New Music Reviews (4/1)

Album Reviews

Each week, Music Director Chris Sanley and Associate Music Director Alex Ruder (joined this week by Latin Partnerships and Editorial Manager, Albina Cabrera) 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 Beyoncé, Chastity Belt, Chicano Batman, and more. 

Beyoncé - COWBOY CARTER (Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia)
The eighth studio album from Beyoncé, and second part of a trilogy that started with 2022’s RENAISSANCE is a direct reply to the country music scene that dismissed her years ago. With unmistakable twang, swagger and a nod to her country roots, she excels in blending genres (country, R&B, Soul, Hip-Hop, Pop) speaking her truth, and putting her spin on classics like The Beatles’ “Blackbird” and Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, with the latter containing some pointed lyric changes. Giddy up, Cowboy Carter.  – CS

Chastity Belt - Live Laugh Love (Suicide Squeeze)
“Live Laugh Love” evokes a very specific image of some very basic home decor. Thankfully, there is nothing basic about this beloved Pacific Northwest indie-rock outfit, nor their fifth studio album. Through these eleven tracks each band member has the opportunity to take the lead on vocals as they navigate difficult emotions with delectable guitar tones and a confident ease that can only be achieved in a tight creative unit built on trust. – CS

Chicano Batman - Notebook Fantasy (ATO)
The fifth studio album from the SoCal psych/soul outfit has a raw glam quality to it, with potent synths, psychedelic grooves, searing guitars, funky basslines and emotive vocals. Sung in both English and Spanish, Chicano Batman dive into stories of love, dreams, parenthood and perseverance through their signature sound and collaborative songwriting. – CS

Cléa Vincent - Ad vitam æternamour (Midnight Special)
The third album from this Parisian singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist is a strong set of colorful, elastic, synthy indie pop that pairs bouncy beatific backdrops with her charming melodies and buoyant lyrics sung entirely in French. – AR

Cor.Ece & Bad Colours - Been Here Before (Bastard Jazz Recordings)
Fresh off breakout collaborations with Honey Dijon and a co-writing credit on Beyoncé’s Renaissance track "Cozy," LA-based vocalist, performer, and songwriter Cor.Ece teams up with venerable London-born, Maryland-raised, Brooklyn-based DJ, songwriter, producer, and instrumentalist Bad Colours (aka Ibe Soliman) to explore the sweet, slick, soulful intersection between house and R&B music with a sprinkling of hip-hop and UK garage flavors. – AR

gglum - The Garden Dream (Secretly Canadian)
The debut full length album from London-born singer-songwriter Ella Smoker is a confident and expressive set of guitar driven bedroom pop with interesting song structures and effectively layered guitar and synths. With clever, confessional lyricism, great hooks and hints of grunge and electro pop, The Garden Dream is a seminal stepping stone for an exciting new artist. – CS

Reyna Tropical - Malegría (Psychic Hotline)
While “malegría” may literally translate to “misery” in English, there is so much joy felt throughout the highly anticipated debut album from Reyna Tropical. Exploring themes of queer love, feminine sensuality and human’s relationship with the earth and their ancestors, Malegría examines the many paths one can take to find joy, showcasing Fabi Reyna’s impeccable guitar work, incorporating Congolese, Peruvian, and Colombian rhythms, enchanting beats and bright melodies, flexing both precision and personality throughout. The result is a vivid, rhythmic, transformative album from an artist with a clear vision, standing in her power. – CS

Ride - Interplay (Wichita)
Though they initially got their start as a pioneering shoegaze outfit, the second iteration of the legendary English rock band finds them embracing high energy alt rock. On their seventh album, and third since their 2015 reunion, we are met with killer guitars, walls of sound, 60s psych pop melodies, and of course SOME shoegaze tendencies, honoring Ride’s roots. – CS

Alena Spanger - Fire Escape (Ruination Record Co.)
The debut solo album from this NYC-based singer-songwriter and former frontwoman for the DIY pop band Tiny Hazard is an eclectic journey through an evocative art-pop spectrum that swings from tender folk-pop tunes to spritely synth-pop jams to ethereal ambient-pop ballads with a confident and nimble touch. – AR

