Archive | March, 2022

Rosalía – MOTOMAMI

29 Mar

MOTOMAMI is the greatest reggaeton album ever made. Rosalía was already a superstar and yet she has found a way to be larger still, and even more impressively, to do so on her own terms. MOTOMAMI does not fall cleanly into any box, but instead draws from apparently every influence that Rosalía can bring to the table and the result is dizzying.

This shows up well in the fun “CANDY.” She brings great emotion and fascinating sounds from a range uncompromising in its scope and makes the song fun to boot. She is every bit as fun in “CHICKEN TERIYAKI.” The music is clever, lively and so very individual.

For all of that though, she is still capable of “HENTAI,” a slower indie rock cut. She does it well, even if I prefer the reggaeton and her versatility is stunning. This is what allows for the standout “LA FAMA,” not only the best track on the album, but also The Weeknd as good as he has ever been, but somehow in Spanish.

MOTOMAMI is everything you could ask for and yet does not have a single fragment of pandering from Rosalía. This is her album entirely and we are all the better for it.

Nilüfer Yanya – PAINLESS

20 Mar

PAINLESS is an imperious album. It’s effortless in its ability to capture. you. Many of the other great albums of the present work with intricate details. PAINLESS just finds the right grooves, adds the right textures and is rightly confident in their ability to keep you captivated. Yanya then adds to this with insistent and undeniable storytelling that runs as a dark whisper underneath the shimmering dream pop.

In something like the standout “L/R”, the narrative both powerful and sparse. “Sometimes it feels like you’re so violent, autopilot” is a strong line for the chorus and contrasts very satisfyingly with the languor of the music.

Similarly “anotherlife” is buoyant, dreamy and resonant and then it will absolutely lacerate you the moment you let it in. “try” is very compelling and very relaxing music and Yanya’s voice is perfectly restrained and sublimely emotive.

PAINLESS is a consistently cohesive album. There’s nothing here that detracts from the vision or compromises the quality and both are unparalleled.

Monthly Playlist – Feb 2022

7 Mar

The second month of 2022 saw the release of quite a few good albums. There was Laurel Hell, the much-anticipated follow-up from indie-folk singer Mitski, as well as new records from stalwarts such as Animal Collective and Spoon. There were also new tracks from artists such as Fontaines DC, Caroline Polachek and more. Read on for our top five picks from February 2022!

“The Loop” by Toro y Moi

We covered the delectable “Postman” with its fun Pharrell-esque vibe, in last month’s Monthly Playlist – and this month, Toro y Moi has treated us once again to a great track. Unlike the upbeat vibes of “Postman”, “The Loop” is much more laidback, and much more jazzy almost. Subtle basslines mesh with Chaz Bear’s playful vocals, leading to a track that’s perfect for spring days that almost, almost feel like summer. Both “Postman” and “The Loop” are precursors to Toro y Moi’s upcoming album Mahal, out on April 29th.

“Held” by Spoon

Technically, “Held” is a cover of a track by eclectic singer-songwriter Bill Callahan under his Smog avatar. We definitely don’t blame you for never having heard of Callahan, Smog or the original “Held”, but do yourself a favor and check out the cover by Spoon on their latest album Lucifer on the Sofa (released Feb. 11th). Spoon’s cover of “Held” is raw, bluesy, and full of the kind of modern-day cowboy vibes that seep through a lot of Lucifer, for which this track serves as a worthy album opener. “For the first time in my life / I let myself be held like a big old baby / And I surrender to your charity,” ruminates lead singer Britt Daniel, and the way he drawls and draws out his thoughts make you ruminate along with him. “Held” was apparently battle-tested by the band in live shows for many years, and it shows – Spoon truly owns this track.

“Crip Ya Enthusiasm” by Snoop Dogg

Snoop Dogg had a fantastic February. On February 10th, he made the surprise announcement that he is now the new owner of the acclaimed Death Row Records, the label which famously launched his very career. A day later, on February 11th, Snoop announced “Crip Ya Enthusiasm”, the first track from his new album (also released on the same day) quite suitably titled Bacc on Death Row. If “Crip Ya Enthusiasm” sounds to you like a reference to Curb Your Enthusiasm, then you’re exactly right. The track starts off with a sample of the meme-worthy theme song from Curb that is then masterfully spun into the song’s catchy backbone. The rest is standard Snoop flow – as cool as a cucumber, but don’t underestimate the verbal gymnastics of the West Coast OG. Also of particular note is the verse break (“These are words coming from the Dogg / And everything I do is lit / Hoppin’ right along, tryna get my party on / Call my n*, let’s go bust a bitch”) that Snoop actually sings along to the Curb song.

Oh, and on February 13th, he performed at the highly-lauded Half-Time Show at Super Bowl LVI. Not a bad February!

“Kissing Lessons” by Lucy Dacus

Lucy Dacus is a young singer-songwriter with a couple of well-received albums under her belt: her debut No Burden (2016) and two follow-ups Historian (2018) and Home Video (2021). Apart from her own music, she’s also well-known for being one-third of the group boygenius, formed with fellow indie rocker girls Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers. Lyrically, “Kissing Lessons” is a short-and-sweet song about a childhood queer romance – an older girl in elementary school called Rachel that gives Lucy the titular lessons. While Rachel moves away by the end of this sub-2 minute track, Lucy still keeps a memento of her childhood more-than-a-friend. We also liked the wall-of-sound guitarwork that almost competes with Dacus’ vocals for the listener’s attention. A true indie rock song, albeit with a sweet edge.

