New Music Reviews (02/26)

Album Reviews

Each week, Music Director Chris Sanley and Associate Music Director Alex Ruder (joined this week by Morning Show Producer, Owen Murphy) 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 Erick The Architect, Erika de Casier, Laetitia Sadier, and more. 

Erick The Architect - I’ve Never Been Here Before (self-released)
The full-length debut from renowned LA-based rapper, singer, producer and founding member of Flatbush Zombies is a stunning long player fusing together elements of hip hop, soul, psych, R&B and dub. With incomparable grooves, infectious hooks and masterful, witty lyricism, the impeccable storytelling on this double album offers listeners a unique look at a full spectrum of Black experience. — CS

Erika de Casier - Still (4AD)
On her third studio album, and first for 4AD, the Danish singer-songwriter and producer has crafted a luxe set of alternative pop and R&B with enticing beats, hypnotizing vocals and live instrumentation as she showcases her production expertise. Bouncing around from themes of love, ambition and self-worth, Still is a relatable album with irresistible melodies from a talented artist whose star continues to rise. — CS

Laetitia Sadier - Rooting for Love (Drag City)
The fifth solo album from Stereolab frontwoman Laetitia Sadier is simply sensational. Rooting for Love is playfully complex with unconventional arrangements and lush, widely varied instrumentation including keys, guitar, trombone, vibraphone, synths, strings, flute, and an array of percussion. Throughout the album, Sadier effortlessly flows through jazz, art-rock, '60s French pop, electronica, chamber pop and so much more with her signature, smooth vocals as the focal point, leaving the listener hanging on every word (regardless of if you speak French). — CS

MGMT - Loss of Life (Mom+Pop)
The fifth studio album from Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser is an expansive deep dive into their world of neo-psych, pop and rock. With big production and simple melodies with intricate compositions, the duo brings their classic reference points like The Beatles, Oasis, and Bowie, into the contemporary realm. More than two decades into their career, MGMT showcase their impressive musicianship and knack for writing a great pop song. — CS

Real Estate - Daniel (Domino)
Amidst the reflective and often melancholy lyricism, there is something so light and bright about Daniel that makes you feel like you’re floating on every note. On their sixth full-length, the Brooklyn-by-way-of-New-Jersey outfit delivers catchy, sun-soaked melodies, lovely harmonies, dreamy guitars and a healthy dose of pedal steel for an easy, breezy listen to delight fans. — CS

Aili - Nandakke? (Eskimo Recordings)
The debut album from this Japanese-Belgian duo composed of Japan-born vocalist/producer Aili Maruyama and Belgian electronic producer Orson Wouters is a wonderful set of infectious synth-pop that bubbles and pulses with a playful spirit. The album title stems from a Japanese word that roughly translates to “Well, what was it?” and the opening title track is about the language Aili speaks with her dad, a mix of French and Japanese that she invented to help bridge the gap between them. This blurry cross-cultural mix seeps into the record with AIli fluidly bouncing between Japanese and other languages over sleek analog-rich beats, yielding a loose, spontaneous, and downright fun record. — AR

Daymé Arocena - Alkemi (Brownswood Recordings)
The fourth studio album (and first in five years) from Havana-born vocalist Daymé Arocena is a revelatory set of global pop that brilliantly fuses her powerhouse neo-soul singing with colorful Afro-Caribbean beats and a sophisticated pop sensibility that consistently delivers. Recorded in her new homebase of Puerto Rico and produced by multiple Grammy Award-winning musician Eduardo Cabra of Calle 13, Alkemi is named after the Yoruba word for alchemy, a reflection of the transformational cosmic brew that Daymé has achieved during her time on the Caribbean island, shifting away from her foundational jazz roots for a bold, contemporary, breakthrough pop sound that results in her strongest album yet. — AR

Hurray for the Riff Raff - The Past Is Still Alive (Nonesuch)
The latest studio album from Alynda Segarra finds them returning to and honing in their Americana and folk tinged rock sound as they examine stories and themes of community, romance, family and the self. With raw melodies, their singular vocals and masterful storytelling, they come full circle in the realm of community, calling in a number of noteworthy guests and collaborators, including producer Brad Cook, vocalist Conor Oberst and guitarist Meg Duffy. All in all, The Past Is Still Alive is a crowning achievement for an immensely talented, enigmatic artist who has a lot to explore and express in a way that only they can. — CS

​​LAIR - Ngélar (Guruguru Brain)
The second album from this Indonesian 6-piece outfit is an awesome set of hypnotic, communal, and celebratory psychedelic music full of soaring vocals, magnetic guitars, propulsive rhythms, and cosmic compositions. Produced by Go Kurosawa, drummer of the now-defunct Japanese psychedelic group Kikagaku Moyo and co-founder of Guruguru Brain Records, and featuring mesmerizing guest appearances from Indonesian vocalist/musician Monica Hapsari on the unique three-track album run of “Bangkai Belantara,” “Kawin Tebu,” and “Setan Dolbon,” Ngélar derives its title from a local phrase for “going around in celebration of something,” and this album indeed feels like an enthusiastic, joyful, and undoubtedly trippy party start-to-finish. — AR

