August 2018: Album Review Roundup

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August was an utterly absurd month for new music. As the sun crests over the horizon and we enjoy our final moments of warm weather, it seemed as if every major artist was pushing themselves to get their records out before the season’s end. From long-awaited debuts to big-name collabs, there’s a lot to write home about now that the summer has entered its death throes, so let’s reflect on the greatness we’ve been lucky enough to receive over the past month.


Travis Scott - Astroworld

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While it’s clear that Travis Scott will never again attain the bombastic attention-seeking highs of his early days or the conceptual glitz of his creative peak, Astroworld at least restores hope that he can get close. After the half-effort Birds In The Trap Sing Mcknight, and the aggressively-middling Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho it seemed as if Travis Scott was on an irreversible downward trend. While these are harsh words, they’re only because I know Travis has it in him to make another classic. In fact, I’m such a fan of Travis Scott, last year I wrote nearly 7,000 words lamenting the fact that both he and Drake were so successful they didn’t have to try anymore. Now one year after airing those concerns we have our hands on Trav’s newest project, and it’s… better.

Astroworld is far from perfect, but it at least signals that Travis Scott is taking a bit of a more holistic approach to his music again. Opening track “STARGAZING” is an excellent mood-setter featuring tight bars, a cascading instrumental, and multiple beat switches. It’s a fantastic introduction that leads to the crowd-pleasingCAROUSEL” where a surprise Frank Ocean feature leads to an unexpected Drake introduction. Similarly, “STOP TRYING TO BE GOD” packs Kid Cudi, James Blake, and Stevie Wonder into one of this year’s most heavenly and star-studded five and a half minutes. While this is all impressive, by the end of the record it becomes clear how much Astroworld has been propped up by features. From “NC-17” onward it’s essentially a plummet straight down into dregs of meandering trap. The album’s back half of barely-conceived hip-hop is punctuated by the album’s final three songs which all feature Travis Scott solo. While “COFFEE BEAN” is a compelling album closer, this ending stretch of songs only highlights the fact that Travis Scott probably couldn’t hold an entire album on his own. Even though Astroworld is a bit of a mixed bag, the loaded front half is so undeniable it ends up elevating the entire thing above some of his more recent offerings. A solid, but lopsided album with scattered glimpses of greatness.

 

Tides of Man - Every Nothing

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Tides of Man went through a bit of an identity crisis in the early 2010’s. After releasing two landmark post-hardcore records on Rise Records, lead singer Tilian Pearson left the group to join Dance Gavin Dance. Rather than embark on a search for a new vocalist, the band decided to move forward without one entirely and threw themselves headlong into the world of post-rock. Having proven their chops on 2014’s Young and Courageous, the group is back with their second instrumental release and defacto sophomore album in their current incarnation. From its first seconds, Every Nothing sparkles and shines with the polish equal to the post-rock greats. Evoking Explosions In the Sky, God Is An Astronaut, and Caspian, this album proves that there’s life after loss. A recovery after an identity crisis. This is the sound of a band sticking the landing after a seismic change that would have dissolved any lesser group. 

 

Foxing - Nearer My God

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Having raved about Smidley’s album last year, I might have entered this album with higher expectations than usual. I’ve never been an enormous Foxing fan, but the singles leading up to Nearer My God all hit home for me. “Slapstick” was fun, “Nearer My God” was a multicultural revelation, and “Gameshark” was a proggy Mars Volta-esque jaunt that felt out-of-the-box. This string of singles combined with the well-thought-out visuals seemed to imply a Foxing album that would finally land with me. While Nearer My God kicks off with the jaw-dropping “Grand Paradise,” the record then quickly devolves into Foxing’s usual brand of “acceptable” emo. Singles and opener aside, there’s nothing else in the album that truly resonated with me. I don’t know if I could tell you one other moment that stuck with me outside of these four songs. Nearer My God would have been a great EP, but maybe this band simply isn’t for me. 

 

Jesus Piece - Only Self

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Sometimes you don’t need beauty. Sometimes you don’t need happiness. Sometimes all you need is destruction, and that’s exactly what Jesus Piece offers on Only Self. The album is a debut long in the making that finds the Philadelphia band blending metalcore and doom for a particularly potent and exponentially-heavy effect. Bearing propulsive drumming, low-swinging riffs, and vitriolic lyrics, Jesus Piece has created something entirely their own and more intense than anything I’ve heard from the genre in years. It’s fighting music. Music that makes you angry. Music you want to lift heavy things and punch back. It’s not an everyday emotion, but when the mood does strike, I can’t think of a single band doing it better than Jesus Piece. Phenomenal.

 

Young Thug - Slime Language

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Young Thug is the rap game’s Joker. Unpredictable, animated, and reveling in his audience’s utter confusion. And this isn’t a role that comes easily; Thug has spent the last few years cultivating his absurdist image while simultaneously upending all of hip-hop’s traditions in the process. From taunting the greats, and rocking dresses to performing the bare minimum required to qualify as enunciation, Young Thug seems to have cemented himself as something that’s sorely needed in hip-hop today: an unknown. 

On Slime Language Young Thug offers up nearly one hour of outsider hip-hop from someone who’s spent years rising through the ranks yet still remembers who he is. Even when the words themselves are covering well-trodden hip-hop topics, the way he says them is never the same. You will find yourself listening closely just to see what Thug will do next, and I think that’s exactly what he wants. From a scratchy velcro octet of tire onomatopoeia on “Ardemaur” to a dexterous chorus on “STS,” everything on Slime Language feels fresh in a way that only Young Thug can do. Within any one song his inflection, voice, and flow can change from one word to the next, and it’s absolutely enchanting. Infectious and enigmatic. A hip-hop cult of personality. 

