PICKS OF THE MONTH
diskurso art magazine's
June 2021 Picks
Published July 6, 2021
A Facebook post by poet Kristine Ong Muslim, a blog on policefilestonite.net, a review in Rappler by Emil Hofileña, a discussion by the Another Green World Gang (Josel Nicolas, Apol Sta. Maria and Adam David) in their Facebook Watch video titled Special Dispatch || Netflix's Trese Afterthoughts, and diskurso art magazine's 2 centavos' worth on the subject being discussed: Trese
(Posted 14 June 2021, Facebook Watch)
TO read/watch the abovementioned critical takes, click here.
(Release date: 18 June 2021. Label: MBK Entertainment. Genre: R&B)
MEANWHILE, here's what they've been writing about the debut studio album, titled Back of My Mind, by that already Grammy-winning singer-songwriter-guitarist of Filipino-African descent named Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson, aka H.E.R.:
NME: "The 23-year-old's first album proper is by turns soulful, political, romantic and sometimes just plain fun. No wonder she's having such a moment."
Clash: "In its length and scope, there’s a feeling here of witnessing H.E.R. in 360 – panoramic R&B that more than justifies the wait, a sumptuous, multi-faceted jewel that seems to reveal fresh colour with each play."
vinylchapters.com: "This release is defined by its poignant humanity and realism, undercutting the haunting and ethereal production that defines H.E.R.'s sound so well."
(Release date: 28 May 2021. Label: Polyvinyl, Lucky Number. Genres: indie rock, dream pop)
PITCHFORK: "(This) collaborative album by (Filipino-American singer-songwriter Melina Duterte, aka Jay Som) and Palehound’s Ellen Kempner tells compelling and rarely heard stories . . ."
Beats Per Minute: "Though Doomin’ Sun’s forbearing title tells us one thing, these songs at least compel you to undergo the worst thrown at you in the most comfortable of places. This album embraces you like your favorite seat, preserving your outline intimately in its fabric."
Exclaim!: "Duterte and Kempner manage (as Bachelor) to break the mould with Doomin' Sun, proving their chops as singular visionaries as well as synergetic collaborators."
The Line of Best Fit: "Their music touches on not just love and lust, but pain and psychedelia, an innate need to adore and adulate, right up to the edge of destruction."
Loud and Quiet: "Doomin’ Sun is many things at once: a deep-dive into queerness, an exercise in vulnerability and the product of an effortless, working relationship where laughing is just as important as focus."
(Premiere date: 4 June 2021, Netflix)
WHAT a fluke it was that Hulu got interested in 2018 in an adaptation of the 2009-launched limited series American comic book Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire. That project would not advance, however, as we learned; but in April 2020, at the grave onset of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, executive producers Team Downey and production company Warner Brothers moved the thing to Netflix where it would finally see the green light.
A fluke, we said, because it wasn’t as if the production companies involved in 2018 knew that a pandemic was about to occur in 2019-2021, the comics story being a parable about just such a thing.
Anyway, last June 4, the entire first season of Sweet Tooth came to our Netflix-subscribing screens. And, although ten days later another comic book series-derived fantasy drama, the animated Filipino tv series Trese, would be launched on the same platform, what makes Sweet Tooth different is its practical function as a parable, strengthened as such by the writers' bent towards better fitting the story into current concerns both biological and political/social.
Which cannot be said about Trese, being a fantasy drama that one would be hard pressed to read as an allegory of current paradigms. Unless, of course, it is read as a perfect right-leaning superhero oeuvre sympathetic to Fox News’ ideals of female beauty and a rightist philosophy concerning the police’s humanity and eagerness to self-fix, which reading, however, we doubt the comics’ author would be happy with. In short, it doesn’t achieve what a parable would relatively readily do as a closed text. When a duwende in Trese reveals a weakness for Choc Nut, for example, what could that mean? When Gus in Sweet Tooth displays unabashed delight at the act of shoving gummies into his mouth, the context is not so hard to squeeze from the candy of juvenile sweetness.
