Five albums from April 2017 you may have missed
If April taught us anything, it’s that Kendrick Lamar may as well be the only artist that matters right now. I mean, here was a month where Gorillaz released a crazy-long album that featured everyone from Vince Staples to Noel Gallagher to Grace Jones, At the Drive-In released the follow up no one ever thought would happen, Drake came out with a “playlist” that was actually better than his last “album,” Fyre Festival happened made headlines, and yet when we look back, it’s safe to say the big takeaway might just be one simple word: DAMN. Ok, so that’s great and all but April also had a heap of other great releases. We got the return of an avant-garde hero, our favorite Canadian songstress is back, some late-night music for after the
Ok, so that’s great and all, but April also had a heap of other great releases.
We got the return of an avant-garde hero, our favorite Canadian songstress is back, some late-night music for after the rave (if we still went to raves), Japanese downtempo, and what is probably the most underrated hip-hop album of the year so far. It’s all below in our monthly wrap-up.
Arto Lindsay’s music is often spoken in terms of its dichotomy, and that’s a fair call; few artists can say that their music has been covered by experimental bands like Beauty Pill, as well as appearing in episodes of Sex and the City. If you know the story of Arto Lindsay then I don’t need to tell you about the son of missionaries who spent his formative years during Brazil’s Tropicália movement, and later went on to front early 80s no wave pioneers DNA before becoming a successful solo artist and producer. So, apologies for rehashing what is one of the more interesting musical back stories out there, but Arto’s story matters because it informs his music. Knowing these things means not having to wonder why he sings half of his songs in Portuguese or why he feels the need to slice across some of his more beautiful numbers with what some might call “noise.”
Cuidado Madame is Arto’s first album in twelve years and a welcome return if you happen to enjoy distilled Brazilian beats and idiosyncratic melodies (and “noise”). One minute it can be soothing and the next it breaks apart and challenges your patience. It’s rarely dull. Song ‘Su Pai’ has Arto singing a soft melody to a nylon string guitar as electric flourishes percolate in the background. Right after
Song “Su Pai” has Arto singing a soft melody to a nylon string guitar as electric flourishes percolate in the background. Right after that, there’s the track “Arto vs. Arto” where it sounds like a bass guitar is crawling up from a shallow grave only to meet the distorted vocals that tried to kill it in the first place. But “Arto vs. Arto” feels like a short experimental afterthought in the grand scheme of things. I’d rather talk about songs like “Ilha dos Prazeres” and “Vao Queimar ou Botando pra Dançar” where the beats are infections, the bass is wobbly, and Arto’s voice sounds like he’s back in his beautifully bizarre element. That’s where he excels like no other, and Cuidado Madame is a nice addition to the already interesting catalog he’s given us.
I heard a remix of D.A.N.’s title track to Tempest in Tokyo’s HMV Shibuya. I fired up Shazam and moved directly under the speaker. I got back to my Airbnb and tried to bring it up on Spotify, only to discover that it wasn’t on there. So I went back to the record store and did something crazy – I bought the CD. The only problem was that the sole CD player I own happened to be in my car, which was inconveniently located several hundred miles away in another country.
When I got back to Melbourne, I spent a lot of time driving around listening to this album, and believe me, the music contained herein makes sitting in the McDonald’s drive through feel like you’re in an art house film. It’s since been released in streaming services, but I credit the Japanese trio for giving me the impulse to once again buy music on a physical format (along with contemplating my existence while paying money for garbage food).
I have no idea what the acronym behind D.A.N. means but these guys make cool, elegant music one could consider “electronic” – it’s just that they do it in a band format, so it goes beyond mere laptop production. Tempest has only three songs and two remixes, but as a listening experience the band has a skilled knack for locking into interesting grooves and then riding those grooves out for no less than seven minutes (the shortest track on this album is 7:31), so even for an EP you get a longer run time than a lot of actual LPs out there. The two remixes at the end enhance the original songs on Tempest even more. It’s one of those albums you feel lucky to have stumbled upon.
We at DBP are fans of D.A.N. now and it will be interesting to see where they take their introspective and downtempo jams from here, assuming the distribution channels stay open. Fun fact, if you enjoy this album the band also have a self-titled album from last year that we should’ve reviewed had we not been covering vintage video games in Akihabara.
