American Football's Comfortable Emo and 11 Other Albums for Heavy Rotation
This week's essential listening also includes apocalyptic electronics and fizzy disco, among other delightful shit.
Photo by Atiba Jefferson
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.
American Football: American Football (LP3)
Seventeen years removed from its genre-defining classic self-titled LP, American Football returned with the band’s second album in 2016. It was a far cry from the ramshackle homespun recording that came from University of Illinois students: the band members were actually well-versed in their instruments and the arrangements felt more meticulously-put together. But while the baggage of following up a cult classic effort may have hindered the reaction to the return, their third, also self-titled album American Football (LP3), feels like it’s the most comfortable the band’s ever been. Paradoxically, it’s also the first album where American Football enlist guests, namely Paramore’s Hayley Williams on the highlight “Uncomfortably Numb” not to mention Land of Talk’s Elizabeth Powell on “Every Wave To Rise” and Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell for the ethereal “I Can’t Feel You.” — Josh Terry
Orville Peck: Pony
Presumably older than 20 and younger than 40, about the only personal details that Orville Peck provides about himself that seem unassailable are his current residence in Toronto and his love for the music of Reba McEntire. “When I listen to “Fancy,” I’m like, hell yeah ‘Fancy,’” Peck says with a laugh. Narrative, one of the quintessential characteristics of the American-born-and-bred country music genre, suits him just fine.
His debut album Pony contains a dozen gripping yarns sung boldly and populated by a motley crew of characters allegedly drawn from Peck’s own life. There are the star-crossed hustlers ominously careening across Nevada on “Dead Of Night” and the trio of select exes scattered like ashes on “Big Sky.” “For me, this is just my expression and storytelling,” he says. “Mine is the only story I know how to tell.” — Gary Suarez, “Orville Peck Is a Lone Stranger Singing Country Songs From Behind a Mask”
Avey Tare: Cows on Hourglass Pond
Fractured, amoebic, and deeply sad, the Animal Collective member’s latest effort out on his own is a document of these fractious ages. Or is it all ages? In an interview with Consequence of Sound, he mused on the possibility that shit’s just always been bad. “I wonder if there was a time when we were better than we are now or if it’s always been this way,” he says. Fatalist? Sure. But so much great music is. Across the record he ponders these questions and more, in this warbly, swirling collage of centrifuged acoustic guitars and pitch-warped verse—as if his anxiety about the downfall of humanity is literally corroding the sounds around it. It’s heavy stuff, and it also has at least one song that seems to be about having sex with robots, which is always good. —Colin Joyce
Jayda G: Significant Changes
If we are to accept the raver-mystics at their word and the dancefloor is a sacred space, then let’s all enshrine the producer and DJ Jayda G as leader of the flock. Over the past few years she’s been digging in the archives of disco and house for its most hands in the air moments. and on her journey she’s proven herself unpretentious, charismatic, eclectic, and compassionate behind the decks—all qualities you want in a spiritual leader, guiding the masses toward enlightenment. The invocation on her debut for Ninja Tune comes on the third track, wherein a divine voice offers judgement upon clubland sinners: get the fuck off your phones and start dancing. It doesn’t come off as preachy because few are more skilled at delivering such messages as Jayda G, all the heavenly vocal house and insistently shuffling drum programs that follow, make it so you basically have no choice but to follow her directives. Dance or be damned. —Colin Joyce
Bill MacKay: Fountain Fire
Improvised music is an important part of Chicago, with members of the city’s jazz, indie rock, folk, and experimental communities all taking part in that scene. Bill MacKay is one of the best examples of how these worlds collide, letting his guitar compositions breathe and expand in free and unpredictable ways. Known for his solo output like 2017’s and two excellent collaborative albums with then-Chicago, now-New York-based shit-stirrer Ryley Walker, his latest album Fountain Fire crystalizes the best of his oeuvre so far. Singles “Pre-California” and “Welcome” are expansive jams that boast his evocative and melodic guitars, but the real surprises come with the songs where MacKay sings. “Birds of May” proves that he should add his voice to more of his material, as the weathered quality of his phrasing matches the plaintive acoustic picking, while “Try It On” is a clear highlight. — Josh Terry
Shlohmo: The End
Have you ever pondered what the end of the world will sound like? Will there be a weeping and gnashing of teeth? Will you hear the wails of sinners prostrated at the foot of the throne of an angry god? The LA beat scene graduate Shlohmo posits a more peaceful apocalypse on his new album The End, which mostly wraps woozy, grayscale synth work and tense guitar lines on slowly loping beatwork.
