Music Roundup 10/9/17

Hopefully you know the drill by now! Here’s our music roundup focusing on the notable releases of the past week or so, letting you know which ones are worth your valuable time.

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Andrew Bird – ECHOLOCATIONS: RIVER

Genre: Ambient, Minimalism, Chamber Music

Favorite Tracks: “Down Under the Hyperion Bridge,” “Lazuli Bunting”

Here is Andrew Bird’s most self-referential album yet—a 40-minute ode to different types of birds. Cormorants, herons, and killdear all get spotlights on this one. Bird’s prowess as a multi-genre singer, songwriter, and violinist is still on display, and there’s no denying that ECHOLOCATIONS: RIVER is technically solid orchestral work. But it feels flighty, and not exactly in a way that marries it to its fowl-centric titles. Accompanied by the sound of a gushing river, each song plucks its way through the brush, never fully taking root and expanding into something inspiring. Personally, I like my music to sound like music and my nature recordings to sound like nature recordings, but maybe I’m just old-fashioned. Here we have a ratio of instruments to nature sounds that is nearly equal, reducing the effect the actual music is able to have. That being said, you might as well go ahead and add “Down Under the Hyperion Bridge” to your study playlist on Spotify. I do believe this album is for someone, but that person is more than likely a 30-something LA sophisticate sipping cab sav while reading an Audobon coffee table book.  [Claire Epting]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

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Citizen – AS YOU PLEASE

Genre: Emo, Post-Hardcore

Favorite Tracks: “In the Middle of it All,” “Discrete Routine”

It’s no secret that Citizen has an affinity for Brand New—frontman Mat Kerekes has even covered them in the past. Jesse Lacey and his cohorts are recognized as giants, and almost any emo band in the past 15 years have tried to sit on their shoulders. But what most of them fail to see is, if you really want to be like your idols, you have to carve out your own damn sound. It’s only when you stop obsessing over Morrisey can you really become great, or at least unique. On AS YOU PLEASE, Citizen may be straying from the Brand New path, with their emo-grunge formula enduring further refinement and experimentation, but even so, it fails to produce very exciting results.

Citizen’s last release, EVERYBODY IS GOING TO HEAVEN, slogged through swampy distortion, and even with an emphasis on heaviness, it felt impassive, with its focus muddled. Producer Will Yip shows up again on AS YOU PLEASE, but not to wallow the production in superficial grime, instead polishing it clean—one might even say spotless. As far as modern alternative rock is concerned, it strips Citizen of their greatest strength: passion. While their sound is more streamlined here than it was on GOING TO HEAVEN, it lacks surprise and sharpness. The one exception, “In the Middle of it All,” showcases an eerie, high-pitched sample of Kereke’s vocals on repeat before his usual wail usurps it. It’s a nice blend of the new and the old without sacrificing wallop. The same cannot be said for the rest of the album; the vocals are subdued on nearly every track, there’s no rupturing, only seaming with the rest of the instruments. Citizen are no longer the affected teenagers pouring it all out with seething rancor.

Whereas Kerekes’s vocals used to gush and bleed out onto the tracks, he’s barely the force he once was, and with this comes a lyrical loss as well. This is not even due to content, which actually consists of some of Kereke’s most poetic musings to date—“Your stardust in the whisk – the lonesome dawn / I am a trick to you; a deserted thought,” he fawns on “Ugly Luck.” Rather, it’s due to his delivery; his words don’t carry nearly as much weight now without prominent conviction. It’s a pity they’re totally undermined by Yip’s production, because of all the emo bands, I really thought Kerekes got closest to rivaling the emotive sulking of Lacey and friends. [Nick Funess]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup offering

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Cults – OFFERING

Genre: Indie Pop 

Favorite Tracks: “Offering,” “With My Eyes Closed,” “Good Religion”

