Music Roundup 7/31/17

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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Genre: Pop Rap

Favorite Tracks: “Veggies (featuring Ty Dolla $ign),” “Caroline,” “Wedding Crashers (featuring Offset),” “Sundays,” “Blinds”

Easily the best MC from the XXL Freshman class this year, if we had our way at Crossfader, all pop rap would sound like Aminé. This dude is so talented; he makes fun-as-hell music for summer parties, but doesn’t dumb himself down at any moment. He feels like a prodigy of Andre 3000, maybe not quite as skilled and versatile, but certainly cut from a similar cloth, and I mean that as a high compliment. At the same time, Aminé’s butter-smooth flow combined with a taste for phat, G-Funk inspired beats make him feel like the little cousin of Snoop Dogg—suffice it to say this is a guy with an impressive pedigree.  His YouTube hit “Caroline” is excellent and still a standout on this record, but what’s especially satisfying about this album is how consistent it is. There are a myriad of producers on here, but it’s clear Aminé knows what beats work with his voice and style and he’s incredibly focused in utilizing that sound. That’s not at all to say this is a repetitive or homogenous album; tracks like “Sundays” keep it from being nothing but sunny pop tracks. I doubt this will be anyone’s favorite album, but it shows a competence that I think a lot of people have been looking for in a rather dry year for pop rap. [Carter Moon]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup daphni

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Daphni – FABRICLIVE.93

Genre: Tech  House

Favorite Tracks: “Medellin,” “Futurism (Daphni Edit),” “You Can Be A Star (Daphni Edit),” “Nocturne,” “Always There,” “Life’s What You Make It” 

Dan Snaith’s latest addition to his shimmering, smiling dance canon in the form of a mix for London club/imprint fabric would normally fly under the radar in terms of reviewing, but seeing as FABRICLIVE.93 is almost entirely new Daphni music… why the hell not? While Daphni might be a new name for some—save active fans (bless JIAOLONG, 2012)—you’re probably familiar with Dan Snaith in the form of his wildly popular moniker Caribou; Somewhat of a darling name in the indietronica scene, especially among fans of Four Tet and Gold Panda, Caribou’s SWIM and OUR LOVE are that dive into an ecstatic sea of organic, opalescent vulnerability you can sweat your heart out to. The house presence throughout Snaith’s work leaves something to be desired when listening to the records alone, and though Daphni is described as a more “dancefloor oriented” moniker, Snaith’s live performances are something of legend, regardless of who he’s performing as that night. Live experience is essential, and when more lush works under Caribou can stand on their own, it might be justified saying the Daphni project could benefit from the fabriclive treatment—releasing new dance pieces as if in their natural environment, rather than in an exorcised and sterilized form. There’s something to be said about any and every album release style and I’m not doing that here—in Daphni’s case I really just gotta say, holy shit! The format, range, and content present on FABRICLIVE.93 subtly made it the essential Daphni release—techno, trance, footwork, disco, and non-western influences on full display. The breadth of its 27 tracks take you everywhere JIAOLONG did and more, without needing to really incorporate the pop elements that defined Caribou by contrast, resulting in a mosaic of springy, gripping house tunes that pay off with each subsequent notch in the mix. [Micha Knauer]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup french

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French Montana – JUNGLE RULES

Genre: Pop Rap

Favorite Tracks: “Whiskey Eyes (featuring Chinx),” “No Pressure (featuring Future),” “Stop It (featuring T.I.)”

I don’t think anyone on God’s Green Earth has a hot take on French Montana, not because music journalism is severely lacking, but because it’s not empirically possible to. Upon quickly browsing through his discography, I found myself questioning why it is he’s even a name, albeit a C-list one, to begin with. Has this dude had any notable singles up until JUNGLE RULES’ “Unforgettable”? And then I remembered he used to date Khloe Kardashian, which will keep him in the limelight forevermore. Coming up heavily affiliated with Max B, whose main claim to fame is being the voice on the often-skipped “Siiiiiiiiilver Surffffeeeeer Intermission” from THE LIFE OF PABLO, French Montana has never managed to do anything interesting with his career in the eight (???) years that he’s been releasing music. Existing as the result of taking everything that still remains interesting about the severely waning Future, but filtered through a pop rap radio sensibility that’s not quite DJ Khaled, although certainly adjacent, French Montana seems to virtually be for nobody. Every single artist he features on JUNGLE RULES demonstrates a facet of hip hop that he does worse; yes, even The Weeknd can carry a hook in a more memorable manner. When he throws in the towel and just tries to go irrevocably dumb the results are good with a lowercase “g” (“Stop It”), but everything else is slowly sinking in the water, if not necessarily dead. I guess you could throw on some of these tracks at a party and people wouldn’t exactly storm the gates, but there are so many more interesting, innovative, and daring voices in hip hop currently that there’s no point in bothering. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup manchester

