New Music Reviews (5/18)

Album Reviews

Each week KEXP's Music Director Don Yates and DJ Alex Ruder share brief insights on new and upcoming releases. See what's coming up this week below, including reviews for new releases from Parquet Courts, Courtney Barnett, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, and more.

Parquet Courts – Wide Awake! (Rough Trade)
This Brooklyn-via-Denton, TX band's excellent sixth album brings a more expansive, beat-oriented approach to their jagged post-punk by adding elements of hip-hop, funk, reggae and more. Produced by Danger Mouse, the album combines a more propulsive sound and more insistent hooks with often-politically charged lyrics aimed at gun violence, police brutality, climate change, corruption and other ills. - DY

Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel (Mom+Pop)
This Australian artist's second regular solo album is a sharply crafted blend of grungy garage-pop, hazy psych-rock, and buoyant power-pop, combining a raw, hook-filled sound with her conversational vocals and often-wry lyrics ranging from personal issues of anxiety and depression to the ills of sexism. - DY

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Sparkle Hard (Matador)
The seventh album from this Portland-based band led by the former Pavement frontman is a diverse, sharply crafted set of wry, sometimes politically charged songs ranging from fuzzy, anthemic grunge-pop and wistful folk-rock to motorik psych-rock and knotty prog-pop. - DY

Big Ups – Two Parts Together (Exploding In Sound)
This Brooklyn band's third album is another excellent set of cathartic post-hardcore with a dynamic, tension-filled sound that often alternates between brooding, atmospheric spoken-word verses and explosive shouted choruses. They've also broadened their sound a bit with the addition of strings, piano, and field recordings, though they remain as hard-hitting as ever on songs with anxiety-fueled lyrics laced with black humor. - DY

The Sidekicks – Happiness Hours (Epitaph)
This Columbus, OH band's fifth album is their finest yet, featuring consistently strong songs of soaring power-pop with ringing guitars, bittersweet lyrics, and sunny pop hooks. - DY

SSION – O (Dero Arcade)
The third album from this New York-based artist (aka Cody Critcheloe) is an expansive, brightly colored blend of New Wave synth-pop, funk, anthemic electro-rock, noisy punk and more. The album's impressive guest lineup includes fellow DIY pop subversive Ariel Pink along with Sky Ferreira, Devendra Banhart, Roisin Murphy, Jennifer Herrema, MNDR and other notables. - DY

Hatchie – Sugar & Spice EP (Double Double Whammy)
The debut EP from this Brisbane, Australia artist (aka Harriette Pilbeam) is an excellent 5-song set of soaring, hook-filled dream-pop with shimmering synths, jangly guitars, driving rhythms, intimate lyrics and sparkling pop melodies. - DY

DJDS – Big Wave More Fire (Loma Vista)
The third album from this LA production duo formerly known as DJ Dodger Stadium is a well-crafted blend of soaring house and brooding R&B, with help from an impressive lineup of guest vocalists including Amber Mark, Empress Of, The Dream, Vic Mensa, Kevin Drew and other notables.

Remember Sports – Slow Buzz (Father/Daughter)
Formerly known as Sports, this Gambier, OH-bred, Philly-based band offers up their third album (and first under their expanded name). It's a potent set of punkish power-pop combining a scrappy, lo-fi sound and bright pop hooks with Carmen Perry's emotive vocals and intimate, angsty lyrics of love and loss.

Wax Idols – Happy Ending (Etruscan Gold)
The fourth album from this Oakland band led by Hether Fortune is a bit brighter and more buoyant take on the band's goth-tinged post-punk, often-juxtaposing dark lyrics blending the political and the personal with soaring pop hooks. - DY

Big Bite – Big Bite (Pop Wig)
This Seattle band's debut album is a promising blend of '90s-steeped grunge, heavy shoegazer psych-rock and driving post-punk. - DY

Domenico Lancellotti – The Good is a Big God (Luaka Bop)
This Rio de Janeiro multi-instrumentalist was joined by his longtime collaborators Moreno Veloso and Alexandre Kassin for his latest album. It's a well-crafted set of expansive Brazilian pop incorporating elements of samba, bossa nova, tropicalia and other styles. The album's lush sound includes some gorgeous string arrangements courtesy of The High Llamas' Sean O'Hagan, who also co-produced the album. - DY

Kassin – Relax (Luaka Bop)
The latest album from Brazilian producer/instrumentalist Alexandre Kassin is a warm, expansive blend of samba with funk, soul, disco, prog-pop and more. - DY

Skee Mask – Compro (Ilian Tape)
The second Skee Mask full-length from this German producer (aka Brian Müller) is an adventurous set of ambient techno blending emotive ambient textures with rattling breakbeats. - DY

Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino (Domino)
This LA-based British band's sixth album is easily their strangest release. It's a concept album set in a casino piano bar on the moon, with Alec Turner & co. dishing out ambling, psych-tinged lounge-pop with surreal lyrics of a dystopian future. - DY

Tracyanne & Danny – Tracyanne & Danny (Merge)
Tracyanne & Danny are Tracyanne Campbell of the Scottish band Camera Obscura and Bristol artist Danny Coughlan (aka Crybaby). Their self-titled debut is a sweetly wistful set of warm folk-pop inflected with doo wop, Springsteen rock, '60s girl-group pop, the Velvet Underground and more. - DY

Hailu Mergia - Lala Belu (Awesome Tapes From Africa)
The first new album in 20 years from revered Ethiopian jazz musician Hailu Mergia is a fantastic set of deep, hypnotic, instrumental-heavy grooves showcasing his dexterous talents as a multi-instrumentalist (prominently handling the accordion and keyboard/synths) and bandleader. - AR

lojii - lofeye (Youngbloods)
Following last year's breakout record DUE RENT, a collaborative album with LA-via-Philly beat producer Swarvy, Philadelphia rapper lojii returns with his second full-length album and it's a mesmerizing set of dark, gritty, underground hip-hop that showcases lojii's calm, confident, vivid lyrical skills atop spacious, atmospheric, plodding beats. - AR

