Music Roundup 3/5/18

We’re here to tell you what’s hot and what’s not in this week’s music roundup

music roundup Against All Logic

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A.A.L. (Against All Logic) – 2012-2017

Genre: Deep House

Favorite Tracks: “This Old House Is All I Have,” “Hopeless,” “Cityfade,” “Rave on U”

There is very little to say about Against All Logic’s 2012-2017, not because the album isn’t ambitious, engaging or noteworthy, but instead because Nicolas Jaar himself has very little to say about his latest surprise release as A.A.L. Jaar’s record label, Other People, released the album, drawing almost no attention to it online. His name is not attached to the album or its streaming services in any way, and its identity has derived itself almost solely from blog posts and online buzz. A.A.L. is like an identifiable Burial, both artistically and sonically; 2012-2017 is comprised largely of bleary-eyed bangers that sound like they were actively written as a soundtrack to the sun coming up in the future’s chicest underground club. As is probably evident from its title, “Rave on U” best embodies the sensation of late nights bleeding into early mornings that defines the record. Clocking in around 10 minutes, carried by a simple drum machine underneath crescendoing synth layers, the track is a simultaneously cathartic and understated closer. “Cityfade” builds on a beat reminiscent of LCD Soundsystem’s “Someone Great” and a spooky sample of what sounds like a children’s choir. Like most tracks on the record, “Cityfade” manages bleakness without becoming offputting. “Hopeless” is a windswept slice of futurism, led by bubbling synths and whirring echoes. It’s a track that’s true to its name in its desolation, but never attempts to attain the gloam that seeps from Jaar’s releases as Darkside. 2012-2017 shows that Jaar is comfortable in his identity, as it plays like a cohesive creation instead of a compilation spanning five years of material. Jaar may not have a lot to say about his music, but everyone that listens to it seems more than happy to sing his praises for him. [Ted Davis]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup American Nightmare

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American Nightmare – S/T

Genre: Hardcore Punk

Favorite Tracks: “The World is Blue,” “War,” “Gloom Forever,” “Crisis of Faith”

Ah, hardcore punk: the more illegible the vocals and the shorter the songs the better. Though American Nightmare tried to mix up the formula on their sophomore record, they didn’t do much to stand out among the other moshpit-ready acts of the 2000s. There were hints of a more interesting, Refused-esque post-hardcore act with more complex drum and guitar work, but they always fell back into linear songs with forgettable vocals and drums that took over the entire mix. AMERICAN NIGHTMARE, their first record in 15 years, is their shortest record yet at nine songs and 19 minutes, and I was afraid that signing with Rise Records would glisten up their sound and make them even more interchangeable. Instead, the band has developed in two major ways: one is offering a much more emotive and understandable vocalist who can tap into fiery anger and defeated, existential sadness, and two is implementing a good degree of stylistic variety. There are your standard, galloping punk tracks like “War,” but there are also the the buzzing neo-psychedelic guitars opening “Colder than Death,” the dramatic, angular hits of “The World is Blue,” and the surprising gothic ending of ”Crisis of Faith” that ends the album on a depressing, effective note. Most of all, the drum and guitar work are as versatile as I always thought they could be, showcasing a level of technical growth and 15 years of time well spent. AMERICAN NIGHTMARE realizes that doing the same thing that worked a decade ago no longer cuts it, and while it’s a shame that the record is as short as it is, it doesn’t waste a second of it. [Blake Michelle]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup DJ Taye

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Genre: Footwork, Juke

Favorite Tracks: “Bonfire (featuring DJ Paypal),” “The Matrixx (featuring DJ Manny),” “Pop Drop (featuring DJ Paypal),” “Closer”

I’m a huge proponent of young creative forces making a splash by using and abusing genre convention and pissing the Hell out of Old Heads—easy explanation for why I’ll defend Lil Yachty, Lil Pump, and Lil Uzi Vert until my last dying breath. But upon first listen, STILL TRIPPIN’ left me cold. Long a fan of the footwork genre, a hyperkinetic stepchild of the raunchy, unrepentant, and resolutely ass-shaking subgenre of ghetto house, I was a bit taken aback by DJ Taye’s creative vision here, primarily revolving around blending footwork with the heavy hip hop and R&B influences of Chicago. While I still think the album is light on its front end, only really picking up steam by getting kicked in the ass by a few appearances from the masterful DJ Paypal, I’m ultimately able to respect and commend his intentions. I personally still think the album’s at its best when it more fully indulges in the glitching, schizophrenic rhythmic breaks and vocal chops that the genre necessitates, but nobody else has really dabbled in production that can fully bolster and cohesively integrate organic vocal appearances from other artists, and DJ Taye succeeds here more often than he doesn’t. Long story short, it’s the first definable time that footwork has felt like a production style with the potential for crossover appeal, as the infamous DJ Rashad was more of a torchbearer for DJ Screw’s eponymous hip hop mixing than anything. And besides, the last few tracks show DJ Taye can juke and jive with the best of them. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup Hurry

