PICKS OF THE MONTH
diskurso art magazine's
May 2021 Picks
Published June 2, 2021
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Rio Alma's Facebook essay post "Ang Sining at ang Agham sa Wikang Filipino"
(Posted: 18 May 2021, Facebook)
(Release date: 21 May 2021. Label: Geffen. Genres: pop)
SO here's what they've been writing about this debut studio album by that young American actress and singer-songwriter of Filipino-German-Irish descent named Olivia Rodrigo:
AllMusic: "Rodrigo wants to be taken seriously as a songwriter, and she should be -- her combination of sweet melodies and bitter moods, her conversational flow, and her self-awareness are all skills many songwriters twice her age would love to call their own, and they make Sour a well-rounded emotional journey and strong debut album."
DIY: "A youthful tour through heartbreak angst that only falters when it plays too safe."
thefortyfive.com: "Rodrigo is guaranteed global megastardom with the release of the best break-up album since Lorde's 'Melodrama'."
The Guardian: "A collection of polished, precociously accomplished pop that doubles as one of the most gratifyingly undignified breakup albums ever made."
The A.V. Club: "The beauty of SOUR is that Rodrigo isn’t trying too hard to convince young listeners she understands them; she achieves this naturally, because in all the ways that matter, she is still one of them."
The Observer: "Half wallow, half messy I-don’t-need-you self-care, Sour is the perfect first breakup soundtrack from a hugely promising new talent."
NME: "After 'Drivers License', pop's brightest new thing proves she's not just a flash-in-the-pan, but a multidimensional artist who's in it for the long haul."
Rolling Stone: "Whereas most artists build to their breakup album, carefully laying down the foundations of their future devastation, Rodrigo has already skipped ahead to her Tunnel of Love."
Evening Standard: "It’s all very overemotional, but so is being a teenager today. There’s no one better suited to tell their tales."
Entertainment Weekly: "Sour doesn't try to be 'the next' anyone; instead, Rodrigo distills her life and her listening habits into powerful, hooky pop that hints at an even brighter future."
The Telegraph: "The fierceness and focus of Rodrigo’s streamlined debut album, Sour, suggests that the 18-year-old is going to be a real threat behind the wheel."
Clash: "Potent in its execution, revealing in its lyricism, it’s a record that finds Olivia Rodrigo effortlessly claiming her status as pop’s newest icon, and one of its bravest voices."
The Line of Best Fit: "Olivia Rodrigo cements her success story on the explorative and heartbroken Sour."
Exclaim!: "Rodrigo has established her voice and showed listeners that she's not afraid to be vulnerable. SOUR is a strong debut that vividly illustrates the beautiful chaos of being inside a teenage girl's brain."
Pray for Haiti
(Release date: 21 May 2021. Label: Griselda. Genre: abstract hip hop)
EXCLAIM!: "Curated by Flygod's (producer Westside Gunn's) Midas touch, this album is already opening up (Mach-Hommy) to a broader audience of fans. On Pray for Haiti, he has successfully stayed true to his roots while offering unique yet less obtuse content. It's perfect strategy for a rapper who is benefiting from his concealed identity while shining bright for the underground and bringing a Creole flavour back to the game."
Spectrum Culture: "Pray for Haiti dazzles when Mach-Hommy’s motives are clear: his thirst for success for his Haitains on 'Blockchain' or dedication to his mother in 'Marie'. He brands himself not for rap splendor but to better solidify his game. He knows how good he is, he just has to let others find out. His mask, the actual one he sports in press photos, changes all the time. It’s not an attempt at iconography as much as it is a reclamation of his art. He inhabits the role of the storyteller. The mask thus is his character."
Bright Green Field
(Release date: 7 May 2021. Label: Warp Records. Genres: art punk, post-punk, experimental rock)
WE confess that "Narrator," the track in this album released earlier this year as a single, is our favorite. It's about a post-truth, anti-realist point of view and how this view acts as an efficient deliverer of that package containing nature's gifts of narcissism and sexism. You'd all have a trendy name from the present that you would love to pin onto this donkey, but we can assure you that "Narrator" is about all of those people in your respective minds, be they from the religious arena or the political world, leaders or merely members of a groupthink flock.
