For Sugar At The Gate, their third and most ambitious album to date, Montreal’s TOPS peaced out to LA. They lived and recorded at “Glamdale”, a mini-mansion and former brothel located in the Jewel City, Glendale, CA. The unassuming record unfolds slowly, taking time to reveal itself. Like nearly everything TOPS does, multiple meanings overlap with the album’s title referring to orgasm, but also to carrot chasing, gatekeeping, and the social contract. Vocalist-songwriter Jane Penny, at this point one of the most distinctive vocalists of her generation, took time during the recording learning how to drive in the Forest Lawn Cemetery parking lot. “Living in LA was living out a teenage fantasy, living with your band and practicing in the garage. It was also the first time we’ve ever had that much space to make music. I took the experience of living LA as a challenge to make music that I know is real to me, in the sense of it feeling true and containing true feelings, but also recordings of great songs, the real thing.”
Damn (stylized as DAMN.) is the fourth studio album by American rapper Kendrick Lamar. It was released on April 14, 2017, by Top Dawg Entertainment, Aftermath Entertainment and Interscope Records. The album features production from a variety of record producers, including executive producer from the Top Dawg Entertainment label-head Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, Sounwave, DJ Dahi, Mike Will Made It and Ricci Riera; as well as production contributions from James Blake, Steve Lacy, BadBadNotGood, Greg Kurstin, The Alchemist and 9th Wonder, among others. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.
Supa Dupa Fly is the debut studio album by rapper Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, released July 15, 1997 on The Goldmind and Elektra Records. The album was recorded and produced solely by Timbaland in October 1996, and features the singles, “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”, “Sock It 2 Me”, “Hit Em wit da Hee” and “Beep Me 911”. Guest appearances on the album include Busta Rhymes, Ginuwine, Nicole, Keith Sweat, Magoo, Queen Latifah, Da Brat, 702, Lil’ Kim, K-CI & JoJo and Aaliyah. The album debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 and topped the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. It sold 1.2 million copies in the United States, where it was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.
I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone, their third and finest full-length to date. Recorded live in July of 2016, with producer Matthew Simms (Wire) at Jackpot! in Portland, Oregon (birthplace of some of their favorite Elliott Smith records), it’s a dark and uncommonly beautiful set of moody post-punk that finds the Seattle outfit’s feelings in full view, unobscured by humor. There is no irony in its title: Before she had Chastity Belt, and the close relationships that she does now, Shapiro considered herself a career loner. That’s no small gesture. I can make as much sense of this music as I can my 20s: This is a brave and often exhilarating tangle of mixed feelings and haunting melodies that connects dizzying anguish (“This Time of Night”) to shimmering insight (“Different Now”) to gauzy ambiguity (“Stuck,” written and sung by Grimm). It’s a serious record but not a serious departure, defined best, perhaps, by a line that Shapiro shares early on its staggering title track: “I wanna be sincere.”
Beach House fans were spoiled in the late 2010s: Not only did the band release Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars within a year of each other, they followed it with an even deeper dive into their music with B-Sides and Rarities. Covering more than a decade’s worth of songs, the collection underscores that while Beach House’s music sounds fragile, it’s also surprisingly resilient. Their albums range from charmingly lo-fi to ethereal perfection without diminishing any of their poignant beauty, and B-Sides and Rarities is nearly as consistent. The set is bookended by a pair of songs that are classic Beach House: The previously unreleased “Chariot” begins with glowing keyboards and a ticking drum machine that are instantly, reassuringly familiar, while the drifting “Wherever You Go” closes the album with a slow fade. In between, B-Sides and Rarities points out the similarities and differences in Beach House’s music over the years, even if its tracks aren’t in chronological order. “Rain in Numbers,” a hushed, demo-quality song from 2005, proves once again that the interplay between Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally was magic from the start, while “Used to Be (2008 Single Version)” hints at the more polished approach they took on Teen Dream. Elsewhere, the Bloom outtake “Equal Mind” reflects that album’s crystalline beauty, and the whispery ruminations of “Baseball Diamond” (the collection’s other previously unreleased track) are lovely even if they’re not quite up to the standard of the songs that appeared on Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars. Many of B-Sides and Rarities’ scattered gems come from 2009 and 2010, including standouts such as a remixed version of “White Moon” from their iTunes session EP and the aptly narcotic “10 Mile Stereo (Cough Syrup Remix),” which inflates the song’s melancholy to vast proportions. Meanwhile, other Teen Dream-era outtakes like “Baby,” a sardonic waltz about an overly confident lover, and the ’70s sunshine pop-indebted “The Arrangement,” serve as reminders that the band’s rare glimpses of humor are a refreshing part of their music. A live version of “Norway” with a different bridge, and a lullaby cover of Queen’s “Play the Game” are treats for super fans that round out a collection that’s lovely in its own right, and in its own way, is just as representative of Beach House’s music as a traditional best-of would be.
