Khalid's Sunny Songwriting and 10 More Albums for Heavy Rotation
This week's essential listening also includes grimy post-punk, colorful R&B, and frenetic footwork. You'll want to dig in.
Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images
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.
Khalid: Free Spirit
Starting 2017’s American Teen, Khalid’s made records that feel like the sun. Last year’s Suncity EP called this out explicitly, but he picks up the warm feelings on Free Spirit, his sophomore album, which finds the 21-year-old singer navigating a transition to adulthood. Those can be tricky times though, so it makes sense that the most interesting moments are when he strays away from the sunlight. The words of “Paradise” may kiss you with warmth (“You sit back and close your eyes / We’re burning, but so alive”), but the production slinks along with cool traces of blues. He explores these more somber moments on “Bluffin’”—a bluesy guitar aches under Khalid’s smooth vocals before he gets to the melancholic hook. “Is this the last fight? Lay here one last night / I know we’re both tired, that’s our excuse,” he sings. With “Bluffin’” alone, Khalid is one more step to being truly free. — Kristin Corry
Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising
Much like the water that completely submerges the bedroom on the cover of Weyes Blood's new album Titanic Rising, the emotional resonance that emanates throughout Natalie Mering's fourth album under the moniker can be overwhelming. Throughout its uniformly lush and immaculately arranged 10 tracks, Mering thrives on catharsis. Just take how the pulsating synths morph into billowing strings on "Movies" or how "Wild Time" patiently rises to a towering orchestral swell of piano and her voice. She deals in some life-or-death topics as climate change and the apocalypse weighs heavily on the release, like on lead single "Andromeda" where she sings, "Andromeda's a big wide open galaxy / nothing in it for me / 'cept my heart that's lazy." But it's in basic human connection where the stakes feel highest like on the Nilsson-inflected "Everyday" when she croons, "True love is making a comeback." —Josh Terry
Tayla Parx: We Need to Talk
Tayla Parx’s We Need to Talk borrows from the philosophy of Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun: Parx is an analog girl in a digital world. The album steadies itself through a series of conversations—many of which are one-sided—strewn across phone calls and voicemails, a nostalgic choice against Parx’s futuristic pop production. The singer bobs and weaves through different sounds, some songs pulling from her pop predecessors like Destiny’s Child (“Rebound”) and Backstreet Boys (“Disconnected”) while ballads like “Easy” show that her voice is limitless. Falling is a motif that runs deeply through We Need to Talk and luckily for us we witness her in flight at every stage. There are moments where she is afraid to fall (“Afraid to Fall”), and other times when she recognizes she has fallen (“What Can I Say”). When Parx finally falls, she’s left picking herself up from the floor. For the first time, Parx let her guard down and is left wondering if the person she chose is willing to choose her too. The Dallas-born singer’s debut illuminates the ways we participate in our own dysfunction. — Kristin Corry
PUP: Morbid Stuff
Despite the good fortune that’s followed them, their third album Morbid Stuff is true to its name, jam-packed with the most fatalistic songs they’ve ever written. “I’ve been having some pretty dark thoughts,” Stefan Babcock sings on one song, which is a massive understatement for an album that kicks off with him wondering if any of his former sexual partners are dead. “I hope the world explodes, I hope that we all die!” goes one song. “If the world is gonna burn, everyone should get a turn to light it up,” goes another.
“I guess that’s just me trying to express this idea that I think runs through a lot of Morbid Stuff,” Babcock explains. “We’re all pretty nihilistic, pessimistic, fatalistic—whatever you want to call it. But there’s this whole element to this band and this record about taking all that negativity and trying to do what you can to make it fun, or to poke fun at your own situation. Just find some glimmer of light in the darkness.” —Dan Ozzi, “At the Top of the Rock and the End of the World with PUP”
Girl Unit: Song Feel
Once a masterful architect of club constructions, the producer known as Girl Unit has, of recent years, tended to turn his ear more toward pop. After stints in the studio with Kelela, he returns with a debut album that telegraphs its intention in its title, Song Feel. These aren’t tracks, but skyscraping Pop Songs, built to bury their hooks in your brain. But like many left-of-center producers who attempt this sort of record—like, say, Cashmere Cat—he’s able to preserve some of the strange sounds that he came up on.
