Music Roundup 6/12/18

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

music roundup Lily Allen

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Lily Allen – NO SHAME

Genre: Electropop

Favorite Tracks: “Come On Then,” “Trigger Bang (featuring Giggs),” “Higher,” “Everything to Feel Something,” “Pushing Up Daisies,” “Cake”

How can one forget the cheeky young Brit getting back at her deadbeat deejay ex-boyfriend by hiring thugs to beat him up, scratch his records, and slip laxatives into his coffee? Lily Allen’s character has always stuck out to me as one of facetious impudence, a cocky, outspoken smart aleck gritting her teeth as she exclaims her consternation towards celebrities, lovers, and internet trolls over glossy island-pop beats riddled with sarcastic wit. But even iconoclasts have genuine human emotions, too, and never has this been more palpable in Allen’s repertoire than on her latest album, NO SHAME. With a swagger not far off from M.I.A.’s, Allen’s fourth LP is strikingly honest and self-reflective, featuring laidback production edging on R&B and dancehall influences. Just when a lazy, tropical electropop cadence starts to fool us, the trickle of a piano ballad or muted synth exposes Allen’s confessional about maternal guilt, substance abuse, or the disintegration of her marriage. Allen introduces NO SHAME by challenging tabloids on the trap-pop beat of “Come On Then,” and closes with the summery reggae of “Cake,” encouraging that you can “Have your cake and eat it” if you just keep pushing through the challenges. But NO SHAME’s dignified bookends teem with pain, regret, and fear, an anti-hero’s spiral that marks Allen’s newfound self-respect as incredibly well-deserved. I hope she enjoys that cake for a very, very long time. [Sienna Kresge]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup Neko Case

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Neko Case – HELL-ON

Genre: Singer-Songwriter, Alt-Country

Favorite Tracks: “Last Lion of Albion,” “Oracle of the Maritimes,” “Bad Luck,” “Hell-On”

Over the years, fire has inspired some famously disturbing music. The first thing that comes to mind for many is Brian Wilson’s composition “Mrs. O’Leary’s Fire,” an instrumental piece that, though fairly mild by today’s standards, was deranged enough in its time that some believed Wilson to be possessed by a demon. You may have heard that story by now, of how Neko Case, in turn, lost many of her possessions in a house fire, and much like how the unfettered destruction of the Great Chicago Fire can be heard in “Mrs. O’Leary’s Fire,” Case’s music here is much darker, both musically and thematically, than usual. Case is a Pacific Northwest institution as a singer-songwriter, as well as a member of renowned indie band The New Pornographers, and though her sound doesn’t change too much from the country-leaning, old school indie style that she’s adopted as a solo artist, on HELL-ON Case has clearly reacted to the house fire incident in a way that has made her consider just how much of her life has been taken out of her control, both in a personal and a societal context. Some highlights include the musically chipper but regret-filled “Bad Luck,” the dramatic “Oracle of the Maritimes,” and the title track “Hell-On,” a spooky rumination on the random nature of the world’s ability to destroy things. HELL-ON is, as a result, often regretful and cynical of the world that surrounds Case, who delves into her dramatic backstory and personal traumas more than ever on this record rather than, as she says on “Bad Luck,” “trying to pass riddles as poetry.” It’s not going to blow your mind necessarily, but HELL-ON tastes distinctively of smoke, and experiencing the new Neko Case is a fascinating experience. [Adam Cash]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup Clairo

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Clairo – DIARY 001

Genre: Indie Pop

Favorite Tracks: “B.O.M.D. (featuring Danny L Harle),” “Pretty Girl”

If you happen to live with roommates, and you’re lucky enough to live with roommates who have good taste in music, then you’re bound to overhear some great new music coming out of one of their rooms as you lay face down in your own room, hungover with the blinds drawn. And when the music is made up of smooth, electropop, post-breakup grooves like Clairo’s latest EP, DIARY 001, you will find yourself mustering up the strength to stumble down the hallway to ask said roommate, “What the hell is this, dude?”

