Superstitious or not, Friday the 13th (of May) was a great one for the music world. The only thing killer was the new releases…*insert stock laughter here*.
With a number of fantastic debut records released today, and one of the best hip-hop albums in recent years, Friday the 13th wasn’t all that bad (unless you ask my friend who got into a small car accident, or another one that ended up getting food poisoning).
For a more complete list of new releases, check out our weekly collection of Album Releases.
Yak – Alas Salvation
The debut album Alas Salvation from London alternative rock trio Yak is all over the place.
One moment the band reminds me of Oasis, the next The White Stripes, and later on, Foals-meets-Portugal. The Man-meets-The Black Keys. So when I say “alternative”, I use the word generically. There’s punk, post-punk, progressive, experimental, garage, and lo-fi blended together across the track list, like a game of Russian Roulette.
That kind of spontaneity and character is not surprising once you realize Yak came out of nowhere and are now a welcomed act into the rock music cycle. Only within the past handful of months has the U.K. trio been creating some buzz, releasing a few singles and EP ahead of the release.
Alas is fantastic. There’s short bursts of crunchy, distorted energy with tracks like fuzz-punk hit “Victorious (National Anthem)”, groovy lead single “Hungry Heart”, or Jack White-esque “Alas Salvation”. On the other hand, Yak can slow things down for steady, slow-burning tracks like stoner-twang “Roll Another”, spacey, Foals style “Take It” – but what truly takes the cake is their seven minute, progressive, introspective closer “Please Don’t Wait For Me”. Travelling across their soundscape from the past 30 minutes or so, “Please Don’t Wait For Me” goes from alt-rock, to ’70s-Beatles psych-rock, and Nirvana-MTV-Unplugged-esque acoustic-rock to bring Alas Salvation to a close.
Mark my words: this won’t be the last we hear from Yak.
Must-haves: “Victorious (National Anthem)”, “Use Somebody”, “Please Don’t Wait For Me”
Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost
A lot of people forget how difficult it can be transitioning from being a teenager into the cruel, hard-hitting world of adulthood. Throw in the death of a beloved grandfather, bipolar disorder, and a close-call suicide attempt, it’s been a tough run for members of Philadelphia emo-punk band Modern Baseball.
So it’s no surprise their third album Holy Ghost is so heavy and depressing. But some of the best work comes from the worst of times.
Holy Ghost is a quick listen; 11 tracks, and half of which barely touch past the 2 minute mark, but the album is dense nonetheless. Modern Baseball’s two main songwriters Jake Ewald and Brendan Lukens split the work in half – Ewald with the first five, and Lukens with the bottom six – each writing from their own perspective. Despite the differences in their lives, the album becomes a seamless entity.
The instrumentation is comfortably buried in punk, with loud guitars shooting out chords, and the percussion pounding in time just behind. But Ewald’s and Lukens’ earlier days of acoustic songwriting keeps their vocals tame and melancholic, as to not blur and be misheard as they let out the darkness in their minds.
It’s angsty, but most of all, it’s nostalgic. Almost every track on the album mentions a simpler, happier time of their youth, when they could sit around, listening to albums and having fun; stuff they did before all the pain and confusion set in.
Grab a cold drink, and listen to Holy Ghost through their bandcamp page (streaming below).
Must-haves: “Note to Self”, “Everyday”, “Hiding”
Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
Ask any fan of Chance the Rapper – this release could not have taken any longer to come. The Chicago acid-rap all-star has been featured on countless tracks since his 2013 breakthrough Acid Rap, but nothing of his own devices.
You know you’re doing something right when Kanye West is like your proud older brother: promoting Chance, bringing him on tour, and contributing some of his genius into Coloring Book. And when I say “some”, I mean quite a bit. Opening track “All We Got” features West’s auto-tuned-obsessed vocals, and although he is not credited as a producer at all on the album, you can still hear his influence on Chance’s sound (“Summer Friends”, perhaps?)
Yeezus’ latest album Life of Pablo comes to mind, both sharing elements of gospel music and R&B, but twisting it and re-moulding it into a contemporary backbone of hip-hop (although I’d take Coloring Book over Pablo any day). Chance features a handful of today’s best rappers on the new album: Future, 2Chainz, Young Thug, and T-Pain to name a few (Justin Bieber serenades his way onto the record, as well).
The best part of Coloring Book is Chance’s familiar bounce. His vibrant, and unique delivery forms the foundation of the album, bringing together retro-soul influences with the modern production tactics in this adhesive, time-blurring fashion. Lead single “Blessings” has a Ray Charles-era swing, while a number of tracks feature the soul-touching voices of gospel choirs (“All We Got”, “Angels”, and “How Great” for example), and groovy, summer-time hit “All Night” hints back to the early days of house music (a fitting link, with house rooting back to the Chicago club scene).
There is a reason why Chance is a prominent and relevant name in American hip-hop: he’s very good at what he does. Simple put, his awareness, poeticism, and homegrown talent will be looked back in music history as an influential stamp in time, just like Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly or Kanye West’s College Dropout.
Must-haves: “No Problem”, “Angels”, “Blessings”
Head Wound City – A New Wave of Violence
Formed over a decade ago from members of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Blood Brothers, and The Locust, Head Wound City released a ten-minute, 7-track EP that took a week to record back in 2005. Mostly as a quick-hit side project, Head Wound City would reunite in 2014 for a small tour with Marilyn Manson, and then hit the studio to record what is the face-melting, throat-burning record A New Wave of Violence.
Not for the faint of heart, A New Wave of Violence finds its glory through its intensity. Vocalist Jordan Billie (The Blood Brothers) screams and thrashes his vocal chords for the span of the record, piercing the listener with a sharp, arrowhead of melody, and aggression.
It opens with “Old Age Takes Too Long”, and before you know it, you’re at the end of the ride with “Love Is Best”. Everything in between, and the album’s two bookends, becomes a chaotic blur, which only adds to the appeal. There’s no time to breathe, and like the side effects of low oxygen levels, A New Wave creates an adrenaline high of erratic delusion and euphoria. Fans of mathcore, grindcore, and hardcore punk will be nothing short of pleased.
Must-haves: “Scraper”, “Head Wound City, USA”, “Avalanche In Heaven”
Kygo – Cloud Nine
With so many hit singles under his belt, it’s odd calling Cloud Nine a debut record. Norwegian DJ Kygo has become a household name with his hits “Stole the Show”, and the mega-popular “Firestone” featuring Conrad Sewell (read about his debut EP here). Reaching all the way back to 2014, Kygo has been at the top of the charts for over two years. Now, the 24-year old is putting those hits onto a full-length, with an added collection of more of his signature tropical house sound.
With summer just around the corner, he couldn’t have chosen a better month to release Cloud Nine. Vibrant, downtempo, and spacious, the chill, tropical stylings are a perfect match with the summer months.
Featuring some big-name artists on the record, including John Legend, Kodaline, Angus & Julia Stone, and RHODES, Kygo’s piano-based melodies are given the voices to bridge the gap between EDM and pop.
Now, don’t get your hopes up. There’s nothing astronomical or groundbreaking coming from Cloud Nine, but it is nonetheless an album to enjoy. Deep/tropical house is not the most complex genre, but it is often the perfect match for sunny afternoons or long drives in the middle of July.
Stream the album in full below, or grab a copy at his website.
Must-haves: “Firestone”, “Raging”, “Fragile”