Stream of the Crop: 9 New Albums for Heavy Rotation
Attention: please spin the new records from Girlpool and Cherry Glazerr, as well as these anti-fascist techno tracks and prickly drone pieces.
Girlpool photo by Gina Canavan / Cherry Glazerr photo by Pamela Littky
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.
Girlpool: What Chaos Is Imaginary?
As great a band as Girlpool were as bedroom-born minimalists—building spindly guitar and bass and two teetering voices around one another into wonderfully precarious toothpick-sculpture pop—it has been a joy to watch them blossom into the sorts of slow-moving, skybound bands they’ve long idolized. What Chaos Is Imaginary? Is the latest step in that metamorphosis, further embellishing the skeletal drumwork and dramatic gestures of their 2017 album Powerplant with hazed distortion and spindly instrumentation that recalls beloved forebears like Duster or Elliott Smith’s band Heatmiser.
Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad have continued to grow as songwriters, alternating between pointed emotional excavations and the powerful abstractions. Particular highlights include the bit in “Where You Sink” where they declaim a desire to be “a ribbon in a puzzle mind” or the opening description on “Minute in Your Mind” that describes “dirt that holds a lake of her and me.” They’re layered, opaque descriptions that you could unpack for ages. Laid out on a record that sounds this good, you’ll want to. —Colin Joyce
Boy Harsher: Careful
Muller and Matthews’ claustrophobic approach to downcast synth music (drawing on noise, techno, EBM, among other dusky sounds) highlights the intertwinedness of love and loss. In the productions, there’s this sense of fragile beauty, that any pleasant moment may soon be interrupted by chaos or terror. The subject matter mirrors it—Matthews wrote some of this record centered on the meaning of the word “careful.” She thought a lot about grief and death, after losing her stepfather and watching the emotional toll that loss took on her mother. “The Look You Gave (Jerry)” is propulsive and sad, an evocation of the way death can keep us mired in the rhythms of grief. The song repeats, the cycles start again and Matthews sings of remembering: “I close my eyes and I can almost see…” It’s heavy and heartbreaking, a reminder to hold those you love close while you can—to be careful, because existence is fragile. —Colin Joyce, "Boy Harsher’s Noisey Mix Is a Dramatic Collection of Prickly Pop"
AceMo: All My Life
The New York-based maker of some of the most memorable rave refractions of the last half decade returns with another seven hazed-out tracks, this time uploaded, sans middleman, straight to Bandcamp. The mood’s familiar if you’ve encountered any of his work since Black Populous, the fuzzy, ecstatic techno tape he released in 2017. I’ve written before about his work as a feat of engineering, that it’s precise and calculated–but the paradox of these tracks (and of his work writ large) is that it isn’t just that.
