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Albums of the Week 17-24 February

Ok so last week as a bit disappointing, but the music world was treated to some huge names this week (Fat Joe, Future), and some incredible underground music (Jonwayne, Dutch Uncles, Middle Kids). I won't review all of them in-depth, but I will rate everything I listened to.

Future - Future

Future is back, and he continues his departure from 2014's Honest and his quest for underground ubiquity. The beats aren't quite as hard as his future classic DS2, but they'll still turn your high-end headphones into LIV. More importantly, Future is back rapping, after a slew of features where he either croons or just repeats words over and over. We forget he can actually spit, and has the ability to transport even the whitest and most suburban audience to the bando, a scene he probably hasn't touched in half a decade. His painful ruminations about Herculean substance use are tempered nicely by boasts about his sexual brushes with fame. Despite some ominous track names ("Mask Off", "Draco", "Super Trapper"), Future doesn't descend into the orgy of violence that Soundcloud rappers seem to be hell-bent on exposing. The outro to "Zoom" is an unlistenable skit that serves the purpose of exposing the unrelenting posturing of fifth-tier rappers trying to make a name for themselves (21 Savage, Kodak Black etc). It may also be a blatant shot at Desiigner, a non-beef that's starting to wane.

It's a decent record, at least on par with Migos' CULTURE, but I doubt I'll be listening to it in a months time.

Fat Joe & Remy Ma - Plato O Plomo

I hate it when Pitchfork beats us all to the jump. There's huge parts of that review that are so spot on, I got a little concerned that maybe they are the most trusted voice in music once again.

Fat Joe slips right back in to his trademark subject matter. The beats are boom-bap New York fodder. And Remy Ma is about as flexible as a drug-dealers returns policy. She also seems to make it her mission to subliminally diss not just the entire rap game, but the entire world, which is a bit ridiculous as she appeared on The Breakfast Club recently and said this:

If you look at the history of Remy Ma, whenever I’ve had a problem with any female in the entire game I will say your name. I do not want you sitting there thinking, ‘Oh my god, is she talking about me? I’m going to say your government [name]. I’m going to look it up. I’m going to say your mother’s name, your father’s name, your kids’ name. I want you to know that I’m talking about you.
She doesn't use anyone's government name on this record, and I'm not sure if she is still on probation, but she did spend 6 years in prison for assault and weapons possession. Lyrics like "I keep my gat, my strap, my gun, my heat" sound really disingenuous, and take away from some of her wittier bars. There's nothing as enjoyable as "All The Way Up" hidden in the depths of this record, although "How Can I Forget", "How Long" and "Spaghetti" are all decent tracks. If Rem's flow was on point the whole project would have jumped at least another rating point, but she sounds stilted and out of practice. Some lyrical miracle spiritual individuals bars from Papoose wouldn't have gone astray either.

PVT - New Spirit

Under the name Pivot in 2008, the electronic band now known as PVT released an album that would have defined the entire career of a lesser band (think Fischerspooner, Miike Snow, The Presets, Empire of the Sun). Instead, they continued to experiment, throwing in some Animal Collective and Of Montreal on 2013's Homosapien, before casually dropping off their opus, New Spirit, this past week.

Their sound has been stripped back to the bare basics, which is incredibly brave considering the Australian darling of electronic music, Flume, is hell-bent on overproducing his music, and collaborator to the stars Luke Steele is still throwing the kitchen sink at arrangements via Empire of the Sun. What we see are instruments uncovered and exposed. The bass on "Salt Lake Heart" hits like an 808 drum, and the (steel?) drums on "Another Life" impart an organic sound that's balanced by the otherworldly electronic vocals. When the BPM rises into the mid-100s on "Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend" it's an epic relief of pressure you don't even realise had built up. "Kangaroo" is a series of controlled explosions, just reminding us that PVT are wholly capable of making EDM thumpers, they just choose their battles carefully.

The beautiful thing about New Spirit is it feels almost unfinished. Because they've left so much space in between their thoughts and creative expressions, there's room now to go back and fill those gaps in and create a technicolour masterpiece. Or they might tread an entirely different path altogether. Either way, they're now discerning themselves as one of Australia's top electronic acts, a podium that's surprisingly crowded.

