Hey guys. It turns out that if you don’t follow your schedule for publishing weekly, you get a massive backlog of albums you need to review and playlists you need to cover. So, over the next few weeks, I will try and catch up with what I haven’t published. This week will be the albums I have heard and reviewed but been unable to publish. Enjoy!
breaking up. by Rural Internet- 7.9/10:
That was wild. I mean WILD. Thanks to positive publicity from Fantano, and labels such as industrial hip-hop, I had to check out Rural Internet’s breaking up. And whilst it is flawed on many fronts, the sheer bombastic attitude the young trio brings makes this one of the most surprising listens this year. I think I want to address some of the flaws first; however, the main one being sometimes the songs drag on a bit longer than necessary, and the LP peaks very early. The reliance on noise in the production as well can be a little distracting too. But when this album works, it works …and goes hard! The three members of Rural Internet, all from America and Australia, are incredible. They come across as a far more contained, far angrier BROCKHAMPTON. It’s also interesting to hear the Australian voices throughout, representing some massive contemporary issues we are facing right now, such as the revelations that our parliament is full of predators. The production is also a highlight, and even if it doesn’t get it right every time, the diverse set of instrumentals kept me on my feet and always unsure what was coming next. Overall, I am incredibly excited to see these guys get more attention, because they certainly deserve it.
Best track: Government
The Off-Season by J. Cole- 5.1/10:
For an artist who has never done or said anything truly remarkable in his career, J.Cole is surprisingly controversial. This is in large part due to one argument, is he overrated or over-hated? The overrated camp will claim Cole rides on the shoulders of better artists and has little to no original ideas up his sleeve. The over-hated camp will respond by saying that the North Carolina native is a talented wordsmith and has the respect of many high-profile artists around him. However, I think The Off-Season proves he sits in between those two categories. Cole’s latest LP is far from the worst thing I have listened to this year, but did it do anything to impress me? Sort of, one or two songs did stand out, but they were nothing special. But a slew of tracks dogged by mediocre production and uninspired rapping drag the project down significantly. It also didn’t help that the opener was about as bad as the rapper has ever been. Overall, The Off-Season should be a footnote in 2021, with the minimal shining moments not being album to save this aggressively average project.
Best track- l e t . g o . m y . h a n d
SOUR by Olivia Rodrigo- 7.4/10:
For what it’s worth, SOUR is nothing innovative, but it makes a solid enough account of Rodrigo’s talent as both a vocalist and storyteller and is backed by some solid production in a surprising focused debut. The shining moments of this album are some of the best pop songs of 2021, particularly the guitar-driven moments. Olivia Rodrigo also has some incredibly witty and mature lyrical moments, though the theme of teen heartbreak can get a little contrived at times, and she is prone to repetition. The fact that she wears her influences on her sleeve also gets a little distracting, primarily when she draws on Lorde and Taylor Swift. However, the good far outweighs the bad on this commendable debut and leaves plenty of room for the 18-year-old to grow as an artist and songwriter. Yes, she might be a bit of an industry plant, but when she makes music this decent, why should we care?
Best track- jealousy, jealousy
Scaled and Icy by Twenty One Pilots- 4.8/10:
After the ambitious, well-executed and muscular Trench, Twenty One Pilots deliver a totally toothless display with Scaled and Icy. Everything that made their previous a diamond in the rough is gone, replaced with some pretty vapid and forgettable synth-pop. In many ways, it feels like a strange attempt to appeal to the masses, as if Tyler and Josh don’t already know they are one of the biggest musical acts in the world. Some genuinely solid moments come through, particularly in the second half of the album, but they are fleeting. The production is also pretty well done, but nowhere near as interesting as Trench. Sadly, the vast shadow this album’s older sibling casts might prove too much for Twenty One Pilots to manage, and if the massive step down in quality that is Scaled and Icy is any indication, they are already struggling significantly.
Best track- Shy Away
Pray for Haiti by Mach-Hommy- 8.0/10:
Another year, another solid release from a Griselda rapper. Hard-hitting, dark and uncompromising like many of his peers, Mach-Hommy blends into the scene well. His lyrics are sharp and, at times, highly political. I also find it interesting when he draws upon his Haitian heritage, dissecting everything from language to socio-political issues. Many of the Griselda staples, such as samples from Taxi Driver and frequent Westside Gun features are present, which sadly does drag this album down a bit, making it predictable in some points (plus those annoying Westside ad-libs are rarely welcome). However, what does make this album standout is the abstract production, swerving away from the more traditional boom-bap stylings of his Griselda peers, not being afraid to offer up some more challenging beats to the listener. Overall, Pray for Haiti is another excellent entry into the ever-growing and fairly consistent Griselda discography and a solid individual artistic statement for Mach-Hommy.
