All posts by Luke Labenne

Hey folks, it’s Luke LaBenne here, writer and host of Ghettoblaster’s Best Song Ever podcast. 2016 was a crazy year, full of surprises, so many musical icons released albums and some of them served as farewells. We saw so many amazing albums from veteran artists and some newcomers who grabbed our attention and quickly became beloved favorites. There were so many great albums that I had the honor of listening to and writing about this year thanks to Ghettoblaster. Some of them really stood out so here they are, my Top 20 Albums of 2016.


 

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20. Okkervil River – Away

The ghost album from the band that no longer exists. After the breakup of Okkervil River, frontman Will Sheff went through a period of uncertainty in which his Grandfather and personal hero passed away. Sheff teamed up with jazz musicians, including yMusic’s C.J. Camarieri who used his grandfather’s old trumpet, fusing jazz with their existing folk rock sound. This album that almost didn’t happen turned out to be a warm and beautiful expression with the emotional weight we’ve come to expect from the rock veteran.

Watch: Okkervil River –  Okkervil River R.I.P

 

 

 


 

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19. Kyle Craft – Dolls of Highland

Former GASHCAT frontman Kyle Craft made his SubPop debut with the right amount of retro and modern influences, from Velvet Underground to Neutral Milk Hotel. Kyle tells vivid, sprawling tales of love and loss akin to Bob Dylan, with his powerful, one of a kind voice and big, Springsteen-esque instrumentals. Whether he’s serenading a lady or lamenting his friend who committed suicide, these songs feel very personal and lived-in, with Kyle’s 27 years of life informing each tune.

Listen: Kyle Craft – Pentecost

 

 

 

 


 

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18. Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate

I remember a week where I felt like no albums had come out that grabbed my attention and then later in the week I heard this album and was blown away. British singer/songwriter Michael Kiwanuka combines the building jams of Pink Floyd, with the vocal force and social relevance of Marvin Gaye. Joining soul, folk, and rock to explore the meaning of love & hate, and express the triumphs and trials of a “black man in a white world.” Much of this album is featured in the Netflix’s The Get Down giving a fitting canvas for Michael’s epic, emotional, and uplifting music.

Watch: Michael Kiwanuka – Black Man In A White World

 

 

 


 

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17. Conor Oberst – Ruminations

Last year, Conor Oberst released an album and did a tour with his punk band Desaparecidos. Afterwards, he was exhausted and ill, so he returned to his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska to recover. While there, inspiration struck and he wrote a recorded an album in 48 hours. We see a different Conor then we’re used to, stripped down to just guitar or piano with an occasional harmonica solo. Lyrically, these songs are thick with cultural and literary references that drive home the Americana vibe of this album as Conor looks back over his life and career and considers what lies ahead. What began as a sort of pit stop to regroup turned into some of his most personal and powerful work yet.

Watch: Conor Oberst – A Little Uncanny

 

 


 

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16. Frightened Rabbit – Painting Of A Panic Attack

Scotish indie-rock veterans Frightened Rabbit really came into their own with their 2012 album Pedestrian Verse, completing the gradual transition from rougher folkier sound to a more polished indie-rock sound. The National’s Aaron Dessner helped them perfect that sound on this album. Resembling The National and the sound Dessner helped Mumford and Sons achieve last year, these songs are much brighter and catchier than you would assume based on the cover art and title. Lyrically, this album deals with death, addiction, and depression though it has it’s fair share of self-deprecation hope permeates each track. Under the tutelage of Dessner, these guys join the ranks of indie-rock greats and continue to grow with each new album.

Watch: Frightened Rabbit – I Wish I Was Sober

 

 


 

a3501043119_1015. Mutual Benefit – Skip A Sinking Stone

Jordan Lee has made music under the name Mutual Benefit since 2009, but this year he reached new heights with Skip A Sinking Stone. While touring, Lee contemplated life and love during long car trips, putting his questions and realizations into words gives this album it’s lyrical power. Backing up his insightful lyrics are grand compositions akin to Sufjan Stevens, that can shift quickly into bare, intimate folk. This album is grand yet isolated, using nostalgia as a means to move forward.

Watch: Mutual Benefit – Not For Nothing

 

 

 


 

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14. Vince Staples – Prima Donna

Last year, Vince Staples established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the world of Hip Hop with his album Summertime ’06. This year, Vince let us know just how fame was treating him with a mini-album full of 7 heavy-hitting songs about his disillusionment with fame, but his strength and relevance despite it, effortlessly weaving social topics into his personal narrative. Not only is Vince at the top of his game lyrically (with more lyrics that can make Christian moms cry), but he has some production help from the great James Blake, appearances by A$AP Rock and Kilo Kish, and heavy nods to OutKast, even with a sample of Andre’s verse from ATLiens. Every song on this album is fantastic and it comes with a short film to compliment each track.

Watch: Vince Staples – Prima Donna

 

 


 

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13. Lambchop – FLOTUS

For Love Often Turns Us Still. The veteran folk-rock band turned a page with their latest album, ditching their folk sound for electronic elements and airy, funky grooves. Kurt Wagner has experimented with electronics in the past, but on FLOTUS he seamlessly rolls them in with traditional instruments, primarily bass and piano, to make a smooth, hazy, and beautiful album. Ending, with an 18-minute “love” song. This album can pull at your heart strings just by the mood and feeling the music creates.

Watch: Lambchop – NIV

 

 

 


 

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12. El Perro Del Mar – KoKoro

After 8 months of “maternity leave” indie-pop artist Sarah Assbring returned with her 5th album as El Perro Del Mar. After visiting a museum with eastern instruments and listening to japanese, chinese, thai, and indian pop Assbring added this eastern influence into her existing style of melancholy pop. This new style emerges on each song always in a new and interesting way. Something about motherhood enabled Assbring to tap into primal truths of humanity make this album very deep and insightful.

Watch: El Perro Del Mar – Breadandbutter

 

 

 


 

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11. Beyonce – Lemonade 

Lemonade was more than an album. It was a film, it was couples therapy, and it was a cultural phenomenon. Never before had a superstar given such an intimate look at their lives on such a large scale. Not only did Jay-Z’s infidelity bring out some of Beyonce’s most powerful work exploring the nature of love, blackness, and womanhood, but she is also joined by an all-star cast of collaborators like Jack White, Kendrick Lamar, and the aforementioned James Blake. Queen B is at the height of her power and vulnerability making this album dynamic and addictive.

Watch: Beyonce – Sorry

 

 

 


 

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10. Red Pill – Instinctive Drowning

If you’ve read my posts or listened to my podcast then it’s no surprise that Detroit rapper Red Pill ended up this high on my list. Red Pill was one of my greatest discoveries this year and  just in time for him to drop his innovative second album for Mello Music Group. With the help of producer Ill-Poetic, he creates an eclectic journey through the life and mind of Chris Orrick a.k.a. Red Pill. Shedding the old school style of dusty samples and venturing into more expansive and experimental instrumentals, so much ground is covered on this album. Whether it’s grand speculation about the universe or small insights into his personal life, we hear a deep thinker whose thoughts and intentions go deeper than his actions. This record is a weighty and philosophical listen with stunning instrumentals and dynamic production, reflecting the complex contradictions in all of us.

Watch: Red Pill – Instinctive Drowning

 


 

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9. Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!”

I was anxiously awaiting a rap album from Childish Gambino but he delivered was even better. Venturing into funk and not spitting a single rhyme on the album, Donald Glover has defied our expectations of what he’s capable of. With the success of his FX series Atlanta we can see Glover really coming into his own as an artist. This album feels completely genuine and as a result is his best record to date. With sprawling guitar solos, extensive jams, and call and response vocals reminiscent of old school funk. Glover tackles social issues in a way we haven’t seen him do before, he calls it, “a shared vibration for human progress.”  No album released this year sounds remotely like this one.