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Manchester Orchestra – A BLACK MILE TO THE SURFACE

Genre: Indie Rock

Favorite Tracks: “The Maze,” “The Gold,” “The Alien,” “The Silence”

If you didn’t figure it out from the title or album artwork, Manchester Orchestra’s latest release is not a light, fun summer album. It has all the characteristic intensity that fans have come to know over their past four studio albums, but this time it comes in a different package. With less of a focus on sheer volume, it’s significantly more palatable and accessible than their previous works. It’s best suited for an end-to-end listen, preferably during an angsty drive through the rain. The lyrically-heartfelt songs crash into each other like waves on a black sand beach, encapsulating a sound that is both cinematic and radio-ready. On tracks such as “The Maze” and “The Gold,” they employ an echoing chorus of voices that has been burned into our skulls since we first heard Mumford & Sons playing in a supermarket. But there’s such an earnestness in the delivery, a desperation to be heard, that it passes. This is indie rock that’s got a full time job, a sensible haircut, and a retirement fund. It’s serious and pensive—not much of a cool factor going for it. But that’s not a bad thing. This is music made for the the sake of expression more than it is for style. It’s no hidden fact that the indie rock genre has its share of pretentious scenesters, and Manchester Orchestra is refreshingly devoid of such affectation. [Claire Epting]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup vic

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Genre: Pop Rap

Favorite Tracks: “Heaven on Earth,” “Heaven on Earth – Reprise”

On his first full length, Chicago rapper Vic Mensa talks about himself about as much as you would expect him to on an album titled THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY. The album features all of the staples of a post-Kendrick alt-hip hop album, including voice actors talking about the crimes they’ve committed, beats that evoke a less original Kaytranada, and a whole lot of clicky 808 snares. The track “Coffee and Cigarettes” is a Miguel-esque ode to youth, but is also the album’s most blatantly unoriginal moment. On the four-and-a-half minute power ballad, Mensa recalls his 17-year-old lover smoking Marlboro 27s and questions, “Who knew we’d grow so old?” The track “Wings” wastes a Pharrell feature, opting to focus on Mensa’s successes and demons instead of employing Pharrell’s more developed artistry as a way to add more substance to the song. The most original part of THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY is that its guest features could not feel more random. Chief Keef, Ty Dolla $ign, and even Weezer all make appearances in the album’s 60-minute run time. Ultimately, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY places more value in its narcissism than it does in leaving any impact on music as a whole. Fortunately for Vic, his full-length debut has a big enough budget to be well produced and features enough of a number of big names to ensure that Mensa’s career is still far from over. [Ted Davis]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup brainiac

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Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire – BRAINIAC

Genre: East Coast Hip Hop

Favorite Tracks: “Lost in the Sauce,” “A Pigeon Ain’t Shit But a Ghetto Dove,” “40’z @ the Met Gala,” “Manboy”

The trope of rappers talking to themselves from some form of their alter-ego is nothing new, but it’s almost always been an effective gimmick, since almost all rappers cultivate a larger-than-life persona. Acknowledging the persona by also rapping or talking as their therapist (Tyler, the Creator), their conscience (Kendrick Lamar), or their self-indulgent id (Eminem). On BRAINIAC, Brooklyn rapper Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire talks to his own brain in an attempt to unravel the contradictory thoughts apparently ricocheting around his skull. Mr. Muthafuckin’ deals in a hard-hitting, consistent flow that makes old school hip hop heads cream in their trousers, but that’s not at all to say that he’s not a solid MC—he certainly is. This EP finds him in a reflective state, airing depressing observations and redefining how he fits in the larger culture of blackness in 2017, and the results are pretty rewarding. “Lost in the Sauce” turns from a sort of hard partying track into a confessional conversation with his own brain and observations about his behavior, which leads naturally to “A Pigeon Ain’t Shit But a Ghetto Dove,” where he defines what blackness is and isn’t in his own terms. It’s a powerful, natural thought process; it feels like a level of realness that’s great to hear from a rapper who previously has mostly been about affecting a style as opposed to crafting substantive lyrics. While it’s a fantastic turn in his career, the simple fact that this EP is six tracks long means it feels unnecessarily short and unfinished. Perhaps this EP represents all eXquire felt he had to say on the matter, but it would have been rewarding to see him go deeper. Even so, for all you grumps out there who like to complain that there’s no more “real hip hop” out there, this little taste of bombastic rhymes combined with thoughtful introspection should satisfy you nicely. [Carter Moon]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup odd nosdam