On Cults’ new album OFFERING, the New York indie pop act continue to solidify their discography of spooky neo-soul. Even though the band hasn’t quite retained the hit factor that broke them into the scene in 2011, OFFERING is a welcome autumn soundtrack. The self-titled single is reminiscent of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, featuring swirling synth blurs and a shuffling drum machine. “With My Eyes Closed” is a nod-along doo wop bop, and “Good Religion” provides welcome, soaring melodies atop a muted piano. The occult title, Halloween-season release date, and ample billowing reverb manage to offset the optimistic poppiness occupying the heart of the album’s songwriting. Cults may have peaked with their 2011 alt-rock smash “Go Outside,” but they carved enough of a niche with the track to grant them a longevity that many of their peers weren’t able to enjoy. Despite a romantic breakup between founding members Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion, Cults have surprisingly outlasted many of their early 2010s indie pop contemporaries—this is arguably one of the most commendable aspects of the album, as I’m sure spending hundreds of hours making music with your ex is a pretty harrowing experience. Cults may have witnessed a drastic interpersonal shift and they didn’t release a blog-era sensation, but OFFERING is ultimately a fun album and one of the month’s standouts. [Ted Davis]

Verdict: Recommend

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Daphni – JOLI MAI

Genre: Tech House, Microhouse

Favorite Tracks: “Poly,” “Life’s What You Make It” 

Caribou’s Dan Snaith is back as his alter ego, Daphni, with his second record released under this alias: JOLI MAI. JOLI MAI strays pretty far from Snaith’s Caribou roots, as well as even his 2012 Daphni release, JIAOLONG. Caribou and JIAOLONG were more colorful, with the listener being able to grasp on to songs better. JOLI MAI takes ambient to unbeknownst levels and seems to be in a perpetual state of switch-ups that are so far out of the scope of any average listener that it may turn them off to the album almost immediately. Throughout the album there are really only a few bearable tracks that get overshadowed by songs that lack any form of musical sensibility. The opening track, “Poly,” establishes the album with a nice tessellated beat comparable to something from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score for THE SOCIAL NETWORK. The last song on the album, “Life’s What You Make It,” separates itself from the rest in a style that resembles the Caribou song, “Silver.” I say “sort of” because at the same time, it’s completely different, lacking a driving melody like “Silver” has. “Life’s What You Make It” encapsulates panning synths and a nice groove that puts one into a trance-like state as they sit and reflect on the last 11 songs that have transpired.  The bookends of the album are the silver-lining to the other nine tracks that are difficult to sit through. Snaith is attempting to transition to a more eccentric, exclusive club scene, which he definitely captures in this album while excluding the general electronic music listenership. [Emmett Garvey]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

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Liam Gallagher – AS YOU WERE

Genre: Britpop

Favorite Tracks: “Greedy Soul,” “You Better Run”

I’m a Noel guy. Seems like a kind of obvious thing to be in a lot of respects, not just because he was the lifeblood of Oasis, but also because he’s genuinely more talented than his brother (for more on this, check out Mat Whitecross’s flat, albeit fascinating, documentary OASIS: SUPERSONIC). He’s also never called his brother a potato. Liam was the X factor, and while his craziness made Oasis exciting in the height of ‘90s rock and roll, that wildcard status has yet to subside all these years later—in the era of social media it’s grown, well, insufferable. The issue with Liam Gallagher is that the wild mania that fuels his controversial status has never translated to his music; he’s not a tortured, misunderstood genius, but he literally seems to play one on TV. His music has never been revelatory in ways that would indicate there’s something we’re all missing, but in spite of this, he publicly conducts himself like a genuinely misunderstood outcast. Liam’s newest record (and first solo LP), AS YOU WERE, earnestly tries to deconstruct what makes his artistry interesting and comes up with very few answers. A watered-down Britpop record by way of coffee shop singer-songwriter material, AS YOU WERE isn’t offensive, but it is boring. Like, maddeningly boring. Songs like “Universal Gleam,” “Paper Crown,” or the album’s worst offender, “Chinatown,” assume that the brand of Oasis you were perhaps interested in most was stripped down, mid-tempo, and bland as all hell. When AS YOU WERE does decide to kick things into another gear, it mostly hits the mark. “Greedy Soul,” in particular, feels like a sneering Josh Homme track, and Liam’s villainous turn naturally suits him very well. Even “You Better Run,” which grinds out with a similar desert rock intensity, greatly positions him as a leather-jacket-wearing, give-no-shits frontman, something Oasis skirted around doing in a different time for rock and roll. But too many of the songs on AS YOU WERE drag with tired searching, unsure of how to correctly pull Liam out of that starry-eyed Manchester rock sound. I’m sure I’ll get called a potato if he ever reads this review, but I genuinely hope that one day the right producer or collaborator finds a way to take Liam’s fascinating personality and translate it into equally fascinating music. [CJ Simonson]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

