July 2018: Album Review Roundup

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Overall, July turned out to be a fairly light month for new releases, but even with a lesser quantity of music, we had no shortage of quality tunes. With a few long-awaited follow-ups, a wondrous live album, and some brand new discoveries (as always), the peak of Summer still gave us plenty of new music worth raving about.


Mom Jeans. - Puppy Love

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If you, like me, find it hilarious that a band would price their albums at $4.20 and $6.66 on Bandcamp, then Puppy Love is an album for you. With song titles like “Jon bong Jovi” and “now THIS is podracing” it should be immediately clear that Mom Jeans are going for a very specific brand of self-aware pop-culturally-obsessed millennial humor. Picking up where bands like Modern Baseball and Dads left off, Mom Jeans are four awkward 20-something white dudes writing hyper-realist slice-of-life songs that remain as cutting and confessional as they are affable and goofy. Some bands write songs about love, and others write songs about death, but even the most romantic among us recognize that in the grand scheme of things, those emotional highs and lows are few and far between. Mom Jeans make music about what happens outside of those extremes, the unexciting and unglamorous (but very real) moments that make up a majority of life. The space where you’re killing time, eating Cheetos, and talking to your dog. Puppy Love is an album of songs about the moments that happen while waiting, and, in a way, isn’t that more true to life than anything?

 

Future - Beast Mode II

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At some point, everyone must question why they like Future. While most of us can’t claim the same level of drug use, money, or extravagance, Future exists to show us that these (supposed) benefits of fame come at the price of one’s happiness. Catchy phrases aside, Future’s portrayal of excess in the face of obliteration is both haunting and engaging. Like a car crash you can’t look away from, his escape into women, drugs, and money feels like something more than the typical rapper’s playbook, if only because these topics are undertaken while on the precipice of oblivion. This dichotomy makes him relatable and enigmatic, even when rapping objectively-despicable bars like “I left her sitting at the Loews, oh / 'Cause she wasn't touching her toes, no.” Lines like these are not necessarily something the listener identifies with, but serve as more of a cold and unforgiving vignette carried out by Future’s persona. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that no matter what he’s rapping, Future is always accompanied by a beat that’s hard as bricks. 

 

Bongripper - Terminal

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If you’re an outsider to the genre, your reaction to finding out there’s a Stoner Rock band called “Bongripper” might be one of disbelief. While I’ll admit that their name seems painfully-on brand, there is also a band called Weedeater, so I’ve found that it’s best not to judge a book by its cover. Bongripper’s Terminal is a 43-minute album cut into two pieces “SLOW” and “DEATH,” two arcs that sway with heavy guitar, crashing cymbals, and enough bass to rattle the fillings from your molars. It’s slow-moving, dark, and sludgy instrumental metal at its best. 

 

Deafheaven - Ordinary Corrupt Human Love

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It begins with a piano. Soon a lone guitar seeps into the mix, accompanied by the sound of waves. A cymbal is brushed, and the keyboard warms itself way up to a melody. Finally, a bass enters the fray, synchronizing all of the instruments into one swirling and kaleidoscopic soundscape as a female voice begins to read a passage from some unknown text. As that reading comes to a close, a wall of screamed vocals are telecast from some distant satellite, freezing the listener in their tracks with a spine-chilling pang of haunting beauty. This is the first track of Deafhaven’s Ordinary Corrupt Human Love. Taking the familiar style of black metal shoegaze the band has become known for, Deafhaven’s newest album adds on a bewitching mix of post-rock and dream pop to the proceedings, resulting in something that’s entirely unique and unlike anything they’ve ever done before. Utterly enchanting and possibly one of their best.

 

The National - Boxer Live in Brussels

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When I first tried to get into The National years ago, the group’s 2007 album Boxer was often cited as the best entry point into their vast, decades-long discography. While I gave the album a handful of spins on a few separate occasions, it never grabbed me in the way it seemed to resonate with most fans. It wasn’t until a fateful meeting soundtracked by 2017’s Sleep Well Beast that the band finally clicked for me. I’d later go on to find out that I’m more of an Aligator man, but I can see now that Boxer is a much more reserved, complicated, and poetic album than I initially gave it credit for. The National’s live re-recording of the album breathes new life into these classic alternative songs, adding lush instrumental flourishes, raucous solos, and unexpected vocal deliveries, all of which make the songs feel brand new yet still familiar. Truly a testament to how well this album has aged and how, much like a fine bourbon, The National only get better with time. 

 

Denzel Curry - TA13OO

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Despite being one of the most commercially-successful genres in 2018, the hip-hop landscape has never been more volatile than it is right now. Phases, idioms, and styles change overnight, and (consequently) the artists that chase these fleeting trends often make a big splash, then fade away into obscurity just as soon as they were found. With trap falling out of favor and SoundCloud rap on the rise, Denzel Curry sits at an interesting intersection between the blown-out Floridian style of hype rap and something much more special. I guess you could call it “conscious” even though that too has fallen out of favor, but Denzel Curry’s long-awaited TA13OO speaks for itself. Unlike anything else in the genre, TA13OO is an absolute achievement and the sort of release that some artists spend their entire career chasing. Released as three EPs over the course of three days, TA13OO is a three-act decent into darkness that integrates genres, topics, and styles rarely ever touched upon in hip-hop. There are chilled-out Outkast-esque tracks like “BLACK BALLOONS” as well as unimaginably-hype songs like “SUMO,” all of which have impeccable flows, engaging beats, and well-conceived messages. The fact that Curry can handle such a wide variety of sounds with such proficiency and artistry is a testament to his skill as a creator.