 

IDLES - Joy as an Act of Resistance

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Having produced one of last year’s best punk albums (and one of the decade’s best debuts), IDLES have returned with a follow-up that’s equal parts gnashing and emotional. After losing his daughter last year, lead singer Joe Talbot publicly grappled with what that meant on both a cosmic and personal level. Joy as an Act of Resistance is the outcome of this meditation. Slow-building tracks that mount with dread until they erupt into thrashy punk explosions. Tonally different than last year’s Brutalism, but just as hard-hitting. A sonic reckoning in the aftermath of a sudden car crash of an event. The ebbs and flows of grief and loss. Sound and fury that lead to eventual recovery. 

 

Justin Vernon & Aaron Dessner - Big Red Machine

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Helmed by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and The National’s Aaron Dessner, Big Red Machine represents a meeting of the indie minds the likes of which we rarely see anymore. With both artists coming off award-worthy, career-defining albums, the two find themselves collaborating at the perfect intersection as they find mutual ground in downbeat electronic soundscapes. From unexpected vocal deliveries that border on rapping (“Lyla”) to haunting, gospel soul-searches (“Forest Green”) every song on Big Red Machine hits just as hard as you would imagine. Turns out combining the wine-drunk sadness of The National with the snow-covered sadness of Bon Iver is a recipe for something even more emotional than the sum of its parts.

 

Mitski - Be the Cowboy

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Existence is tiring. Other people are frustrating, relationships are messy, and even your own thoughts can be confusing. This sort of millennial malaise and caustic confusion is exactly what Mitski is capturing with Be The Cowboy. Like a diary transposed to music, the album traps Mitski at its center, shines a blinding spotlight on her, and then lets her writhe in agony for 32-minutes until both she and the listener collapse from exhaustion. It’s humanizing, flawed, messy, and isolating, just like all of us. Be The Cowboy is the exact kind of consolation you need after a breakup, hookup, or whatever falls between. An entire existence recorded to music.  

 

Quick Hits

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  • Mac Miller - Swimming: The the continuing story of the Pennsylvanian teen who has moved out, broken out, broken up, and grown up before our eyes. 
  • YG - Stay Dangerous: Flashy gangster bangers and not much else. 
  • Trophy Eyes - The American Dream: Effortlessly-catchy pop-punk that’s forward-moving, deeply-comforting, and soul-affirming.
  • The Ocean Party - I.B.O.: Six musicians. Two songs apiece. One minute per song. A musical sketchpad of flexible artistry.
  • Choker - Honeybloom: Emotionally-devastating post-Blonde RnB. 
  • Shy Boys - Bell House: Hard-cutting instrumentals that fall away for moments of stark honesty that shimmer like a lost Beach Boys song.
  • Iggy Azalea - Survive The Summer: Remember “Fancy,” guys?
  • Bad Bad Hats - Lightning Round: Songs about being a deeply-flawed and inherently-fucked up human. A therapeutic soundtrack to life. 
  • Moses Sumney - Black In Deep Red, 2014: A three-pack of groovy left-field RnB tracks with masterful multi-layered instrumentation and rich vocalization. 
  • Erra - Neon: Progressive and mathematical metalcore that rapidly alternates from airing saccharine sentiments to violently lashing out.
  • Nicki Minaj - Queen: An album who’s messy rollout, subsequent controversy, and surrounding beef is more entertaining than the music itself. 
  • Trippie Redd - Life’s A Trip: At least it’s got a cool cover.
  • Beach Bunny - Prom Queen: Charming and compulsive indie rock that’s not afraid to be emotionally-bare.
  • El Ten Eleven - Banker's Hill: Engaging post-rock that occasionally explodes into math, metal, and electronic diversions. 
  • Aminé - ONEPOINTFIVE: Jokingly labeled as an “EP/LP/Mixtape/Album,” the newest release from Aminé finds him mixing humor, trap, and personal experiences to a great effect.
  • Death Cab for Cutie - Thank You for Today: Ethereal, moody, and mature indie rock from the group that seems to have become masters of those feelings. 
  • Animal Collective - Tangerine Reef: A psychedelic audiovisual album about the havoc we have wreaked on the environment and the damage still to come.
  • The Oh Sees - Smote Reverser: One of the last bastions of jammy, proggy, nerdy rock music. As dexterous and eclectic as it is complete and exhaustive. 
  • Ariana Grande - Sweetener: It’s pop music.
  • Fredo Disco - Very Cool Music for Very Cool People: Say Anything-esque tales of charging headlong into personal relationships, getting too high, and inheriting jeans. 
  • mewithoutYou - [untitled] e.p.: Slow-building orchestral emo that imparts the feeling of floating through a dream world that barely resembles our own.
  • Field Medic - boy from my dream: Four hazy, sleepy, and slightly-out-of-focus folk songs from an artist that I love dearly
  • Rubblebucket - Sun Machine: A surprisingly-dancy indie record that’s packed with confessional slice-of-life dioramas all backed by lavish beds of woodwinds and brass contributions. 
  • Lemon Twigs - Go To School: The Lemon Twigs’ sophomore record is a concept album about a monkey that is raised by humans, goes to school, and discovers himself along the way. A whimsical reverse-Tarzan of a musical that commandeers your attention and charms your pants off.
  • White Denim - Performance: Fuzzy T.Rex-inspired throwback tunes send in from a parallel funk dimension.
  • Whitney Ballen - You’re A Shooting Star, I’m A Sinking Ship: Heartfelt songs of precious relationships, emotional turmoil, and the inescapable feeling that you’re less than everyone else around you.
  • Blood Orange - Negro Swan: Pensive RnB that revels in sexuality, race, self-doubt, and anguish. 
  • WSTR - Identity Crisis: Defiant fist-clenching pop-punk.
  • The Kooks - Let’s Go Sunshine: No longer Naive, The Kooks navigate the lovesick waters of adulthood in an hour-long Britpop expedition.
  • Wild Nothing - Indigo: Dream pop with a retro 80’s twist. 
  • Troye Sivan - Bloom: Immaculately-produced pop that seems chemically-engineered to burrow its way into your brain.
  • Iron & Wine - Weed Garden: Sleepytime music for sad hipsters.
  • Mogwai - Kin: It’s not technically a new Mogwai album, but I’ll take their brilliance wherever I can get it. 
  • SahBabii - Squidtastic: Low-gravity RnB beamed in from another planet.
  • Eminem - Kamikaze: After stumbling a bit with Revival, Eminem seems to have broken his downward trend of pop-hop and snapped back into full-on rapping for this surprise release. 