Listen: Childish Gambino – Me and Your Mama

 

 


 

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8. Kishi Bashi – Sonderlust

Sonderlust is the idea that each random passerby has a life as rich and complex as your own. That elusive concept it what K. Ishibashi attempted to capture on his third album. This album had a rocky start, with K. being underwhelmed by the songs he was writing. Meanwhile, family problems occurred and he threw himself into the music. The result is an examination of love, an album that plays like a movie. Produced by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor and featuring a full backing band, string quartet, and some contributions from of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes. This album is the grandest instrumentation and most experimentation that we’ve seen from Ishibashi yet. I recently got the vinyl and put it on and it’s impossible to turn off, each song is so engaging and plays into the next song perfectly.

Watch: Kishi Bashi – Hey, Big Star

 

 


 

weezer_white_album7. Weezer – Weezer (White Album)

2014 saw the comeback of Weezer, one of the greatest rock bands who seemed to have lost their way a bit. Fans of Weezer’s early work had shut out their pop punk sound when it went in strange directions while still permeating the mainstream. Everything Will Be Alright in the end won back many Weezer fans (including myself) and they quickly followed it up with the fourth installment of their self-titled color albums with what will forever be called The White Album. This is the greatest summer album you could ask for, channeling The Beach Boys with nautical themed rock songs as warm as the California sun. Every song is beautiful while being relentlessly catchy and fun. They may have won back their fans in 2014 but in 2016 they’ve assured us that they won’t be straying from our favor any time soon.

Watch: Weezer – LA Girlz

 

 


 

life-of-pablo6. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

Where does the art end and the artist begin? Can you separate the two? Kanye makes us ask this question all the time. How can I adore someone’s music but disagree with most of their actions in their life? Everybody has to draw their own line, all I know is that ever since 2004 when I listen to Kanye’s music I’m blown away. Though his styles have changed and there’s so much controversy surrounding him constantly, he has a true talent for music. There are moments of shocking vulnerability on this album as well as your typical Kanye ego and braggadocios attitude. The collaborators here are insane from Chance to Frank Ocean, Rihanna to Kid Cudi; so many amazing artist line up to work with Kanye despite all his issues and there is a reason for that. I don’t let the news or blogs or reality shows or even the artist’s actions shape my opinion, I let the music speak for itself.

Listen: Kanye West – Ultralight Beam

 


 

09e256ce885fe6b3cf181239c3b3231c-1000x1000x15. A Tribe Called Quest – We got if from here… Thank you 4 your service

The legendary hip-hop group’s first album in 18 years was everything you would hope. Including the late Phife Dawg’s final verses, and an all-star list of contributors including Kendrick Lamar, Jack White, Andre 3000, Anderson Paak, and Elton John. Q-Tip masterfully comments on all the major political and social topics over beats that feel completely current while evoking the groups earlier work. From start to finish this album has you hooked, the music is so engaging while leaving room for some experimentation and the lyrics just speak so perfectly to the emotions many people are feeling. Dave Chappelle hosted SNL with ATCQ as the musical guest and he said it’s always scary to make a comeback so it’s nice to know you’re not doing it alone. This is one of the greatest comeback records you could ask for, while adding to the legacy of one of hip-hop’s greatest contributors.

Watch: A Tribe Called Quest – We The People…

 


 

a2344894986_104. AJJ – The Bible 2

Formerly Andrew Jackson Jihad the Arizona folk-punk band has been making music since the mid 2000s. Their sound was mostly acoustic with folk instruments like guitar, banjo, and standup bass and Sean Bonnet’s wild, cracking voice and unpredictable lyrics. On 2014’s Christmas Island they unveiled a new sound, with the help of one of my favorite rock producers John Congleton. On The Bible 2 we see Bonnet’s lyrics more refined, and the folk punk style perfected. This is the most dynamic album the band has delivered. Congleton likes music that makes him feel a range of emotions, and helps bring out the individual personalities of each song. Weather it’s crunchy punk tracks like “Cody’s Theme” and “My Brain Is a Human Body,” resembling Neutral Milk Hotel, or intimate ballads like “Junkie Church” and the song that brings the album’s core mantra, “No More Shame, No More Fear, No More Dread.” For those of us who feel uncertain in our skin sometimes, these weirdo anthems have relatable lyrics that hit hard. Though they’ve been around for years this album quickly made them one of my new indie favorites.

Watch: AJJ – Goodbye, Oh Goodbye

 


 

c5e308973. Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book

Forget Blonde. Forget Pablo. Forget Lemonade. Coloring Book was my most anticipated album of the year (and then it was exclusively on Apple Music FML). With 2014’s Acidrap I fell in love with the music of Chance Bennett. I began to respect him a lot after I watched him get a beer bottle thrown at him and tell the person who threw it that he loved them (he did walk off stage after someone threw a second bottle but can you blame him?). After the release of Angels, the birth of his daughter, and his phenomenal appearance on Kanye’s Ultralight Beam it was clear that Chance is growing and maturing. On this album we see Chance on top on the world, yet he remains grounded. In a world where mainstream hip-hop keeps getting darker with melodies drained, Chance injects warmth and brightness into the genre. Tapping into nostalgia in a more productive way than Donald Trump. This album has everything, ballsy hip-hop swagger, brooding trap, and glorious gospel. Not to mention this album redefined what independent mixtapes are capable of accomplishing. Chance has ascended to super stardom with Nike and Kit-Kat commercials, and features on numerous albums including The Hamilton Mixtape. It’s hard not to be a stereotypical hipster and say I’ve loved Chance for years and condemn the bandwagon jumpers, but instead i’ll just say it’s about damn time.

Watch: Chance The Rapper – No Problem

 


 

a1767464498_102. John K. Samson – Winter Wheat

The former frontman of The Weakerthans trades out his rocking for restraint and the result is one of the most beautiful, powerful folk albums of the 21st century. Whether he’s speaking about internet trolls, a departed loved one, or a rehab center he so perfectly captures the humanity in any situation. John is a master of melody so you have some incredible lyrics paired with the most infectious melodies. The lyrics walk the line of being cryptic enough that you don’t understand his specific references, but specific enough that you grasp the mood and the story being told. The albums title refers to a crop that endures the winter and rises in the spring and this metaphor extends to many of the stories on this album. He is great at capturing low points and the clarity that follows. This album just hits you in the heart with every new song, they’re masterfully performed and produced emotional wrecking balls, delivered with a warm and comforting voice.

Watch: John K. Samson – Postdoc Blues

 


 

heavn_front-1000x10001. Jamila Woods – HEAVN

This album was off of my radar because it wasn’t on Spotify, and it is responsible for 90% of my Soundcloud visits this year. This album did for me what Solange’s Seat At The Table did for many others, perfectly put into words and music the life and struggles of black females. It shows how music can be the most powerful tool to connect with someone who’s life is different than yours, while highlighting the shared aspects of humanity that connect us all. Whether she’s singing a love song, lamenting her departed grandfather, or sounding a battle hymn, she does it with such a warm and steady voice. The music is just so beautiful with production by the likes of Saba and Kweku Collins, combining jazz, folk, and r&b. Much like her Chicago buddies Noname and Chance (who both appear on the album) she taps into the nostalgia of 90’s kids, altering playground rhymes and the Mr. Rogers theme. This album is a smooth and tender tale of love, family, pain, power and resilience.

Watch: Jamila Woods – Blk Girl Soldier

 


 

Every Monday Ghettoblaster is looking back to new albums released the previous week.  Below you’ll find several albums released on Friday, October 21st that we believe are definitely worth a listen.