But here's what we can further assure you: there's actually no track from this debut album by Squid that we can call a lighter candidate for a thinking being's own top faves list, so you can pick your own pick and take pride in it. In the end, even as the songs here seem to compete with each other, they end up coagulating into one whole unit, like handshaking members of a party after one healthy debate.
Exclaim!: "Here, (Squid) embrace vulnerability, taking time to address modern issues (read: symptoms of capitalism), while also imbuing a real sense of fun, artistic merit and instrumental democracy in the record's 11 tracks."
Loud and Quiet: "An entirely dynamic free flow that manages to satisfy a disparate, yet tightly cohesive tracklist. Even to a point where the songs converse independently amongst themselves."
The Line of Best Fit: "Curious and capricious, Squid know how to grab your interest and to keep it, deftly remaining unsettling and reaching for the unexpected, and always leaving enough room to dance."
Gigwise: "On the surface it seems like organised chaos, but as you listen it reveals itself to be so much more."
Mojo: "There’s reassurance to be gleaned from that spirit of examination, and from the accompanying music’s audacity ... Their ambitious record is, in itself, an absolute tonic."
Allmusic: "Truly a band for the times, Squid feels like a wild jumble of thoughts come to life, effusing anger, confusion, humor, detachment, and even joyfulness in their pursuit of true creative freedom."
DIY: "Squid always seemed destined to have an epic album in them, and they’ve delivered just that."
Sputnikmusic: "Squid proves on their very first try that they have the cajones to make big changes to the way we think about music ... Bright Green Field is already an album rife with the qualities of a classic."
Beats Per Minute: "The innovative sonic mayhem of their music is both an acknowledgement of the despair of our existence – and a reminder that nobody is alone in feeling it."
Clash: "Succinct yet packed with stunning detail, it refuses to take the easy way out, and that stubbornness may see Squid outstrip their peers in a head-long race towards a re-engaged future."
(Release date: 7 May 2021. Label: Mexican Summer. Genres: art rock, alternative rock)
SPECTRUM Culture: "Adding yet more wrinkles to their ever-evolving sound, Denmark’s Iceage further solidify themselves as a shining light in rock’s post-imperial era."
Consequence of Sound: "Iceage’s desire and subsequent success in reinventing the wheel from album to album and track to track makes them some of music’s finest renegades — a status that Seek Shelter emphatically cements."
Pitchfork: "With production by Peter Kember and an added gospel choir, the Danish band’s fifth album completes their transformation from grim-faced nihilists to wearied soothsayers. . . . For many once-unruly rock ’n’ roll bands, the shift to writing love songs is a tell-tale sign of maturation (if not outright stagnation), but even at its most sophisticated, Seek Shelter retains Iceage’s restless spirit."
Loud and Quiet: "The boundaries of genre don’t really matter if the record holds up, and it does. Iceage may be seeking shelter, but they aren’t locking down."
Paste: "On Seek Shelter, Rønnenfelt is at his most abstract. Though he has a habit of evocative yet elusive lyricism, this LP feels more deliberately impressionistic than others. The songs are slippery and ephemeral, which ties in well with the record’s themes of formless discontent and the search for greater meaning. He scatters references to vague catastrophes, both large and small in scale, and in turn, illustrates what life is like when humanity’s darkest urges take over: Those with a moral compass are forced to cling to loved ones, the present moment and some higher purpose, while cynical evil-doers run rampant, poisoning the fabric of society. To live in these circumstances is to live in a haze, questioning what one is meant to deduce from a world so needlessly cruel."
NME: "A record that never sits still, an album of considerable polish and scope and by far the boldest thing the Danes have ever made . . ."
Under the Radar: "Seek Shelter is an album that surges irrepressibly from the outset and peaks at regular intervals over the course of its nine pieces. It represents Iceage’s most studied body of work to date."
The Line of Best Fit: "Iceage continue heading directly for the stars on the sprawling and powerful Seek Shelter."
