Music Roundup 6/5/17

We’re shaking things up a bit over here at Crossfader Music! In order to get a wider variety of music covered in more digestible chunks, we’ll now be transitioning our main focus to weekly roundups of what’s hot. Major releases will still get the full review treatment, but we hope you’ll enjoy our new music roundup format. 

somersault

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Beach Fossils –  Somersault

Genre: Indie Pop, Jangle Pop, Dream Pop

Favorite Tracks: “Saint Ivy,” “Rise (featuring Cities Aviv),” “Closer Everywhere,” “Down the Line” 

Four years after the acclaimed release of CLASH THE TRUTH and more than two years after co-founding the record label Bayonet Records (which features artists like Jerry Paper, Frankie Cosmos, and Warehouse), Dustin Payseur has returned to the Beach Fossils project with a fresh perspective. This new LP includes the first songwriting collaborations between him and other artists and bandmates under the Beach Fossils name, and the result is an unexpected yet still familiar take on their shoegaze-y sound. All of the collaborations and features really diversify the album and strengthen the “solo” tracks, especially the jazzy spoken word from Cities Aviv on the track “Rise.” His previous LP definitely foreshadowed a transition to cleaner, more complex recordings, but it still had a lot more lo-fi elements than SOMERSAULT does. Especially compared to the up-close demo-style recordings of Beach Fossils’ early days, the addition of strings and other elements brings a more eclectic and dynamic quality to these 11 new tracks. Also, the lyrics on this LP are more deliberately political than ever (which isn’t surprising given that much of it was written around the time of the election/inauguration). The opening lines, “I don’t want your wall street / Don’t got no degree / Written on the concrete / A – C – A – B” on the track “Down the Line” are definitely a highlight. Overall, while there are a few underwhelming moments, this new LP is a surprising and fresh step forward for Beach Fossils. [Andrew Austin]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup burial

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Burial – SUBTEMPLE EP

Genre: Future Garage, Ambient

Favorite Tracks: None

The abstract, minimal dubstep of UK electronic producer Burial is well-worth becoming familiar with. His soundscapes are simultaneously expansive and subtle, a great example of what pioneering electronic artists are capable of when they really open themselves up creatively. If you’re at all interested in dipping your toes into the UK’s massive dance and future garage culture, he’s as good a starting point as any. UNTRUE, in particular, is a great window into a grime-y club sound from a decade ago. All that being said, Burial’s output in the last few years has been negligible, and the most recent EP, SUBTEMPLE, is so minimal that it lacks any form to speak of. Good ambient really doesn’t need to do much more than curate an interesting mood, but both tracks on the SUBTEMPLE EP fail to do even that. “Subtemple” relies on a series of looped samples that never feel interconnected or like they necessarily build to a satisfying conclusion. Similarly, “Beachfires” clearly tries to inspire a sense of quiet dread, but it is so quiet that there is very little to latch onto for the majority of the track. The entire EP feels like a buildup to a Roly Porter track, without actually getting anywhere interesting. Maybe these tracks will end up being part of a bigger upcoming release that is more varied, but as it stands, this is one you can skip. [Carter Moon]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup chastity

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Chastity Belt – I USED TO SPEND SO MUCH TIME ALONE

Genre: Indie Rock

Favorite Tracks: “Stuck,” “Complain,” “Used to Spend,” “Don’t Worry”

There’s nothing wrong with having one trick and doing it exceedingly well, but this all-girl quartet proved they have more than one trick on the quite enjoyable and poignant TIME TO GO HOME. In contrast, I USED TO is a disappointingly homogenous follow up that swaps out influences but not for the better. The band’s layers of very pretty and delicate guitars are still present, but TIME TO GO HOME had a sunnier and poppier musical disposition, while I USED TO is on par with R.E.M.’s gloomiest and murkiest material. It has an intoxicating ambience, but I USED TO has very little in the way of distinct melody or tunes, as songs just blur together and fall into the background way too easily. Furthermore, the vocals are much less upfront and vigorous as Chastity Belt tries to emulate The XX’s attempts at creating intimacy through quieter and more distant singing. Instead they sound bored and disinterested, which is a shame given how deeply personal and sharp the lyrics still are. Gone is the Sleater-Kinney-esque urgency that characterized their last album; I USED TO drags on for an eternity and makes every second of the longer running time more tedious and unnecessary. It is engrossing on an aesthetic and lyrical level, but there’s a huge dip in quality in terms of performances and songwriting, and a clear attempt at making a more mature album has only resulted in a more boring album. [Blake Michelle]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup centres