We also think Sweet Tooth widened its span towards an audience of different tastes (and different pandemic-coping systems) when Lemire and series developer Jim Mickle decided to lighten the narrative up a bit, despite its already dark allusions, incorporating a bunch of that cuteness that we mentioned and humour as well into the series atmosphere of unending militarism and fatal social paranoia and panic.
Anyway, here’s what some critics wrote:
Kylie Cheung in salon.com: "Sweet Tooth is especially compelling as many of us move toward some form of post-pandemic normalcy, raising questions about what new world awaits us after such tremendous, collective loss."
John Doyle in The Globe and Mail: "Sweet Tooth feels awfully familiar at first, and then goes places that surprise and delight."
Euan Ferguson in The Observer: "My heart had sunk: not another dystopia/fantasy/gothic kids' tale gussied up to con adults into watching two-and-a-bit episodes? But it's really rather lovely."
Robert Levin in Newsday: “Packages real-world terrors in a fashion that at once confronts them honestly and contextualizes them in a way that's friendly for young teen viewers.”
Sherin Nicole in idobi.com: "Brilliant. You're horrified but you're also giddy because this fable mixed with a thriller is so well done."
(Premiere date: 17June 2021, Netflix)
THIS Icelandic mystery drama series, created and directed by Baltasar Kormákur and Sigurjón Kjartansson through the script written by Kormákur, Kjartansson, Davíð Már Stefánsson and Lilja Sigurðardóttir, is another parable touching on various morals after an appropriation of the changeling idea in folklore.
Now, of course, the changeling idea is often understood in our time as referring to something sinister. One belief is one on the changeling as an elderly fairy who would want to live in comfort under human parents.
Meanwhile, reasons for the existence of this myth have been given. One is of it as an alibi by parents who would want to get rid of children they can't raise (a kind of mythmaking for infanticide, therefore). Another is for religiously rationalizing a wife's strangeness that needs to be "exorcised" so that the true wife can be made to "return".
In Katla, however, the changeling concept, however it's made to appear as alien-driven (panspermia), is appropriated by the series for the purpose of liberating ruined lives (never mind that an old couple has to be sacrificed in the process of mending a younger couple's tragically hopeless status).
Change the Ref's project The Lost Class
(Launch date: 23 June 2021)
CHANGE the Ref's notes on YouTube accompanying the above embedded videos read:
"This year, 3,044 students won’t get the chance to graduate because they were killed by a gun. It’s time we pass universal background checks, so we can protect our students and make sure more of them make it to their graduation day. By donating to Change the Ref, you’re helping in the fight against the gun violence epidemic. Change the Ref uses the funds raised to keep applying pressure to our politicians and policymakers through creativity, creating more campaigns like The Lost Class. Together, we can change the perception of guns in America and inspire change that will keep the futures of our students safe from guns."
(Release date: 11 June 2021. Label: Atlantic. Genres: electropop, dance-pop)
THEFORTYFIVE.COM: "Her fifth album, ‘Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land’, reasserts some of the wide-eyed delight of early Marina: the British artist who gushed onto the scene in 2010 replete with diamonds and a glistening soprano."
Gigwise: "There are few stars like MARINA who find the balance between being unfiltered in their politics while also creating top-tier, intricate pop music."
The Line of Best Fit: "The result reads more like a follow-up to the personal Froot (2015) than it does the collaborative Love + Fear, and finds MARINA emboldening her trademark theatrical glam with sharper edges."
NME: "She was always too interesting to fit into a cookie-cutter hitmaker mould, and here Marina Diamandis settles nicely into her own idiosyncratic groove."
The Arts Desk: "She has clearly rediscovered her muse, resulting in this outrageously enjoyable album."
Clash: "A 10-track wonder that is a more mature and eclectic take on her gloriously femme and thundering electro-pop."
(Release date: 28 May 2021. Label: Regents Park Songs. Genres: neo-soul)
EXCLAIM!: "When Smoke Rises is a succinct and well-crafted album that serves to tell the story of Mustafa's pain, grief and loss in a way that honours his unique voice."
Evening Standard: "It’s very sad, and very beautiful, a fitting tribute to the many departed."
