I’mma keep it real with y’all. In the month of September I landed a new job, moved across the country, and basically started a new life. As a result, Swim Into The Sound has (expectedly) fallen by the wayside more than I’d like to admit. On top of these major life changes, the month of September was super back-loaded in terms of new releases, so it took me a bit longer than usual to listen to everything and compose my thoughts. This is all a long-winded explanation up front to excuse the fact that this post is late, but I won’t waste any more time with personal updates, let’s just get straight into the real reason why you’re here: good music.
Noname - Room 25
Depending on who you ask, Noname may be the first poet of a new generation, or the last one we ever need. Not quite hip-hop, not quite R&B, not quite spoken word, Noname has been a tangential member of Vic Mensa’s SaveMoney collective for about as long as they’ve existed. Initially making herself known on tracks with Chance the Rapper, Mick Jenkins, and Saba, it took until 2016’s Telefone for Noname to fully-unveil herself to the world. Now returning with Room 25, she’s delivering 11 fresh tracks of explosive colors, heartfelt rhymes, and spellbinding deliveries. In one of the album’s more illuminating songs, she raps alongside Saba and Amino: “Labels got these niggas just doing it for the clout / I'm just writing my darkest secrets like wait and just hear me out” before going on to extol the virtues of vegan food. Lines like these stand in direct contrast to the wave of substance-abusing, attention-grabbing rappers we’ve seen rise to prominence as of late. Noname stands alone as a single woman with a strong voice and defined sense of self. Room 25 is just one piece of a much larger movement.
Yves Tumor - Safe in the Hands of Love
There’s a single, ill-defined line between weirdness and accessibility. Between art and commerce. Between living and dying. While most music finds itself firmly on one side of this divide or the other, a select few artists able to tread this ever-shifting boundary carefully enough without tipping too far in either direction. With Safe in the Hands of Love, Yves Tumor has proven he’s strong enough to join their ranks. Coming to us clad in green-skinned alien garb, Yves Tumor is one of many alter-egos used by Sean Lee Bowie. Embracing spacy soundscapes, intermittent guitar, and ethereal R&B-style vocals, Safe is an exploration of the inevitable apocalypse. Lead single “Noid” is a jammy bit of guitar funk, “Hope In Suffering” is a particle-shifting ambient piece, and “Licking an Orchid” is a borderline-trip-hop love song that erupts into searing distortion. Everything sounds different but adds on to the larger narrative. It’s beautiful and disgusting. Unexpected and ever-flowing. Pitch dark and blindingly bright. Safe in the Hands of Love embodies the exact sort of contradictions we’ve come to adopt in this lead-up to the end of the world.
Shortly - Richmond
I’ve been waiting a full calendar year for this EP. After witnessing the marvel that is Shortly’s live show back in November, I called her (then-untitled) upcoming album my second most anticipated release of 2018. Now that it’s here, I was able to catch Shortly live a second time (in her hometown no less), and I’m more sure than ever that she’s going to change the world. Bearing heartfelt tales of self-harm, depression, and loss, Richmond is far from a light listen, but those that go in with their eyes, ears, and minds open will emerge from the other side changed.
Young Thug - On The Rvn
As a Young Thug superfan it’s weird to admit, but the rapper born Jeffery Lamar Williams is most effective in small doses. It’s not that his full-length projects are bad, it’s that his shorter albums always leave you wanting more. They allow him to be his most free and experimental without the requirement of forcing the songs fit into an “official” album. This short but sweet dichotomy is perfectly exemplified with On The Rvn. Whether he’s twisting a sample of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” into an intoxicating ode to drugs or getting an assist from Jaden Smith for one of the most infectious flows I’ve heard all year literally everything works when fit under the umbrella of Thugger. There’s never been a bad time to get into Young Thug, and On The Rvn offers a wonderful sample platter of his brilliant absurdity.
BROCKHAMPTON - IRIDESCENCE
After producing an entire trilogy of albums in one year, BROCKHAMPTON’s worryingly-prolific output hit a wall after sexual misconduct allegations led to a key member’s departure. Now having taken some time to recover, America’s Greatest Boy Band is back with their fourth official album, and it’s just as vibrant, wacky, aggressive, surprising, and flamboyant as you’d expect. I’ve started to realize one of the biggest appeals of BROCKHAMPTON (aside from the DIY origins) is that you never know what you’re gonna get. One song can be a straight-up gym-ready banger, and the next could be a soulful tear-shedding ballad. In fact, sometimes there’s a tearful ballad in the middle of one of those bangers. The point is, the breadth of different genres and flavors on display in any one BROCKHAMPTON release is more than enough to gorge out on, even if it can feel like the equivalent of musical whiplash at times. The fact that the same group of people can create such a wide variety of music is the real marvel, and it’s no wonder why they’ve managed to cultivate one of the most rabid and devoted fan bases on the internet.
