Billie Eilish's Soft Grunge Showtunes and 12 More Albums for Heavy Rotation

This week's essential listening also includes dial tone drones, "Eruption"-esque guitar solos, and free-as-fuck rapping. There's something for you here.

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Mar 29 2019, 6:04pm

Photo by Tony Barson/WireImage 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.

Billie Eilish: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?

The clout generation was always going to get its Avril Lavigne, but who would have guessed that the most radioactive runoff of that which we might call SoundCloud rap would come from a teen in very big pants. (Okay, maybe me.) On this record Eilish demonstrates, at her best, a knack for melodies that balloon and billow like Balenciaga silhouettes. But by and large these are soft grunge showtunes, fueled by samples from The Office and a manichaean approach to morality that might even make J. Cole smile. —Colin Joyce

Fennesz: Agora

Over the course of his decades wringing drippy drones out of his guitar and computer, Christian Fennesz has recorded his share of music fit for inner travels. But little has been quite so insular and intimate as his new album Agora, recorded with a deliberately minimal setup after he was forced to move out of a longtime studio space. It was made in a bedroom, with headphones, and you can sense some of that smallness in the meditative, uncomplicated unfolding of tracks like the 12 and a half minute opener. It’s title is descriptive of both the circumstances of its creation and the mindset: ‘In My Room.” It’s music fit for closing the blinds, laying down, and exploring the universes contained in the shadows of domestic spaces. —Colin Joyce

Saweetie: Icy

A year ago Saweetie’s breakthrough single, “ICY GRL,” was the 25-year-old’s entrance into rap, and like a game of double dutch High Maintenance found Saweetie looking for the right time to hop into its ropes. On Icy, she makes a case for how to adapt once you’ve made it in. Rather than recreating the virality and nostalgia that propelled her first single, Icy is Saweetie’s first step in defining who an icy girl is and what she sounds like. The Bay Area rapper approaches her new material like a quiz before a test, with each piece of work as preparation for the larger moment—an album. Saweetie may not have all of the answers yet, but Icy is proof that she’s having fun while she learns. —Kristin Corry

Chris Cohen: Chris Cohen

Whether it’s through his solo albums or his work recording or performing with acts like Deerhoof, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Sam Evian, and Cass McCombs, indie rock lifer Chris Cohen’s painstaking attention to detail has solidified him as one of the genre’s most thoughtful songwriters. With his new album Chris Cohen, he thrives on understatement and simplicity, creating intricate and eclectic arrangements. There are stark differences between the pogo-ing jangle of “Green Eyes” and the droning cover of the Scottish ballad “House Carpenter” but Cohen is able to seamlessly render his disparate moods and influences throughout the album. Other highlights include the dreamy “What Can I Do” and the saxophone-heavy closer “No Time To Say Goodbye.” —Josh Terry

Lena Raine: Oneknowing

This LP comprises some of Raine’s richest music yet, wavering between angelic computer pop songs like “Wake Up,” trip-hop head-nodders like “Momodani,” and softly glowing synth sketches like “A Chance to Rest.” Raine made use of Vocaloid effects throughout the record in an attempt to challenge the Hatsune Miku-style artificiality the software has come to be known for. “I essentially created this custom setting for the voice that sounded as close to me as possible,” she says. “So in that way, it’s me, but it’s not physically me.”

While the music carries the same kind of animated, synthetic tones that defined Raine’s Celeste score, Oneknowing is a much headier listen; if her Celeste soundtrack was like an acrobatic, ever-climbing voyage, Oneknowing is a deep, meditative sink into Raine’s headspace, wavering in the uneasy territory between encroaching panic and hard-earned peace. —Sam Goldner, “Lena Raine's Digital Ambience Can Make You Panic or Help You Relax”

Laura Stevenson: The Big Freeze

The creative process for The Big Freeze dates back years—as far as 2013, she says, when she was living in Brooklyn, New York, before relocating two hours north to Hudson Valley with her husband and collaborator Mike Campbell. Stevenson was constantly refining the songs, gaining an understanding of the material, and finding the best ways to express the thoughts inside her head. “Building these songs structurally and vocally, just having the performance, then building on top of it, it’s a really good way to find out what it is,” she says. And the result is that The Big Freeze captures her in a moment of releasing every pent-up feeling at once, producing an emotionally harrowing listen full of unflinching honesty. —David Anthony, “Listen to Laura Stevenson”