Rolling Stone: "Mustafa’s choice to sing of hood tragedy in folk music is effective, not only because it is beautiful and stirring, but because it feels unexpected."
Social sculpture, experiential marketing project
Heineken's Zer0.0 Contact Bar experiential marketing project
(Launched 19 June 2021 through IPG and Momentum Worldwide Australia, Sydney, Australia)
(Release date: 11 June 2021. Label: Verve. Genres: afrobeats)
POPMATTERS: "There’s no time for subtlety. In the title track, (Angelique Kidjo) describes nature’s warnings as being 'a time bomb set on a lost countdown', and it’s only in coming together across nations and generations that she sees any road to progress. With Yémi Alade, she asserts her 'Dignity', the two refusing to give in to disrespect – a statement particularly sobering given recent movements against police corruption and violence in both the United States and Nigeria – ending with the addition of wailing saxophones and a luscious buildup of synths."
(Release date: 18 June 2021. Label: Nuclear Blast. Genre: industrial metal)
KERRANG!: "This incarnation of Fear Factory is bowing out with a tense, aggressive and satisfying final act."
Classic Rock: "Aggression Continuum sounds as it should, like the next last word in extreme metal futurism, with guitarist and driving force Dino Cazares serving up countless new variations on his still unique robot-riff formula."
(Release date: 28 May 2021. Label: Island. Genres: indie pop, alternative R&B)
CLASH: "A refreshing and natural exposition of their musical buoyancy, ‘life’s a beach’ is the perfect summation of easy life’s outsider charms."
DIY: "While the sun-drenched wonky-pop hits remain, ‘Life’s A Beach’’s lasting impact is its confrontation of depression and self-doubt."
NME: "The Leicester band ruminate on modern living and mental health with sincerity and breezy wit."
(Release date: 11 June 2021. Label: Fantasy. Genres: country rock)
ALLMUSIC: "A Few Stars Apart opens with 'We'll Be Alright', a moment of reassuring stillness that acts as a comfort and a keynote for the fourth major-label album from Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real. The consoling words of 'We'll Be Alright' certainly speak to the uncertainty that ran rampant during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time where Nelson found himself quarantined with family. A period of reflection resulted in most of the songs on A Few Stars Apart, while the album itself was recorded in Nashville with producer Dave Cobb. The contrast between the music's introspective origins and its full-blooded realization is what fuels A Few Stars Apart, which feels lean and purposeful in a way Turn Off the News, Build a Garden and its accompanying Naked Garden did not."
PopMatters: "A Few Stars Apart is the new album from Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real. It’s the result of Nelson being with his family in Texas during the pandemic, and the band’s response to finding a connection with people during a time when everyone was isolated. It was recorded live on eight-track tape over three days in Nashville and produced by Dave Cobb. Of his time with his family, Nelson said, 'As terrible as the pandemic has been in so many ways, for my inner peace, I was able to take a lot of good from this time. I was able to pause and reflect.' That time for reflection helped Nelson and the band produce a good album full of contemplation."
(Release date: 4 June 2021. Label: Chrysalis. Genres: pop rock, indie rock)
POPMATTERS: "On Soberish, Liz Phair pens a collection of tunes that marry her candid musings with polished, accomplished California rock sounds."
The Line of Best Fit: "A cohesive record, on Soberish Phair sounds polished, clean and equipped with a new arsenal of songs about breakups, addiction and small glimpses into her inner workings."
Uncut: "Whether she's singing about her pussy or the view of Lake Michigan from her penthouse apartment, Phair always sounds like she's having fun flipping off every last hater."
Pitchfork: "The alt-rock icon returns with tasteful, timeless rock arrangements on a record about friendship, sobriety, and the love she’d like to receive."
AllMusic: "The appealing thing about Soberish is how it holds two thoughts (and sounds) simultaneously, a record that revives the spirit of Phair's earliest albums while casually leaning into her middle age."
Under the Radar: "Soberish may leave certain critics and listeners feeling dissatisfied, perhaps longing for the old days, but Phair has persevered long enough to hold her own, coming fully equipped with the inimitable songwriting expertise, sardonic wit, and aching soul that made her so relatable to begin with."
