Music Reviews

Music Roundup 8/14/17


This article originally appeared on Crossfader

Hopefully you know the drill by now! Here’s our music roundup focusing on the notable releases of the past week or so, letting you know which ones are worth your valuable time.

music roundup avicii

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Avicii – AVĪCI (01)

Genre: Autofellatio

Favorite Tracks: N/A

Without a doubt you and I and your aunt have heard every track on this EP already in the open air of any bougie outlet or chain store in America. It’s that familiar, prescribed, floodlight pop-ism seemingly eternally damned to the sets of luxury (and affordable) car commercials circa 2014. Coldplay and the Chainsmokers somehow put together an Apple Store hit in one go that’s more elegant than the sum of AVĪCI (01)’s six meticulously banal audio files. Even Ed Sheeran has probably done this song or that better. You already know what it sounds like. There it is. You’re good then? Mom’s waiting for us outside the Nordstrom’s so you’ll need to finish ur froyo soon b. [Micha Knauer]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup dg

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Bladee, ECCO2K, and Thaiboy Digital – D&G

Genre: Alternative R&B, Cloud Rap

Favorite Tracks: “No Life Left,” “Numb / Beverly Hills,” “Can’t Trust (featuring Yung Lean),” “G.T-R,” “Suffocation”

Heh. Alright, I’ve got a confession to make. I really, truly, deeply like Yung Lean and the good ol’ Gravity Boys listed above. Always considered more-or-less a joke, it’s nice to see the lesser lads come together for an official creative statement of their own. The unfortunate trap I find myself in is that unless you’re a scholar of S A D, you won’t understand why this is a strong step forward, as you’ve likely never interacted with the Gravity Boys to begin with. Now almost entirely divorced from any conception of rap, we’re allowed the stoned, glacially AutoTuned midnight cruise that we’ve always sort of expected might be the “logical conclusion” to the Gravity Boys. For the scant few that have been keeping up with Bladee, you’ll know without me telling you that he’s demonstrated a progressively more adept presence as a leading MC, with standout singles such as “Who Goes There” and “Sugar” giving Leandoer a run for his money. His soporific barding definitely carries D&G through to the end, although he’s more than assisted by the chronically underrated ECCO2K, whose porcelain-smooth delivery has finally deigned to bless us with his presence on a full-length. However, while it pains me to say it, I could do without Thaiboy Digital. The one member who elected to give us a more organic take on his voice, a stark and unflattering light is shone down on him that he proves himself nowhere near capable enough of shining under. The production is as arctic and shimmering as ever, and as with anything from YEAR0001, it’s perfectly suited for 3 AM drunk musings. So where does that leave us? Unfortunately, not very far. As Artemus Ward once said, “People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.” As for the rest… [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup downtown boys

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Downtown Boys – COST OF LIVING

Genre: Hardcore Punk

Favorite Tracks: “Somos Chulas (No Somos Pendejas),” “Promissory Note,” “Because You,” “Tonta”

I like Downtown Boys’ 2015 effort, FULL COMMUNISM, quite a bit in fact, so I was reasonably excited for their 2017 follow up, COST OF LIVING. With a large swath of punk acts, hardcore especially, there seems to be two routes to pursue as time wears on: keep playing loud, fast, angry, and slightly derivative, or inevitably get more “artistic” and melodic. Downtown Boys have taken the latter route, and it’s really up to subjective taste to determine whether or not it was an improvement. I will say this: it can’t be denied that COST OF LIVING is less fun than its predecessors, keeping the political unrest the band has always leaned into but balancing it out with a polished presentation that smooths out some of the head-banging, beer-sloshing fun that felt like a group of friends gathering together to fuck the system, instead occasionally coming across as X-lite. That being on the table, it’s also hard to wag a finger at a group that has made a distinct effort to mature in sound, offering up a much more fully baked album with a distinctly more tangible command of atmosphere and energy, turning in actual songs instead of furious slices of rage. And at the end of the day, tracks like “Tonta” are still a hat-tip to fans of their earlier work. Perhaps they’ll never have something quite as reclamatory and transcendent as their cover of “Dancing in the Dark,” but truly, who the hell else does punk have in 2017? [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup guided

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Guided by Voices – HOW DO YOU SPELL HEAVEN

Genre: Indie Rock

Favorite Tracks: “Boy W,” “Diver Dan,” “How to Murder a Man (in 3 Acts)”

Robert Pollard’s ridiculously productive alternative rock machine is in full function, with HOW DO YOU SPELL HEAVEN marking the band’s 25th LP since 1987, an impressive number made even more impressive given an eight year period of inactivity and the even more numerous singles and EPs released over that same period. I’m not going to lie to you and say that I’ve carefully listened to all of Pollard’s work, or even most of it, but HEAVEN is without a doubt the most memorable of Guided by Voices’ output this decade. The 59-year-old Pollard, who seems to be fully embracing a transition into a rock and roll elder statesman, joins other prominent rock and roll oldheads like Roger Waters in being reenergized by an incredibly turbulent political and musical climate, and HEAVEN benefits from a sense of purpose and energy that seemed to be waning from Pollard’s work in the wake of yet another lineup overhaul, particularly on songs like “Boy W.” Unfortunately, Guided by Voices is somewhat inherently limited sonically, usually happy to pinball between a few different touchstones of mid-to-late ‘80s alternative rock, and here find themselves continuing their tendency toward a sound heavily influenced by the likes of Paul Westerburg and the Replacements.However, Pollard has also clearly put some miles on his voice, and it carries an age reminiscent of David Bowie toward the end of his life that gives the music additional character. It’s a effective return to the halcyon days of college radio-friendly bands ruling the charts that might be enjoyed more by longtime fans than new listeners, but is worth checking out regardless. [Adam Cash]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup incantation

