…And we’re back with another edition of our monthly review round-up series. We’re already in June and we have even more big releases coming (FLEET FOXES!!!!!). This time around though, we are going to do something different. Since there have been so many noteworthy albums this year, I’m going to do a bunch of mini reviews for every album I listened to this month. These are going to be a bit more relaxed and less formal than our normal style. Also don’t worry,I’ll be reviewing the new Lil Yachty and Bryson Tiller albums. Now, no more waiting. Let’s get into it!
Harry Styles – Harry Styles
Harry Styles, the former front-man for 1 Direction, really surprised me with his solo debut. Unlike Zayn who went down a more modern alternative r&b sound and Liam who is doing more traditional pop, Harry decided to experiment with a classic rock approach in the same vein as ZZ Top, The Beatles, Elton John, and even Blondie. Harry really wears his influences on his sleeve, but that doesn’t take away from his own performance because this record was very good.
At a nice 10 tracks, there are a handful of songs that are both beautiful and groovy, which has hooks and choruses that will undoubtedly stay in your head. My favorite track on the album is no doubt Kiwi, which sees Harry going full ZZ Top with an instrumental that is just incredible as he absolutely goes off. It’s something completely caught me off guard when I first heard it. Other notable songs are Sign of the Times, Carolina, Woman, Sweet Creature, Two Ghosts, and Only Angel.
The record does have a bit of a disappointing start though with Meet Me in The Hallway. Compared to the other tracks on the album, it’s so boring and uneventful. It’s not particularly bad because Harry’s little melody as he sings the refrain is rather nice, but the lyrics are pretty repetitive and the instrumental is pretty lackluster. I’m also not a big fan of the tracks Ever Since New York and the closer, From The Dining Table for pretty much the same reasons. This album works best when Harry is experimenting with that hard rock style and those two tracks fall unfortunately flat. Still though, this project is definitely worth checking out.
Paramore – After Laughter
And since we’re on the topic of expectations being blown away, let’s discuss this new album from Paramore. I’m a huge Paramore fan dating back to their first album, All We Know is Falling, in 2005 and I wholeheartedly believe that the band’s back catalogue is extremely solid. Riot and Brand New Eyes are both classic albums in my eyes. Even the self-titled 2013 release wasn’t that bad. After a 4 year hiatus and a rumored break-up, Hayley and the gang returned with an album that was a steep departure from their emo roots, or so I thought. The lead single, Hard Times, was so weird listening to because sonically, the band completely changed. They were going down a poppier direction and that made a lot of their old fans upset. To each their own, I guess because I absolutely adore this thing.
What makes this album so great is that the band remained to their emo roots in the lyrics while contrasting them with some best hooks and choruses since Carly Rae Jepsen’s EMOTION. This thing is a really dark and depressing album, but you’d never know that if you get hung up on the fact that Paramore changed to their sound. Give it a honest shot and don’t go in with any preconceptions. This is a well-written, beautifully produced, and expertly performed album.
I pretty much enjoyed every track on here except for the closer, which lacked the energy and excitement that the earlier tracks did. It really does end the album on a bit of a lull which is a little disappointing, but don’t let that deter you. This was a fantastic album from Paramore and well-worth your attention.
Perfume Genius – No Shape
Following 2014’s Too Bright, Perfume Genius aka Mike Hadreas returns with an album that gets more grandiose in scale and takes bigger risks, but remains just as beautiful, touching, and memorable. The songs on this album are very left field for your average pop record, but Hadreas’ avant-garde approach to art-pop is a wonderment to behold. Smart, thought provoking lyrics that range from emotional to even dark at times.
Only flaws are that sometimes the experimentation can fall a bit flat. It tries to reach levels of massive like the latest Arca record does, but it’s not quite there. A track like Run Me through is a prime example.
My favorite tracks on this album are Slip Away, GO Ahead, Valley, Braid, Choir, and Sides that features an excellent feature from Weyes Blood.
Swet Shop Boys – Sufi La EP
Last year, the Swet Shop Boys (ENglish rapper/actor Riz MC, former Das Racist member Heems, and producer Redhino) released one of the best hip-hop albums in Cashmere and this is their follow-up EP. We get 6 short, yet energetic set of songs that feature Heems and Riz spitting all over them. One of the best things about Cashmere was Redhino’s samples and how he incorporated them into the tracks. On a song like Aaja or Tiger Hologram, there were a ton of influences from South Asia and those helped give those tracks a great individuality. Sufi La doesn’t have many of those. The songs still sound good production wise, but those samples being gone is a little disappointing. Some of the samples Redhino does use are really annoying. The title track comes to mind.
The lyrics on this album are also a little cheesy compared to Cashmere. Riz is the primary culprit for this and it leads to some very eye raising lines.
“I’m Paki Chan, I’m Paki Robinson, I’m Pak Nicholson
Pour brown on the rocks, I’m Pak Daniels”
From Sufi La
Make the bed rock, I lay her legs crossed
My fame and get lost again, til I get soft
We all cavemen, that’s the end of
Yabadabadoo in the town of Bedrock
It’s not a bad EP, but I was hoping for a tad bit more. The political nature of the lyrics is still very prevalent and that’s where SSB shines, along with the energy of Heems, Riz, and Redhino’s production. My favorite songs are Anthem, Zombie, Thas My Girl, and Need Moor.
After a 7 year hiatus, Jesy Fortino returns to the Tiny Vipers project with a complete sonic switch-up compared to her last album Life On Earth. This record is a near vocal-less set of ambient pieces that are more airy and spacious. I wasn’t familiar with Fortino’s work prior to listening to this album, so I went back and listened to her previous work before I dove into this new project. Personally, I prefer her older sound to this new approach, but that doesn’t take away from what she does well. Instrumentally, I see a lot of similarities between this style of music and Grouper’s last album Ruins (In fact the two did a collaboration together under the name Mirroring)
The songs are very lo-fi sounding, which is a detriment and a positive to a lot of tce tracks. Songs like Living on a Curve, Crossing the River of Yourself, and The Summing of Moments all sound incredible because the ambience just ads to the momentum of these tracks and the lo-fi textures of the track really benefit. The opener Boarding Charon’s Boat is a great 2 minute intro cut that features some beautiful singing from Fortino with an instrumental that ramps up in intensity as the song progresses.
The title track, Laughter is an excellent piece of ambient music that feels like a movie’s opening sequence by how epic it sounds. It’s wonderful and the lo-fi production helps a lot, but it also has some faults. On K.I.S.S. the static and repetitive nature of the instrumentals really gets to be a bit grating. It never changes and the beat itself is very annoying after repeated listens. This album lacks the replayability that her earlier records had. I can only really see myself listening to about 3 of these songs again and only in select scenarios.
Best tracks are Laugher, Living on the Curve, Crossing the River of Yourself, and The Summing of Moments.