New music roundups are a monthly recap dedicated to covering the latest music in a series of short, descriptive reviews. This month’s edition includes new releases from Angel Olsen, Chris Stapleton, Jaden Smith and more.
Angel Olsen – Phases
Angel Olsen’s Phases is a collection of b-sides and unused tracks from the past few years of recording. It’s a nice compilation to hold fans over until she releases her next project, especially those who adore the minimal singer-songwriter side of her music. The highlights are “Sweet Dreams” and “California”. I definitely prefer when Angel is backed by full, upbeat instrumentation. The same can be said for when she lets loose and flaunts her voice. It’s not that I don’t like her slow stuff, I just think she is incredible when she brings her more outgoing side up to bat.
Big KRIT – 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time
The new Big K.R.I.T. record is one of the boldest, most extravagant hip-hop releases of the year, and it comes in fine southern fashion. 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time is an epic double album that showcases some of KRIT’s most focused material to date. I have never been a huge KRIT fan; I’ve always thought of him as a very capable rapper and producer, but his music has never struck me as anything more than decent southern rap with semi-conscious lyrics adapted to a modern sound. This new album sticks to the usual formula of bass heavy beats and trill flows, but this time the hooks are catchier, the beats are rich and way more flavorful, and the flair in KRIT’s performances is really captivating. The “soul” on this album is turned up to the max and it leaves me feeling pretty satisfied. “Big K.R.I.T.”, “Aux Cord” and “Get Away” are essential tracks but I recommend giving the whole project a try, as there is lots of solid cuts throughout.
Chris Stapleton – From A Room: Volume 2
Chris Stapleton’s second album of the year is a continuation of the fine tuned roots rock and country fusion that he unleashed on his last project back in May. “Millionaire”, “Scarecrow In The Garden” and “Friendship” are the tracks getting a lot of spins right now – Stapleton’s voice is a weapon and he definitely knows how to utilize it. So far I am really liking this new album; I’m having a hard time deciding which volume of From A Room I dig more, but ultimately time will tell. Similar to the last album, I’m enjoying this thing quite immediately following its release, which makes it inevitable that my fondness for it will come back down to earth at some point. Still, the bottom line is we got 18 new Chris Stapleton tracks this year and for the most part they are really solid.
Greta Van Fleet – From the Fires
Michigan’s newly famous hard rock act Greta Van Fleet is back with their official debut album From The Fires. The band has drawn significant attention this year for their uncanny resemblance to Led Zeppelin. Their influences may be from all over but the sound of their music couldn’t be any more similar to Zep. This quality has a lot of people excited considering this style of music is pretty much dead in terms of new output. I’m still able to enjoy the band’s music, mainly because of the strong vocals and edgy lead guitar riffs, but in reality I’m not sure how far this style will take them. It will be interesting to see how long they roll with it. My favorite tracks are the 4 songs that were initially released on the EP Black Smoke Rising.
Jaden Smith – SYRE
Jaden Smith’s debut album SYRE has been making big waves over the last few weeks. It has the feel of a grand, powerful artistic statement, but in reality has nothing important to say. Some of the beats truly are amazing – among the best rap production I’ve heard this year – so I have to give credit where it’s due. Whether that’s Smith’s vision or his producers’ though, I’m not sure. His fake deep lyrics are anything but thought provoking, perhaps only relatable to the delusional teenager who over analyzes life or the stoned partygoer who memorizes raps simply for the purpose of repeating them. “Ninety” and “Fallen” have my favorite instrumentals.
Yellow Days – Is Everything Okay in Your World?
The new album by UK artist Yellow Days is a dense project that showcases a trancy display of jangly guitar work and depressed howling vocals. The most recognizable quality about Yellow Days’ music is his unique style of electric guitar. It feels slippery and omnipresent. When you combine it with his deep bellowing voice, you end up with a pretty distinct sound. His new project Is Everything Okay in Your World? sees him taking his confined skill set and stretching it out to the duration of a full length album for the first time. The record falters a bit in the songwriting capacity, even with his impressive vocal touch. When he can focus his talents into a good structured song, the magic is undeniable, such as on the mesmerizing “Holding On”.
Yung Lean – Stranger
Never in a million years did I think I would enjoy a Yung Lean album. But it’s 2017 and anything is possible. Lean’s new record Stranger is a soft and spacey cloud rap tour de force turned minimal. This project is so lush and dreamy, it’s just begging you to turn your headphones up and forget about whatever troubles idle you in the present moment. Tracks like “Red Bottom Sky” and “Hunting My Own Skin” are irresistibly melodic, but the rest of the project isn’t exactly all fun and games. “Agony” is a dark little ditty about depression and loss, completed by the song’s beautiful reverb-heavy pianos. By no means is this album perfect, but it’s great for what it is. Thumbs up.