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Genre: Indie Rock

Favorite Tracks: “Read Between The Lines,” “Heatwave,” “Jamie”

Hurry are indie rock’s best kept secret for reasons that have never been fully explained to me. GUIDED MEDITATION was one of the best album’s of 2016 despite representing a different sound and tone of indie rock, one that was closer to the warmness of bands like Manic Street Preachers or The Boo Radley’s than literally anything coming out of that year. EVERY LITTLE THOUGHT, the Philadelphia band’s newest record, is just as good as GUIDED MEDITATION, a swirling guitar record that frequently feels as though it could be soundtracking 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, CHASING AMY, or any other late ‘90s rom-com. Like the melodies that make up most of the album, lead singer Matt Scottoline’s vocals sweetly pitch with longing. “Jamie,” the album’s highpoint single, is a gripping love song, and like the other tracks that populate EVERY LITTLE THOUGHT, it captures cinematic indie rock at its most starry-eyed, a mix of lazy slacker afternoons and late nights turning into early mornings. The haziness of these songs, especially as it applies to “On The Streets” or “Time and Time Again,” represents the band slowly toying with the fringes of shoegaze while retaining poppy hooks and focused solos, and it’s a great sound. Feel good albums like this seem to be in shorter and shorter supply these days, and Hurry create effervescent rock music and make it sound effortless. They’re a goddamn joy to listen to, and EVERY LITTLE THOUGHT continues to show that Hurry’s comfort food is still unquestionably worthy of being dished out. [CJ Simonson]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup The Men

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The Men – DRIFT

Genre: Indie Rock

Favorite Tracks: “So High,” “Sleep,” “Come to Me”

It’s hard to find one word to describe The Men, whose windy and strange career has been as workmanlike as it is eclectic, but if pressed I would use the word “scrappy.” Even when they polished up their sound, first through gliding punk on 2012’s OPEN YOUR HEART, and then again with soaring horns and sleek ‘70s heartland rock on 2014’s TOMORROW’S HITS, the dogged band of Brooklyn punks always release wide-eyed and evolving music, never staying in the same place for very long. Their last release, DEVIL MUSIC, was a drastic response to the polish of TOMORROW’S HITS, a course correction back to the days of their feisty lo-fi hardcore, and while its muggy, messy punk rock familiarly boils over, it defiantly hit the reset button on The Men.

The result of that reset, at least as it affects what I’m tentatively calling the band’s third act, has yet to be seen, but removed from that narrative, DRIFT is a fascinating album by a fascinating band. Their sparsest release yet, The Men made an album that sounds at home on its label Sacred Bones, combining avant-garde soloing with free-flowing, dark folk music. DRIFT assumes a much different identity than its closest comparison, 2013’s NEW MOON, which wielded a campfire jamboree stomp that’s been instead replaced by a cloudy and brooding fog. Other than “Killed Someone,” a traditionally crunchy punker, and the post-punk march “Maybe I’m Crazy,” DRIFT is decidedly slow and low-key, really the only thing that pulls most of these songs together. A listless lap steel is put to full use on songs like “So High” and “Come to Me,” and the dark Americana the band have been obsessing over in some fashion feels as hopeless as ever. Those songs, along with the plotting “Final Prayer” and nightmarish “Sleep,” represent high points on the album, true spiritual successors to NEW MOON and TOMORROW’S HITS without matching either albums particular energy. And while I enjoy the album as a whole, “Rose on Top of the World” quaint and smiling like Yo La Tengo’s “My Little Corner Of The World” and “Secret Light” with its Latin percussion and smoky jazz club vibes, DRIFT is a bit all over the place, pulled together by how contrasting the songs feel compared to the rest of their catalog but regularly lacking a certain continuity that, for better or worse, the band usually commit to. Even if it doesn’t entirely work, there is a ton to like about DRIFT, especially compared to DEVIL MUSIC, and this next phase of the band represents a continued reinvention and exploration rather than the further regression to their punk roots that some fans feared. [CJ Simonson]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup Moaning