Mojo: "At a time when you can’t see other people, let alone be in a sweaty room full of them, it’s a reminder of just how life-affirming music can be."
DIY: "A rollercoaster ride of diverse influences. . . . At the centre of it all is a thoughtful, almost earnest lyrical throughline from frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt - not something many of us ever expected to hear from the band who brought us ‘New Brigade’."
Seeking New Gods
(Release date: 21 May 2021. Label: Rough Trade. Genres: psychedelic pop, neo-psychedelia)
POPMATTERS: "Gruff Rhys' Seeking New Gods is another wonderfully adventurous, multifaceted, stirring, and all-around eternal collection from this psychedelic pop artist."
God Is in the TV: "Entering his fourth decade of penning gorgeous, idiosyncratic tunes sewn across the hearts of many, Rhys shows no sign of running out of the joyful creativity that makes his work so special."
The Irish Times: "Themes of intimacy and the personal fold in to create a compelling interplay between geology and humanity, memory and time."
Uncut: "For the first time in years, Rhys hasn’t restricted himself musically: here are nine songs that confidently mix Station To Station piano, Beach Boys harmonies, kosmische guitar and even free jazz."
Loud and Quiet: "The record never erupts into something truly unexpected, but it offers comfort in its golden melodies."
NME: "In ‘Seeking New Gods’, Gruff Rhys has yet again crafted another pop gem of an album. And while we hopelessly yearn for another Super Furries record in the not-too-distant future, their eccentric frontman continues to thrash out an impressive legacy of his own."
(Release date: 21 May 2021. Label: Merge, City Slang. Genre: chamber pop)
UNDER the Radar: "(Kurt Wagner) continues to mine a vein of mournful gentleness but can’t help but continue to chop and quarter as he goes, which only ups the interest in revisiting the album. Because it is always best when you paint with all the colors."
musicOMH: ". . . all slow texture, repurposed approaches and augmented familiarity."
PopMatters: "This would work better as background music than witnessed on stage as not much exciting happens. That's on purpose. This is music to chill with and ponder quietly."
Loud and Quiet: "A restless, dense, audacious and genuinely experimental record that, despite sounding not quite like anything (Lambchop) have made before, nonetheless retains their personality and wit . . ."
Pitchfork: "By emphasizing the pleasures of listening, Wagner invites you to savor the small, exquisite moments . . ."
Spectrum Culture: "It’s a perplexing record from a perplexing band, and a record that feels — all at once — scattershot, incomplete, and perfectly executed."
God Is in the TV: "It draws on the very best of the tradition it alludes to, while playfully subverting it. It’s rare to hear music at once so experimental and also so entirely pleasurable – fleeting moments rendered immortal."
Beats Per Minute: "He may not draw in many new fans from this one-act performance, but it’s still one of the band’s most intriguing and well-executed productions nonetheless."
The Observer: "An album whose title suggests razzmatazz but delivers Wagner’s customary laid-back profundity with well-placed digital embellishments."
Mojo: "It’s beautiful, meditative stuff . . ."
(Release date: 30 April 2021. Label: Warner Records. Genres: alternative dance, alternative rock)
MOJO: "Brighton heavy-rock duo winningly inject dancefloor euphoria."
ClashMusic.com: "It’s a ridiculous, and ridiculously enjoyable, treat, a sign that rock and dance don’t have to be at odds with one another. Taken as a whole, ‘Typhoons’ is a daring evolutionary gesture, one that finds Royal Blood claiming fresh ground for the future."
Kerrang!: "Royal Blood have made a record that so boldly, brilliantly and some might say defiantly has its shiniest dancing shoes on. . . . There’s the old Oscar Wilde line that we’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. Truly, so confident and perfectly measured are Royal Blood here that, while definitely focused on the stars, they sound like they never noticed the gutter was there in the first place. It’s rock ’n’ roll lit up by a disco ball, and has there ever been a time when we’ve needed that more?"
Northern Transmissions: "‘Typhoons’ is a celebration of Royal Blood pushing themselves artistically and of a man candidly and bravely documenting his recovery from the brink."