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Incantation – PROFANE NEXUS

Genre: Death Metal

Favorite Tracks: “Muse,” “Xipe Totec”

Having also covered a 2017 Suffocation release a few weeks back, it seems like this year is one for the metal greats to emerge from their slumber—or power nap, really, as Incantation’s kept up a remarkably consistent release schedule since their peak of relevancy in the early ‘90s scene. ONWARD TO GOLGOTHA and MORTAL THRONE OF NAZARENE are classics of the genre, the former being considered seminal, and anyone with an interest in getting an introduction to death metal would do well to check it out. As for PROFANE NEXUS… yeah, it’s alright! It’s always nice to hear veterans of the scene still demonstrate a propensity for bearing down and kicking ass, and career-long vocalist John McEntee deserves credit for not losing any of his menace and presence on the mic. That being said, and this is admittedly subjective, PROFANE NEXUS sees Incantation lean almost entirely to the death doom subgenre they always made practical, if not necessarily ample, use of. It provides a barrier to full enjoyment for me that’s unfortunate, but there’s no way around the fact that I would far prefer my metal to beat me over the head with a constant barrage of sound as opposed to offering monolithic chunks with valleys of space between. On the other hand, there is a more discernible sense of actual songcraft here than on many of the releases from their peers, even if some of its effect is washed away by high production values, missing out on the obscured evil lurking in the muddled hiss of their early work. If you’re a fan, it’s well worth a listen, but it’s just a little too by-the-numbers to recommend for the cursory listener, metal or otherwise. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

music roundup milo

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Milo – WHO TOLD YOU THINK??!!?!?!?!

Genre: Abstract Hip Hop, Conscious Hip Hop, Experimental Hip Hop

Favorite Tracks: “landscaping (featuring EUCLID),” “Sorcerer,” “paging mr. bill nunn” 

Spitting rhymes that are as much a work of poetry or philosophy as they are rap, Rory Ferreira, under the stage name milo, has made a name for himself in the underground rap scene with his albums TOOTHPASTE SUBURB and SO THE FILES DON’T COME. In spite of the avid fan base these albums created, his art rap has been largely criticized as pretentious and inaccessible. His newest album WHO TOLD YOU TO THINK??!!?!?!? is the latest in his recent efforts to act in direct defiance of such criticisms and find a voice that is radically his own, both in form and content. Released on his own self-founded label Ruby Yacht and recorded in a single take within 24 hours, the record is designed to create “a feeling of ‘being there.’”

Of course, the question still remains of how good the album actually is. As a die-hard fan of all of Rory’s work, I was eager to see another album much like TOOTHPASTE SUBURB or SO THE FILES DON’T COME. These albums had relatively high production quality, and were clearly trying to be solid studio albums best enjoyed as a whole. Upon early listens, I realized that milo had no intention of following that trend with this follow-up. His attempts to create an album which makes the listener feel present shape the entire record, for better and for worse. Some tracks, such as “landscaping,” have an element of raw authenticity which punches home in ways his previous albums never have, and act as a testament to the strengths of the unconventional recording style. At other points the album seems to lull and become monotonous, in ways that would likely have been avoided had he taken the time to tweak and edit further. In this sense he does, in fact, recreate the live experience, imperfections and all. It feels as though he is in the room with you, laying out his heart and making himself fully vulnerable. While I hope he will eventually return to high-production albums, WTYTT is glowing with intimacy and authenticity, and represents an exciting and intriguing re-imagining of what underground hip hop can be. [Taylor Moon]

Verdict: Recommend

music roundup pyrrhon

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Genre: Technical Death Metal

Favorite Tracks: “Goat Mockery Ritual”

What passes for music? It’s hard to imagine an album as jarring and abrasive as this, and before you dismiss me as some know-nothing poser, let me clarify. Extreme music has always sought to push the envelope (that’s sort of the whole point), and there have been countless bands that have achieved varying degrees of success in this regard, but Pyrrhon contributes nothing to the conversation. Venom presaged the entirety of black metal in 1982 with, uh, BLACK METAL. Black Flag inadvertently gave birth to sludge with the back half of MY WAR in 1984. Napalm Death open and shut the book on grindcore with SCUM in 1987, and Man Is The Bastard pushed hardcore to its logical conclusion in 1995’s THOUGHTLESS. Pyrrhon merely cherrypicked from metal’s esoteric back catalogue in creating what sounds like someone violating a garbage disposal. While these guys absolutely, positively possess incredible technical skill, they don’t do anything new or even interesting with it. And what they do do is questionable at best. It’s chaos for the sake of chaos. Just because you can add Cookie Monster death growls to a desperate appeal to Botch doesn’t mean you should. Just like how you probably shouldn’t put pickles on a PB&J, no matter how wasted you are. Of course, there will be a ton of floor-punchers proclaiming this as a groundbreaking, pivotal moment in experimental metal, but this isn’t anything Dillinger Escape Plan, Naked City, or, hell, even Mr. Bungle didn’t do 20+ years ago, and anyone with more than a cursory knowledge of extreme music can point a finger directly to every influence at play in this record. Pyrrhon even (rather shamelessly) incorporate chains in their percussion, which, you know, Swans did back in 1984 on their peerless YOUNG GOD EP. If you’re looking for old-made-new-again, do yourself a favor and listen to the new Dead Cross album instead. [Joseph Simpson]

Verdict: Do Not Recommend


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