This Will Destroy You - New Others Part One
There is always room in my heart and schedule for well-conceived instrumental music. Often brought up alongside the genre’s greats like Explosions in The Sky and Mogwai, This Will Destroy You have cemented their place as one of the scene’s most essential acts. They made a name for themselves early on with picture perfect post-rock and awe-inspiring cinematic works. Eventually they went on to tackle the ambient darkness of death, put out one of the greatest live albums of all time, and even had an innovative electronic phase. Having just wrapped up a tenth-anniversary tour for two of their best records, the band now looks optimistically toward a distant point on the horizon with New Others Part One. From warm, airy key-laden landscapes to demonic horror, and pulsating space music, the album draws a little bit from every phase of their now-decade-long career. It’s sublime, magical, and quite possibly a new high bar for the band.
Microwave - keeping up
While I normally wouldn’t write a full-on mini-review for a two-song release, Microwave’s keeping up absolutely floored me, so I now feel the need to extol its virtues. I queued this album (single?) up knowing absolutely nothing about the band, and was smitten within seconds of “Georgia On My Mind.” The soft-spoken track builds into an incendiary finish that smolders with equal amounts of passion and regret. Meanwhile, counterpart “keeping up” provides a beaten-down work-a-day perspective that writhes in an equal amount of sadness and sorrow. Keeping up is an absolutely jaw-dropping and astounding release that managed to connect with me at the exact right time.
Pinegrove - Skylight
Shelved for over one year thanks to multi-layered accusations and background drama that I don’t care to comment on, Pinegrove’s long-awaited Cardinal follow-up was surprise released at the tail end of the month. While those admittedly-negative headlines may have deterred many from listening to Skylight, the album itself is just as carefully crafted as we’ve come to expect from the group. Early-album single “Intrepid” perfectly embodies the record’s more pensive loud/quiet dynamic and careful lyricism. Similarly, “Rings” is a low-lying song that opens up into a vast expanse of amber colors and melancholy intricacies. There are also a handful of frisson-inducing bitesize tracks like “Thanksgiving” and “Amulets” that offer only brief glimpses into a world-weary yet wonderous existence. Drama and unanswerable questions aside, this album is being sold for a good cause and is undeniably still worth a listen, especially if you are a longtime fan.
Lil Wayne - Tha Carter V
Literally half a decade in the making, Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter V has become the stuff of legend. Up there with Guns n Roses’ Chinese Democracy and Dr. Dre’s Detox, Wayne’s long-awaited fifth entry in The Carter Series has been promoted, delayed, and fought over more than any one person can even explain. Having recently emerged victorious from a long legal battle with perennial father figure (and more recently musical captor) Birdman, Lil Wayne is now a free agent and wasted no time in announcing the album’s release just in time for his 36th birthday celebration. Unlike most albums that spend this long in release-limbo, The Carter V lands gracefully and should satiate both long-time fans and curious newcomers. With a near-perfect mix of vivacious dance tracks, narrative epics, violent gangster rap, and revealing personal tales, Lil Wayne’s magnum opus feels like it has a little bit of everything. I never thought I’d say it, but Tha Carter V was worth the wait.
Graduating Life - Grad Life: Mom Jeans’ resident shredder Bart enjoys an affirming, cathartic, and anthemic solo outing.
I Hate Heroes - Save Yourself: Clean and punchy metalcore that’s ready for emotional flight or fight.
Hozier - Nina Cried Power: A four-song EP of soulful, sinister, and sexy songs from the reclusive Irish pop star.
Joey Purp - QUARTERTHING: Wide-eyed and defiant life-tackling hip-hop songs shouted from a rooftop over Chicago-flavored jazz.
Spiritualized - And Nothing Hurt: After a five-plus year break, the space rock-torchbearers return for an operatic, lush, and surprisingly-warm release.
Mothers - Render Another Ugly Method: With sharply-recorded instruments, slow-moving vocals, and pensive imagery, Mothers’ sophomore album jumps out at you and demands you to sacrifice your sanity on its behalf.
Waxahachie - Great Thunder: Indie-flavored ever-searching acoustic- and piano-based balladry.
Colleen Green - Casey's Tape / Harmontown Loops: A collection of early cassette-based recordings from the sunglasses-clad Colleen Green.
Aphex Twin - Collapse EP: Inward-facing electronic music that also manages to retain a level of humanity and natural beauty.
Low - Double Negative: In what I’d call “appointment listening” Low’s newest work is a project that’s best digested in isolation, with minimal distractions, and enough time to fully-sink into it.
The Chills - Snowbound: Bouncy and inoffensive alternative music that slides across the stage of your mind.