“Angelica” by Wet Leg

Wet Leg’s debut album was one of the five albums that we were anticipating the most out of 2022 at the start of the year, and the Isle of Wight band has just released one more proof point for our case. “Angelica”, released on the last day of February, is in line with the indie rock sensibilities on their runaway hit “Chaise Lounge” and strong follow-up “Wet Dream”. The track is about a cool it-girl called, well, Angelica, who’s observed by the narrator at a party that they’re both attending. Angelica arrives (with lasagna, to boot) and quickly dominates the room, making the narrator wonder why she’s still hanging around with a person like Angelica in the mix. It’s all very young-person ennui, and Wet Leg’s characteristically catchy, upbeat guitars and drums pair well with the subject matter. The two-piece have a big month coming up, headlining as one of the notable acts at SXSW 2022 and performing in about half a dozen venues in the city of Austin during the 10-day festival. All of this buzz is in preparation for their release of their debut album on April 8th – as we’ve said before, we’re looking forward to this one.

Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You

5 Mar

Big Thief has always been a band for whom I’ve had more respect than liking and there have been plenty of albums where I’ve had neither one. This is the first album of theirs that I really enjoy. It is somehow both deeper and more detailed than their previous work. It’s more intelligent and a little off-kilter as in the spectacular “Simulation Swarm.”

More enjoyably though, it’s also much more fun than their earlier work. The two hands clapping in “Time Escaping” is hilarious and on just the right side of camp and the song itself is nothing short of excellent. The country twangs that never move too far into the background of “Spud Infinity” are similarly just funny.

With this humor and humanity, they are more poetic than their usual and more resonant as well. This is really good music with none of the remoteness that often plagued their earlier albums. In fact, it’s hard to think of any real flaw to hold against the album at all.

Spoon – Lucifer on the Sofa

2 Mar

There are few artists that have maintained a certain level of quality over several decades – Bob Dylan or Red Hot Chili Peppers, for example – but perhaps the most underrated of these unerringly consistent artists is Austin, Texas-based Spoon.

Founded by singer and guitarist Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno in 1993, the band has remained a force in their hometown, with notable presence at SXSW, ACL and other cultural touchpoints that the city has to offer. The other members of the band have gone through several rotations, but the current roster includes Ben Trokan (bass / keyboards), Alex Fischel (keyboards / guitar) and Gerardo Larios (guitar).

Since their inception almost 30 years ago, the band has released a steady stream of great albums, notable of which include 2001’s Girls Can Tell, 2005’s Gimme Fiction, and many more. (In fact, ask a group of Spoon fans what their favorite album is from the band’s discography and you’ll likely get different answers from each – that’s how consistently good Spoon is.)

Now, the band is back with their 10th studio album, Lucifer on the Sofa, which, we are happy to announce, continues the band’s lifetime streak of catchy and highly-listenable albums.

Although we loved the band’s previous album – 2017’s Hot Thoughts – it was one of the more divisive albums in their discography; with old-time fans discouraged by the decidedly electro-pop edge that the album took. Lucifer on the Sofa is a back-to-basics rock album, almost as a direct rebound from Hot Thoughts. While both auras of Spoon have their musical highlights, the band definitely sounds more at ease on Lucifer.

The album starts off with “Held”, a cover of a 1998 track by Bill Callahan in his Smog avatar. “Held” serves as a perfect starting point to Lucifer, with a bluesy live-recording vibe that permeates the rest of the track-list. In fact, so good is their cover that you would not be remiss in thinking that it’s a Spoon original. “Held” melds coolly into “The Hardest Cut”, the best track on the album (and lead single) that easily made our end-of-year list upon its release in 2021. Here, Spoon take on the rock-and-roll mantle further than almost any other active band today – close your eyes and you can see this track in a Cadillac commercial in place of Led Zep’s “Rock and Roll”.

There are a few others here that come close to the vitality on “The Hardest Cut” – for example, the devilishly-good blues-rock track “The Devil & Mister Jones”. Another great track is “Feels Alright” with its melodious hooks and warm guitars, where we find Daniel’s charisma at a maximum. Jangly second single “Wild” is an homage to wanting to break free, which Britt Daniel expresses through some well-wrought lyrics. “I got on fine with modern living, but must I be such a citizen?” he asks, before confessing on the chorus: “And the world, still so wild, called to me.”

In fact, many of Spoon’s songs have to do with this feeling of restlessness – wanting to leave, skip town, run away and so on. Some others deal with his general sense of nostalgia and introspection – for example, the keyboards-driven classic indie rock track “On the Radio” – while still others are (surprisingly enough for a slick rock band) sweet love songs. The vaguely 1960s-tinged “Satellite” is one such song, with Daniel calling himself the namesake satellite to his lover.

Lyrically, though, the soul of the album lies in the title track and album closer, “Lucifer on the Sofa” – which is essentially a stream-of-consciousness poem of what it was like to wander through mid-pandemic empty streets. “Looking through the windows as you’re passing by / And I’m chasing every thought / And I’m walking over water / Thinking about what I lost,” he croons – and who can’t relate to their own experiences in 2020. Also, the song is very much set in Austin with references to Lavaca Street, West Avenue and others. “Lucifer on the Sofa” also clarifies the meaning of the namesake devil: a manifestation of the negativity in our own minds, freezing you into a disheveled state to the extent that it literally feels like an unwelcome guest crashing on your sofa.

With few drawbacks throughout the track-list – the weakest being perhaps “Astral Light” and “My Babe” – Lucifer on the Sofa is a thoroughly entertaining rock record.

Rating: 8.5/10

Best tracks: “The Hardest Cut”, “Wild”, “Held”

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