Rolling Stone: "Soberish, her first album in 11 years, brings to mind the glory of (Exile in Guyville) and its 1994 follow-up, Whip-Smart, without feeling at all like self-conscious recapitulation."
Albumism.com: "Well worth the extended wait, Soberish represents the work of an accomplished, confident artist at peace with her place in the world, free to craft the songs she alone wishes to make."
(Release date: 4 June 2021. Label: Dirty Hit. Genres: alternative rock, dream pop)
IT opens with a song on a divided populace, and it's a bunch of songs yet before it reaches our favorite, "The Last Man on Earth," about the Donald Trumps of the planet. But here are what others have to say about the new Wolf Alice collection:
Dork: "‘Blue Weekend’ is a triumph. In the context of the world around it, though, it feels even more than that. It’s special."
The Guardian: "On their third and best album, the London four-piece embrace a more polished, widescreen sound that serves their sharp writing . . ."
thefortyfive.com: "‘Blue Weekend’ is a ballsy idyll of feeling: the sound of a band satisfying themselves rather than proving themselves, and completely filling the space they’ve carved out over the years."
upsetmagazine.com: "‘Blue Weekend’ is masterful. Noticeably simpler in sound than was perhaps expected, some songs are stripped right back to the barest of bones. But that’s fine, because when you have moments of pure beauty like this, you don’t need fancy clothes to cover them."
DIY: "A history book-cementing document of the band at the peak of their powers."
NME: "The Londoners cement their place at the peak of British music with a stunningly good third album."
(Release date: 2 June 2021. Label: Wrong Speed. Genre: noise rock)
MUSICOMH: "The album closes with the double thump of 'US is A' and 'Worms'. The latter’s melange of discordant riffage and muddy vocals is far from a soothing way to sign off. While the former hammers its way into your grey matter with shrill, escalating riffs and an uncurbed vocal attack. . . . All-in-all, Drool is a collection of brilliantly horrible noise."
Louder Than War: "A track like 'One In The Eye' emphasises (Part Chimp's) strengths; Cedar and his band of apes take a big, fat riff and play it until their fingers bleed. A punishing sludge-fest worthy of the ever-mighty Melvins. Drool is undoubtedly an album that will translate particularly well when played live; it’s there that this barrage of disgustingly heavy riffs will ultimately hit the hardest. Just take the sneering brilliance of the album’s title track and its endlessly propulsive riff. Close your eyes and you can just about picture a room full of noise-rock aficionados nodding along in time."
The Guardian: "The South London band’s taste for sonic extremism remains undimmed on their nonetheless nuanced fifth album."
Where Shall We Begin
(Release date: 11 June 2021. Label: Chloe Foy Music. Genre: indie folk)
CLASH: "Across her debut, Chloe Foy makes clear the importance of authenticity when creating folk music: every song is the result of her experience, and it’s clear that the record could not have been created in any other circumstance, by anyone else. The warmth that permeates every second of its playtime, felt most strongly in ‘Work Of Art’, comes primarily from Chloe’s song writing, though the pastoral production is also key to this."
musicOMH: "'Evangeline' is just gorgeous, a steadily-building ballad embroidered with an organ and string section. 'Asylum' is another highlight, with a Gaelic folk influence, while 'Deserve' sees Foy take a swerve into more ‘indie’ territory, bringing to mind the likes of Sharon Van Etten or early Marika Hackman."
The Line of Best Fit: "(It's) a charming body of work, detailing all the hardships Foy had to go through to get to this point - capturing a whirlwind of sentiments within ten tracks."
Beats Per Minute: "Foy co-produced alongside her musical collaborator Harry Fausing Smith, and recording in Pinhole Studios in Manchester, the duo capture a sumptuous yet homely sound. The acoustic guitar arrangements are bolstered and given emotive regalness thanks to welcome string accompaniments. These tracks would stand up on their own in a bare form (just watch any of Foy’s solo performances for proof), but like Laura Marling and her longtime collaborator Ethan Johns, the additional instrumentation only helps to accentuate the tone and feel of the songs here. Strings elevate the highs and understated percussion drives the momentum, all weaving between Foy’s guitar and soothingly charming voice."