There’s tracks called “Panic Attack” and “Hopeless”—even at his most playful Shlohmo’s always been sort of a doomsayer—but in general there’s a sort of weightlessness to the whole thing. It’s not warm, or inviting, necessarily, but it suggests a way we might confront the end with a straight face—to luxuriate in the void, rather than fear it. That’s the point of dystopian works anyway right? They’re meant to show the ways in which the world we live in is already irreparably fucked. What’s there to fear when you already live in hell? Might as well try to find a cool spot. —Colin Joyce
Mary Lattimore & Mac McCaughan: New Rain Duets
Mac from Superchunk and Merge Records slows down and chases bliss on this beautiful collaboration with the experimental harpist Mary Lattimore. Both Lattimore’s harps and his neon synthetics tend feel freeform and boundless, structured less around chord changes than shifts in the breeze or patterns of breath. Across four pieces—each of which hover in the vicinity of 10 minutes—the duo trust the guide and glide along celestial updrafts, letting the melodies go wherever the spirit leads. Which is usually heavenward. —Colin Joyce
Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien
Ibibio Sound Machine is a global affair not just in its lineup (Lagos-raised frontwoman Eno Williams lives in London, while her bandmates hail from across the globe in Australia, Brazil, Ghana, Trinidad, and more) but in the band’s musical intention. Often sung in the Nigerian language which the band’s name comes from, the songs on Doko Mien, take liberal cues from disco, jazz, West African funk, and South American grooves. It’s a winning combination on the band’s second LP, which can go from the frenetic dance of “Just Go Forward (Ka I So)” to tackling atmospheric rock 'n' roll on “Guess We Found A Way.” — Josh Terry
Lambchop: This (is what I wanted to tell you)
Nashville’s Lambchop has been quietly consistent since their first studio album in 1994 without ever being stagnant. Their latest and 13th studio album This (is what I wanted to tell you), which they’re billing as their 14th out of superstition, picks up on the autotuned textures of their last effort FLOTUS. Written after the 2016 election, darkness seeps into the lyrics a bit more noticeably, like on single “Crosswords, or What This Says About You,” where the opening line finds Wagner singing, “What a silly expression / The news just got real for the new progressives.” Though not overtly political, these understated “tone poems” are wholly meditative and reflective. As Wagner is now 60, he’s continued to turn inward to great effect, letting understated lines speak for themselves: “The news was fake, the drugs were real” on the propsulive “Everything For You.” — Josh Terry
TJ Strohmer—the songwriter behind the band Knifeplay—is the latest in a long-line of Philly-dwelling misanthropes. Like Alex G or Nothing’s Dom Palermo, he has a knack for channeling real negative shit into low-key anthemics. Knifeplay’s new album opens with a sort of call for camaraderie for fuckups, a call to arms for anyone bound together by sickness and suffering. “United in illness, we can be still,” he sings. “Cause everything’s gonna be different now.” Eventually, the song swells from its dizzy balladry into a crushing anthem—a suggestion that even in the thick of the shit there’s a possibility for a sort of ecstasy, that there’s release in the muck and the mire. It’s the first beautiful moment on a record that’s full of them. Throw this one on when you’re on the floor of your room, weighed down by the world. It might not help, but at least you’ll have company. —Colin Joyce
Lafawndah: Ancestor Boy
On her debut album, ANCESTOR BOY, Lafawndah’s music reflects that space of constant movement and self-discovery. It pieces together intricate, sculptural sounds from heritages that feel outside the western canon, but melds them into glitchy, left-field club-facing tracks. It’s devotional, without being specifically religious. Lafawndah’s music, from her self-titled and TAN EPs to her ongoing collaborative work, has always operated within that realm. But on this first album, she’s distilled those sounds to the next level of self-actualization, creating something that delves into family secrets and spirits—in short, it is quintessentially, beautifully her. — Tara Joshi, "Lafawndah's Future-Pop Is a Safe Haven for Outsiders”