New Music Roundup: May

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 Carly Rae Jepsen, Mac DeMarco, Vampire Weekend and more.

Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated

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What does a new Carly Rae Jepsen album mean? Lovesick synth-pop anthems by the bunches. From the lusting funk of “Julien” to the dance-infused beat of “Now That I Found You,” Jepsen’s seductive interpretations on ‘80s pop fused with her knack for delivering modern-flavored cuts with Top 40 potential complete a repertoire that continues to prove itself far more compelling than she first led on after her viral 2012 hit “Call Me Maybe.” By the time you get to Dedicated‘s back half, Jepsen’s formula of spilling her guts out/gushing over her desired guy gets a little repetitive, and the production becomes less and less inventive in its quest to revive the style of retro pop it is so obsessed with. Where the album has its lulls, however, the highs on Dedicated are as gratifying as anything in the CRJ catalog. “Want You In My Room” features dazzling production from Jack Antonoff, accompanied by one of Jepsen’s most well-rounded vocal efforts, while the drunk disco of “Too Much” is simultaneously the record’s most sexually enticing cut, while also being the most revealing, ending in the line “‘cause if I love you, Ima love you too much.”  – Roberto Johnson

Flying Lotus – Flamagra

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Though his artistic endeavors have leaned more towards film in recent years, Flying Lotus remains an exciting producer and musical mind who’s earned every bit of the excitement which arises at the news of him releasing new music. His latest album Flamagra is a lengthy gesture of quirky, mid-paced beats, once again graced by a slew of talented guests. Unlike many of Fly Lo’s past works, which often have either deeply embraced classic genres or progressed modern styles, Flamagra is a hodge podge of all the sounds that he’s laid his imprint on, incorporating periodic nods to IDM, colorful takes on contemporary hip-hop and of course, twisted interpretations on jazz. Clocking in at over an hour in run time, the record holds its fair share of half-baked beats and uninspired song progressions, but there are still plenty of interesting instrumental passages and solid features. Among the most immersive tracks are the euphoric opener “Heroes” and the racing “Inside Your Home,” while “More” and “Black Balloons Reprise” account for stellar collaborations with Anderson .Paak and Denzel Curry.  – RJ

Injury Reserve – Injury Reserve

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Injury Reserve are a trio formed on the principle of being unconventional. Hailing from the largely rap-absent city of Phoenix, the progressive hip-hop outfit continues to churn out a compelling brand of alternative rap on their self-titled debut. Though not as jazzy  nor abrasive as IR’s two previous mixtapes, Injury Reserve presents loads of animated vocal performances (“Koruna & Lime” and “Hello?!”), glitchy and forward-thinking bangers (“GTFU” and “Jailbreak the Tesla”) and murky, introspective diatribes (“What A Year It’s Been”). For being a relatively brief listen, there are some spots on the record that hit harder than others, which makes for some inconsistencies, but in the grand scheme of things, this project is still extremely creative and fun. At this moment, few rap groups are both this exciting and unpredictable.  – RJ

Mac DeMarco – Here Comes the Cowboy

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Mac DeMarco is no stranger to the slowed down stoner jam. His first few records were littered with spacey guitar tunes and lazy, synth-laden head bobbers. When he released his third full length album This Old Dog in 2017, Mac’s chilled out style reached a whole new level of laid back, but his elevated attention to detail in both songwriting and production made that record arguably his best yet. Two years later, he has somehow surpassed the down tempo loops of Dog. His latest, Here Comes The Cowboy, essentially heads into slo-core territory, bringing Mac’s signature guitar twang and subdued vocals to an unbearably still pace. Occasionally, the songs are touching and pretty, in particular on the light-shining ditty “Nobody” and the mildly psychedelic “Preoccupied.” Mac attempts to enliven the record with funkier jam session style cuts like “Choo Choo” and parts of “Baby Bye Bye,” but even those attempts quickly grow boring. Ultimately, this album is a disappointing and tedious compilation that has far too little in the way of captivating songs to hold anybody’s attention. “K” and “All Of Our Yesterdays” are two of the salvageable acoustic cuts.  – RJ

Steve Lacy – Apollo XXI

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Predominantly known for his skills as a guitar player and producer, Steve Lacy has made his solo full-length album debut with Apollo XXI. From Blood Orange to Kali Uchis, a countless amount of current artists in the R&B and hip-hop scene have turned to Lacy for his signature smooth guitar licks to give their track that magic touch, and they are right to do so. Lacy started releasing solo work in 2015, but it wasn’t until 2017 that he dropped his first EP. That being said, these 12 tracks on Apollo XXI are a sweet treat for Lacy fans. Heavy bass riffs and soulful electric guitar melodies are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the melting pot of sounds you will hear on this record. The combination of these two traits alone are like taking a trip back in time to when soul music was in its prime. “Playground” and “N Side” are two tracks that stand out.  – Ellie Burleson

Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

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After a decade long run of immense success, Vampire Weekend’s sound is still fresh and highly replayable. Their long awaited fourth album is a gentle yet sophisticated rush of nostalgia, one that revels in the beauty of the natural world and the human spirit. The intro track “Hold You Know” (which features a lovely contribution from Danielle Haim) and the organic breeze of “Harmony Hall” reestablish the band’s skill in crafting cosmic, sun-drenched indie pop with both care and precision. Songs like “This Life” and “How Long?” follow suit, equally providing fun summer boogies and thoughtful, existential meditations on universal principles like love and faith. Father of the Bride includes a number of stale tracks (notably the Steve Lacy collaborations) that simply feel like weak attempts at reaching a wider audience, but even then, the band’s usually stellar songwriting and organic instrumentation prevails.  – RJ

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