 

Wild Pink - Yolk In The Fur

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As is a recurring theme with these monthly reviews, one of my favorite albums of July was given to us courtesy of a band that I’d never heard of until the day their album came out. I entered Yolk In The Fur with zero expectations, and once I hit play on the dreamy “Burger Hill” I was instantly mystified by the track’s otherworldly moodiness. Every element of the song takes it’s time to enter, leading to a song that journeys at its own pace in a sort of spiritual quest for metaphysical connection. Walking the listener from hazy emo to colorful heartland rock, Wild Pink shows absolute mastery on every front. A considerate, reserved, and well-thought-out world-building release that swirls into your ears and works its way down to your soul.

 

Quick Hits

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  • Meek Mill - Legends of the Summer: The recently-released rapper completes a celebratory victory lap of four hard-hitting gym-playlist-ready rap songs.
  • Dirty Projectors - Lamp Lit Prose: Post-post-breakup tunes that trade the behavior of a vindictive ex for a wide-ranging swath of collaborators and guest features.
  • Wet - Still Run: Beautiful, heartfelt, and deeply-human rock made for ordinary people experiencing abnormal feelings.
  • Between the Buried and Me - Automata II: The sequel to an album of the same name from earlier this year bearing similarly-proggy metal, but in more digestible chunks than usual.
  • Wiz Khalifa - Rolling Papers 2: Wiz Khalifa used to smoke weed. He still smokes weed, but he used to, too.
  • Real Friends - Composure: Scrappy and happy pop-punk from the fearless Illinoisans.
  • DRAM - That’s A Girl’s Name: A surprise-released three-track of breezy summer tunes courtesy of hip-hop’s most adorable frontman.
  • Chance The Rapper - Four Singles: Chance The Rapper doesn’t release singles, he releases enough songs to constitute an EP, all of which are just as wholesome, fun-loving, and vibrant as we’ve come to expect.
  • The Internet - Hive Mind: An hour of bumpin’ funk and vibin’ bops to lose yourself in.
  • Ty Segall & White Fence - Joy: Expansive guitar-based throwback tunes that hop from one idea to the next with wild abandon.
  • Trash Boat - Crown Shyness: Equal parts melodic and hard-edged, Crown Shyness is a hardcore album with pop-punk sensibilities that bleeds emotion like a fresh wound.
  • Frontierer - Unloved: Bombastic and technical metalcore that attacks the listener with explosive ferocity, firey aggression, and destructive anger.
  • Like Pacific - In Spite of Me: An unfaltering sophomore album bearing heart-on-sleeve pop-punk made for screaming out the windows of cars at night while doing 60+ on the highway.
  • Phantastic Ferniture - Phantastic Ferniture: Effortlessly-charming and charmingly-effortless indie tunes made for slackers and chillers alike.
  • No Better - It Felt Like Glass: A pop-punk debut album that scratches vocal chords, strains emotions, and swings wildly as sentiments escape from its soul and work their way up its diaphragm. 
  • Clearance - At Your Leisure: Fittingly titled, this sophomore album revels in 90’s influence, latent malaise, and sunny post-punk.
  • The Coup - Sorry To Bother You: The Soundtrack: The absurdist, political, bizarre, unexpected, and unapologetic soundtrack to the most-needed film of 2018.

 

We also saw singles from Lil Pump, Childish Gambino, Minus The Bear, Joyce Manor, Death Cab For Cutie, Asking Alexandria, Foxing, The Story So Far, IDLES, Charli XCX, Animal Collective, Mac Miller, Interpol, Dj Khaled, The 1975, Tyler, The Creator x A$AP Rocky,  Blood Orange, Pond, BROCKHAMPTON, Yoko Ono, Nicki Minaj, Foxing, Metric, Smokepurpp, Yves Tumor, Guided By Voices, and Waxahatchee

 

Rewind

Finally, here are a handful of albums that came out earlier this year that I missed until this month.

  • Let’s Eat Grandma - I’m All Ears: Mind-expanding, soul-searching, and heart-crushing electronic indie that wanders from room to room of your consciousness.
  • Barely March - Marely Barch: Much like Mom Jeans, Barely March offers self-deprecating and hyper-personal tales of breakup, recovery, and nerdy faults.
  • 03 Greedo - God Level: Releasing as much music as possible before a 20-year prison sentence, 03 Greedo is crafting extremely-proficient rap songs that are sharp as a bowie knife.
  • Naked Giants - SLUFF: Unapologetic rock music that explodes to life in concert.
  • Just Friends - Nothing But Love: Remember ska? It’s back in Pog form.
  • Dream Wife: Dream Wife: Middle fingers extended and sex drives turned all the way up, Dream Wife delivers unabashedly-wild and in-your-face rock from down-under.
  • Gladie - Everyone Is Talking About You: Lovely heartbreak and beautiful self-destruction recorded to emo-tinged indie.