John K. Samson – Winter Wheat (ANTI-)


The former Weakerthans frontman’s second solo album is a restrained folk masterpiece. His inspiration for the title came from the crop that lies dormant in the winter and then rises in the spring and that’s just what this album feels like, resurrection after a bout of isolation. Samson has always been a great lyricist but his songwriting has matured with him and this album showcases his been writing both instrumentally and lyrically. This album is really hard to stop listening to, John’s soft voice with just the right amount of a nasally whine is so inviting and infectious, coupled with his extremely insightful and powerful lyrics make this album unstoppable. Where Weakerthan’s would rock hard, this album pulls back, it’s subtlty is it’s greatest asset. Samson is great at capturing the love/hate relationship we have with our faults and low points. Whether it’s Samson chronicling of a rehab facility in 17th Street Treament Center, “Most of us here are probably not getting better // We’re not getting better together,” or the encouraging tone of Postdoc Blues. Samson’s wife and collaborator Christine Fellows produced the album as well as contributing instrumentally and the sound of this album is flawless, whether it’s the intimate and spacious spoken-word track “Quiz Night At Looky Lou’s” or the driving folk-pop tune “Fellow Traveler” this album sounds amazing in whatever form it takes on. I’ll leave you with the beautiful closing lyrics of Postdoc Blues, which should be every human’s mantra (inspired by the Canadian organization The Leap Manifesto), “So take that laminate out of your wallet and read it // And recommit yourself to the healing of the world // And the welfare of all creatures upon it // Pursue a practice that will strengthen your heart.”


 

Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker (Columbia Records)


The fourteenth album from songwriting legend Leonard Cohen is his farwell to the world, at age 82 he is preparing to pass. This album has a lifetime informing it, as Cohen reflects on his time on earth, making peace with past decisions and appreciating his blessings. Judging by the title you would expect it to be darker than it actually is, much like the life that Leonard is reflecting on it is about 50/50 with light and dark. Some songs play like lovely hymns, others like an eerie monastic chorus. Though the lyrical content is often somewhat Macabre, there is a peace over many of the songs. Cohen is known for his gravely voice and his speak-singing style. Often there is the subtlest hint of a melody, just enough for you to grab on to, some songs feel so delicate and fragile, as if his most precious thoughts were carefully placed into a song. This album does have it’s moments of thick instrumentation with violins and drum beats, but most often it is minimal. The final track is mainly a gorgeous orchestral reprise of the song “Treaty,” delivering a bittersweet yet beautiful end to the record. I know I’m not alone in hoping that this is not Leonard’s last album, though his day approaches he seems as well equipped to handle it as any of us can be. If this is (as Chance the Rapper would say) Leonard’s “last shit,” it’s one hell of a way to go out.


 

American Football – American Footbal (LP2) (Polyvinyl Records)


 

“Some things never change. Maybe that’s okay.” Mike Kinsella says it all with that line. The emo pioneers have finally released a second album 17 years after their 1999 debut. Much to the delight of long time fans, they’ve picked up right where they left off. Though half of the band has perused other careers since their first album (one is an English professor, the other works in an office) they slip right back in to the groove they had as college students. The interesting interactions between the harmonizing, wandering guitar parts and the complex drum beats are the best part of American Football’s style, and it is alive and well on this album. Often instruments will be in different time signatures and songs often transform throughout. The lyrical content hasn’t lost it’s emo charm, NPR’s Lars Gotritch said Mike Kinsella kind of wrote as a character, as his life and mindset have changed a lot since he was in college. He successfully channel’s his younger self though and write’s songs that feel perhaps slightly embellished yet relate-able. For many people American Football’s album is a coming of age story, perfectly embodying that summer after graduation. This album feels like coming home, but as we find out on this album “Home Is Where The Haunt Is.” Math-rock nerds and music scholars alike will appreciate this group’s long awaited return.


D.R.A.M. – Big Baby D.R.A.M. (Atlantic Records)


On “Broccoli” D.R.A.M. promises “Ain’t no tellin’ what I’m finna be on,” and he lives up to that over the course of the album. You never know what direction the 28-year-old-rapper will go in, but you know whatever it is it will be interesting. Shelley Marshaun Massenburg-Smith’s rap name is an acronym for Does Real Ass Music. Though he of course has the bragadocious style so common in rap, he does it in a very charming and catchy way (I mean the cover of the album is him hugging his golden doodle named Idnit, it’s adorable.) The production of the album is on point with contributions from the likes of Donnie Trumpet, as D.R.A.M. demonstrates some top-notch wordsmith skills and sings with the voice of an angel. With all-star appearances by Eryka Badu, Lil Yachty, and Young Thug this album is not only fun and catchy, but D.R.A.M. serves as an inspirational figure as someone who decided to go and “Get It Myself.” He has talked in other songs about wanting to inspire other people to achieve success like he has which is a somewhat noble pursuit. I have been waiting for this album since “Broccoli” came out and it didn’t disappoint D.R.A.M. is one of the best young rappers on the rise.


 

 

 

Every Monday Ghettoblaster is looking back to new albums released the previous week.  Below you’ll find several albums released on Friday, October 14th that we believe are definitely worth a listen.

Crying – Beyond The Fleeting Gates (Run For Cover Records)


The debut full length the New York rock band is an unexpected pairing of smooth synth-pop and larger than life progressive rock. Songs erupt into arena rock crescendos with screeching guitar solos, brassy synths, and elaborate drum fills. This album was preceded by two EPs that were more punk focused until guitarist Ryan Galloway channeled his love for bands like Rush into their existing sound. The result is a showcase of the technical talent of Galloway and drummer Nick Corbo, while serving as an unlikely yet effective companion to Elaiza Santos’ light and airy vocals. There are sounds present on this album that would ordinarily be considered over the top and cheesy, yet when they’re presented alongside of Elaiza’s vocals they come across as daring and innovative. Every musician is a collection of influences and here we see a pairing of dissimilar styles to make a completely fresh and original pop sound.


Conor Oberst – Ruminations (Nonesuch Records)


Bob Dylan recently won a Nobel Prize for Literature demonstrate the power of storytelling in folk music. In the same week Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst released his seventh solo album, Ruminations, which follows in this same tradition. After last year’s tour with his political punk band Desaparecidos, Oberst became ill and exhausted so he returned to his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. He holed up to recover and ended up making this album. Folk music’s power lies in it’s lyrics and these songs truly are literature. Thick with references to historical and cultural figures, like Jane Fonda, Ronald Reagan, even Robin Williams, and talks about meeting Lou Reed and Patti Smith, this album is true americana. On the track above he uses Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture and life (the titular Borthwick was Wright’s wife) to examine his own legacy and what it means, “to build something that’s sacred ’til the end.” The music is very simple and bare, Oberst singing over either piano or guitar with the occasional harmonica solo, reminiscent of Dylan and at times akin to Elton John’s more intimate tracks. At this point, Oberst has had a long career in music, and on this record we see him removed from all  of that, as he reflects and considers what’s next. This record is leagues above his previous solo work, with many simple yet powerful folk tunes.


The Game – 1992 (Entertainment One Music)


A couple weeks ago I talked about how on All Songs Considered Danny Brown said he was in the Nas lineage of lyricists, and The Game is definitely a branch on that family tree. Not only does his voice actually resemble Nas’, but his music is an intersection of incredible wordplay, vocal stamina, and vivid storytelling. On his eighth studio album, the Compton rapper reflects of the LA riots of 1992, his childhood in the hood, his partnership with Dr. Dre, and his departure from G-Unit. This album is heavy with references to early hip-hop, not just the cover art that resembles Snoop’s albums in the 90’s. The song “I Grew Up on Wu-Tang” samples Wu Tang’s “C.R.E.A.M.”, “True Colors” uses Ice-T’s “Colors” and “F**K Orange Juice” samples Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s classic “The Message.” On “92 Bars” you guessed it, he literally spits 92 Bars and disses Meek Mill and a laundry list of other rappers, “I’m gonna be beefing with Cole, Drizzy, or Cornrow Kenny. Pick your favorite rapper you gon’ be pourin’ out Henny.” This is the final track on the album and the most impressive, though the rest of the album has it’s merit.  This album feels very personal, as he tells stories from growing up, we get to know him better and see the influences and experiences that lead him to hip-hop. The Game has never been on my list of favorite rappers, but with this album he’s definitely making his way toward the top of the list.


