Despite everything he’s put out over roughly 20 years, Damon Albarn has never produced a proper solo album. That’s going to change with a Richard Russell-produced LP next year. A short teaser featuring a moody piano melody backed with some electronic beats can be viewed below.
Mark McGuire dipped out of his epic drone band Emeralds a little bit before they imploded, but since then he’s been having a fruitful solo career. His new album Along The Way is a stunner, but to tide fans over until that’s out stateside he’s just released The Sounds Of Xmas, a collection McGuire gave to friends and family in 2006. Even though the songs are seven years old, the release carries many of the same stylistic themes of his new one, especially in the mining of home videos for vocal samples. Listen below.
I didn’t write this week’s Album Of The Week piece on R. Kelly’s Black Panties, but I agreed. And here’s why: For all the obvious hilarity at work, and all the smooth craftsmanship, there’s an honest desperation at work. Kelly is making jokes and being willfully ridiculous, but he’s balancing that out with a sexed-out sincerity. And so when he’s singing about licking the middle like an Oreo, he knows he’s being goofy, but there’s a hunger, a need, in his voice. At just about every point on the album, you can hear him dying to lose himself in sex. That’s the central paradox of R. Kelly: The same uncontrollable urges that make him, in a lot of ways, a predator and a truly terrible human are also the engine behind a restless and powerful artistic mind. When Kelly’s singing old-school soul music, as he was on 2010′s Love Letter, the level of craft is just spectacular, but there’s something slightly mannered and reserved about him. On Black Panties, he’s absolutely giving himself over to these ridiculous songs, and it shows. And on a very different and much smaller level, the New York singer Ian Isiah does something similar on his new The Love Champion mixtape. This isn’t just music about fucking; it’s music about achieving a certain personal transcendence through fucking, about becoming your truest self by entangling with someone else.
We’ve mentioned several times that Lou Reed’s last public act before his death was that glowing review of Yeezus. His last filmed interview, though, was part of an ad campaign for Parrot Zik headphones. As Parrot CEO Henri Seydoux explains:
This year Boston-based alt-rock honor students Speedy Ortiz scored the Stereogum twofer that is cracking our 40 Best New Bands list (for major awesomeness) and our 50 Best Albums list (for Major Arcana). They’ll start off next year by following that album with a four-song EP recorded by Paul Q. Kolderie, a guy who knows a thing or two about the music that clearly inspires Speedy singer/songwriter Sadie Dupuis; he’s worked on albums by ’90s greats Pixies, Radiohead, Uncle Tupleo, the Lemonheads, and more. Dupuis offered some background in a press release: “While the last album was kind of a breakup jam, these songs are a lot more introspective—myself dealing with and talking to and making sense of myself.” The new EP’s called Real Hair, and it includes the guitar-tastic “Everything’s Bigger,” streaming below.
Certain comments-section mainstays may disagree, but I maintain that Dreamchasers 3, the latest burst of frantic rap intensity from Meek Mill, is one of the year’s finest mixtapes. The tape opens with “I’m Leanin’,” on which Meek and recent-vintage Kanye West protege Travi$ Scott go in hard over a furious Cardo beat and both Diddy and Birdman offer triumphal money talk. And now director Jon J has made a video for the track, throwing black-light effects and nightmarish editing all over Meek and Travi$’s impressive crazy-eyes faces. Watch it below.
In that lost halcyon era known as the ’90s, Cibo Matto were two Japanese women living in New York (plus, sometimes, Sean Lennon) who made songs, frequently about food, that borrowed from kitschy ’60s pop and clubby rap. It’s weird to think about this now, but they once seemed like the coolest band on the face of the planet. Other than the odd reunion show, they’ve been on hiatus ever since releasing their Stereo Type A album in 1999. And now they’re back! The group will release the new album Hotel Valentine — apparently a concept LP about ghosts in love in a hotel — early next year, and they’ve already got a video for “MFN,” a collaboration with the beatboxing comedian Reggie Watts. Check out the hyperactive, colorful, Georgia-directed clip below.
In their nine-year existence, Salt Lake City’s Gaza produced three increasingly excellent albums of math-y, grind-y sludge: punishing, violent, very heavy music with deep grooves. Gaza called it quits earlier this year, but the band’s instrumental core — guitarist Michael Mason, drummer Casey Hansen, and bassist Anthony Lucero — stayed together. Those three formed a new band called Cult Leader, with Lucero moving to the role of frontman, and new member Sam Richards taking over on bass. Cult Leader’s debut LP, Nothing For Us Here, is due next April, but new label Deathwish Inc. has offered up a sample in the form of advance album track “Skin Crawler.” The titles reflect the sound: Cult Leader haven’t softened any of the edges they developed with Gaza. If anything, this is more intricate musically, but absolutely as abrasive and intense. I don’t know who produced this but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out it was Kurt Ballou; either way, fans of Ballou-affiliated bands like Converge, Nails, Trap Them, and, um, Gaza, will be fans of this one, too. Check it out.