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Lil Pump – S/T

Genre: Trap Rap

Favorite Tracks: “Smoke My Dope (featuring Smokepurpp),” “Crazy,” “D Rose,” “Molly,” “Boss,” “Flex Like Ouu”

I firmly believe that in another decade or two, Waka Flocka Flame’s FLOCKAVELI will be heralded as one of the best and most notable releases in music history. Nearly accidentally released as a full debut album after original plans to have it be just another in a long string of mixtapes fell through, FLOCKAVELI burst open the doors to critical acceptance of the trap rap sound, enjoying mainstream success in the process. It is an exciting document of an exciting and innovative time in rap history, and influenced more artists than can be reasonably assessed. And while I acknowledge this opinion is going to face a lot more opposition than singing the praises of FLOCKAVELI, Lil Pump’s self-titled debut is a comparable glimpse into a similarly underground musical movement that’s now been exposed to the world at large. The 17-year-old Lil Pump is just about as close to a “logical conclusion” to trap and “SoundCloud rap” as you can get. Being quite vocal about the fact that he’s not good at rapping, doesn’t care about rapping, and started his career one day when Smokepurpp just asked him to say his name over a beat, LIL PUMP is the end-sum game of several years of narcotically strung-out teens starting musical careers in their parents’ basement. There is a willful and joyful lack of talent or ambition here, but whereas LIL BOAT THE MIXTAPE still had a wildly inventive and innovative production bed behind it, Lil Pump and his peers have managed to boil down the essence of Chief Keef down even further—I do not think you can make music fundamentally stupider than that which is presented on LIL PUMP, and that’s precisely why it’s so fascinating. This redefines ignorance, a hedonistic overload that exists as an exact antithesis to class and taste. Chintzy, dollar-store synthesizers and unrelenting low end abuse populate the majority of the album, Lil Pump repeating the same handful of lines ad infinitum over them. The occasional track barely even checks the box of what rap or even music is. Listen to the bass blats on “D Rose”—that’s not even a fucking sound, man. How about “Whitney”? I don’t think Pump and the aforementioned Chief Keef even attempt to establish or stay inside of a time signature. When the music glorifies and delights in being so flagrantly and brazenly without traditional merit, I don’t even think you can really accomplish anything by pointing out what’s bad. What’s certainly less exciting is virtually every track with a featured “name” artist, as this clearly demonstrates a clueless studio executive misunderstanding the appeal here. Gucci Mane, 2 Chainz, and Rick Ross are utter duds, and Lil Yachty sounds like an old head. Do you understand how ridiculous LIL PUMP and its creator are if Lil Boat himself sounds like a wizened career veteran turning in a competent verse for cash? This is a nightmarish vision of youth culture that redefines nihilism, a clarion call to action for every individual that our dangerous brand of exceptionally late capitalism ruthlessly leaves behind. This is music for going nowhere, for so completely and totally denying intellect that you cannot and will not ever be capable of productivity that society deems reputable. It’s frightening, exhilarating, and downright transcendent. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Recommend

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Marilyn Manson – HEAVEN UPSIDE DOWN

Genre: Industrial Rock, Alternative Rock

Favorite Tracks: “WE KNOW WHERE YOU FUCKING LIVE,” “Say10,” “Kill4Me,” “Threats of Romance”  

Part-time artist but full-time provocateur, Brian Hugh Warner posses a larger-than-life stage presence and has delved into heady and disturbing themes, but his actual music has always languished in the shadows of his influences, especially Trent Reznor. If Reznor’s angst and industrial trickery is starting to seem a little redundant after 30 years, than Manson’s is expired to the point of turning funny colors. Nonetheless, HEAVEN UPSIDE DOWN is a lot better than it is has any right to be. There are some eye roll-worthy moments that show the band’s wrinkles, like the braggadocious yet monotone “”Je$u$ Cri$i$,” but there’s a lot more restraint, control, and swagger to the instrumentation than expected. It pulls at the straight-forward, metallic assault of “WE KNOW WHERE YOU FUCKING LIVE” as naturally as the funky and tight “Kill4Me,” a creepy love song as only Manson can write it. The blues rock tempos and guitar textures of THE PALE EMPEROR are used sparingly but effectively; squint at the brooding “Threats of Romance” and you might confuse it for a track off …LIKE CLOCKWORK. The biggest issue with the album is that during its delay (it was originally scheduled for Valentine’s Day), Manson added three new songs, and their placement feels arbitrary and disorienting. “Revelation #12” feels half-finished with weak religious commentary, while “Saturnalia” is overloaded with mythological references and flowery language, sticking out like a sore thumb with an almost eight-minute running time half-way through the album. Even the title change from “Say 10” to “Heaven Upside Down” is odd, as the title track is not a good indicator of the record as a whole. With a little more thought put into some of the writing and the overall flow of the album, HEAVEN UPSIDE DOWN could’ve been a surprisingly strong late-period record, but it ended up frustratingly okay. I demand slightly better. [Blake Michelle]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

