Greg Feldwick took a 5-year break between his debut and sophomore LP's, and Inherit The Earth is a testament to a man who certainly didn't just hang out on the couch watching house music enter it's most generic phase yet. The new record trades in the washed-out synths for the ghosts of acoustic instruments. After all, Feldwick is a Fruity Loops devotee, and each time you can identify the source of a sound, he puts it through a filter that turns it slightly dystopian, reminiscent of how The Caretaker can turn a 1920's waltz into a post-apocalyptic nightmare. And there's a wealth of ideas and sound on this record, which feels less structured that his debut, almost like an open-world version of a first-person shooter (think Fallout). Likely not by design, but it's decidedly anti-EDM. The anxious beat of "Feeding Time" is the right BPM, but the jazz-infused horn riff is about as uncool a sound as possible in 2017 (until Metro Boomin' uses a trumpet on his next Future beat). When he does touch on this "tropical house" trend on "Gold", the woodwind stabs and halting beat doesn't feel contrived in any way. There's even a lovely ambient piece on "Virtuous Circle" as if Feldwick is intent on breaking free of the constraints of Time Team and proving to us all his next direction could quite literally be anything, anywhere, any time, and any sound.
Best Tracks: "Infinite Wave" "Time 2 Let It Go" "Feeding Time"
This record just shades it as their best lyrical effort thus far. All of the band's sonic trademarks are present, as they continue to add a strong undercurrent of momentum and melody to almost every single song. There are no stop-start moments, and the most devastating lyrical efforts, in particular, "Through The Roses", aren't immediately identifiable as heart-tuggers until you consult the lyrics. And while you'd never have previously said Herring lacked emotion on wax, his recorded voice is finally starting to impart that desperation and depth of feeling that he so brilliantly conjures for live performances. He's an energetic front man, whose delivery often drags the production along behind him, valiantly turning standard synth-pop into something as grand as the soundscapes The Killers were able to create on their first two records. If the music ever matches the man, we are in for a classic album. Future Islands isn't quite there yet, but the potential is being realised more and more with every record.
Best Tracks: "Through The Roses" "Cave" "Ran"
It feels like Joey's career is still in somewhat of a holding pattern. He blew up as a teenager with prodigious skill, but like so many before him (Canibus, Chino XL, Pharoahe Monch) he's struggling to turn that skill into an interesting and exciting narrative. He makes his best play on this record, an album of the times spitting raw venom at the systematic and disgusting racism present in his home country. The intro to "TEMPTATION" is a public service announcement that needs to be heard by anyone who isn't fully aware of the way African Americans are being discriminated against, spoken by nine-year-old Zianna Oliphant. It's heart-breaking, but Joey never manages to replicate that emotion on wax, either in this song or in subsequent ones. This slight disconnect between emotion and words is never more obvious than "ROCKABYE BABY", in which Schoolboy Q drops by and in his very first bar grabs your attention like Joey isn't able to at any other point on the album. Joey is much better on "RING THE ALARM", showcasing his own ability next to Kirk Knight and Nyck Caution, both of whom can spit really, really well. Joey spits bars. That's his unique selling point, and if he wants to be mentioned in the new school conversation alongside A$AP Rocky, Schoolboy Q, Big Sean and J. Cole, he needs to play to his strengths.
Best Tracks: "ROCKABYE BABY" "RING THE ALARM" "SUPER PREDATOR"
EDM thrives on that fist-in-the-air energy that unites casual drugs users across the globe. They pay their $180 to see someone stand behind a desk and yell platitudes at them while they lose 7 kilos in fluids and come home with their pupils the size of disco balls. The Chainsmokers know this. People clown them, critics despise them, it's cool and edgy to hate them. But it's just music, and hate all you like, this duo delivers the goods. They don't try anything fancy on their debut LP, and they don't try and turn the party up to 11 on every single track. It means songs like "Something Just Like This" can flutter your stomach, while "Bloodstream" drags the conversation out of the summer road trip for 3:44 as listeners question their own happiness and own existence in the party realm. Ultimately, it's a brilliant summer album, and while only the most intellectually vapid will get something out of the lyrics, they don't impose on the mood of the songs, and in EDM music that's pretty much all you can ask for.
Best Tracks: "Bloodstream" "Something Just Like This" "Break Up Every Night"
Last week I commented on Goldfrapp's ability to throwback to those art-pop days of the early to mid-2000s, when electronica was beginning to explore the fine line between pop and experimental. Booka Shade decided to do exactly that on Galvany Street. They're toying with the definition of trip-hop, especially on songs like "Babylon" and "All Falls Down", which blend EDM elements with slower breakbeats. Craig Walker gets all Damon Albarn on "Loneliest Boy", and it can be hard to shake that image. Not quite as catchy as the brit-pop legend, nonetheless these tracks stick securely in your ear, happy to be trotted out on a repeat listen. It's a very chilled out album, not quite as exciting and dramatic as their initial work, but another set and forget record designed to help you slip and slide through the week.
Best Tracks: "Loneliest Boy" "Broken Skin" "Magnolia"
Please don't let it be so... Remember Stereophonics? Dandy Warhols? Hell, even The Rifles fell prey. Cold War Kids are not a pop band. I don't care if Modest Mouse went number 1 on the US Alt charts with "Float On", you don't have to do the same thing. By the time "Part of the Night" rolls around, your synapses are tired of firing. I expect pop platitudes from The Chainsmokers, but the bubblegum of "Ordinary Idols" or drum programming of "Invincible" is just too much. "It only takes a moment of silence / We stare in disbelief at our phones" and "What if we attack like an army / The only weapon is love" is a little excessive coming from the band that brought us "Hospital Beds" and "Hang Me Up To Dry". Lead single "Love Is Mystical" is the perfect mix of pomp, swagger, and dirty indie beer-bar performance, as Willett perfects his waltz over a throbbing piano riff and aggressive percussion. That's the kind of live energy Cold War Kids can bring. Let's hope this album is as round as their edges get because Train isn't far off on the horizon... Scary.
Best Tracks: "Love Is Mystical" "Luck Down"