Yes, the #MWE chain doesn’t stop. It keeps going, from experimental to alt hip-hop. Let’s dive into my navel-gazing:
Daniel Avery, Alessandro Cortini – Illusion Of Time: If you’ve heard Avery’s Songs For Alpha or any of Cortini’s SONOIO work, you’ll hear how different this sounds. It’s a dense panorama – at times harsh, and on others melancholy. Sometimes it’s a combo of both (the epic “Water” is a perfect example of that). “CC Pad” has an 80s ambient sound to it that seems tailor to be listened to while walking along the beach, whereas there is a foreboding drone echoing through dark caverns in the aptly titled “Inside The Ruins”.
Smoke City – Flying Away: Bossa nova/samba permeates the album. Most people only know them from “Underwater Love”, but there are tracks like “Mr. Gorgeous (And Miss Curvaceous)” and “Dark Walk” that make it swell past its sensuous aura. The album wants to stand alongside those of notable trip-hop contemporaries, but something is missing and it slips through the cracks, purring in the deep while Dummy and Mezzanine elevate into legendary positions.
Dorian Electra – My Agenda:Is pop elastic or meant to be shattered into pieces? Electra’s answer is a polished firebomb of influences and interesting collab choices, meticulously crafted into neon protest howls. Strangely alluring as a whole, but it would be difficult to point out just one song in this 25-min barrage. The ones that come to mind is “Ram It Down” and “Edelord” but it would take a bit more of a deep dive into hyperpop in general to see if there was something here.
Lady Gaga: Chromatica: Put down the acoustic guitar from Joanne/A Star Is Born and came back w/ fun Gaga. Has the right cheery flow to gloomy lyrics ratio, which is key in pushing Chromatica‘s purpose as a concept album. Old-school house beats steadily pumped into its veins, so the remixes will be bomb AF. Truthfully this would be up your alley if you were the type that recklessly went into clubs in the 90s and 2000s. It’s a shame there aren’t any clubs where we came blast the hell out of these songs.
Perfume Genius: Set My Heart On Fire Immediately: Hadreas built something great from No Shape and Too Bright. This album still has the defiance you would find through the personal nature of his lyrics. There is a deep longing spilling out f the spaces between the notes and Hadreas’ voice in “Moonbend” and “Leave.” Even a stripped-down song like “Without You” has a certain grandiosity to them. It’s all over the place but vulnerable and joyful.
Geto Boys: We Can’t Be Stopped: An obvious zero fucks to curb stomp chivalry, piss on the war on drugs, all the while stealing your girl. From a general listenability factor it still fucking bangs, 30 years later. The production is still on point, and the themes they were playing with aren’t the type that generally go out of style (the lyrics for “Fuck a War” and “Aint With Being Broke” still work today). It’s the way they handled it – Bushwick’s wildcard rap, Scarface’s storytelling, and Willie D’s abrasive bars made them a three-headed hydra of early 90s grimy hardcore rap.
Open Mike Eagle: Anime, Trauma and Divorce: The laidback beats and clever references belie OME’s confessions on body image issues, feelings of failure, and the pain of starting over. It’s grown man emo rap, with one man spitting out his post-divorce neuroses in the most earnest way he can. OME’s sardonic wit in “The Black Mirror Episode” and “WTF is Self-Care” helps us ride this depression wave as he takes us through it.
Last year I started tweeted a Music Writer Exercise created by Gary Suarez. It happens every February all month long, here are the details:
I figured that I shouldn’t keep to just the 280 characters If I wanted to, so here goes for week one:
Television – Marquee Moon : The title track is a dizzying piece that mesmerizes you, while the remaining songs are improvisational post-punk to their core. Decades onward, and there’s still a lot on the album that’s fresh. “Venus”, “Friction”, and “Elevation” are standout of Verlaine’s poetic lyrics over unrestrained riffs. You can hear the influences its made on LCD Soundsystem, Interpol, The Strokes, and countless classic attacks like R.E.M. among others. Even Joy Division fans can’t deny that Television’s album, which came out years before Unknown Pleasures, is a bedrock to the genre and many that came after.
Doves – The Universal Want: Long time since Kingdom of Rust, and the sound is like they shook off a lot of it. Not overly ornate, but the expansive melody and Goodwin’s anguish (“Prisoners” and “Broken Eyes” come to mind) makes a luster that washes out the dull. It’s difficult to pull off a decent album after an eleven-year hiatus, many stumble on the comeback swing. yet Doves pulls the uplifting from the melodrama as the adept veterans they have become.
PJ Harvey – Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea: A love letter to urban life that reaches out to you. Nightlife, seediness, longing – Polly Jean makes the alt-rock strumming intimate, even with that widespread appeal. The Thom Yorke tracks are amazing, but you can’t overlook “Good Fortune”, “Kamikaze”, and “This Is Love”. On a more personal note, I feel a slight pang of guilt because I should have listened to this album DECADES ago when I heard her live when she opened for U2 back in 2001.
White Zombie – La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume One: Slick, primal sleaze-metal w/ trashy intensity oozing out of every song. The monotony is saved by the punctuations of exploitation movie samples like the devil’s ad-libs. There’s nothing to be lost from an Iggy Pop spoken word bit in the middle of “Black Sunshine”, either. The crunch in”Cosmic Monster Inc.” and unrelenting “Grindhouse (A Go-Go) ” are of note, along with “Thunder Kiss 65”, of course. Faster, slimebag, kill!
Death – …For The Whole World to See: Some archeologists fight about the origins of musical instruments. It’s not the same for this album and Death’s mark on punk rock when you listen. From start (“Keep On Knocking”) to finish (“Politicians In My Eyes”) it is a burst of vibrant, nonconformist rock that should have been respected at release, but alas.
Animal Collective – Sung Tongs: What an offbeat little symbol of emergent 2000s weirdness. Veering on the twee at times, it’s a psych-folk album that takes you on a jaunt through an indie idyll. Whether it’s back to normal or down to hipsterdom, that would depend if you went on to listen to Merriweather Post Pavilion.
Actress – Karma & Desire: Certain hypnagogic melodies permeate this album. It has a Selected Ambient Works Vol II vibe, evolved into something organic, energetic, and cybernetic. Whispers slip into pulsating beats on “Angels Pharmacy”. There are haunting piano pieces throughout, but “Many Seas, Many River” with Sampha’s soulful vocals is a standout. Actress’ house roots still emerge on the bottom half of the album, and the T-909 special guesting.