 

In August we also heard new singles from This Will Destroy You, J Cole, Father John Misty, Saves The Day, Joyce Manor, Mick Jenkins, Courtney Barnett, DRAM, Mac Demarco, Logic, Soccer Mommy, Boygenius, Lil Yachty, Mr. Sister, 6Lack, Toto, FIDLAR, Kurt Vile, Bryson Tiller, Gucci Mane, Empress Of, and Kanye West.

 

Rewind

Finally, here are a handful of albums from earlier this year that it took me until this month to discover.

    • The Growlers - Casual Acquaintances: Laid-back yet precise indie rock produced by Julian Casablancas. Created for late-night leather-clad bar hopping followed by ungracefully stumbling home.
    • Stella Donnelly - Thrush Metal: Hard-hitting and intimate songs of Donnelly’s innermost thoughts and conflicts. Confessional and confrontational, “Boys Will Be Boys” may be one of the most important songs of the year. 
    • Knuckle Puck - Shifted: The melders of pop-punk/hardcore rework five songs from 2017’s Shapeshifter into pensive electronic-infused ballads with the same level of heart.
    • Indigo De Souza - I Love My Mom: From forecasting your eventual demise to the social bartering surrounding ghosting, I Love My Mom is a journey of exploring your own emotions like a pioneer. 
    • Retirement Party - Somewhat Literate: Punchy and meaningful pop-punk that’s hit me harder on first listen than anything else this year.

    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.

    Six Amazing Albums From 2018 You (Probably) Haven’t Heard Yet

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    I’ll let you guys in on a little secret: almost everything I do is an accident. When I sat down to plan out this site’s 2018, monthly new music roundups were not even part of the equation. By the end of January I was already so overwhelmed with incredible new music I just couldn’t help but collect it all in a write-up. I wrote that post in one day (a quick turnaround for me), and since then I’ve been keeping track of new releases more than ever before, discovering to new acts, and posting new music roundups along the way each month. 

    Now that we’re officially halfway through the year I wanted to look back and pick one album from each month that stood out to me. This article is basically a way for me to repurpose these mini-reviews in a more topical “mid-year recap” that every publication seems to be doing, but with a focus on smaller releases that have flown under the radar. So without further adieu, here are six albums from 2018 you (probably) haven’t heard yet. 


    Shame - Songs of Praise

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    Far and away my favorite album of January, Songs of Praise is the debut record from London-based post-punk group Shame. It’s an aggressive, moody, and surprisingly poetic album that’s currently filling the IDLES-shaped hole in my heart. Cold and grey, angry and calculating, this is an unflinching and immaculate record that took me by surprise and still hasn’t let go.

     

    Hovvdy - Cranberry

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    Like most other bands on this list, Hovvdy is a group I’d never heard of until I sat down to listen to them this year. When I first hit play on Cranberry, I instantly fell in love with the warm, hazy, nostalgic sound of the record, and with each further listen a different track has jumped out at me and grabbed my attention. Both spiritually and stylistically, this album reminds me of Turnover’s Peripheral Vision from 2015. Both albums hooked me on first listen and bear the same fuzzy spaced-out sense of nostalgia. While Turnover’s record is more pop-punk influenced, Cranberry finds itself taking cues from bedroom indie, Americana, and even country at times, but both play out like a distant memory that slowly grows to shroud the listener in their own nostalgia.

     

    Haley Heynderickx - I Need To Start a Garden

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    On I Need To Start a Garden we witness as Haley Hendrickx attempts to balance the cultivation of her soul with the well-being of those around her. With deeply-cutting lyricism, haunting, fragile vocals, and wonderfully-arranged instrumentals, Garden is a carefully-crafted record. At its best moments, the album’s minimalism serves Hendrickx’s style well as the songs crest from held-back whispers into full-blown explosions of sound and emotion. Currently my strongest frontrunner for album of the year, Haley Hendrickx is a person to watch, with a record to love. 

    For my full review of I Need To Start a Garden, click here.

     

    Fiddlehead - Springtime and Blind

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    Fiddlehead is an emo supergroup comprised of members from Basement and Have Heart who are making hard-charging punk in the style of Jawbreaker or Balance and Composure. A recent addition to the Run For Cover family, the label’s co-sign immediately put the band on my radar and got me to give this debut a shot. While the 24-minute running time makes Springtime and Blind an easy listen, the lyrical content makes it anything but. After witnessing the impact of his father’s death on his mom, lead singer Patrick Flynn set out to bottle up that emotion and hurl it back in the face of his audience. Opening track “Spousal Loss” immediately sets the tone of the record, and (aside from an interlude or two) the heavy-hearted energy of this release doesn’t let up until its final moments. It’s a compelling and expansive listen that grabbed me on first spin and has somehow managed to hit even harder with each subsequent listen. It’s musical and spiritual forward momentum.