No matter how many clones that have followed in Leslie Feist’s wake, you always know you’re getting the real deal when you hear her music. Hers is a gravitas most artists just do not possess. Take, for example, Pleasure‘s second track “I Wish I Didn’t’ Miss You.” In the hands of a less skilled artist it would come off as a forgetful ode, but in Feist’s hands, it turns into a powerful howl into the night.
Ever since releasing The Reminder back in 2007, it feels like people have been waiting for a repeat of that album. The first misdirect came with her follow-up, Metals, in 2010. That record proved to be as sharp and bold as its title implied, and If we’ve learned anything at this point it’s that The Reminder was just one of the more user-friendly albums in what has become a varied and diverse cannon of music.
Despite its name, Pleasure is not here to soundtrack your downtime at Starbucks, and I doubt any of its songs will be making appearances on Sesame Street anytime soon. It’s a quietly intense album and seems to be much better suited to listen to it at night, alone, when you’ve got some things you might need to process. In fact, the album sounds so intimate – and at times delightfully unrefined – that one almost feels like they’re sitting in the room with Fiest and her collaborators as these songs are being recorded. The kick drum causes your chest to thump, the guitars sound just tuned enough, Feist’s voice is both weary and angelic. It all culminates into a solid album where the central message is regaining the middle road after spending too much time on the brink. Forget the coffee and go for the whiskey when listening to this one.
At 22 years of age, Joey Bada$$ has already released two mixtapes, two albums, and scored a reoccurring role as Leon on Mr. Robot. His work ethic is enough to make anyone feel like they’re not doing enough with their time on the planet. Pair that with the fact that his previous albums had a very distinct old-school vibe, making listeners recall groups that were popular before he was even born, and Joey Bada$$ became somewhat of a welcome anomaly in what was then a Trap obsessed time for hip hop.
ALL-AMERKKKAN BADA$$ is a reset of sorts. The old-school vibe is still there on opener “GOOD MORNING AMERIKKA,” but that track is a mere minute and a half intro. From there, things take a turn. Musically, this his most diverse album, message-wise it’s his most confrontational, with themes ranging from violence in urban communities, police brutality, the uselessness of hashtag justice, and what it means to be black in Donald Trump’s America to touch on a few points.
This album covers some broad and heavy topics with the frankness of someone who is tired of letting other people (read: the media) tell a story he’s more equipped to talk about. It’s a noble effort and one that is easy to digest given how great the production is throughout the album. I’m not sure how it will be regarded a few years from now, but it feels like Joey Bada$$ is looking back to his elders and trying to make his own version of Fear of a Black Planet, One for All, or any other number of socially conscious hip hop albums that came out of the late 80s and early 90s. On the final track, “AMERIKKAN IDOL,” Bada$$ summons a spoken word manifesto. At one point he says, “It is time to rebel, better yet, raise hell,” before clarifying that we need to be smart about how we go about it. Hell yeah, dude. Let’s get together and talk this thing through.
Teengirl Fantasy is Nick Weiss and Logan Takahashi, a duo who first started making music together as students at Oberlin College. Their first album, 7AM, came out in 2010 where they gained attention with the great track “Cheaters.” They released a follow-up called Tracer in 2013, as well as a killer little EP called Nun.
Along with having a band name some may not feel safe typing into Google, they make music that sounds great regardless if you listen to it through headphones or over loud, open speakers. On headphones, you can hear the subtle details and shimmers that are ever-present in the duo’s sound, but listening to their music in an open space gives a feeling that moody and aural oxygen is flooding into the room. These guys are good at invoking a nice feeling of floatation.
The group’s bio on Bandcamp sums things up nicely – “8AM” is music that replicates that headspace when you’ve seen the sun come up, but sleep is still way off. It’s music of the in-between time, between tonight and tomorrow, when you’re not ready to let the feeling of right here and right now go. Your body is spent, but your spirit holds on to the memory. A new energy or a different route.
That’s a pretty good summation but 8AM. Tt sounds good during the working and commuting hours as well.