C: Barry King/Getty Images
R: Rich Fury/Getty Images for FYF
Every week, the Noisey staff puts together a list of the best and most important albums, mixtapes, and EPs from the past seven days. Sometimes it includes projects we’ve written about on the site already; sometimes it's just made up of great records that we want everyone to hear, but never got the chance to write about. The result is neither comprehensive nor fair. We hope it helps.
Teyana Taylor: Keep That Same Energy
On the projector footage [at Thursday's listening party in LA], Teyana appears as chameleonic as she sounds. There’s “Fade” cover girl Teyana, writhing and making us sweat; there’s Teyana with short hair in cat-eye shades and baggie jeans, the analog to the punch and flow piping through the speakers; there’s Teyana with her daughter in the studio, showing her the mic and mixing board. Lane crossing, particularly for a breaching artist, and even more so for one who is a woman of color, is a risk; a lot of the time, especially in a pop world gambit, it can feel like pandering, or something unfocused and watered down.
But on KTSE, it feels like Teyana. To move through styles and mediums with a cohesive fingerprint is what defines artistry from entertainment. It’s not costuming or posturing. Her aesthetic presentations and sonic breadth amount to a greater whole, something you can’t put your finger on, because, maybe, finally, we’re getting the woman in control. — Andrea Domanick, Teyana Taylor Deserves Better Than This
Nine Inch Nails: Bad Witch
Sounding as though Trent Reznor took a regular Nine Inch Nails album, doused it in gasoline, then lit it on fire and recorded the sound of it burning, Bad Witch is one of the longtime industrial rock outfit’s harshest works in a while. Rounding out Reznor’s trilogy of political mini-albums, there are no anthemic choruses or enticing dance beats to spare the listener from a bottomless pit of robotic stoner rock and ominous drones, echoing how America’s slide into darkness seems to have consumed everything in its path. If Bad Witch is a dire account of a nation’s downfall, it’s also a new lease for life for Reznor’s creativity. The music here evokes the dank, claustrophobic 1970s that Krautrock and post-punk soundtracked, and NIN’s first major sonic about-face in years fits like a glove. Bad Witch makes hopelessness sound like a blast. — Phil Whitmer
Kamasi Washington: Heaven and Earth
On the same day that Teyana Taylor releases the last in a Kanye West-produced pentalogy of seven-song, sub-30-minute albums, Kamasi Washington rolls up with a two-and-a-half-hour-long jazz opus, one side of which deals with the saxophonist/bandleader's internal world, the other with everything else—including the cosmos. It's even more sprawling and ambitious than its runtime or its list of special guests lets on, and the space that Washington leaves for new styles to drift in and out allows for some transcendent stretches—one begins with the sputtering drum solo at the end of an elongated cover of Freddie Hubbard's "Hubtones" and doesn't end until "The Invincible Youth" finally lies down and exhales. And when Washington explores everything, he has to explore a world in turmoil—Greg Tate called Washington "the jazz voice of Black Lives Matter" not because of his hip-hop crossovers, but because of his ability to draw the tragicomic past into the urgent present. So the shades of Pharoah Sanders and John Coltrane stand for defiance just as much as the new lyrics to the opening Bruce Lee theme "Fists of Fury" ("Our time as victims is over / We will no longer ask for justice"). And in the middle of it all—on the third or fourth listen, while the two albums rise and fall over their own arcs, choirs drop in and out, and solos fly into each other—it's worth concentrating on the fact that the virtuosic Washington is fun. And funny. And obsessed with Street Fighter II. It would be such a waste to forget that. — Alex Robert Ross
Death Grips: Year of the Snitch
