Hot Takes on a Few Major Releases of the Year So Far

Author: Riley Urbano

MAC MILLER- CIRCLES

Is this the album Mac Miller was trying to make? Would he have done anything differently had he been alive to finish it? Do I remember anything besides “Blue World” a month on from this album’s release? Why has his estate chosen to release it, and why was Jon Brion, (the record’s producer, who also composed the scores for films like Ladybird and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) the face of the record’s tearjerker PR campaign? Judging by the quality of the album we’re left with, my guess at the answers to these questions would be probably not, yes, no, money, money. **   

TAME IMPALA – THE SLOW RUSH

   In his never-ending quest to please everyone and be the Next Max Martin, Kevin Parker honestly lost me a long time ago. I predict he’ll lose a good bit more with this one, which is just so, ugh, remote. When he’s not doing a weird chillwave pastiche no one asked for, he’s joylessly evoking the things people used to like about Tame Impala with seemingly no awareness of why they ever worked – the John Bonham drums that used to rule sound painfully out of place up against the Supertramp-aping keyboards of “It Might Be Time,” for instance. Some songwriters go wrong when they get the idea that they’re a musician; Kevin Parker is a musician who’s got the idea that he’s a songwriter. *

GRIMES – MISS ANTHROPOCENE

 Don’t be fooled by the litany of breathless, baffled thinkpieces: Grimes’ new record is barely about anything, let alone the AI-powered/Climate-change apocalypse she evoked kind of sexily on non-album single “We Appreciate Power.” Grimes/Claire Boucher/“c” clearly put a lot of work into polishing the finer details of the songs on Miss Anthropocene, but unfortunately they only make the “songs” sound the way the cover looks: pointlessly busy. There aren’t too many real hooks to be found, save the pretty-good teaser track “Violence,” and the lyrics are, to put it generously, oblique. There are a few moments that feel welcome and familiar: “You’ll Miss Me When I’m Not Around” builds effectively on the songwriting formula behind much of Art Angels and “New Gods” is, for a couple seconds, positively sinister. Those are exceptions to the rule – Grimes’ embrace of mall-goth doomer aesthetics and tired EDM tropes is contrarian, but not particularly convincing. **

AGAINST ALL LOGIC – 2017-2019

  Everyone acting confused about Nicolar Jaar’s “newfound” political rage must have missed his 2016 solo record, Sirens; besides, who isn’t angry about the world lately? Unfortunately, this record isn’t quite the pleasant surprise that was 2012-2017, and where that record displayed mastery of a wide array of house subgenera, this one stays hard-hitting and distorted pretty much throughout. How about “Deeeeeeefers,” though? ***

DENZEL CURRY / KENNY BEATS – UNLOCKED

I don’t understand why anyone’s pretending to enjoy this. A collection of tracks from hip hop’s most ardent champions of the thing everyone objectively cares the most about: mechanics, apparently? Proficiently performed and produced, but creatively barren, paying lip service to Golden Age hip hop records with all the subtlety of an Instagram caption, these two would both be better off making Youtube tutorials about doing the things they’re supposedly professionals at. *

DESTROYER – HAVE WE MET?

It’s a new decade, and with David Berman gone (RIP), Dan Bejar may well be the last poet of his generation still standing. Unfortunately, that doesn’t exactly mean there’s fire in his belly: Have We Met is relaxed almost to the point of being morose, and the seams occasionally show on the Logic Pro instrumentals and home-recorded vocals. Still, one Dan Bejar lyric is worth a thousand trite “indie rock songs,” meaning this is good enough to tide me over until he finally gets a full band together again. ***

TRICOT – MAKKURO

High drama, bubblegum vocal melodies, hyperactive buzz-saw math rock instrumentals. The formula seems to be working for Tricot, whose new record Makkuro is their first on a subsidiary label of Japanese entertainment titan Avex. One song shorter but almost exactly as long as their previous LP, this record admittedly struggles to keep the energy levels up for its 43 minute runtime. Still, the highlights are exhilarating, and no one else is even attempting the balancing act that Tricot nails effortlessly on the best tracks here. ****

POPPY – I DISAGREE

People seem to think that in post-internet culture, if something has ever existed, there’s nostalgia for it. If there really is some deep well of nostalgia out there for the objectively bad nu-metal that Poppy draws from on I Disagree, I have not personally encountered it. Seriously – I get pop-punk nostalgia, I get emo nostalgia, and I think that a variety of artists have made those things work at this point. But I don’t think anyone’s been sitting around waiting for this kind of music to make a comeback. Which is a shame, ‘cause some of the tracks here are honestly pretty good. **

SQUAREPUSHER – BE UP A HELLO

This record seems to be trying to convince us that the last twenty years of electronic music didn’t happen; a lead single apes the drums almost directly from a nineteen year old Aphex Twin track. I have some sympathy towards the creative trajectory of Squarepusher mastermind Tom Jenkinson, who has worked variously to expand the confines of electronic music towards jazz and fusion with an always playful edge. But in a world where Jenkinson’s peers are still pushing the envelope alongside fresh faces like SOPHIE and Arca, this thing comes off as painfully quaint. **

Riley Urbanoreally hoping new Sweet Trip comes out this year | KXSU Music Reporter

 

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