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Street Sects – RAT JACKET

Genre: Electro-Industrial, Synth Punk

Favorite track: “Total Immunity”

END POSITION was a chaotic, disturbing, and thoroughly enjoyable debut album for Texas-based duo, Street Sects. Their sampling was masterfully unique, macabre vocal snippets taken from unknown sources woven together into a horrific collection. While I did love END POSITION for its instrumentals and vocals, I found myself frustrated by the inability to clearly understand what vocalist Leo Ashline was saying. Thankfully, Ashline and Shaun Ringsmuth’s newest EP, RAT JACKET, provides the same immaculate production, now paired with far clearer and coherent vocals, and further development of their already polished sound.

“Total Immunity” may be one of Street Sects’ most accessible tracks to date. It is primarily a vocal, drum, and guitar-driven track, with the sampling taking a more back seat approach. This progression for Street Sects is refreshing, as they still deliver the same aggression but with far better pacing, not causing listener fatigue shortly into the runtime. The track really hits its stride halfway through, after a short, instrumentally-driven interlude, being propelled into the forefront by Ashline’s yelping lyrics: “The floorboards groan / I know my fucking conscience can’t be trusted / I am still protected / you can’t touch me.” The rhythmic sampling and drumwork build up a stifling sense of anxiety that I loved but wish led to somewhere, instead of suddenly dropping off right before its peak. Luckily though, the suspense built up during “Total Immunity” is immediately delivered on the following song, “Early Release,” with an explosive guitar riff forced in by a throat-shredding scream by Ashline. Even during the instrumentally lighter portions of this track, the clearer vocals still help retain the same level of tension: “Cases are made from mistakes / lives have been lost in the wake of your / bad choices and poor judgement / no one here will miss you at all.” This tagteam combination of either the instrumental, the screaming, or lyrics taking turns being the center of attention works brilliantly.

For anyone who is looking for a meticulously crafted piece of industrial work, look no further than RAT JACKET. Even for those who may have given END POSITION a pass, the improvement shown by Street Sects on this newest EP is a true breath of fresh air. They seem to have taken criticisms for END POSITION to heart and spent a greater amount of time sculpting RAT JACKET into a more polished and enjoyable end product, without foregoing anything that made them standout to begin with. [Will Turmon]

Verdict: Recommend

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J. Roddy Walston & The Business – DESTROYERS OF THE SOFT LIFE

Genre: Indie Rock

Favorite Tracks: “Numbers,” “You Know Me Better”

As far as modern Southern rock is concerned, you could do MUCH worse than J. Roddy Walston & The Business. Even if the “Related Artists” section of the band’s Spotify is populated with artists that have either found more critical sanctuary over the years (Deer Tick, Blitzen Trapper), respectfully dug deeper into the genre of Americana and its fanbase (Shovels & Rope, Justin Townes Earle, JD McPherson), or just found more mainstream success outright (Houndmouth, Dawes), Walston has spent the last decade making palatable and pop-adjacent capital-R Rock music, and doing so with recently affirmed ambition. The singles on their newest record, DESTROYERS OF THE SOFT LIFE, are catchy radio plays that never sacrifice the band’s generally solid foundation. “Numbers” is one of the most genuinely FUN songs I’ve heard in a minute, “You Know Me Better” has a delightful, Weezer-esque delivery, and “The Wanting,” even in spite of needlessly catapulting their sound to Young the Giant-esque amphitheater sizes, soars without betraying of the rest of the record’s small-room rock and roll. Truthfully, DESTROYERS OF THE SOFT LIFE took me by total surprise. Even the deeper album cuts here (“Ways And Means,” “Bleed Out,” “Burn Black”) bounce along with polished and carefree ease. While their newest album is blatantly their biggest and most carefully constructed effort yet, something that could easily be a turnoff for fans of their scuzzier, lower-stakes previous albums, I think J. Roddy Walston has made that transition infinitely more gracefully than his Southern garage rock peers, Kings of Leon, whose turn to the Top 40 grossly misunderstood their own appeal. DESTROYERS OF THE SOFT LIFE is a gratifying listen while acting as a jolly play for mainstream exposure, and in a rare turn of events, that move suits them just fine. [CJ Simonson]