Best track- The 26th Letter
The Fool by Bladee- 5.6/10:
Continuing his active run that has spanned nearly an entire decade, Swedish rapper and premier Drain Gang member Bladee has released an album that was in its own strange way quite impressive. Personally, I tend to avoid Bladee’s music. Though most of it tends to be short and sharp, I can’t help but be bored with a lot of his material, thanks to his bland vocals and production. The Fool, however, sees one of these things increase significantly in quality, namely the production. The beats throughout ranged from interesting but not amazing to some of the best production on a hip-hop album this year. Sadly, I am still not convinced Bladee is actually a good rapper. Once again, I found myself frustrated and bored with the Swede’s vocals. I am not sure if it’s an aesthetic choice or an attempt to mask something bad, but auto-tune over un-enthusiastic vocals does not sound good to me. Maybe I just don’t get it, but The Fool to me is a well-produced record significantly hampered by bad vocals, and I am yet to be won over by Bladee.
Best track- I Think…
Cavalcade by black midi- 8.8./10:
Whilst I miss the explosive chaos of their debut, black midi is still wildly impressive on the technically exquisite Cavalcade. Though it could be simply written off as overly complex, technical garbage, I think black midi has just enough self-awareness for it to void into almost comedic effect. Each song is a jazzy, carefully constructed ride through the crazy world of the band. Whether it be a song about a cult leader visiting town or a musical genius composing their masterpiece, the stories told on Cavalcade don’t have much to do with each other or anything, but that’s the beauty of them. Each song is a little moment in time, different from the one before, making not a second predictable. As I said before, I miss some of the louder, noise rock/post-punk-oriented sounds of their debut. But alas, the Brixton Windmill scene continues to deliver in 2021, and black midi continues to demonstrate why they are one of the most exciting bands in the world.
Best track- John L
Blue Weekend by Wolf Alice- 8.3/10:
On their third album, Wolf Alice effectively channel their influences into a focused pastiche of all things 90s. From scathing alternative rock to soaring shoegaze to intimate dream pop, the London four-piece continue to be comfortable in several genres, pulling most of them off with ease. I get the same feeling from Blue Weekend as I did with Declan Mckennas Zeros last year. It’s an album that isn’t overly innovative (and at times, the group do get bogged down in pastiche), but is written and performed well enough to work. Of course, the greatest highlight of this LP is the outstanding vocals of Ellie Rowsell. Whether she is raging out to a punk banger or gliding over the swirling synths of some of their dreamer moments, Rowsell never sounds out of place, knowing exactly what she needs to do to get the job done. It isn’t the most boundary-pushing album to come out of the British rock world this year, but Blue Weekend sees Wolf Alice deliver some excellent mainstream alternative rock for those wanting to get a fix of 90s nostalgia.
Best track- The Last Man On Earth
Seek Shelter by Iceage- 7.6/10:
Though their softer direction can be in conflict with their rougher sensibilities, Iceage’s return with Seek Shelter is a solid entry into the band’s enviable discography, proving even at their weakest, they are one of the best groups in modern rock. The Norwegians previous album, the tense and exciting Beyondless, is a personal favourite of the 2010s. I was also excited by the first two singles for Seek Shelter. So, I was a little disappointed on my first listen. Why is Iceage, a band responsible for some truly chaotic punk last decade, so.. soft? However, a revisit, whilst not affirming this album as a classic in my mind, did help me appreciate some of the more subtle aspects of the record. For starters, it is immaculately produced. No single guitar or drum hit sounds out of place. Rønnenfelt’s vocals are also as good as ever, giving his signature slur an emotional edge. It’s not an amazing album, and I really miss the unbridled chaos of their early material, but a combination of some refined musicianship and solid-song writing helped by excellent production assures Seek Shelter is a worthwhile listen.
Best track- Vendetta
Daddy’s Home by St. Vincent- 6.8/10:
Everything about this album seems primed to be a classic. The coming together of a genuinely talented musician in St Vincent and the hottest name in pop production in Jack Antanoff. Sleek, funky jams. Well written songs. It’s a recipe for success. But for some reason, it just didn’t quite click for me. There is nothing I overtly dislike about Daddy’s Home. Each song is well produced and well performed. Annie Clark flexes her talent as an instrumentalist and songwriter throughout as well. But for some reason, I felt like this album was holding back too much. It reminded me of a restrained version of U.S. Girls In A Poem Unlimited. I found myself craving for some sort of release on a lot of these incredibly tightly wound songs, and when it occasionally came, it was great. But far too often, it just simply fizzled, leaving me wanting more. A good album, but one I don’t really understand the hype for.
Best track- Down
Butterfly 3000 by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard- 6.9/10:
Though Butterfly 3000 still isn’t quite on par with the band’s best, the upward trajectory from K.G. continues. Light, synth-driven and deeply psychedelic, there is plenty to really enjoy about Butterfly 3000. It’s a relaxed, other-worldly listen, each song inhabiting a pillowy bliss not too often explored by King Gizz. However, too often, this synth-driven angle sees the band lose some of its immediacies, and one or two moments sound a little too derivative of Tame Impala for my liking. Still, they show themselves once again that they can blend into just about genre with ease, with Butterfly 3000 being one of the hardest sonic left turns they have taken yet.
Best Track- Shanghai