Diary 001 is the first collection of tracks from the 19-year-old Claire Cottrill, comprised of some previously released singles and a few new tracks. Staying true to the album title, the collection comes off as a series of quick entries (most of the songs clock in around the two-and-a-half-minute mark) from an adolescent diary. EP opener “hello?” sets the tone both sonically and lyrically, with a simple beat complemented by retro electronic organ that serves as the foundation that will carry Cottrill’s laments for a lost love that is only “a click away.” Rejjie Snow’s one verse is one of the few low points on DIARY 001, not because it’s bad (although its not great), but because it takes you out of the simple and raw vibe created by Cottrill’s honest lyrics. The young artist does not waste any time trying to mask her feelings behind flowery poetics, best encapsulated on “Flaming Hot Cheetos,” where she openly admits that her romantic tendencies lead her to forget, “how things really happen because you’re so attractive or something.”

The highlights of the EP comes with a three-track sequence in the middle, starting with “B.O.M.D.,” an infectious song carried by airy synth hooks and catchy vocal melodies. The lyrics perfectly capture the difficulty of moving on when the temptation to try and salvage a relationship is ever present, as Cottrill quietly admits, “I shouldn’t tell you this,” before throwing herself at the reoccurring “you” that the album is aimed at. “4ever” examines the insecurity and doubt that is bound to follow the scenario presented in “B.O.M.D.,” as she reveals her concerns with a lack of stability over groovy electro bass and funky synth. The cycle comes full circle with “Pretty Girl,” where Cottrill is reluctantly able to “cry just thinking about what a fool I was.” Delivered over bouncing keys and simple lo-fi drum loop, Cottrill reveals a heart-breaking self-awareness of the toxicity of a relationship that had previously been put on a pedestal. This painful realization is not voiced in anger, but in a sense of reflective disappointment.

If the tracks on DIARY 001 were actual diary entries, they read as conflicting musings that were jotted down periodically on the same summer day, flip-flopping between a game plan for moving forward and desperate reminiscing for a romance that was not built to last. DIARY 001 is a simplistically raw exploration of the emotional exhaustion that comes with young love, cleverly embedded into a collection of chill, summer-ready jams. Whether you listen to it from a lawn-chair in the middle of an inflatable pool on your front lawn, bobbing your head with a cheap beer in hand, or alone in your bedroom as you stare emptily at a popcorn ceiling, DIARY 001 will serve you well. [Jake Mazon]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup Roger Daltrey

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Roger Daltrey – AS LONG AS I HAVE YOU

Genre: Blues Rock

Favorite Tracks: “As Long As I Have You,” “You Haven’t Done Nothing,” “Certified Rose”

I still remember patiently waiting with my father at age 12. We, along with thousands of others, went totally silent as the lights faded to a pitch black. Suddenly, a burst of colored lights erupted on stage in perfect sync to the dreamlike organs of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” before the distorted guitars kicked in and Roger Daltrey took the stage, swinging a microphone cable over his head like a lasso as if it were the famed Railway Tavern in 1964. That night he and fellow remaining bandmate Pete Townshend played all their hits with as much energy as they could muster. Complete with the windmill-style guitar playing and amp-smashing energy that makes The Who one of the most recognizable names in rock music.

Roger Daltrey has lived a rock ‘n’ roll odyssey. As frontman of a legendary rock group, his passion for the music, along with Townshend’s stellar songwriting, would lead their brand of blues and soul music on overdrive. Over half a century since his introduction to the world, he continues to keep the fire burning on his latest solo release, AS LONG AS I HAVE YOU. His ninth album comes 16 years after his last release, following a Super Bowl XLIV half-time show, solo tour, several tours with The Who, and a near fatal fight against viral meningitis. Yet he has not lost touch with the music that gave him his start. This album is a healthy combination of original works and rearranged covers from old-timey artists ranging from Dusty Springfield to ‘50s R&B group The Five Keys. On the title track, originally recorded by Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters in 1964, Daltrey is able to mask the cover with his own touch. His arena-filling voice tops off boisterous brass, heavy blues piano, and a gospel choir. The full-bodied sound is consistent throughout the piece in a way that makes the covers almost indistinguishable. Similarly, Stevie Wonder’s funk masterpiece, “You Haven’t Done Nothin,” is slowed down and executed atop a bed of blues guitar, allowing him a platform to turn a track once meant to target President Nixon into a cautionary tale for modern politicians. On “Certified Rose,” Daltrey provides his own voice in the form of a dedication to his daughter Rosie Lea. Here the rocker who once belted about a rebellious generation and a teenage wasteland is able to hone in on his life as a family man without losing his edge, and that is about as rock ‘n’ roll as it gets. [Michael Stanziale]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup Dave Matthews

