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Album Picks: Zola Jesus, Flying Lotus, Caribou

Posted by Billy Gil, October 7, 2014 10:21am | Post a Comment

Zola Jesus - Taiga (LP, Colored LP, CD)

zola jesus taiga lpTaiga 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 - You're Dead! (LP, CD, Download)

flying lotus you're dead lpFlying Lotus’ fifth album is as strikingly original as anything he’s put out while also becoming streamlined. Of course, to the uninitiated, it’s still pretty nuts. “Theme” builds on droning orchestration before exploding into a jazzy interlude that sets the tone for the next few tracks. “Tesla” shuffles and pings back and forth like its titular Tesla coil, while “Cold Dead’s” dense and mind-bending harmonies excite while lush horns and synths relieve the senses. Here’s where You’re Dead gets fun. “Never Catch Me” finds a hopped-up Kendrick Lamar spitting rhymes as quickly as they’ll come over FlyLo’ head-spinning twists and turns. Captain Murphy and Snoop Dogg jump in for a fun 8-bit spin on FlyLo’s sound in “Dead Man’s Tetris.” On “Coronus, the Terminator,” FlyLo sets the stage with backwards instrumentation and rain while Singer Niki Randa’s breathy voice helps create a futuristic Quiet Storm track. Angel Deradoorian continues the spell on the mystical “Siren Song,” and  “Turtles” sounds like it would soundtrack a hip wildlife special, with its echoing bird calls and cascading bassline. Now here’s where it gets insane again, as Thundercat asks, “Can you feel the walls are closing in?” through Radiohead-level paranoia and ominous melodies on “Descent Into Madness,” which leads into the true madness of “The Boys Who Died In Their Sleep,” with a creepy-ass vocal by Captain Murphy. But it’s all good by the time we get to the end, and we feel like we’ve truly been on a journey. By balancing his headier material with pop-oriented moments, Flying Lotus takes us on a one-of-a-kind trip with You’re Dead.

 

Caribou - Our Love (LP, CD, Download)

caribou our love lpDan Snaith’s latest album moves his varying aliases closer together, utilizing some of the dancier aspects of his work as Daphni without sacrificing his core indie-electro-pop appeal as Caribou. The albums starts on a brilliant note with “Can’t Do Without You” is a sumptuous love song that circulates some of the psychedelic swirl of previous Caribou releases even as it taps into EDM culture’s builds and breaks. “Silver” is a sweet, dazzling digital tapestry of sound that tips its hat to ’80s synth pop while retaining its now cache. Snaith touches on many eras of dance music throughout Our Love, on the freestyle-vibing “All I Ever Need” and the luxuriously banging title track, which ends in a nod to Chicago house classic “Good Life.” Yet Snaith’s work is still his own, as tracks like “Dive” feature wavering keyboards and breathy vocals that make you feel like you’re teetering. Some of the later tracks fail to distinguish themselves, but none sounds remotely bad. Our Love is a warm, inviting listen from start to finish. It’s yet another bit of perfection from Snaith. Check out Caribou's new video for "Our Love" below:


Ex Hex - Rips (LP, CD, Download)

ex hex rips lpIf there’s anyone who has earned their way into making an album like Rips, it’s Mary Timony. This is pure, pleasurable power-pop of the highest order, created by someone who’s spent most of their career making intricate indie rock in bands like Helium and Wild Flag. With Ex Hex, it sounds like Timony, who has a knack for finding unique melodies and guitar parts between the lines, just wants to have fun. “Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love” soars on Timony’s desperate delivery and sassy riffs. “Beast’s” driving rock ‘n’ roll rides high on the beat of Laura Harris (of The Aquadolls). “Waste Your Time” is irresistible, with its yeah yeah yeahs and roller rink vibes, and “Hot and Cold” just sounds like an instant classic, calling to mind Joan Jett and The Pretenders without sounding overly reverential to them—Timony’s merely in the same class of songwriters. Sure, on one hand, Rips lacks originality, and that’s never really something you could have said about Timony’s work before. But on the other hand, this is the most instantly enjoyable music she’s ever put to tape, and it’s expertly done. So just plug in, play and let ‘er rip.

 

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Album Picks (146), New Albums (213), New Releases (214), Zola Jesus (24), Flying Lotus (21), Caribou (6)