NxWorries - Yes Lawd!: This is one of my highest anticipated records of 2016. Anderson .Paak has been making major strides this year, between his critically acclaimed Malibu project and being scouted out and personally signed by Dr. Dre (seriously). In NxWorries, he pairs with Stones Throw beat maker and producer Knxwledge (also rad – check Hud Dreems) to make some shit that’s good as gospel.
This project was majorly hyped, as .Paak said, it was going to be his biggest shit yet, and it doesn’t disappoint. At 19 short tracks running just under an hour, this project is definitely different than I was expecting, but I’m not mad at that! Yes Lawd! is much more mellow than previous NxWorries collabs, but it has a really good feel to it, and it’s definitely grown on me the more I’ve listened to it.
“Suede” is the stand out track for me. This was the first NxWorries single I ever heard, and in his interview with The Breakfast Club, .Paak said that this was the track that sold Dre himself (great interview, check it here). Point is, if you listen to anything off the project, this is the one. “Link Up,” is really rad and comes with a tight music video. I’ll link it here (look closely and you’ll see Earl Sweatshirt makes a quick cameo too).
Overall, the two singles did end up being my favorite tracks off of the project, but there are a lot of hidden gems in here too. The beat switch on “Can’t Stop,” is next level. “Livvin,” is rad. If you’ve read any of my reviews before, you know I have a weakness for gospel influences and horn sections — this shit has it all. It’s a good one, trust. ZOE
RIYL: Anderson .Paak, Isaiah Rashad, Mndsgn
Recommended tracks: 2, 8, 9, 13, 14, 17
Leonard Cohen - You Want it Darker: For a musician whose career has spanned fourteen albums and 49 years, it’s a little wonky that this album is my first time hearing any of Leonard Cohen's works (outside the mind-boggling popular "Hallelujah"). Listening to the opening track, "You Want it Darker" felt like an initiation into a dark medieval cult with Cohen serving as the orator, instructing us on how to fulfill the master’s wishes.
Throughout this album, Cohen feels like more of a poet than a singer, and the emphasis of the album is on the stories he tells and the emotions he transmits. His voice is aged with wisdom, cracked and splintered from a long life (the man turned 82 last September). Although the first track certainly feels like a demonic hymn, the album changes tonally throughout, consistently revolving around themes of religion and the afterlife. This release is very thematically and sonically consistent, but for the most part each track feels like its own tale. A retelling of the journeys of Cohen's own life, a thorough examination of what’s to come for him.
Cohen's medical history has deteriorated slowly over the last few years, and as a result, the entirety of this album was recorded in his own private room. Any sorrow or anguish you note in the record reflects his own. He comments like a man standing near the end, prepared for the final journey. I usually discuss the tracks in depth around now, going into lyrics and analyzing their meaning, however this time it would feel too much like spoiling the real meat of the album.
It feels odd to analyze what may be a man’s final work, akin to learning of a man from the eulogy you hear at his funeral. It is an incredibly unique point of reference to then observe the rest of his discography, one reserved for us millennials understandably behind on quite a bit of musical history. Even without an familiarity with Cohen’s musical and cultural significance, understand that this work is of a man nearing the conclusion, at peace and ready for the life to come. RAMIRO
RIYL: Bob Dylan, the song where they say Hallelujah at the end of every sad TV show
Recommended Tracks: 1, 6, 8
A$AP Mob - Cozy Tapes Vol. 1: Cozy Tapes is A$AP Mob’s dedication project to one of its founders, A$AP Yams. Whenever the Beast Coast rap collective gets back together, you can be sure that shit is gonna slap.
Cozy Tapes is 10 tracks worth of slapps. Most of them are just straight hella fun to listen to, namsayin? I wouldn’t expect anything in terms of lyrical content or anything close to introspective, but I don’t think I would count that against them. It’s never really been part of their charm.
You can expect to hear blunted, wavy type sounds that still manage to knock, namsayin? I mean, if you’ve ever listened to anything ASAP before, it’s not doing anything too much different (and that’s definitely not a bad thing). Fashion references, car references, catchy hooks, etc.
Everyone also seems pretty consistent on this tape, too. There isn’t really any one member of the collective that stood out to me as being a weak link, and each had something to contribute. Of course, ASAP Rocky stays having one of the funnest flows in the game, and ASAP Ferg stays being one of the hypest dudes ever.
There’s a shitload of features on here too, Lil Uzi Vert, Tyler the Creator, Onyx (!) , Skepta, Juicy J (does anyone still really fuck with this dude?), Playboi Carti (so is he technically a part of ASAP mob now or nah?), MadeiNTYO (the uber guy), etc. JAISON
RIYL: A$AP anything, A$AP everything
Recommended Tracks: 1, 4, 5, 7, 11, 12
Cakes da Killa - Hedonism: Previously on IMF… Hedonism comes to us as Cakes da Killa’s first “official” album. Like, on Spotify and all that. Even though he’s been around for the last five years. If you’ve listened to his mixtapes, then you know what to expect… just higher fidelity in production terms. If not, wait till the sun sets, go for a drive, and put this on. While Hedonism may be Cakes' most accessible release to date, and aimed at a larger audience than his immediate fan base, it's still definitely Cakes.