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Dave Matthews Band – COME TOMORROW

Genre: Adult Alternative

Favorite Tracks: “Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin),” “Can’t Stop,” “She,” “Virginia in the Rain”

Dave Matthews Band is to jamrock what his hometown Charlottesville, Virginia is to the South: an amicable and polished take on a frequently less accessible musical or geographic region. Now 51, COME TOMORROW finds Dave and co. delivering a greying take on their roots. “Virginia in the Rain” is a lengthy jazz track, with Skalpel-esque adult tendencies and Dave’s voice sounding its youngest it has in ages. With lyrics about nudity, Virginia, and childhood, it’s clear that Dave is looking in the rearview but is still able to sound younger than his years in the process. “Samurai Cop” and “Can’t Stop” both channel ‘90s stadium alternative a la Pearl Jam, showcasing virtuoso DMB drummer Carter Beauford delivering brittle hi-fi grooves. Though he may not be the same shallow south Neil Peart he was in 1994, it’s clear Beauford is still spending more hours in the shed practicing his chops than most percussionists his age. He and bassist Stefan Lessard dig into a creamy hip hop groove on “Do You Remember.” Though Dave diminishes the song’s cool factor with his gentle coffeehouse acoustic guitar and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”-esque “woos,” “Do You Remember” still channels the energy of a younger, funkier group. “She” delivers a tacky take on swampy hard rock that’s fun for the whole family, with a horn section filling a place in the arrangement I would have expected to be filled with Dimebag Darrell-borne shredding. The rest of the album’s tracks are a little too gentle to call standouts, Matthews dousing his guitar chords in hefty quantities of orchestral instrumentation. The softer moments come off as a bit too suburban to get my endorsement, but these tendencies are to be expected from a musician with three children. Though Dave Matthews Band has undeniably seen their heyday come and go, the Virginian in me can’t help but smile at a collection of songs that take me back to the oak-hickory forests of my youth. [Ted Davis]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup Flasher

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Genre: Indie Rock

Favorite Tracks: “Go,” “XYZ,” “Harsh Light”

Flasher counts Tyler Mulitz, formerly of Priests, among their members, and though the two share traces of twitchy post-punk and call D.C. their home, Priests are much more instantaneous in their fervor and lean in their delivery. Flasher, on the other hand, have expanded on the hints of dream pop and shoegaze from their debut EP to create a much more layered, simmering sensation. The propulsive rhythm section and insistent, haunting guitar leads are as well-performed and present as on their EP, but they’re now accentuated by whirring, warbling electronics and keyboards. They don’t add to the anxiety, as they would in the hands of a band like The Dismemberment Plan, but phrases like the opening sunny twinkle of “Sun Come and Golden” and the layers fluttering and beeping underneath “Harsh Light” are still unsettlingly beautiful. It’s a shame that for all the quirky vocal harmonies, none of the three vocalists are particularly engaging, and they often rob hooks of any impact with languid or goofy deliveries; “Material” and “Business Usual” are the worst offenders. For all the band’s sonic imagination, the song construction is too predictable in its build from quiet spaciness to frenzied panic-attacks, and the lyrics aren’t backed by enough charisma or vigor to make their obliqueness palatable or interesting. A little more tightness would go a long way to create the tension between assuagement and alarm that Flasher cleary aims for; for now, there’s nothing here that NOTHING FEELS NATURAL or EMERGENCY AND I don’t cover better. [Blake Michelle]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup Lykke Li

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Genre: Art Pop

Favorite Tracks: “hard rain,” “utopia”