Taphari: Earth’s No Fun

The title of this Brownsville rapper’s debut EP is Earth's No Fun which seems like a way of keeping the world at bay. It's a suggestion that the way Taphari moves through the world can't (and shouldn't) be dictated by society as we know it. Other worlds are possible. That's what his music's been about over the last couple of years, presenting this mystic, unrestrained energy, whether everyone else is ready for it or not. Channelling his history in underground electronics, as well as a childhood love for free-as-fuck musicians like Mary J. Blige and Lil Kim—he's made this take on rap that feels borderless and alien, built around mutating beats and a sort of syllable hopscotch. —Colin Joyce, “Taphari Is Brooklyn's Best Rap Alien”

Mdou Moctar: Ilana (The Creator)

From the first notes on his new album Ilana (The Creator), Tuareg guitarist and songwriter Mdou Moctar settles into a trance-like groove that doesn’t really let up for the entire LP. Born in Niger, Moctar excels at plucking acrobatic leads over complex rhythms. As a guitarist, his eccentric style feels practically effortless on songs like the blistering “Takamba,” which finds him practically flying across his fretboard. The following track “Tarhatazed” ramps it up even more with a screaming solo that evokes Van Halen’s “Eruption” kicking off the epic LP centerpiece. —Josh Terry

Joni Void: Mise En Abyme

Dial tone drones, shattered pop songs, and fractalized beat work are just a few of the many coats that the Montreal experimental Joni Void tries on throughout his new full length Mise En Abyme. It’s apparently, in part, an exercise in time travel (he plunders sample sources from the whole run of his life) and in part, in depersonalization (he leans on, then deconstructs, the voices of guest singers like YlangYlang). Each of which would be heady enough on their own but together the record takes on this headspinning quality, overwhelming in the best possible way. –Colin Joyce

FACS: Lifelike

Chicago’s FACS has always thrived in chaos. The band formed after local post-punk mainstays Disappears disbanded with members Brian Case, Jonathan Van Herik and Noah Leger staying the course under a new name. But following their excellent 2018 debut Negative Houses, Van Herik quit and drummer-turned-bassist Alianna Kalaba replaced him. Though she’d never played bass before joining the band, her contributions soar on FACS’ sophomore album Lifelike, an LP anchored by its brooding and muscular rhythm section. Even though the effort only boasts six songs and a lean sub-half hour runtime, it doesn’t breeze by as the songs are patient offerings that slowly churn in intensity like the menacing “Anti-Body.” The clear highlight is the sprawling eight minute closer “Total History,” where Case snarls “Nothing left to say, burn it down, get out” before the song boils to a cathartic and caustic conclusion. — Josh Terry

Foodman: ODOODO

Sometime last year I saw Foodman play at one of the big Bushwick techno bars, and while outside for some fresh air I watched my friend break up a fight between two strangers while he was on mushrooms. Which, honestly, isn’t a terrible metaphor for the Nagoya experimentalists first proper outing for the big boy EDM label Mad Decent. It’s silly, psychedelic, peaceful in the midst of the cacophonic, violent context in which it emerges—clearing space for weirdness and play on the dancefloor and on crowded, uncaring city streets. –Colin Joyce

White Denim: Side Effects

In 2010, Texas’ White Denim self-released a free batch of songs called Last Day of Summer as a stopgap between LPs. Loose, jazzy, and full-of-hooks that effort stood as the band’s best and a blueprint for their albums to come, ditching the frenetic garage rock that gave them blog buzz for compelling noodling and James Petralli’s soulful vocal melodies. The band’s latest album Side Effects best captures the freewheeling spirit of Last Day of Summer, as the songs here are effortlessly and enthusiastically all over the place. “Head Spinning” is a call back to the band’s punk roots, and “NY Money” spreads out into swirling guitar theatrics across almost seven minutes, while instrumental jammer “Reversed Mirror” showcases White Denim at their heady best. —Josh Terry

Tiger Village: Modern Drummer

Utilizing a smattering of truly broken breakbeats and malfunctioning percussion of many other sorts, the musician Tiger Village offers a treatise on timekeeping in the modern era, which is to say, who needs it. Time’s a flat circle. There is no future assured to us. Why lean on something so reliable as a 4/4 beat? Let’s get weird, you know? The rhythmic approach throughout this record—which shares its name with fairly traditionalist publication for drum nerds—is many limbed, multisyllabic, and mutant. Traditional rhythms get swatted and smashed—and the juices running out of those crushed exoskeletons give life to a set of chittering electronics, further exploring the ever-more-porous boundaries between man/machine. –Colin Joyce