Kelela’s guest spot here “WYWD,” both in its original and remixed form, offers depth and fog in its unexpected sounds and off-kilter melodies. Though it's on the rap tracks, interestingly, that Girl Unit’s productions most shine. The spacey terrors of “Sucker Free,” which sorta sound like the Alien score transcribed for triangle and 808, provides Ms. Boogie a truly unusual canvas for her self-assured, splatter-painted bars. It sounds like the future, we could only be so lucky. —Colin Joyce
M. Sage: Catch a Blessing
As the founder of the delightful imprint called Patient Sounds and a musician who crafts unfurling collections of synth drones and field recordings, M. Sage has long been a shepherd of the slow—content to guide things gently, and let sounds go where they may. Catch a Blessing follows in this approach, layering recordings of nature sounds over swooning electronics and drawled acoustic guitar lines. It’s patient, as is his wont, following the sounds and samples where they want to go rather than slicing them up and forcing them into didactic arrangements. The way the pieces unfold is unpredictable, but not in a scary way—in the way that a long winding trail through a forest might suddenly open into a clearing full of grazing cows. If you’re the sort who likes a journey, it’s worth following his lead. —Colin Joyce
Visible Cloaks, Yoshio Ojima, and Satsuki Shibano: FRKWYS Vol. 15: serenitatem
The Portland duo Visible Cloaks is one of the most engaging projects currently working in the broad umbrella of what we might call ambient music. Their music is slow and sweeping but intricately detailed—a dazzling latticework of rippling melodies creating complex intersections between mallet samples, synth patches, and electronic sounds more delightful and strange. The latest entry in RVNG’s FRKWYS series—which is geared around cross-generational collaboration—pairs them with Yoshio Ojima and Satsuki Shibano, two Japanese musicians whose environmental melodies offer obvious antecedents to the Visible Cloaks approach. With Ojima and Shibano, Visible Cloaks’ sound is more fluid, less rigidly geometric—as if the molecular bonds between their complex arrangements are eroding as the tracks play, slowly dissolving, dissolving, dissolving. —Colin Joyce
Control Top: Covert Contracts
On the title track of Control Top’s explosive debut album Covert Contracts, the Philadelphia DIY punk band rails against inauthenticity over squawking guitars: “Everything looks like a commercial / it’s afraid to be controversial.” It’s a sort of anti-mission statement for one of the most unabashedly confrontational and fearless debuts of the year, one that’s brimming with a hyper-kinetic energy and onslaughts on ear-bleeding noise. But on top of the rage and relentless pace are some incredibly compelling songs. The chiming riffs on “Straight Jackets” prove that accessible hooks lurk underneath these raucous tracks. But the band is at its searing best as lead singer Ali Caustic screeches “eat shit” in the caustic look at the 9-to-5 grind, “Office Rage.” —Josh Terry
Rakta: Falha Comum
Another dispatch from the psychedelic labyrinth that is the Brazilian (post?) punk band Rakta. Their latest, which emerges again on the ever-consistent London label La Vida Es Un Mus, is an enveloping and terrifying seven tracks. They swell threateningly, coating melodies in decaying reverb and wrapping ominous melodies in gauze—rendering a whole world in terrifying grayscale. It is full of dread and doom and disorienting screaming, which makes sense—that’s kinda how the world is these days.
Taye//Pal: Computers Smarter than People
Two of the most future-focused footwork producers—DJ Taye and DJ Paypal—take their longtime friendship into full-length territory on Computers Smarter Than People. The ten-track collection’s a bit different than recent efforts that either have made on their own—Taye’s rapping is absent, for example. Instead, they focus on freewheeling sampling, and rhythmic contortions of video game themes and other familiar melodies. It’s familiar, but it’s fun and fucking fast—everything you want footwork to be. —Colin Joyce
Bogdan Raczynski: Rave Till You Cry
Tears in the club feel most cathartic in the late morning hours, when every other reasonable soul has grabbed their coats and flown the coop, back to be up in time for brunch. For some reason, you’re still there, grinding your teeth hours later, light pouring in, nailed to the dancefloor sheer inertia. And then all of a sudden there’s tears streaming down your face, because this drum break is the best thing you’ve ever heard for whatever reason. Sleep deprivation will do that to you. As will dancing for ten hours straight. As will MDMA. That’s how it goes. Anyway, this Disciples collection of Bogdan Raczynski loosies and rarities captures some of that feeling for me. That desperate, impossible feeling of dancing because you have to, because there’s no alternative, because you literally can’t stop. It’s beautiful, that’s why I’m crying. —Colin Joyce