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Ian William Craig – SLOW VESSELS EP

Genre: Ambient Pop, Singer/Songwriter

Favorite Tracks: “Arrive, Arrive,” “The Nearness,” “Purpose (Is No Country)”

Ian William Craig’s CENTRES was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2016, an unassuming semi-obscurity that offered well over an hour of meticulously crafted, entirely immersive ambient pop that erred heavily on the side of softly droning hypnosis. As such, I was tickled pink to see that Craig was set to release a comparatively more acoustic version in the new year, but alas, most of CENTRE’s charms haven’t managed to be carried over. Don’t get me wrong, SLOW VESSELS is nothing if not pleasant, but Craig here offers a much more vulnerable and personal glimpse into his abilities as a singer/songwriter that occasionally become too pensive and deliberate for their own good without the added production value and effects of the parent release. Peaking with the first two tracks, SLOW VESSELS eventually becomes uncomfortably reminiscent of Bon Iver and Father John Misty, only really making an argument for Craig’s consideration as a stripped-down acoustic act with the utterly delightful “Purpose (Is No Country).” It ain’t bad, but you would do much better just checking out the album proper. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup eye

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Eyedress – MANILLA ICE

Genre: Psychedelic Pop

Favorite Tracks: “Manila Ice,” “Sofia Coppola,” “Separation Anxiety,” “Big Shoes,” “Feel Like Giving Up (featuring Teenage Granny),” “Sticky Green Leaves (featuring Low Leaf)” “Look Past The Past”

If the sound of a moody, political, genre-bending lo-fi album coming out under the current fascist regime in the Philippines pushes any of your buttons, give MANILA ICE a shot. Recorded during a severely tumultuous period for Eyedress’s Idris Vicuña, this is an honest, murky record that is as frustrated as it is ethereal, for better or worse. Though as a whole MANILA ICE probably isn’t for everyone, the spectrum of genres on MANILA ICE should give most at least something meaningful to glean from this record. In line with his 2015 debut, SHAPESHIFTER, the combination​ of bedroom psych pop, jangly punk, and ambient raps will be familiar, as will MANILA ICE’s shift in genre over the course of its 44 minute run from the former sounds to the latter. Collabs like “High Street Drive By (featuring Jess Connelley & Ankhten Brown)” and “Feel Like Giving Up (featuring Teenage Granny)” shine a light on local talent in Manila and nicely break up the record’s pacing, while depressive jams like “Used To Be Good Friends” and “Big Shoes” tend to be balanced out by more dramatic or optimistic sounds like those on “Love All Around (featuring Jasmine).” Front-loaded by singles and closed out by a chill rap/shoegaze combo, Vicuña redeems the few awkward or sleepy tracks that dot the middle section of the record. Moreso are these tracks redeemed just by how stunning the peaks are, especially after multiple listens. For fans of DIY music and bedroom artists all the same, MANILA ICE will deliver. [Micha Knauer]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup girlpool

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Girlpool – POWERPLANT

Genre: Lo-Fi Indie, Indie Pop

Favorite Tracks: “123,” “Corner Store,” “Powerplant,” “Soup,” “It Get More Blue”

