Ryan Adams - Ryan Adams: Ryan Adams is a master conjurer: See the NorCal folk rock of Cold Roses, the Southern alt-country of Jacksonville City Nights, etc. For his first LP since 2011 – a stretch for a guy who generally releases a record or more a year – Adams rewires heartland rock, with major-chord, Reagan-era guitars, muscle-shirt drums and a thousand-yard stare. "Trouble" declares, "Heeey, we might as well be dead and gone," astride fast-lane guitar choogle, while the agoraphobe narrator of "I Just Might" ponders a very bad act. This refreshingly focused set resolves on the chiming " Tired of Giving Up." An unfettered declaration of joy? Hardly. But hope, apparently, is a process. Nick
Recommended Tracks: "Gimme Something Good", "Shadows", "Trouble"
Tricky - Adrian Thaws: Massive Attack’s Tricky uses his birth name as the title of this album, could this possibly be the rilly rill Tricky? Adrian, rather. It’s definitely not the new Maxinquaye and I don’t think any of his albums can match it, but this one has some real gems. It’s kind of schizophrenic in that it doesn’t have any particular tone, but markets itself as a “nightclub hip-hop album.” Most of the tracks feature a DOOOPE female collaborator, ie. Francesca Belmonte, Mykki Blanco, Bella Gotti, Oh Land. Some tracks are strictly hip-hop, others more ambient groove, some club ragers, and one even delves into the realm of electro-jazz. “I Had A Dream” is one that falls into the last category, with Francesca Belmonte humming and singing softly over a tender beat and melody, with horns mmm. It’s beautiful and so on point. The flow between this track and the next is not a seamless transition. It’s called “My Palestine Girl.” It’s probably my least favorite track but I need to share the lyrics with you: “She’s got a wiggle when she walk, a giggle when she talk [then something weird and breathy that I can’t decipher], she’s my Palestine girl, my Palestine baby, she drive me crazy [another breathy whatever Tricky, what the fuck are you saying], I take a trip to Gaza, this love I’m really after.” Quite possibly the dumbest lyrics. HOWEVER Tricky’s voice is sexy so he can say whatever he wants and I’ll dig it. Adrian Thaws is straight up erratic and took me on a creepy journey through Tricky’s grit and grime. I think I understand him now. All hail the Prince of Trip-Hop. AWREE
Nick Monaco - Mating Call: Is intricate minimalism a thing? For electronic artist, Nick Monaco, the answer is yes. On his debut album Mating Call the young producer is careful to never overdo his beats while making sure to cram in enough samples to make even Girl Talk’s head spin. But something about this feels more authentic than the music of your average bedroom beatmaker. With endless vocal samples and features, you sometimes forget that this is one dude’s album, not the work of a full band. Fearlessly, Monaco allows his influences to shine through his tracks, straying (but never too far) from his deep house roots. Tastefully, he inserts a touch of soul here, a taste of reggae there, never lingering too long on one idea. The highway-ready track “Brooklyn Is A Submarine” literally bubbles into life with rock undertones, sitting atop an ambient guitar solo. Conversely, “She Got That Fire,” a dark reggae drawl, leaves you both sedated and at the edge of your seat, ready for more. Though diverse, the tracks Mating Call sound like they belong together giving Mating Call a sense of unity. I’ve always enjoyed EDM most in the club, but the subtle aesthetic of Mating Call makes it a good headphone listen as well. A-Rog
Recommended Tracks: “Ancient Ritual”, “Private Practice”, “Brooklyn Is A Submarine”, “She Got That Fire”
Death From Above 1979 - Physical World: Praise be to Tony Hawk for introducing me to DFA with American Wasteland back in 05’ (what a fantastic soundtrack). It’s crazy to me that that was nearly a decade ago, and after a breakup, a reunion, and a near re-breakup, the DFA duo has finally scraped together what is only their second album, Physical World. Not surprisingly, this is not the DFA of You’re A Woman, I’m a Machine. That album was raw and confrontational; this album is much more calculated and perhaps even reserved. The synth for one is much more present, and the vocals are actually melodic, which makes me wonder if the singer still drums on stage. “White Is Red” is one low-key example of a definite departure from the old industrial punk of songs like “You’re a Woman, I’m A Machine”. This album definitely crosses into some post-hardcore and even old school emo. “The Physical World”, the last track on the album, is another one worth pointing out because it layers hardcore vocals and bass over an electro videogame-like backdrop. Don’t go into this one looking for a “Little Girl” or “Romantic Rights”. Forget what you know about DFA and you might just be pleasantly surprised by what you find. Sam
Simian Mobile Disco - Whorl: Simian Mobile Disco gets some bonus “cool” points for recording this entire album live – with old tech and no laptops – out in the middle of the desert. That’s some pretty avant-garde stuff, and it paid off. The duo’s immersion into nature is readily apparent throughout the album, bringing a sense of organicity* to the electronic genre, especially in the ambient, perfect-for-meditation first track “Redshift,” which incorporates tones that sound like digital water drops. Similarly, both “Z Space” and “Casiopeia” sound like what outer space – or the nighttime desert sky – look like, if that makes any sense at all. [Just listen to those songs with your eyes closed and tell me you don’t imagine some type of ethereal space with twinkling stars and the curves of distant galaxies. (Or, you know, drop some acid and tell me if that works.)] This album could totally be the soundtrack to some new age yoga class. However, despite the predominantly ambient nature of the album, some of the songs – notably “Calyx,” “Hypnick Jerks,” and “Dervish” – are pretty dance-y, if you dance like Will Smith from Hitch or Thom Yorke… or Zach Nivens. Ashley H.
*This is a word, I promise. Google it… I did.
Recommended Tracks: “Hypnick Jerks”, “Dervish”, “Redshift”
The Bug - Angels & Devils: Art-noise provocateur turned soundsystem-wrecking dub/dancehall/grime producer Kevin Martin, aka The Bug, returns with his third album under this alias. This one is split into two distinct sides, one of more ambient, spaced out productions and one of no-holds-barred noise-ragga bangers. While this seems like a recipe for an uneven, awkward listen, it actually works brilliantly. The slower, quieter songs on side one are cavernous and grand, but sickly, like giant, beautiful, evil machines possessed by the melancholic spirits of the vocalists. After the slow drift of side one, the burst of destructive energy released by songs like the gigantic “Function” and cavernous “Fat Mac” is one of the most liberating, energizing experiences I’ve had with a record this year. Martin’s command of pure sound is incredibly impressive; every note and drum hit is mastered and tweaked for maximum sonic impact and immersion and moments of stunning beauty and power sit beside pure, fist-pumping rushes of energy. Despite having a guest vocalist on most tracks, the record is extremely cohesive. Artists as varied as Inga Copeland, Death Grips, and Gonjasufi are right at home in The Bug’s sonic universe. Granted, a record that combines grime, dub, dancehall, and noise, as this one does, is pretty much calculated to appeal precisely to my personal interests. But even if that’s not the case with you, music this uncompromising and true to itself doesn’t come around often. Henry