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 Bruce Springsteen, Kirin J Callinan, Polo G and more.
Bedouine – Bird Songs of a Killjoy
Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Azniv Korkejian’s sophomore release Bird Songs of a Killjoy, which arrives on Spacebomb Records, is full of spacious, nomadic folk balladry and highlights her subdued yet potent vocal style, which recalls a variety of ’60s North American folk poets. Korkejian’s silky voice is mesmerizing as its own individual instrument, but the poetic depth embedded in her narrations of love and solitude create an entirely separate atmosphere that is fruitful in sound and substance. Accompanying her hushed lullabies are beautiful instrumental compositions that assist the record in its effort to soundtrack the freedom that comes with releasing one’s inhibitions. Songs like “Under the Night” and “One More Time” possess an enchanting element of mystique, while tracks like “When You’re Gone” and “Bird Gone Wild” explore intense longing with grace.
Listen // Top Tracks: Sunshine Sometimes, When You’re Gone, One More Time
The Black Keys – Let’s Rock
After five years of studio silence, The Black Keys have risen from a period following massive success with a basic concept album titled “Let’s Rock”, which is essentially about little more than what its title implies. It’s arguably their most riff-heavy, guitar-centric release in a decade, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. On the surface, it appears to be another slick, over-produced collection of radio grabs, but the record is far from such. Lead singles “Lo/Hi” and “Eagles Birds” certainly seemed like they were at least vaguely trying to follow in the footsteps of the band’s past commercialized jingles, but in absorbing the entirety of “Let’s Rock”, they are merely a snapshot of a record that is simple, straight-forward and enjoyably performed. The band doesn’t have much to say in the way of deep lyrics, but the songwriting from an instrumental standpoint is agreeable and executed admirably. This album will not likely represent a touchstone in The Black Keys’ career, but die hard fans should be appeased.
Listen // Top Tracks: Lo/Hi, Walk Across The Water
Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars
21st Century Springsteen albums aren’t supposed to be good – or are they? The Boss returns for his 19th record with a sprawling collection of character-driven songs that recall the sublime storytelling of his heyday. Springsteen has always had a knack for the cinematic narrative, but he’s never done it quite in this fashion. The tales told on Western Stars explore a variety of Western-themed adventures. From basking in the worn glory of a past acting career adjacent to John Wayne’s on the spacious title track to enjoying a never-ending rolling stone lifestyle, Springsteen’s carefully-crafted portrayals of down-home American characters tap into the same nostalgic aura that made an entire country fall in love with him over forty years ago. The country embellishments are a pleasant touch too; steel guitar and understated acoustics are just two of the different musical components that aid in carrying out the album’s profound literary quest.
Listen // Top Tracks: Western Stars, Sleepy Joe’s Café, Chasin’ Wild Horses
Kirin J Callinan – Return to Center
There’s no ducking the flamboyant bravado that comes with a new Kirin J Callinan record. His latest, the elegant and comical Return to Center, comes with a rather unique concept. In creating this album, Callinan literally used rental instruments from Guitar Center to play and record all of the music. To make matters even more interesting, the entire LP was recorded in the period of time before the rentals had to be returned, hence the album title and cover art. All creative games aside, the songs on Return to Center – which are all covers – find Callinan in top form, presenting himself with as much swagger as ever before. Take the vibrant synth-pop jam “The Whole Of The Moon,” or the stripped-back, gut-busting ballad “Vienna,” both of which deliver booming vocal performances and a sexy retro aesthetic by way of slow-building piano melodies and subdued percussion. Callinan finds plenty of time to display his sharp wit too, most notably on the spinning lament “The Homosexual” and the Western folk-adjacent “It Takes A Muscle To Fall In Love.”
Listen // Top Tracks: The Whole Of The Moon, It Takes A Muscle To Fall In Love
Leif – Loom Dream
The internet age has brought an onslaught of talented underground electronic producers and with his latest project, Leif reminds us why he’s been in the genre’s upper echelon of beatmakers since long before Twitter was a thing. Loom Dream builds a lush, sensory-rich universe with manic attention to detail and fluidity. The album is comprised of two 17-minute compositions, each spanning over three tracks. The hypnotic instrumentals maintain a steady pacing, never quite in a rush to get where they are going. Warm chordscapes and deep layered synths guide the progressions throughout each song, shifting between various moods with ease. The ethereal “Yarrow” is a welcome contrast to the cold and eerie “Myrtus,” while “Mimosa” envelops you in a misty layer of dreaminess.
Listen // Top Tracks: Yarrow, Borage, Myrtus
Polo G – Die a Legend
Polo G looks like rap’s latest overnight sensation and as young as he is, Die A Legend may just end up his magnum opus. This isn’t necessarily a prediction of his career, but given modern rap’s blow-up and fizz-out-in-an-instant habits, it’s not unrealistic to think Polo G could arrive and get swept up one single wave of clout, especially when considering the critical and commercial viability of trap-rap will likely soon fade. In terms of the music, this album excels in a one realm – the storytelling is real. Polo G doesn’t have the most inventive personality for an MC, but his bars are heartfelt and his ability to weave a morbid inner city narrative together is compelling. This album is also flawed for multiple reasons: the production is moody and occasionally ear-grabbing but hardly interesting; and Polo G’s vocal delivery, while sincere, drifts into monotony on several occasions and his lyrical prowess is too derivative of his Chicago hood-rap predecessors to be anything original.
Listen // Top Tracks: Through Da Storm, Pop Out, A King’s Nightmare