     

    Ministry of Interior Spaces - Life, Death and the Perpetual Wound

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    I’m not a sad person. I don’t have many regrets in life, nor a wealth of personal tragedies to draw from. Earlier this year I attended a This Will Destroy You concert, and it was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve had in recent memory. I knew their songs like the back of my hand, and midway through the instrumental set, my mind began to wander into long-forgotten thoughts. It was meditative. I started thinking about people, places, and events I hadn’t considered in years, as if the music was helping my brain re-establish these broken connections in order to feel these things I hadn’t in decades. At its best, I feel music offers listeners a canvas on which to project their own feelings and anxieties. An avenue to interact with deep-seated traumas and unheard thoughts, and that’s exactly what Ministry of Interior Spaces offers on Life, Death and the Perpetual Wound. Half concept album, half whatever you want it to be, Perpetual Wound is an ambient release that recounts the tale of a “mystical road trip through a magic-realist American West.” It’s a document of its creator’s struggle with drugs, depression and, friendship in the face of natural beauty. The record tells a timeless tale that simultaneously acts as a canvas for the listener to venture through and draw upon. A beautiful self-exploration. 

    We interviewed Ministry of Interior Spaces here, and did a track by track analysis of LLDATPWD here.

     

    Snail Mail - Lush

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    At the risk of echoing already-hyperbolic publications, I flat-out adore Lush. I’ve previously written quite a bit about Snail Mail, even going as far as to call this my most anticipated release of the year, and I’m now proud to write that Lush is everything I’d hoped it would be.

    I first discovered Snail Mail last year when they were opening for Girlpool. I had already staked out a great spot for the main act one or two people away from the front of the stage in a small 200-some capacity venue here in Portland. I’d never heard of Snail Mail, but once they started playing my jaw just dropped, and I was rapt for their entire set.

    There’s something pure about “discovering” a band like that, especially in a live setting just a few feet away from the music. It has been weirdly-affirming to watch Lindsey Jordan blow up since then. Between the Matador signing, her Tiny Desk concert, and all this recent press, it’s been wild to watch her soar so high so quickly.

    I guess I feel a microcosm of the “I liked them before they were cool,” but at the same time, I’m goddamn happy for her. I’ve been spinning Habit and her (now deleted?) Sticki EP endlessly since that concert last year, even going as far as to manually rip the Tiny Desk performance onto my phone just so I was able to listen to “Anytime” at any time. This record has been a year in the making for me, and I couldn’t be happier.

    Lush is somber, morose, and personal. Built around heartfelt tales and personal drama, each song features Jordan’s voice front and center, often working itself up to an explosive and passionate melody over her own jangly guitar-work. It hurts to listen to, but it also helps the ease the pain at the same time. It’s a beautiful contradiction, an awe-inspiring exploration of growth, and the exact kind of record I need right now.

    June 2018: Album Review Roundup

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    Vermont is for Lovers, and (apparently) June is for Hip-hop. At the time of writing, we now find ourselves halfway through the year, at the start of a hot summer, and emerging from an absolute barrage of new releases from some of the biggest names in music. I’m not gonna beat around the bush, lots of objectively-fucked up shit happened in June, but for the sake of avoiding politics and leaning into happiness, let’s take a break from that and focus on some of the life-affirming art we’ve been lucky enough to receive this past month.

    Just in the past 30 days we’ve witnessed numerous Kanye-produced records, multiple collab albums, surprise drops, and long-awaited debuts from rising up-and-comers. Let’s jump into our recap of June’s best albums and kick things off with one of my most conflicted releases of the year.


    Kanye West - ye

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    Kanye West likes Donald Trump. There’s no way around it, and it’s an ugly fact that I’d rather ignore, but much like AA, the first step is to say it out loud just to get over the mental hangup. Ever since Kanye’s pre-album political nonsense this spring, I’ve approached his music and persona with more apprehension than ever before. While I already detailed my excited, confused, and conflicting thoughts on Kanye’s eighth album here, I feel it’s worth mentioning in this roundup if only because June was a month dominated by Mr. West and it all kicked off with this album. 

    On ye, it seems as if Kanye is fully-embracing his life philosophy of “soon as they like you, make ‘em unlike you,” the only problem is, this is the first time I've ever personally found myself unliking him. I can see where he’s coming from (at the end of the day, Kanye has more in common with Trump than he does with Obama) but his public support remains a massive enjoyment-deterring red flag that lingers in the back of my brain while listening to this album. 

    If you’re wondering why I’m talking so much about politics, and controversy, and things outside the music, it’s because that’s exactly what the album itself does. My primary criticism with ye is that it’s mired almost exclusively in the events of the past few weeks. It sounds cool, it’s well-produced, and has some fun moments, but politics aside I fear for how well this album will age. Especially when stacked up against other classics in a discography of records that have only gotten better with age, I don’t see ye standing the test of time. Maybe it will turn out to be a fun time capsule, but I don’t know how much I’ll want to be remembering Kanye’s TMZ interview years down the line. ye is timely, not timeless. All we can do now is wait to see how well it holds up and hope that the damage isn’t irreparable.

    Read our full review of ye here.

