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Stream of the Crop: 9 New Albums for Heavy Rotation

New albums from Travis Scott and YG top this week's list.

by Kristin Corry, Dan Ozzi, Lawrence Burney, and Alex Robert Ross
Aug 3 2018, 7:18pm

L: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images
R: Burak Cingi/Redferns

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.

Travis Scott: ASTROWORLD

While no one noticed—instead deciding to clown him for antics outside of music—Travis Scott has quietly improved over every project since dropping his debut tape, Owl Pharaoh, in 2013. From then up until his debut album Rodeo, the biggest criticism of the Houston area native was that he sounded to similar to his musical heroes, Kanye West and Kid Cudi. But, of late, Scott has carved his own way, one that displays his very Ye-like ability to direct the moving parts that are his musical peers into making colossal-feeling music to lose yourself in. His third studio album, ASTROWORLD, is arguably his best stab at that yet. And if our word isn’t enough, ask Stevie Wonder’s harmonica on "Stop Trying to be God" —Lawrence Burney

YG: Stay Dangerous

Since his 2014 debut My Krazy Life, YG has narrated his Bompton hometown. On Still Brazy, he fused a political approach in his street laden messages addressing Donald Trump and a string of police brutality incidents. But STAY DANGEROUS deviates from the formulaic way he’d approached albums. Here, YG is darting across tracks, veering away from his otherwise linear technique. Lead single "Big Bank," a boisterous bop with song-of-the-summer potential, was a true signifier for the direction he was heading. The album is filled with 15 songs, most of which could appear on radio at any given moment. Reuniting with DJ Mustard and collaborating with Ty Dolla $ign ("POWER"), A$AP Rocky ("HANDGUN"), and Quavo ("SLAY"), YG is tapping into what it means to be commercial. Where his other projects felt more homegrown, STAY DANGEROUS is, as "TOO COCKY" suggests, expensive. A string of sermon-like skits thread the songs together, which feels off-putting at first, until you realize that staying dangerous is YG’s scripture. A voice delivers what seems to be the album’s thesis on "666": "Power is dangerous, knowledge is dangerous, having them dollars is dangerous." Three years ago, he was shot in the groin and now he’s making claims like, "Bitch, I’m the man / I walk around like I’m bulletproof." A certain level of paranoia lived on My Krazy Life and Still Brazy. On STAY DANGEROUS, he is free. Here's to staying dangerous. —Kristin Corry

AJJ: Ugly Spiral

The term “B-side” most often implies that a song was too much of a weird oddball to make the final cut for a band’s album. So what would a collection of B-sides by AJJ, whose entire catalog is comprised of weird oddballs, sound like? The band has an answer on Ugly Spiral, which compiles alternate versions and cutting room floor material that didn’t make it onto their last two albums. And to quote Troy McClure, "If that’s what they cut out, what they leave in must be pure gold!" —Dan Ozzi

Mac Miller: Swimming

Mac Miller's fifth album is mellower than anything he's released in the past, the soundtrack to a recovery from alcohol dependence that got messier (and more public) after a difficult start to 2018. Without now-ex-girlfriend Ariana Grande by his side, Miller is startlingly alone on much of the record—Snoop Dogg is buried deep in the mix on "What's the Use," Dev Hynes is caught between static walls on "Self-Care." And at times the loneliness leads Miller to dark places, wondering if he should even bother pulling his head up above the water. Eventually he's too proud to let himself wallow—memories of his come-up are enough to spark him into life. So while he runs the listener through a hundred metaphors for depression and desperation, he still ends up on "So It Goes," flashing the grin that made him famous. He's still progressing as a songwriter, he's more confident as a singer, and his flow is still inventive. Hopefully that's enough to keep him afloat. — Alex Robert Ross