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Moaning – S/T

Genre: Post-Punk

Favorite Tracks: “Tired,” “Artificial,” “Close

MOANING. It’s about nothing, and nothing has too much purpose. Los Angeles trio Moaning is comprised of Sean Solomon, Pascal Stevenson, and Andrew MacKelvie, equating underground anthems of classic punk culture straight from the Los Angeles scene of the last 10 years.  Riddled with doubt and uncertainty, MOANING successfully creates noise for the sake of noise. “Don’t Go” starts the album with dystopian rebellion, voicing concerns but not willing to be too active about them. Apathy is in the air, not angry enough to inspire activism, creating a confusing landscape of emotional dichotomy. While the classic rock elements are all well and good, the real charm on MOANING comes from synths that bring back the ‘80s, at least perfecting the past. “Tired” indirectly questions draining emotions after a break up. There are hardly any specificities in lyrics, “It’s all gone, It caught fire, It’s all wrong, And I’m so tired,” making it all bland and unimportant, yet trashy enough that it does not have to beg for attention. Indeed, MOANING can only be described as messy; vocal tracks sometimes don’t feel like they have the power to compete with the intense band, like on the chorus of “Artificial.” “Nothing is fair” ends the song proclaiming enough pessimism, but also enough camp to not be taken seriously. “Close” is a big mess, with music that’s too fun and lyrics that are too lackluster, featuring synthesizers from three decades ago and guitars from even earlier. Maximum energy at minimal effort, uncomfortably basic lyrics, and manufactured emotion sum up MOANING’s post-punk perspective. Nothing is clear on MOANING and lacks strong direction, but that’s the point. [Nikki Reifler]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup Moby

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Genre: Downtempo

Favorite Tracks: “Like a Motherless Child,” “The Ceremony Of Innocence,” “The Sorrow Tree,” “Falling Rain And Light,” “This Wild Darkness”

Moby, who is mostly known in his current state as a recluse with controversial political viewpoints, dabbles again in progressive music with EVERYTHING WAS BEAUTIFUL, AND NOTHING HURT. The album still contains the electronica of Moby’s success record, PLAY, and after years of activism for animal rights and being a public troll, now streamlines those thoughts, exploring gospel, soul, and trip-hop to analyze isolation from the insensitive world, which is a tad depressing. Most tracks are guided by a core piano riff or trip-hop cycle, such as “A Dark Cloud Is Coming,” deconstructing how many ways different can be the same. Moby produces the whole album but also enlists angelic female vocalists such as Mindy Jones and Raquel Rodriguez to elevate spiritual chorus pieces, fulfilling the journey set out for EVERYTHING WAS BEAUTIFUL, AND NOTHING HURT. It all becomes clear on “Like A Motherless Child,” where Moby repeats lyrics to familiarize: “The demon’s eyes, the demon satyr, I was bait, but what would bait her?” Being abandoned by a figure of power leaves the victim in a state of confusion, but also a state of acceptance rather than denial, and these dichotomies in storytelling are important for Moby. A surrealist melody of warping time introduces the dramatic opener “Mere Anarchy,” the beats much more intense than the vocals. “The Ceremony of Innocence” and “Falling Rain And Light” utilize strong piano cycles, standing out from pure synthesizers and speaking through fuzzy vocals. They could be played separately from the rest of the album, but make sense when lined up in the drama of EVERYTHING WAS BEAUTIFUL, AND NOTHING HURT. Meanwhile, “This Wild Darkness” is the roots of faith, falling down the rabbit hole and getting a wakeup call that surrealism is more a reflection on real life than a fantasy. The journey through nostalgia and time on EVERYTHING WAS BEAUTIFUL, AND NOTHING HURT is the orchestral piece essential to Moby, lest we forget music is his art. [Nikki Reifler]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup Nipsey Hussle

