New Music 9/6/19

It’s week 37 of 2019 and I’m reviewing albums that were released on 9/6/19. I’ve switched up how I’m picking the albums to review. I use Tidal exclusively as my streaming service of choice and with that, every Friday and into the following week, I’m going from top to bottom on the new release section and listening to at least the first two tracks of every release. If those first two intrigue me, I’ll listen to the full album. If not, I move on. Below are at least some of the ones I’ve listened to in full.

Song of the Week: My Life Story, “World Citizen”
  • Album: Post Malone – Hollywood’s Bleeding
  • Previous knowledge: Everything
  • Review: In the past year I’ve made a pretty drastic transition on my opinion of Post Malone, moreso than any other artist I can remember, in ages, if not ever. I started out thinking, “white douchebag with tats on his face, calling himself a rapper but he sings more than he raps and this shit is weak psuedo-pop anyway” to listening to Beerbongs & Bentleys and thinking “Okay, so it’s still hard to take this dude with the tats on his face very seriously, but this album is pretty damn good and is a bit unique.” Now with the new album I’m at, “Post Malone has really crafted a pretty unique sound for himself and it’s kind of cool how he incorporates a lot of true pop music in his music.” Notice I didn’t mention his face tattoos and I actually called him by his real name. Progress, right? In reality, I like Post Malone, in fact, I think I really like him. Sure, there’s quite a few artists in the soundcloud rap genre that have tried to cop this his sound but Malone continues to evolve into something uniquely his own. While you only hear the trap-ish tunes on the radio, Hollywood’s Bleeding has variety. Yes, many tracks have a trap backing beat but layered with some pop music and with Malone singing on most of the tracks, it’s not your typical mumble rap. When you listen to the full record you get different sounding tunes, like “Allergic” which has a vibe that wouldn’t be out of place on a Meghan Trainor record (I know that doesn’t sound inviting here but it works). “Take What You Want” has heavy rock guitars and forms the unholy pairing of Malone with Ozzy Osbourne but it’s “Myself” that really caught my ear. Using a familiar pop rhythm, this track is pure pop and if released as a single could possibly be the song of the year. What this comes down to is that Post Malone is evolving over time. While he’s got a sound that is totally recognizable at this point, it’s his sound. And as long as he continues sounding unique and evolving, he has a new fan.
  • Rating: 9.5/10
Post Malone, “Myself”
  • Album: Alessia Cara – This Summer
  • Previous knowledge: Radio tracks
  • Review: Woah now Ms. Cara! This Summer is a tiny EP with huge sounds! She’s had three pretty big hits in her career so far with “Here” “Scars to Your Beautiful” and “Stay” but don’t expect to hear those tracks again on this record. Though lead single “Ready” kind of has that similar laid back pop vibe, the rest of the EP is upbeat, danceable and funky as hell. Unconsciously, I found myself bobbing my head up and down to “What’s On Your Mind?” and especially the killer “Okay Okay” which makes me want to get up to get down. There’s two unfortunate things here, the first being that there’s only six tracks here and I sooooo want more of this and the second being that four tracks have been released as singles and none of them charted, which almost surely means that this new direction will be short lived if she wants to move into superstar status at some point (and/or if she wants to remain with her label). But I’m enjoying this now while it lasts.
  • Rating: 9/10
Alessia Cara, “Okay Okay”
  • Album: Barns Courtney – 404
  • Previous knowledge: None
  • Review: Barns Courtney is a 28 year-old English singer-songwriter, listed on Wikipedia as folk pop and blues rock. I don’t know what he sounded like before this new record but neither of those labels are accurate now. 404 is a bombastic, loud, pop album with the tunes slicked up like there was an oil spill in the studio. Courtney had a couple minor rock hits in the US a few years ago from his debut record, The Attractions of Youth, but I went back and listened to them and I don’t think I’ve ever heard them before. I would imagine this is the record that needs to break him in the US for this country to ever hear of him again. 404 is a radio ready pop record from start to finish and sounds made for the US market. It’s got all the elements to make it a success. Handsome young dude with a great voice, hooks for miles and songs that can be sung by groups of girls at slumber parties (if those still happen in 2019).
