Music Roundup 6/26/17

Hopefully you know the drill by now! Here’s our coverage 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: Trap Rap

Favorite Tracks: “Riverdale Rd,” “4 AM (featuring Travis Scott),” “Poor Fool (featuring Swae Lee),” “OG Kush Diet”

2 Chainz needs no introduction, but you would certainly be within your rights to assume a 2017 effort with that title and cover, released long after his meme potential has diminished, would be an acceptable one to skip. Well, believe it or not folks, PRETTY GIRLS LIKE TRAP MUSIC is good. Not great, but good, and the artist known as TityBoi’s first “serious” album, without a half-joking single or accompanying cookbook in sight. Although ridiculous examples of lyricism still filter through here and there (“4 AM”’s “I hope you got a clean vagina” is particularly jarring, and “Sleep When U Die”’s “Six guns, eight knives / Potato on the barrel of it / Make you niggas hate fries” is the head-scratching content we’ve come to expect), 2 Chainz has tempered down the more half-baked and lazily off-the-cuff aspects of his delivery style, mostly holding his own over a wide array of polished trap production that makes full use of his money and influence. Burgeoning Atlanta producer Buddah Bless has the most credits here, but Mike WiLL Made-It might have one of the most daring rap instrumentals of the year on his hands with “Poor Fool,” a continually chiming cacophony of bells that sounds like something copped from the gamelan, and it’s a treat to see unexpected guests such as Pharrell Williams pop in to switch up the sound. Nothing’s a game-changer here, but in many ways, that’s actually it’s most commendable merit. PRETTY GIRLS LIKE TRAP is the first time 2 Chainz actually feels like someone to seriously consider in the Southern hip hop sphere, and not a weird, kooky uncle who can easily be written off. In short, it sounds almost nothing like a 2 Chainz album, and that’s why it’s worth some consideration. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Recommend

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Com Truise – ITERATION

Genre: Synthwave

Favorite Tracks: “Propagation”

I don’t know, I never really got the appeal of Com Truise. Although he seems to have gotten a marketing boost off of the back of the chillwave movement, he never had the neo-psychedelic touches of Neon Indian, and his more synth funking side was easily found in bigger and better dance acts such as Todd Terje. Yes, I guess there’s a lot of the ‘80s force-fed into the nooks and crannies of ITERATION’s sound, but c’mon everyone, aren’t we a little tired of that by now? I can’t even give some long-tired description of how it feels like speeding down a Hollywood freeway at night in a gleaming chrome car; it’s actually far too slow and pensive for that. Instead we have lots of plodding synthesizer blats, laidback lesser iterations of disco drumming, and . . . nothing much else! The fact that every song is literally indistinguishable doesn’t help ITERATION to any large degree, either. This would be fine for some buzz-y Bandcamp project in 2011 or 2012, when vaporwave reigned supreme and any independent electronic artist felt like the second coming of Christ, but for godsakes man! You took five years to come out with another full-length, and it’s this? Yeah, yeah, yeah, I guess I don’t despise it, but it’s such inoffensive music to tune out to that I can’t imagine anyone anywhere forming a personal connection to any of these songs. This is music for indiscriminate YouTube mixes with a constantly repeating GIF of neon city lights. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

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Deer Leap – WIND & WORDS EP

Genre: Midwest Emo

Favorite Tracks: “Wind & Words,” “Morning Light,” “This Is Not a Dance”

At first I was going to write this one off, but as often proves to be the case with emo of all shapes and sizes, I relistened to it as the late summer afternoon crept into an early summer evening and found myself having the emotional experience I originally anticipated. Best known for their early split with modern emo gods The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, it’s always plagued the band that while pairing them with The World Is… certainly made sense, they’re really just a lite version of their far more culturally pervasive peer. But hey, that doesn’t mean that they’re not worth digging into a little bit in their own right! WIND & WORDS is a perfectly pleasant morsel of an EP, featuring a lush and fully-realized sense of production that allows each part of the mix to fully stretch out and breathe. The strange thing with Deer Leap is that while most emo comes with a disclaimer that the vocals are an acquired taste, Keith Galvin’s voice is entirely accessible; while this prevents the band from achieving a sense of cracked desperation that can occasionally make emo releases transcendent, it also makes the chorus of such songs as the title track all the more staggering. What’s more, Deer Leap doesn’t waste time with obfuscating its themes of anxiety and ennui as time moves on and everyone gets older. It doesn’t don any airs, but the rallying cries of, “I lost touch when I was young, now I don’t believe in anything at all” are anthemic as presented here. Rounded out with an expanded understanding of texture and tension that makes heavy use of cues from post-rock (perhaps learned from The World Is…’s Chris Teti, who produced WIND & WORDS), each listen offers something new and improved, and now three listens in, I’m not sure how I was ever unimpressed. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Recommend

