I’ve said it before, so I’ll spare you the details- but April 2016 was a massive shitshow. And with life chaos comes skipping shows, tuning out music news, and writing blog posts less frequently than I should. Oops.
Thankfully, though, even endless cover letters and academic papers need soundtracks. And this month I’ve been able to stock said soundtracks with some really sick, brand-spankin’-new singles and albums. Some you may have seen; some may have flown under your radar. All have helped me get through a pretty miserable time.
Finding new music when you’re drowning in the stenchy waters of life isn’t easy. I’d like to thank Spotify for giving me my own hyper-intelligent tiny alien who knows my taste in music like the back of its creepy little weird hand (because that’s how they come up with your music recommendations, right?), the goddamn motherfucking Levitation make-up shows for making me remember to check out the new King Gizzard while I pouted about not getting to see them live, my friends who are cooler than I am for getting me into local bands like White Denim, and every bar in Spain for forcing me to love Enrique Iglesias more than I’d like to admit.
As the hellscape that was last month becomes an unfortunate memory, here are my favorite releases of April (and a little bit of March, too) 2016.
Open Mike Eagle and Paul White, Hella Personal Film Festival
Open Mike Eagle’s latest (in collaboration with Paul White, a British producer) is a very solid buffet of all the things I like about his work: wit, irreverence, narrative, well-placed references, and that measured spoken word-esque flow that suits lines from “Yeah, and here’s the bush I would never beat around / Never march through Korea Town in a Madea gown / Yeah, you know, like a Muumuu” to “The validation and the need to feel equal / The dominating culture gets to choose from many / Modes of expression and reflection of the path that they done chose / And my perception is froze.” Mike Eagle is not a brash rapper by any means; he will neither beat you over the head with ironic humor nor venture into serious social commentary territory in the style of Kendrick Lamar. His more thoughtful style (as well as White’s overall excellent production; listen to the sampling on “Admitting the Endorphin Addiction” for a catchy, poppy example) makes for a creative insight into one rapper’s mind, as well as the state of so-called art rap as a whole.
White Denim, Stiff
Stiff was released at the very end of March, with the greatest album art I’ve seen in awhile and nine songs that reflect the best of classic Austin music. White Denim strays a bit from their more psych-rock-y older sound into some bluesier territory (“Real Deal Momma” kinda sounds like it could’ve been a Gary Clark Jr. song). But if you liked their older shit (especially Corsicana Lemonade, which practically seems to flow right into Stiff) you’ll enjoy the new, too.
Woods, City Sun Eater in the River of Light
Ah, Woods, where have you been all my life? City Sun Eater in the River of Light gives us tastes of Carried to Dust-era Calexico, Tijuana Panthers, Kurt Vile and Zeppelin all rolled up into a modern-retro mashup to rival the aforementioned Stiff. If it weren’t for the decidedly 21st century production value, this album would fit into the Dazed and Confused soundtrack pretty seamlessly. A friend of mine recently told me that the Spotify playlist I sent her for a (quote-unquote) classy dinner sounded too much like weed-smokin’ music; I would argue that this album is much better suited to such activities.
Ology is the D’Angelo-meets-Chet Faker-meets-James Blake album you never knew you needed. Gallant has this lovely, flighty voice that can do sexy, melancholy, ecstatic and angsty all within one seamless record. It’s also packed with excellent lyricism (“Cause I loved in cold blood and got used to it / Angels say trust the detox / But I’m shaking, I need it like bourbon in my coffee cup”) that can get lost in Gallant’s atmospheric sound and aforementioned buttery voice. Though Ology makes for perfectly excellent background music, lyrics like those above make this album a complicated portrait of an artist growing into himself, and experiencing all the self-doubt, self-destruction and more that come along with it.
Parquet Courts, Human Performance
Human Performance is pretty subdued by Parquet Courts’ standards (all the better for homework-doing background music, right?). On one hand, I really dig it for that reason- at the risk of sounding like a lameass my fave song of theirs is probably “Instant Disassembly”- but also, I’m kinda missing the all-out, existential, angsty, noise party that is a track like “Borrowed Time.” But there’s still a healthy amount of good garage-y tunes on Human Performance, with plenty of Parquet Courts’ irreverent-meets-intelligent songwriting to boot. The more time I spend with this album the more I respect the intricacy of Parquet Courts’ work (as well as their ability to not take themselves too seriously, even as they evolve as songwriters and performers).
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Nonagon Infinity
Where Human Performance is subdued, Nonagon Infinity is anything but. This is King Gizzard at their loudest and wildest, the kind of head-banging psych rock that makes me even angrier about the fact that their Levitation make-up shows sold out so damn fast. Nonagon Infinity’s 9 tracks are less catchy than some of the band’s older stuff, but if you can listen closely they’re more interesting in the way that they borrow from vintage psych (and mainstream) rock to build on the ~new psych rock~ that contemporaries like Ty Segall are molding in their excellent images. Forget the mellow trippiness of “Work This Time” or the metered drone of “Hot Wax”- this is a faster, more bizarre, more fun version of King Gizzard.
Enrique Iglesias, “Duele el Corazon”
This song is everything a girl could want from Enrique Iglesias; from Spanish lyrics that sound sexy but totally ridiculous when translated to English to the catchiest goddamn chorus you’ll hear all year to a Pitbull-esque (but not Pitbull; where is Pitbull?!) coda courtesy of Puerto Rican reggae artist Wisin. “Duele el Corazon” is a masterpiece and I feel no shame in loving it.
Twin Peaks, “Holding Roses”
Twin Peaks is one of my favorite mainstay indie bands, and their latest certainly didn’t disappoint. “Holding Roses” doesn’t exactly do anything new, but it does come with a neat retro sound you don’t always hear from Twin Peaks. It’s a good indicator of a very solid album to come.