New Music Reviews (5/20)

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 Axolotes Mexicanos, Crumb, MRCY, and more. 

Axolotes Mexicanos - 4ever (Elefant)
The fourth album from this Madrid, Spain-based band is an absolutely thrilling sonic ride that runs through energetic punk, anthemic rock, soaring power-pop, ecstatic synth-pop, and catchy hyper-pop with wide-eyed glee. The album’s lone guest appearance comes from labelmates Aiko el grupo, another Spanish band who boast a similar adrenaline-inducing sound. – AR

Crumb - AMAMA (self-released)
The third studio album from the New York psych rock outfit is a bold, blissed out trip. With densely layered sonics from drum samples and sax mouthpiece solos, to cell phone recordings and piano strings dampened with Silly Putty, it’s abundantly clear that the band had fun experimenting with and building upon their mesmerizing fusion of psych rock and indie-pop. – CS

MRCY - VOLUME 1 (Dead Oceans)
The debut full length from English soul duo MRCY is warm, rich and inviting. Across these eight compelling arrangements, vocalist Kojo Degraft-Johnson’s smooth and dynamic delivery shines with expert production by Barney Lister, resulting in a timeless R&B/soul album that perfectly straddles the line between past and present. – CS

Nubiyan Twist - Find Your Flame (Strut)
The fourth album from this London-based nine-deep collective is a stellar blend of jazz, neo-soul, Afrobeat, hip-hop, broken beat, and highlife that coalesces all of these styles into their own sumptuous, kinetic, lushly orchestrated sound. Nile Rodgers, Seun Kuti, K.O.G., corto.alto, Ria Moran, Mamani Keïta, and NEONE the Wonderer make guest appearances and smoothly slide into the outfit’s genre-blurring palette. – AR

SYBS - Olew Nadroedd (Libertino)
The debut album from this Cardiff, Wales band is a stellar set of riveting post-punk and urgent rock that packs a hefty punch in its combination of big ringing guitars, propulsive rhythms, and lead singer Osian Llŷr’s sardonic delivery. While his lyrics are sung largely in Welsh, the band’s emphatic, blistering, maelstrom energy is universal. – AR

Thunderpussy - West (Trash Casual)
Six years since their breakthrough self-titled debut album, Seattle band Thunderpussy return with their second album of powerful, dynamic, face-melting rock anthems that revives the swagger of the 1970s for our modern age. Propelled by Molly Sides’ massive guitars, Whitney Petty’s soaring vocals, Leah Julius’ groovy basslines, and Lindsay Elias’ muscular rhythms on the drums, West once again boasts an expansive range that sneaks in some stirring ballads – notably the album’s poignant title track – amidst the heavier fare. – AR

Yaya Bey - Ten Fold (Big Dada)
The third studio album from Brooklyn-bred Yaya Bey is a sultry, hypnotic listen. Her R&B and neo-soul has a distinct jazz sensibility with undeniable grooves, layered soundscapes and top-notch production, as lyrically she details her account of the world around her, sense of self and community with her signature, effortless delivery. – CS

A. G. Cook - Britpop (New Alias)
A handful of months removed from officially shutting down his PC Music label after a game-changing 10-year-run that saw the label’s progressive aesthetic bleed into mainstream and underground circles in unparalleled fashion, British artist A. G. Cook returns with his latest innovative solo album that boldly showcases his visionary talents as a trailblazing producer, sharp songwriter, and forward-thinking musician. Kicking off with an absolute production flex on mind-blowing 10-minute opener “Silver Thread Golden Needle,” A. G. Cook follows up that masterclass with an adventurous array of cutting-edge synth-pop tracks, labyrinthian IDM-tinted workouts, and a handful of moody vocal-laced singer-songwriter tunes done in his magnetic, futuristic, leftfield way. Clocking in at 100 minutes, A. G. Cook’s newest opus never offers a dull moment and provides further proof that he remains at the forefront of electronic-pop music. – AR

Arab Strap - I’m totally fine with it 👍 don’t give a fuck anymore 👍(Rock Action)
The 8th album from this veteran Scottish duo (Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton) is an at-times captivating set of raging post-punk anthems boasting scathing, dystopian lyrics, Aidan’s distinctive spoken/sung vocals, and enveloping, ominous productions with massive guitars, gritty synths, propulsive drum-machine beats, and occasional sweeping strings that add to the album’s bleak, harrowing, cinematic scope. – AR