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Nipsey Hussle – VICTORY LAP

Genre: West Coast Hip Hop, G-Funk

Favorite Tracks: N/A

What’s the most boring question you can ask a music fan? Biggie or Pac. But what was my answer, long before I was listening to anything other than System of a Down? Always Biggie. The East coast has long held a more captivating regional sound, and only the stone cold Cali classics can even remotely hold a candle. As such, I’ve found the G-funk revivalism of recent years mostly humdrum, and with Nipsey Hussle’s long-awaited full-length studio album, VICTORY LAP, all we’ve got is YG, but worse. I’ll offer the caveat that my personal disdain for the subgenre is definitely at play here, and saying I have no favorite tracks isn’t as incriminating as it was on something like Tyga’s horrendous KYOTO. But things are so fundamentally right down the middle that they all bleed together, a churning stew of gangsta rap braggadocio, DJ Mustard-descended synth punches, and the acute synth hooks of ‘90s Hawthorne and Compton. But we’ve heard it all before, and done with more presence and panache. “YG, but worse” is really the only descriptor Nipsey Hussle ever needs, and he gets severely routed by any featured guest that pops up—putting him on a track with Kendrick is simply unfair. He’s a harmless feature, his jagged, attack-heavy delivery offering a no-frills change-up, but it grows grating when it’s only him in the pilot seat. For YG-adjacent artists, 2015’s underheard CALIFORNIA LIVIN with Blanco and DB tha General is a much better bet. But hey, “FDT” is still fun to play at a party now and again. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup Superorganism

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Superorganism – S/T

Genre: Art Pop

Favorite Tracks:  “Reflections on the Screen,” “SPRORGNSM,” “The Prawn Song,” “Night Time”

It would be easy to say that SUPERORGANISM is an irritating, spastic record that some corporate stooge thinks appeals to the texting generation that can only absorb media in five-second chunks and memes. However, it’s delivered with strangely earnest passion, so it warrants a little more scrutiny. This eight-piece, UK-based act makes what sounds like sunny commercial jingles if they were stretched and warped to the point of being demonic, like one of those Coke commercials suddenly turning into a hideous YouTube Poop halfway through. This brand of psychedelic anti-pop requires a lot of charisma to give humanity to the pitch-shifting and unending stream of sound effects such as Coke cans opening and frogs croaking. Fortunately, Orono Noguchi delivers a placid, star-making performance that contrasts the pileup of musical ideas surrounding her—think Lorde with a lot more depressants in her system. She is the reason why SUPERORGANISM works as well as it does, along with the crisp, addictive drops and moments of genuine pathos amongst the wackiness. That being said, songs like “Something For Your M.I.N.D.” will make you wish the band was practicing a little more self-editing, and the aquatic motif of “The Prawn Song” and “Nai’s March” goes absolutely nowhere. Nevertheless, as a debut album, it’s a bold, polarizing statement that has enough charm and catchiness to make up for some annoying moments. Do keep on an eye on these guys; with a little more revision and cohesiveness, they could make something incredible in the future. [Blake Michelle]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup suuns

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Suuns – FELT

Genre: Neo-Psychedelia, Art Rock

Favorite Tracks: “X-ALT,” “Watch You, Watch Me,” “Make It Real,” “Daydream,” “Moonbeams”

Originally starting as a fairly straightforward, and, admittedly, somewhat forgettable indie act in the early 2010s, Suuns made an unexpectedly promising career shift with 2015’s self-titled collaboration with Arabic-tinged folk act Jerusalem in My Heart. A heady, psychedelic trek through a sun-baked desert, FELT sees the band fully endorsing their previously teased kaleidoscopic capabilities after a brief art rock detour on 2016’s HOLD / STILL. FELT is Suuns at both their most minimal and avant-garde, featuring an uneasy and difficult-to-land balance between more organic, stripped-back pop songwriting and skeletal arrangements of auditory detritus and arid synth stabs. For the most part, however, Ben Shemie and company manage to pull it off, contributing to a consistently hypnotic, if occasionally queasy, immersive experience that feels beamed to us from a reality not quite our own, one where the only music is the discographies of Radiohead and Tangerine Dream. Perhaps the most interesting part of it all is Shemie’s voice, which resides at the forefront of the mix despite regularly tearing away to ebb and flow between the cracks of his backing band, somehow evokes the emotive swagger of mid-aughts indie and flighty experiments in voice-as-texture alt-R&B acts in equal measure. Long story short, it’s weird, it’s rewarding, and it’s got a strangely captivating cover: give it a listen. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Recommend

The good people of Crossfader Magazine.

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