 

Swet Shop Boys – Cashmere (Custom Records)


HBO’s The Night Of star Riz Ahmed and Das Racist’s Heems have joined forces as Swet Shop Boys, follows in the footsteps of Heems former project, using comedy and clever wordplay to tackle important issues. Heems has always had skills and he delivers he quirky, signature style of rhymes,  but on this album Riz establishes that he is more than an actor he is an impressive lyricist. This is an album that is both culturally relevant and super cool and catchy.


 

From Indian Lakes – Everything Is Alright Now (Triple Crown Records)


The California indie-rock bands fourth studio album is moody yet surprisingly catchy. As the title implies this album deals with depression in all aspect whether in relationship or friendships. This album is an interesting blend of polished rock and earthy influence, kind of like Local Natives meets Midlake. There is just the right amount of early emo influence with delayed guitars, frontman Joey Vannucchi’s breathy vocals, and drummer Tohm Ifergan’s relentlessly impressive beats. I kept waiting for this album to bore me, but it kept finding ways to keep me interested while staying true to it’s hazy nature.


Jonny Fritz – Sweet Creep (ATO Records)


On his new album the singer/songwriter references country tradition with updated production techniques. This album could easily exist like Conor Oberst’s with minimal instrumentation, but Fritz adds interesting elements throughout. Whether it’s guitar effects, unique percussion, or country classics like fiddle these little touches really make the songs stand out. Fritz’s songwriting is like the folk/country version of John Grant, with songs often being comical and powerful at the same time. On this album Jonny talks about the life and times of a Sweet Creep, talking about ladies and being certainly uncertain about life and what comes next. This album is fun, with a lot of great wordplay and moments of surprising vulnerability.


 

 

Every Monday Ghettoblaster is looking back to new albums released the previous week.  Below you’ll find several albums released on Friday, September 30th that we believe are definitely worth a listen.

Bellows – Fist & Palm (Double Double Whammy)


Brooklyn’s Epoch collective has delivered some great albums this year from the likes of Eskimeaux and Told Slant, and the latest is Bellows’ Fist and Palm. Bellows is the musical project of Oliver Kalb, joined by other Epoch members, his second album is a lamentation of a friendship that went awry. Kalb outfits his folk-rock style with all sorts of percussion and synthetic sounds, making it sound like something completely different. These songs could easily be intimate folk songs if they were stripped down but Kalb chose to go big. Though his vocals may be soft and the content heart-breaking and personal these song have a big pop-rock sound. These songs are unexpectedly infectious considering their inspiration, yet the album does have it’s spare moments. This album hooks the listener in immediately and there is not a second where it bores them. This is a stylistic breakthrough for Kalb, on this album he makes bold choices that pay off immensely.


Bon Iver – 22, A Million (Jagjaguwar)


Bon Iver began as a broken man, Justin Vernon, holed up in a cabin pouring his heart and soul into a record. After a Grammy win and collaborations with big names like Kanye West, Bon Iver permeated the mainstream. This shift has stripped the music of it’s DIY charm, yet it hasn’t altered Vernon’s drive to be daring and creative with his music. This is apparent on his third record, 22 A Million. This album has traces of all styles he explored in the past. He returns to folk style on tracks like “29# Strafford APTS” and “0000 Million” did what he always did best, make indie-rock hymns that cut right to the core. The big sound of his second album comes out with booming drum fills and saxophone solos, he continues to find interesting ways of toying with auto-tune. He then of course ventures into new territory with new production techniques, whether manipulating his voice or looping sounds and samples. One of the most interesting new techniques is how he makes the sound get static and cut out. It’s a sound were all familiar with having headphones or speaker wires cut out and back in, he perfectly mimics that sound to elicit the emotion of feeling broken. Not only is this album elaborate when it comes to symbolism, just look at the titles, but there is so much happening on this album, subtle little sounds, samples, and manipulations of vocals and sounds give the songs the touch of innovation and originality that we’ve come to expect from Vernon. Though we will never get back to that cabin in the woods, Vernon continues to find ways to take the listener to places they’ve never been before.


Regina Spektor – Remember Us To Life (Sire Records)


Following a lengthy haitus, in which she welcomed her first child into the world, singer and pianist Regina Spektor has made her long awaited return with here seventh album Remember Us To Life, where she hones her piano-balladeer sound and takes it to the next level. To paraphrase NPR’s Robin Hilton, it’s as simple as someone just singing pretty. These songs are gorgeous, mainly driven by her vocals and piano yet with she’s often joined by flourishing orchestration. Though many songs are the cute and clean style Spektor is known for she does experiment a bit. On tracks like “Small Bill$” and “The Trapper and The Furrier” she gets dark comments on social issues, “What a strange, strange world we live in where the good are damned and the wicked forgiven.” Grand and dissonant orchestration make intense and effecting crescendos. There has always been a theatrical quality to Spektor’s music and that is definitely the case on this album. It seems that while on musical maternity leave, Regina did a lot of deep thinking and examination of life and what it means to exist, effortlessly accessing grand revelations about the human condition, and doing so with clever rhymes and jaunty instrumentation. She has found a way to take new chances while not straying to far from her signature sound.


 

Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition (Warp)


The Detroit rapper’s fourth album is dark and dynamic. We hear Danny Brown in a new way than we’re used to as the instrumentals dive into a “downward spiral” of moody and experimental jazz and psychedelic rock. This is Brown’s most nuanced album, he searches for meaning yet affects confident swagger. This album is as catchy and exciting as it is mysterious and ominous. The production on this is as impressive as Browns lyricism, an all-star list of producers contributed including the likes of The Alchemist and Black Milk. Recently on All Songs Considered, Brown talked about how Nas was his biggest influence and that is absolutely apparent on this. With each new album Brown develops as a storyteller and a wordsmith. He keeps the spirit of rap greats like Nas and Rakim alive on this album.


 

 

Slaves – Take Control (Virgin EMI Records)


The third album from the British punk band is a call for revolution. Produced by The Beastie Boys’ Mike D, this album is everything you would expect from a British punk album. It is hard hitting high energy from the start, with fuzzed out guitars, furious vocal, and a singer with scratchy vocals screaming about political and social issues. Our buddies across the pond deal with a lot of the same issues as we do here in the US and these guys speak their mind on all of it. They take on wealth inequality on “Rich Man” they tackle technology dependence on “Play Dead”. Mike D appears on “Consume or Be Consumed” making the track feel like an early Beatsie Boys track. The other tie to hip hop on the album is skits throughout, a staple of 90’s and early aughts rap music. It’s not all political they explore many issues about personal relationships and friendships on tracks like “The People The You Meet” “Steer Clear” and “Angelica.” Whatever the subject matter you can expect unapologetic (sometimes quirky and comical) honesty. The bands website domain captures the message of this record (youareallslaves.com) yet they remind us that we are not powerless and urge us to “Take Control.”


Microwave – Much Love (SideOneDummy Records)


Atlanta rock band Microwave’s first album focused on frontman Nathan Hardy’s departure from the Mormon faith. They’ve developed significantly on their sophomore album, which shows the dark side of the world that he left the church for. This album is made up of forceful rock tracks, with killer guitar licks throughout, a punk influence and just the right amount of early aught emo to make their style dynamic and unique. On the standout track “Vomit” Hardy rethinks the party lifestyle and examines his loss of faith in love, struggling to figure out what his new life really means. This track is extremely intimate and emotional, in the second half Hardy screams, “There’s no such thing as love we just felt vulnerable without a god, without a crutch.” On this record we hear a man in between worlds, finding himself disillusioned with each side and figuring out where he belongs.