Omari Jabari: ONLY WE CAN SAVE US

Toronto’s Omari Jabari is a good yute who has the best of intentions but life is well, unfortunately, life. Jabari’s constant back and forth between persistence in the face of adversity and self-defeat is the central dogma for his new project ONLY WE CAN SAVE US. On the opening track "I AM ACTUALLY THIS BEAUTIFUL," he boasts, "Snap a polaroid / I look good today / I feel good today," but the feeling is undercut by slasher film-like synths which give the impression this is less a bout of cockiness then it is a mantra to keep himself sane. Still, it’s not all doom and gloom. The last half picks up the livewire energy of last year’s EP Martyr while still retaining the heavy themes. "KEEP US SAFE" best represents this balance as the rapper considers the existential dread of being a Black-Canadian in America, but contains it through a breezy hook. ONLY WE CAN SAVE US may be brief but it shows growth for the rising talent as he takes command of his dark thoughts and optimistic reflections and turns them into another strong step towards the artist he wants to be. What that is, who knows. But once Omari Jabari figures it out it’ll be something to witness. —Jabbari Weekes

CMDWN: Atlanada 2

The perpetually amped cross-border clout rap duo of Ca$tro Guapo and Fiji have been one of Toronto’s key hip-hop acts since 2016’s Atlanada, and the sequel to that project taps into much of its magic, but updated. “Die in Supreme” is a groggily melodic ode to carrying your swag into the afterlife, and the quiet menace of the opening “Strong” is offset by Fiji’s schoolyard cadence. Befitting the union of rap’s two great countries, the guest list runs the gamut from rising GTA talent like Killy and Pressa to living American legends like Chief Keef. The production sparkles and occasionally dissolves into itself, granting much of Atlanada 2 a hazy sheen that works with both Ca$tro’s gruff verses and Fiji’s airy hooks. It’s a beautiful thing to witness: though America and Canada can’t agree on literally anything else, they can come together to party hard. —Phil Whitmer

H.E.R.: I Used to Know Her (The Prelude)

H.E.R. has been singing in the shadows, creating an elusive persona around last year’s self-titled project. Now, she’s serving up a prelude to her debut album with I Used To Know Her (The Prelude), a 20-minute collection of smooth R&B with sharp spoken word moments. On the opener, "Lost Souls," H.E.R. borrows Lauryn Hill’s delivery, opting to remake Hill’s "Lost Ones." We’ve grown accustomed to the hearing her vocals, and here she’s rapping, making her lyrics stick. "A lost soul can’t lead the people," she raps, repeating it for emphasis. "Against Me" follows, with a percussion that drags. Midway through the track, she swaps her effortless vocals for spoken word routine that stretches for almost two minutes. "To my women with the utmost respect, intellect, we often forget and neglect / Intuition can see through elusive intent," she says. Partnering with Bryson Tiller on "Could’ve Been," and the two journey through the "what ifs" that went on in their fictional relationship. It’s a deep dive in the words that go unspoken between two people, and a song that still finds space buried beneath H.E.R.’s honest lyricism. —Kristin Corry

Infant Island: Infant Island

Virginia has often been dubbed “the screamo capital of North America.” Having once served as a home base for the extensive family tree that spread out of pg. 99, the state is now birthing a new crop of bands in a similar vein. The state is something of a mecca for those in the hardcore scene who prefer thoughtful, emotional hardcore over the windmills and breakdowns that have historically marked the scenes of New York and Boston. Based an hour north of Richmond in Fredericksburg, Infant Island carries on this proud regional tradition on their new self-titled album. An impressive debut showing, the seven-song LP makes clear nods to its screamo forebears. The four-piece belts our the aggression hard at times, with singer Daniel Kost’s voice crackling and squealing at the top of its range, but pads it with serene atmospheric vibes that would make City of Caterpillar proud. —Dan Ozzi, Infant Island Carries the Torch for Virginia’s Proud Screamo Legacy

Lucero: Among The Ghosts

Among the Ghosts is a change of pace from the rest of Lucero’s deep catalog. Although fans have endeared themselves to Nichols’ barstool confessional style of songwriting, he takes a step back on this record to try out some third-person storytelling, like on standout track “To My Dearest Wife,” which is modeled after letters home from Civil War soldiers. “I think I was able to combine the same emotion and feelings—the sincerity and melancholy and loneliness—everything that was up front in those early Lucero records, but I was able to do it with songs that weren’t just diary entries from an angsty young kid,” says Nichols. “I was able to put those kinds of things into more crafted, short story-type songs." —Dan Ozzi, Ben Nichols Ranks Lucero’s Eight Albums

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