Stream of the Crop: 8 New Albums for Heavy Rotation
L: Axel Koester / Corbis via Getty Images
C: Carlo Cavaluzzi
R: Thaddaeus McManus / 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 list includes projects we’ve written about on the site already; sometimes they're just 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.
American Pleasure Club: A Whole Fucking Lifetime of This
This is Sam Ray's best album as Teen Suicide or Julia Brown or Ricky Eat Acid or anything else, and it's the best album of the young year so far by some distance. Fucking LIfetime floats between cerebral clatter, distorted samples, and tape-deck acoustics—different angles from which to articulate love and longing and painful past addictions. "Let's Move to the Desert," which samples Frank Ocean's Endless cover of the Isley Brothers' "At Your Best (You Are Love)," is blissful, an attempt to freeze a perfect split-second that actually works, for once. It's further evidence that Ray has a rare gift—present in his ambient work too—for making life's ugly moments beautiful and its beautiful moments limitless. — Alex Robert Ross
Superchunk: What a Time to Be Alive
When Superchunk announced at the end of last year that they’d be back with a brand new album for 2018 (their first since 2013’s I Hate Music), it felt like a good omen for the months to come. It feels trite to say that the North Carolina stalwarts are "what we need right now" but it’s certainly true that band have a knack for expressing disillusionment of all kinds, through their medium of blistering, 3-minute-long pop songs. On What a Time to Be Alive, that disaffection turns outwardly political. The band know as well as anyone that the world is a frustrating place to be right now (read that album title with your tongue firmly in your cheek). In response, they’ve gifted us 11 bites of delectably packaged pop-punk that do exactly what you need them to: rage, and feel, and provide you with catchy hooks that somehow encapsulate all your fury at how we got where we are. — Lauren O'Neill
Nipsey Hussle: Victory Lap
It took Nipsey Hussle more than a decade to release his debut album, but he’s already proved himself to be a West Coast veteran. The fittingly titled Victory Lap is as smooth and confident as would befit Nipsey’s stature, filled with G-funk synths and hazy meditations. The Kendrick Lamar collaboration "Dedication" and "Rap N****s" are pure California dreaming, but Victory Lap also unites both coasts in what would have been 1996’s greatest olive branch. "Hussle & Motivate" repurposes Jay-Z’s "Hard Knock Life" sample into heavy, looming trap, while Puff Daddy graces "Young N****" with his lordly presence. Combing Los Angeles and New York's past and present while staying chill throughout, Victory Lap is proof that a debut can be a product of experience. — Phil Witmer
Alva Noto / Ryuichi Sakamoto: Glass
Clinking dishware isn’t the most pleasing sound and shattering windows are often cause for outright panic, but the latest in a long string of collaborations between Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto explores the idea that there’s peace in the fragility of glass. In 2016, they set up in the hallowed ground of Philip Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, bringing along singing glass bowls and keyboards as well as attaching contact mics to the panels of the building itself, brushing the walls with mallets and seeing what sonic textures they could wring out of it. Given their status as ambient godheads, the results to this experiment might have been predestined: it’s rare that glass sounds this beautiful. — Colin Joyce
Tor Lundvall and John B. McLemore: Witness Marks
Part of the joy and the tragedy of the hit podcast S-Town’s depiction of murder and conspiracy in a small Alabama town was the hidden depths of its local guide and main subject John B. McLemore. Something of a father figure to the town’s troubled youth and a mystery to just about everyone else, much is made of the eccentric horologist’s many intellectual curiosities. But even months after its release, it’s clear that there was still more to him than meets the eye. As a RBMA feature outlined this week, McLemore maintained a correspondence with the painter and ambient composer Tor Lundvall, whose work he greatly admired, once even making a tribute mix of what he perceived to be Lundvall’s greatest hits.
This week, Lundvall and the experimental label Dais records released a collection of recordings traded back and forth in the midst of their correspondence—remixes of Lundvall’s work as well as field recordings of open fields and ticking clocks, ghostly memories of a captivating figure gone far too soon. The bleak, empty pieces make for sad listening, especially in the wake of McLemore’s suicide, but it’s also heartening in a way, to picture him toying with these recordings for no one but himself, another obsession for a lifelong tinkerer. — Colin Joyce
Shannon & the Clams: Onion
Steeped in pain and laughing through the tears, the Oakland quartet's fifth LP is a eulogy for and tribute to the 36 people who died in Ghost Ship fire of December 2016. The band's borrowed doo-wop rhythms and girl-group melodies always had a melancholy to them, but they feel raw and poignant now, from the outcast anthem "Backstreets" through the slow-dance balladry of "Did You Love Me." Shannon Shaw and Cody Blanchard have refined their melodies even further here as well, so this is the band's most accessible record yet. Just know that there's more to these singalong choruses than simple nostalgia. — Alex Robert Ross
Itasca: Morning Flower
Kayla Cohen, solo guitar explorer, follows her 2016 outing for Paradise of Bachelors with a smaller, more personal journey through the instrumental badlands she favors. If her mainline records tend toward broad stroke depictions of rolling landscapes, this tape is a portrait of a cave located somewhere in those hills, each crack and crevice treated with delicate attention. There’s psych-trance tendrils fingerpicking showcases and more patient melancholy, all cloaked in a magnetic hiss that lends an even smaller more cloistered feeling to the proceedings. Morning Flower was a collaboration with the ecologist Gunnar Tchida, who provided the artwork and titles, but it carries the spirit of the best records Itasca has made without outside help—that of a cosmic search, with no easy answers in sight. — Colin Joyce
Rejjie Snow: Dear Annie
This 24-year-old Dublin-born rapper has been promising a debut album for the better part of five years (under the name Dear Annie the whole time, remarkably). There's a lot to be written about the way his sound and flow have matured in that time, the way that the American hip-hop establishment has stuck with him (he's part of 300 Entertainment), and the lessons he picked up from, say, touring with Madonna and signing to Elton John's management company. But for now, we get to enjoy a real-life full-length from a man who seems terrifyingly close to being the finished article. Only on the inter-song skits will you get a feel for his transatlantic accent, with most of Dear Annie delivered in with a soft Californian inflection. He sees love and lust as inseparable forces, and he touches on them with some self-aware, third-grade French: "désolé," "mon amour," "She say, 'bonjour, bonsoir' / I like eggs / I say, 'I like FIFA, Like sex.'" In the end, it all melts into soft soul over a 20-track album that doesn't overstay its welcome. If there's any justice, he'll be a star; with the connections he's got Stateside, I'll be shocked if he isn't one by the end of the year. — Alex Robert Ross
Follow Noisey on Twitter.