"'Mr Morale & the Big Steppers' is absolutely crammed with lyrical and musical ideas" - Alexis Petridis writes reviewing the new album by Kendrick Lamar. Clash Music is equally enthused: "One of his most profound, complex, revelatory statements yet, a double album fuelled by sonic ambition, the will to communicate, and Kendrick’s staunch refusal to walk the easy path". Consequence hears "another bonafide masterpiece", whereas NME says "this album is as much about struggle as it is freedom, and what a beautiful sentiment that is".

"The album is the sound of a band stretching into new shapes" - NME writes in a review of Fontaines D.C.'s 'Skinty Fia'. It's also Alexis Petridis' Album of the Week, because - "In a polarised era, there’s something cheering about Fontaines DC’s bold refusal to join in, to deal instead in shades of grey and equivocation. There’s also something bold about their disinclination to rely on the most immediate aspect of their sound". Pitchfork tries to go to the bottom of it: "The Irish post-punk band’s most demanding and musically adventurous album is also its most open-hearted,  striking a perfect balance between tough and tender".

"'Aethiopes' is a dense text full of bursts of language that demand serious thought and analysis. You could transcribe all of woods’ lyrics on the album and sell them as a poetry book, and on paper, they’d cut deeper than most of the (admittedly very little) poetry that I’ve forced myself to read over the years. But this isn’t homework. This is a rap record, and it’s a great one" - Stereogum writes reviewing billy woods' new album. "With Preservation behind the boards on every track, 'Aethiopes' skids across eras, countries, and cultures... A clear mid-career apex that shoves woods’ always outlandish style into territories further afield than ever before" - Pitchfork wrote.

"The best songs on 'Diaspora Problems' master this balance of chaotic hardcore with more approachable hooks and a wide palette of non-hardcore styles" - Consequence reviews the new album by the Philadelphia band. Exclaim believes the album makes them "one of the most important heavy bands in 2022". Ian Cohen calls it "staggering... a ticking time bomb hurled by a band tired of waiting on solutions and taking power into its own hands". The band is very political, what they emphasize in the Guardian interview: "The real political character of America is just sheer apathy and a focus on oneself, for the sake of survival”.

In the aeroplane, over the sea
February 17, 2022

Black Country, New Road - "beautifully doomed fantasies"

"Music isn’t just about fun: it can be about creating remarkable soundworlds of baroque pop fantasias, and this band are outstanding at those" - the Observer looks into the new Black Country, New Road album 'Ants from Up There'. Ian Cohen hears an emo album because "they spend every second reminding us of why we let ourselves get swept up in these beautifully doomed fantasies to begin with". Music OMH says it "sounds as though Black Country, New Road are less concerned with making a statement, more willing to let their songs unravel slowly instead of uncoiling with jack-in-the-box furore".

How to listen to Dragon?
February 11, 2022

Big Thief new album 'Dragon...' - "ambitious and unburdened"

"In 20 songs, Big Thief have rambled far beyond the bounds of their previous catalog... 'Dragon...' is as heavy in its lyrical concerns as any previous Big Thief record, and more ambitious in its musical ideas than all of them. But it also sounds unburdened, animated by a newfound sense of childlike exploration and play. Twenty times, it asks 'What should we do now?', and twenty times it finds a new answer" - Pitchfork really appreciates playful new Big Thief album (9.0 score, Best New Music tag). NME finds similar joy: "the band employ some weird methods that ultimately end up making sense; often allowing their varied surroundings to creep into the creative process". Spin calls it "an overwhelming effort, aiming for band’s magnum opus".

“The pandemic pointed me to the necessity of there being some rhythmic backbone. I had to use some drums, because you can’t be floating right now” - Earl Sweatshirt says about his latest album 'Sick!' in a Pitchfork interview. Stereogum argues "'SICK!' is still sharper and more tangible than the foggy, atmospheric doubt-trips of Earl’s last few records. Earl’s voice is higher in the mix. There’s less blurry noise around the edges of the tracks. The drums kick more. The melodic loops resolve".