SO SAD SO SEXY is bookended by two great tracks. The first, “hard rain,” is a downtempo, gloomy song that sets the thematic framework for the record—a record written in the aftermath of her son’s birth and mother’s death. Unsurprisingly, SO SAD SO SEXY is easily Lykke Li’s darkest release, but the departure largely fails to arrive at a rewarding destination. The album is only 34 minutes long, but the complete lack of variation makes it feels much closer to 50. Most of the tracks on here feel like half-finished demos from The Weeknd, which is surprising considering the fact Li recruited some great producers like Malay, Rostam, and Jeff Bhasker. It’s particularly frustrating on songs like “jaguars in the air,” which show promising signs at the start, but lack any sense of progression or have bridges about as solid as Galloping Gertie. The sole vocal feature belongs to Amine, who delivers an extremely forgettable verse save for the remarkably bad couplet, “Don’t be sad, look alive Lykke / Damn right, she gon’ dance on my damn Dickies.” And while most of SO SAD SO SEXY feels like someone decided to try out a new city’s cuisine and then go to the same restaurant every day, order an appetizer, and leave, Lykke Li manages to somewhat salvage it by closing with “utopia.” It’s a heartfelt message to her son, whose birth has inspired her: “I see, I see, I see a light in your eyes and I want it / If there’s a bomb in your heart I’ll disarm it.” The dark beat switch towards the end of the track is easily the most satisfying moment on the record and makes for a fantastic finish to an otherwise mediocre album. [Ryan Moloney]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup serpentwithfeet

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serpentwithfeet – SOIL

Genre: Alternative R&B, Art Pop

Favorite tracks: “seedless,” “whisper,” “mourning song,”

I’d never heard of serpentwithfeet when I saw him open for Grizzly Bear at the Wiltern back in December. He utilized next to none of the stage he was given, and performed under a single spotlight while infrequently touching his keyboard as the house played the bulk of his tracks for him to sing over. He positioned himself close to the edge of the stage, at times clearly improvising material, and played with the crowd a lot. It felt like I should be underwhelmed, but I wasn’t. That intimate performance was like his EP: gentle (though at times operatic) and deeply personal, fully aware and appreciative of its moments of silence.

With debut LP SOIL, Josiah Wise fills in some of the corners he left untouched on serpentwithfeet’s previous music. Weird electronic and heavy, earth-y sounds still populate the gospel-like tracks, but more often than not they are rallied by a more present bass. Acquiring a more traditional backdrop and song structure really works on this album. Wise has admitted to wanting to “reach more ears” with this album, but he manages to not forgo what makes him unique, namely his voice. Unwavering, powerful, and oozing sweetness, it is the unequivocal star of his music. And while I could go on about his voice, and why he’s a truly special talent in that regard, what really impresses on SOIL is its refreshing lyrical honesty. At a time when male sexuality is under the microscope, if not entirely in the throes of war, Wise explores his sexual desires as they relate to his psyche and his heart in a way that is unashamed and righteously open. On “whisper,” Wise coos, “Not all adults are making love / Breaking their backs out of fear. I’m here with you.” Along with its swelling melody, those lyrics make for a good opener, relaying that the album will go on quite a bit about being sexually intimate—“Seedless” is a more direct take on sexual yearning, “you’re hungry, I’ll feed it / I’ll comfort all of you”—but at the end of the day, “I’m here with you” is what we’re left with.

SOIL is rife with sensuality and “coiled bodies” and entices the senses with two, yes two, songs about smells, “fragrant” and “waft.” All these qualities and more made this album a lot more accessible than serpentwithfeet might have been previously, and it’s easy to listen to the album front to back. “Bless ur heart” is an amazing closer that gives Usher and Frank Ocean a run for their money. Give SOIL a play and see if doesn’t do something for you, and maybe catch one of those highly intimate shows that kept my interest going this long. [Tanner Hewitt]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup Shake Shake Go

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Shake Shake Go – DINOSAUR EP

Genre: Pop Rock

Favorite Songs: “Come Back to Me,” “Panda”

The Welsh-French band Shake Shake Go has finally released new music, their first since their debut album, ALL IN TIME (2016). The five-track DINOSAUR EP underwhelms, especially when compared to their hit single “England Skies,” which was a powerhouse combination of brazen vocals from Poppy Jones and high energy drums from Kilian Saubusse. Despite having waited two years for the new material, the band’s sound seems to have grown a fair amount—probably why they’ve explored nostalgia and reminiscing on DINOSAUR—and even though the individual working pieces don’t seem to have changed much, the new concoction makes for a refreshing EP.