Verdict: Recommend

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Weaves – WIDE OPEN

Genre: Indie Rock

Favorite Tracks: “Walkaway,” “Scream (featuring Tanya Tagaq),” “Gasoline”

With garage influences creeping ever more steadily into mainstream acceptance, indie in general is a lot more stripped-down, distorted, and angry than you may remember from the wispy, precious heyday of the mid-aughts, and WIDE OPEN establishes Weaves as an act that will surely enjoy a part in the zeitgeist. However, this sort of thing just typically doesn’t excite me anymore (one of my top 10 favorite records of the year is a collection of field recordings of pachinko machines, for Chrissakes), and Weaves mostly turns in the same thing I’ve heard countless times before, except for when they don’t, with a vengeance. What’s frustrating about WIDE OPEN is that there’s clearly something a lot more daring and innovative at the core of Weaves’ creative sensibilities than the majority of the tracks would belie. The two highlights, “Scream” and “Gasoline,” certainly don’t bring any of the band’s peers to mind—the former is a witchy, tribalistic slice of freak folk filled with howls, screeches, and vaguely disturbing vocal effects, and the latter is a more minimal, droning interpretation of La Sera, a hypnotic and looping sun-soaked guitar riff slowly giving way to a cavalcade of feedback and non-traditional playing techniques that sound like Modest Mouse and the Silversun Pickups had a psychedelic meltdown in a blender. And the rest . . . is nondescript! A jagged and compact rhythm section, a bratty and commanding vocal presence, and melodic garage distortion throughout. I’m sure you’ll see Weaves at a festival and have a great time, but for anyone getting a little tired of anything labeled “indie,” this isn’t essential. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

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Wolf Parade – CRY CRY CRY 

Genre: Indie Rock

Favorite Tracks: “Who Are Ya,” “Baby Blue,” “King of Piss and Paper”

CRY CRY CRY, Wolf Parade’s first proper full length release since 2010’s EXPO 86, reads as blissfully naive and, in dizzyingly satisfying fashion, harkens back to indie rock’s carefree 2000s boom. In spite of the intensely gloomy, piano-led, misdirecting opener “Lazarus Online,” the rest of CRY CRY CRY is Wolf Parade in gleefully vintage form. The album euphorically embraces the messiness of their Northwest indie rock and feels timeless amidst the rest of their catalog, even if CRY CRY CRY falls significantly short of the band’s consensus masterwork APOLOGIES TO THE QUEEN MARY. Spencer Krug’s unhinged vocal style ignites these songs, and he gives arguably his most colorful performance to date. The disorienting “Who Are Ya” playfully zigs and zags while Krug crams an unprecedented number of words into the verses with Mothersbaugh-ian gusto. Baseball organ tones clash with the brass on “Baby Blue,” the downhill-running six-minute marathon that centers CRY CRY CRY, and the album ends with its most urgent track, the final statement “King of Piss and Paper,” where Krug’s wavering voice calls out, “Hung it up on the gossip tree / Saw a generation under me / Crying on the news / Oh, I guess they have the blues.” Sure, CRY CRY CRY may not hit the band’s previous highs, and feels, at times, a bit too repetitive, but in a sea of 2000s indie rock returns, Wolf Parade figured out a way to make their high-spirited return seem essential. [CJ Simonson]

Verdict: Recommend

Crossfader Staff

The good people of Crossfader Magazine.

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2 Responses

  1. October 20, 2018

    […] one than I originally expected myself to be. If you’ve generally kept up with my opinions on rap, either on Crossfader or in real life, you’ll know that there will always be a special place in my heart for the […]

  2. October 1, 2019

    […] the easy reaction joke to Liam Gallagher’s WHY ME? WHY NOT. I could rehash lots of what I wrote almost exactly two years ago, about how I’m a Noel Gallagher guy, how I believe in Noel’s […]

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