Straying further from the pit than they ever have, Death Grips’ collagist new record finally fulfills their promise as the cyberpunks they always fancied themselves to be. A swirl of alien synth work, percussion programming that often sounds like drum and bass breaks that have been thrown down a set of stairs, and jagged samples, Year of the Snitch is a record self-consciously born and bred from electronics. Even its spidery riff work feels digitally mediated, altered and thrown off balance as if they're treated samples too—which they very well might be. The usual human presence, the ragged yelps of MC Ride, seem to sit a little lower in the mix, just one stream of data amid the digital cacophony. It’s a reminder that in a world of nearly sentient AI, we aren’t special, if we ever were. Like the Hackers soundtrack played back in amid hormonally unbalanced rage, it feels at once cooly cybernetic, intensely human, and totally unstable. No wonder those nerds on Reddit love these guys so much. — Colin Joyce
Freddie Gibbs: Freddie
When Freddie Gibbs quickly released the promotion for his latest effort, Freddie, it seemed like the rapper might be taking a new approach to the music. A trailer for his new mixtape is a parody of the R&B singer Teddy Pendergrass, who he mimics for the album art. Freddie, however, is completely devoid of bedroom ballads—nothing like 1979’s Teddy. That is, unless you count “FLFM,” a satirical interlude that stands for “feel like fucking me.” Over 10 tracks, Gibbs does what he does best, which is tread over dark and gritty beats in his gravelly tone. To open, he lets you know he’s “pushing weight, and hasn’t pulled a muscle yet.” Suddenly, you want to quit your job to push weight, too. 03 Greedo joins him on “Death Row,” which serves as an admirable tribute to Eazy-E as they interpolate “Boyz-N-The-Hood.” “2 Legit” doesn’t sample MC Hammer as you would’ve guessed, but does reinvent Hammer’s signature phrase. Here, Gibbs is “too lit to quit.” Mary J Blige’s “My Life” vocals peak out briefly, but Gibbs still rides out to the original soul of the foundation Roy Ayers laid down in the first place. The rapper reverts to his usual self on “Set Set,” which has a hook punctuated with onomatopoeias—Big Shaq style. Most of the songs are under three minutes, which seems like an opportunity for him to exercise his lyricism in the most concise way possible. From the promotion, to the interlude, to the songs itself, Freddie is Gibbs’s chance at being his own version of his idols. — Kristin Corry
Kate NV: для FOR
Last year, the New York label RVNG was tasked with providing the soundtrack for a space for meditation in a repurposed movie theater at North Carolina’s Moogfest. Rather than curate a playlist or improvise a DJ set—both of which the knowledgeable heads in the community around the imprint would have been well equipped to do—they put together a cassette compilation they called Peaceful Protest, which pulled together sidelong pieces from a varied group of producers and composers and blared it over surround sound speakers. It was gentle music at high volume, intended to accompany collective emotional experiences and deep internal journeys.
Some of the pieces on the Russian composer Kate NV’s new album on RVNG, для FOR, originally appeared on that compilation, which lends a way of understanding these minimal, rhythmic assemblages of (possibly digital) malleted percussion, aqueous synth work, and lyrical electronics. Her previous pop work was driven by a jittery energy, and though this record is often geared toward contemplation, it’s still lively too. The way the melodic parts intersect like is playfully repetitive—sort of like watching a perfect .gif of a small section of a Rube Goldberg machine—but the emotional effect is ultimately calming. It’s a yogic exercise of peace in movement. — Colin Joyce
So Stressed: Pale Lemon
After releasing two vicious, mauled, anxiety-riddled LPs in 2015's The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art and 2017's Please Let Me Know, Sacramento's So Stressed have burned it all down and started again. Lead singer Morgan Fox's larynx is no longer coated with blood, Kenneth Draper is working with soft percussive trills rather than relentless bursts of syncopated panic, and guitarist Andy Garcia has disappeared entirely. Play Pale Lemon up next to their back catalog—nobody would recognize this as the same band. It's a shame that it starts so inauspiciously then: opener "Heavy Gifts" is a twangy, snail-slow indie-pop song with processed drums and mostly cold vocals. It drags. But it's fun to follow Fox and