Gigwise: "Broody agitation is traded for contemplative themes without lowering the volume."
NME: "Album number three sees the Brighton rockers let in a little light and a new groove to help battle the demons."
Anything Can't Happen
(Release date: 7 May 2021. Label: Telephone Explosion. Genre: indie pop)
EXCLAIM!: "Try to image Joni Mitchell fronting Shellac at a coffee shop and you might get some idea of Anything Can't Happen's beautiful tension. . . . (Dorothea Paas) has said that her music explores themes of non-romantic love, and while her operatic delivery tends to highlight emotion over enunciation, Anything Can't Happen is peppered with these moments of startling melancholy."
Uncut: "Paas has crafted one of the most stirring and emotionally resonant break-up albums of recent years, a candid retelling of heartache that doesn’t weaponise pain but instead embraces such darkness as a necessary pairing with light."
God Is in the TV: "An essential release for anyone who likes to sit with their thoughts and feelings in the company of a caring musical companion."
Allmusic: "A daring balance of vulnerability and creative might, Anything Can't Happen is a striking debut."
floodmagazine.com: "Fans of cerebral indie pop will feel right at home here, with Paas’ voice serving as a comfortable guide through layered arrangements that are equal parts warm and uneasy."
Fat Pop (Volume 1)
(Release date: 14 May 2021. Label: Polydor Records. Genre: pop rock)
MOJO: "Fat Pop (Volume 1), conceived and written mid-Covid clampdown, suggests (Paul Weller’s) ability to write fizzing pop tunes, slinky soul anthems and weird dub-electronica hybridisations is inexhaustible."
Financial Times: "These tracks have an eager, zesty feel and explore the creative potential of brevity."
NME: "The icon's lockdown project, and his second great album in under a year, proves that he's as inspired and eclectic as ever."
The Arts Desk: "Fat Pop (Volume 1) sparks with neural stimulation you can almost see, like swinging the doors wide at dawn."
(Release date: 14 May 2021. Label: Paper Bag. Genre: modern classical)
UNCUT: "Yet however dense and turbulent these compositions become ... the clarity and febrile energy of (Sarah Neufeld's) violin provides a compelling focal point."
Louder Than War: "Her unique ability to elicit such innovative spiralling loops and delicately tumbling arpeggios from her violin is unrivalled."
Dork: "There are no limitations in ‘Detritus’. Sarah Neufeld proves that modern violin music is flexible and fully capable of introspection and aggravation alike."
Exclaim!: "Detritus presents a heady progression of Neufeld's work, and finds her exquisitely spirited and expressive minimalism fitting nicely into new creative spaces."
(Release date: 21 May 2021. Label: Matador. Genre: Tishoumaren, blues rock, psychedelic rock)
CRACK Magazine: "Remaining as focused as ever on the issues blighting his homeland, Afrique Victime elevates and reshapes one of the (African) continent’s most exciting genres."
The Arts Desk: "The new album remains true to a style that was pioneered by Tinariwen over 40 years ago, although the sound is a little more sophisticated than on Ilana."
Exclaim!: "Afrique Victime is a decidedly Tuareg expression, furthering the distinction that Mdou Moctar holds as one of the most exciting, innovative and provocative artists to emerge from the area."
Rolling Stone: "There’s no real sense of worry or anxiety in the love songs, and Moctar’s calls for unity are set to a loose soundtrack of unpredictable guitar. This is how free rock & roll should sound."
Spectrum Culture: "At long last capturing on wax the full range of his talent, Mdou Moctar crafts the first great guitar album of the ‘20s with this urgent, incandescent roar of desert rock."
Uncut: "An exhilarating band set that mixes electric and acoustic instrumentation, it’s at once fiercely modern and as ancient as the Niger river."
The Line of Best Fit: "Mdou Moctar’s energy for revolution is full force experience, as exhilarating as it is inspiring, and it is made more powerful by his sincere love and understanding of the Tuareg tradition."