"Drinking from the same ancestral well that informed earlier radical Black music is integral to Irreversible Entanglements’ approach: after all, they are passionate and angry for many of the same reasons as the aforementioned [the Last Poets, the New York Art Quartet, Archie Shepp], because far too many of the circumstances remain the same. The fight isn’t over... It’s righteous music, hopefully as a prelude to righteous action" - The Quietus writes in a review of jazz/hip-hop band's new album 'Open the Gates'. "Although this ensemble boast conservatoire rigour, their revolutionary, Afrofuturist music is imbued with punk spirit, a love of ambient spaciousness and electronics" - Guardian insists.

“Inside a song, you are neither here nor there, a liminal feeling that evokes so much of our time in life languishing in the middle. Call it meta-heartland rock” - Pitchfork writes about their lates Best New Music choice, The War on Drugs’ ‘I Don’t Live Here Anymore’. Mojo insists it’s a “calm space amid a world in collapse”, whereas NME points out “there’s magic everywhere you look on this triumph of an album”.

"'Geist', an album largely focused on spiritual shifts and ruptures, is a quiet, lovely, undramatic rendering of the dramatic... How ruination can lead to resurrection, and life can feel sweetest when one surrenders to change" - Pitchfork reviews the new album by Shannon Lay. Clash describes it as "the vulnerable soundtrack to a person’s self-discovery during a period of long, hard reflection", whereas Narc hears "an incredibly beautiful and delicate record". Dusted likes the comforting side of it - "it’s humble, heartening and wise".

"New York City has long been a character in rap. But 'Half God' is the story of how that character has shaped our protagonist, a young man immersed and in love with its spirit, holding on loosely to an ever-evolving community in which he sees his own reflection" - Pitchfork argues in favor of New York rapper Wiki's new album. Stereogum points out to the producer - "Wiki and Navy Blue display an easy, expansive chemistry".

"Levy’s ear for melody and flair for the dramatic makes for a prime example of how effective this sort of music can be when it’s done this well" - Stereogum argues its latest Album of the week choice. The Skinny appreciates how "its capacity to reach around the edges of an empty room, and equal ability to cut through the sound of life bustling in the background lends it a warm, encompassing quality". Exclaim likes its borderline quality: "The whole thing glows with a particular late-summer energy, its precise, golden hour arrangements hinting at the wide-open chill of fall".

Critics have a lot to say about the latest album by the Arizona rap gang. "Injury Reserve have woven together a darkly contorted tangle of sounds, a collage that hits like a barrage... a record that demands your attention and challenges your perspective released into an age defined by zone-out streaming bait" - Stereogum argue in favor of their choice for Album of the week, calling their music post rap. The New Yorker argues "this is the first of the group’s projects to sound greater than the sum of its parts, to feel singular", and "by far the best" album by the band. Pitchfork appreciates its creativity: "The songs are immediate and intuitive, brimming with personality and ideas".

"It takes her music in a somewhat more accessible direction while retaining the creativity and fervor of the rest of her work. Considerably less noisy than previous Moor Mother releases like her 2016 breakthrough 'Fetish Bones', the album flows through slippery jazz rhythms, mellow R&B vibes, and meditative ambient textures, with Ayewa's lyrics remaining forceful even as she's delivering them in a softer register" - AllMusic quite likes 'Black Encyclopedia in the Air'. Exclaim goes into the genre of it: "Mostly sticking to hip-hop beats and more traditional song structures... Ayewa decides to challenge listeners through performance and her lyrics... Moor Mother uses her genre-agnostic style to tackle to world's most popular genre and make it undoubtedly her own".

"'Hey What' refinements make it clear that they are still finding fresh angles on the same themes that have animated them since the beginning: using minimalism to express the entwined pairing of intimacy and loneliness, searching for meaning in the rubble after a departure too catastrophic to address by name" - Pitchfork says in the review of the new album by the slow-core greats. Here, Low take a slight turn into electronic terrain, although Alexis Petridis insists "the people behind 'Hey What' are redefining how a rock band can sound".