Gigwise: "The songs manifest in your emotions and deeply manipulate them until you're questioning your entire life, a true example of music made to have power."
One Foot in Front of the Other
(Release date: 18 June 2021. Label: Warner. Genre: pop)
NME: "The Hertfordshire musician enters her golden period with a flawless debut mixtape."
The Line of Best Fit: "Pop in its purest and most euphoric form."
The Observer: "The Brits' show-stealing 20-year-old has earworms and wise words to burn on this tantalising mini-album."
(Release date: 28 May 2021. Label: Kranky. Genres: ambient music, drone music)
EXCLAIM!: "Over his 22-year career, Scott Morgan (a.k.a. Loscil) has crafted music based on various conceptual muses, be it visual and musical (as with the photographs of clouds and piano samples on 2019's Equivalents) or even existential (life's resistance to dark forces on 2016's Monument Builders). Clara, his 13th LP — and first after a two-year excursion that consisted of him taking on audio-visual projects — finds the Canadian artist undergoing his most regulated confines yet."
musicOMH: "Elegiac, poignant, ponderous: Clara inhabits these emotions for its 70-minute duration, an immersive experience drawn from a limited sample source for maximum sonic coherency."
PopMatters: "His ambient modus operandi is to take the source material and break it down to its most basic essences, then build foundations and colorfully paint with supple sound-beds from there. On Clara, so it goes, he took a three-minute composition performed by a 22-piece string orchestra in Budapest, then lathe-cut it to seven-inch vinyl. The vinyl, in the turn of phrase of his label, Kranky, was then 'scratched and abused to add texture and color, from which the entirety of Clara was sampled, shape-shifted and sculpted'. . . .
"Yes, with Clara, the sound sculptor Scott Morgan continues to astound. . . . Clara could be read as a kind of deep dive into the textures of shadow, abandoning the tired concept of 'scores to an imaginary film' in favor of something more cerebral yet no less moving."
(Release date: 4 June 2021. Label: AMF Records. Genres: neo-soul, psychedelic soul, dub music, reggae, jazz fusion, soul jazz)
BEATS Per Minute: "Although this is an album about oneness, we are here for (Greentea Peng), and these moments where we feel closest to her as a person are some of the most rewarding."
Clash: "Aligning herself to one of the greats, Greentea Peng seems to implicitly suggest that such gravitas should be afforded to her own artistry – with such evident excellence as this, it’s only right that she be granted the dignity her art sorely deserves."
Dork: "As her moniker alludes, Greentea Peng’s highly anticipated debut album is an 18-track opus that doesn’t just heal the mind and soothe the soul, but expands it too."
The Line of Best Fit: "An album that is truly magical, Man Made is a stand-out debut."
The Skinny: "Greentea Peng’s debut album captures a central paradox from the past year: the compulsion to turn inward, and the need to look outward."
thefortyfive.com: "The London psych-soul queen debuts in style, with an eighteen-track album that never unravels."
DIY: "An impressively accomplished, ever-giving record that rarely fails to enchant."
Gigwise: "One of the most exciting UK artists making music right now? You’d be hard pressed to argue otherwise."
NME: "The rising star's distinctive aura and voice makes for a one-of-a-kind debut album."
Mojo: "(This) soul-funk psychedelicist's debut is a dubbed-out early-summer treat."
(Release date: 4 June 2021. Label: Dead Oceans. Genres: indie pop, chamber pop, synthpop)
CLASH: "It’s fun and fearless and with enough depth to have the songs stick to your ribs. It’s intelligent pop done right."
Beats Per Minute: "Maybe that’s what makes Jubilee so special: only (Japanese Breakfast singer-songwriter Michelle Zauner) could have fashioned these songs both as tenderly bright and violently sad as they’ve become. Not one colour: an entire spectrum of female experience, struggle and fulfilment."
Loud and Quiet: "Unapologetically big and dazzlingly bright, Jubilee is an invigorating depiction of Zauner’s journey to finding true happiness in a testing and unforgiving world."
