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.