One of the gripes you’ll hear from the Crossfader cranks again and again is that artists don’t seem to put enough thought into album structure these days. In the days of endless shuffle and Spotify playlists, it so often can feel like artists don’t really consider how their albums are experienced from beginning to end. From the very beginning of POWERPLANT, it’s clear that Girlpool have cultivated their tracks in a thoughtful way, with “123” acting as the perfect kick off to a thoroughly well-put together record. Overall, where peers like Frankie Cosmos and Adult Mom can toss music off in an intentionally sloppy manner, Girlpool clearly took their time making sure they had a strong record from beginning to end. They’ve always been solid songwriters and lyricists, but it should also be appreciated how much adding a drummer has improved their sound. The drums ground their songs with a steady sense of urgency; they now feel like a band that would be exhilarating to see live. Too often in modern soft indie there seems to be a skittishness around big emotions, but Girlpool does a great job injecting just enough angst into their music to keep things interesting throughout the record, particularly on tracks like “Corner Store.” They’re not reinventing the wheel of indie-pop by any means, but it’s impossible to deny that they’re doing it exceptionally well. [Carter Moon]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup drop

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Gucci Mane and Metro Boomin – DROPTOPWOP

Genre: Trap Rap

Favorite Tracks: “5 Million Intro,” “Hurt A Nigga Feelings,” “Met Gala (featuring Offset),” “Finesse the Plug Interlude,” “Both Eyes Closed (featuring 2 Chainz and Young Dolph)” 

“5 million a day”? Yes, Gucci continues his winning streak since out of the pen with another fun mixtape. Metro’s production is also as competent as ever. Dark, haunting beats go skeletal when focus is put on Guwop’s rhymes, but earn the spotlight when contributing to catchy hooks. Of course, Gucci hits all his usual bases. There are bars upon bars about drugs and sex, but also brief reflections on Gucci’s most recent rise, including the weight loss and cloning controversy. “Helpless” puts Gucci at the intimate mercy of his lady, subverting established sexual power dynamics in hip hop. “Finesse the Plug Interlude” is sonically reminiscent of Gucci’s more sauce-heavy days while showcasing his classic standoff intimidation. Everyone who joins the Trap God makes their features absolute fire. But the obvious standout is Offset, who’s coming more to his own lately sans Takeoff and Quavo, on “Met Gala.” Named for the New York event where these rappers in question made quite an appearance, the track serves as a worthy successor to the huge hit “Bad & Boujie,” if not surpassing it. Whether this run will last for Gucci is anyone’s guess, but there’s no better time than now to hop on the Guwop train. [Alec Larios]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup nite jewel

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Nite Jewel – REAL HIGH

Genre: Synthpop, Chillwave

Favorite Tracks: “2 Good 2 Be True,” “I Don’t Know,” “When I Decide (It’s Alright)”

As is occasionally the case with our rigidly structured binary recommendation system, REAL HIGH finds itself in the twilight zone of being worth your time. The ultimate problem lies with the fact that Ramona Gonzalez’s presence and voice aren’t particularly memorable, and not in a way wherein where they contribute to an overall construction of texture. However, it can’t be said that this kind of faceless anonymity doesn’t hit sweet spots wherein it combines with the nostalgic chillwave production to offer something akin to the dozing muzak of a mall of the near-future. While the dream-like qualities don’t always complement the predication towards REAL HIGH’s existence as a pop album, turning in a few snoozers that feel without character or authorial presence, when Nite Jewel actually doubles down and crafts bona fide hooks (“I Don’t Know”) or lets her interest in synth funk fully expand (“2 Good 2 Be True”), the album easily reaches its peaks. There’s no reason to actively avoid Nite Jewel’s fourth full-length ride around the merry-go-round, but unless you’re a “music person,” there are far more essential albums from 2017 to spend your hard-earned time on. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup psymun

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Psymun – RAINBOW PARTY EP

Genre: Electronic

Favorite Track: “Glitch Tundra”

Strap in kiddos, this is a wacky ride. Electronic fiddler from Minnesota, Psymun, released this face-melting EP at the beginning of May, and it does not deserve to be slept on. Psymun’s sound oscillates between glitchy and hypnotic so fluidly that the sensations become nearly indistinguishable. His long-form tracks are clearly designed to get lost in, building a sense of trust that while he may take you to some very bizarre places, he’ll never drop you somewhere where you aren’t welcome. Opening track “Glitch Tundra” sets the perfect tone for the rest of the EP, kicking off with a fantastic verse from rapper Chester Watson. Watson sounds like Milo on the worst day of his life, but comes across as resigned to his fate more than distraught. From there, Psymun lets the track spiral out into nearly five minutes of looped samples and fuzzy synths, and it seems like he might let the track just fade out there. But no, with a one-two punch, Psymun comes in and demolishes the listener with a Dan Deacon-caliber obliteration of amped up drums and revelatory synth overload. It has to be heard to be believed, and I highly recommend that you become a convert soon. [Carter Moon]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup sev

