Beach House - Once Twice Melody
Genre: Dream Pop
Beach House, if they had not already, establish themselves as one the great contemporary indie acts with this feature length double album. While often their soothing dream pop sound seemed at risk at becoming samey, they've constantly kept things fresh, I even thought their previous album was arguably their best yet, being darker, fuzzier and with more synths. This new one is packed with great tracks and split into four sequences that can work as EP's if you so choose (that was the way the band rolled out the release of the album).
It's sprawling, romantic and melancholic as you'd expect. For me, it lacked as many surprising new sounds as 7 had, but regardless this is pretty much hit after hit for Beach House and it's bound to remain one of the most impressive albums of the year.
Mistki - Laurel Hell
Genre: Indie Pop
Mitski has risen to be the Queen of indie at the moment, strong acclaim for her past work combined with such honest, great song-writing. Her sixth album is one that discuses her uneasy relationship with fame and her place within the music industry. Once again the song-writing is on point and this time a palette of '80s style pop production does pair for some really nice tracks. Mitski always appreciates brevity when it comes to her songs and albums and again this just over 30 minute release feels on point and is well suited for repeated spins.
The penultimate song seems to point towards a sombre ending to the album, declaring a goodbye after the previous nine songs had mused the troubles and dissatisfaction that the music industry brings to her. But the actual closer offers a more uplifting and upbeat finale implying that things are worth another shot despite all the pain she's endured. It's a really good album!
yeule - Glitch Princess
Genre: Ambient Pop / Glitch Pop
The second album from London based Singaporean artist yeule follows a wonderful debut back in 2019 which had impeccable sound design and a wonderful approach to textured pop songs. It sounded pretty special, lots of amazing songs on that album that were soothing and futuristic. This second album is again really well produced, with intimate lyrics as well as forward-thinking twists and turns.
Listening on streaming, you can also get a 4 hour and 44 minute long ambient soundscape to finish off the album. It's actually pretty nice ambient music, though the length is perhaps a bit much even by ambient music standards, but I'm sure if you had four hours and forty four minutes of work to do, this would be an ideal soundtrack.
Animal Collective - Time Skiffs
Genre: Psychedelic Pop / Experimental
A return for the psychedelic pop band Animal Collective, offering one of their most high-profile, accessible and enjoyable releases in a while. There's a keen sense of melody and lots of charm, it's a lot less chaotic than some of their past releases and definitely features less abrasive choices in the song composition. There's some really beautiful and heartfelt songs here that hit well, ending with a fantastic closing track as well that's got great lyrics and peaceful soundscape that builds to a stunning conclusion.
I haven't really been listening to much Animal Collective for the past few years but this has got me right back in the mood to listen to them, and maybe take this with some recency bias, it feels like their best release in many years to me.
Yeat - 2 Alivë
It's more Yeat, after 3 projects released last year (the last being just a few months back in October) this seems to be positioned as his breakout album and has some a couple big name features like Young Thug and Gunna. Otherwise though, it's pretty good, sugar sweet production and twisty, delirious rapping. If you like Yeat, here's some more of him, he's carved a fairly distinct lane even if the influence from Young Thug and Playboi Carti is pretty evident.
It's a set of fun, modern and fresh sounding trap music suited for parties or casual listening. Though continuing in this direction, there's a high chance of creative stagnation for Yeat, so hopefully he takes some more risks and tries different production choices if he's to inevitably give us another project this year.
Hippo Campus - LP3
Genre: Indie Pop
The rather unimaginatively named LP3 follows what I felt was a pretty underrated sophmore album, Bambi, from the indie-pop outfit Hippo Campus. The production and creative ideas on that album were pretty exciting. This carries over some of their strengths as expected, vocals from frontman Jake Luppen are very good and the production clean, but still with enough of a noisy or unpredictable edge that they don't end up formulaic or boring. For now, I'm not sure this quite follows up on how much I liked Bambi but it's a very good collection of indie-pop.
$NOT - Ethereal
Nice collection of accessible post-soundcloud era rap music with all sorts of topical collaborations and good contemporary production choices. AT a breezy 35ish minutes it's hardly a bad time if you want a nice mix of current hip-hop trends. $NOT is pretty versatile between aggressive ad-lib fuelled, bass thumping rap and more "ethereal" electronic beats that he can serve hazy R&B over. Most of the collaborations go over well here, though songs like Go, Euphoric and BENZO show him as more than capable to carry good songs by himself. Probably not an essential hip-hop album, but a nice collection of tracks.
Alice Glass - PREY//IV
Genre: Electronic, Industrial
This is an album that's been in the makings for years now. Alice Glass formally of the electronic duo Crystal Castles left the group and revealed her creative partnership with Ethan Kath of Crystal Castles was abusive. 5 years after her self-titled EP and a few loose singles since then comes PREY//IV the IV in the title a great way of reclaiming her work with Crystal Castles who released three albums, the second and third were simply titled (II) and (III). Also providing hype for me was Alice's new creative partner and producer is Jupiter Keyes formerly of one of my favourite bands HEALTH. He left that band in 2015 to partner up with Alice Glass.
