Editor's Note: Covers June until mid September not as in-depth as usual as I was away from home and working for this time.
Joey Bada$$ - 2000
A sequel in name only to his debut mixtape 1999 released when he was just 17 years old, 2000 marks Joey Bada$$'s return quite well with a selection of songs showing his versatility of making different sort of rap songs while all under the umbrella of modern boom-bap styled production that have mainstream crossover appeal.
While often lyrically more simple, the catchier songs on here are well produced and ready-made for cruising around. They're still hardly lacking lyrically either, but mostly point towards Joey having reached a level of success in which he's content. However, there are some harder hitting tracks, especially the excellent Survivor's Guilt in which Joey lays his heart bare over the suicide of rapper and friend Capital STEEZ. The features here are well picked, Westside Gunn steals the show on Brand New 911 which is appropriately grimy and Larry June fits like a glove onto the production featured on the track One of Us. The glaring lowlight is the track Welcome Back, an unappealingly horny song (of course featuring real-life villain Chris Brown). sandwiched between the Larry June joint and another great track, one which more respectfully tackles relationships featuring a ideal Men I Trust sample.
Overall though, it's pretty good! Just don't go in expecting an 1999 sequel and instead the next Joey Bada$$ album.
Fred again.. - USB
An EP from one of the biggest 'underground' DJs of the moment, UK producer Fred again.. His previous two albums released in 2021, two instalments in his 'Actual Life' series, featured more low-key electronic music with samples of people encountered in his life. They're like musical journals and very compelling (the third instalment in this series of albums is out soon).
HOWEVER, this EP contains some of the best and biggest electronic bangers of the year. Turn On the Lights features recently reformed EDM giants Swedish House Mafia and Future of all people, and it's as massive as you'd expect that combo to be. Jungle and its accompanying remix featuring Rico Nasty is similarly gnarly, sure to get any club riled up. The other two original tracks feel more akin to his Actual Life series, but a bit more turned up. Great house music. As a whole the EP is a great collection. Worth also shouting out an immense boiler room set by Fred again.. in which he has the crowd on strings, surely one of the best DJ performances as part of that series in a long while.
Dance Gavin Dance - Jackpot Juicer
I'm a big fan of Dance Gavin Dance, but even I have to admit their rapid output does lead to some repetitiveness in their work. While their earlier albums had a rotating door of lead singers to make each album distinct, since 2013's Acceptance Speech they've had a pretty set list of members, though due to an unfortunate combo of circumstances this will be the last album to feature clean vocalist Tilian Pearson (who has stepped away from the band due to sexual assault allegations) and the tragic death of drummer Tim Feerick.
A lot of the tracks on Jackpot Juicer sound like they could've been on any post-Mothership Dance Gavin Dance album (which is the record on which I feel like the set of members still playing here really gelled together). I don't think it's a bad thing, I really enjoy Dance Gavin Dance's high energy and technical, yet catchy brand of post-hardcore, but there are definitely obvious formulas on offer here. They're good formulas though! This is one for the fans only really, though it'll be interesting to see where they go next.
Destroy Lonely - NO STYLIST
One of the two signees to Playboi Carti's 'Opium' label, Destroy Lonely offers some hip-hop in the vein of Carti's deranged Whole Lotta Red. Featuring some great production choices, including a particularly memorable sample of Beauty School by Deftones.
For me, this album starts really strong but at 50 minutes and 19 songs it does feel front loaded. A lack of features, aside from a lone Ken Carson appearance on the final song also makes it an album that come its second half, starts blending together. But the front half of this album features plenty of great tracks if you're a fan of this sort of rap. The opening string of 5 tracks give you exactly what you want and from there it's a grab-bag of stuff that sticks out and stuff that doesn't perk up ears as much.
Steve Lacy - Gemini Rights
Genre: Alternative R&B, Indie Rock
It's nice to see Steve Lacy achieve some mainstream success off of his second and latest album Gemini Rights. The track Bad Habit went viral on TikTok and what a great track to benefit from the coveted 'TikTok boost'. Lovesick, but tongue in cheek, Steve Lacy provides a lot of honest songs that are really well produced and a great showcase for his strong song writing skills and guitar playing. It's a great time to jump on the Steve Lacy train while he's having some success in the mainstream!
Larry June - Spaceships on the Blade
Bay Area rapper Larry June's been grinding for years, but has cultivated a modest fanbase and even sold decently well independently with this new album. Definitely his most collaborative album yet, featuring some more mainstream features and a growing list of great producers to work with. His style hasn't changed much, which is smooth West Coast style music. Chill but still lyrically strong and featuring a nice mix of rapping and more melodic performances. While not the most particularly showy rapper, he's has a hugely likeable persona and lots of great wordplay and diary-like storytelling. If you haven't already checked his stuff out, why not start with this 20 track pack of songs that show off his general style, laidback vibe and versatility.
Oliver Francis - Hijinks
Oliver Francis stays keeping his fans fed. After a turbulent label-deal didn't work out for him, he's back independent and returning with surely one of his most consistent projects front to back which focuses on stronger rapping and lyricism, while also providing hazy, summery cloud rap production that lends nostalgia to his earlier stuff. While he still admittedly is "rapping about the same old shit" a lot of the time, if it ain't broke don't fix it. Considering this has some of his cleanest production yet, all self-produced as usual, it's a really solid tape. There's some tracks on here that make a case for some of his best work yet, like the catchy Forrest Gump. But generally every track here is solid and gel together to create a fun vibe. Really cool stuff.
