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 Courtney Barnett, Leon Bridges, Ski Mask the Slump God and more.
Clairo – Diary 001 EP
Diary 001 EP is as cute and charming as its title implies. Clairo’s debut, released on The Fader, is short set of melodic indie pop songs suited for romantic smoke sessions and bedroom feels. She sings wishful fantasies on “B.O.M.D.” and sinks into a hazy trance on “Flaming Hot Cheetos.” The real highlight is “4EVER,” a much more fully produced dance tune that doesn’t compromise the album’s innocence. These are likely the beginning stages of a pretty prominent underground pop career.
Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
Given the praise of Courtney Barnett’s debut record, it seemed as if she could do no wrong on her follow up, Tell Me How You Really Feel. She looked poised to drop an impactful record after teasing colorful tracks like “Nameless, Faceless,” but the final product she presents paints itself into a corner. “City Looks Pretty” is indie rock 101 – and like much of the album, enjoyable but regular. Barnett is going to deliver lots of great rock songs during her career, but for now she remains a decent artist with a penchant for crafting average albums.
DJ Koze – Knock Knock
Knock Knock tries to create heavy atmosphere through its use of suspenseful string arrangements and downtempo rhythms, but few times does it amount to actual excitement. The opener “Club der Ewigkeiten” is among the most enthralling songs on the record, mixing together slimy synths and bass to create a mild euphoria. Though there isn’t a huge disparity between the sonic highs and lows of this album, I give it credit for maintaining a chill, trancy vibe. It’s captivating in the right time and place.
Jay Rock – Redemption
Your everyday Jay Rock descriptor reads as follows: genuinely street yet painfully generic. Cold blooded but aesthetically average. Ruthless yet basic. TDE but…the list goes on. Despite his brief catalog, Rock seems to be at a high point for commercial viability on Redemption, which is mainly because of his label’s rapport. This jump to mainstream notoriety, however, doesn’t translate all so well. The overall sound is so unambitious that it’s disappointing, easily making this Jay Rock’s most underwhelming project yet. There are a couple redeeming gangsta rap cuts (“ES Tales”), but it is not enough to make the album interesting.
Jorja Smith – Lost & Found
After major endorsements from Drake and TDE, Jorja Smith’s first solo album was bound to make some noise. Taking influence from Amy Winehouse’s enchanting soul-rock vocals and Rihanna’s uncanny ability to sing over virtually any modern production, Smith’s debut is a polished display of amazing singing talent and mellow soul jams. At times the record gets too comfortable, but Smith’s compelling voice saves any passable tracks from becoming too one dimensional. “Lost & Found” and “Blue Lights” are can’t-skips.
Keifer – Happysad
In signing to Stones Throw, Los Angeles based producer Keifer has seen a recent jump in his following leading up to the release of his second album, Happysad. Largely indebted to the ranks of jazz and J Dilla, Keifer’s latest release sees him making significant strides in his compositional skills – turning his raw, twitch-happy piano playing into short, compact grooves that are pretty as fuck. Songs like “What a Day” and “Socially Awkward” offer juicy basslines and quick bursts of a musician in the white zone. Sleeper pick for instrumental album of the year.
KYLE – Light of Mine
KYLE has proved to be as profitable as anyone else in his rookie rap class. His glitzy and positive demeanor as a rapper has found a huge audience in the same vein as G-Eazy and other shallow mainstream MCs. On Light of Mine, the bright, bouncy production and KYLE’s light, spunky flow are easy to listen to, but ultimately there is just no originality or creative spark. This album is all fun and games with little substance.
Leon Bridges – Good Thing
There is no questioning the skill of Leon Bridges. His raw and retro soul tendencies recall some of the genre’s most classic artists (a la Sam Cooke). Where his last record was fully bent on reviving old sounds, Good Thing sets out to mark Bridges as an original and a contemporary force. For the album’s first half, this mission is completed with ease, showcasing some of his best all around songs to date. “Bad Bad News” and “Shy” present a young artist in touch with his influences, beaming with urgency and a fresh sense creativity. The back half of the record dips off significantly, but overall, it’s a very worthwhile sophomore effort.
Melody’s Echo Chamber – Bon Voyage
Bon Voyage sounds like the outcome of an insanely creative musician taking all her toys and instruments and throwing them forcefully, yet precisely, at an empty canvas. The sound of this record is nearly beyond description; I call it prog-folk on acid. It also subtly echoes the soft rock virtuosity of acts like Lobo and Steve Miller. To call it a melting pot of genres would be disrespectful. “Cross My Heart” – the disruptive yet beautiful opening track – perfectly summarizes the masterpiece of a mess that is Bon Voyage.
Nas – Nasir
Out of all the albums Kanye professed into creation this summer, Nasir was supposed to be the one that delivered. Sure, these days Nas may be more into acquiring business acumen than spitting lyrics, but when has the guy ever not been able to lay down some top notch bars? Apparently 2018 is that time. Nasir is uncooked and unispired. Even though it’s only seven tracks, most of the album finds Nas spinning his wheels, attempting to pose as either a Queens legend or a seasoned rap mogul. Kanye at least holds his own on the beats, notably “Cops Shot The Kid.”
Parliament – Medicaid Fraud Dogg
Whether you’re looking for a trip down memory lane or simply an excuse to groove, Parliament’s first record in 38 years will be glad to accommodate you in your funky endeavors. Medicaid Fraud Dogg embodies the essence of what made George Clinton’s project so great many decades ago – hilarious and infectious lyrics and irresistible funk rhythms. Their sound is updated to fit in the modern era too, mixing in contemporary trap to compliment the stoner themes on the album. Musically, it resembles a lot of what Snoop Dogg has been doing over the past five years. “69” and “Oil Jones” are personal favorites.
Ski Mask the Slump God – Beware the Book of Eli
Line up 10 Soundcloud rappers and see which ones stand out. Ski Mask the Slump God is a front runner; he always has been, thanks to his wild, off the wall flows and charisma. In terms of rapping ability, he has no problem creating separation from his contemporaries. The instrumentals he takes on also carry a quirky personality that offers lots of character (“Bukkake”) and smoothness (“GEEKIN”), all while maintaining the essence of trap music in 2018. Beware the Book of Eli is hardly exciting, but for trap fans, there are few rappers as artistically equipped as Ski Mask.