New Music Reviews (02/19)

Album Reviews

Each week, Music Director Chris Sanley and Associate Music Director Alex Ruder (joined this week by Morning Show Producer, Owen Murphy) 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 IDLES, Les Amazones d'Afrique, Middle Kids, and more. 

IDLES - TANGK (Partisan)
The fifth studio album from British post-punk heroes is urgent, delicate and their most dynamic release to date. While frontman Joe Talbot has always been a confident vocalist, we hear him leaning into his singing voice heavier than ever, allowing for a more intimate delivery of IDLES message, largely being that LOVE IS THE FING! Layered, swirling guitars, enthralling percussion, driving bass, masterful, nuanced production and arrangements that are so quintessentially IDLES allow for the band to effectively continue preaching their gospel of joy, perseverance and love. — CS

Les Amazones d'Afrique - Musow Danse (Real World Records)
The third album from the all woman African supergroup is an irresistible fusion of synth pop, Afrobeats, trap, and hip hop. Beautifully sung in a wide range of West African languages with gorgeous harmonies, the collective addresses universal themes of women’s rights and freedom of expression throughout Musow Danse, serving as yet another reminder of how music connects us all. — CS

Middle Kids - Faith Crisis Pt 1 (Middle Kids/AWAL)
With an album title like Faith Crisis Pt 1, one prepares for much existential dread. However, throughout the thirteen tracks on the Sydney trio’s third studio album, the outfit instead reminds us “that even in the darkest moments, belief can flourish.” With bright melodies, propulsive guitars, catchy hooks and sobering lyricism, this magnificent new album cements Middle Kids as one of the premier indie-rock bands of our time. — CS

Jordan Mackampa - WELCOME HOME, KID (AWAL)
The joyful sophomore album from the London-based singer-songwriter finds the artist celebrating his Blackness and queerness through a soulful funk, R&B and gospel lens. These fourteen tracks explore various forms of relationships – including those with friends, lovers, himself and his inner child – while his smooth vocals and gorgeous range guide us on the journey. Aptly titled, WELCOME HOME, KID feels like a homecoming for Mackampa who arrives confident and comfortable in his own skin. — CS

levitation room - Strange Weather (Greenway/The Reverberation Appreciation Society)
The third album from this Los Angeles band is a solid set of 70s-steeped melodic psychedelic rock that taps into the classic tropes of that era and gives it a dreamy, trippy, and pop-leaning contemporary twist. — AR

Lime Garden - One More Thing (So Young)
The debut album from the Brighton four piece is a tight collection of artful, guitar driven pop tunes. With honest and witty lyricism, an effortless flair and penchant for some serious earworms, One More Thing is a confident first outing for a young band that has already found their stride. — CS

mega cat - mega cat (Share It Music)
mega cat are a Seattle-based trio composed of husband/wife duo and Smokey Brights members Ryan Devlin and Kim West alongside drummer/guitarist Aaron Benson, formerly a member of mid/late 2000s local band Siberian. Their debut album is a colorful, vibrant, and enthusiastic instrumental affair that taps into an eclectic funk palette injected with global, jazz, psych, and hip-hop flavors. Full of rich instrumentation, hypnotic grooves, and an exploratory ethos, mega cat pounce onto the local scene with a fun and fresh first offering. — AR

Omni - Souvenir (Sub Pop)
The fourth album from the Atlanta trio is a wild, frenetic ride featuring expert musicianship and emotional, nostalgic and sardonic lyricism. With punchy guitars, syncopated percussion and complex song structures, Souvenir is an artful, concise post-punk record that showcases the band at the top of their game. — CS

Royel Otis - PRATTS & PAIN (Ourness)
Following a blistering trio of EPs released over the past three years, Sydney-based duo Royel Otis (Otis Pavlovic and Royel Maddell) deliver their debut full-length album and it’s an infectious set of scrappy, melodic, expansive indie rock with a super sharp pop sensibility. Jumping between different indie touchstones with a confident flair, there’s a loose and joyful pulse that runs through PRATTS & PAIN – named after the South London pub around the corner from the home studio of the album’s producer, Dan Carey – that places Royel Otis’ catchy sound in a similar lane as Spoon, Phoenix, and Car Seat Headrest. — AR

serpentwithfeet - GRIP (Secretly Canadian)
The third album from the Baltimore-born LA-based singer-songwriter is, well, GRIPPING. Ranging from seductive dance bangers (Damn Gloves) to soulful, intimate R&B (Ellipsis), he’s celebrating Black gay love in all of its forms. While “grip” may imply a harsh, firm touch, here serpentwithfeet explores many ways of being held, whether it be impassioned, tender, intimate, intense, or all of the above. — CS