Ace’s programming is careful and pointed, but it never feels overdetermined. As reliable as the puttering drums of something like “I Love Daft Punk and You Should to” are, there’s also this sense that they’re malleable, that at any moment they could shift into new directions and dimensions. Case in point is the project’s standout, “Where They At???,” featuring Detroit party-starter John FM. It starts unassumingly, with John FM shouting out women of dispositions and national origins over steady drum programming —sorta like “Mambo No. 5” turned into a rave weapon. But it takes stranger turns, as the vocals start nodding to cop killers, flag burners, sex workers, and all other radicals. It’s a reminder of the political portent of the dancefloor, in the shape of a party track. One DJ’s already called it a “queer rave classic.” I’m inclined to agree. —Colin Joyce
Cherry Glazerr: Stuffed & Ready
Cherry Glazerr’s Clementine Creevy makes resonant grunge anthems about millennial burnout, tackling the crippling insecurity and self-doubt that permeates adult life. Though the Los Angeles-based musician is 22, she’s spent the last seven years releasing confident and inviting alt-rock. Stuffed & Ready, her band’s fourth effort, is their most clear-eyed collection yet. Creevy’s voice floats over muscular guitars like on the pummeling “Ohio,” where she sings, “the light inside my head went dead and I turned off.” Throughout, she tackles isolation like on the groove-laden “Self-Explained” as well as, on, um, “Isolation.” The ‘90s touchstones are all there, ranging from grunge to shoegaze and Smashing Pumpkins atmospherics, but Creevy and her bandmates are charismatic enough to make those references feel rejuvenated. —Josh Terry
Tiny Ruins: Olympic Girls
Over the three albums Hollie Fullbrook has made as Tiny Ruins, the project has bloomed from a quiet, cloistered solo project to a full-fledged band capable of ornamental arrangement and grand dramatic gestures. Still, Olympic Girls keeps sight of the her hallucinatory approach to songwriting. Fullbrook has this way of making surreal flourishes out of mundane details and everyday emotions—mining darkness and drama from casual turns of phrase. It’s no wonder David Lynch is a fan, Olympic Girls’ wispy, otherworldly joys and terrors seem straight up his alley.—Colin Joyce
Sharkula x Mukqs: Prune City
If someone claims to be an expert on Chicago hip-hop but doesn’t know Sharkula, they should be legally required to move back to Naperville (to paraphrase a locally popular meme). The Second City mainstay, whose real name is Brain Wharton, is a permanent and prolific fixture in the city’s underground music community, consistently giving out burned CDs of his mixtapes in exchange for a few bucks or a beer. This trade, which went down at a Burger King, kicked off his latest collaboration with experimental artist Maxwell Allison, aka Mukqs. The resulting EP Prune City, which Sharkula recorded in a single take, feels like lightning in a bottle of the city’s most disparate musical oddballs. It works, with Wharton’s stream-of-conscious rhymes mesmerizing over Allison’s off-kilter and fluttering electronics like on “Hitchhiking on the Mic Device,” which samples Super Mario, and the fart-joke featuring “Bigass Beard.” —Josh Terry
Lee Gamble: In a Paraventral Scale
The snake-like imagery on this cover of slippery electronics is no accident, per the producer behind the project. Lee Gamble told Bandcamp that it’s inclusion is because “capitalism is snake-like,” in that its seductive, beautiful, and violent. This is the sort of thinking that underpins the seven tracks on his new record. It seems easy to make a record that responds to these strange, overwhelming times in which we live with just harshness and atonality, to reflect the chaos with chaos. But Gamble attempts to respond in a more nuanced way—to unpack the systems that put us in this place (there is, for example, a track of car engine sounds, gesturing at the effects of automation and the nationalist understandings of industry). He sought to make something surreal and alluring, that pulls out the beauty of the troubled age, rather than just noise. Though there is that too, the static’s hard to ignore these days. —Colin Joyce
Masaki Batoh: Nowhere
The Drag City signed songwriter Masaki Batoh’s high-flying acoustic arpeggiations feel as indebted to British pastorals as they do to American primitivism, South American psychedelia, and a host of other folk forms that keep their eyes on the spirit and the sky. Adopting all these styles, spanning sound and tongue, these cosmic meanderings are moving, strange, and seemingly borderless. Contrary to the title’s proclamation, it’s not music from nowhere; it’s from everywhere, for everyone. —Colin Joyce
Cameron Shafii: Corpora Vilia
The Iranian composer Cameron Shafii’s long had a knack for twisting around traditional instrumentation and erratic electronic abstractions, but Corpora Vilia especially gnarly. This new composition is piercing, chaotic, and programmatic, like an orchestra staffed entirely by those mechanical bees from that one Black Mirror episode. Head-splitting synthesis and organic instrumentation swirl around one another in pleasantly prickly arrangements, competing for your attention across the big black background silence and void. It’s a shockingly heavy listen, for how few moving parts there are—you’ll want to steel yourself before you play this one. —Colin Joyce
This article originally appeared on Noisey US.