New Music Reviews (6/24)

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 Been Stellar, Kehlani, Marcel Wave, and more. 

Been Stellar - Scream from New York, NY (Dirty Hit)
New York-based Been Stellar’s remarkable debut finds the young outfit pulling no punches, delivering a tight set of hard-hitting, urgent and melodic post-punk with shoegaze undertones. Led by Sam Slocum’s powerful vocals, the ten tracks on Scream from New York, NY showcase the band’s insane guitar work, commanding drums and exceptional songwriting. File under: one of the strongest debuts of the year. –CS

Kehlani - CRASH (TSNMI.Atlantic)
The fourth studio album from Oakland, CA native Kehlani is a seductive, irresistible blend of emotive R&B. Her commanding vocals effortlessly glide over immaculate production, drawing listeners deeper into each groove. Reflecting on Crash, she articulates: “A crash, in any form, is the peak height [of] the moment … A space with no reminisce, no remorse, and no after thought”. Throughout this remarkable new album, Kehlani showcases an artist at the zenith of their craft, embracing a fearless, unapologetic approach. What a triumph. –CS

Marcel Wave - Something Looming (Upset The Rhythm)
The debut album from London-based quintet is a gripping set of tongue in cheek post-punk with ripping guitars, menacing keys and thrilling percussion. Their tight arrangements, catchy hooks and witty lyricism hit all of the right marks, leaving the listener begging for more. –CS

Pond - STUNG! (Spinning Top)
Perth-based psych rockers Pond unveil their tenth studio album, STUNG!, a kaleidoscopic fusion of psych, glam, prog and funk featuring searing guitars, lively keys and intricate percussion. Within a boundless double album format, they creatively explore the full spectrum of rock with textured soundscapes, epic arrangements and an unmatched level of magnetism. –CS

Rui Gabriel - Compassion (Carpark)
The debut album from Indiana-based, Venezuela-born Rui Gabril is a warm, rich fusion of slacker-rock and bedroom pop with layered guitars, synths, organ, drum machines and vocal harmonies. Through a bright soundscape full of infectious hooks, he navigates themes of growth, strife and yes, compassion, on this impressive first solo outing. –CS

Bug Seance - I’m Right Here EP (self-released)
The new EP from Portland-based five-piece Bug Seance is an electric set of perfectly blended emo, shoegaze and post-rock. Their honest lyricism is delivered with fervor as the urgent instrumentation with intricate guitar work commands attention. –CS

Catpack - Catpack (Tru Thoughts)
Catpack are a LA-based trio composed of Amber Navran (of Moonchild), Jacob Mann, and Phil Beaudreau, each accomplished solo musicians that joined forces through a mutual admiration of each other’s music and an effortless camaraderie in the studio. This chemistry is palpable on their self-titled debut album as they explore a joyful, colorful, and carefree blend of jazzy R&B and lush neo-soul with Navran’s dreamy vocals pairing harmoniously with the group’s sweet synthy downtempo beats. –AR

Chong the Nomad - DO WE MAKE OF THIS (self-released)
The debut album from Seattle based DJ and producer Alda Agustiano – aka Chong the Nomad – is an electrifying exploration of experimental dance music. With infectious beats and undeniable grooves, her fusion of EDM, house, hip-hop and avant-pop shines on this highly anticipated first full length. –CS

Forest Law - Zero (Bongo Joe)
The debut album from this solo project of globe-trotting London-based musician, producer, and vocalist Alexander Burke (aka Forest Law) is a strong set of tropical-tinged psych-pop driven by Balearic beats, bossa nova grooves, shimmery melodies, and an absorbing, kaleidoscopic, pan-cultural spirit. –AR

Islands - What Occurs (ELF)
The tenth album from Nick Thorburn led indie-rock darlings finds the now LA-based band returning to Canada to record for the first time since their 2006 debut. Adopting a “live-off-the-floor approach” the songs on What Occurs feel raw and full of life as they traverse through quirky indie-pop, rock and folk soundscapes while telling complex, human tales. –CS

