New Music Reviews (1/29)

Album Reviews

Each week, Music Director Chris Sanley and Associate Music Director Alex Ruder share brief insights on new and upcoming releases for KEXP's rotation. These reviews help our DJs decide on what they want to play. See what we added this week below (and on our Charts page), including new releases from Future Islands, TORRES, Gruff Rhys, and more. 

Future Islands - People Who Aren’t There Anymore (4AD)
The seventh album from the Baltimore quartet is complex, moody and powerful. Their quintessential synth-pop is big and bold as they oscillate through melancholy ballads, lively pop bangers and everything in between, taking influence from new wave, psych, dance and more. With singular vocalist Samuel T. Herring at the helm, this instantly recognizable outfit continues to deliver almost two decades into their career. — CS

TORRES - What an enormous room (Merge) 
TORRES comes out swinging on her sixth studio album, jerking us all into joy for 2024. Mackenzie Scott has created an enormous world of possibility on her latest outing, ranging from emotive ballads ("I got the fear") to blistering rockers ("Collect"). Her impeccable guitar work is prominently displayed, both in a more traditional sense and utilizing it as a synthesizer, while she enlisted Sarah Jafee to be her rhythm section on bass and drums. Scott’s vocals have never sounded so pristine, whether through angsty snarls or displaying her beautiful range as she continues to lift the veil and share even more of herself with us throughout What an enormous room. What a remarkable listen. — CS

Gruff Rhys - Sadness Sets Me Free (Rough Trade)
The eighth solo album from the Super Furry Animals frontman is a delightful exploration of psych, folk and rock that gives Sadness Sets Me Free a distinct Laurel Canyon feel. With strings, jaunty piano, memorable melodies, hints of tropicália and his smooth vocals, this is a standout in his impressive body of work, reminding us that this indie-rock mainstay is not to be overlooked. — CS

Katy Kirby - Blue Raspberry (ANTI-)
Katy Kirby has a way with lyrics and song phrasing that make her songs feel tactile. On her sophomore album and first for ANTI- Records, the now New York-based singer-songwriter still has that raw, enigmatic quality that entranced listeners on her debut album, Cool Dry Place, while also refining her sound with more polished production, instrumental flourishes with piano, strings, organ and more. The result is an ornate, delicate, folk-tinged indie rock record with Kirby’s lyrical imagery painting a beautiful picture of queer love, loss and yearning.  — CS

The Smile - Wall of Eyes (XL)
The second album from this British trio composed of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood and Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner is another mesmerizing set of beautifully brooding art-rock that pairs Yorke’s singular vocal style with the band’s immersive, labyrinthian, cinematic arrangements. Boasting a deeper and slightly more experimental tone than their acclaimed 2022 debut album A Light for Attracting Attention, Wall of Eyes carries an alluring uneasiness throughout, gently lulling the listener into its hypnotic sonic web that’s accentuated by Greenwood’s lyrical guitar lines and shadowy synths, Skinner’s delicate, exploratory, motorik rhythms, and haunting string arrangements from the London Contemporary Orchestra. — AR

Ty Segall - Three Bells (Drag City)
The 15th solo album from Ty Segall finds the prolific LA based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist plugging back in after his 2022 acoustic album. While more subdued than some of his more electric, bombastic albums, Three Bells still contains Segall’s fuzzy, memorable guitar lines, signature vocals with plenty of falsetto to go around and intriguing arrangements. The fifteen track double LP is a sophisticated, confident and essential addition to his impressive and expansive discography.  — CS

Chemtrails - The Joy of Sects (PNKSLM)
The third album from Manchester based Chemtrails boasts high energy, sugar soaked, apocalyptic tunes ranging from power pop, post-garage-punk, psych rock and more. The danceable rhythms, fuzzy surf guitars and playful melodies throughout The Joy of Sects are undeniable. — CS

CZARFACE is the decade-deep collaborative project between Wu-Tang Clan’s Inspectah Deck and veteran Boston-bred hip-hop duo 7L & Esoteric. Their latest album is another confident set of underground boom-bap hip-hop slanted by their comic book fandom that frequently seeps into their lyrics. Featuring a bunch of nostalgic hip-hop touchstones – the early 2000s Roc Nation vibes of “All That For A Drop of Blood,” the interpolation of ATCQ’s “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo” on the charming “Mama’s Basement,” the robust turntablism on instrumental X-Ecutioners-esque cut “One Eleven Chelsea,” the clever “Alphabet Aerobics” angle of standout comic book character name-dropping gem “Marvel At That (NEW Marvel VERSION)” – from three artists with deep discographies, CZARTIFICAL INTELLIGENCE serves up treats for hip-hop and comic book fans alike.  — AR

The third full-length album from emerging 21-year-old Vancouver, BC-based artist EKKSTACY is an impressive set that blends guitar-pop, new wave, post-punk, punk, and youthful alt-pop/rock into its own buoyant yet gloomy sound. Packed with deceptively breezy melodies, frequently downcast lyrics, and gauzy brooding textures, EKKSTACY’s self-titled effort boldly traverses both indie and mainstream worlds with indie-leaning highlights that recall the likes of The Drums, Craft Spells, DIIV, and Beach Fossils while also featuring guest appearances from contemporary pop-leaning rappers The Kid LAROI and Trippie Redd. — AR

Josiah Soren - Samurai (self-released)
The debut album from Atlanta-based bassist, producer, and author Josiah Soren is an impressive record that explores the intersection of jazz, hip-hop, and R&B. Written in collaboration with a 16-deep collective including Kamaal Williams band member Marquinn Mason and a handful of Atlanta/Athens rappers and vocalists, Samurai offers up a few stellar instrumental jazz tracks alongside a handful of quality underground hip-hop/R&B cuts. — AR