 

Welcome to Future Sounds! Every Wednesday Ghettoblaster brings you a handful of singles from upcoming albums to excite and entice your ears. Below you’ll find songs that really stand out as essential listening. So please sit back, relax and treat yourself to some seriously great music.

Lucius – Pulling Teeth (Mom + Pop) 


This year Lucius released their stellar sophomore album, Good Grief, and they’re not done yet. Nov. 25th they will release their Pulling Teeth 10″ via Mom + Pop, with B-Side “The Punisher” and this titular track. The band felt these songs belonged on their own, separate from Good Grief, partly due to the fact that this song is about writing (or rather writer’s block) of the album. On the chorus, “Something’s coming hold it there just a little bit longer,” they talk about this block and how they eventually broke out by writing this song (super meta stuff). The band says,“Of course it can be interpreted as something deeper, but on a simpler level it was a writers’ tantrum.” Once again Lucius uses their crisp, bouncy pop style to effortlessly connect with deep emotions. The chorus feels like an, “A Change Gonna Come” type mantra, reminding anyone that if you just hold on something new is around the corner.


The Wytches – Crest of Death (Heavenly) 


Don’t you love it when a song begins with the singer just full out screaming in your face? Of course you do. This song expends it energy immediately with the fractured screaming patterns that all end up with the melodic line, “never gonna find a way out.” After the intense intro the song drifts into a dreamy, dissonant, jam for the second half before being ended by that same line. This is the first track off of the English bands anticipated sophomore release, All Your Happy Life, out Sept. 30th via Heavenly. Based on this track the album will be rough, dark, and fuzzy.


Ex Reyes – Only You (Lil Mo Records)


Ex Reyes is the musical project of Bleachers member Mikey Freedom Hart. This song has the melodic structure of a classic Motown soul track, yet it’s surrounded by dream pop instrumentals. Driven by shimmering staccato piano, treble guitar twangs and steady yet sporadic drum beats, with strings, gorgeous vocal harmonies, and other odd sounds making brief appearances. The production here is elaborate yet restrained, though the song amps up at certain points it is mostly even and consistent throughout. For a song that is so light and catchy, it’s lyrics are more melancholy, describing a relationship with someone who has a negative effect on him. The line is repeated, “Only you can make me feel so wrong.”  Their ep Do Something is out Nov. 4th on Lil Mo Records, it will no doubt be a well composed pop-soul album worth giving a listen.


 

Moses Sumney feat. Thundercat – Lonely World (Self-released)


 

Singer Moses Sumney is on tour with James Blake right now and his ep  Lamentations comes out Sept. 30th. This is the latest track released, featuring jazz/electronic artist Thundercat, and the instrumentals here are dynamic and ever changing, at times dark and ambient and times driving and grooving. All lead by Sumney astounding vocals, he keeps pushing his falsetto further and further until it finally reaches it’s ceiling. The vocal effects are very interesting, with Sumney doing distorted harmonies with himself. This song showcases Sumney’s impressive vocal range and wets the appetite for his forthcoming ep.


Sylvan Esso – Radio (Loma Vista Recordings) 


The indie-pop duo of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn released one of the best albums of 2014, and their return has been long awaited. Though this new song is just from a 12″ coming out Nov. 18th via Loma Vista Recordings, it’s good to have some new music from the band. This synth-driven track has their signature pop sound, yet the subject matter here is different from what we’ve seen in the past. This song is a criticism of the commercialism of the music industry, describing the publicity cycle of a pop star and repeating the line, “Slave to the radio.” Not only is it a comment on the music industry but how it’s driven by our society, which is clear with the line, “Don’t you look so cute sucking American d***.” It’s not every day you see a successful band be this critical of the music business, it’s evidence that there are serious problems in the system. This song will most likely be on heavy rotation and be worn out while patiently await their next album.


 

 

Every Monday Ghettoblaster is looking back to new albums released the previous week.  Below you’ll find several albums released on Friday, September 16th that we believe are definitely worth a listen.

Touché Amoré – Stage Four (Epitaph Records)


Music doesn’t get much more powerful than this album, both the sonic brawn and emotional content continuously floor the listener. The fourth album of the California post-hardcore band follows frontman Jeremy Bolm’s mother’s death and battle with cancer. This album explores the depths of human emotion: whether it’s Jeremy’s struggle with belief on “Displacement” the regret of not being there when she passed on “Eight Seconds” or the questions he wished he’d asked on “Palm Dreams” we hear Jeremy working through these feelings throughout the album. He ultimately finds some sort of peace and clarity on “Skyscraper” joined by Julien Baker, The National influenced track signifies Jeremy’s closure, ending with the last voicemail left by his mother, which he states on the first track that he hasn’t brought himself to listen to it. The post-hardcore genre magnifies Bolm’s catharsis as he screams through the pain, expressing all the questions and realizations that he’s had during the whole tragic ordeal. Not only is this album a stunning personal expression and a companion for anyone navigating loss, but it redefines what this genre is capable of accomplishing.


El Perro Del Mar – Kokoro (Ging Ging Recordings)


For over a decade, Swedish singer and multi-instrumentalist Sarah Assbring has made indie-pop under the name El Perro Del Mar. During the making of her last record, she welcomed her first child into the world and the baby even joined her on tour. She then took time off to focus on motherhood, but after 8 months she had the itch to get back to work. She had been, “listening to only Japanese, Chinese, Thai, and Indian pop music for the last three years,” and a visit to a musical instrument museum in Sweden, she was taken with instruments and sounds from other cultures and recorded sounds that she sampled on the record.  She then outfitted her mysterious electro-pop sound with sounds from all over the world, with rhythms inspired by Indonesian Gamelan music, Asian string and woodwind instruments, and all manner of exotic percussion. On this record Assbring examines what it means to be human,  perhaps due to maturity or motherhood, or the multi-cultural influence. On “Breadandbutter” she reminds us, “We all come from the very bottom,” and on “Clean Your Window” she warns, “Share some light because Ignorance grows in the dark.” This album is both rhytmic and melodic, which was Assbring’s intention when borrowing from these different styles. This is eclectic and exotic pop unlike you’ve heard before, with every song bringing a new element to the table, this is her best album yet.


Kishi Bashi – Sonderlust (Joyful Noise Recordings)


The third album from multi-instrumentalist K. Ishibashi is an obvious departure from his past work. Following a bout of writer’s block, and marital struggles, he threw himself into his music. He worked in Ableton, a different recording software than he usually uses, and began to create exciting loops and electronic sounds. While his orchestral pop roots are still present, the album is primarily synth and keyboard driven. This record is steeped in 70’s influence, from Pink Floyd and ELO, to George Duke and other Brazilian jazz fusion players. Produced by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, there are many supporting instrumentalists, making the compositions fuller and more rich than past records. This is Ishibashi’s most accomplished and most personal album. Playing out like the soundtrack to a movie, this album focuses on love and the crazy journey it can take you on. On Sonderlust, you hear an artist bravely enter new territory, with enough connection to his early work to make any die hard fan get on board.


 Cymbals Eat Guitars – Pretty Years (Sinderlyn)


In 2013, Staten Island rock band Cymbals Eat Guitars released their third album, which was very well recieved and was follower with a year long tour. Afterwards, frontman Joseph D’Agostino was in a self described “funk” not really inspired to make more music. The song “4th of July” tells the story of the night that brought him back. Hanging out with fellow musician Alex G on 4th of July, he witnessed a violent encounter and escaped unscathed.  He began to write about what it means to be alive and to make your life matter. This album is equal parts pragmatism and existentialism, as Joe grows older and looks at everyday situations through a more cosmic lens, “How many universes am I alive and dead in?”. The sound on this album is bright and hazy, with fuzzy guitars, the occasional shimmering synth, and sometimes even a booming sax; Joe’s gravelly voice and vivid storytelling make it sound like The Clash meets Springsteen. On this album Joe confronts his inevitable death and celebrates his immediate life.