Draper when they open doors into more interesting spaces. "Miniature Flag" is the easiest to identify, all jazz guitar and flute and Elliott Smith-like vocal oblivion until it dissolves into an ambient haze. It introduces a second half that's altogether more satisfying. "Grape Skins" winds up with a celebratory refrain ripped from the best late-90s club-rock bands; the octaved harmonies on "Nodding in the Dark" push them closer to Waxahatchee than Drive Like Jehu; and "Snowshoer" even brings its bedridden acoustics out with a vibraphone. Best of all, Fox spends the chorus repeating that "We're standing on thin ice." Welcome disquiet. — Alex Robert Ross
Evol: Ideal Acid
The new effort from Spanish duo of electro-pranksters in Evol—whose 2016 record on Diagonal has locked grooves scattered throughout its four sides and still confounds me every time I try to play it—isn’t a goof but a love letter to the jagged sounds that inform their work. Following a 2013 megamix that shoved dozens of their favorite acid tracks into 13 minutes, they expand that idea on Ideal Acid, which set out to compress the whole history of the genre into a tight 20 minutes. The duo flit through tracks every couple of beats, slamming the familiar squelches of the Roland 303 into this machinic rhythm that’s skullcrushing and head-spinning (pick your order of operations there) in equal measure. While, sans tracklist, you might not necessarily learn any of the history lessons they intend, there’s few releases that do a better job of conveying acid’s disorienting effects. — Colin Joyce
Priscilla Renea: Coloured
Whatever the future holds for country music, you can be damn sure it looks a lot like Priscilla Renea. Kicked out of her home in Flordia at 18, she moved to LA with the goal of becoming a star herself. She wrote Rihanna's "California King Bed" and Kesha's "Timber," which she says was meant to be more down-tempo and not the club-romp it turned into with Pitbull. After writing songs for ten years and proving herself good enough over and over again, she grew tired of the waiting game and took matters into her own hands. Coloured is her first record since 2009's Jukebox, and packs a punch of soulful country and R&B. It deals with love, loss, and racism, begging listeners to stop living in the past and start embracing what the future is: Black women singing country music. Today we're premiering "Land of the Free," a heartbreaking song that examines what it is to be black in America. — Annalise Domenighini, Priscilla Renea Is More Country Than You'll Ever Be
Galcher Lustwerk: 200% Galcher
Last year, the producer and vocalist Galcher Lustwerk released Dark Bliss, a meticulous, long-in-the-works debut full-length meant to sum up the years he’s spent making free associative, nocturnal house tracks and topping them off with dizzy raps. With that out of the way, he recently told the weed lifestyle site Merry Jane, he had the space to create without prssure, a mode that seems more in line with the effortless cool of the music he makes. His self-imposed mandates were simple: ”have fun,” “swear more,” tell more jokes, generally be a little bit more like Ween. Wait Ween? Ok sure, whatever it takes for something as airy and joyful as 200% Galcher, a collection that strolls through rubbery basslines, fragmented streams of consciousness, puttering percussion, and sincere Mac Dre references over the course of its 10 tracks. One of house music’s breeziest figures tried to lightened up, which means that now, he’s floating. — Colin Joyce
"Drawing on [Alexis Georgopoulos's] history in ambient composition and his affinity for complex rhythmic interplay, ZEBRA is a collection of instrumentals that feels equally indebted to the genteel malletted percussion of 80s Japanese ambient music, the roiling contortions of fusion-y jazz, proggy compositional backflips, and the sunrise sonics of new age music. It’s dense and otherworldly, but generally peaceful somewhere underneath the tangled thickets of instrumentation. It’s the sort of thing that sounds intensely labored over[…] swooning and sagging with the piecemeal accumulation of memorable melodies and strange instrumentation." — Colin Joyce, Arp's New Single Is a Genre-Defying Instrumental From Other Worlds
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