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King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard – MURDER OF THE UNIVERSE

Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Garage Rock

Favorite Tracks: “Altered Beast IV,” “The Lord of Lightning,” “Digital Black,” “Han-Tyumi The Confused Cyborg,” “Murder of the Universe”

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard have said that they’ll release four or five albums this year, which is impressive, but not surprising, since they’ve already released 10 full albums in just six years. But even though you can always expect a new release from KGATLW, you can never be sure what they’ll do next—they consistently embark upon adventurous musical and conceptual journeys while sticking to a unique and energetic style that’s unmistakably their own. And this new release, MURDER OF THE UNIVERSE, really stands out, even among their prolific discography. To be honest, I was floored by how fantastic this album is, and how simultaneously profound and fun it can be. There was definitely some foreshadowing: the 13-minute music video released a few months ago for the six closing tracks, “Han-Tyumi & The Murder Of The Universe,” showcases the brilliantly sardonic writing style of the album. But after hearing the full thing, featuring fellow Flightless label-mate Leah Senior, it’s so consistently great that I think it’s their best overall effort yet. The overarching sound and concept of the album successfully brings together a lot of the themes and moods they’ve previously explored, but in a way that feels wonderfully unfamiliar, and the atmosphere is decidedly more kinetic and electrified than some of their more recent efforts. They’ve synthesized a new musical beast; between the warring laser synthesizers, the cold and ominous cyborg voices, and the heavy, psychedelic, steady-as-a-machine riffs, this album is an intergalactic destructive force to be reckoned with, a gargantuan post-apocalyptic sci-fi masterpiece from the reigning reptilian kings of rock. If “rock is dead,” then KGATLW are the nuclear necromancers resurrecting its glorious corpse. [Andrew Austin]

Verdict: Recommend

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Knxwledge – WT.PRT.11

Genre: Instrumental Hip Hop

Favorite Tracks: “CG’s,” “evrywunnose,” “gtmestuntin.”

Knxwledge is instrumental hip hop’s wooziest it-boy of the moment. The Los Angeles-based Anderson .Paak collaborator’s latest tape WRD.PRT.11 is one of his grittier releases, but sticks to his schtick of soul-sampling psychedelic rap. Where his early work summoned Dilla’s DONUTS, and last year’s .Paak collaboration YES LAWD was a 2016 Los Angelino remedy for Motown, WT.PRT.11 is more evocative of the aforementioned Dilla’s record WELCOME TO DETROIT. The track “gtmestuntin.” is the album’s standout, featuring a mysterious rapper talking about the splendor of his lifestyle over a nauseous and jittery guitar sample. Ultimately the album is nothing new. Knxwledge is a talented young producer who releases an impressive amount of content that all sounds roughly the same. For preexisting Knxwledge fans, WT.PRT.11 is a worthwhile listen, but it sticks to Knxwledge’s controversial gimmick: difficult song titles that hold vertiginous beats underneath. WT.PRT.11 is not one of the year’s standouts, but comfortably fits into Knxw’s ever more daunting discography. With more restraint, Knxwledge could be an easier artist to herald, but with the assumption that the producer will release a strikingly similar beat tape in the coming weeks or months, the swirling swagger of WRD.PRT.11 is a hard sell. [Ted Davis]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

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Genre: Dance-Punk, Noise Pop

Favorite Tracks: “A Softer War,” “There’s Nothing Wrong with the World There’s Something Wrong with Me,” “Trust,” “A Happy Song”

