Album Picks: Jamie xx, Girlpool, Sun Kil Moon, ASAP Rocky, Froth

Posted by Billy Gil, June 2, 2015 09:39am | Post a Comment

Jamie xxIn Colour

Producer and member of The xx Jamie Smith has finallly released his debut LP, and it feels like a game-changer. Favoring melody and atmosphere over showy beatwork, In Colour is able to wrangle a wide variety of sounds into a living, breathing whole. Tracks like “Gosh” layer found sounds and field recordings underneath appealing synth lines. Mellower tracks like “Sleep Sound” and “SeeSaw” are terrific after-hours jams, like passing out outside a rave and letting the beats pulse through your dreams. The xx member Oliver Sim shows up to lend his narcotic vocals to the noirish “Stranger in a Room,” while fellow xx singer Romy Madley Croft smears black mascara all over the heartbreak beat of “Loud Places,” which makes wonderful use of a sample of Idris Muhammad’s “Could Heaven Ever Be Like This” on the song’s rousing chorus. Though it’s a bit jarring to hear rapper Young Thug and dancehall artist Popcaan on the following track, “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times),” the song itself is a worthy hip-hop crossover that enlivens the album as a whole. It may sound cheesy, but In Colour really does prove that trip-hop, post-punk, house and hip-hop can call reside under the same roof, as Smith expertly strings these sounds together into new nocturnal anthems. It’s not too soon to call this a new electronic masterwork.


Girlpool - Before the World Was Big

L.A. duo Girlpool find something new and intriguing among familiar elements on their debut LP, Before the World Was Big. Twin vocals wrap around lonely bass and guitar lines that wander the empty space left by a lack of accompanying instruments, placing the focus on the Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad's vocals, wide-eyed and untamed like two feral children searching for clarity in a supposedly civilized world. Their debut calls to mind indie-rock heroes of yore from The Breeders to Modest Mouse without really sounding like any band before them—a feat in and of itself—singing of the trappings of a typical life ("Ideal World"), endless tour boredom ("Dear Nora") and the sudden nostalgia that hits at the end of your teenage years, where Tucker and Tividad currently find themselves, evoking the image walking to and from school in matching dresses and feeling like you grew up too fast on the title track. Unlike that of most bands, the hype surrounding Girlpool is entirely understandable—it's rare to find music this special. Catch them live at Amoeba Hollywood today at 6 p.m.!


Sun Kil MoonUniversal Themes

It’s been just a year since Mark Kozelek released Benji, a masterpiece of emotionally charged oversharing. Similarly, Universal Themes, a new LP recorded between several cities and likely written while touring to support Benji, brims with detailed accounts that grab you with their seeming mundaneness and reveal deeper truths. For all the talk of how Benji felt like peering into Kozelek’s diary, it was more of a carefully considered memoir; by contrast, Universal Themes feels hammered out, so it’s more immediate, if a tad scattershot. Regardless, it’s full of indelible moments that only Kozelek could muster. His multitracked growl perfectly captures the feel of a Godflesh concert on “The Possum” while its titular creature dying underneath the stoop feels like the existential fear of death, Steve Shelley’s insistent beat driving forward as the narrator watches HBO and reflects, “I’d like to die with music in my ears.” Kozelek finds himself in a strange place, filming a movie in Europe for weeks, temporarily relieved yet unsettled on “Birds of Films,” his gentle strums and faded strings echoing the solitary period. Kozelek revels in a heaviness rarely seen since his Red House Painters days on “With a Sort of Grace I Walked to the Bathroom to Cry,” his desperate vocal and grungey guitars feeling like a rare Neil Young nod. And the gorgeous “Garden of Lavender” calls to mind his sepia-toned classics with RHP, Kozelek’s plodding guitar and creaking voice coloring an idealized, in-the-moment account of appreciating the small things at home like petting a cat’s belly and the sound of your loved one’s car. After a rough year or so press-wise for Kozelek, it’s wonderful to have a new release on which to focus, though a track like the entitled-millennial-baiting “Cry Me a River Williamsburg Sleeve Tattoo Blues” keeps his controversial side alive. We wouldn’t have it any other way—Kozelek’s warts-and-all approach to songwriting remains as refreshing as ever on Universal Themes, continuing his remarkable late-period renaissance on another brilliant album.


ASAP Rocky At.Long.Last.A$AP

ASAP Rocky’s weed-and-codeine-fueled hip hop reaches new highs on his second studio album. With production by Danger Mouse and many others, At.Long.Last.A$AP is a deep, strange trip. “Holy Ghost” opens the album on its strongest note as Rocky struggles to resolve his beliefs with the drugs and sex he raps about, ending with Rocky on his knees and claiming “I got my own relationship with God” while Danger Mouse’s somber production intones around him. Much of the first half of At.Long.Last.A$AP blends together in a narcotic haze, which makes up the album's strongest run. As it progresses, Rocky lets loose with a few singles that aim for crossover appeal, perhaps best on “Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2 (LPFJ2),” its squelching synths and minimalist beat setting up a perfect MC showcase. It’s not always clear what he’s getting on about across the album’s expanse, but it rarely sounds less than inspired, handling well-picked guest spots from the likes of M.I.A., Lil Wayne, ScHoolboyQ and singer/songwriter Joe Fox, while his vintage Kanye-style duet with West himself on “Jukebox Joints” is a clear highlight. At.Long.Last.A$AP is by turns gripping and obscure, making for a fascinating listen that keeps A$AP Rocky in the upper echelon of indie-minded streetwise artists.  


Froth - Bleak

One of the best bands in L.A., Froth scuff up and strip down the sounds of noise-rock pioneers like My Bloody Valentine and Spacemen 3. As heroes of the great L.A. garage-rock scene, Froth keep things trim and to-the-point, offering up dream-pop melancholy on songs like "Afternoon" while keeping things spry and melodic on  "Postcard Radio," though they'll occasionally expand things for a lacerating drone-rock jam like "On My Chest." Check 'em out live if you get the chance.


Roman a Clef - Abandonware

A friend just showed me this late entry for an album pick: A Sunny Day In Glasgow’s Ryan Newmyer and Jen Goma make shimmering late-80s-style jangle pop inspired both by bands like Aztec Camera and The Style Council and the production work of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (Human League, Janet Jackson). The result is an irresistable cocktail of joyous sounds.

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Sun Kil Moon (11), Girlpool (8), Jamie Xx (9), New Releases (214), New Albums (213), Album Picks (146), Asap Rocky (3), Froth (4)