Taiga is a pop album, but its creator has made that way intentionally while retaining, and perhaps improving upon, her artistry. Rather than cashing in, the album finds Zola Jesus (aka Nika Rosa Danilova) returning to her roots of sorts, as she largely wrote Taiga on Washington’s Vashon Island, as though returning to the rustic forests where she was raised in Wisconsin, singing “do you wish you could go back to it all?” on the creaking opening title track, which erupts into a jungle beat. From here, we head into powerful pop songs like “Dangerous Days” that find Danilova singing clearly and boldly over dance-pop beats, but with the same paralyzing strength her voice has always commanded. “Go (Blank Sea)” is a little sultrier, built on a slower beat that swells into big, booming pop chorus and disintegrates into fluttering synthesizers, while Nika Roza Danilova’s voice rises and falls with soul and precision. “Hunger’s” hyperkinetic beat and incisive synth riff make for some of the album’s most grabbing moments. And though “Lawless’,” beautiful melodies sound buried under the ice, they’re still firmly pop. Perhaps because of the way in which it was written, the album has a certain isolation to it that comes through on tracks like “Ego,” in which Danilova undergoes thorough self-examination (she pairs similarly painful reflections “I fought against the ego, I know it brought me closer to losin’” and “I fed into the ego, I knew it brought me closer to hubris”), while synthesizers and strings quietly battle around her, sounds creaking cavernously in the background. On Taiga, Danilova sounds as though she’s faced her inner demons and come through on top with an album of powerfully moving pop music.
Flying Lotus – “Coronus, the Terminator”
For the latest unveiled track from Flying Lotus’ upcoming You’re Dead (out Oct. 7; preorder on LP or CD), FlyLo sets the stage with some backwards instruments and rain, moving into what sounds like a sultry Quiet Storm track. Singer Niki Randa gives the song that extra sumptuousness while Flying Lotus’ subtly detailed production demands repeat listens. From the sound of this and the other tracks he’s released, You’re Dead might already be the most accessible Flying Lotus album yet.
Medicine – “Move Along – Down the Road”
L.A. shoegaze legends Medicine’s second run generated the terrific To the Happy Few last year, and impressively, they’ve already got another new one on the way. With the release of the “Move Along – Down the Road,” Medicine’s Home Everywhere (due Oct. 28 on Captured Tracks) is quickly becoming one of our most anticipated new albums of the year. It sounds like two ’60s pop songs fused together, sped up and filtered through eight kinds of distortion, threatening to tear apart but always coming back to some new riff or idea.
Out Sept. 23
The Internet pretty much exploded when Richard D. James announced Syro, and with good reason. It’s the ambient/electronic artist’s first album in 13 years, and from the sound of the glorious “minipops 67 [120.2][source field mix]” (OMG vocals), it’ll have been worth the wait.
Out Sept. 23
A hopped-up Kendrick Lamar has no problem keeping up with Flying Lotus’ jazz-inflected twists and turns in this masterful slab of head-churning beatwork. Particularly when that steady beat comes in about a minute in, this thing is intense. It might be the most propulsive thing we’ve heard from FlyLo yet. It’s definitely got us even more excited for You’re Dead, which is due Oct. 7 (preorder on LP or CD).
Foxygen – “Cosmic Vibrations”
California-born psychedelic pop band Foxygen have unveiled another song from the upcoming …And Star Power album (due Oct. 17, preorder on LP or CD), and it’s an eerie, slow-burning duet of sorts between frontmen Sam France and Jonathan Rado, who trade spacey observations over a low-key Western backdrop. Great, gloriously wasted stuff. Then that ending …
FlyLo today released a video with audio clips from the album and visuals by manga artist Shintaro Kago. Sounds like lots of acid jazz rap insane beats paired with dead bodies exploding—but, like, in a fun, anime way. BTW, there are a lot of flashing lights, if you’re sensitive to that.