New Music Reviews (05/16)

Album Reviews

Each week, Music Director Don Yates (joined this week by DJ Michele Myers) shares brief insights on new and upcoming releases for KEXP's rotation. These reviews help our DJs decide on what they want to play. See what we added this week below (and on our Charts page), including new releases from Kendrick Lamar, The Smile, Kevin Morby, and more.

Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers (Top Dawg)
This LA rapper’s fifth full-length is a head-spinning double album of adventurous hip hop incorporating a dizzying diversity of other styles and sounds. The album combines a densely produced, often-shapeshifting and sometimes chaotic sound with his masterful, elastic flow and intricate, densely packed rhymes that act as personal therapy as he dissects his own imperfections while reflecting on a wide variety of other weighty subjects. Special guests include Sampha, Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, Ghostface Killah and other notables. — DY

The Smile – A Light For Attracting Attention (XL)
The debut album from this British trio comprised of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood along with Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner is an impressive set of moody avant-rock combining spidery guitar lines, eerie synths, piano, strings, brass, woodwinds and more with intricate, sometimes motorik rhythms, haunting vocals and anxiety-fueled lyrics of living in dystopian times. — DY

Kevin Morby – This Is A Photograph (Dead Oceans)
This Kansas City artist’s seventh solo album is an excellent set of expansive folk-rock ranging from urgent, hook-filled rock and country-tinged folk to soul-steeped folk-pop, rousing heartland rock, orchestral pop and more. Written and partly recorded in Memphis (with many of the songs referencing the city), the album combines a warm, diverse sound with sharply crafted lyrics of loss, mortality, hope and resilience. — DY

Obongjayar – Some Nights I Dream of Doors (September)
The debut full-length from this Nigerian-born, London-based artist (aka Steven Umoh) is a beautifully crafted blend of R&B, Afrobeats, hip hop and other styles, combining bright keyboards, often-percolating rhythms, occasional horns and more with his elastic vocals ranging from a gravelly baritone to a delicate falsetto. — DY

Ethel Cain – Preacher's Daughter (Daughters of Cain)
The debut Ethel Cain full-length from Florida-raised, Alabama-based artist Hayden Anhedönia is an impressive set of dark, atmospheric rock incorporating elements of ambient, doom metal, classic rock, folk, country and other styles, combining acoustic and heavy electric guitars, piano, occasional shimmering synths and mostly slow-moving rhythms with her smoky, haunting vocals and evocative lyrics of troubled family relationships and religious trauma. — DY

Florence + The Machine – Dance Fever (Polydor)
Florence + the Machine’s 5th studio full-length “Dance Fever” is centralized around the concept of “choreomania” (a manic, uncontrollable urge to dance, this phenomenon is known for outbreaks in Europe in the Middle Ages). UK vocalist songwriter Florence Welch wrote these songs mostly during the pandemic, and they are confessional in tone. Her dynamic, orchestral voice swells with poetic, deeply honest themes of self-discovery, anxiety, love, loss and the redemption of turning to dance in difficult times. For madness or solace. Rock with rich, layered textures and flavors of folk, 70s and the addition of lo fi synths by Dave Bayley of Glass Animals (on the track “My Love”). Recommend:  1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11.-DJ Michele Myers  

Moktar Gania & Gnawa Soul – Gnawa Soul (Musjomusic/Nuits d’Afrique)
The debut album from this Moroccan artist and his band is a potent blend of hypnotic Gnawa rhythms with call-and-response vocals, fiery electric guitars, soaring sax and a variety of percussion. — DY

Leikeli47 – Shape Up (Hardcover/RCA)
This Brooklyn rapper’s third studio album is a potent blend of hip hop, R&B and other styles, featuring often-spare production combining a variety of moody beats and addictive song hooks with her hypnotic flow and sharp rhymes revolving around love, desire and gaining self-confidence. — DY

Tank and the Bangas – Red Balloon (Verve Forecast)
The third album from this New Orleans band led by Tarriona “Tank” Ball is a vibrant blend of R&B, hip hop, funk, jazz, gospel, spoken word and more, combining a colorful, groove-driven sound featuring sunny melodies and airy harmonies with Ball’s elastic vocals and often-pointed lyrics blending the political and the personal. — DY

Sonny Singh – Chardi Kala (self-released)
The debut solo album from this member of Brooklyn band Red Baraat is a potent set of Punjabi anthems combining original music from Singh with lyrics mostly derived from ancient Sikh and Sufi poetry. The album includes a variety of colorful instrumentation (with Singh’s lyrical trumpet playing prominently featured) along with lyrics revolving around Chardi Kala, which is the Sikh concept of revolutionary eternal optimism. — DY

Desire – Escape (Italians Do It Better)
The second album (and first in 13 years) from the duo of Megan Louise and Johnny Jewel is an evocative set of moody Italo disco and related styles, combining a variety of vintage synths with hypnotic rhythms, airy vocals and haunting melodies. — DY

ikagaku Moyo – Kumoyo Island (Guruguru Brain)
This Japanese band’s fifth and final album is an intricately crafted blend of expansive psych-rock ranging from atmospheric, shape-shifting psych to propulsive, funk-inflected rock, dreamy folk-pop and more. — DY

Chris Carroll – Still (self-released)
This Seattle artist’s debut album is a solid set of R&B-tinged electro-pop combining an atmospheric, sample-heavy sound with his dramatic croon and intimate lyrics of love and heartache. — DY

The Black Keys – Dropout Boogie (Nonesuch)
This veteran Akron, OH-bred duo’s 11th album is another solid set of blues-tinged rock ranging from ZZ Top-inspired roadhouse rockers to soul-steeped ballads. — DY

Say Sue Me – The Last Thing Left (Damnably)
This South Korean band’s third album is a well-crafted set of shoegazerish dream-pop with fuzzy/jangly guitars, atmospheric keyboards, buoyant rhythms, yearning vocals and wistful melodies. — DY

Monophonics – Sage Motel (Colemine)
This Bay Area band’s fifth full-length is a concept album about a legendary motel that attracted musicians and other bohemian types in the 1960s and ‘70s before devolving into a rent-by-the-hour facility. The music on the album is a well-crafted blend of ‘70s-steeped soul and psych-rock, combining fuzzy psych guitars, searing keyboards, punchy horns, cinematic strings and more with Kelly Finnigan’s soulful, falsetto-laden vocals. — DY

SPICE – Viv (Dais)
The second album from this LA band led by Ceremony frontman Ross Farrar is a diverse, sharply crafted set ranging from soaring, anthemic rock, punkish power-pop and driving post-punk to moody, psych-tinged rock and even some orchestral rock. — DY

Post Animal – Love Gibberish (self-released)
This Chicago band’s third album is a solid set of psych-tinged prog-pop with often-shapeshifting songs featuring twisty guitar lines, shimmering synths and catchy song hooks. — DY

Sea Lemon – Close Up EP (Spirit Goth)
The debut EP from this Seattle artist (aka Natalie Lew) is a well-crafted set of sparkling dream-pop with gently ringing guitars, shimmering synths, driving rhythms and wistful melodies. — DY

TOPS – Empty Seats EP (Musique TOPS)
This Montreal band’s latest EP is a solid five-song EP of airy electro-pop with glittering synths, propulsive rhythms, breathy vocals and soaring song hooks. — DY

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