Ah, records round-ups, it’s been a while. And although it’s been far too long since we brought you our picks of the latest and greatest musical releases here at The Edge, the tunes just haven’t stopped coming from some of the world’s biggest artists. Gorillaz dropped a surprise sixth studio album just a year after their divisive Humanz, Josh Tillman heralded a heroic return as Father John Misty with God’s Favorite Customer, and Drake broke the internet with the lethal Scorpion. There’s such an abundance of quality music that it’s difficult to know where to start – that is, of course, until you remember that frequent headline-grabber and provocateur extraordinaire Kanye West stole the headlines once again with his eighth studio album right at the start of the month.
Kanye West – ye
He’s a man who rarely strays far from the conversation when he doesn’t want to, and back in April – with a surprise series of tweets that were either nonsensical or inspired depending on your viewpoint – he got fans salivating with the announcement of an eighth album due June 1st. What we got was almost more of a confessional EP: 23 minutes of some of the most introspective work Yeezy has ever put out, touching on everything from suicidal thoughts to his love for his daughter. The stripped-back production and brief runtime lies in stark contrast to Kanye’s more recent efforts like the bombastic Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and overproduced The Life of Pablo, splitting his fanbase in two, with some loving the new direction taken by West but others left feeling like they’d just dined at an overrated Michelin-starred restaurant: very little to chew on, and even less of any real substance. In any case, it earned four stars from us here at The Edge, with reviewer Joe Williams praising its “fluid, surprisingly cohesive mix of sounds from previous records,” calling it “a concise, introspective portrait of an artist in flux”.
Gorillaz – The Now Now
While last years’ Humanz starkly divided opinion – with some praising the managed chaos of the virtual group’s wide array of guest appearances, and others criticizing it as a Damon Albarn ego-project overflowing with heavy-handed production and clashing musical styles – no-one really expected Gorillaz‘s sixth studio album to come as soon as it did. In a similar fashion to The Fall, recorded whilst the group were touring 2010’s superb Plastic Beach, The Now Now is far more stripped-back and carefree than last year’s offering, with no real message behind the music than simply to turn up, tune in, and cop out. Reviewer Ollie Webber describes the project as a “favourable change from that found in last years Humanz“; each track “oozes with energy and passion without compromising the ideals of Gorillaz as a virtual band with an ongoing storyline.” It’s hard to see The Now Now becoming the group’s first UK Number 1 since 2005’s Demon Days, but it’s still certainly a return to form that will hopefully win back fans turned off by last year’s overstuffed offering.
Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer
Josh Tillman – probably better known by his Father John Misty moniker – put out one of the albums of the year a little over 12 months ago in Pure Comedy, and may have pulled off the same feat again here. Although far more personal than last year’s effort, Tillman pulls if off with aplomb, carried by his sharp songwriting and sharper tongue. It certainly impressed us at The Edge, reviewer Bailey Williams lauded how “the attention is held resolutely by Tillman’s always-exceptional lyrics and the unflinching exposure of his inner turmoil”. Fittingly, the record dispenses with Pure Comedy‘s elaborate compositions, abandoning “excessive regalia in favour of more controlled compositions. Nonetheless, the soundscapes are vividly textured, with cellos, organs and horns rattling across Tillman’s pained voice.” The result? A truly superb album, in which Father John Misty shines “a brutal spotlight his own psyche in exasperating and heart-wrenching fashion.”
KIDS SEE GHOSTS – KIDS SEE GHOSTS
When Kanye West announced he had formed a group with Kid Cudi and that they would be releasing their debut album just a week after Kanye’s eighth studio album back in his Twitter rant in April, the news went over most people’s heads. However, with West’s ye decisively splitting opinion upon release, many audiophiles looked towards the upcoming KIDS SEE GHOSTS as a possible redemption of sorts for a Kanye who had seemingly lost his way. So it proved. As with ye, the record is assuredly short and to the point, coming in at only 23 minutes in length. Unlike ye, however, KIDS SEE GHOSTS is powerful, bombastic, and almost abrasively in-your-face for the entirety of that time. Kanye and Cudi bounce perfectly off each other, bringing the best out of their respective artistic repertoires, producing “a violently melancholic hip-hop gem which leaves a haunting impression,” according to reviewer Liam Beazley. A clear improvement upon ye, KIDS SEE GHOSTS “easily provides one of the most interesting albums of the summer and so far the best of GOOD Music’s ongoing prolific run of releases” – including the aforementioned ye and Pusha T‘s truly superb DAYTONA. Worth checking out, then.