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Odd Nosdam – LIF

Genre: Ambient

Favorite Tracks: “LIF”

Let me be very clear, Anticon co-founder and producer David Madson, aka Odd Nosdam, deserves nothing but respect. cLOUDDEAD, his dreamy, ambient project with Doseone and Yoni Wolf of Why? is one of the most out-there experimental rap groups ever created. Additionally, I highly recommend his 2009 T.I.M.E SOUNDTRACK, a record littered with fascinating production on track after track. Now, given my strong endorsement of Odd Nosdam’s previous work, I have to admit I have nothing particularly strong to say about his latest release. LIF is 10 tracks of perfectly palatable background noise while one is doing other things, and that’s really about it. There is nothing particularly hypnotic or consuming about these tracks, which is really the only standard by which good ambient can be judged. The music is made up mostly of minimalist, gently progressing loops, which vary only slightly from track to track. I’ve recommended only a single track from this album, because if you’ve heard one, you’ve heard them all, as they almost uniformly operate under the same formula. Ambient is one of the most subjective genres of music, almost entirely determined by the listener’s individual response to abstract sounds, so there’s always a chance this will scratch your specific itch. That being said, dig into Nosdam’s back catalogue and don’t make this your first priority. [Carter Moon]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup passion pit

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Genre: Glitch Pop, Synthpop

Favorite Tracks: “I’m Perfect,” “Undertow,” “To the Other Side”

After the massively hyped, commercially successful and, by all accounts, critically acclaimed album GOSSAMER, Passion Pit puzzlingly lost their place of prestige in the indie sphere. Why this happened is anyone’s guess, but between a Best New Music from Pitchfork, an RIAA certified gold single in “Take A Walk,” and a warmly regarded debut in MANNERS, Passion Pit’s 2015 album KINDRED came and went with little-to-no press. A glossy and overly polished record, KINDRED featured pristine production and go-for-broke pop savvy, but amidst the candy-coated indietronica was a sense of boredom coming from the project’s mastermind, Michael Angelakos.

After recent claims that Passion Pit was going on hiatus, as well as a strange release strategy (the album was being sent to fans directly by Angelakos, in exchange for retweets of neuroscientist Michael F. Wells), comes TREMENDOUS SEA OF LOVE, an album that seems aware of that puzzling fall from fame. While KINDRED tried almost too hard to conjure up dizzying and brightly lit anthems in the wake of “Take A Walk”’s overnight success, TREMENDOUS SEA OF LOVE feels awkward and experimental, not quite as fresh as CHUNK OF CHANGE felt back in 2008, but similarly endearing in its naive meandering. Moments like the voicemail that concludes “Somewhere Up There,” or the unhinged vocal samples on “Inner Dialogue,” show us that Angelakos made TREMENDOUS SEA OF LOVE for himself and no one else. Imperfect and, at times, dull, TREMENDOUS SEA OF LOVE is Passion Pit’s least consistent effort yet, swinging for the fences at times and coming up short. Some of these songs play by Passion Pit’s rule book beautifully, falling into their warmly synthetic pop wheelhouse perfectly, particularly indie pop banger “I’m Perfect” and the understatedly catchy “Undertow.” But thrown in are the clunky opening tracks, the painfully restrained R&B of “You Have The Right,” and the ill-advised drone passage title track. In the lack of cohesion and consistency is Angelakos’s most interesting record since MANNERS, one that finds him feeling the urge to explore new sounds from new angles. But TREMENDOUS SEA OF LOVE never quite gels the way other Passion Pit albums have, and even personally gratifying projects have to be satisfying to the masses to be considered good. [CJ Simonson]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup margo

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Margo Price – WEAKNESS EP

Genre: Contemporary Country

Favorite Tracks: “Just Like Love,” “Paper Cowboy”

