“My Woman” sees Angel Olsen return with an even more emboldened sound than before. Whereas her last album “Burn Your Fire For No Witness” hypnotizes and entrances the listener, “My Woman” wakes them up and invigorates. This is partly because of cleaner production but also due to how emotive Olsen is, even without the lyrical weight backing each song. Her fiery and attitude filled vocal delivery on “Shut Up Kiss Me,” the solemn piano on the closer “Pops” and the climatic build on “Sister” all exude unadulterated feelings.
The album might have benefitted from a slightly varied track order. The in your face energy was featured heavily on the first half where the second half had the more elongated and somber cuts. Having these more interlaced throughout the whole album would have improved the flow for me personally, but the clear emotional divide is interesting from a thematic angle. Although I think the progression of the album could have been improved that does not take away the strength of each of the songs on the album, which are some of the finest of the year. – Thomas Coogan
Recommended if you like: Sharon Van Etten, Cass McCombs, Fiona Apple
Listen to: “Sister”
Bon Iver has taken inspiration from his recent collaborations with James Blake and Kanye West and applied their respective sonic techniques onto his folk songwriting structure. The album is bustling with samples alongside weird and disjointed electronic elements that lead to songs as disjointed as the samples, which often end suddenly and then abruptly transition into the next song. This will, and has off-put fans and casual listeners alike but, however jumbled the elements of each song may be they often result in an enjoyable listen.
I’m sure if you squint hard enough there are unifying elements sewn throughout the album but, like the album art, I am enjoying the irrational and sporadic nature of it enough where finding a deeper meaning to it all doesn’t seem necessary. The album has slightly fallen victim to the swirling hype around it and although it’s not a masterpiece, it’s very commendable how much Vernon changed his sound all while making it sound like a very natural evolution to his previous work. – Thomas Coogan
Recommended if you like: James Blake, Burial, Kanye West
Listen to: “22 (OVER S∞∞N)”
On his fourth studio album and debut on Warp Records, Danny Brown pushes his already individual sound into further progressive directions. For the most part, Brown abandons the EDM of “Old” in favor of production from every angle of the experimental spectrum. Brown flows over beats ranging from the spacious and off-kilter instrumentation on the opener “Downward Spiral” to the claustrophobic chaos of “Ain’t It Funny” as well as the Wu-Tang-esc “Lost.” Each track is able to pull off a level of uniqueness without ever having to sacrifice the overall cohesion of the album.
Lyrically, Brown describes this album as a continuation of “XXX” that finds him in the same schizophrenic drug-induced downward spiral that was the cliffhanger of “XXX.” Whereas “XXX” was very clearly split between Side A and Side B thematically, “Atrocity Exhibition” finds a balance between his introspection and braggadocio throughout the project. With the exception of the posse-cut “Really Doe” which features Ab-Soul, Kendrick Lamar, and Earl Sweatshirt, Brown handles verse duty on every other track, which deepens how personal a feeling you get from this record. Danny Brown is at his best on his vicious new offering. –Thomas Coogan
Recommended if you like: Gravediggaz, Schoolboy Q, Flatbush Zombies
Listen to: “When It Rain”
In the Spring of 2013, Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) were repeatedly teasing the signing of a new artist to their notoriously exclusive label. At the time, the label only housed four artists, all of whom were (and still are) huge names in the modern hip-hop world. When TDE announced the signing of 22-year-old Isaiah Rashad, a name unfamiliar to most, expectations were set high.
Three years later, Isaiah has finally released his debut studio album with TDE, “The Sun’s Tirade” and he’s fully delivered on those expectations. Despite pulling from a wide range of influences, Isaiah has created a sound in hip-hop that is uniquely his. Some of his songs have been classified as “lazy-bangers”, which although accurate, does discredit Rashad’s abilities. Everything on “The Sun’s Tirade” is so smooth and easy-going that you almost forget how intricately made the album actually is. Despite the album lacking a thematic throughline, it manages to create an atmosphere that is sometimes amusing, sometimes depressing, but always fascinating. His songwriting efforts far surpass those on his previous mixtape, Cilvia Demo by often forgoing the traditional verse-chorus-verse structure that was on that previous work. His music creates the perfect atmosphere for a late-night party with friends, and a night alone in bed. Whether it’s the catchy beat/flow combination of “Titty and Dolla” or the more aggressive “AA”, Isaiah has proved he’s a master of mood and ambience. With The Sun’s Tirade, I believe that Isaiah Rashad has cemented his place as one of the great young artists in hip-hop. – David Scheckel
Recommended if you like: Joey Bada$$, Kendrick Lamar, Noname
Listen to: “Wat’s Wrong”
Jenny Hval goes deeper into the realm of electronic music with a new album that balances pop with abstract experimentation. Hval has always been irregular but “Blood Bitch” comes off as otherworldly. Older songs of hers like “That Battle is Over” or “I Got No Strings” were odd but felt grounded. Here, her songs feel supernatural. The airy synths and muted drums create a floating sensation which, combined with the lyrics, create the album’s darkly ethereal ambiance. All of this makes “Blood Bitch” a harder album to digest than the rest of her discography but I don’t think long time fans will be disappointed. – Thomas Coogan
Recommended if you like: Susanna, Circuit Des Yeux, Julianna Barwick
Listen to: “Conceptual Romance”
There has always been darkness in Nick Cave’s music but “Skeleton Tree” is purely crushing, especially given the context. It does not simply fixate on death itself but rather how it affects your life afterward. Whether it be a change in philosophy seen in “Girl in Amber” with “I used to think that when you died you kind of wandered the world/In a slumber til your crumble were absorbed into the earth/Well, I don’t think that any more the phone it rings no more” or simply by trying to keep your composure while in the supermarket, Cave paints a self-portrait of devastation, desperation, and contemplation. The last line of “I Need You” shows the different components of grief as the wretched and repeated utterance of “Just breathe” can be seen as a hopeless plea to his son or Cave reminding himself to breathe.
