@@@ L’Rain: Fly, Die (Mexican Summer, 2021) Chopped up electronic music with heavy chop, glitch and fragmentary but also a bit of a r&b most notably in the male spoken word stylings. It’s pleasantly intense though crispy on the edges from a lot of sample stacking as well as copious amounts of compression. I don’t have the volume up high but it feels like somebody is trying to shove a transistor radio up my buttocks. I’ll hang for a bit of the second song which changes vibes — less smashed up and more pleasing — good sonic cop after bad sonic cop. Oy, I feel like maybe went from too much intervention to not enough as this one is overly pretty on purpose for balance. I like a lot of the sounds and I like the arrangements — it does a feel all over the place and not artistically consistent and that’s from a dude who loves music that breaks out all over the place. Is it indie? Is it New Age r&b, is it chopped electro, yeah well I couldn’t tell you.
@@@ Black Midi: John L (Rough Trade, 2021) Another listen off the PItchfork best of 2021 and I think I’ve heard this. It’s sort of updated Frank Zappa hopped up on Red Bull. Rock drumming, male spoken word, and a a lot of guitar riffage to drive the track. There are other elements but those are the ones that stand out. It’s got a huge art school feel which I’m not a huge fan of, I guess the strings on the guitars and then a sax skronk really evoke that. If you’re up for this flavor I would head over to Captain Beefheart, get some of that! It’s way weirder and more musical.
@@@ Wet Leg: Chaise Lounge (Domino, 2021) This track is on a Digg best of 2021 list and weirdly it’s a pre-release tune from a record out in April. It’s very Devo, straight rock with an aloof female just barely singing. Very nice sounds, well executed but the amount of creativity on offer here is quite limited. It’s barely got a twist on the classic rock quiet in the verse then hardly breaking a sweat in the chorus. More proof that mainstream music culture is more often than not super boring.
@@@ Japanese Breakfast: Be Sweet (Dead Oceans, 2021) Also off the Digg list and again we’re in very familiar territory, this time not the Devo action but ’80s sweet synth goodness with plinky guitar and female singers. Oooh, big Madonna cheese in the chorus — yikes I can’t let that go by without denouncing that. I’m not sure what to say here — well executed, sounds good but just wow not much particularly original but a very well done reproduction of a long ago performance. This is on the best of 2021 list!
@@@ fallfiftyfeet: Twisted World (Self-released, 2021). A metalcore release off Invisible Oranges 20 best metalcore releases of 2021. Advertised as metalcore I’m hearing more of a harder grunge sound especially in the drums and the singer. They get into it a bit more in the second track and when they do I really dig it. Oooh yeah, when they hit it it’s pretty full on with strong punk flavorings. Oh shit, my itunes is fucked beyond belief and just clicks through all the tracks, fuck tim cook and his bullshit machines. I switched over to bandcamp and it works though the quality is not as good. These guys seems pretty split between furious metal and more tuneful hard rock which is cool but it’s not really for me.
@@@ Pupil Slicer: Mirrors (Prosthetic Records, 2021) Also on the Invisible Oranges best metalcore records of 2021, this record opens brutal and I expect it’s going to just beat the fuck out of anybody who dares to listen. Wow, this is a debut, some impressive shit for a debut. Oh this first track has dropped the aggro for some forlorn moaning singing from the singer and farty, grizzled bass and then it re-ignites into a fierce storm of guitar noise and punishing drums. These guys have a certain amount of math to their sound but it doesn’t drop any of the fury when it gets all mathed up. Wow, that was one song, fuck me. There is a fair amount of PIg Destroyer happening here but the extra dimension of the mathiness does differentiate. Wow, this is some highly flammable shit, it’s quite mad and enjoyable. If yer up for some post holiday mucho aggro these guys will hook you up. Tight as fuck!!!