Las Nubes - Tormentas Malsanas (Sweat Records Records/Spinda Records)
Supported by Iggy Pop, Las Nubes returns with their highly anticipated second LP, Tormentas Malsanas, released through Sweat Records Records and Spinda Records. The Miami-based rock project led by Ale Campos and Emile Milgrim, releases a title that reflects the chaotic summer storms of Miami. The album addresses profound themes such as Covid depression, the uncertainty of adult life, and the fight against injustice. Produced by Jonathan Nunez of Torche, Las Nubes blends their signature punk rock and dream pop sound with lyrics that offer a mix of hope and resilience. The singles "Enredados," "Would Be," and "Pesada" stand out, showcasing their evolution and musical maturity, cementing them as a vibrant and relevant force in the music scene. In Iggy’s words, “It’s hazy indie-punk that fans of Wavves, Best Coast, Vivian Girls, etc may not want to sleep on.” –AC

Luisa Almaguer - Weyes (self-released)
Luisa's career has grown in every sense, positioning her as one of the most authentic voices in the current Mexican scene. From being the first trans woman to create a podcast about the trans community in Latin America, La Hora Trans, to being one of the artists chosen by Damon Albarn for the Africa Express's performance (which lasted over five hours) on the Bahidorá stage in February 2024, her journey has been remarkable. Luisa releases Weyes after four years of silence, an album produced by Santiago Mijares, where she shares her personal experiences and explores how sexual dissent, particularly trans women, desire to be loved. Standout tracks among the nine on this follow-up to MATARONOMATAR (2019) include "Wey," "Un día nos vamos a morir," and "Tío Hugo." –AC

Talaya. - c l E a R. (self-released)
The second full-length album from this Seattle-based singer, songwriter, and producer is a solid set of expansive R&B that’s moody, smooth, and sophisticated, steeped in a rich 90s-influenced sound, and bolstered by her strong, soulful vocals. Seattle artists Rell Be Free and Gabrielle Turner make guest appearances –AR

Your Old Droog - Movie (Rem-U-Lak Records)
The latest release from the prolific Brooklyn-based Ukrainian emcee is an expansive, personal 18-track project seamlessly fusing classic hip-hop with modern, avant-garde stylings. Featuring sharp lyricism, soulful samples and captivating beats, Movie is an enthralling cinematic journey. –CS

A Song For You - Home (Rhythm Section International)
A Song For You is a Berlin-based BIPOC vocal ensemble and artistic collective founded by Malaysian-Australian creative director Dhanesh Jayaselan and New Zealand singer Noah Slee that consists of roughly 50 multifaceted members – vocalists, producers, instrumentalists, poets, dancers, and more. Their debut album is a beautiful, powerful, and evocative set of choral soul music that pairs the group’s stunning vocal arrangements with warm, spacious, complimentary production. With their commitment to “pushing the boundaries of live soulful music while simultaneously centering BIPOC narratives and upholding creative excellence,” A Song For You are creating gospel music with humanity, rather than religion, as its foundation. –AR

Apifera - Keep the Outside Open (Stones Throw)
The sophomore album from Apifera finds the jazz outfit expanding beyond their instrumental debut, incorporating vocals with personal stories and fantasies. Their hypnotic fusion of psych, prog and post-rock provides a blissful, spacey soundscape with dynamic keys and funky bass. –CS

DJ Raff - Encontrar (Nacional)
The latest full-length album from veteran Chilean DJ/producer DJ Raff is a stellar set of hypnotic, colorful, worldly electronic grooves that blends his cerebral low-slung rhythms with vibrant Afro-Latin flourishes. His first album and seven years and his first since relocating to London, Encontrar is a confident and consistently engaging affair from an artist who’s been perfecting their craft on record for nearly 20 years. –AR