“Send me to Mars if you can’t take my bars” CAMERON
RIYL: Le1f, Junglepussy, Mykki Blanco, LSDXOXO, Qween Beat, GHET0G0TH1K
Recommended Tracks: 1, 2, 3, 6
Avenged Sevenfold - The Stage: This week, one of my favorite bands of all time surprise-dropped a new studio album. Avenged Sevenfold’s The Stage doesn’t necessarily fully recapture the “A7X” sound that the world fell in love with time and time again, prior to Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan’s passing. Their last album Hail to the King was cleanly done but The Rev’s missing influence was agonizingly obvious. With the release of The Stage, Avenged Sevenfold fans have been given a truly redeemable work of art that is undoubtedly new and different but incorporates many of the elements that made us fall in love with this absolutely amazing band. As you listen through The Stage, expect to hear harmonizing, sweeping guitar melodies and hauntingly beautiful bridges. You can also expect Avenged Sevenfold’s trademark ability to slowly build emotional tension and release it in grand displays of head-banging riffage. My friend JT, a fellow metal aficionado, offered one intelligent criticism of the album: “You know when a band comes back after a while and tries really hard to sound like themselves?” There’s a bit of that going on, but we both agree this album is totally worth listening to, regardless. If you aren’t already an Avenged Sevenfold fan, damn you really missed out, didn’t you? But it’s not too late - The Stage is a great opportunity to become familiar with a cornerstone of contemporary metal. CHRISTIAN
RIYL: Metallica, Dream Theater
Recommended Tracks: The Stage (1), God Damn (4), Exist (11)
Ablebody - Adult Contemporaries: Ablebody is an LA synth pop duo consisting of identical twins Christoph and Anton Hochheim. They are also in the band The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. This album is filled with 80s synths, catchy melodies, and romantic lyrics. This is their first album, and it’s put out by LA record label, Lolipop. They worked with the producer who has previously worked on producing music for Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti.
This band first caught my eye when they started playing shows in LA with some bigger-name bands like Ducktails and Lolipop favorites Winter and Wyatt Blair. The name Ablebody is such a great band name, especially for this moment in time. As intersectional feminism becomes more widespread, it has been important to think about ableism, especially as it relates to mental illness and disability. This album and the band themselves strive to stir up conversations on ableism in the indie music scene. CHRISTINA
RIYL: The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, Ducktails, Wild Nothing, Smith Westerns, Ariel Pink
Recommended Tracks: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 10
Mary Halvorson - Away With You: So, Mary Halvorson is a guitarist based in New York, best known for doing some pretty free and avant-garde stuff and having worked with some of NYC’s finest in that regard, including John Zorn, Tim Berne, Ches Smith, Jonathan Finlayson, and Jon Irabagon (from Jon Lundblom’s Big Five Chord and Bryan and the Haggards). If you’re new to her music, I highly recommend her Tiny Desk Concert or her 2015 solo release Meltframe.
Away With You features Halvorson’s largest group yet: an octet featuring Smith, Finlayson, and Irabagon, as well as trombonist Jacob Garchik, and Susan Alcorn on pedal steel. While her new release continues Halvorson’s trademark style of thorny, melodic compositions mingled with often dissonant and confused-sounding bouts of improvisation, it also represents her most mature compositions yet. Each rhythmic change, counter-melody, or weird guitar effect seems to have a meaningful place in the song.
The group’s versatility also plays an important role in the sound of this record. Irabagon’s wailing, at times even aggressive, intonation, as well as Smith’s use of extended techniques contrasts beautifully with the more mellow parts of the album and the tone of Alcorn’s pedal steel. Each of these players brings something really awesome to the album, and under Halvorson’s leadership, I think that the group achieves a really unique sound. If you’ve been looking to get into the avant-garde, this might be a good place to start. JATIN
Gaika - Spaghetto: Fresh out on Warp: new tunes from London producer Gaika. Dark, Dissonant, and Brooding with shrill choirs and throbbing beats, Spaghetto’s soundscape is remarkably emotive. In a sonically specific genre where emotion is often lost to “bleeps and bloops”, each track from Gaika is rich with emotion. Taking into account his 2015 and 2016 releases plus his track from NON’s compilation album, Spaghetto represents a darker turn for Gaika. To be honest, it sounds like something that should be out on Tri Angle. Tracks like “Neophyte”, “3D”, and ”VSOP” characterize this new sound with harsh upper frequencies and plenty of reverb. Meanwhile, “The Deal,” “Glad We Found It,” and “In Between 2” hearken back to sounds more expected of Gaika - those more informed by Dancehall, Hip-hop, and grime. The well-roundness and range of content covered in the album gives it quality song-to-song relationships. Check this one out, spin it on your shows. CAMERON
Recommended Tracks: 1, 2, 4, 7
RIYL: NON, NAAFI, Kamixlo, Fade to Mind, Toxe, Amnesia Scanner