Sometimes she might be the greatest
September 03, 2021

Little Simz releases "rich, fascinating" album 'Sometimes I Might Be Introvert'

"It’s Simz’s most personal album yet but also her most removed, in the sense that it’s cinematic and surreal and overwhelming... 'Introvert' is heady and dense and restless — a masterwork" - Stereogum gives a verdict to London rapper's new releases (it's also Stereogum's Album of the Week). Guardian likes the leftfieldness of it - "Voraciously creative, clever and cool...  It is notably non-synthetic and twitchily alive, with Simz’s vocal presence so intense and distinctive it is able to withstand all manner of genre-fickleness". Gigwise insists Simz is at the "highest echelons of British rap".

There's also beauty there
August 29, 2021

New Sounds makes a selection of music from Afghanistan

Badieh

New Sounds produced a podcast with a selection of music from Afghanistan, putting a different light on the troubled nation. Among the selected are Homayun Sakhi and Quraishi with their rubâb music, folk poems of Afghani women, the Hazara tradition by Hamid Sakhizada, and adapted music from the Khorasan region by the duo Badieh. Much of the music comes from musicians who have fled the country to Europe or North America.

"On his debut album, 'The Long and Short of It', [Graham] Jonson, now 21, reconciles his approach to beat music with a form of bedroom pop, using two genres known for their modular simplicity to create complex psychedelic music with vast emotional horizons" - Pitchfork reviews quickly, quickly (grade it 8.1, don't call it emo-rap). Magnetic describes it as quickly, quickly's "most complex and interesting project to date".

We need all that
August 18, 2021

Ka - a philosopher among rappers

The New Yorker shares a profile on NY City underground rapper Ka, who has just released his new album 'A Martyr’s Reward' (the only official way to listen to it online is to purchase a zip of the wav files on his Web site). "Ka has preserved a certain strain of bars-first New York City rap that prioritizes its stark, ascetic music-making practice as much as its hardscrabble tone and acerbic lyricism. Ka’s voice is gruff, yet he raps discreetly, as if recounting secrets under his breath. The verses themselves are almost like incantations muttered in code; it takes intent listening to puzzle them out. His wordplay is its own sort of quicksand, shiftily multisyllabic and crowded by entendre. But he is a philosopher above all: his lyrical feats are performed in pursuit of wisdom".

'Dreams Still Inspire' by the Chicago underground rap duo Abstract Mindstate is the first album fully produced by Kanye West that was not his own since Common’s 'Be' in 2005. It is also the first release under West's new YZY SND imprint. Coming out nearly 20 years after the release of their first and only album, 2001’s 'We Paid Let Us In!', and "with lyrics and production that perfectly complement each other, Abstract Mindstate's reunion album is a masterclass in Hip-Hop fundamentals", Hot New Hip-Hop points out.

"Grit and earthiness grounds this album in its spacious atmospheres and crushingly sludgy riffs" - Metal Injection reviews new album 'Celestial Blues', a "kaleidoscopic take on doom gaze and ritualistic folk" by King Woman. Pitchfork gives the album 7.5, describing it as an "exploration of spiritual healing and survival that’s been shellacked in a veneer of grungy malaise, heavy post-rock, and blissed-out darkness". The band is fronted by the Iranian-born Kris Esfandiari who "presents herself as one of the chief proponents of metal informed by spiritual inquiry, yearning for emancipation from the habituated self, and the complex desire that exceeds convention. She’s a modern-day gnostic", Beats Per Minute argues.

The more of you I listen...
August 01, 2021

'Thirstier' - "the best Torres has ever been"

"'Thirstier' packs in monster hook after monster hook, with dense layers of crashing drums and whirring synths and bells-and-whistles that push each song to the next level" - Stereogum argues in favor of their latest choice for the Album of the week. Pitchfork gives the album 7.8, because it's "anthemic and euphoric, loaded with hooks and joyous reflections on love and self-discovery".