@@@ Arooj Aftab: Mohabbat (Verve/UMG, 2021) I’ve come across this record on many lists. I can see why from the opening section of this almost 7 minute banger. It’s a Nick Drake-y type folk thing done by a South Asian woman and she does it very well. My wife would really dig this, she loves that business. How does a person adequately describe the classic South Asian singing style — intricate and flightful? It doesn’t matter. This artist also has the good fortune to put this music out when people can stand to be calmed down. This is very good calming music without resorting to waterfall sounds and rainstorm ambient music which drives me mad. The other South Asian sound here is the merdungam (I think) hand drum which rocks a minimalist beat here. Outside of the singing the sounds are pretty standard and since I’m a slut I would love to get a more interesting arrangement but that’s just me.
@@@ Tonebeds for Poetry: The Devil’s Nag (From Here Records, 2021) Also slightly in the folk category this lands in the odder part of town. Autotuned vocals, chattering drums mixed very dryly and a stringy banjo/guitar tone in the opener. They set out on a vibe and just keep riding it. I like how you wouldn’t expect the processed vocal with these sounds — I like unexpected sounds. The second tune drops the processing and moves more directly into the space rock part of town but completely without macho. I don’t often say this but I’m surprised I dig this. It presents rock feels mostly but the presentation is pretty creative to my ears. Well now I’m full of shit as the third tune comes through mostly cloudy ambient music, it was a palette cleanser, somewhat as the next couple of tunes spread out, take away the drums and put some spoken word business in there. Like it a whole bunch without losing my nut over it.
@@@ Mickey Guyton: Remember Her Name (Capitol, 2021) I’ve seen Guyton’s name around the interwebz and now I see she’s the African American country music artist debuting this year. Sonically what it means to me is that she has a very strong and commanding voice, she can sing for sure, but in the name of what? The sounds here are the softer in the verse, and explosive in the chorus and her strong voice kinda ends up chees-a-fying the whole tune. Unfortunately. More inflationary and epic. I let the record roll on as I beefed with somebody on Twitter and it’s a pretty steady of big big new country. Hmmmm, big new country.
@@@ Ryan Sambol: It Has (Forever Wet Paint, 2021) This is slotted as alternative music, and it does indeed sport super slack vocalizing but I do dig that it’s served up over old school church-y gospel piano (and other instruments in other tunes). I’m on my second or third track here and the sounds lean towards a 1970’s blues-y rock mashup which I appreciate — I appreciate the faithful reproduction here. The singing here is an acquired taste. I’m agnostic — part of me appreciates the slack freakiness of it and part of me is like really? This one you have to check out for yourself to see if it works for you.
@@@ Dream Unending: In Cipher I Weep (20 Buck Spin, 2021) Third track off the record and it opens a cymbal splashy with a dark rock bassline. I’m listening to this after checking out the second listen first and am surprised the r&b track is more compressed than this one. I kinda dig while not being used to it. Metal is often really squished up. The singer comes in and he’s a cavemen, lots of gravel in his barely discernible lyrics. Big monster stomping feels here and the guitar playing is epic, the guitar player sounds like a demented church organ player from a Dracula film. Kinda wish the drummer was mixed in a way that had more impact (mostly in the kick drum to be honest) but grade A on the guitar blasting. As always agnostic on the caveman — I get why singers do that but I don’t love it.
@@@ Jenevieve: Division (Joyface, 2021) Upbeat, strongly ’80s influenced r&b. The singing is not perky but the arrangement sure is. I like the singer but dislike the guitar part and the straightness of the drumbeat. I switched out to the opening tune, Medallion, and the difference is night and day. This track is more modern with more modern sounds, and it sports a slower more sultry feel. I dig this more and now that I’m on the third tune it’s clear that I dig the singer and am split on the sounds and the arrangement.
@@@Baby Keem: south africa (Columbia, 2021) Off Pitchfork’s overlooked records from its writers. Major label production on this bad boy, fat bass, super slicked out beats but with impact. It’s a sparse arrangement and when he’s fully hittin’ it in the verse it’s pretty much him and the beats and the bass which I really appreciate. He follows the piano melody pretty closely. As for the quality of the lyrics, meh, nothing particularly notable. This is is pretty much the best you could expect from a major label effort. Not hateful, not cluttered, not trashy, that’s a big accomplishment for ‘merka these days. I am checking out the track ‘pink panties’ and the sounds are just as fresh. I appreciate Keem’s bounce on the microphone but he’s not a man on a mission.
