Julia Holter - Loud City Song
Reading about the construction of a Julia Holter album is a bit like reading an art student's honors thesis — one album was built around a Greek tragedy; this one's loosely built around the musical Gigi. Listening, however, is another matter, and Loud City Song might be Holter's most transcendent statement yet. Her voice can come off as icy and ethereal, but on "World," it's firmly grounded and comes through with stunning clarity as she sings of urban melancholia — "what are you wearing? ... I live on the 5th floor of the apartment building ... what am I looking for in you? How can I escape you?" It feels like listening to snippets of phone conversations and thoughts from miles of anonymous citydwellers, while lush horns and harpsichord craft blankets of sound around her. "Horns Surrounding Me" begins with what sounds like someone being chased while she whispers paranoia before launching into a cold, pulsating orchestral pop number. Each of Loud City Song's pieces feels purposeful; you could write at length about each one, like how "He's Running Through My Eyes'" soft movements curl in unexpected ways, or how "In the Green Wild" counters its seemingly carefree, scat-like delivery and standup bass with dread-inducing strings and dark, descending backup vocals. Holter creates her own galaxy on Loud City Song, with each of its songs a strange, spinning planet of sound.
See photos of Julia Holter's Amoeba performance here.
Earl Sweatshirt - Doris
Earl Sweatshirt's long-awaited debut finally drops, and it's not without its share of baggage. The young Odd Future-ite released his debut mixtape, Earl, back in 2010; then, his mother sent him to boarding school for troubled youths in Samoa. The time away seem to have only made Earl hungrier, as well as smarter. Doris is moody, angry yet not quite aggressive. "Why're you so depressed and sad all the time like a lil' bitch?" he asks himself wearily on "Burgundy," a funny ode to his own story — its failed and later achieved promise — full of humor and brilliant rhymes by Earl and grandiose beats by The Neptunes. On his singles, "Chum," "Whoa" and "Hive," Earl crafts similarly dark and self-deprecating tales that subtly hook their way into your subconscious. "Chum" in particular is affecting — "it's probably been 12 years since my father left ... I just use to say I hate him ... when honestly I miss this n*gga like when I was 6," he declares over a loping, unresolved piano line. It's easy to gravitate toward Doris' brilliant singles, but the album intrigues from start to finish. "Centurion," featuring Vince Staples, uses horror imagery and a sudden shift halfway through — listen for that scream! — to keep you unsettled, while "Molasses," which appropriately features RZA, almost handing the torch from Wu-Tang to Odd Future, sees Earl holding his own with one of his heroes. It's a brilliant debut that was more than worth the wait — if anything, the time and anticipation has ensured that Doris defies expectation.
Earl Sweatshirt Doris CD $12.98
Zola Jesus - Versions
Zola Jesus’ albums have grown progressively more grandiose, less buried under sheets of distorted noise. It only seems fitting that her latest release is a reworking of older material with a string quarter (a collaboration with artist/producer J.G. Thirlwell, of Foetus and other projects). The setting allows for Nika Roza Danilova’s voice to reach its full potential. Without having to sing hugely over mountainous noise, Danilova turns in more restrained vocal work that does many of her compositions favors. Opener “Avalanche (Slow)” is simply paralyzing, akin to Liz Frazer of the Cocteau Twins’ vocal turn on This Mortal Coil’s “Song to the Siren.” “Fall Back” builds to an intense second half, and “In Your Nature,” which has sounded wonderful in both its original rendition and David Lynch’s remix, is given yet another brilliant shade in this minimal setting. Some of these versions can’t help but a fill a bit anemic next to their built-up counterparts, while “Seekir” cheats a bit with a percolating synthesizer, but it picks up again in the album’s closing, particularly on the stirring “Collapse.” Versions’ strongest tracks make it as great as anything in the Zola Jesus catalog, full of moments of breathtaking beauty.
Zola Jesus Versions CD $12.98
Zola Jesus Versions LP $18.98
No Age - An Object
An Object comes after two albums of bruising noise-pop and a third that turned down the volume to place favor on songwriting and guitar manipulation. While their third release, Everything All the Time, was a fine album, it was tough not to miss the sonic bliss of yesteryear. An Object splits the difference while making further inroads musically. “I Won’t Be Your Generator” still finds Dean Spunt sing-talking in a defiant beat style, but his verse seems to blend with guitarist Randy Randall’s fretwork better than ever, and Randall, for his part, provides some of his most melodic work to date. The duo spring to life for the brilliant “C’mon Stimmung,” a fiery piece of noise-rock with as much chaotic bending of strings as it has awesome shoutalong vocals and arena-ready riffs. The chilled out “An Impression” features some of Spunt’s most direct and affecting singing to date, and the addition of strings is tastefully done, without spoiling the specialness of No Age’s minimal setup. The album’s second half features a couple of rockers, like the fun, taut “Lock Box” and rumbling “Circling With Dizzy,” while the rest sees No Age indulging in some of its loveliest work to date, replete with krautrock-inspired beats and sonic guitar washes. An Object takes some time to get its teeth in you, but repeated listens show it to be as strong as anything they’ve done. Even as the punks in No Age mature, An Object shows they’re still an act that is special, one that continues to go its own way and turns over new leaves with each release.
No Age An Object CD $12.98
No Age An Object LP $18.98
Ty Segall - Sleeper
Ty Segall sings passionate lullabies on his latest album, a broad departure from his heavy, fuzz-driven previous work as leader of Ty Segall Band, Fuzz and his own solo work. Taking a page out of the Syd Barrett handbook, Segall shows off his sensitive side here with sweet acoustic jams, but Sleeper ain't too sleepy, given the blood, sweat 'n' tears Segall pours into these songs. If you were afraid going acoustic would soften Segall, fear not: Sleeper is the work of the madman behind so many great releases over the past few years, only this time, he's put the focus squarely on his songwriting. That focus shows a writer with a keen sense of melody and storytelling — "let the keepers keep the time, let the sleepers dream so fine" he sings in a quiver on the lovely "The Keepers." Here's hoping Ty Segall keeps dreaming for a long time.
Ty Segall Sleeper CD $13.98
Ty Segall Sleeper LP $20.98
Crocodiles - Crimes Of Passion
San Diego's Crocodiles go glam on their latest album, Crimes of Passion. Brandon Welchez sings of "liking it in the dark" over a jaunty rocker full of classic riffs, a bouncing piano line and soulful backup vocals. Their new, more clarified sound (with production help courtesy of The Raveonettes' Sune Rose Wagner) may throw some listeners used to their waterfalls of reverb and distortion, but the songs are strong enough to handle the added scrutiny of clearing out the noise. "Marquis De Sade" surfs on a crisp shoegaze melody and dreamy chorus. "Teardrop Guitar" has a terrifically distorted riff leading the charge down a psychedelic rabbit hole. "She Splits Me Up" dances around with chiming guitars and paisley harmonies till you're dizzy. It’s a gorgeously noisy set, hanging together with better production and a clearer focus than ever shown before by Crocodiles.
Watch their video for "Cockroach" via RollingStone!
See all of this week's new releases here.
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