     

    Dance Gavin Dance - Artificial Selection

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    Dance Gavin Dance’s debut was bookended by the lyrics “I believe there’s meaning / No I believe there’s nothing,” an anthemic refrain that ended up becoming a sort of mission statement for the Sacramento natives. Active for over a decade, Dance Gavin Dance have inadvertently become old guards of the post-hardcore scene, a single constant among one of the most volatile and ever-changing musical genres. Not to say the band themselves haven't had their share of ups and downs; after a revolving door of members leaving, re-joining, and then re-leaving, the group seems to have finally cemented into a steady line-up that they've maintained for four albums now. After hitting a possible career-high with 2016’s Mothership, the group has returned with Artificial Selection, their longest and most powerful output to date. 

    To me, Dance Gavin Dance has always embodied the best this genre has to offer; beautiful, emotional, and earnest melodic singing stacked against overtly-goofy but hard-hitting screams all battling for the listener’s attention over hyper-proficient musicianship. It’s a musical Yin and Yang with two sides that are diametrically opposed, yet somehow work together to raise each other. Regardless of the lineup, each Dance Gavin Dance album feels like the band is a cohesive entity working together for one common purpose, clawing tooth and nail toward their greater artistic vision. 

    While most of Artifical Selection is precisely what fans have come to expect from DGD, the album’s most impressive feat comes in its closing moments on “Evaporate” when the group runs through a breathtaking medley of eight songs during the album’s final minute. The result is a one-of-a-kind career-spanning highlight reel that encapsulates 13 years of musical highs, lows, phases, and lineups. The 60-seconds are jam-packed with second-long flashes from different bygone eras, each of which unearth long-buried feelings that now feel fresh as ever. It’s an absolutely staggering musical achievement, and one that only long-time fans will fully-appreciate, but this goosebump-inducing outro alone is worth the price of admission. 

     

    Nas - Nasir

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    Despite claims of album completion in 2016, it took until this month for the public to hear Nas’ long-awaited twelfth studio album. Undoubtedly re-written, retooled, and revamped in the intervening years, Nasir is the penultimate release of Kanye West's Wyoming Sessions. Opener “Not For Radio” throws the listener headlong into a torrent of various political proclamations that let the listener know what they’re in for by immediately baptizing them in the deep end. From there “Cops Shot the Kid” is a unique and poignant track placed over a constantly-repeating Slick Rick loop that bears the song’s title. Other highlights include the soulful “White Label” and the far-out “Simple Things.” Overall, Nasir is a bold, compact, and political release from one of the former figureheads of the hip-hop scene. 

     

    Colin Stetson - Hereditary (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) Spoiler-Free 

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    Whew. I don’t write about soundtracks on here very often, but Hereditary has hung with me long after my first viewing. I went into the movie alone on a stormy Wednesday as a way to test out my new MoviePass card when I found myself with an abundance of free time. Aside from social media hype and my passive A24 fandom I had no idea what the movie was about or what to expect going in. Hereditary is the first time I’ve ever experienced true horror in a movie theater on a genuine level. I covered my mouth during one scene that took me by such surprise I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. My heart was beating out of my chest for the film’s final act, and I had to consciously remind myself that this was only a movie. I left the theater speechless, physically weak, and in awe of what I’d just taken in. 

    Award-worthy direction, writing, and performances aside, an essential element to the film is Colin Stetson’s reserved score. It oscillates between moments of minuscule almost non-existent instrumentation that then quickly drop out into explosions of unease that coincide with the film’s most disturbing moments. Both as a movie and an album, Hereditary is absolutely dreadful. A horrific march through grief, death, and trauma that has haunted me more than any other film I’ve ever seen in my life. 

     

    Beyonce & Jay-Z - Everything Is Love 

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    Surprise released on an unsuspecting Saturday night in mid-June, Everything Is Love finds the biggest power couple in music teaming up for a collab album of fashionable flexing and marital bliss. Hopefully the final nail in the coffin of the “Lemonade Narrative,” the album sees both Bey and Jay mending fences following 2016’s embarrassingly-public infidelity. Full of lavish beats, ballads, and bangers, the duo’s joint effort is just as opulent as their previous work would lead you to believe. Most of the tracks see Beyonce pulling double duty as both singer and rapper, occasionally passing the mic off to Jay for him to interject a verse or two of his own. Soulful, holistic, and (fittingly) loving, this record is pure fun, even if it’s exactly what you expect going in. 

     

    Nine Inch Nails - Bad Witch

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    Following a detour into ambient, a memorable Twin Peaks appearance, and a (still-ongoing) love affair with film scores, Reznor and Co. are back with one of the darkest and most disintegrated releases they’ve ever recorded. Both a return to form and a bit of a curveball, Bad Witch is a dark, distant, and delightfully-distorted vision of a bygone future. Simultaneously jazzy and machine-driven, NIN’s latest record finds inspiration in David Bowie’s near-death Blackstar, so much so that I actually mistook album closer “Over and Out” as a posthumous feature from the Goblin King himself. Technically the third entry in a trilogy of EPs following 2016’s Not the Actual Events and 2017’s Add Violence, this record’s Bowie emulation has led fans to believe this grouping of EPs is Reznor’s approximation/interpretation of the Berlin Trilogy. A bold comparison to draw, but Bad Witch is so strong, I don’t think that many could begrudge it. There are long-winding instrumental stretches, far-off intermittent vocals, and even an unexpected sax interjection at one point. The singing is sparse and drowned-out in ancillary noise, but the end result is a potent and impactful release that will likely be vaulted up with the decade-old classics of NIN’s long and storied discography.