Marc Le Goff sticks to his signature composition with strong vocals and a mostly drum-driven title track, but it’s taken on much more of a pop feel than his previous work. With a chorus of children chanting alongside Jones, “Dinosaur” evokes childhood and playtime, but the clash between the melodious verses and the borderline tantrum chorus sounds like the band suffered from the pressure of creating their second album, with an opener that sounds more like a radio edit than a Shake Shake Go original. Whether the label influenced the songwriting or not, it flows seamlessly into the dance-jam “Come Back To Me,” which could be as much about a past love as simpler times. The solid guitar riff will make for great summer remixes as listeners dance poolside, drinks in hand, but again, I’m not convinced it’s been produced with the band’s sound in mind. It also has basic elements that nowadays evoke a more commercial nostalgia, one sold by companies like Urban Outfitters and Top Shop, who make profits from vintage and retro styles. The song goes, “Turn back the clock / Come back to me / Converse in June / Bob Marley tees”; I believe Jones’ lyrics are meant to reflect on a time in their lives before fame or responsibilities took over, but I can see executives’ eyes glowing green dollar signs at the opportunity to market new Bob Marley tees. The next two tracks, “Mahi Mahi” and “Panda,” shift the focus away from Jones’ vocals altogether, with a distortion that mutes her just enough to put  the bass and guitar in the spotlight, respectively. Virgile Rozand’s smooth guitar seduces us as he creates space and near-silence that weren’t common on ALL IN TIME, making “Panda” a crowd favorite as they go back on tour this summer. The EP ends with an unnecessary acoustic cover of Rag’n’Bone Man’s “Human,” which comes across as an admission of guilt for an unknown reason, a #sorrynotsorry which feels out of place, though executed to give their English contemporary a run for his money. Shake Shake Go have a few gaps to fill in for their next release, but DINOSAUR is good for the time being, showcasing the band’s talents as they get their footing in these early stages of their career. [Liliane Neubecker]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup Jorja Smith

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Jorja Smith – LOST & FOUND

Genre: Neo-Soul, Contemporary R&B

Favorite Tracks: “February 3rd,” “Wandering Romance,” “On Your Own”

Inside the soft and tender world of Jorja Smith’s pristine voice, you will find yourself lost in a subtle, magical haze of her creation. When she reaches the peak of her ability, the lyrics run like clockwork, floating above smooth R&B and jazz hybrid beats. Her debut album, LOST & FOUND, continually reaches this point. While this album serves as a perfect companion for walking or driving, the greatest impact comes when you give it your complete, undivided attention; it’s a precise, 12-track project curated to take you through a journey of self-discovery. Smith herself recently just turned 21-years-old on June 11th, and her growth and age is mirrored in the themes and style of this album through the meticulous care distributed to each individual track. The beats are minimalist and well-orchestrated, and every single second of it sounds like it was handed with compassionate expertise. “February 3rd” might be the best song on the record and is a perfect example of this kind of production. The beat itself refuses to try to overachieve, seamlessly meshing with her voice, calm and dreamy, at times mimicking a fluttering heartbeat as she repeats the phrase: “Why don’t you lose yourself to me / Why don’t you lose yourself for me.” This allows each repetition to sound increasingly more at ease, culminating in a hypnotizing spoken word verse.

Smith has definitely been groomed for this moment, having already collaborated with heavyweights such as Drake and Kendrick Lamar, with her first appearance in the mainstream music scene having arrived a couple years ago. Developing and building her craft since then, Smith has released singles along the way, spreading each release out leading up to her album drop. At times, LOST & FOUND feels a bit safe, and though Smith is a great performer, the lyricism at times can feel a little stale. Fortunately, she has enough charisma and talent to elevate the writing and conversely make her music feel lived-in. More so, songwriting is a developed skill, and based on the current trajectory of Smith’s career, she has plenty of time to work on it. [Mohammed Ashton Kader]

Verdict: Recommend

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