Whitelands - Night-bound Eyes Are Blind to the Day (Sonic Cathedral)
The debut album from this London-based four-piece band is a stellar, confident, and reverential set of magnetic shoegaze songs that perfectly nails the balance of dreamy melodies, swirling guitars, and plenty of enveloping feedback. Buried amidst the beautifully obscured chaos, lead singer Etienne Quartey-Papafio lyrically tackles topics such as Brexit, racism, and post-9/11 imperialism, issues influenced by the band’s position as an all-POC outfit within a traditionally predominantly white genre. Bassist Vanessa Govinden shares, “We’ve experienced tokenism, micro-behaviours, envy and resentment, so we feel we have to continually prove ourselves. We know we’re making a positive impact, but I want Whitelands to really break some barriers.” Currently on a UK tour supporting Slowdive, the influential British shoegaze band whose Live on KEXP session originally sparked Etienne’s interest in shoegaze and steered the band’s sound to where they are today (!!!), Whitelands deliver a powerful debut record that feels like the opening chapter within this emerging band’s bigger story. — AR

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Black Tape EP (BRMC Records)
The fast and furious new EP from contemporary alt rock legends Black Rebel Motorcycle Club contains songs that were recorded during their Wrong Creatures sessions and up until now were only released on cassette as part of the box set. With searing guitars and heavy percussion, these immediate tracks hit hard and demand to be played LOUD. — CS

Church Chords - elvis, he was Schlager (Otherly Love)
The delightfully bizarre and ambiguous debut album from Church Chords is a genre-bending, atmospheric, complex, experimental journey. Stephen Buono (aka the mastermind behind Church Chords) tapped in some incredible guests and collaborators from Nels Cline (Wilco) and Jeff Parker (Tortoise) to Genevieve Artadi and zzzahara to realize the depth of this project with sonic influences including darkwave, jazz, post-punk and art-rock. What a trip! — CS

Chromeo - Adult Contemporary (BMG)
The electro-funk duo from Montreal offers up a fun, cheeky and groovy collection of disco fueled synth pop on their sixth studio album, using wordplay to examine the frustrations and anxieties that can arise during a romantic relationship. — CS

Colouring - Love To You, Mate (Bella Union)
The sophomore album from Nottingham-based songwriter and producer Jack Kenworthy is an exercise in juggling the complexities of losing a loved one. Through ornate, layered soundscapes recalling early Radiohead and Elbow, he examines how to sit in grief, celebrate life and find joy. — CS

Friko - Where we've been, Where we go from here (ATO)
The debut album from this Chicago-based duo composed of vocalist/guitarist Niko Kapetan and drummer Bailey Minzenberger is an impressive set of dynamic rock that captures the expansive, explosive, wide-eyed energy of indie rock’s 2000s heyday. With its balance of urgent, muscular, propulsive jams and tender, sparse, orchestral moments, and further enhanced by Kapetan’s expressive heart-on-sleeve vocal delivery, Where we’ve been, Where we go from here contains shades of Arcade Fire, Okkervil River, and Bright Eyes, and introduces an up-and-coming band bringing an angsty, arty, and anthemic spin to a beloved indie rock sound. — AR

Ghost Funk Orchestra - A Trip To The Moon (Karma Chief)
The fifth full-length album from Ghost Funk Orchestra – the brainchild of upstate New York multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer Seth Applebaum – is a groovy conceptual record that gleefully encompasses funk, lounge, jazz, soul, psych, and more, all twisted up in an outer-galactic angle inspired by Applebaum digging deep into the Internet Archive’s audio footage of Apollo’s moon missions becoming public domain. With its rich instrumentation, swanky vibes, and cosmic panache, A Trip To The Moon taps into those iconic 1960s space travels and its transportive soundbites for its vibrant modern retro sound — AR

John Glacier - Like a Ribbon EP (Young)
The new EP from London-based rapper, producer and poet is a dark, Avant Garde fusion of electronics, post-punk, R&B and noise. Her first release since signing to Young is an exciting taste of the experimental, artful direction Glacier is taking her sound. — CS

Liam Bailey - Zero Grace (Big Crown)
The third solo album from versatile London-based vocalist and musician Liam Bailey finds him teaming up once again with El Michels Affair leader and Big Crown Records co-founder Leon Michels for a sharp set of timeless British soul music heavily infused with reggae, dub, and Lovers rock flavors. His most honest, personal, and love-filled album to date, Zero Grace reflects upon his mixed British and Jamaican roots and difficult childhood experiences, emerging on the other side full of hope, optimism, and renewed spirit – uplifting messages that mesh beautifully with Michels’ top-tier, analog-heavy, nostalgia-soaked productions. — AR

