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."