Various Artists - Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul + Synth-Boogie in 1980s South Africa (Soundway)
Gumba Fire is an amazing compilation curated by Miles Cleret (Soundway Records) and DJ Okapi (Afrosynth Records) of 16 rare handpicked cuts from 1980s South Africa spotlighting a sound regionally known as "bubblegum." This style is a hybrid dance/boogie/pop music that emerged as the disco boom of the late 1970s died down and mutated into a vibrant, rhythmic, lo-fi mixture of cheap synths, keyboards, and drum-machines overlaid with soulful vocals and rich harmonies. - AR

Ryley Walker – Deafman Glance (Dead Oceans)
This Chicago artist's fourth album is an intricately crafted set of expansive, jazz-tinged folk-rock incorporating elements of post-rock and other styles, with a darker, more adventurous sound than his previous releases. - DY

(Various) - Brown Acid: The Sixth Trip (RidingEasy)
The sixth volume in this LA-based label's series of rare heavy rock from the late 1960s-early '70s is a potent compilation ranging from fuzzy stoner-rock and proto-metal to fiery funk-rock. - DY

Michael Rault – It's A New Day Tonight (Daptone/Wick)
This Montreal-based artist's second album is a warm, '70s-steeped blend of psych-pop, folk-rock and power-pop, featuring an unfussy sound with trippy guitars, occasional strings, piano, relaxed rhythms and dreamy pop hooks. - DY

Peach Kelli Pop – Gentle Leader (Mint)
The fourth album from this LA-via-Ottawa band led by Allie Hanlon is a fun set of punkish power-pop with fuzzy guitars, energetic rhythms, and sunny pop hooks. - DY

Shakey Graves – Can't Wake Up (Dualtone)
The third proper album from this Austin artist (aka Alejandro Rose-Garcia) finds him dramatically recasting his sound for a dreamier, more cinematic and psych-tinged take on his anthemic folk-pop. - DY

Poster Children – Grand Bargain! (Lotuspool)
This veteran Champaign, IL band's first album in 14 years is a fine set of anthemic, '90s-steeped rock combining a raw, often-intense sound with politically charged lyrics. - DY

Frog Eyes – Violet Psalms (Paper Bag)
The eighth and final album from this Victoria, BC band led by Carey Mercer is a fine set of off-kilter, glam-tinged psych-pop. - DY

Potatohead People – Nick & Astro's Guide to the Galaxy (Bastard Jazz)
This Vancouver, BC production duo's second full-length is a well-crafted blend of laid-back hip-hop, boogie funk, house and more, featuring a warm, atmospheric sound combining blunted boom-bap beats with spacy synths, jazzy horns, rhythm guitars and other instrumentation. - DY

The Death Wheelers – I Tread On Your Grave (RidingEasy)
This Quebec band's debut full-length is a solid set of grimy biker-rock instrumentals with fuzz-encrusted guitars and pounding rhythms. - DY

Ama Lou - DDD (self-released)
The debut EP from this emerging 19 year-old London-based vocalist is an impressive set of sultry R&B ballads that recalls contemporaries SZA, H.E.R., Ravyn Lenae, and Jorja Smith. Ama Lou recently opened up for Jorja Smith on her sold-out North American tour. - AR

Leni Stern – 3 (self-released)
The latest release from this veteran New York-based German guitarist is a trio recording with the Senegalese rhythm section of Mamadou Ba and Alioune Faye. It's a seamless blend of jazz and various West African styles, combining Stern's fluid guitar playing with traditional West African percussion. - DY

The Parlor - Kiku (Fivekill)
The third album from this update New York husband/wife duo (Jen O'Connor and Eric Krans) is another impressive set of electronic-tinged indie pop with warm guitars, expressive synths, airy vocals, and catchy pop hooks. Named after the Japanese word for chrysanthemum, Kiku carries a slightly darker tone than their previous efforts, as the album's formation and conceptual focus was largely inspired in finding solace following the couple's second miscarriage. - AR

Jess Williamson – Cosmic Wink (Mexican Summer)
This LA-via-Austin artist's third album is a fine set of moody, psych-tinged folk-pop. - DY

Bath Toys – Bath Toys EP (self-released)
This Tacoma band's debut EP is a fine set of buoyant pop-rock with jangly guitars, driving rhythms and sunny pop hooks. - DY

Krystal Klear - The Division (Running Back)
The latest EP from Dublin-based DJ/producer Dec Lennon (aka Krystal Klear) is another confident set of playful, infections, peak-time house rhythms that also sneaks in a sweet, sleek, mid-tempo groove in the form of retro-futuristic stomper "Division Ave. - AR

Cold Cave – You & Me & Infinity EP (Heartworm Press)
The latest release from this LA-based project spearheaded by Wesley Eisold is a fine 4-song set of goth-tinged electro-pop. -- DY

Mt. Si - 911 EP (Cascine)
Two years after their debut EP, this California-based collaborative group consisting of Michael David of Classixx, Sarah Chernoff of Superhumanoids and Jesse Kivel from Kisses returns with an addictive pair of tracks that continue to mine a dreamy electronic-pop sound with a subtle, nostalgic R&B streak. - AR

Pional - Miracle / Tempest (Permanent Vacation)
The latest release from Spanish electronic producer and vocalist Miguel Barros (aka Pional, a frequent collaborator of John Talabot) is another strong set of colorful, rhythmic, hypnotic, vocal-laced tech-house grooves primed for adventurous dancefloors. - AR

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