     

    Father John Misty - God’s Favorite Customer

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    I don’t even know where to begin with Josh Tillman anymore. His extra-musical antics range from clever to tiring, but primarily because they’re never-ending. While I enjoyed 2017’s Pure Comedy enough for it to end up on our 2017 AOTY list, that record was still a draining, exhausting, downer of a listen. In contrast, God’s Favorite Customer offers almost a polar opposite: a hyper-specific depiction of Tillman’s life on a micro level that still manages to retain some of the grandiose musicality from his last release. 

    If I Love You, Honeybear was an album about his wife, Pure Comedy was a record about all of humanity, and now Pure Comedy is an album about himself. Stark and introspective, Tillman balances the balladry of Comedy with the more ornamental musicality of Honeybear for a record that ends up feeling like the best of both worlds. It’s an album written mid-breakdown while holed away in a Wes Anderson-esque hotel. There are pangs of paranoia, depression, and crippling self-doubt, but the important thing is that both the narrator and the listener emerge from the experience as better people.

     

    Snail Mail - Lush

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    At the risk of echoing already-hyperbolic publications, I flat-out adore Lush. I’ve previously written quite a bit about Snail Mail, even going as far as to call this my most anticipated release of the year, and I’m now proud to write that Lush is everything I’d hoped it would be.

    I first discovered Snail Mail last year when they were opening for Girlpool. I had already staked out a great spot for the main act one or two people away from the front of the stage in a small 200-some capacity venue here in Portland. I’d never heard of Snail Mail, but once they started playing my jaw just dropped, and I was rapt for their entire set.

    There’s something pure about “discovering” a band like that, especially in a live setting just a few feet away from the music. It has been weirdly-affirming to watch Lindsey Jordan blow up since then. Between the Matador signing, her Tiny Desk concert, and all this recent press, it’s been wild to watch her soar so high so quickly.

    I guess I feel a microcosm of the “I liked them before they were cool,” but at the same time, I’m goddamn happy for her. I’ve been spinning Habit and her (now deleted?) Sticki EP endlessly since that concert last year, even going as far as to manually rip the Tiny Desk performance onto my phone just so I was able to listen to “Anytime” at any time. This record has been a year in the making for me, and I couldn’t be happier.

    Lush is somber, morose, and personal. Built around heartfelt tales and personal drama, each song features Jordan’s voice front and center, often working itself up to an explosive and passionate melody over her own jangly guitar-work. It hurts to listen to, but it also helps the ease the pain at the same time. It’s a beautiful contradiction, an awe-inspiring exploration of growth, and the exact kind of record I need right now.

     

    Kids See Ghosts - Kids See Ghosts

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    Bookending this month’s roundup we have Kids See Ghosts which is the collaborative project of Kid Cudi and Kanye West. Practically the polar opposite of the hyper-timely slice-of-life lyrics found on ye, Kids See Ghosts is a psychedelic and ethereal release that feels much more refined and long-lasting. The album ranges from anthemic (“Freeee (Ghost Town, Pt. 2)”) to absurdly-confident (“Cudi Montage”) but everything circles around a central theme of mental health which both men have publicly struggled with in recent years. Having emerged from the other side of their respective traumas (and even beef), Kids See Ghosts is both celebratory and affirming, a joint effort to be better, happier people. Both artists provide spectacular counterpoints to one another, and the entire collaboration feels like an equitable, vibrant, psychedelic journey to the higher self.

     

    Quick Hits

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    • Oneohtrix Point Never - Age Of: Medieval psychedelic rock beamed to earth from an abandoned space-station that grows increasingly-schizophrenic with each passing minute.
    • Natalie Prass - The Future and the Past: Funky hip-swaggering indie rock with heartfelt vocals that pierce through your soul.
    • Anthony Green - Would You Still Be In Love: The Circa Survive frontman takes a rustic acoustic detour to wax poetically about love and life. 
    • Joan Of Arc - 1984: Collaborative indie rock that give a voice to those that are hungriest. 
    • Get Up Kids - Kicker: A four-track EP and the first material in seven years from the forefathers of pop-punk. A warmly-welcomed return to the genre. 
    • Pllush - Stranger to the Pain: Blissed-out and dreamy emo rock with siren vocals, swirling soundscapes, and heartfelt lyrics.
    • serpentwithfeet - soil: Smutty lower-case R&B that gets progressively more depraved as it goes along.
    • gobbinjr. - ocala wick: Hyper-personal bedroom indie rock that bleeds rawly over bouncy electronic bloops and gorgeous guitar work. 
    • Würst Nürse - Hot Hot Hot: Balls-out fully-female punk rock. A quartet of hot tracks that shred, rip, and thrash their way towards triumph.
    • Flasher - Constant Image: Blissed-out grunge-influenced tunes for lovers of the Pixies and similarly-sharp alternative.
    • Jorja Smith - Lost & Found: After vaulting to fame thanks to a 2017 Drake appearance, Jorja Smith is now fully-ready for the RnB spotlight.
    • Petal - Magic Gone: Throwback grungy tunes with a voice like a bell and emotions like a shark. 
    • Protomartyr - Consolation: Crushing post-punk with rolling drums and charging bass. A wall ready to be defaced.
    • Melody’s Echo Chamber - Bon Voyage: Ever-changing and dreamy French indie rock.
    • Jay Rock - Redemption: Reformed gangster tales from the TDE mainstay. Well-polished and hard-hitting, this is the hip-hop dark night of the soul you need at 2am.
    • SOPHIE - Oil Of Every Pearl's Un-Insides: Shiny, polished, and clean electronic pop from the renowned and enigmatic producer.
    • State Champs - Living Proof: Happy-go-lucky pop-punk with more group chants, anthemic choruses, and maudlin sentiments than you can shake a stick at.
    • The Sloppy Boys - Lifelong Vacation: Comprised of indie comedy legends Mike Hanford, Tim Kalpakis, and Jefferson Dutton, Lifelong Vacation is a hilarious, fun, and rockin’ outing that I can’t get enough of.
    • Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Hope Downs: Sharp and surfy tunes from the Australian indie rockers.
    • Culture Abuse - Bay Dream: Unrelentingly-joyous and fast-moving, Bay Dream is a textbook pop-punk Summer album.
    • Death Grips - Year Of The Snitch: 👄
    • Freddie Gibbs - Freddie: Hard beats and hard bars, all delivered in under 30 minutes.
    • Drake - Scorpion: After getting publicly-owned in one of the decade’s most high-profile rap beefs, Drake is back with an exhausting 25 tracks of rap-singing and Drive-inspired outerwear.
    • Jim James - Uniform Distortion: The fourth solo album from the My Morning Jacket frontman with just as much distortion, charm, and good vibes as fans have come to expect.
    • Florence + The Machine - High as Hope: Sweeping, ornamental, and theatrical, High as Hope captures slowly-building slice of life confessions.
    • Spencer Radcliffe - If I Knew How: Earnest as ever, Spencer Radcliffe’s newest EP contains a handful of early recordings that showcase the development stages of the songwriting process.
    • Self Defense Family - Have You Considered Punk Music: The newest stark and emotional journey courtesy of Run For Cover Records.
    • The Milk Carton Kids - All The Things That I Did and All The Things That I Didn’t Do: Slow-burning and fast-smoldering country tunes.