Margo Price floated around Nashville in a variety of different country acts during the 2000s, but it wasn’t until she signed with Jack White’s Third Man Records and released her delightful 2016 debut MIDWEST FARMER’S DAUGHTER that the rest of the music world took notice. In a surprise release, Price has delivered a follow-up EP entitled WEAKNESS, which sees the gifted country artist flexing her varied songwriting talents over four very different songs. The title track is a rambunctious honky tonk track with a catchy chorus (“Sometimes my weakness is stronger than me”), while “Just Like Love” is a cavernous and foreboding cautionary tale about love, with vocals coated in  reverb and led by an aching violin. “Paper Cowboy” is as close as the artist has gotten to full on outlaw country, a tamed down cowpunk beat driving an over-six-minute song that chases its way into the final track, “Good Luck (For Ben Eyestone),” an uptempo, saloon-ready eulogy. WEAKNESS’s surprise release comes with little context or purpose, but it effectively displays how multifaceted Price can be in a succinct four songs. MIDWEST FARMER’S DAUGHTER showed everyone what a force to be reckoned with the singer-songwriter could be when let loose, but WEAKNESS acts as a perfect introduction to her many different country flavors, a calling card to her smartly crafted and earnest songwriting. [CJ Simonson]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup the sounds

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Genre: Indie Pop

Favorite Tracks: “Thrill,” “Turn to Gold” 

I’ve already talked about my love for The Sounds’ magnum opus DYING TO SAY THIS TO YOU, and their first and third records have their moments as well. However, their last two releases, SOMETHING TO DIE FOR and WEEKEND, were disappointing in their own unique ways, the former going too far into personality-less indie dance pop and the latter featuring a lot of sloppy mixing and tonal inconsistencies that left me worrying that the band had no idea what they wanted to be. I had given up on enjoying another record from The Sounds until I came across this new four-song, 17-minute EP. It’s a return to the guitar-driven new wave of their earlier releases, reminiscent of Missing Persons and Blondie, without the slickness or blandness that slowly took over their music. Lead singer Maja Ivarsson sounds incredibly reenergized, with the spunkiness that made The Sounds stand out amongst the deluge of ’80s revivalists in the 2000s indie scene, reemerging in a big way on “The Darkness,” “Thrill,” and “Turn to Gold.” Thanks to a much rawer recording, the sharp vocal hooks, basslines, and synth leads gel together wonderfully, and the balance of sweaty grit and tantalizing pop hits the sweet spot between rock, synthpop, and funk where great new wave resides. Though the only major departures for the band are the awesome sax solo on “Turn to Gold” and the pretty, yet nocturnal, ballad “Sail into the Sun,” The Sounds haven’t sounded this focused and tight in years. If they can translate this same energy and aesthetic to a full album, it may very well surpass DYING TO SAY THIS TO YOU, and I do not say that lightly. [Blake Michelle]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup sudan archives

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Sudan Archives – S/T EP

Genre: Folktronica

Favorite Tracks: “Come Meh Way,” “Time,” “Wake Up”

Sudan Archives is good and she is good for you. Her particular fusion of bedroom hip hop and the musical styles of actual northern Sudan are alone a point of interest, and her execution is what really keeps those points from getting lost in that sea of relatively homogenous tunes being churned out by LA’s beat scene. To say her worldly influences should make her stand from the pack merely because they can be described as exotic is shallow, to say the least, and moreso frustrating because this really isn’t an exotic record; it’s still being put out by Stones Throw and still falls under the umbrella sound of Low End Theory affiliates. It’s not the paper fact of incorporating non-western styles that makes Sudan Archives’ music so exciting, but the actual headspace that comes with such influences being inseparable from their concurrent western input, oftentimes sounding like some combination of Laurel Halo and Solange filtered through that lens of Sudanese musicality. Her dry, sharp, undulating violin style on “Come Meh Way,” “Time,” and “Oatmeal” shape those sensibilities on which the rest of the production seems to generally lie, resulting in crisp, nonlinear works landing somewhere on that spectrum between left-field R&B and texture-heavy downtempo. Without a doubt one of the most exciting debuts this year so far, Sudan Archives’ music is an unsubtle, underrated force to be reckoned with—you can dance to it too. [Micha Knauer]

Verdict: Recommend

Crossfader Staff

The good people of Crossfader Magazine.

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