5 Seconds of Summer – Youngblood
For fans of Australian pop-rock outfit 5 Seconds of Summer, this one had been a long time coming. Fortunately, Youngblood delivered on those years of expectations according to Rebecca Withers, who praised the album as “a record that beautifully captures the personal struggles and transformation they have each experienced as people”. It’s a project filled to the brim with the all-over-the-place brand of pop-rock the group are best known for; the “up-tempo melody and the strong bassline with everything coming together for the chorus” in the title track produce three of the record’s most exciting minutes, whilst “the ’80s vibe of ‘Talk Fast’ creates a completely different sound from anything the band have ever done before but fits the album so well.”
Florence + The Machine – High As Hope
An album from the sublime Florence Welch is always an event. So although Flo has taken things in a safer but subtler direction for record number four, the emotion and musical intricacy that so characterise her work still remains. High As Hope is Florence stripping things back to give us even more; rather than the sheer power of older hits like ‘Dog Days’, we are treated to the personal introspection on tracks like ‘Hunger’, ‘Grace’, and ‘Patricia’. The result is one of the most delicately affecting albums to have been released this summer.
Drake – Scorpion
Drake is one of those artists who truly has the power to break the internet. So it proved with Scorpion, which broke his own one-day streaming record for an album on Apple Music – previously held by More Life – as well as on Spotify, pulling in over 300 million streams across the two services on June 29th alone. This wasn’t by accident: the project’s whopping 25-track length seems designed to soak up those streams, and you can still hardly avoid his face when you log onto Spotify such is the marketing campaign around the giant double-album. But at the same time, Scorpion‘s biting lyricism perfectly suited to salty or inspirational Instagram captions (“Don’t hit me when you hear this and tell me your favorite song”, “I know a girl whose one goal was to visit Rome / Then she finally got to Rome / And all she did was post pictures for people at home / ’Cause all that mattered was impressin’ everybody she’s known” to quote just two) as well as Drake’s mastery of radio-friendly rap, pop, and R&B fusion makes the record near-guaranteed to be a hit. Perhaps the musical equivalent of FOMO, Drake’s Scorpion certainly looks to be an event you don’t want to miss out on.
The Edge‘s Alternative Picks
Of course, besides all the chart-toppers, there have been plenty of exceptional albums that perhaps haven’t commanded the national conversation but absolutely do deserve your attention. Read on to see our alternative picks for June 2018…
Death Grips – Year Of The Snitch
‘Death Grips Is Online’ once again. What have we done to deserve this fate?
Natalie Prass – The Future and the Past
Natalie Prass astounded critics with her self-titled debut in 2015, and has returned with a funkier, glossier and poppier version of her sound on The Future and the Past. Although Prass had a full album’s worth of material, it was scrapped after Trump’s election – prompting a full-on existential crisis that ended up prompting one of the most feelgood albums of the year. In Prass’ words “I needed to make an album that was going to get me out of my funk, one that would hopefully lift other people out of theirs, too, because that’s what music is all about”. And what better genre to lift people out of their funk than with funk itself – the whole album is tinged with the grooviest, slipperiest and funkiest basslines imaginable that pull together an album of tight, compact pop songs. A departure from her previous sound, The Future and the Past showcases Prass as the ambitious, politically motivated and downright charming songwriter that she is, keeping her fans guessing as to quite where she’ll go next.
Oneohtrix Point Never – Age Of
Oneohtrix Point Never (otherwise known as Daniel Lopatin) is an American composer, producer and experimental musician whose work is best described in a series of whirs and beeps. “Man, I really liked that bit on ‘myriad.industries’? You know? The bit where it goes ‘beuoopbeeopboopwoopwooOo?”. On his newest album as Oneohtrix Point Never, Lopatin continues to push his schizophrenic, jumpy brand of electronica, this time infusing it with some pop sensibilities and even more harpsichord. The whole album is painted in a thick coat of ‘sticking it to the man’, with themes of surveillance, the digital age and… alternative soundtracks for children’s movies? Although perhaps wearing a little thin on multiple listens, and not quite reaching the peaks of Garden of Delete or Good Time, Age Of is still thoroughly enjoyable – a novel concept album for the digital age (especially if you like harpsichord).
Boy Azooga – 1,2 Kung Fu!