Hey now, alright! Since Moby’s shift to his Void Pacific Choir project felt a bit uneasy with 2016’s THESE SYSTEMS ARE FAILING, the quick turnaround of MORE FAST SONGS ABOUT THE APOCALYPSE was a cause of concern for many. Luckily, it seems as if last year’s LP was just an example of a rough and unexpected transition reaching a wary listening public, as its sequel may possess a tangible sense of cheese, but is ultimately a fun, blaringly colorful dance record that brings to mind Crystal Castles and Andrew W.K. in equal measure. The key here is melody, melody, melody! The influence of the aforementioned Canadian synthpop duo can be found in the chillingly distorted and vaguely dystopian synth lines that occasionally border on the side of bitpop, while the King of Partying can be found in the tinny, constantly pounding drums and crunching guitars playing sing-along pop melodies. It all lacks any remote semblance of subtlety, but the sheer, almost cartoon-like earnestness of it can’t be easily dismissed or ignored. That being said, Moby’s voice does have to really push itself to fit the mold of the commanding and emotionally authoritative vocals that we expect to fill our ears. The fact that he instead feels like a fish out of water actually smooths out some of the less traditionally meritable elements of the album in a weird sort of reacharound. Just listen to that faux Britpunk snarl on “Trust”! Moby’s really, really trying! And ya know, ya can’t help but root for the little guy. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Recommend

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Christian Scott – DIASPORA

Genre: Nu Jazz

Favorite Tracks: “Diaspora,” “IDK,” “Desire and the Burning Girl”

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah (commonly referred to as Christian Scott) is an odd figure in contemporary jazz. He doesn’t associate directly with Brainfeeder/Flying Lotus or BADBADNOTGOOD, yet he utilizes trap and hip hop production blended with his smooth trumpet playing, which inevitably draws comparisons to his nu jazz peers. Add to this the already sour reputation jazz has as inaccessible music for elitist assholes, and it’s hard to really advocate for Christian Scott being worth the average person’s time. It’s a shame, though, because his music, while challenging at times, is also incredibly delightful and engaging. His 2015 effort STRETCH MUSIC was an exhilarating blend of trap beats, traditional jazz, and flamenco flourishes, and his latest release DIASPORA sees Scott deploying all of these elements to even greater extents. The kinetic energy propelling his arrangements is still as alive as ever, and his trumpet playing is just as cool and assured. Collaborations with the exceptionally talented Elena Pinderhughes and Sarah Elizabeth Charles are as rich and rewarding as they have been in the past. Scott has also taken his approach to hip hop-based rhythms to new extremes; I highly recommending listening to the record on a sound system with a stellar low end to fully feel the effect of his snares and booming bass lines. The trouble is, on some of the tracks, the trap-inspired production actually ends up doing disservice to the music as a whole; on tracks like “Uncrown Her,” the hi-hats hit way too hard for the relative softness of the rest of the instruments. That’s more of a complaint in terms of production than anything else, and there is still plenty to find exciting about this album, no matter your level of appreciation for jazz as a whole. [Carter Moon]

Verdict: Recommend

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Suffocation – …OF THE DARK LIGHT

Genre: Brutal Death Metal, Technical Death Metal

Favorite Tracks: “Clarity Through Deprivation,” “Your Last Breaths,” “Epitaph of the Credulous”

Look, it’s not like any of you are going to listen to this album anyway, so including the latest Suffocation release was a self-fulfilling prophecy from the start. As you were probably unaware, Suffocation is almost inarguably the seminal brutal death metal band, taking up the mantle as the original wave of death metal began to splinter off and adding in labyrinthine technical guitar and drum work and Neanderthal-punishing slams and breakdowns in equal measure. If you have even half a sense of appreciation for this kind of thing, listen to EFFIGY OF THE FORGOTTEN and PIERCED FROM WITHIN and get back to me (the latter and TOMB OF THE MUTILATED are the albums that first got me into death metal). So well over two decades past their height of relevance, how are things looking? Honestly, not that bad! The biggest criticism I have against …OF THE DARK LIGHT are the vocals; maybe it’s founding member Frank Mullen’s advanced age, maybe it’s the crisp, stark light of modern, (comparatively) high budget production, but I’m just not able to shake the feeling that they’re silly more than anything else on this 2017 effort. Thankfully, almost-founding member Terrance Hobbs hasn’t lost any of his guitar chops over the course of his career, the solos are just as technical and squeedling (yes, I am claiming copyright for the use of this descriptor) as ever, the bass is still mixed refreshingly high, and the incorporation of new drummer Eric Morotti adds a breath of fresh, if not necessarily quality-equivalent, life to the proceedings. All that being said, entirely new listeners won’t find anything to latch onto here that isn’t more accessibly presented on previous releases, and long-time listeners of the band will still only be reminded of the glory days. Truly, it’s a perfectly fine metal album from one of the genre’s greats! But it’s not enough of a change of formula to get a hearty recommendation from this grouch. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

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