Kool Keith – Feature Magnetic (Mello Music Group)


Kool Keith is the wonderfully talented, terribly hilarious rapper also known as Dr. Octagon, Rhythm X, Dr. Doom and Mr. Gerbek. Yes, he is a truly eccentric talent who has been around since the late 80s when he took the rap world by storm as a member of the Ultramagnetic MCs. For the past several years it seemed that the world may not see another solid Kool Keith album again, but that has been proven false with the release of his newest album Feature Magnetic. Keith also has assumed the role of producer for most of the album under the name Number One Producer, which gives it a very cohesive sound. Musically the songs are strange, yet pretty minimalistic at the same time often built around big looping drums and synth lines. These serve Keith’s signature rapping incredibly well, allowing the focus to be on his very funny lyricism and breathtaking, wholly original deliver. Feature Magnetic is perfect for old school and newer hip-hop fans alike and it’s a joy to hear Kool Keith back in the saddle again. – Words by Brian LaBenne


The Glazzies – Kill Me Kindly (Old Flame Records) 


The Glazzies are a criminally under-heard Long Island rock band. Their new album, Kill Me Kindly, recalls the heyday of nineties grunge, while at the same time taking it in their own direction. Pop-Grung is not really a subgenre of music, but hopefully it will be as The Glazzies demonstrate how awesome it can sound. These are seriously great pop songs clothed in heavy grungey guitars and aggressive drumming perfect for blasting and bobbing you head along to. Psychedelic shades also permeate Kill Me Kindly in both the music and lyricism as most of these songs are straight up about aliens. Overall,  this is a fun album worth your time, especially if you are interested in heavy, catchy and fantastic grunge. – Words by Brian LaBenne


AlunaGeorge – I Remember (Island Records) 


AlunaGeorge have been getting progressively more and more into the mainstream pop world ever since they burst on the scene in 2012 with the stellar single “You Know You Like It,” which was in turn re-mixed by DJ Snake in 2014 resulting in it becoming certified platinum. This is all to say that it should be no surprise that AlunaGeorge’s new album, I Remember, is a swing for the fences, huge sounding modern pop album. A lot of the reviews of the new album seem to not understand the trajectory that AlunaGeorge has been on for the past several years, which really does not make sense. This is an absolutely solid pop album with songs that would fit in with modern pop radio and definitely be the best song playing in any given cycle. I Remember is a breezt affair with mostly up-tempo synth pop songs that have nice subtle verses and shimmering chrosues. I Remember progresses AlunaGeorge closer to their pop music takeover, which was promised all those years ago. – Words by Brian LaBenne


Preoccupations – Preoccupations (Jagjaguwar)


Preoccupations, the band formerly known as Viet Cong, is back with a new self-titled album that is absolutely brutal and punishing in the best way possible. Preoccupations is an album full of awesome post-punk songs that are at time monotonous and at others incredibly varied and catchy. Preoccupations sounds entirely like Viet Cong, yet at the same time absolutely different. They have expanded their sound palate a bit, even evoking Echo and the Bunnymen at times. Lyrically these are songs mostly about falling apart, breaking down and ultimately building back up. The band describes their new album in the following way: “What’s punishing can also be soothing, everything can change without disrupting your compass. Your best year can be your worst year at the same time. Whatever sends you flying can also help you land.” – Words by Brian LaBenne


 

Welcome to Future Sounds! Every Wednesday Ghettoblaster brings you a handful of singles from upcoming albums to excite and entice your ears. Below you’ll find songs that really stand out as essential listening. So please sit back, relax and treat yourself to some seriously great music.

Zack de le Rocha – digging for windows


de le Rocha’s back baby! Former Rage Against The Machine and One Day As A Lion frontman has released his debut solo single, with an album due next year. Produced by Run The Jewels’ El-P, this song starts minimal with a fuzzy synth and drum pulse then develops with screeching guitars hits. This is a new sound for de la Rocha, still resembling his past projects, but more fresh with that El-P magic touch. “F*** that bright shit,” establishes right away that Zack is back and he’s not messing around. He’s still the master of revolutionary rhymes, painting a vivid picture of the corruption and inequality in our country, all verses coming back to the line, “These days is all night.” RATM fans have been waiting for this moment since Zack appeared on Run The Jewels’ Close Your Eyes and Count To F***, and now it’s finally arrived. No wonder Zack gave Prophets of Rage his blessing, he’s doing cool stuff with El-P. In this tumultuous election time it’s good to know that all member of RATM especially Zack are out fighting the good fight with their music.


Slaves – Take Control (Virgin EMI Records)


Speaking of revolution, English punk duo Slaves’ second album Take Control, is coming out Sept. 30 on Virgin EMI Records. When you go to the bands website their domain serves as a message: you are all slaves. On the title track they urge us to take control. The lyrics describing a daily routine with drummer Isaac Holman repeating the mantra “take control” between each line, until the chorus where frontman Laurie Vincent screams the order.This is everything you want from a punk song: it’s rough, it’s angry, and it has a killer guitar riff. Produced by the Beastie Boys’ Mike D, he had this to say about the album, ““I feel right now the world needs an album like this. Something that is more raw, more alive and less polished. I was impressed with the band’s strong point of view. They actually speak their minds about social topics.”


Tkay Maidza feat. Killer Mike – Carry On (Downtown, Interscope)


The debut album of Australian singer/rapper Tkay Maidza is out Oct. 28 on Downtown/Interscope. It will no doubt be an impressive debut judging by this latest cut from it featuring rap legend Killer Mike (clearly my goal was to get both members of Run The Jewels on the list somehow). This song starts with Tkay singing catchy synth-pop hook a la Robyn or Santigold. Producer Dann Hume composed a dynamic beat, with a perfect balance of catchy and chaotic. Tkay raps a verse about how fame can be exhausting because people try to take advantage of you. Tkay explains, “the song is me saying ‘there’s so many people coming round trying to steal something from me but I just want to have fun.’” So for the second verse Killer Mike steps in and gives her some advice and encouragement as Tkay puts it he, “acts as a big brother”. I’ve never seen something quite like this happen in a song it’s really awesome and kind of adorable. With Tkay’s talent and intellegence, and Killer Mike looking out for her I’m sure she’ll have a great career in music.


Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam – A 1000 Times (Glassnote Records)


When one of your favorite bands breaks up or a member leaves it’s always a bummer, but if you’re luck they’ll team up with a member from another one of those bands and make some more great music. That’s the case with former Vampire Weekend mastermind Rostam Batmanjiv and former Walkmen fronman Hamilton Leithauser. In the couple years, both have been doing some solid musical projects, and now they’ve joined for I Had A Dream That You Were Mine out Sept.23 on Glassnote. Rostam’s bouncy composition backs up Hamilton’s sharp, smokey vocals as he tells a story about love and loss. On this new project storytelling is very important to Rostam, “In some ways, the more that I write songs, the more I feel that telling a story is the most important thing; just being able to close your eyes when you hear some lyrics and go somewhere. It’s worth taking the time to do that, because people respond to it.” This duo is a hipster’s dream and this album will help soothe the pain of Rostam’s recent departure.