Astral Bakers - The Whole Story (Sage Music)
The debut album from this Paris-based four-piece band is a fantastic set of moody, atmospheric, absorbing indie rock that melds together moments of expansive folk, evocative rock, and ethereal grunge for an impressive widescreen sound that recalls early Radiohead as well as shades of Fleet Foxes, Big Thief, and The War on Drugs. The work of four veteran musicians who have worked professionally as touring and session players within France’s music scene for the past decade, Astral Bakers emerge with a confident, accomplished, and sophisticated introduction that deserves to be heard well beyond France’s borders. — AR

Black Nite Crash - Signal To Noise (Neon Sigh)
The 6th studio album from this veteran Seattle band is another solid set of muscular psych-rock and swirling shoegaze that’s full of big guitars, propulsive rhythms, and dual male/female lead vocals provided by Jim Briggs and Claire Tucker. As the band recommends: “Play Loud for Maximum Effect.” — AR

Devon Ross - Oxford Gardens EP (Daydream Library)
The debut EP from London-based, LA-born and raised model/actress/guitarist is a solid showing of dark, moody proto-punk, with woozy guitars and nonchalant lyrical delivery, achieving an undeniably cool air of mystery. — CS

DJ Harrison - Shades of Yesterday (Stones Throw)
The latest solo album from veteran Richmond, VA-based multi-instrumentalist, drummer, DJ, producer, singer, songwriter, and composer Devonne Harris (aka DJ Harrison, also a member of numerous groups including Butcher Brown) finds him covering some of his favorite deep cuts and beloved hits – including The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Vince Guaraldi, Donald Fagen, and more – and applying his heady, funky, hip-hop-influenced jazz style to give these songs a fresh contemporary spin. Featuring a guest appearance from Chris Manak (aka Stones Throw founder Peanut Butter Wolf) on a standout cover of The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” and a solid mix of instrumental jams and vocal cuts, Shades of Yesterday shines an insightful light on the eclectic sounds that have molded DJ Harrison into the versatile musician he is today. — AR

Flight Mode - The Three Times (Tiny Engines)
The project of Oslo-based musician Sjur Lyseid, Flight Mode make absorbing indie rock anthems with a magnetic emo streak and a power pop sensibility that recalls torchbearers such as Death Cab For Cutie, The Weakerthans, and Oso Oso. The Three Times conveniently gathers Flight Mode’s three EPs that each contain four songs referencing a year and place in Lyseid's life: 2021’s ‘TX, ’98’ EP, 2022’s Torshov, ’05 EP, and the brand new Tøyen, ‘13’ EP that was released simultaneously alongside the album. All packaged together, this full collection provides a robust showcase for Flight Mode’s knack for soaring melodies, expressive vocals, intimate lyrics, and sweeping guitars that all make this album a hidden gem in the emo-leaning indie landscape. — AR

Grandaddy - Blu Wav (Dangerbird)
The first new studio album in seven years from the celebrated indie-rock outfit finds Jason Lytle delivering on his promise for it to contain “an inordinate amount of pedal steel.” That, along with waltzes, densely layered synthesizers, somber themes, lo-fi production, dashes of bluegrass, psych, and of course Lytle’s signature vocals, result in an album that is equal parts classic Grandaddy and the band exploring new sonic territory. — CS

Natascha Rogers - Onaida (Nø Førmat!)
Born in the Netherlands to a Dutch mother and a father with Amerindian origins, Natascha Rogers is a Paris-based singer, pianist, and percussionist who taps into her Native American ancestry, nomadic upbringing, and a deep love for Afro-Cuban rhythms for her earthy, intimate, and worldly folk-tinged songs. Her third solo album carries a warm, welcoming, and grounding energy that mirrors the patience she allowed herself with the album, as well as the serene landscape in which the album was written and recorded, the remote Northern France village of Pommerit-le-Vicomte. With her charming blend of airy vocals, lyrics sung in English, Spanish, and Yoruba, and nimbly eclectic piano-led electro-acoustic backdrops, Natascha reemerges with a confident and sophisticated record that signals her first new album in seven years. — AR