This album mostly makes this list because ‘Loner Boogie’ is a track that needs to be heard by people that think ‘I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ is unbeatable in its ability to get disenchanted 20something blokes dancing at a house party. The roaring guitar riff that ties this song together is backed up by rumbling percussion and Davey Newington’s drawling vocals – it’s great fun and doesn’t overstay its welcome with a compact two-minute runtime.
Although a little one-dimensional in sound, 1,2 Kung Fu! is an incredibly enjoyable listen, with deft, catchy guitarwork throughout, as well as some jazzy percussion and space-age synths on songs like ‘Taxi To Your Head’ or ‘Waitin’. It’s a solid debut, and Boy Azooga is certainly one to watch.
serpentwithfeet – Soil
serpentwithfeet’s debut album Soil is a perfect showcase of his incredible vocal abilities, ranging from choral sweeps to soulful bursts of balladry, all tied together by dense electronic instrumentals that pound along in the background. The album starts off a little slow, but the second half is full of wonderfully diverse tracks that act as a jungle gym of vocal prowess and instrumental weirdness. J
osiah Wise’s lyrics across the album paint vivid pictures of all kinds of relationships – some more fractured than others. The paganistic ‘cherubim’, probably the only remotely catchy song on the album, features a cenrtal hook of ‘I get to / devote my life / to him‘, portraying an unhealthy relationship more based on worship and adoration than mutual affection. The record is hauntingly beautiful, and uses a truly unique sonic palate to create its cultish soundscapes.
Snail Mail – Lush
Indie darling Lindsey Jordan, better known as Snail Mail, has garnered a monumental amount of hype behind her debut album, Lush. Jordan started playing guitar at just five years old, forming bands and getting gigs throughout her teenage years and famously having to ask her school permission for time off to play festivals outside of the USA. Her first EP, Habit, was short but sweet, each song intelligent ruminations on teenage life, culminating in the catchy and radio-friendly ‘Thinning’ that was stuck in my head for an unhealthy amount of time. This was all avidly covered by journalists, putting all of their money on Snail Mail as being the true ‘one to watch’.
Unfortunately, there was almost no way for Lush to exceed the hype set for it, as whilst there are standout tracks such as ‘Pristine’ or the marvellous ‘Heat Wave’, the album as a whole merges into a long suite of forgettable indie rock that never really gets off the ground in an exciting way. I have high hopes for future Snail Mail releases as there is so much promise in Lush, the sparkling guitar riffs especially prove a treat to the ears throughout, but Jordan needs to find some diversity and spark before hitting a truly great album deserving of the hype.
Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth
Kamasi Washington has been in the background of music media’s collective consciousness for a while now, his debut album The Epic a truly monumental jazz record that is ‘6 Kanye albums long’, an extended suite of virtuosic performance, written amidst a sea of collaborations with artists as diverse as Kendrick Lamar and Florence And The Machine. 2017’s EP The Harmony of Difference perhaps peaked ‘The Epic’, compacting its eclectic sprawl into a compact 30 minute EP that showcased influence from Latin music and fusion on its more immediate songs.
Heaven and Earth is a counterpart to The Epic, an album that is equal in length and ambition (even featuring an extra disc, The Choice hidden in the packaging!). Every track is a treat to the ears, suites of sound that envelop the listener into ensemble jazz for the modern listener. The album takes the ideas from The Harmony of Difference and expands them into colossal compositions that don’t let up in their creative energy and diverse instrumentation, held together by Washington’s propulsive saxophone. It is only 5 Kanye albums long, however.
Selected Other Releases
Beyond the main headline-grabbers and the cream of the alternative crop, there were a plethora of exceptional albums released over the last month. Here is our pick of the rest of the records that should be grabbing your attention:
Ben Howard – Noonday Dream
Black Thought – Streams of Thought Volume One
CZARFACE and MF DOOM – Man’s Worst Enemy
Dance Gavin Dance– Artificial Selection
Fantastic Negrito – Please Don’t Be Dead
Ghost – Prequelle
Gruff Rhys – Babelsberg
Jorja Smith – Lost & Found
Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears
LUMP – LUMP
Mike Shinoda – Post Traumatic
Nas – Nasir
Nine Inch Nails – Bad Witch
Panic! At The Disco – Pray for the Wicked
Pendulum – The Reworks
Protoje – A Matter Of Time
Protomartyr – Consolation EP
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs
SOPHIE – Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Inside