Mick Jenkins feat. BADBADNOTGOOD – Drowning (Cinematic Music Group) 


This is the latest single from Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins’ highly anticipated debut album, The Healing Component, out Sept. 23 via Cinematic Music Group. After appearing on their recent album, Jenkins features electronic jazz quartet BADBADNOTGOOD. The group have a history with hip hop, doing interpretations of songs and working with the likes of Ghostface Killah and Tyler The Creator. They provide backing instrumentals that begin with bass and woodblock creating a beat like the ticking of a clock. Mick sings, “When the real hold you down you supposed to drown right. Wait that don’t sound right.” Referencing Kanye’s Bound 2, but adding another meaning with Eric Garner’s final words serving as the eerie chorus, “I can’t breathe.” This song on the other hand does breathe, it takes it’s time. Mick eventually spits a killer verse, and 2/3s of the way through the band breaks into a funky jam before slowing back down for the ending. This is a relevant and important song and the accompanying video is extremely powerful and beautifully shot. This deep, pensive 6 minute song let’s us know that Mick is not your average rapper.


https://soundcloud.com/emilynbrodsky/hands-off-the-stove

Emilyn Brodsky – Hands Off The Stove (Dead Stare Records)


Let’s end on an upbeat note with this bouncy, poppy tune from Emilyn Brodsky. With jangly guitar, smooth organ, and glorious horns this song is a lot of fun, yet with a weighty question at it’s core, “If you’re willing to kill is it really a good intention.”Emilyn told stereogum her inspiration for the sound, “I always wanted to write a huge New Pornographers style triumphant pop outro, so I made myself a chorus of horns and angels singing LALALALA to you.” Emilyn is known for quirky album concepts and titles, and her latest is Emilyn Brodsky’s Digestion out Oct. 14 on Dead Stare Records. This carries over to her lyrics, breaking the fourth wall at the end and declaring, “This is the end of the song.” Listening to this album will no doubt be a good time, now I’ll follow Emilyn’s lead and tell you, this is the end of the post.


 

Every Monday Ghettoblaster is looking back to new albums released the previous week.  Below you’ll find several albums released on Friday, September 9th that we believe are definitely worth a listen.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree (Bad Seeds Ltd.)


 

Skeleton Tree is an absolutely gut wrenching and heartbreaking album to listen to.  In July of 2015 Nick Cave suffered the loss of his 15 year old son after he fell off of a cliff to his death.  Skeleton Tree opens with Nick Cave in his classic spoken vocal delivery uttering the words “You fell from the sky, crash landed in a field near the river Adur” and that direct honesty continues through the rest of the album.  As is always the case with Cave’s songwriting, literal lines like the opener are mixed with surreal passages making for a mesmerizing listen.  Musically the songs are largely ambient pieces, heavy with electronic elements, piano and string sections, which all really takes a backseat to Nick Cave’s songwriting.  Although this is a mostly dour affair, however there are some moments of light shining through, which is most evident in the closing lines of the album: “And it’s alright now / And it’s alright now / And it’s alright now.”  – Words by Brian LaBenne


 

Low Culture – Places to Hide (Dirtnap Records)


 

Low Culture is a raucous garage pop-punk band made up of members from the Marked Men, Total Jock and Shang-A-Lang.  Places to Hide is their second album as a band and it finds them really honing in on their sound, while at the same time reaching out to new territory.  There are fourteen songs and most of them sound like a more aggressive and faster take on 70s punk rock.  Seriously, these songs are really fast with blistering drums and guitar riffs flying by over and over again, making for a really fun listen.  As good as these punk songs are, Places to Hide is even more exciting when they deviate from the norm.  There are songs that are close to slower paced ballads, a Low Culture take on bubblegum pop and even some sonic similarities to David Bowie.  Low Culture proves with Places to Hide that they are a band to pay attention to. – Words by Brian LaBenne


 

Grouplove – Big Mess (Atlantic Records)


 

Big Mess has to be the hugest sounding album of 2016, these songs are absolutely massive.  Grouplove finds their sweet spot over and over again on this album, proving themselves a forced to be reckoned with.  These are some of the loudest pop songs around and are absolutely begging to be turned up as loud as your ears can take.  It really is an interesting mix of radio ready pop sounds mixed with loud indie rock music.  Imagine if MGMT made an entire album of songs like “Kids” or “Electric Feel” but with a ton more rock muscle to them.  There are some more toned down tracks on the album, but overall this is an exhilarating album.  Big Mess is for those who like their power and their pop in equal measure. – Words by Brian LaBenne


 

Adam Torres – Pearls to Swine (Fat Possum Records)


 

Adam Torres has a voice that you have to hear to believe.  There is a special tone to his falsetto delivery that is something to behold and his effortless shift between registers is breathtaking.  Pearls to Swine is fantastic front to back and showcases Adam Torres in his best form.  The songs are largely scaled back folk numbers, which really allow Torres’ voice to shine.  That is not to say the music is boring, quite the opposite.  This is a great album for fans of beautifully finger picked acoustic guitar and orchestral folk music sung with one of the most interesting voices in a while.  It really does have to be heard to be believed. – Words by Brian LaBenne


 

Local Natives – Sunlit Youth (Loma Vista Recordings)


Since Local Natives emerged in 2010, I immediately took to their earthy indie-rock sound and followed them adoringly. When they released, “Past Lives” the first new single off of their third album, it was clear this new record would be a departure. They had seemingly breathed new life into their style, with this powerful and energetic track, reminiscent of early Arcade Fire. However, that is not the case for all the songs on the album. For the majority of the album their new, poppy-er sound outfitted with electronic elements, suits them quite well, but there are a handful of track where is comes across as overproduce and too mainstream. There are certain moments that lack the originality that we’ve come to expect from Local Natives. The third album is often a turning point for a band, venturing into new territory, and that is the case here, though it is a bit uneven. The songwriting and melodies are still strong, and the vocal performances of Taylor Rice and Kelcey Ayer remains the group’s greatest asset. Some standout tracks on the album like “Past Lives” “Fountain of Youth” and “Masters” are on a level with their previous work, the album as a whole however does not quiet measure up.


clipping – Splendor & Misery


Daveed Diggs has been on fire recently: winning a Tony and Grammy for his role in the hottest musical in years, Hamilton; a role in Baz Luhrman’s Netflix series The Get Down, and now he’s released a new album with his experimental hip hop group, clipping. This is a concept album that, “follows the sole survivor of a slave uprising on an interstellar cargo ship, and the onboard computer that falls in love with him.” Jonathon Snipes and William Huston provide backing “intrumentals” that completely set the scene with all manner of electronic sounds. Static cuts in and out throughout and different sounds resemble alarms or machinery of the ship. The beats are minimal with a subtle musicality. There are occasionally steady beats and obvious melodies, but more often than not they are muted and fractured. The concept of the album aside this album is quality on it’s own. Daveed Diggs songwriting and lightning-fast delivery are consistently staggering. I would put my money on Diggs to take Eminem’s Guinness Book of World Records spot. Some songs are lead only by Diggs’ voice, feeling like spoken word, some have hip hop swagger, and some have a gospel tone. Though all the songs feel connected the album remains engaging and unpredictable throughout. It feels like some other-worldly mixtape that fell to Earth in a blaze of Splendor & Misery.


Wilco – Schmilco (Dbmp Records)


Last year Wilco surprised everyone with Star Wars, an addictive  fuzzed out rockin’ record. Now they already released a new album and it’s completely different from the last. It is mostly acoustic and much more restrained, feeling more intimate but still effectively catchy. It feels kind of like a middle ground between their classic country influenced indie-rock with glimpses of the dissonant fuzz rock of Star Wars. As you can tell by the cover, Schmilco feels much more playful and childish, with Tweedy reflecting on childhood memories and relating them to his modern self while navigating life and relationships. You know a band is great when the can keep changing their sound, keep doing something new and still making quality work.


