erg Herbe
Last year, the composer John Also Bennett debuted on the esteemed French imprint Shelter Press in collaboration with Christina Vantzou, using flutes and pianos and synth scribbles to trace the outlines of some barely figurative wall drawings by the artist Zin Taylor. His return to the label is no less playfully abstract. Erg Herbe’s similarly built around woodwinds and synthetic drones, but it’s a gleeful sort of centeredness—the gleaming sunrises of new age tapes past rendered in crayon and gel pen instead of watercolor. It’s a different sort of vibrancy, but no less lovely. —Colin Joyce
Sam Ashley and Werner Durand: I’d Rather Be Lucky Than Good
Like his father, the legendary composer and writer Robert Ashley, Sam Ashley can tell a good shaggy dog story. His new collaboration with the German experimentalist Werner Durand—a master of wind instruments both traditional and self-made—is chock-full of them. In a self-possessed midwestern drawl, surrounded by oozing pools of looped and layered woodwinds, he details a handful of miraculous stories of people who’ve fallen from great heights and lived; he spins horror yarns involving quasi-mythological creatures; he offers truisms and bon mots like “Heaven has no special feeling of kindness, but so it is that the greatest kindness comes from it.” It is hard to draw bigger narrative meanings from the overall arc of it, so instead you must appreciate it moment-by-moment zeroing in so that each of his syllables becomes a distinct character in this endless story, unfolding outward in every direction. It’s a spoken word record, expanding unto infinity. —Colin Joyce
Warm Human: Ghastly
Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood is locally known as the geographic center of the city's countless indie rock acts, so much so that it often serves as fodder for the parody account @ChicagoBandBoy. The understated and tasteful pop of Warm Human, aka Logan Square resident Meredith Johnston, couldn't be further from the stereotype of Malört-swilling scuzz rock. Johnston is a skillful songwriter and producer on her first album Ghastly, arranging a compelling groove on "Y U," where she taps into distinctly 2019 relationship ails with the line, "why are you always looking at your phone instead of me." Elsewhere, programmed drums accentuate homespun acoustic guitars and her soothing alto on the cathartic opener "Worst Kind of Girl." It's a confident debut that shines on its subtlety as much as its hair-raising choruses. —Josh Terry
William Basinski: On Time Out of Time
Ambient storyteller William Basinski often concerns himself with heaviness, but it could be argued that he’s never tackled a project as momentous or monstrous as that of On Time Out of Time, a record made from the sounds—whatever that means—of two black holes colliding. Would you expect anything other than a record of crushing monotones? Of relentless foreboding? Listen to the sound of the destruction of worlds and weep, for it is the same fate that will one day befall us all—if we’re lucky and the seas don’t claim us first. Few records are more fitting for contemplating the inevitable. —Colin Joyce
Shady Bug: Lemon Lime
St. Louis’ Shady Bug make songs that contort, often violently, from breezy and lackadaisical indie rock to caustic and kinetic noise bursts. It’s a winning combination of the band’s sophomore album Lemon Lime, which takes welcome cues from likeminded acts Melkbelly and Pile as well as trailblazers Pavement and the Clean. Where songs like “Whining” and “Blow” are pummeling, the four-piece turns drastically introspective on the twinkling “Flood Song” to a Broken Social Scene-style catharsis on "Flake." Songwriter Hannah Rainey fills the LP with relatable lines about relationship anxiety ("Lost My Head") to what's possibly the most vividly evocative lyrics about seltzer of 2019 in "Canada Dry." —Josh Terry