     

    Singles from St. Vincent, Mezingers, Saba, Asking Alexandria, Charli XCX, MadeinTYO, IDLES, Interpol, Manchester Orchestra, Mom Jeans, Death Cab For Cutie, Alt-J, The Kooks, Nicki Minaj, Mogwai, Yo La Tengo, Mitski, Sheryl Crow, Angelo De Augustine, Rubblebucket, 2 Chainz, Grimes, The Mountain Goats, Tyler, The Creator, Deafheaven, Meek Mill, Thee Oh Sees, Smashing Pumpkins, and BROCKHAMPTON.

     

    Rewind

    Finally, here are some 2018 records from earlier months that I missed, but wish I hadn't.

    • Deeper - Deeper: Bouncy indie rock that keeps time like a well-oiled machine.
    • Bonny Don - Longwave: Laid-back, jangly, and jaunty indie rock with a tasteful tinge of country. The perfect album for a porch beer. 
    • The Fearless Flyers - The Fearless Flyers: Someone this passed me by (despite receiving multiple emails about it) but the latest spinoff from the Vulfpeck collective is irresponsibly funky. 
    • Harrison Whitford - Afraid of Everything: Heartfelt soul-prodding folk with a jangly country bent.

    Album Art, Visual Translation, and A Pride Week Collage

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    Album art is sacred. It is the physical embodiment of a record’s soul, a manifestation of the thoughts, strife, and emotion that went into its creation. Album art is often the one chance an artist has to distill their work into something visual; into one composition that translates the art they’ve made into an entirely different medium. An album’s cover is both the face and synopsis of the music that lies directly behind it.

    Even outside of vinyl, the artwork of an album is a vital piece of the overall music experience. As we cram albums onto our phones by the hundreds and platforms like Spotify continue to shrink artwork down to hundred-pixel squares, it’s more important than ever to appreciate the work and artistry that goes into a cover. 

    In 2018 it’s less important to have a cover that “sells” a potential listener simply because there’s rarely ever a sale in the traditional sense anymore. When everything is one click away, the listener has nothing to lose aside from the three-minute commitment it takes to listen to a song. Sure artists can still use sex or controversy to court discussion and clicks, but now more than ever the cover’s primary job is to translate the senses of the record into something outside of itself. Something recognizable, something beautiful, something with heart. 

    I’ve long been fascinated with album art, and more recently I’ve found myself looking at my music library abstractly, organizing albums and playlists not by artist, alphabet, or genre, but by color. If records are the physical embodiment of the artist's music, then the color can tell us a lot about the mood and texture of their songs at a glance. 

    Earlier this year I found myself face to face with a playlist of all pink albums and enjoyed the experience of interacting it so much that I figured why not do that for every color? I sat down, scrolled through my library, and after collecting all of these lovely records into one mood-board-like word document, it only made sense to talk about them here. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed apropos to have this multi-color collage coincide with Pride Week, the most colorful time of the year. So here are 60 (mostly single-color) albums that are largely well-regarded, but also definitively “Taylor-core.” 

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    And In addition to the six-row “Pride Flag” layout above, I’ve also created a “Full Spectrum” rainbow version, since white pink and black were three of the easiest colors to fill out. You can find the full-resolution versions of these collages here and here. I dare your ass to name all 90 albums.

     

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    But wait, that's not all! In addition to these images, I’ve plucked one album from each color and given it a short mini-review. Most of the covers above fall under "classic" territory, but there are also some deeper cuts that I've always wanted to write about on here, even if it's just for a short paragraph.


    Owen - I Do Perceive

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    Husband, father, and noted sad man Mike Kinsella has been making music for a majority of his life. From his work as a teenager in the late-90’s under Cap'n Jazz and American Football to his current solo work as Owen, Kinsella is a prolific artist who seems to be continually overflowing with both good music and raw emotion. While American Football’s self-titled debut is now viewed as an all-time classic in the emo/indie/underground circuit, I posit that I Do Perceive should be brought up with the same level of reverence. Offering a slightly more “adult” counterpoint to his younger self, Perceive is an early-morning exploration of Kinsella’s headspace and the inner-workings of his most intimate relationships. Packed with smart observations, clever topics, and lush instrumentation, this album aches with beauty and honesty. 