London Afrobeat Collective - Esengo (Canopy Records)
The fourth studio album from London Afrobeat collective contains a scintillating combination of Afrobeats, jazz and Latin grooves with a tight horn section, explosive percussion and funky rhythms all carried by the powerful and dynamic vocals of frontwoman Juanita Euka. — CS

Mama Zu - Quilt Floor (Cosmic Twin/Thirty Tigers)
Six years ago, Those Darlins’ frontwoman Jessi Zazu lost her battle with cancer and left this world way too soon. Now in 2024, the band’s drummer Linwood Regensburg is shedding light on the final project he and Zazu worked on in 2017: Mama Zu. With fiery vocal delivery, tongue and cheek lyrics, and a wide range of sonics including fuzzy rockers, twangy folk, riot grrrl punk, shoegaze, and so much more, Quilt Floor is so quintessentially Zazu: an unapologetic, limitless powerhouse who is sorely missed and fondly remembered. — CS

Mary Timony - Untame the Tiger (Merge)
The fifth solo album, and first in 15 years, from iconic singer-songwriter and guitarist Mary Timony (of Ex Hex, Wild Flag, Helium, Autoclave) is a triumphant return. With her distinct guitar style, classic song phrasing and vocal delivery that is *almost* apathetic, but instead just so effortlessly effective, Untame the Tiger is a landmark addition to Timony’s four decades of solid musical output. — CS

Ale San - Martian Levitation (self-released)
The official debut full-length album from this emerging Barcelona-based producer is an impressive set of underground electronic grooves that bounce between house, electro, acid, drum & bass, and more with a deft and sleek touch. A sweet and surprisingly diverse collection of dancefloor-ready jams from start-to-finish, Ale San describes Martian Levitation as “the sound of me doing my thing, no rules, just good vibes.” — AR

Danielle Durack - Escape Artist (self-released)
The latest album from Nashville based singer-songwriter Danielle Durack is an expressive and emotional set of indie folk pop tunes with gorgeous, layered vocals, lush and atmospheric instrumentation, solid arrangements, some incredible crescendos and melancholy undertones. — CS

Elephant Stone - Back Into The Dream (Elephants on Parade)
The sixth full-length album from this Montréal band led by Rishi Dhir (formerly of The High Dials) is a nice set of summery, buoyant, melodic psych-pop intermittently injected with traditional Southeast Asian elements courtesy of Dhir’s virtuosity on the sitar and the broader lasting impact of his spiritual sojourns to India. With its balance of shimmery psych-pop cuts reminiscent of the distilled pop perfection of The Shins, alongside tracks cut from a similar cloth as The Beatles’ late 60s output, Back Into The Dream is Elephant Stone’s latest stop on their exploratory journey down an open-minded pop path. — AR

Josephine - Leaning EP (self-released)
On her debut EP, Chicago based singer-songwriter Josephine Luhman delivers warm, lush, heart wrenching folk pop tunes with strong vocals, intimate lyricism and captivating arrangements that contain both sparse, intimate moments and big, swirling walls of sound. — CS

Large Brush Collection - Off Center (Companion Plant)
The debut album from this Austin, Texas-based four-piece band led by singer-songwriter and bassist Nora Predey is a welcoming set of warm, earthy, melodic folk-pop that boasts a whimsical chamber-pop touch bolstered by the band’s flutist Gabriela Torres, her woodwind accents pairing wonderfully Nora’s sophisticated storytelling and lilting vocals. — AR

Maud - The Love That Remains (self-released)
The second album from Norwegian vocalist and electronic producer Kristine Hoff (aka Maud) is a promising set of sleek synth-pop that pairs her processed vocals and lyrics of “longing, melancholia, nostalgia, transformation and self-love" with hypnotic beats that blend rave, trance, Eurodance, and millennium pop in a distinctive Scandinavian way. “Remind Me” and “Stranger” both gradually build over a brooding first minute before unleashing into cinematic, dramatic, kinetic euphoria for a pair of album highlights. — AR

Modern English - 1 2 3 4 (Mesh & Lace Recordings)
The 9th studio album – and first in eight years – from the veteran British band is another assured set of new wave, post-punk, and guitar rock that finds them reveling in a sonic lane they’ve been paving, tweaking, and mastering for over 40 years now, while lyrically touching up the environment, aging, failed relationships, politics, love, and more. Fun side note: Three songs off this album – “Genius,” “Crazy Lovers,” and “Long in the Tooth” – were all performed and premiered Live on KEXP during their June 2023 session. — AR

Myaap - BIG MYAAP, NOT THE LIL ONE EP (self-released)
On this short and sweet – or maybe short and salty in this case – new EP, the teenage Milwaukee-based rapper Myaap drops some killer bars with catchy beats throughout this high energy set of bouncy new tracks. — CS

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