Dutch Uncles - Big Balloon

It's joyous to watch as Dutch Uncles blossom into a fully paid-up member of the British music scene. Their traditional maximal pop sound has previously felt cheesy and lacked substance, trading under the "art-pop" moniker that allows acts to do whatever they want and still get fed into the industry hype machine.

Big Balloon feels worthy of the hype, as the Uncles slip into a stunning groove and work their way towards decadent melodies. Single "Oh Yeah" stars off-beat and harking backs to the days of Devo, but they pull it together for a huge chorus. "Baskin'" will be a live staple, a slick guitar riff with all the flourish of Mick Jagger. Duncas Wallis presents as a more energetic Alexis Taylor, though the Uncles don't indulge in too much experimentation, and it's possible Foals would be a closer relative. It's hard not to view Dutch Uncles through their influences, as the sound is quite derivative. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; they hold their own in every comparison.

Jonwayne - Rap Album Two

There's not much more to say than this is just an incredible project. Jonwayne gets deeper than he ever has before, to the point he may be uncomfortable actually performing some of these songs, or even meeting fans in bars. He makes a case for himself as a spitter on "LIVE from the Fuck You", and "Green Light" is uncomfortably personal. If you want to make an impact in this area of hip-hop, you need to be able to connect with your audience, and I feel incredibly close to Jonwayne after 2 spins of this album.

Lawrence English - Cruel Optimism

Lawrence English has made it his mission, since the epic 2014 release Shadow of the Monolith, to deliver ice-cold expressions of noise. His most recent 4 releases have followed a sci-fi-like narrative, from the discovery of an otherworldly artefact, the journey to safety, and now the descent into the void that stepping outside ones comfort zone can induce. Cruel Optimism harbours some devastating moments, no more so than "Hammering a Screw", where he slips in some old-fashioned Nick Cave violence, cold and unrelenting. The album seems to favour a dystopian path towards redemption and knowledge. "Objection of Projection" is the final piece in a disquieting 5 song sequence, before "Somnambulist" and "Moribund Territories" signal something of a new day. The disconnected vocals invoke images of new life beginning on some distant, mysterious planet.

This record could easily soundtrack any number of epic sci-fi alien-focused movies, as it deals with very human emotions in a cold and passionless way. If 2016's Arrival had utilised this record as a soundtrack, it'd be the scariest piece of art released this decade!

Middle Kids - Middle Kids

Australian music continues to head off in two distinct directions. As the Flume's and Sia's of the land try to integrate into the larger pop narrative that's playing out in North America, a devoted underground (Methyl Ethyl, D.D Dumbo, Jagwar Ma, Sticky Fingers, Violent Soho) have begun to consolidate their excavations of 70s and 80s British music, via punk and post-punk, utilising the jangly guitars that made The Smiths, Joy Division and Pixies so insanely listenable. This self-titled EP continues the incredible momentum the band have built, which includes playing for Conan O'Brien! This is largely thanks to the huge success of "Edge of Town", which marries a huge chorus, easily accessed lyrical emotion, and that journey-type riff that signifies both time passing quickly and emotional upheaval. It's a nice little EP, although nothing else on it scales those heights.

Jidenna - The Chief

Jidenna is much more than just the 2017 Fonzworth Bentley. The Chief is worthy of the 2 years he spent crafting it, a huge genre-mashing opus of positivity, political unrest, and African influence. Jidenna floats on most of these tracks, utilising his voice as the ultimate instrument, able to transform into any discipline when required. He drops bars on "2 Points", heads into the Caribbean on "Some Kind of Way", employs some spoken word on "White N****s", channels Young Thug on "Trampoline", and delivers a powerful performance on "Helicopters / Beware". Considering this is his debut, it's such a fully realised project props must be given to producers Nana Kwabena, Andrew Horowitz, Nate Wonder, and collaborator Janelle Monae. Nigerian music is already landing on the radar of industry heavy hitters, and Jidenna is proving why.

Other Albums:

Visible Cloaks - Reassemblage 

There's no real rhyme or reason to this record, and the sounds aren't groundbreaking enough to withstand the disparate concepts.

Quelle Chris - Being You Is Great, I wish I Could Be You More Often

teklife - ON LIFE

Clap! Clap! - A Thousand Skies

Gypsy Mamba - Magnetic Syndroms

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