Inkswel - Space Vaults (Tokyo Dawn)
Inkswel is the alias of Adelaide-based Australian DJ/producer Jules Habib, a versatile artist with a genre-hopping sound that cruises through soulful hip-hop, spaced-out G-funk, R&B, broken-beat, electro, boogie, and house styles with a charismatic touch. With a rich discography of underground gems that date back to 2009, Space Vaults is a handpicked collection of choice cuts from his catalog that showcases his expansive sound and collaborative spirit with guest assists from Jitwam, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Zackey Force Funk, Talib Kweli, Reggie B, Blu, Dave Aju, Andras Fox, and more. –AR

Jalen Santoy & KAMAE - A Story For Later (PLYGRND)
Charlotte, NC rapper Jalen Santoy teams up with Dutch producer Sebastian Kamae (aka KAMAE) for this super nice set of smooth hip-hop that pairs Jalen’s fluid flow, nimble wordplay, low-key charisma, and melodic hooks with KAMAE’s warm, lush, downtempo beats. –AR

Kyle Andrews - The Whims of a Manic Moon (self-released)
The sixth album from Wisconsin-based singer-songwriter Kyle Andrews is a charming set of winsome folk-pop with a buoyant sound that lyrically touches upon the power of love, music, and self-acceptance. Written as “a love letter to friends and family and an effort to decompartmentalize my ambivalent inner narrative,” The Whims of a Manic Moon is an assured and refreshing back-to-basics album from a DIY artist who has been plugging away for two decades. –AR

Lau Ro - Cabana (Far Out Recordings)
The debut album from this non-binary, Brazilian-born, Brighton, UK-based composer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist who formerly fronted the band Wax Machine is a gorgeous set of dreamy folk songs and welcoming psych tunes that blends the bossa nova and tropicalia influences of his home country with the melodic psych-folk sensibilities of his current homebase. Enhanced with field recordings of birds, water, and nature captured during their recent travels back to their homeland, Cabana is an atmospheric, transportive, introspective journey from an artist reconnecting to their roots. –AR

RJD2 - Visions Out Of Limelight (RJ’s Electrical Connections)
The 8th studio album from veteran Eugene-born, Philadelphia-based DJ/producer RJD2 (real name Ramble Jon Krohn) continues to find him brewing together a deep love for hip-hop, funk, soul, R&B, and psych – as well as a newfound appreciation for 20th century TV show theme songs stemming from spending time at home with his son – for a diverse set of beats, breaks, and beatific soul-pop. Jamie Lidell and frequent collaborator Jordan Brown make guest vocal appearances amidst RJD2’s collage-style productions, where the lines between obscure samples and live instrumentation is increasingly blurry. –AR

Sis - Vibhuti (Native Cat Recordings)
Sis is the alias of Bay Area vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Jenny Gillespie Mason, founder of the Native Cat Recordings label that has released music by Brijean, John Vanderslice, Luke Temple, Meernaa, and other California luminaries. Named after the Sanskrit term for the divine spirit in the human body, her third full-length album is an alluring set of cosmic, kaleidoscopic, dreamy R&B/soul-pop with an earthy folk undercurrent. Both members of Brijean contribute heavily across the album, while Devendra Banhart and Resavoir’s Will Miller also make guest appearances. –AR

The Shacks - Big Crown Vaults Vol. 2 (Big Crown)
NYC’s The Shacks, the short-lived project of singer/bassist Shannon Wise and guitarist/producer Max Shrager, were hidden gems within Big Crown Records' stellar roster. Signed during the label's early days when Shannon had just turned 18, their top-notch nostalgia-soaked psych-pop leaned into a heavier rock terrain than most of the roster's affinity for soul, funk, and R&B flavors, and their 2018 debut album Haze is an underappreciated record full of quality cuts. Soon after touring the world following that album's release, things fell apart for the band, and they eventually called it quits in 2020, but not before recording a lot of material. Those previously unreleased songs, as well as songs that previously hadn't been pressed to vinyl, are all featured here, providing an ample showcase for their charming original sound as well as their cool take on covers of songs both familiar (Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crimson & Clover”) and obscure (Flowers’ “For Real”). –AR

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