Nouvelle Vague - Should I Stay Or Should I Go? (PIAS)
For two decades now, French outfit Nouvelle Vague have been delighting fans with their bossa nova spin on post-punk and new wave favorites, and that remains true on Should I Stay Or Should I Go?, their first full length release in eight years. Featuring covers of classics from Depeche Mode, Bauhaus, Yazzo, Tears For Fears, Blondie, Duran Duran, and more, their iconic reinventions are a great exercise in reexamining why we love the originals. — CS

Adanna Duru - Nappy Hour II EP (Stardive/MNRK)
The second offering of the Nappy Hour series from the LA-based singer-songwriter is a seductive blend of Afropop and R&B. While flexing her range from quirky pop bangers to acoustic guitar driven ballads, Duru’s smooth, sultry vocals are Nappy Hour’s north star. Speaking on the new EP, she says: “I’m thrilled that I get to release songs about joy, love, and happiness. But more importantly, I get to release songs about a Black girl doing whatever she wants. I’m always experimenting with different genres and trying to show all the different sides of myself. I want to celebrate being weird. And I want little Black girls to feel beautiful and accepted and seen.” — CS

El Perro del Mar - Big Anonymous (City Slang)
The 8th studio album from chameleonic Swedish singer, multi-instrumentalist, and composer Sarah Assbring (aka El Perro del Mar) is an emotional, cathartic, and intense record influenced by the death of numerous family members over the years and the intense grief that has been haunting her. With its fragile blend of sparse orchestral backdrops, eerie atmospherics, and Sarah’s evocative, ethereal, and lilting vocals, Big Anonymous confronts the hefty existential questions surrounding life and death across its sweeping, cinematic, harrowing journey. — AR

Laura Jane Grace - Hole in My Head (Polyvinyl)
Punk rock icon Laura Jane Grace unleashes her third solo album and twelfth studio album including as frontwoman to Against Me!. Hole in My Head is a raw and intimate testimonial about her storied history and ongoing journey of self-exploration, primarily driven by acoustic guitar to create Grace’s signature folk-punk sound. — CS

Lee "Scratch" Perry - King Perry (False Idols)
Conceived, written and recorded during the COVID pandemic prior to his passing in August 2021 at the age of 85, King Perry marks the triumphant final album from legendary Jamaican musician and pioneering dub artist Lee “Scratch” Perry. Co-produced by British producer and Perry’s frequent collaborator Daniel Boyle, and boasting guest appearances from Greentea Peng, Tricky, Marta, Rose Waite, Fifi Rong, and Shaun Ryder, the album was born out of Perry’s request that he “wanted to do something new, something different but still with a dub framework.” The result is a strong set of diverse dub jams infused with influences from other beat-driven genres, reflecting Perry’s never-ending quest to explore sound and discover new vibrations within the genre. The album closes out with the elegiac “Goodbye” that was Perry’s last ever recorded vocal performance. — AR

Matt Pond PA & Alexa Rose - Call and Response (131 Records)
Upon hearing his band mentioned in her 2021 song “Wild Peppermint,” veteran Kingston, NY-based artist Matt Pond reached out to Asheville, NC-based singer-songwriter Alexa Rose to say thanks and extend an invitation to work on some songs together. This short-and-sweet EP is the result of that lyrical nod and it’s a nice set of wistful indie pop and dreamy Americana that boasts a cover of The Verve’s iconic “Bitter Sweet Symphony” within the five-song set. — AR

MICHELLE - GLOW (Atlantic)
The latest EP from this this predominantly POC and queer NYC-based six-piece outfit is another charming set of youthful, buoyant, coming-of-age pop inflected with R&B, jazz, and electronic elements that combines breezy melodies, dreamy harmonies, and colorful productions with lyrics often tackling the highs and lows of falling in and out of love. — AR

Tyler Ramsey - New Lost Ages (Soundly Music)
The sixth studio album from Asheville, NC-based singer-songwriter and former Band of Horses guitarist Tyler Ramsey is a solid set of widescreen folk-pop and earnest indie rock that lyrically explores the emotional rollercoaster that pervades our complex contemporary society, with Tyler stating that New Lost Ages is “about the calm that follows the storm and it’s about the dark clouds when they roll back in again.” — AR

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