Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
Angel Olsen emerged on the scene carving out stunningly beautiful folk songs and has gradually progressed into more expansive territory since then. So it was only natural that by the time she got to All Mirrors she’d be working with 12-piece string sections and engulfing synths. Apparently there’s an acoustic version of this album in the vault and it’ll be fascinating to hear how these songs hold up in that form because this version is almost overwhelmingly big and bold, Olsen’s voice moulding into the songs, and it’ll take several more listens before its subtleties are able to poke through the bombastics. But they will, sure enough. All Mirrors is intense, it’s courageous, it’s grandiose, it’s honest... it’s really, really good.
Westside Gunn - Hitler Wears Hermes 7
Yet another offering from Griselda Records and Westside Gunn as he continues the ‘Hitler Wears Hermes’ mixtape series. Having touched on a few of these projects out of Griselda, there isn’t a whole lot new to discuss here other than Gunn offering more delightful grimey raps over borderline haunting production and you’re kinda guaranteed to be put in a certain zone via Gunn’s tales.
Danny Brown - uknowwhatimsayin?
Quite possibly the best alternative hip-hop project of the year, ‘uknowwhatimsayin?’ serves as another move deeper into the musical joy offered by Danny Brown. That Brown’s quirky delivery has traversed so many different sounds and production over the years is itself kinda crazy and now Brown gets some help from Q-Tip. This album is more upbeat and delightful in disposition compared to ‘Atrocity Exhibition’ and is best served up while you are in a creative space, as ‘uknowwhatimsayin?’ while fill you with creative vibes as you wander through Brown’s musings.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Ghosteen
We are photons released from a dying star. We are fireflies a child has trapped in a jar. And everything is as distant as the stars. I am here and you are where you are... who else is writing poetry on that level? Ghosteen might be a little long for an album built around synth-scapes with zero drums and it doesn’t have a huge amount of dynamics on show... but the opportunity to be a witness to the words that Nick Cave can summon is basically a religious experience. His voice is supreme too and amidst this thing are several moments of incredible and untouchable beauty. Their fleeting nature only makes them more special. Also, subscribe to his Red Hand Files newsletter if you haven’t already – it’ll change your life at least a couple times a month.
Raiza Biza - Bygones
One of the low key figures of kiwi music is Raiza Biza, who has hit a nek level in exploring the world and linking up with other like-minded artists. Bygones is Biza’s latest album and has Biza digging further into introspective poetry, the type that comes from Biza’s unique perspective. The way Biza’s words lay on top of the musical canvas is a thing of beauty, primarily from the soul that is present in any of the production and with some nifty features led by Oddisee, Bygones serves as the ideal musical piece to jam when pondering your journey.
Ocean Wisdom - Big Talk Vol. 1
After coming through under the High Focus umbrella in England, Ocean Wisdom has branched out and understandably so given his un-matched standing in the UK rap scene. Big Talk Vol. 1 is Wisdom’s first offering since starting his own ‘Beyond Measure’ venture and it solidifies all that I quickly came to love about Wisdom as there is no shortage of swift bars and sharp insights. There are plenty of veterans on this project as well, which could be perceived as a major co-sign for wisdom; Dizzee Rascal, Fatboy Slim, P Money and Akala. Personally, Ocean Wisdom is undefeated in the ‘have you heard of this guy’ stakes - so acquaint yourself and then put others on.
Allah Las – LAHS
Nothing sounds like summer quite like those twanging guitars and cheerful tones of the Allah Las. And on their latest they’ve put the band’s exquisite record collection to great use (check out the Allah Las affiliated Revolution Radio podcast) expanded the musical horizons with a little more of a global influence – heard most obviously on the Portuguese language tune, and album standout, Prazer Em Te Conhecer. (Holding Pattern and Polar Onion are also great) But the chill Californian beach vibes and breezy palm tree shadings live on too. Like all of their records, the lads aren’t shooting for perfection here. They’re just catching waves, dude. Forever 7/10 in the best way.
Rex Orange County - Pony
Having appeared on Tyler, The Creator’s ‘Flower Boy’ back in 2017, Rex Orange County serves up his third album and whether you’re scratching that love bug itch or dwelling in mellow melancholy, ‘Pony’ is here to help. The beauty I found in enjoying Pony, was the simplicity of the sounds and their plucky nature, which is juxtaposed against deep, wise and hearty lyrics offered via Rex’s varied deliverance. Not something to jam if you’re looking to hype up the energy, but a cruisey album that will have you pretending you can sing all day.
Chromatics – Closer To Grey
It’s been a while. Seven years after Kill For Love the group are finally back with a follow up. No, it’s not the elusive Dear Tommy either, that one’s still in the sheds (if indeed it ever truly existed). Closer to Grey doesn’t tear up the formula. This is still that same eerie dream-synth sound, teetering as always between fantasy and nightmare, like an extension of their destined appearance at The Roadhouse in Twin Peaks: The Return. Minor evolutions exist in here for sure. Little experiments. But mostly it’s just the Chromatics serving up what people have been waiting so long to hear, even down to the odd canonical covers (Simon & Garfunkel and Jesus & Mary Chain get the treatment here). This isn’t a grand artistic statement like KFL was... but crank it up late at night and you’ll be feeling it for sure.
JPEGMAFIA – All My Heroes Are Cornballs
The exciting thing about relentlessly creative and unique artists like Peggy here is that you never quite know what they’ll do next. After Veteran was a breakthrough hit last year, pushing JPEGMAFIA into underground rap god status, his follow up was always going to have a lot to say. AMHAC finds him grappling with success but also finding plenty of room to unleash his particular brand of self-produced bangers only this time it feels like he’s singing as often as he’s rapping. And... that ain’t a bad thing. It takes a couple listens to adjust to after the bombastic force of Veteran but it’s all there. Nobody quite captures what this chaotic internet living is like quite like this fella.
Iggy Pop – Free
It might take a sec to warm to this one. It’s a long way away from Iggy’s outstanding rock and roll comeback with Josh Homme, Post Pop Depression, from a couple years ago... this one is more of a – wait for it – free jazz exploration featuring spoken word interludes along with the musical talents of trumpeter Leron Thomas and ambient guitarist Noveller. Which, if you’ve heard his two French albums from about a decade ago, isn’t as much of a digression as you’d think but yeah, it’s different. It’s Iggy in disarmed mode (apart from Dirty Sanchez, that is), just doing what he feels like without pretence. Love’s Missing is the best of the tunes but this one isn’t really about tunes, it’s a vibe record which lands powerfully with an unpublished Lou Reed poem and the Dylan Thomas touchstone Do Not Go Gentle yadayada... which you might think you didn’t need to hear ever again but that’s only because you’d never heard Iggy do it.
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