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Sevdaliza – ISON

Genre: Trip Hop, Art Pop, Alternative R&B

Favorite Tracks: “Shahmaran,” “Marilyn Monroe,” “Bluecid,” “Grace”

I do not like alternative R&B, Sam I Am, so I approached Sevdaliza’s ISON with trepidation despite Micha’s continual insistence that it was a release worthy paying attention to. Now having finished the race, I assure you, this is how a debut album should be done. Continually operating with an assured confidence and ambition that fully fills out the expansive shoes of its 66 minutes, ISON is a dark midnight walk through a steaming city street, with heavy doses of trip hop that hearken back to UK radio alt in the ‘90s. Making full use of modern art pop production techniques and vaguely unsettling hints of electronic auteurs such as Arca and Elysia Crampton, Sevdaliza’s voice may be familiar, but possesses the perfect amount of lounge-laden smokiness to complement these twilight visions of love and lust gone awry. With a heavily layered but subtly presented low-end that’s worth the price of admission alone, in addition to a lavishly catered array of studio effects and spoken word samples that offer a cohesive tonal umbrella for ISON to rest under, Sevdaliza has turned in one of 2017’s more underrated releases. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup colin

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Colin Stetson – ALL THIS I DO FOR GLORY

Genre: Post-Minimalism, Avant-Garde Jazz

Favorite Tracks: “In the clinches,”  “The lure of the mine,” “All this I do for glory”

Best known by most fans as a collaborator of indie giants Arcade Fire and Bon Iver, Colin Stetson is one of the most technically impressive horn players to have a prominent place in the musical mainstream. Stetson’s solo work features his saxophone mastery, and an astounding bag of tricks allows him to use it to create percussion, harmony, and a full and complete musical sound with a single monophonic instrument. The result most closely resembles early ‘90s IDM, and it’s the kind of thing you have to see live (or on YouTube) to really believe. Where GLORY truly stands out, though, is its sheer sense of physicality—sure, the record can be quiet and “minimalist,” but each note that Stetson plays feels like a punch aimed for the listener’s gut. Lead single “In the clinches” could easily be mistaken for a beat from YEEZUS. Though the sounds are the most listenable that Stetson has ever managed and certainly stand on their own, GLORY just becomes more and more impressive the more one considers that it is made by a single acoustic musician with an astonishing connection with his instrument. This is a work that is easily one of the most powerful forms of pure sonic expression that we’ve heard in years. [Adam Cash]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup t-wayne

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T-Pain and Lil Wayne – T-WAYNE

Genre: Pop Rap

Favorite Tracks: “He Rap He Sang,” “Listen To Me,” “Snap Ya Fangas,” “Heavy Chevy”

Announced on Twitter a mere 24 hours before its drop, T-Pain was browsing through his computer and decided to finally bring an EP of eight songs he recorded with Lil Wayne circa 2009 into the world, when they were both at their respective career heights. As such, it goes without saying that T-WAYNE sounds dated, but that’s entirely where its charm lies. Before the nascent trap rap sound would rise to prominence and bleed heavily over into the mainstream, a crunk-tinged pop rap firmly indebted to the Dirty South reigned supreme, decked out with a sumptuous and indulgent fetish for AutoTune. T-WAYNE is a perfect snapshot of this moment in time and a trip down memory lane, presenting a Lil Wayne just before he would phone himself in and a T-Pain eager to prove his worth when stacked up against who was then the world’s most popular rapper. In fact, listeners will be surprised how little T-Pain relies on the vocal effects that brought him to prominence, turning in hungry bars that regularly put Lil Wayne’s to shame. Sure, not every song is good, but it’s not like consistency has been a significant part of either of these artist’s careers. Really, why the Hell not? Put on T-WAYNE, have some fun, and take note of the clear influences these guys would have on rappers to come. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Recommend

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