(Release date: 14 May 2021. Label: Loma Vista Recordings. Genre: psychedelic soul, art rock)
THE Independent: "It sounds – for the first time in a decade – like (Annie Erin Clark, aka St. Vincent) has slipped out of her high heels and found an equal strength in this barefooted soul."
Uncut: "Yes she’s still arch and meta and provocative, still complex and mischievous and ambitious. But on this record, Annie Clark seems to stand just a little closer."
DIY: "On all fronts, with ‘Daddy’s Home’, St Vincent has delivered spectacularly."
PopMatters: "A shining, spectacular addition to her discography, one you had no idea you needed, in many ways a return to her old, Marry Me/Actor era sound with all the aural benefits of being post-Masseduction. This is St. Vincent in the '20s and she is glorious."
Mojo: "It's masterful stuff: a full conceptual realisation, filled with great melodies, deep grooves, colourful characterisations and sonic detail that reveals itself over repeated plays ... Even if its heart is in the '70s, Daddy's Home is a keeper for the decades to come."
The Needle Drop: "The strongest St. Vincent album since Strange Mercy."
The Observer: "Channelling '70s New York funk and her father’s release from prison, the ever brilliant Annie Clark loosens up on her engagingly soulful sixth album."
The Guardian: "It’s all hugely impressive and striking, the familiar made subtly unfamiliar, Clark’s famously incendiary guitar playing spinning off at unexpected and occasionally atonal tangents, its effect simultaneously heady and disturbing."
The Line of Best Fit: "Forget everything you thought you knew about St. Vincent, because this is Annie Clark 2.0, beamed in from an alternate reality, ready to blow your mind. Daddy’s home, and she’s sounding better than ever."
Rolling Stone: "Annie Clark recorded her latest wth superproducer Jack Antonoff, arriving at a mutant strain of retro pop steeped in New York lore and evoking anything from Lou Reed to Sheena Easton."
Exclaim!: ". . . if what we expect from our artists is art — uncompromising, singular, sometimes clumsy and rife with feelings or stories both understandable and not — then few comprehend the exchange quite like St. Vincent."
Gigwise: "Dishing out an evocative explosion of crooning melodies, abstract coolness and an ardent passion for motifs from a seedy metropolis, St Vincent succeeds in her exquisite vision."
(Release date: 7 May 2021. Label: Fueled by Ramen. Genres: indie pop, indie rock, bedroom pop)
CLASH: "It is unmistakable that this album has been crafted with the consideration of Chloe Moriondo’s distinctive humour making the album an exceedingly fun listen. . . . A 13-track evocative portrait of emotional exuberance, ‘Blood Bunny’ is her true point of departure."
The New York Times: "On the robust and vividly plain-spoken 'Blood Bunny,' Moriondo, now 18, is a pop-punk whiz, deftly hopping between musical approaches from spare to lushly produced, and emphasizing intimate, cut-to-the-bone lyrics."
NME: "Whether channelling her larger-than-life musical heroes or shrouding her music in something more subtle, Moriondo's lyricism shines through."
The Observer: "There is much to distinguish Moriondo, whose sense of mischief is as strong as her pop-punk desire to tell it like it is."
Build a Problem
(Release date: 7 May 2021. Label: doddleoddle. Genre: indie pop, folk-pop)
THE Line of Best Fit: "Build A Problem indeed finds dodie at her most open and fully realised, building an inward world of startling beauty for longtime fans and newcomers alike to explore."
Dork: "Seeking to lighten the burdens of everyday life, dodie’s affecting style across ‘Build A Problem’ is a salve to soothe widespread worries."
DIY: "The folk-inspired artist scatters light and hope through stirring strings and candid songwriting, making even the gloomiest of her thoughts both accessible and relatable."
AllMusic: "The minimalism of Dodie's songs gracefully juxtaposes their sophistication, helping to illuminate the many revelatory pop moments that can be heard throughout Build a Problem."
Evening Standard: "The darkness and maturity on display here is surprisingly powerful."
