Pusha T - It's Almost Dry
Pusha T's continuing to have a wonderful career resurgence to new levels after the break-up of his rap duo Clipse and transition into Kanye West backed solo artist. His new album follows the 7 track Kanye produced DAYTONA from back in 2018, with an album half produced by Kanye West and half by Pharrell Williams.
Pusha T is just straight killing it here over some of the best and most interesting production and choice features make appearances too. Pusha's subject matter remains the same: Cocaine and making money, but when the production and rapping technique is so fantastic, it remains a thrill even after all these years and he's still pulling out some bars that have you double taking because of how cold & clever they are.
Toro y Moi - MAHAL
Toro y Moi has a prolific career spanning over 10 years and now arriving at his seventh studio album. After switching up his electronic 'chillwave' roots for traditional instrumentation to going back to primarily electronics, he's now back with a psychedelic rock album that dials down on the electronics and up on the instruments again.
It's a perfect sort of low-key summer album as usual. Sounds like a fun jam session a lot of the time and has some typically tongue in cheek lyrical topics. Early days, but probably on the stronger end of Toro y Moi albums, especially compared to the other ones that focus less on electronic beats and more on traditional instrumentation.
Yung Lean - Stardust
Genre: Hip-hop, Experimental
Yung Lean gets a little bit experimental on his new "mixtape", featuring an interesting list of features and a more varied list of producers compared to his usual partners that stick with him project by project. This even includes brostep legend Skrillex lending his hand to two songs. It's one of Yung Lean's least accessible and chaotic projects, but in that lies a lot of rewarding aspects. There's varied production, varied performances from Yung Lean and all sorts of odd touches.
It begins with a cool collab with FKA Twigs, which makes for a song that sounds like uncharted territory for both Lean and Twigs. A weird and unruly pop song. There's features from Lean's usual gang, Thaiboy Digital, Ecco2k and Bladee all make an appearance, though Swedish language rapper Antwan also makes an appearance making for a curveball in Lean's English focused rapping. After Yung Lean's last album Starz played it relatively safe (as far as music by Yung Lean goes) it's interesting to see his creativity let wild on this mixtape. It's not all clicking for me right now, but it's an addictive project as usual and very enjoyable.
Northlane - Obsidian
Northlane were unknown to me until their fantastic 2019 album Alien, which really felt like the best metalcore album in years and an effort that aimed to push the genre into new, untraveled areas. Their follow-up Obsidian feels like they saw what was working with Alien and doubled down. It's got most of the trademarks of a good metalcore album, with big breakdowns and anthemic centrepieces, but Northlane also experiment with synth heavy tracks. The mix of electronic and metal/rock doesn't come much more exciting than Northlane's brand. It's not quite industrial, but a fresh evolution of metalcore, a genre that definitely at times runs the risk of being repetitive or redundant.
Again Northlane's strengths lie in their varied instrumentation, headbanging breakdowns and now, a further foray into flirting with electronic elements. Years ago the addition of synthesisers in metalcore was mocked, but Northlane manage to make it work for another one of the most exciting albums from the scene. Frontman Marcus Bridge is a fantastic vocalist as well, having the range to hit gruelling screams and melodic highs seemingly at ease. Northlane's previous album Alien was one of my absolute favourites of 2019, this surely has potential to be one of my favourites of 2022. Not since ERRA's self-titled last year have I felt so energized by a metalcore record.
Weiland - Vices
Weiland is an interesting artist and his new album Vices is his most interesting work yet. Starting out by making viral plugg / trap songs with catchy melodies, then upgrading to Travis Scott esque pop-leaning autotune drenched music for his self-titled 2020 debut album. This new album is psychedelic synth-pop that sounds as influenced by '80s pop music as it is contemporary trap and psychedelic revival music like Tame Impala.
While there was a fight against it, autotune has been accepted by most now as a stylistic choice and not a crutch, and this is an album which fully capitalises on the vocal effect. This features some of his best melodies and lyrics over some fantastic production. It's certainly unlike most other synth-pop albums out there right now, very fresh and has surprises on each song.