The minimal instrumentation of the Bad Seeds’ last album “Push the Sky Away” returns and feels more fitting as it matches the emotional core of “Skeleton Tree” and gives it room to grow. The obvious and frequently made comparison of this album is with Bowie’s “Blackstar.” Music being sad and about death isn’t exactly new but the context of each increases the potency and they end up complimenting each other as mortality is dissected pre and post one’s passing. Stanzas like “They told us our Gods would outlive us/They told us our dreams would outlive us/ They told us our Gods would outlive us/But they lied” make this a harrowing listen for anyone but is phenomenal nonetheless and will stand amongst Cave’s best work. –Thomas Coogan
Recommended if you like: Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, The Cure
Listen to: “Distant Sky”
Nicolas Jaar has kept himself busy since the release of his debut studio album “Space is Only Noise” in 2011. He’s released a collaborative album with Dave Harrington under the name Darkside, a series of “Nymphs” EP’s, an unofficial score of “The Color of Pomegranates” and an official score for last year’s Palme d’Or winner “Dheepan,” as well as various remixes of artists such as Grizzly Bear, Brian Eno and Cat Power. Now he’s finally released a proper follow to his debut and he improves his style on every level.
The slow-burning opener “Killing Time” which clocks in at just over eleven minutes is deserving of each second as the track continually alters its style, effects and dynamics creating some of the most gorgeous soundscapes of the year. The energy picks up dramatically on “The Governor” which begins with lone vocals from Jaar and then progresses into a jazzy fury of horns, piano, and percussion. The song “No” is his best representation of his Chilean roots so far in terms of the Latin groove as well as the lyrics referencing the Chilean political movement against Pinochet of the same name. The whole album is a summation of where Jaar comes from and where he plans to go and it’s a beautiful combination. Sirens is his best work yet and a serious contender for album of the year. –Thomas Coogan
Recommended if you like: Badbadnotgood, DJ Koze, Andy Stott
Listen to: “The Governor”
Preoccupations FKA Viet Cong (who were essentially FKA Women) have changed a lot more than their name on their latest album. While still definitely a post-punk band, Preoccupations’ new sound has distanced them from their contemporaries and their influences more so than any album of any their iterations thus far. The addition of droning synths has changed not only the song structure but also the general tone of the project adding a more experimental and gothic flair. They capture the dreary atmosphere of “Public Strain” but replace the brittle sound with the strong backbone and energy of “Viet Cong.” By integrating features of their previous projects they were able to create something that feels more unprecedented than what they’ve done before. The new identity may have given them more artistic leeway to experiment than if they were doing another album as Viet Cong, which, in my opinion, turned out heavily in their favor. It is as bleak as it is thrilling and tracks like “Anxiety” and “Fever” show what the band is capable of and where they might take their sound in the future. – Thomas Coogan
Recommended if you like: Protomartyr, Girl Band, Parquet Courts
Listen to: “Fever”
On first listen this album was pretty off-putting. I enjoyed the individual aspects of the tracks but I didn’t think different components fit one another well. The raspy vocals seemed too bizarre over the jangle pop instrumental. However, after a few listens something clicked and the strange blend of sounds really works. If the singing were any cleaner then the songs would sound too pristine. The clash of textures is what really makes this band stand out in a genre that often feels monotonous. What also makes “super low” so distinct is how catchy every song is, in both the verses and the choruses. However dirty they may be, the pop moments are extremely well written and shine through on this release.– Thomas Coogan
Recommended if you like: Downtown Boys, The Feelies, Ought
Listen to: “super low”
Be sure to check out our Best of September Spotify playlist which features all of these artists and many more!