“Odds and Ends” is a feature similar to “New Jams” in which 10 albums that we at Bearded Gentlemen Music missed out on in the past month are briefly mentioned. The purpose of “Odds and Ends” is to provide a quick comment on some of the albums that have recently come out that we did not give a full review to. These albums will be listed in an order that starts with the most poppy albums and ends with the most experimental. Since this is this first of these columns, albums listed below will be drawn from the last two months.
Odds and Ends: August/September 2014
Ariana Grande – My Everything
From the first note of Ariana Grande’s 2013 debut, Yours Truly, Mariah Carey comparisons were conjured. A summer of radio ubiquity later, this is an off-limit topic in interviews. Grande’s taste in cornball rappers aside, My Everything is a strong sophomore album that inches the pop zeitgeist the closest its been to an R&B slant since the mid-90s. Lady GaGa be damned.
Ty Segall – Manipulator
We’re at the point in rock’s irrelevancy that the rock band or artist puts out a strong and/or commercially successful album; the state of rock is inevitably discussed. Ty Segall isn’t bringing rock back to its former prominence, neither are its biggest seller, biggest band, and best band (Jack White, Arctic Monkeys and Tame Impala, respectively). What Segall manages to do, however, is harness his sound. The noisy scuzz of Slaughterhouse meets the Vile-esque bliss of Sleeper. At 56 minutes, Manipulator has been critiqued for its length, which pales in comparison to the bloated mess Foxygen is about to drop.
Yung Lean – Unknown Memory
Swedish rapper Yung Lean has acquired the hearts of esoteric rap fans and hipsters alike, while drawing ire from hip-hop purists for his entire aesthetic. Everything from the sadboys clique to the trap beats to the borrowed slang to Yung Lean running out of breath when he raps. Like any other artist on the planet, Yung Lean’s shtick is calculated and he’s in on the joke. It doesn’t make Unknown Memory any less entertaining. Its highest point:Yung Lean’s “Don’t Go” verse in which he puts it down for Princess Peach and subtly reminds everyone about Palace Malice’s 2013 Belmont Stakes victory. Yung Lean represents a sea change in hip-hop, in which the community comes to terms with how the culture manifests itself when exported, even if the reaction to Iggy Azalea’s future Grammy wins suggests otherwise.
Rich Gang – Rich Gang: Tha Tour Pt. 1
At the end of “Ima Ride”, a loud announcement is made to watch out for releases from the unholy triumvirate of YMCMB: Nicki Minaj, Drake and Lil Wayne. The link between this tape and the three are Birdman, but the stars of the show are Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug. Every artist mentioned in this blurb has been involved with at least one half-baked project and amid speculation that Tha Tour Pt. 1 would be a critical flop, Rich Homie Quan and Thug deliver the goods. Forget the stars they could be. This is two of hip-hops hottest names maxing out on their ability to make bangers. Read Dan’s full write up here.
Suicideyear – Remembrance
It’s easy to read Baton Rouge producer Suicideyear’s first proper release, Remembrance, as more of the same. Yet, compared to his mixtapes (Japan, particularly), Remembrance has this airy vibe that isn’t what woozy trap music is known for. That he is able to pull off a My Bloody Valentine cover (“When You Sleep”) as well as he did is a sign that he’s an act of his own kind in the trap subgenre and one of the more intriguing names in electronic music at the moment.
Rob Sonic – Alice In Thunderdome
Rob Sonic might be better known as that guy with a very nasally flow who frequently collaborates with Aesop Rock. His third solo album, Alice In Thunderdome, is such a strong effort that it ought to change that impression. It’s an exercise in a rapper knowing what beats he sounds good over and subsequently rhyming over them. Like any rapping affiliate of Aesop Rock, worth their salt, it takes a while to decipher Sonic’s lyrics, but Alice In Thunderdome sounds good enough to invite the necessary re-listens. It’s another victory in a silently excellent year for indie rap.
Mick Jenkins – The Water[S]
As dense as Chicago’s Mick Jenkins’ mixtape The Water[S] feels, it is fairly obvious that the theme, water is used as an extended metaphor for life and bits and pieces of his personal anecdotes. Jenkins, a veteran of Chicago’s vibrant poetry circuit, makes this tape an affair that is always heady, but never ham-fisted. The Water[S] has established Jenkins as an exciting new voice in hip-hop and is currently the best mixtape to have surfaced this year.
The Underachievers – Cellar Door: Terminus Ut Exordum
The primary difference between Brooklyn hip-hop duo The Underachievers and Chicago’s Chance The Rapper is that while the former talks about acid trip flashbacks, The Underachievers are the types to listen to for instructions on taking acid. On this album, the 40 minutes blend together a little too much. Aside from that, Cellar Door: Terminus Ut Exordum shows a couple of kids that still have plenty to say about drugs, philosophy and religious hypocrisy. The highlights here surpass the highs of their acclaimed 2013 mixtape, Indigoism.
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The Bug – Angels & Devils
Kevin Martin’s first album as The Bug since 2008’s seminal London Zoo finds the U.K. producer with another bananas list of features from Liz Harris to Gonjasufi to Death Grips. Martin pulls off a side of ambient passages and a pass of gaudy emcee-led tracks that were closer to London Zoo. Angels & Devils is the soon-to-be forgotten electronic album that 2014 needed.
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Susanna / Jenny Hval – Meshes of Voice
Inspired by the 1943 surrealist film, Meshes of the Afternoon, Susanna and Jenny Hval’s collaboration is takes an appearance of austerity. The production teeters in and out of a grey area between ambient and noise. The two singers find ways to complement arrangements that can be startling at sometimes and stark at others. That their voices contrast so much, Hval being the higher one and Susanna the lower one, really allows the sounds on this record to diversify because these two singers can cover such a diverse ground on their own. More impressive is how the two singers explore the space of these sounds as they harmonize. The major revelation of Meshes of Voice is the chemistry between these two singers that carry this album admirably through its less sparse moments.