New Music Reviews (9/18)

Album Reviews

Each week, Music Director Chris Sanley and Associate Music Director Alex Ruder share 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 Mitski, Nation of Language, Vagabon, and more. 

Mitski - The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We (Dead Oceans)
On her seventh studio album, Mitski follows up Laurel Hell with a more subtle, but equally powerful collection of new songs. She leans back into more of the folk influences we heard in early works, her lyrics tug at the heartstrings as always, and as a vocalist she’s never been stronger. The soundscapes are vast and complex throughout the album, from strings and pedal steel, to birds chirping and dogs barking. The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We is another soaring example of why she is such a beloved singer-songwriter. — CS

Nation of Language - Strange Disciple (PIAS)
The Brooklyn trio serve up another infectious dose of synth pop on their third studio album, Strange Disciple. With heavy new wave and post-punk influences, their shimmering synths, hazy guitars, syncopated percussion and groovy basslines pair perfectly with Richard’s soaring vocal performance. — CS

Vagabon - Sorry I Haven’t Called (Nonesuch)
The third full length from Laetitia Tamko – aka Vaganon – is pure pop perfection, with entrancing hooks, driving basslines, sparkling synths and impeccable vocals. Despite the album starting out as she grieved the death of her best friend, lyrically the album is about chasing joy. Tamko says: “Once I gave myself permission to make a record that’s full of life and energy, I realized that’s the point of this album. In the midst of going through all of these tough things, it became a record because of the vitality that these songs had.” — CS

Bombino - Sahel (Partisan) 
The famed Tuareg guitarist + folk hero of Niger returns with his first album in five years, which showcases his masterful guitarwork and is sung in the Tuareg language, Tamasheq. While still rooted in his signature desert blues sound, Sahel has an overall rich and diverse sonic landscape, intended to reflect the complex tapestry of the people and cultures of the Sahel region in Africa. — CS

Corinne Bailey Rae - Black Rainbows (Thirty Tigers)
Inspired by the objects and artworks curated by Theaster Gates at the Stony Island Arts Bank in Chicago, Black Rainbows marks an entirely new, unexpected and exciting next chapter for the English singer-songwriter. Bailey Rae’s fourth studio album finds her exploring multiple disciplines, including punk rock, jazz, soul and R&B, with each sonic template fitting the stories that inspired the songs. Black Rainbows is a true celebration of Black art and an impressive exercise in blending genres while still delivering a cohesive project. — CS

Kipp Stone - 66689 Blvd Prequel (Closed Sessions) 
The Cleveland rapper/producer does not disappoint on his sophomore album. His flow is on point and production is top notch as he weaves tales about the people in his live, traveling to the west coast, and more introspective themes on this incredibly tight new project. — CS

Subsonic Eye – All Around You (Topshelf)
The fourth album from this Singaporean band is another fantastic set of catchy, confident, and energetic rock jams that pairs the band's propulsive guitar attack with sweet melodies, shape-shifting rhythms, and a youthful urgency that consistently delivers. With the band’s potent blend of shoegaze, post-punk, twee, math rock, and other rock-adjacent styles serving as the foundation for the expressive vocals of Nur Wahidah, All Around You captures an irresistible indie pop/rock sound. — AR

Steven Bamidele – Summing Up (Tru Thoughts)
The debut album from Nigeria-born, London-based singer, songwriter, and producer Steven Bamidele is a solid set of warm, reflective, synth-enhanced R&B/soul songs distinguished by his smooth falsetto and sleek syncopated beats. Fellow British soul singer Scarlett Fae is the lone guest appearance, dueting on standout single “Kaleidoscope,” while the cool instrumental cut “Pathways” serves as the album’s midpoint and outlier highlight. — AR

Margo Cilker - Valley of Heart’s Delight (Fluff & Gravy) 
The sophomore album from the singer-songwriter is a natural step forward from her impressive debut. Now based in Goldendale, WA, Cilker effortlessly calls upon the traditions of Americana music – complete with pedal steel and harmonica, familiar lyrical themes and a vocal twang – with a distinct 21st century perspective. Enlisting the same crew from her first album in the studio this go around, including production from Sera Cahoone, Cilker’s arrangements are executed flawlessly. — CS

Cleo Sol - Heaven (Forever Living Originals)
The ever-enchanting British songstress (rumored to be a member of the R&B collective Sault + frequent collaborator with Little Simz) returns with her third studio album. Heaven is a lovely collection of sultry and subtle R&B, with jazz, folk and gospel influences. — CS

Dengue Fever - Ting Mong (TUK TUK)
The LA outfit drop their sixth studio album as they celebrate 20 years as a band. Their first release in over eight years boasts their signature fusion of traditions – Cambodian rock with elements of psych, surf, Afro grooves and more – as the outfit embraces more electronic elements than before. Vocalist Chhom Nimol’s performance is undeniable while the band interprets their concept of Ting Mong throughout the album. — CS

Lusine - Long Light (Ghostly International)
Now 20 (!!) years into his influential run with Ghostly International, Seattle’s own Lusine (aka Jeff McIlwain) arrives with his 9th full-length album and it’s another stellar showcase of his deft electronic production talents, mastery of hypnotic beats that lean heavily into a slinky midtempo/downtempo range, and intricate ability to weave live and sampled vocals into a sophisticated and deceptively powerful experience. — AR