And Tomorrow the Entire World
(Streaming release: 6 May 2021, Netflix)
WHAT comes out here is a demonstration by screenwriters Julia Von Heinz and John Quester of how a cinematic work can propel itself into becoming a comprehensive personal essay on a subject matter. In this film's theme's case, the amount of subtlety and intelligence needed for engaging with that very theme as a complex and dynamic problematic is made loudly obvious by the many questions that each and every proposed action or advocacy or neutral position produces in the film's audience.
Now, the story here may be focused solely on a small part of Germany grappling with the immigration problem, but we all know that in our current world of climatic changes (political climate as well as environmental climate changes) the issue of migration will increasingly be at the front and center of each of our lives. Tomorrow . . . this film will be all about the entire world and this "problem."
Todd McCarthy in Deadline Hollywood: "The sheer energy and sense of mission in this breathlessly-paced, intimate drama will pull audiences right along with it."
Kathleen Sachs in the Chicago Reader: "Heinz's subtle direction employs realistic widescreen compositions that envelop both Luisa's world and her inner conflict."
Xan Brooks in The Guardian: "Proceeding along its stealthy course, Von Heinz's tense, well-textured film treads a chilly, liminal country."
Guy Lodge in Variety: "The filmmaking is muscular and immersive, with athletic camerawork (aided by Daniela Knapp's cinematography) and ringing sound design (by Bettina Bertok) keeping us in the stressed headspace of its young protagonist (Luisa, played by Mala Emde) throughout."
Stephen Saito on moveablefest.com: "This provocative drama opens up a powder keg."
Frank J. Avella on Awards Daily: "And Tomorrow the Entire World is a timely look at an Antifa commune swiftly directed by Julia von Heinz, with excellent performances from its young cast."
Kaleem Aftab in cineuropa.org: "The movie is full of wry and cutting observations about the resistance movement and the organisation of activism."
Wendy Ide in Screen International: "A political thriller charged with anger and sexual tension, this is as timely as it is bracingly entertaining."
Meel Patthar (Milestone)
(Streaming release: 7 May 2021, Netflix)
BARADWAJ Rangan in Film Companion: "This moving tale of a trucker (named Ghalib) paints a portrait of an ecosystem where everything and everyone appears to be a metaphor for disuse, neglect, ageing."
Saibal Chatterjee of NDTV: "This sublimely multi-layered film embraces the personal struggles of its characters with as much passion as it portrays the manifestations of the social inequities that are an intrinsic part of their existence."
Stutee Ghosh of The Quint: "A cinematic milestone, Ivan Ayr’s Meel Patthar is a moving portrait of a man lacerated by the truth of life."
Anupama Chopra of Film Companion: "Using long takes and muted grey-blue tones, director Ivan Ayr constructs a film that accrues power with each scene. . . . Ivan and his co-writer Neel Mani Kant expertly weave subversion and critique into the fabric of Ghalib (Suvinder Vicky). They insist that we immerse ourselves in this joyless world and consider the cost of capitalist enterprise and the callousness with which those with power and money treat those without it. But there is no belligerence in their argument – it’s more like a lament for a world in which, as (the character Dilbaug) says, people have stopped listening."
Namratha Joshi of The Wire (India): "The Indian film, which premiered at the Venice film festival, offers a brooding look at lives constantly on the move, yet always paused. . . . Meel Patthar focuses on the travails of the working class in an industry that literally drives the economy but has rarely sparked the imagination of filmmakers for a gritty exploration."
Rohan Naahar in Hindustan Times: "Meel Patthar, at just 97 minutes long, captures the mood of an entire nation - all the conflict, the fear, and the paranoia."
The Million Masks of God
(Release date: 30 May 2021. Label: Loma Vista. Genres: indie rock, folk rock)
CONSEQUENCE of Sound: "It’s not only Manchester Orchestra’s crowning achievement but also one of the finest amalgamations of indie rock/Americana/indie folk in years."
Northern Transmissions: "Raw, emotional and confessional: ‘The Million Masks of God’ has stayed true to its manifesto."
NME: "Though their sixth album reckons with death and afterlife, musically it finds the Atlanta quartet at their most assured."
Dork: "They’re managing to consistently raise the bar, and this time is no different; the bar is now stratospheric. If you squint, you may just about see it."