So the result of this album feels like a mix of Alice Glass's chaotic Crystal Castles work, the noisy industrial electro-punk that Jupiter Keyes helped create as part of HEALTH and also some classic and contemporary dance music influences. It's well produced, Alice Glass sounds great, though I wish sometimes she'd lean into her more chaotic style of vocals that she's used a lot of past releases solo and as part of Crystal Castles.
alt-J - The Dream
Genre: Indie Rock
alt-J, a divisive band since getting a large amount of popularity from their debut album through offbeat, but catchy indie-rock tunes. Mostly it's the vocals being unusually unfit for typical "rock" music and the post-modern lyrics that can sometimes feel a bit """pretentious""" or kind of a whole lot of nothing. BUT I've enjoyed all three of their previous albums enough, their 2017 album RELAXER came closest to winning my heart with its darker instrumentation and better use of synths.
I'll have to give this new one time to grow on me, but it's less immediate than I found RELAXER to be, more in line with how I think of their first two albums, but this is pretty great sounding indie rock with abstract vocals, but also some genuinely heartfelt ones too.
VHS Collection - Night Drive
Genre: Synth Pop
As the album title and album art aesthetic imply, I first listened to this on a night drive! This is my first exposure to the band and they make pretty good synth-pop that commits to the darker night-time aesthetic. Lyrically it's nothing incredible, but the frontman has a good voice and the production is a lot of fun. Worth a shot!
Spoon - Lucifer On The Sofa
Spoon have been active for 28 years! Even more startling than that fact is that they've managed to be so consistent, this being their tenth album. While not really reinventing the wheel, Spoon are very dependable for an album's worth of danceable and catchy rock songs with an accessible sound and compelling, yet unpretentious lyrics. It's a very well put together album, each song feels like a decent hit, if you enjoy this sort of rock music then it's a no brainer to check this out, even if you're not familiar with Spoon.
Blank Banshee - Music for Menus
Genre: Electronic, Ambient
As usual for the enigmatic producer, this album comes out of nowhere and offers ambient soundscapes. Blank Banshee's music always evoked a comparison to the work of Brain Eno (especially his ambient pieces). This release fully leans into the ambience that Blank Banshee's work often allows. His sound palette is extremely distinctive, so crisp and almost uncanny sounding, leading to his place in the 'vaporwave' canon with his earlier releases. This mostly ambient work seems to be a homage to Brian Eno's Music for Airports as well as a more low-key use of his distinct electronic sound.
4s4ki - Here or Hell
Genre: J-Pop, Electronic
I came across 4s4ki's hyperactive j-pop through this song which I think is amazing, absolutely pushing pop music to its adrenaline fuelled peak. She's released a few projects since then, including this EP's sister release Here or Heaven which is also good. This comparatively to Her or Heaven offers an edgier tone but the same sort of hyperactive pop songs. It's quite creative and catchy and in this case a great twist on the typically sugar-sweet j-pop genre. Great production and a compelling voice at the center from singer/rapper 4s4ki makes this an EP well worth a look at.
Tame Impala - The Slow Rush B-Sides & Remixes
Genre: Psychedelic Rock
Self-explanatory album title, it's two new B-sides (which are maybe better than some of the songs on the original 2020 album) and five remixes. Also the previously released single Patience stapled onto the end, but that's been out for years. I'm a big enough fan of Tame Impala that any new stuff is appreciated, even given how The Slow Rush was relatively a disappointment in comparison to their previous albums. Remixes are mostly good, but letting Lil Yachty do psudeo-karaoke over one of the songs was an odd choice. An almost 18 minute version of One More Year is cool, letting it indulge in Aphex Twin style electronics. Then there's remixes from Four Tet and Blood Orange as well. Pretty nice collection overall!
Some Singles to be Highlighted:
...actually I haven't paid much attention to singles this month but, there's this one:
New Denzel Curry Single
The beat here is insane, the breakbeat that comes in for the distorted chorus by slowthai is fantastic. Denzel's rapping is fantastic as usual and generally the vibe of this track is unmatched by any other rap song I've heard in a long time. Excellent all round, so excited for the forthcoming album.
Also I went to a gig:
I saw Scalping Live
Scalping are an electronic / industrial band from Bristol, who I coincidentally discovered a few years ago during a fesitval in Bristol when I walked in on their gig and was blown away by the non-stop energy and psychedelic visuals accompanying them. Years later I have returned to see them as part of their tour in the run-up to their album release.
It was a blast of a show, these guys know how to keep everyone moving. Their instrumental music was mixed together for a continuous ~50 minute long set and there was constantly changing visuals projected behind them. It's a proper good live experience that I can't recommend enough and I'll be sure to check out their debut album when that arrives soon.