@@@ Fiddlehead: Million Times (Run for cover, 2021) Big power chord guitar rock with production values. Smells like late ’80s early ’90s emo indie, not super punky but plenty of mustard on the wiener.. Lotsa singalong vocal melodies and extra stompbox in the chorus. Of course the chorus packs the most punch in the track. It’s a very familiar formula and they do it well, and while I’m not super excited by it as I’ve consumed a lot of these indie punk power pop guitar records but if yer younger and haven’t reached your fill these guys will hook you up. The player clicked through and it gets more urgent in the next track and I enjoy that more. Also via the Pitchfork and shit.
@@@ Tony Shhnow: Right Now (Dojo Records, 2021) From a list of underrated records from 2021 by Pitchfork writers. This track opens with a lot of lighter ’80s sounds but the MC spills all over the track, off the beat and slippery and possibly a delay or a second doubled track, I’m guessing it’s a delay. What we have here is an off kilter formula: shopping mall sounds and then mental hospital rhymes. I get it and appreciate it but I can’t say I’m super enjoying it.
@@@ yes/and: Ugly Orange (Driftless, 2021) Instrumental music, indie flavored, reminiscent of The Books from the Pitchfork. Some rando voices floating in the mix, beside some cloudy, flute like synths. The main component out front is a messy but a bit proggy guitar figure that circles and may be looped. It’s got a very relaxed, oxy vibe shall we say and it’s more vibe than super composed. That’s how I’m hearing it. I like the vibe but I would enjoy it more it dropped the guitar and rocked a super ambient flow, but hey that’s just me. I’m not sure I see the genius at work here. Quick peep of the next song verifies that guitar is key to the proceedings and the ambient, slightly trippy vibe is set to continue.
@@@ Julian Lage: Squint (Blue Note, 2021) I got to this young jazz guitarist’s record via the best jazz records of 2021 up on Slate right now. The question before us is not whether he can play like a motherfucker but whether he plays anything interesting. He’s got a very non-jazz tone for the guitar, he sounds like he’s a coupla hops away from a rock band. And I dig his tone, it modernizes the affair. The first piece is a pretty sweet solo piece called Etude. The second track called Boo’s Blues brings in the rhythm section and he sounds pretty close to Stevie Ray Vaughan in the beginning of this track. I don’t believe he’s gonna shred here, as in hit the stomp box and let the shit fly. This is for people with jobs. Ooh, he’s heating up I could be wrong! Noop it never happened. I skipped to the title track (the whole record is clipped below) Squint and this is the most interesting track of the three I’ve sampled as he’s coming undone. It still remains solidly in the straight jazz neighborhood and I would love to see his shit get even jankier than what’s on display here but it doesn’t look set to happen. Everybody in their lanes, that’s ‘Merka these days. Even the jazz hipsters are pretty conservative.
@@@ Anouar Kaddour Cherif: Djawla (Riverboat, 2021) Both listens today are off the WRIR weekly playlist email. I’m guessing this record hasn’t been released yet as it’s not up on Apple Music so we are left with the lame GooglePimpTube. The track opens with some tasty upright bass. After about a minute we get a stringed instrument and a pretty flavorful singer. The main component here is the space, there’s a lot of space to the arrangement so what’s there takes on by default a bit more significance. It’s a jaunt and a pre-release track. Mr. Cherif is Algerian and I’m enjoying his blend of jazz sounds and North African sounds. I would listen to more of this for sure.
@@@ ADRIAN QUESADA | Look At My Soul: The Latin Shade Of Texas Soul (Nacional, 2021) A single of from an album of Latin Shade of Texas Soul and thus far I don’t super hear the Latin influence but I do like the sounds and the energy on display here. If one were to put this track on the timeline it’s sort of late ’60s era type soul without the militant black power type James Brown sounds. The singer is the star here, rocking a yearning falsetto tone. People, he is tryin’!!! A big shreddy guitar solo then back into the meat of the tune which hangs on the hook ‘I’m trying to be a one woman man’. Ah, the sins of the flesh. I see on the Apple Music player that the guitarist from legendary Los Lobos is responsible for the shred here.