Calvin Harris - Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 2
Vol. 1 of Funk Wav Bounces was a nice change of pace for the EDM giant Calvin Harris. Curating a fun summer themed set of tracks, that weren't all hits, but featured some great pop songs that deserved to dominate summer 2017, like Slide and Rollin. Sadly, despite a stacked guest-list and a committed summery aesthetic, there's nothing on this sequel album that reaches the same heights.
Lead single Potion featuring Dua Lipa and Young Thug is a serviceable and catchy pop song and there's some other picks on the track list like the chill, sunset ready Lean On Me with Swae Lee. But the amount of misplaced guests, like unfitting verses from Busta Rhymes, Lil Durk and 21 Savage, who don't really fit the summer vibe, bums the project out. There's a lot of interesting combos of guests, but it often just doesn't work. As well as generally the number of uninteresting pop songs. It's a lacking sequel.
JID - The Forever Story
JID's long-awaited sophmore album is definitely not short of ambition. Having blown up in 2017 and releasing a DJ Drama curated mixtape inspired record to tide fans over, we've still had to wait four years to get his next big project. As one of the most promising rapper's in the game, JID has always seemed like a man with his best work yet to come and The Forever Story arrives to a lot of hype and expectations given the long wait. It's clearly aiming to be his opus and it's hardly a bad shot, actually it might be his opus! Depends on what comes next from the rapper.
Featuring twisting flows, well curated beats and intuitive feature choices, this is surely one of the best hip-hop projects of the year and one of the most ambitious for sure. It aims for social commentary while retaining hooks and impressive wordplay, once again the most obvious, but apt comparison is to Kendrick Lamar (the two rappers are often compared due to a similar cadence). So it that to say that The Forever Story is JID's Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City? Kinda!? It has a mainstream appeal, while parading extremely impressive rapping from JID and has a good mix of catchy hooks with socially conscious song topics. It's one that gives a great instant impression and a lot to digest, worth the wait for sure and a rap highlight of the year.
Foals - Life is Yours
Genre: Indie Rock / Pop
After a two part album released last year which seemed to summarise Foals' career thus far, where do they now go? Well, to making pop music I guess. Though it's Foals flavoured pop music, so it sounds really nice and was ideally released during the summer season. It's a happier record than usual and generally more laidback and, honestly, more compelling front to back than a lot of Foals' records, even if the highs aren't as impressive. I enjoy this album a lot, it's a collection of very good pop-rock that thankfully doesn't really try to be pretentious or go too far into the pop-sphere. It's just generally a nice record that I have returned to a bunch, especially some of the singles like 2001, 2am and Wake Me Up.
Cochise - THE INSPECTION
Cochise released one of my favourite albums last year with his debut BENBOW CRESENT. This year he's back with the leaner and bizarrely characterized THE INSPECTION, in which he kinda plays and inspector character and dresses in a trench coat for all his music videos, but at the end of the day it's another set of Cochise songs. This time he dabbles in features, including great appearances from Chief Keef and Young Nudy. But the highlights are his silly, repetitive and catchily produced solo tracks like TURN IT UP and DO IT AGAIN. It's not quite as joyful and 'hit after hit' as his longer debut, but it's more Cochise and that's not a bad thing at all.
4s4ki - Killer in Neverland
Genre; J-pop, Electronic
Since I randomly stumbled across the absolute beast of a track that was 35.5 by experimental j-pop poster-girl 4s4ki, she's been steadily growing in popularity which is great to see. I haven't kept up with her new music as much as I should've but a set of two cool EP's last year were definitely on my radar.
Her new album is a tour of what makes her so interesting. some massive electronic focused tracks and other mixes of production. It's really exciting music that features some of the coolest production and a mix of rapping and singing that lend extra energy to this brand of pop music. It's probably the project I'd point towards for newcomers to help them discover exactly what 4s4ki is all about.
Triathalon - Spin
Genre: Psychedelic, R&B
Triathalon shifted gears away from surf-rock in 2018 to try out some spacey R&B, a direction that's continued with their latest effort Spin. Only I feel like the direction is more confidently carried out here. A uniform collection of tracks that sound like the soundtrack to a setting sun after a swelteringly hot day. I'm a big fan of summery music and this one sounds a lot like how its album cover looks. Hazy, psychedelic and drenched in autotuned crooning. I think it's great and I hope the band continue to achieve greater success since they're pretty underground right now, and most of their listens come from their older surf-rock stuff, which while also very good, I think the sort of psychedelic, hazy R&B on Spin is far more novel.
Superorganism - World Wide Pop
Genre: Indie Pop
There was a point in time, 2017-2018 specifically, where Superorganism were billed as the next big indie crossover act. With a selection of big singles that really showed their offbeat charm, it was a fun act to get on board with, and their self-titled debut was a very good record. However it's been silence since then, until the band returned, with less members and new singles. While their moment in the indie limelight is long gone, their new material is bound to be of interest to anyone who checked out their last album and enjoyed it. They've still got lots of charm and the lead vocalist's droll delivery is as appealing and charming as ever. The production is really tight and features some cool guest appearances from Japanese starlets CHAI and characteristically oddly, Pavement's Stephen Malkmus.
Yeat - Lyfë
Yeat has blown up into the mainstream this year and is keeping his steady flow of music coming. After an album early this year he returns with an "EP", which is 12 tracks and 30 minutes... It's pretty much what you expect at this point, though I'd rather 30 minutes of Yeat than an hour and there's some really good tracks on offer here. If you like Yeat, here's more Yeat, and I'm sure there'll be more Yeat very soon while it still remains the rapper's moment in the limelight.