Wet Leg - Wet Leg
Genre: Indie Rock
Wet Leg emerged as the new indie darlings of the UK last year through just the release of a couple singles. It's easy to be cynical, but the band composed of Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers had lots of charm and very catchy riffs and tongue in cheek lyrics. Their self-titled debut is pretty good! It's probably exactly what you'd expect after listening to their singles. Sticky hooks, self deprecating lyrics and silly, but honest storytelling styled lyrics.
Wet Leg have clear influences from '00s indie rock and pop, but their dry approach to the style while still having such catchy riffs and well crafted lyrics makes them an easy band to get on board with. Charm can get you as long way and I'm interested to see where the two take their music next, since this debut is definitely a success.
Let's Eat Grandma - Two Ribbons
Coming back after a period of personal turbulence, the duo of the somewhat awkwardly named Let's Eat Grandma return with a great third album. Showing maturity in the song writing, that provides some emotional and exciting songs. Really expressive vocals and inventive synth patterns, which make way for more acoustic leaning tracks in the album's later moments.
PUP - THE UNRAVELING OF PUPTHEBAND
Genre: Pop Punk, Rock
Canadian punk rockers PUP have been consistently putting out great pop-punk adjacent tunes since their 2014 self-titled debut. In my opinion each of their following two albums got better and better, and after a fun EP in 2020 their back with their fourth studio album. As usual the music thrives off of chaos, vocalist & guitarist Stefan Babcock always delivers a fantastic performance with clever lyrics and song topics. PUP has always had a (assumingly) partially tongue in cheek honesty when it comes to the troubles of being a indie band in today's landscape and THE UNRAVELING OF PUPTHEBAND tackles that topic at its most raw.
It's an album filled with post-adolescent angst and killer hooks. It's often funny, as usual for a PUP record but also it really hits that sweet spot where it's not quite poppy enough to be pop-punk but still accessible to not put off those not into pure punk or hardcore. While a lot of the record's lyrical content seems to wallow in misery at the downsides of the music industry, the ending seems to point towards the idea that life would be far worse without it, and that's a nice happy ending! Another really good PUP album.
HEALTH - DISCO4 :: PART II
Genre: Industrial, Electronic, Rock
Following 2020's collaboration album DISCO4 :: Part I comes the sequel. HEALTH's DISCO releases previously held remixes of work from their studio albums, but DISCO4 was filled with new tracks that focused around a collaboration with all sorts of artists. It was a success, working with artists in their general bubble like Youth Code, The Soft Moon or Xiu Xiu as well as wildcards like JPEGMAFIA, Ghostemane and Soccer Mommy.
Part II might just be a stronger instalment in the Disco4 collection. Featuring big collaborations with Nine Inch Nails, Poppy, The Neighbourhood and Lamb of God, among others. Despite the variety on offer, HEALTH keep the track list tight and flowing well. Most of the songs feel like a good marriage between HEALTH and their collaborator. It finishes up with a new solo HEALTH track as well. It's well worth a shot simply for its variety and it even led to me finding some great new artists to check out like Maenad Veyl, EKKSTACY and Street Sects.
Haru Nemuri - SHUNKA RYOUGEN
Genre: Experimental Pop/R0ck, J-pop
Poetry over lush instrumentals from Japanese singer-songwriter-rapper Haru Nemuri. Her new sprawling 21 track album is full of surprises and rich variety. Mixing joyful j-pop melodies, speak rapping and some screaming for good measure, there's lots to take in and enjoy here.
Of course it's Japanese so I dunno what's going on lyrically, but it's probably a testament that this is so enjoyable that it crushes the language barrier so easily for me. Lots and lots of great songs.
Kelly Lee Owens - LP.8
LP.8 is not the eight LP from electronic artist Kelly Lee Owens, but it is a new record. Compared to her previous two records it is more experimental, minimalist and ambient, but still sounds absoolutely fantastic and absorbing. I think one of the primary appeals of Kelly's music was her powerful vocals, which are absent or unusually not as prominent here.