     

    John Frusciante - PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone

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    Perhaps best-known for his work with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers during some of their most successful releases, anyone who dives into John Frusciante’s solo records will quickly come to realize what an essential (and artistic) role he played in the group. From his early drugged-out acoustic albums to later-career dissonant electronic phases, Frusciante is a complicated musician with a vast body of intricate work. PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone is a 2012 experimental album that blends electronic, indie, and hip-hop into one schizophrenic explosion of songs that shift rapidly and without warning. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard in my life and concrete evidence that Frusciante is a genius with a mind and vision all his own. 

     

    The White Stripes - The White Stripes

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    While they achieved greater success and recognition with later records, The White Stripes’ self-titled debut remains a fantastic release that marks the beginning of an incredibly strong discography. Featuring punchy, thrashy, and messy garage rock, The White Stripes shows us a band in its charming infancy. There are well-crafted choruses and catchy melodies, but at the same time everything is so ragged and distorted that the entire record sounds as if it was recorded in one take. There’s something pure about pre-fame Jack White, and the band’s rough-around-the-edges debut is eternal proof that everyone must start somewhere. 

     

    Sharks Keep Moving - Pause and Clause

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    While it’s only three songs long, Pause and Clause stretches out over a luxurious and lavish 21 minutes. Technically only an EP, this shorter format allowed the band to embrace some semblance of punctuality while simultaneously giving the songs proper time to breathe. Fronted by Minus The Bear’s Jake Snider, Sharks Keep Moving is a reverse-super group whose members went on to form Pretty Girls Make Graves, The Blood Brothers, and These Arms Are Snakes. Pause and Clause, the group's final release, features long-winding and arid songs of love, heartbreak, and disappointment, the centerpiece of which is the 11-minute “Like A River.” One of my favorite songs of all time, “Like A River” tells a tale as old as time of a man, a woman, and a bar. It’s a song that’s not afraid to writhe in its emotions and say exactly what it’s thinking. The lyrics are few and far between, but each line hangs in the air as a poetic observation of the simple beauties in life. The song’s instrumental outro is thrilling and gorgeous, allowing the listener’s mind to reel in their own experiences and project themselves onto the multi-colored soundscape of love and affection.

     

    Sorority Noise - Joy, Departed

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    After gaining a cult following with 2014’s Forgettable, Sorority Noise returned one year later with their landmark Joy, Departed. Decidedly more serious, mature, and musical, the group’s sophomore effort sees a shift from half-goofy pop-punk into full-blown heart-on-sleeve emo. In retrospect, this release does a fantastic job of acclimating the listener into the band’s more-grounded later work, but still manages to strike a balance between sing-along pop-punk and moody emo that I find enchanting. With poetic lyrics tackling depression, self-harm, and drug addiction, Joy, Departed is far from a “fun” listen, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable or important.

     

    Band of Horses - Everything All the Time

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    Assisted by Seattle’s own Sub-Pop, Everything All The Time was Band of Horses grand unveiling to the world. While “The Funeral” will probably always be their best-known and most widely-recognized song, Everything All The Time is an incredibly-well put-together album featuring personable and charming songs of lackadaisical indie rock with just a tinge of country. Tracks like “The First Song” and “I Go To The Barn Because I Like The” offer laid-back earthy slice of life vignettes that all add up to one of the better debuts of the 2000’s. 

     

    Explosions in the Sky - How Strange, Innocence

    For an album that was recorded in only four days, How Strange, Innocence is absolutely immaculate. Even when taken in nearly two decades later, Innocence fits squarely into the Explosions In The Sky’s discography and feels like a group that already knew exactly what they wanted. While the band’s later work gradually became quieter and more subtle, their debut is the loudest, most distorted, and most singular thing they’ve ever recorded. Each song explodes with a wall of guitar, drums, and bass that all chug forward relentlessly until crescendoing into sparks of violent beauty. It’s an absolute wonder. 

     

    Tame Impala - Currents

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    After achieving commercial success and near-universal acclaim on his first two records, Tame Impala’s third album found Kevin Parker moving away from Beatles-esque psychedelia and further into electronic progginess. Much like Joy Departed, Currents does a fantastic job of segueing long-time fans into the band’s new sound. Opening track “Let It Happen” begins as a classic Tame Impala psychedelic rock song before glitching out into a prolonged electronic section marked by a dancey explosion of sound and light. Mid-album cuts like “Eventually” all bear the same clean production and showcase the specific type of beauty to be found at the intersection between these two seemingly-disparate genres. 

     

    Japandroids - Post-Nothing

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    Comprised of only two Canadian men, a guitar, and a drum set, Japandroids pack a gigantic, anthemic, and cathartic punch into a small package. While 2012’s Celebration Rock is arguably the rock album of the decade, Post-Nothing will always hold a special place in my heart as that record’s fuzzier, more nostalgic older brother. Beginning with the Thin Lizzy-referencing “The Boys Are Leaving TownPost-Nothing immediately casts a late-summer spell upon its listener, hurling them into a suspended animation of their own memories. Mid-album cuts like “Heart Sweats” and “Crazy/Forever” find the duo settling into well-crafted melodies and lulling the listener into a sense of trust and inner-peace. Finally, album closer “I Quit Girls” is a soul-rending adult lullaby that builds to a climactic groove which eventually ferries the listener off to the end of the record.