Mega Bog "exists in a universe both familiar but foreign. I do not always understand what her songs are about but I am drawn to them all the same and find myself quoting lines" - Brooklyn Vegan writes about the latest album by the experimental pop artist. "Musically, 'Life, and Another' is the most inviting Mega Bog album yet, with jazzy chording, dreamlike synths, and impressive playing all around... It's loaded with instantly likeable songs".

The boys are back in shape
July 13, 2021

Vince Staples and IDK bring substance to mainstream rap

IDK / Vince Staples

"Produced entirely by Kenny Beats, the album’s reserved musical approach magnifies the blunt scene-setting Vince has used to build his name over the last decade" - Pitchfork reviews the latest Vince Staples' album. Guardian deems it "much more personal and accessible than anything he’s put out before". "A record that evolves in real-time, ‘USEE4YOURSELF’ finds IDK speaking his truth. An amalgamation of styles that recalls the frenetic creativity of 00s Kanye, the record finds strength in personal revelation, with IDK often at his most individual when surrounded by his peers" - Clash Music reviews the latest album by IDK. NME points out how "talking about how following his dreams has led him to a happier life gives the record an optimistic ending".

The West African quintet with one foot in art-folk and other in psychedelic soul, The Narcotix have released their debut EP 'Mommy Issues'. The Brooklyn-based band cites African wedding music, choral symphonies, and Afrobeat as major influences on their style, while Pitchfork points out that "early in their career, the Narcotix have a knack for subverting expectations. Their songs are bright and bursting with detail, fueled by an affection for the music they’ve inherited and the myths they’ve built from it".

"A song is a static thing, one that will outlast a memory even after it’s fully disintegrated. On 'Home Video', Dacus sounds intent on recapturing a moment that’s already gone" - Stereogum reviews the new album by the indie singer-songwriter. Pitchfork hears her suggesting - "write your own moral code... write your own worldly music". "Her wise brand of rock music blooms into something even more palpable, relatable and beautifully messy" - Paste Magazine insists.

"A dense, kaleidoscopic album that might take a lot of time to fully unpick" - Alexis Petridis reviews 'Call Me If You Get Lost' by the California rapper (gave if 5 of 5 stars). Vulture likes "gorgeous sonics, well-placed samples, and entertaining sparring with guests rappers and singers", whereas Stereogum says Tyler, Creator has "given the genre one of its most vital adoring tributes in recent memory". Consequence says simply 'Call Me...' "might be the best hip-hop album of 2021".

"Instead of enduring pain, it’s best to excise those demons entirely — through her music, Backxwash confronts the darkest parts of herself and depicts how impossible it can be to leave those parts behind" - Stereogum reviews the latest album by Canadian alternative rapper. "In expressing her pain so directly and viscerally, Backxwash’s music offers a sense of genuine catharsis and connection. It is, in its own haunting way, strangely comforting" - The Quietus adds. Collaborators on the album - clipping., Speedy Ortiz, Code Orange, Code Orange, Black Dresses - speak plenty of the sonic side of this record.

"A gorgeous, hazy batch of songs that are somehow both haunted and buoyant in equal measure. It’s also a perfect escape into a masterfully created world" - New Noise reviews new album by the psychedelic garage guitarist Night Beats. The Quietus hears hope on the record: "Created during global pandemic and in the midst of Californian wildfires, Outlaw R&B' is an album reflective of a staggering turbulence of pain and suffering. Written, produced, and compiled amongst a ruckus of complete chaos, the album looks ahead to the light on the other side".

"Listening to 'Blue Weekend', you’re struck by an appealing sense of everything clicking into place" - Alexis Petridis writes reviewing the third album by the London indie-rock quartet Wolf Alice (gave if 5 of 5 stars). Brooklyn Vegan writer Erin Christie says "the trance I surrendered to is directly emblematic of the power of a band like Wolf Alice: they completely take your brain hostage as you enter their world". NME hears a "stone-cold masterpiece that further cements their place at the very peak of British music", whereas Sputnik Music calls it "one of those albums that qualifies as an event". 

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