  • Rating: 9/10
Barns Courtney, “London Girls”
  • Album: Gemini Rising – Best Case Life
  • Previous knowledge: None
  • Review: Gemini Rising are a three piece synth-pop band out of Los Angeles that kind of fall into that future-retro sound that I often love. I think they are going for a vibe that takes you back to the mid-80s with bands like OMD, Thompson Twins etc… and while there are moments of that, my time machine only goes back to the 90s on this one – kind of that transition period where the synth pop bands got slightly adult contemporary to try to stay relevant before grunge killed them off. These are all beautiful songs, most of them being mid-tempo keyboard driven synth pop with lush female vocals. Apart from a couple more upbeat tracks, the general vibe is pretty chill throughout. It’s such an even flow that I ended up listening to this three times in a row on a loop without even quite realizing it. That’s not always a great thing but in this case, it totally works. It’s a pretty dazzling debut record for the group and one that might actually be hard to top in the future.
  • Rating: 9.5/10
Gemini Rising, “Speed of Sound”
  • Album: DENM- Endless Summer EP
  • Previous knowledge: None
  • Review: DENM is a DJ/producer that apparently almost gave up on music a few years ago since his career wasn’t going anywhere. But he seems to have found his niche now. This is a quick little six song EP that is a pretty chill reggae-pop-rock disc. Let it not be lost that “Blow It Up” sounds very much like Sublime in their prime but overall I get more of a lounge on the beach, no care in the world type vibe. If nothing else, it’s worth checking out the more traditional reggae tune “No Break” featuring GDSN.
  • Rating: 9/10
DENM, “No Break”
  • Album: Viceroy – Summer Solstice: The Mixtape EP
  • Previous knowledge: None
  • Review: Viceroy is a DJ/Producer out of San Fransisco, CA who states on his facebook page that he likes to create “jams not bangers,” and this six-track EP is full of those jams. I still don’t even remotely understand the concept of a mixtape in 2019 like this is supposed to be and no matter how much people try to explain this to me, I doubt I ever will. These are all standalone songs not mixed together like I would have expected but that’s really okay with me here. The last few years have really brought back the albums being billed to a “DJ/Producer” rather than the singers / rappers on the record. Of all the Marshmellows, DJ Khaleds and other hitmakers out there right now, I’d rather have more that do records like this. This is a laid back summer hip-hop record, filled with pop rhythms and guest rappers. Nothing remotely hard or street about Summer Solstice. What I love about smaller producers like this (at least I think he’s not that established yet) is that they pull in quality underground rappers that may deserve a shot that they wouldn’t get anywhere else. I have eclectic taste and still love rap but I’m not following the underground, so if artists like Demrick, Equal, Hugh Augustine, Zak Downtown and others are known commodities, they are new to me. And all of them have a great flow. Literally every artist that Viceroy works with hits the mark brilliantly on their tunes. Viceroy! Listen up dude. Be like Andrea True and give me more, more, more.
  • Rating: 9.5/10
Viceroy f/ Hugh Augustine & Equal, “Wild Life”
  • Album: My Life Story – World Citizen
  • Previous Knowledge: None
  • Review: My Life Story are a London based band that formed way back in 1993 and I guess they either never really made it over the pond to the US or I completely missed them as they are new to me. If the Wikipedia timeline is correct, they were a band until 2000, then split up and reformed, then split up, reformed and well, rinse and repeat a few times. It seems though that they have stayed together since 2012, so thank you for making up your fucking mind, dudes. That said, World Citizen is only their fourth record and first one since they broke up in 2000, so that marks a 19-year wait. And I’m happy to report that over the course of the last 19 years, they seem to have taken only their best ideas and recorded them! The album begins like any good alt-pop record in the 90s would have – with an epic slow track (“#NoFilter”) to build us up for the party that’s to come. After that, you get sparkling, grand pop songs. Lush arrangements, great production and a really modern pop sound that I wouldn’t have remotely expected from a group that hasn’t had a record in two decades. I will have to go back through my list of perfect albums in 2019 to fully determine if this is the best pure pop record of the year. It might just be. Flawless from start to finish.