6lack - East Atlanta Love Letter: Drowsy PBR&B.
Fire Is Motion - Audiotree Live Sessions: Still without a full-length, the solo project of Adrian Amador runs through a greatest hits of his emo-tinged indie.
Story So Far - Proper Dose: A half-hour expedition of shimmering pop-punk that’s trying its damnedest to hold onto the last remaining moments of summer.
Metric - Art of Doubt: Well-polished alternative music that manages to thrive in the seemingly-contradictory position between accessible modernity and throwback-grunge.
Mutual Benefit - Thunder Follows The Light: Hopeful, dreamy, ornamental folk music that satiates the ear and soothes the soul.
Mudhoney - Digital Garbage: One of the few remaining bastions of the grunge movement continue down their acid-washed, jean-ripped path of muscular distorted rock
French Montana - No Stylist: A three-pack of excitable trappy bangers from everyone’s favorite Moroccan rapper.
Advance Base - Animal Companionship: Folksy indie tunes with a minimalistic electronic tinge and a delivery that borders on Bill Callahan at times.
Lupe Fiasco - DROGAS WAVE: A feature-length album worth of hyper-lyrical bars spit over brightly-colored beats.
The Devil Wears Prada - Audiotree Live Sessions: Five live songs of emotional and physical restlessness.
Logic - YSIV: While most of Young Sinatra IV is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Logic (for better or worse) a full-on Wu-Tang cut and unexpectedly-lively jazz track elevate the tape into the upper-echelon of the rapper’s discography.
Tilian - The Skeptic: Even though it can feel like boneless Dance Gavin Dance at times, Tilian’s voice is so strong that it doesn’t even matter.
Beartooth - Disease: Having started music at the age of 14, we’ve now watched Caleb Shomo develop musically for nearly half of his life. Disease is another hardcore, yet melodic development in his aggressive Beartooth project.
Well Wisher - This Is Fine: Personal statements, fears, and concerns recorded directly to shreddy fuzzed-out pop-punk.
Marissa Nadler - For My Crimes: Dark and haunted sparsely-instrumental gothic folk Americana.
Tim Hecker - Konoyo: Death-ridden soundscapes and long-stretching instrumentals that reflect a trip to Japan, a personal loss, and a meditation on normalcy.
The Living End - Wunderbar: Dressed in leather jackets and accompanying bedhead, the punkabilly standby gives the world 11 hard-charging and anthemic rock tracks.
Polyvinyl - Polyvinyl 4-Track Singles Series, Vol. 3: Featuring the likes of Owen, Japanese Breakfast, and Modern Baseball, Polyvinyl’s communal cassette project is now available on all streaming platforms for the entire world to enjoy.
Pixies - Live from the Fallout Shelter: Just one piece of the Surfer Rosa 30th anniversary celebration, Live from the Fallout Shelter features a 40-minute performance of the band in their hungriest form right before fame and success would strike like lightning.
Justus Proffit & Jay Som - Nothing's Changed: A laid-back 11-minute collaboration between indie up-and-comers Justus Proffit and Jay Som. The sound of a crisp fall morning spent mostly in a hammock.
Silverstein - The Afterglow / Aquamarine: In a showcase of musical dexterity, Silverstein offers up two renditions of two singles done in both acoustic and electric styles.
Hippo Campus - Bambi: Diverse and dancy indie tunes with wonderfully-absurdist electronic elements.
Roosevelt - Young Romance: Pivoting from DJ-centered electronica, Marius Lauber contributes more vocals for an album that ands up sounding like a long-lost 80’s classic.
Colin Stetson - The First Original Soundtrack Vol. 1: After disturbing me with the soundtrack to Hereditary earlier this year, Colin Stetson has returned for another deeply-reverberating soundtrack for a new Hulu Original about the first group of humans to visit Mars.
All Them Witches - ATW: Heavy riffs, bluesy guitar, and confident delivery. Sometimes that’s all you need, and All Them Witches has ‘em in spades on ATW.
Doe - Grow Into It: Cheery and magnetic indie rock that demands to be shouted from rooftops in between PBRs.
In the month of September we also heard brand new singles from Kanye West, Death Cab For Cutie, Clairo, Petal, Indigo De Souza, Ty Segall, Lana Del Rey, Lana Del Rey, Lil Uzi Vert, Cloud Nothings, Action Bronson, Minus The Bear, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, St. Vincent, Broken Social Scene, Lil Baby, Saves The Day, Half Waif, Fleet Foxes, Jaden Smith, Thom Yorke, Kero Kero Bonito, Juicy J, Kurt Vile, Yaeji, Weezer, Open Mike Eagle, The 1975, BADBADNOTGOOD, Cloud Nothings, and Vulfpeck.