 

Okkervil River – Away (ATO Records)


The eighth album from the veteran folk-rock band feels like the ghost of itself, because Okkervil River as we know it doesn’t exist. After band members left for various reasons, frontman Will Sheff thought it was the end for the band. This was, “a confusing time of transition in my personal and professional life.” His music career was seemingly crumbling and he spent a lot of time by the Hopsice bed of his grandpa, his personal and musical hero, as he died. All of this pain and uncertainty is heard on the album: whether it’s the mourning for his old band in “Okkervil River R.I.P.” or his struggles with the music business in “The Industry” or the imaginative telling of his grandpa’s death on “Comes Indiana Through The Smoke,” where he sets the scene of the battleship his grandfather was on in WWII coming to take his grandpa to the next plane. Sheff’s grandpa was a jazz musician, so he sought out jazz players for the album and his grandpa’s trumpet is played on this song by yMusic’s C.J. Camarieri. This album is much more bare and intimate than the previous work, because it’s played by different people. This album feels more influenced by old school folk like Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, with long, vivid stories masterfully told in a rambling manner. We now know that, like Kevin Barnes is of Montreal, Will Sheff is Okkervil River. There is no chance of the band breaking up because he is the band. This album is most personal and most powerful songwriting, a beautiful examination of how the end of things makes way for something new.


 

Every Monday (in this case Tuesday), Ghettoblaster is looking back to new albums released the previous week.  Below you’ll find several albums released on Friday, September 2nd that we believe are definitely worth a listen.

The Hecks – The Hecks (Trouble In Mind Records)


The debut lp of Chicago post-punk trio The Hecks is raw yet nuanced, you wouldn’t expect an album this lo-fi to be this dynamic. It straddles the line between catchy & melodic, and dissonant & abrasive. They implement a speak-sing punk style akin to Parquet Courts. Each song is a surprise, designed with droning ambient tracks to make you zone out, so they can take you off guard with what they do next. Yet, all songs are connected by an uneasiness throughout, even the brightest track has traces of dissonance.  This album is delightfully dark and subtly spectacular.


Izzy Bizu – A Moment of Madness (Epic Records)


22 Year old British singer Izzy Bizu recently gained success via BBC Radio and now has released her impressive debut album. Gliding from soul to r&b to pop, each song is catchier than the last. Bizu is a fierce and powerful vocalist, with backing instrumentals running the gambit of styles. This album feels like a throwback to early aughts pop music. It is an incredibly addictive album and establishes Bizu as a force to be reckoned with.


Angel Olsen – My Woman (Jagjaguwar)


On her sophomore solo album Angel Olsen departs from the lo-fi folk/rock style from her debut, into a raw rock/dream-pop hybrid. Though there are many sounds that were not present on the first album, but what they do have in common is being driven by guitar. This album has a wealth of diverse guitar sounds: from the low rumble of “Shut Up Kiss Me” to the echoing twang of “Heart Shaped Face,” Olsen reminds us that she knows her way around a six-string. Produced by Olsen and Justin Raisen, this album is crisp and shimmering, where her last had a crunchy lo-fi charm. On this record Olsen faces harsh realities, sometimes with strength and wit, other times with fear and uncertainty.  While I would ordinarily be turned off to an album where a majority of the songs are about love, Olsen poses interesting questions about love and what it means to be a woman (and a human) with lyrics like, “Will you ever know the same love that I’ve known?” and “What is it my heart’s made of?” Olsen reinvented herself for this album and the result is her best work yet.


serpentwithfeet – blisters (Tri Angle)


If you see a guy with a beard, a septum piercing, and a pentagram tattoo on his forehead you would assume he’s in a metal band. You certainly wouldn’t think that his music would be exceptionally tender and vulnerable. However, that is the case with 27-year old Josiah Wise, whose debut ep as serpentwithfeet is a spare, beautiful showcase of his staggering vocal range and intricate songwriting. Produced by acclaimed electronic artist The Haxan Cloak, the backing compositions are rich yet subtle, often with epic swells that, when paired with Wise’s falsetto, make tracks all the more powerful. His affected harmonies often give a gospel vibe to his R&B style, with lyrics that are deep and abstract. Wise told Pitchfork that his music focuses on, “cultural trauma, cultural mourning, African American mourning,” on his Twitter page he describes the album as, “my 28 years of un-answers.” What we hear on this album is Wise trying to heal from this trauma and trying to make sense of it all. This is a glorious vocal album that gives James Blake a run for his money.


 

Welcome to Future Sounds! Every Wednesday Ghettoblaster brings you a handful of singles from upcoming albums to excite and entice your ears. Below you’ll find songs that really stand out as essential listening. So please sit back, relax and treat yourself to some seriously great music.

Microwave – Vomit (SideOneDummy Records)


Recently named Band To Watch by Stereogum, Georgia-based post-hardcore band Microwave have announced their sophomore album, Much Love, out Sept. 30 on SideOneDummy, and they’ve shared this powerful new song and video. This song captures the moment when the party becomes the problem. Frontman Nathan Hardy grew up Mormon and left the church for the Rock ‘n’ Roll lifestyle. On this song he describing a scene, “I hear you down the hallway there puking, I hear your pompous college friends they’re puking outside.”  Shaken by the actions of his party companions he begins to question the meaning of what they’re doing. the first half of the song is gentle and the second half furious, repeating the chorus, “there’s no such thing as love, we just felt vulnerable without a god, without a crutch.” Hardy taps into a truth about how people uses relationships or substances or religion to conquer whatever issues they’re facing. He has this to say about it, “Pretty much anything that people get really passionate about and use to attach meaning to their life is contrived and isn’t inherently meaningful.” This song is a slice of sweet angst and cynicism, paired with insightful examinations of human behavior.


Sam Spiegel & Ape Drums (feat. Assassin)  – Mutant Brain 


Director Spike Jonze made a stir yesterday with his music video/perfume ad for Kenzo World, in which actress Margaret Qualley leaves some stuffy event to run around busting out eratic, primal dance moves. Not only is the video visually stunning, but it features this frenetic track produced by Ape Drums and Spike’s brother Sam Spiegel, featuring dancehall musician Assassin providing wild shouts and screams, perfectly complimenting Margaret’s dancing. This is clearly a nod to Jonze’s Fatboy Slim video where Christopher Walken was the dancing star. This song is super driving and catchy with the obligatory EDM drop, yet it’s a totally fresh and unique song. They couldn’t have asked for a sweeter music video.


Sleigh Bells – It’s Just Us Now (Torn Clean)


Sleigh Bell’s debut album, Treats, shocked the music world, mixing Derek Miller’s punk and metal riffs with Alexis Krauss’ pop sensibilities. I had high hopes for the albums that followed, but was a little disappointed. While is seemed they had exhausted their signature sound, it seems this is not the case with the recent string of singles off their upcoming fourth album, Jessica Rabbit, out Nov. 11 on their own Torn Clean label. Krauss’ lyrics seem more developed, her hooks are super catchy, and Derek’s “True Shred Guitar” is forceful yet melodic. Judging by this track the dynamic duo won’t let us down this November, and maybe their noise-pop rage can help us release some election-fueled fury.


Lambchop – The Hustle (Merge Records/City Slang)


Got 18 minutes to spare? If not, clear your schedule this ones worth it. The lead single and closing track (weird right?) of Lambchop’s new album FLOTUS, out Nov. 4 from Merge/City Slang, is a subtle, yet epic musical  journey, akin to Lou Reed’s Street Hassle. For more than 20 years Nashville’s Lambchop has made some great country-rock albums, yet they’ve made a startling departure for their new album. There is no trace of the band’s country roots, instead they implement electronic elements to make a rich tapestry of sound. This song is guided by a repetitive, pulsing beat and a smattering of instruments making brief appearances. Kurt Wagner’s haunting baritone, reminiscent of Leonard Cohen, only occupies a small portion of the song, yet he tells a sweet, sad love story. The album name stands for For Love Often Turns Us Still,  and that is the case on this track. This is a truly beautiful song and this album will no doubt be one of Lambchop’s finest.