Woods - Perennial (Woodsist)
The prolific Brooklyn outfit release their eleventh studio album, featuring their signature folk rock sound. They achieve incredible textures through their layered instrumentation and interesting distortions, with Jeremy’s distinct vocal dancing atop it all. — CS

Advertisement – Escorts (Feel It)
The second full-length album from this Seattle-rooted band – formed around four childhood Seattle-area friends with members now living across Seattle, Los Angeles, and NYC – explores a modern take on classic rock, garage rock, prog rock, and a touch of glam rock that boasts upfront guitar attacks and sweeping dynamics. — AR

Sarah Mary Chadwick - Messages to God (Kill Rock Stars)
On her eighth album, the New Zealand born, Melbourne based singer song-writer’s cutting lyrics pack a punch, as her brutal honesty resonates, and dark humor provides some levity. Chadwick’s somber piano and raw vocal delivery add an extra layer of intimacy to her signature storytelling on this captivating new collection. — CS

CHILLGOGOG - That White Building (Eating Music)
CHILLGOGOG is a Shanghai-based husband/wife duo composed of LATENINE6 and FunkeeCookee. LATENINE6 runs the label Delivery Music and FunkeeCookee runs the label Eating Music, both stellar labels spotlighting exciting new music coming out of China and Asia. Their debut EP is a sweet set of dreamy, expansive, transportive synth-pop that sways from relaxed downtempo fare to exuberant dancefloor-leaning rhythms. Bookended by the duo’s own productions, beginning with the tranquil “Play Between Trees” and closing out with the joyous sample-fueled “East to West,” CHILLGOGOG invite a few friends to provide vocals to add their own style to their cool beats. — AR

Explosions In The Sky - End (Temporary Residence Ltd.)
The 7th full-length album (and 1st non-soundtrack album in 7 years) from this renowned Texas band is another dynamic, epic, cinematic set of instrumental rock. Inspired by darkness and the transformational natures of endings, End adds another shape-shifting, explosive, and crushing entry in their widescreen catalog. — AR

Irreversible Entanglements - Protect Your Light (Impulse! / Verve) 
The free jazz outfit comprised of members from Philadelphia, New York and DC return with their fourth full length album and first for Impulse! / Verve. The frenetic energy of their free jazz and Afrofuturism pairs perfectly with Moor Mother’s powerful poetry. — CS

Matthew Halsall - An Ever Changing View (Gondwana)
The latest full-length album from renowned Manchester, UK-based trumpeter, composer, bandleader, and Gondwana Records founder Matthew Halsall is a sublime set of warm, meditative, spiritual jazz compositions full of rich instrumentation featuring flute, Rhodes, harp, thump piano, glockenspiel, chimes, and more. — AR

Khalab - Layers (Hyperjazz)
The second solo album from this enigmatic globetrotting Italian DJ/producer is a thrilling journey that blends his hypnotic, bass-heavy, Afro-Futurist electronic beats with an adventurous, visceral, experimental jazz streak. While Khalab’s dense, enveloping, yet nimble production shines throughout, Layers is further enhanced by a stacked roster of guest artists from all over the world that add their voices and instrumental talents into its heady brew. — AR

Buffalo Nichols - The Fatalist (Fat Possum)
With a deep, gravelly vocal and exceptional guitar work, Buffalo Nichols puts a modern twist on blues music on his impressive sophomore album. Rooted in the tradition of blues and folk music, he introduces modern synthesizers to pair with the contemporary themes of today throughout the album. — CS

Léon Phal - Stress Killer (Heavenly Sweetness)
The second full-length album from Franco-Swiss Paris-based saxophonist and composer Léon Phal is a nice set of vibrant jazz compositions infused with kinetic electronic rhythms and funky R&B flourishes. While sometimes veering into too smooth territory, Stress Killer gets a couple nice vocal assists from Ghana-born, UK-based artist K.O.G. and Los Angeles-based vocalist Lorine Chia. — AR

Pharoah Sanders - Pharoah (Luaka Bop)
Iconic and endlessly influential Jazz musician Pharoah Sanders left this earth last fall, but not before giving his blessing for the release of this box set: a remastered version of his seminal record, Pharaoh, along with two previously unreleased live performances of his masterpiece “Harvest Time.”— CS

Serebii - Inside (Innovative Leisure)
Following a couple solid collaborative EPs alongside fellow Kiwi artist Arjuna Oakes, Auckland, New Zealand-based musician Serebii (aka Callum Mower) shares his debut solo full-length album and it’s a lush set of moody electronic/soul grooves with a warm, magnetic, organic vibe that balances magnetic production with his airy vocals. — AR

Sextile - Push (Sacred Bones)
Led by the core founding duo of NYC transplants Brady Keehn and Melissa Scaduto, this LA-based outfit return with their third album (and first in 6 years) and it’s a pummeling set of EBM, industrial, post-punk, electroclash, rave jams featuring high-BPM beats, old school synths, buzzing guitars, and brash in-your-face vocals. At times reminiscent of soundtrack cuts from Spawn or Mortal Kombat, Push blends elements of 90s industrial and early 00s electroclash into a relentless on-edge sound. Lead single “New York” is a perfect entry point. — AR

Shakey Graves - Movie of the Week (Dualtone)
His fourth full length album feels like a departure for Austin, TX based Alejandro Rose-Garcia. While he has not completely abandoned his folk, blues and country tinged sound, Movie of the Week sees him experimenting with a psych infused folk-pop sound reminiscent of the late, great Richard Swift at times. — CS

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