The second of six albums issued under the title Everywhere At The End Of Time, The Caretaker’s fictional first person account of life with early onset dementia, takes a more wistful tack as our protagonist gradually realizes that all is not well and begins to rummage deeper into the recesses of his memory, masking emotions of grief, loss, fear, and uncertainty by deeper dwelling in the recesses of a decaying mind. As The Caretaker’s short term memory functions begin to more rapidly erode, the loop-based punctuation of previous installments begin to subtly unravel, leading his mind to drift off and ponder fuller segments of tea dance strings and horns which appear uncannily more inviting, seductive, and now even more tangible than the abbreviated reels of earlier editions. Loop points wilt away in autumnal greys and russet rustles as new information becomes more difficult to process, back pedaling down memory lane toward an opaque smudge of half-forgotten/remembered spaces, places and un/familiar faces which provide more comfort and clarity than the world around him. It feels strange to recommend undergoing this experience, albeit in such an impressionistic and detached manner, but it somehow feels like a conversely enlightening one for these strange, disingenuous and unpredictable end times that we inhabit right now.
It’s a Myth builds on Sneaks’ playfully stark approach to post-punk, which, as her hometown City Paper described it, causes listeners to go “from curious to provoked to hungry.” Hungry, in part, because the new album clocks in at just 18 minutes of 10 taut, captivating tracks (but still a feast compared to Gymnastics’ 14 minutes). It also adds Jonah Takagi and Ex Hex/Helium frontwoman Mary Timony, who recorded the album at Timony’s D.C. studio. “She’s got art in her brain,” Timony has said of Moolchan. “Her brain is making beautiful stuff.”
Vinyl LP pressing includes digital download. In The Same Room, a beautiful new release from Julia Holter, inaugurates the Domino Documents series. Named after a song from Holter’s 2012 album Ekstasis, this career-spanning collection is the fruit of two days recording by Julia and her tremendous band (Corey Fogel – drums/vocals; Dina Maccabee – viola/vocals and Devin Hoff – stand-up bass) at RAK Studios in the days after their main stage performance at Green Man Festival in Wales. Comprised of new arrangements of songs from three of her previous studio releases (Tragedy, Loud City Song and 2015’s breakthrough Have You In My Wilderness), Holter’s Domino Documents is an essential release for anyone who has witnessed her brilliant, beguiling band on tour around the world in the last five years as well as the perfect introduction to a truly important and innovative young artist.
Phoebé Guillemot’s music can feel like alien terrain. As RAMZi, she twists exotic samples, percussion and vocals into something unfamiliar, making songs that seem to spread outwards and move in confusing patterns. A RAMZi track is like a living collage in which all the fragments are shifting. Phobiza “Noite” Vol. 2—a follow-up to 2016’s Phobiza Dia: Vol.1 on Total Stasis—presents four concise and captivating sketches.
Phobiza “Noite” Vol. 2 may be four tracks long but it flows like one piece. Fans of previous releases like Houti Kush might recognize the birdsong backdrop of “For Vanda,” where buoyant hand percussion pairs with snatches of horns, like a dub instrumental. Like Guillemot’s best music, it’s detailed, swampy and humid. She gets housey on “Fuma” with deflated DJ Sprinkles-style chords that have the dull gleam of fogged glass. Guillemot throws tabla into the mix on EP highlight “Messiah,” where her voice turns from a low garble into childlike squeaks. Guillemot’s vocals are distinctive, rarely intelligible and almost never follow a clear melody—they suit her abstract landscapes. By the time Phobiza “Noite” Vol. 2 ends with “Male heya,” we’re back in the peaceful birdsong it began with. Guillemot can make the strangest of places feel like home.
The Courtneys drift back to the sound of the early ’90s, drawing from strong influences including Teenage Fanclub, Pavement, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, and The Clean. Courtney Loove’s dreamy guitar riffs add a timeless powerpop element to the punk backbone formed by Sydney Koke’s driving basslines, while drummer/lead singer Jen Twynn Payne delivers heartfelt lyrics with a powerful vocal style. These components come together through a passionate collaborative songwriting process to deliver a special blend of fuzzy “artisanal grunge”.
The first Courtneys album (self titled) came out in 2013 on small independent label, Hockey Dad Records, based in the band’s hometown of Vancouver, BC, Canada. They have since worked with a number of independent labels including Conquest of Noise in Australia and Waterslide Records in Japan, as well as Burger Records and Gnar tapes in the USA. They have released a number of singles and music videos, and toured throughout Canada and the USA, including spots supporting Tegan and Sara and Mac Demarco.
In 2015 The Courtneys made their way to Australia and New Zealand, where they were hosted by Flying Nun Records. Influenced by the legendary label from early on, the group are honored to now be able to call it their home.