​​Bedbug - Pack Your Bags The Sun is Growing (Disposable America)
The latest album from this project fronted by LA-via-Boston singer-songwriter Dylan Gamez Citron is a stellar set of emotive indie rock full of expressive warbling vocals, soaring guitars, gorgeous string accents, and an expansive, angsty, coming-of-age energy that gives the record a distinctively classic “indie rock” feel. Steeped in the iconic sounds of Built To Spill, Modest Mouse, Broken Social Scene, and American Football, and comparable to current torchbearer Alex G, Pack Your Bags The Sun is Growing was recorded in an actual studio instead of the band’s usual lo-fi bedroom set-up, giving this album a more polished and bigger sound and adding another impressive entry in this beloved yet overlooked group’s discography. –AR

Byland - Heavy For A While (Mother West)
The new album from Seattle’s Byland is a dynamic, intimate folk-rock record with beautifully layered guitar, strings, keys and pedal steel to carry Alie’s gorgeous vocals that saunter atop the arrangements, taking their rightful place in the spotlight. With weighted emotional lyricism and haunting soundscapes, Heavy For A While leaves a lasting impression. – CS

Dent May - What’s For Breakfast? (Carpark)
The sixth album from the LA based singer-songwriter is an easy, breezy pop record with nostalgic rock reference points, great guitar lines and punchy synths. May’s effortless West Coast cool, signature vocals and penchant for a great pop hook shine on this new collection boasting noteworthy guest features from Jordana, Pearl & The Oysters and Jimmy Whispers.  – CS

Shabazz Palaces - Exotic Birds of Prey (Sub Pop)
For this companion piece to last year’s Robed In Rareness, legendary Seattle luminary Ishmael Butler dons his Shabazz Palaces robe for another outer-galactic journey through experimental, psychedelic, abstract hip-hop with dips into throwback electro, woozy funk, and gritty punk territory. As with most Shabazz Palaces releases, Exotic Birds of Prey is a communal affair with credited guest appearances from Black Constellation members Stas THEE Boss (also a current host of KEXP’s Street Sounds) and OCnotes, as well as Irene Barber, Purple Tape Nate, Japreme Magnetic, Cobra Coil, and Ish’s alterego Lavarr the Starr. – AR

Tyla - TYLA (FAX/Epic)
Ever since she dropped her debut single “Getting Late” in 2019, South African pop star Tyla has seemingly been poised to breakthrough on a global scale. Five years later, the moment has arrived as she unveils her debut full-length album of “popiano” anthems that blend South Africa’s rich Amapiano sound with pop, R&B, Afrobeats, and hip-hop in sultry fashion. With a gorgeous voice that recalls the likes of Ariana Grande, Tems, and SZA, top-notch beats serving as her foundation, and a wave of momentum following the massive success of her excellent Grammy Award-winning 2023 single “Water,” Tyla delivers a confident and exciting mainstream pop record that puts a bright spotlight on the magnetic sounds emerging out of Africa. – AR

Wahid - feast, by ravens EP (Innovative Leisure)
The latest from the Orlando rapper is a tight collection of smooth grooves and confessional lyricism telling a tale of perseverance. His Innovative Leisure debut marks a new beginning for the second generation Jamaican Floridian who is poised to take his flow to new heights.– CS

1010benja - Ten Total (Three Six Zero Recordings)
Following a string of striking and shadowy singles and EPs dating back to 2017, this enigmatic Tulsa-born singer, songwriter, and producer delivers his long-awaited debut full-length album and it’s an adventurous, ambitious, and at-times thrilling hybrid of maximal R&B, experimental pop, and provocative rap. Carried by blockbuster productions, his passionately soaring falsetto, and plenty of memorable lyrical decisions, ‘Ten Total’ feels like an singular exercise in dichotomies as it navigates a decidedly leftfield vision with mainstream tools for a bold sound that’s uniquely over-the-top yet undoubtedly arresting at its heights. – AR