But the production is dark and has bas and drums that really hit amongst the ambience and warped techno. It's not as immediate for me as her previous work, but it's definitely a really nice mood piece. It's got a interestingly eerie closer as well, with repeated spoken word mantras. Different and cool!
Ocean Grove - Up In The Air Forever
Emerging as part of the Australian metalcore scene, Ocean Grove's 2020 album Flip Phone Fantasy saw them switch to more anthemic rock music with elements of nu-metal. In that sense this record is absolutely a sequel to that one, only pushing even harder to capture the sun-soaked anthemic qualities of the best tracks from their previous albums, with almost no trace of metalcore and less nu-metal rap-rocking going on as well.
It's a very tight set of anthemic and sunny songs that seem intended to be played loud with the windows down. Simple, catchy and rocks hard.
Scalping - Void
Genre: Industrial, Electronic
This Bristol based industrial band has been on my radar because of their amazing live gigs. I've seen them twice and both times it was a blast so here's their debut album to send support to. Sounds like futuristic club music or like music from an alternate future where Nine Inch Nails was the most popular band on the planet and became the new 'Pop'.
This sounds really crisp and is both atmospheric as well as banging. The inclusion of guest vocals makes for some interesting looks into where they can take their sound in the future, as a track like Tether is a cool highlight which keeps things fresh amongst the mostly instrumental tracklisting.
Hatchie - Giving The World Away
Genre: Shoegaze, Indie pop
Something magical happens when you start putting shoegaze reverbed guitars onto pop song-writing, which is what Hatchie's sophmore album is doing. A blend of '90s worship with modern pop music appreciation makes for something that sounds really nice.
Swedish House Mafia - Paradise Again
Genre: Electronic, House
Here's a curiosity: Swedish House Mafia, one of the tentpole EDM acts of the early '10s have returned 10 years after disbanding in 2012 to release their debut album! Previously they've only released singles and a compilation tape. In the world which is alternating to a post-COVID mindset, I've always thought EDM might make a big comeback and with their album release and a headliner spot at Coachella, seems like Swedish House Mafia might be banking on that as well.
This hour long album is filled with guests and a darker texture to a lot of this house music. A song like Mafia sounds like a Gesaffelstein song, offering some simple dark techno. There's a mosh-pit anthem featuring A$AP Rocky that doesn't quite feel like a floor filler. Though the more pop leaning collaboration with The Weeknd sounds good enough that he's including it as a bonus track on January's Dawn FM.
As somebody who did have an EDM phase around when Swedish House Mafia were first active, I'm afraid to see there's not really much here that really stands out to me. While I've reappraised other big artists like Skrillex, Swedish House Mafia's old music just reeks of 2010-2012. This new collection of tracks doesn't really perk my ears up much, but there's a grab bag of worthwhile stuff for sure.
Yeat - 2 Alivë (Geëk Pack)
Yeat's back already with the patented 'deluxe' version of his 2 Alivë project. It's noteworthy as it has some tracks that are better than anything on 2 Alivë. Nëw Turban is pure bass and the features from Lil Uzi Vert and Lancey Foux could easily have displaced some tracks off of the main album. But the people want as much Yeat as possible and he is doing a good job of keeping the supply chain going.
Also I went to some gigs:
(four to be exact)
I saw Porter Robinson Live
He made my favourite album of last year, so I had to check out his live set-up and it was wonderful! Amazing audio-visual experience, a focus on his new Nurture album but with live twists and plenty of call backs to his previous work. Got very sweaty, but it was well worth it. One of my most memorable live gigs I've been to for a long while I think.
I saw HEALTH Live
My second time seeing HEALTH live, this time in London. Clouded in smoke and strobelights, it was a suiting performance of noisy industrial rock. They play stuff from across all four of their albums. Great gig from one of my favourite bands.
I saw Nothing Live
Great shoegaze performance from the band Nothing, real passion in this performance and a great crowd. Also lovely lights - very colourful!
I saw Melt-Banana Live
Non-stop energy and insane guitar playing from the Japanese noise band Melt-Banana. Such a massive burst of energy and a suitably noisy but charming set.