Exclaim!: "Jubilee isn't about pushing the pain away; rather, it's a validation of whatever it is you feel. Zauner wants you to know with this record that you have the capacity to find joy in whatever mess life throws your way."
Spectrum Culture: "As important as Zauner’s lyrics are (and given that she’s also written a New York Times bestseller, it’s safe to assume that words are very important to her), what’s also striking is how those words match up with each song."
Northern Transmissions: "Jubilee is a masterclass in songwriting and production. Each aspect embraces the other and compliments it perfectly. Triumphantly rejoicing in the biggest and most mundane of emotions, Japanese Breakfast has crafted a record that fulfills and abandons just moments apart from each other."
Slant Magazine: "The album conceives of the exuberant possibilities of life and love while teasing out their more bracing realities."
musicOMH: "This album certainly is a rush, and it’s also the best Japanese Breakfast album to date."
DIY: "‘Jubilee’ finds its creator older and wiser with melody, lyrics and storytelling pulling focus in a fashion that cements Michelle Zauner as a true creative force to be reckoned with. From here on out, Japanese Breakfast can go anywhere and we’ll follow."
thefortyfive.com: "Switching muddy shoegaze for bright pop, Michelle Zauner's third album as Japanese Breakfast is a record that could only be made by somebody who has felt pain, and is brave enough to try and defy it."
Under the Radar: "Jubilee’s 10 songs arrive fully baked, frosted with bigger beats and softer swirls, all stacked carefully on top of each other."
The Line of Best Fit: "If nothing else, one thing’s for certain: Zauner is absolutely in her element here and it goes without question that while this is undeniably her year, she’s also just rebranded herself as one of today’s top-tier indie visionaries."
Dork: "This is an album that glistens and sparkles at every moment. Zauner is revelling in her musical step up as she employs synths, strings, saxophones, pianos, guitars and anything she can lay her hands on to take her evocative and richly detailed songwriting to a new level."
God Is in the TV: "Jubilee is a stunning and bold step-up that firmly cements Michelle as one of music’s most gifted songwriters, composers and performers. Be sweet to this one, we need more like her."
(Release date: 18 June 2021. Label: BMG Rights Management (UK) Limited. Genre: pop rock)
THE Guardian: "It’s another album of exquisitely written songs to add to the pile of exquisitely written albums. But maybe Consequences arrives at the right moment, chiming with hints that (Joan Armatrading) is finally getting her due, at least from her fellow artists: Laura Mvula recently hailed her importance – 'this is my heritage' – while Arlo Parks clearly has Armatrading in her musical DNA and included her 1977 single 'Willow' alongside Janelle Monáe, Angel Olsen and Sophie tracks in her playlist of music made by 'visionary women'."
(Release date: 18 June 2021. Label: Matsor Projects. Genres: art pop, indie pop)
EXCLAIM!: "Changephobia might not necessarily win over skeptics, but it's the most coherent vision — lyrically and sonically — of Rostam as a solo artist so far."
Northern Transmissions: "Changephobia feels fresh, spontaneous and is filled with a dizzying amount of layers, musically and lyrically."
AllMusic: "Rostam's music didn't need much altering, but on Changephobia, it's more artful and heartfelt than ever."
The Line of Best Fit: "Four years after his solo debut, Rostam has embraced change in his life, and discovered that at its best, it can help you grow and discover more of who you are."
Beats Per Minute: "Every song on Changephobia sounds like it has an inch-thick layer of dust on it, but if you take a finger and smear that off, there’s a beautiful ice-cream paint-job below."
Pitchfork: "The producer and songwriter’s second solo album is a romantic exploration of uncertainty, a rush of momentum softened by his trademark sounds."
Slant Magazine: "While Batmanglij has reduced the vast variety of sounds and distortion of his debut, the warmth of his vision remains."
Loud and Quiet: "No two of Changephobia’s songs sound alike. Yet they are tied together by a melodic thread that inspires a change of pace that encourages us to pause and take stock of our lives and beliefs and relationships. It is in this that the album’s true strength lies."