Abdallah Oumbadougou - AMGHAR: The Godfather of Tuareg Music, Vol. 1 (Petaluma)
Born in the West African country of Niger in the early 1960s, Abdallah Oumbadougou was an influential guitarist regarded as an early architect of the Tuareg – aka “Desert Blues” – genre that was originally known as ‘assouf’ (“longing,” “nostalgia,” or “the pain that isn’t physical’ in Tamashek, the language of the Tuareg) and has been popularized by contemporary acts such as Mdou Moctar, Bombino, and Tinariwen. A Berber term for a tribal chief, AMGHAR is the late artist’s first career retrospective featuring studio recordings he made in the 2000s as well as six previously unreleased tracks that place a direct spotlight on his inspirational works. – AR

Alejandro Escovedo - Echo Dancing (Yep Roc)
The electric, aptly titled new album from Alejandro Escovedo finds the living legend reinterpreting songs from his catalog, including solo material and rarities from his Buick MacKane and The True Believers groups. Revamping both the instrumentals and lyrics at times, Echo Dancing brings new life to these songs that warrant revisiting them through this new, imaginative lens. – CS

Caius - Strange Motions (strange pack)
The latest EP from this rising Copenhagen-based electronic producer is a saccharine rush in the form of addictive, poppy, buoyant house jams. With its bright-eyed blend of optimistic club beats and soaring R&B-steeped vocal samples, Caius emerges with a feel-good, repeat-worthy EP that’s an instant mood booster. – AR

dj gummy bear - Intercession Before Charlotte (Lord’s Child.)
The latest offering from chameleonic Pittsburgh-born musician Montell Frazier – best known under his Montell Fish alias – finds him diving into his “dj gummy bear” persona for a strong set of expansive R&B cuts that bounce around a psychedelic soul terrain reminiscent of Q, Steve Lacy, and Miguel. A Christian artist with roots as a rapper who has also released quality chill lo-fi instrumental beats before embracing a sleek vocal-laced R&B sound, Montell’s gorgeous falsetto and dynamic backdrops are hard to resist on this short-and-sweet EP that serves a stopgap ahead of his anticipated album CHARLOTTE. – AR

Non La - Like Before (Mint)
Dust off your green albums folks, because Non La’s new one is going to transport you right back to the early aughts with some very Weezer-esque guitar lines. The sophomore album from the Taiwanese-Vietnamese multi-instrumentalist hits the delicate balance of hard and soft, with intimate ballads, fuzzy rockers, and endless pop hooks while reflecting on love and self-care from a specifically queer perspective. – CS

Savan - Antes del Amanecer (Real World)
Savan is the alias of Colombian musician, sound artist, and environmentalist Jose Miguel Navas, an artist who has immersed himself in the ancestral music of the Amazon and the Colombian mountain range Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Steeped in the creative process behind the practice of rainforest medicine ceremonies, his latest album Antes del Amanecer (“before sunrise”) is a magnetic, atmospheric, modern take on traditional Colombian folk music infused with rolling rhythms, rich instrumentation featuring flutes and harmonica, and a couple standout guest appearances from vocalist Epiara Murillo aka Maitara. – AR

Saya Gray - QWERTY II EP (DIrty Hit)
The new EP from rising Japanese-Canadian artist Saya Gray is an artful collection of masterfully manipulated soulful art-pop, with spellbinding, glitchy synths, syncopated beats and delectably distorted vocals. After two years of solid output, she’s deservedly turned heads as she closes the QWERTY chapter and readies her next full length album. – CS

The Fourth Wall - Return Forever (DevilDuck)
The fourth full-length album from this Portland-based band fronted by Hawaii-raised singer-songwriter Stephen Agustin is an assured set of dynamic indie rock featuring an impressive cinematic wall-of-sound aesthetic propelled by big guitars, driving rhythms, soaring hooks, and Agustin’s passionate vocals that lyrically explores the idea of the “poetry of forgetfulness,” a concept inspired by Agustin’s discovery that a close relative had left behind her young daughter upon immigrating to the United States, leaving behind her previous life and child to start a new life. – AR

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