The Umbrellas - Fairweather Friend (Slumberland)
The second full-length album from this San Francisco four-piece band is a solid set of charming indie pop, catchy jangle pop, dreamy shoegaze, and scrappy garage punk. Formed in 2018 by musicians with connections to San Francisco’s legendary record store Amoeba Music, The Umbrellas tap into their referential wells of knowledge to consistently nail a nostalgic, romantic, C86-indebted indie sound, which is enhanced by endearing male/female vocal contributions from Matt Ferrerra and Morgan Stanley. — AR

TR/ST - TR/ST (Dais)
The latest EP from this solo project of LA-via-Winnipeg producer, singer, and performer Robert Alfons (aka TR/ST) is another showcase of their widescreen, evocative, goth-tinged electro-pop and confessional darkwave featuring a steady diet of big synths, propulsive industrial beats, and gloomily emphatic vocals. Emerging Canadian hyperpop artist Cecile Believe appears on “Run,” Jake Shears contributes vocals on a cover of The Pet Shop Boys’ 1990 hit “Being Boring,” and fan favorite “Slug” – previously only released to YouTube in 2015 – rounds out the set. — AR

Various Artists - Big Crown Records presents Crown Jewels Vol. 3 (Big Crown)
The third installment in Brooklyn-based label Big Crown Records’ ‘Crown Jewels’ compilation series continues to spotlight the distinctive “Big Crown Sound'' that traverses a stellar, classic, soulful aesthetic encompassing hip-hop, R&B, funk, soul, psych, and more. Now in their seventh year of existence, this excellent 12-track collection handpicks highlights from their 2023 catalog, nestles the label’s most well-established artists next to the newest acts on the roster, and proves why they’re one the strongest and most consistent labels out there right now. Dig in.  — AR

Following a late 2022 debut album, this LA-via-Connecticut musician who has collaborated with artists like 070 Shake, Joyce Wrice, Channel Tres, DUCKWRTH, and Bipolar Sunshine delivers a potent late 2023 EP that puts his angsty, edgy, punk-inspired alt-pop on full display. Early single “(nevermind)” has an addictive youthful energy that’s hard to resist. — AR

Astrid Sonne - Great Doubt (Escho)
The Danish, London-based composer and viola player delivers an innovative, minimal, atmospheric wonder of an album on Great Doubt. Incorporating strings, beats, woodwinds, detuned piano, digital brass and flutes, her breathtaking compositions guide the artist and listener through questions of the world, life and love. — CS

Courting - New Last Name (Lower Third)
The sophomore album from the Liverpool outfit is a guitar driven, fun yet focused affair. While the pop-punk tendencies, genre hopping and auto-tuned vocals we heard on their debut album are still present, the band is both honing in and branching out with their sound, most notably with the inclusion of saxophone throughout, which adds some interesting depth to the songs. Tapping Ryan and Gary Jarman of The Cribs on co-production detail, New Last Name is a strong second effort from Courting. — CS

Goth Babe - LOLA (Mom + Pop)
The debut album from Goth babe (aka Griff Washburn), is a collection of shimmery, chilled out synth pop with electronic percussion, noteworthy guitar work and dance production. Coming nearly six years after his breakout single, his first full length sees Washburn comfortably cruising in his chillwave lane.  — CS

Jeymes Samuel - THE BOOK OF CLARENCE (The Motion Picture Soundtrack) (Roc Nation)
This star-studded soundtrack for the new biblical comedy-drama film from British director/musician Jeymes Samuel (aka The Bullitts, also Seal’s brother) is a solid collection of soul, R&B, hip-hop, reggae, Afrobeats, and more. While Jeymes contributes across all 11 tracks, the standout songs are held high by some heavy hitters, notably D’Angelo and Jay-Z on the epic, brooding, psych-tinted jam “I Want You Forever,” Jorja Smith on the smooth neo-soul of “Champagne,” and Brazilian legend Jorge Ben Jor on the timeless soul-pop opener “All About You.” Lil Wayne, Shabba Ranks, Buju Banton, Doja Cat, Adekunle Gold, Kodak Black, Kid Cudi, Alice Smith, and Terry Collier also make appearances. — AR

Militarie Gun - Life Under the Sun (Loma Vista Recordings)
This Los Angeles-based band led by Ian Shelton (also frontman for LA-via-Seattle project Regional Justice Center) unveils a 5-track EP featuring four stripped-down takes of songs previously found on their breakthrough 2023 debut album Life Under the Gun alongside a cover of NOFX’s 2003 track “Whoops, I OD’d.” The reworked tracks beautifully shift Militarie Gun’s hardcore-rooted sound into shoegaze/psych/alt-rock territory that balances dreamy, kaleidoscopic, gauzy backdrops with Ian’s intensely personal songwriting that tackles insecurity, desperation, and substance abuse. Bully’s Alicia Bognanno, Mannequin Pussy, and Manchester Orchestra make guest appearances. — AR

They Hate Change - Wish You Were Here… (Jagjaguwar)
Tampa Bay production/rap duo They Hate Change (Andre “Dre” Gainey and Vonne Parks) follow-up their breakout 2022 album ‘Finally, New’ with another adventurous set of high-energy hip-hop that pairs fresh club-primed beats with their lively, elastic, charismatic flows. Wish You Were Here… marks the first time they’ve worked with outside production, enlisting help from Wu-Lu, 96Back, DJ Orange Julius, and Odd Future/NRK’s Vritra. — AR

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