New music roundups are a monthly recap dedicated to covering the latest music in a series of short, descriptive reviews. This edition includes records from the last couple months, including new releases from electronic artists Nightmares On Wax and Nicolas Jaar (Against All Logic), new Bay area hip-hop quartet SOB x RBE and the highly favored Black Panther soundtrack.
A.A.L. (Against All Logic) – 2012 – 2017
Nicolas Jaar’s new record as A.A.L., 2012 – 2017, is the type of album that inspires me to dig deeper into house music. From the get-go, “This Old House Is All I Have” creates a momentum that carries through the entirety of the record with force and smoothness. Simple production pieces like the building synths that open “Hopeless” give each song a skeletal base, which Jaar then decorates with lush techno rhythms and sweet soul samples. This album isn’t necessarily climactic, but it is extremely consistent in what it delivers: intense deep house cuts that are colorful in sound and calculated in technique.
Black Milk – FEVER
Like so many Detroit producers before him, Black Milk deserves credit on the fact alone that he has remained so dedicated to fusing electronic and jazz music into hip-hop for well over a decade. One of the true descendants of the J Dilla school, Black Milk once again holds his own as a solidified beatsmith and formidable rapper on FEVER. Personally, I think his beats have always brought more heat than his bars, but you can always count on Milk for sprinkling heady one liners throughout his songs (“But I Can Be”). Overall, this album adopts a smoother aesthetic than much of his previous work, occasionally flashing some cutting edge ideas, like the dizzy opener “unVEil.”
Current Joys – A Different Age
The new Current Joys album is a warm, fuzzy pop record well suited for intimate encounters and sulking in your feelings. There’s no denying the sad sentiment that lives within A Different Age. While the instrumentation doesn’t push the envelope with inventiveness or originality, it successfully creates a somber atmosphere with melancholy guitars (“In a Year of 13 Moons”), spacey electronics (“No Words”) and distraught vocal performances (“Way out Here”). A pleasant surprise from a previously middle of the road artist.
Dabrye – Three/Three
Another producer from the Detroit scene, Dabrye – who operates under a multitude of aliases – has returned with a gritty ode to the underground. His new project embodies the alt-rap ideals of MF DOOM (who makes a solid guest appearance on “Lil Mufukuz”), Madlib and other obscure hip-hop outfits from the 2000s. Three/Three feels a little out of place in 2018; the abstract production is enjoyable, but ends up sounding far more nostalgic than refreshing. This still works to an effect if you’re on a lo-fi hip-hop binge.
Nightmares On Wax – Shape the Future
George Evelyn’s latest release as Nightmares On Wax embodies the mellow jazz-funk grooves that have always existed within his music. The mood of Shape the Future is beyond chill; some of the songs are so laid back it feels like you’re right there alongside Evelyn in the studio, casually puffing a joint. A British trip-hop pioneer, Evelyn is a skilled producer no doubt, but his new release fails to engage despite its cool vibe. I consider it slightly advanced background music, with the reggae infused “Tomorrow” and the pimp-ish “Typical” being the exceptions.
SOB x RBE – Gangin
Coming fresh off a killer appearance on “Paramedic!” from the “Black Panther” soundtrack, Bay area quartet SOB x RBE looks like the next big thing in West Coast hip-hop. They’re sophomore LP, Gangin, could not have come at a better time. These guys bring a ton of energy in all their verses, a perfect fit for the hyphy production that backs them. If you like you’re trap music with a funky edge to it and enjoy in-your-face style rapping, then these guys are up your alley. The minimal yet punchy nature of tracks like “On Me” is addicting.
Various Artists – Black Panther (Soundtrack)
Curated and produced by Kendrick Lamar and Top Dawg Entertainment, the new soundtrack for “Black Panther” features an endless list heavyweights in contemporary rap and R&B. Vince Staples, 2 Chainz, The Weeknd and Khalid are just a few of the artists that drop in to contribute to the dark, moody vibe of the compilation. There’s quite a few great moments, notably the posse cut “X”, Jorja Smith’s “I Am” and SZA’s performance on “All the Stars.” Though the music is a bit over-commercialized, I think this release serves its purpose as a cinematic song collection to accompany the biggest film of the year.