  • Rating: 10/10
My Life Story, “#NoFilter”
  • Album: D’Sound – Unicorn
  • Previous knowledge: None
  • Review: Norwegian Neo-Soul isn’t really my wheelhouse but maybe I need to hunt some more down. D’Sound are a three piece band that’s been around since 1993 and Unicorn is their 8th record but the first time I’ve ever had their name cross my eyes. If I was doing my previous way of listening to new music this year, downloading only the records that struck my eye based on cover art, I would have never listened to this. You can see the cover I posted here and it’s one of the least representative pieces of artwork I’ve ever seen grace an album. From start to finish, this is a brilliant piece of funk and soul, something that old man would have never indicated to me. I see they have the label of Acid Jazz and that does fit. The jazz elements that represent that genre are present, less so earlier in the disc and with greater emphasis as it progresses. The funkier tunes are funk at the core, with mostly pop elements. But they can also take it down a notch where a track like “Somewhere in Between” is a fantastic soulful ballad. Now I have to go back and dig up seven more D’Sound albums and find out what I’ve been missing.
  • Rating: 9/10
D’Sound, “Aftershock”
  • Album: Kid Quill – Sunset Diner
  • Previous knowledge: None
  • Review: Kid Quill is a white rapper from the dirty streets of Shelbyville, Indiana. Well, okay – I have no idea what Shelbyville, IN is like but in reality I’m actually going to assume it’s not a hood. And while I hate to bring race into this, pointing out that he’s a white rapper is actually kind of important here. I often rip into white rappers, because no matter how talented they are, they are mostly clones of Macklemore or Eminem. Post Malone busted out of that mold. Kid Quill doesn’t fit that either. Kid Quill mixes hip-hop and pop, really well – to the point where it’s unmistakable that he’s rapping but his tunes feel like pop songs first and foremost. I didn’t pay much attention to the lyrics at all honestly but the songs are certainly not about drugs & hos. (Nor boats). Although a hip-hop artist, I wouldn’t pitch this record to a hip-hop audience at all. I would picture Kid Quill fitting in better opening for someone like Fall Out Boy or the Chainsmokers or pairing with a bro-country artist like Sam Hunt rather than being on a bill with G-Eazy. This type of lighthearted fun rap doesn’t really show up enough in 2019 or at least gets buried behind all the trap hits. But I would love to see more Kid Quills and Sunset Diners pop up to balance out the current sound of hip-hop.
  • Rating: 9.5/10
Kid Quill, “Make A Wish”

Albums ranked 10/10 so far in 2019 (ordered only by release date)

  1. Terror Jr. – Unfortunately, Terror Jr
  2. Emily King – Scenery
  3. Good Fuck – Good Fuck
  4. The Claypool Lennon Delirium – South of Reality
  5. UB40 – For the Many
  6. Griz – Ride Waves
  7. Pup – Morbid Stuff
  8. Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
  9. Howard Jones – Transform
  10. Mavis Staples – We Get By
  11. Prince – Originals
  12. Yeasayer – Erotic Returns
  13. Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real – Turn off the News (Build a Garden)
  14. Chris Robinson Brotherhood – Servants of the Sun
  15. The Raconteurs – Help Us Stranger
  16. K. Flay – Solutions
  17. Tuxedo – Tuxedo III
  18. Dorian Electra – Flamboyant
  19. My Life Story – World Citizen