What’s up guys! Another month, another Album Round Up. Below is a quick run-through of all the records I checked out this month:
Aluna – Renaissance: No George, just Aluna this time. As one half of the duo responsible for smashes like “You Know You Like It”, Aluna sets out to prove herself as a formidable solo artist, to mixed results. Renaissance feels like she’s trying to be a “renaissance woman” of popular music – mixing piano balladry with Reggae (“Surrender”), experimenting with the sounds of Trap (“Off Guard”), Dancehall rhythms (“Back Up”), and a little bit of Disclosure-lite (“Body Pump”). It doesn’t feel like an album as much as it does a collection of disparate singles. NOT RECOMMENDED.
Avatar – Hunter Gatherer: Avatar pack a compelling, eclectic fusion of Trad Metal, Groove Metal, the Melodeath of their native Sweden, and a whole lot more into the 45-minute runtime of Hunter Gatherer. Despite all the hype behind its predecessor, 2018’s Avatar Country, this just might be my favorite release from the band to date. There’s a little something for every type of Metalhead to enjoy. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Dave East – Karma 3: This Harlem-born Nas protege – much like his idol these days – has stagnated on recent projects. What I hear on Karma 3 is a less complex and less tuneful version of early 2010s J. Cole – that is, transparently indebted to the giants of the ’90s without bringing anything new or original to the lyrical equation. For much of this LP, I find myself able to finish Dave’s rhymes before he does, and since he doesn’t bring a ton in the way of hooks, I’m not left with any reason to return to it. NOT RECOMMENDED.
Disclosure – Energy: I can’t believe this is only Disclosure’s third album! It feels like they’ve been a central fixture in Electronic music for so long. They delivered again on here, with a healthy mix of fantastic guests (Kehlani’s appearance on “Birthday” is my favorite), deep grooves (“Douha”), and chart-ready bops (“Watch Your Step”). RECOMMENDED.
Kiesza – Crave: Infectious Pop euphoria abounds on this short-but-sweet sophomore full-length from Canada’s Kiesza. The opening cut “Run Renegade” sets the tone with its ’80s throwback aesthetic and hard-hitting percussion, and Crave never lets up from there. With its concise nine tracks, it never has time to be boring anyhow. “Sky Ain’t the Limit” would make M83 proud (although does The Weeknd get a check for that vocal line from “Starboy”?) and the single “Love Me With Your Lie” is also likely to reel listeners in on the first go ’round. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Nas – King’s Disease: One of my Top 5 (maybe Top 3?) MCs of all time, and I have to admit that he’s past his prime at this point. 2012’s Life is Good is the last great Nas album. While the Kanye-helmed, partially-completed mess of 2018’s Nasir has been outdone tenfold on King’s Disease – due in no small part to Hit-Boy’s earworm production – it’s difficult to find any meaty lyrical theme or narrative to grab onto here. Nas is living purely off nostalgia with tracks like “Car #85” and “Full Circle”, and when artists like Lil’ Durk or A$AP Ferg pull him bleary-eyed into the present, he just doesn’t have much to say. The Nas I love is part storyteller, part provocateur, and part wisdom, and I didn’t get much of any of that from King’s Disease. Between the great beats and Nasir’s consistent flow, I can’t say anything nakedly bad about the album, but I’m relatively indifferent. NOT RECOMMENDED.
Ulver – Flowers of Evil: We still love them for the Black Metal they made almost thirty years ago, but the truth is that Ulver’s foray into Depeche Mode-influenced, synth-driven Pop music has been just as interesting. Flowers of Evil is about as gothic and dramatic as a Pop record can get while still somewhat warranting that categorization (cuts like “Russian Doll” and “Nostalgia” especially make the case), and although a lot of the grooves end up sounding familiar by the end of the LP, I’ve found myself returning to it constantly, if occasionally merely out of intrigue. RECOMMENDED.
Victoria Monet – Jaguar: While this may be just one of three installments that will comprise Monet’s long-awaited debut album, these nine tracks alone amount to one of the best R & B releases of 2020. The irresistible “Experience” is an instant favorite, as is the title cut with its blaring horns, but it’s the softer moments that say even more, like the sensual “Touch Me” and the relationship drama in “Go There With You”. I’m blown away by everything about Victoria Monet on here – her voice, her versatility, her well-crafted and incisive lyric-writing….I can’t WAIT for part two and three! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Death By Stereo – We’re All Dying Just in Time (Punk)
The Front Bottoms – In Sickness & In Flames (Alternative)
John Petrucci – Terminal Velocity (Instrumental)
The Killers – Imploding the Mirage (Alternative)
Lovelytheband – Conversations With Myself About You (Alternative)
Onslaught – Generation Antichrist (Metal)
Incantation – Sect of Vile Divinities (Metal)