Beth Gibbons - Lives Outgrown (Domino)
The debut album from Portishead frontwoman Beth Gibbons is striking, personal and ornate. Her haunting vocals entrance the listener through these ten dynamic tracks as she explores themes of change, sadness, motherhood and mortality. Recorded over a period of ten years, the intricate arrangements with keys, strings, horns and exceptional percussion effortlessly ebb and flow as Gibbons grows out of her past lives to triumphantly step into her present one. – CS

Lightheaded - Combustible Gems (Slumberland)
Perfectly at home on Slumberland Records, the debut album from this New Jersey trio fronted by singer/bassist Cynthia Rickenbach is a strong set of magnetic indie pop gems that mines the underground pop sounds of past decades to help guide their quest in creating the perfect jangly pop nugget. – AR

Lip Critic - Hex Dealer (Partisan)
The debut album from this NYC-based electro-punk outfit is chaotic and cathartic. With their frenetic arrangements and ingenious fusion of pretty much every sound under the hardcore and electronic umbrellas, Lip Critic serve up a unique, intense, singular sound. Hex Dealer is just begging for a most pit to break out at the rave. – CS

musclecars - Sugar Honey Iced Tea! (BBE Music)
Brooklyn-based DJ/production duo musclecars (Brandon Weems and Craig Handfield) are currently lighting up NYC’s club scene through their joyful Coloring Lessons parties and their residency at Nowadays. Following a string of hotly-tipped singles and remixes, they’ve arrived with their expansive debut full-length of free-flowing house, soul, R&B, and jazz with multiple peaks in the form of hypnotic, euphoric, locked-in dancefloor anthems. Setting the tone early with the harp-led intro “The Afro-American Conundrum (Where does that leave us?),” Sugar Honey Iced Tea! takes the listener on an epic journey from the dancefloor to the chill-out room and beyond with a thematic focus on capturing “the essence of the Black experience with authenticity, emotion, and rhythm.” – AR

Rasco - Dmaot (Batov)
The second album from this Israeli trio is a strong set of '70s-influenced psych-pop, breezy surf rock, and charming garage-pop with a delightful, nostalgic, sun-soaked sound. Within the consistently solid set is a wonderfully fuzzy cover of Tears For Fears’ “Head Over Heels” that offers one of a few album highlights. – AR

RUB - RUB (self-released)
The debut album from the Seattle supergroup composed of former and current members of Trick Candles, Salt Lick, Acid Tongue, NighTraiN, Killer Workout, Cute Lepers, and Panama Gold is an electric exploration of nostalgic synth-pop with a cutting contemporary edge. Their carefree pop hooks are captivating with shimmering synths, killer bass lines and invigorating guitar work. – CS

Warren Dunes - Aquamarine (Jenny Invert Records)
The sophomore album from this Seattle outfit is an infectious fusion of indie-pop, psych and indie-rock with bright keys, dreamy melodies and a strong vocal performance from Julia Massey. The juxtaposition of often melancholy lyricism paired with lively instrumentation provides an engaging listen from start to finish. –CS

Alex Henry Foster - Kimiyo (Hopeful Tragedy)
Written and conceived in the months after a 10-hour emergency procedure that was initially meant to be a four-hour cardiac double-graft surgery, the third full-length album from Montreal-based Canadian musician, singer, producer, and composer Alex Henry Foster is an emotionally hefty set that blends sweeping cinematic post-rock instrumentals – created alongside his creative partner Ben Lemelin – with the whispered vocals of Japanese-Canadian artist Momoka. The combination is undeniably epic, skyscraping yet intimate, and the record features appropriately lengthy tracks that take the listener on an evocative and dynamic journey. – AR

Amy O - Mirror, Reflect (Winspear)
The fourth album from Bloomington, Indiana-based singer, songwriter, and arts educator Amy Oelsner (aka Amy O) is a solid set of charming indie rock and winsome indie pop with an endearing homespun lo-fi touch. – AR

Blockhead - Luminous Rubble (Def Pressé Editions)
The latest album from veteran NYC producer Blockhead (aka Tony Simon) is the 5th and latest entry in Def Pressé Editions’ KPM Crate Diggers series where beatmakers are invited to take a deep dive into the iconic music and sound design library of British label KPM Music to find unique samples. This specific focus allows Blockhead to churn out solid downtempo beats that lean into his trademark moody, jazzy, and quirky style. – AR

Bryony Jarman-Pinto - Below Dawn (Tru Thoughts)
The second studio album from this London-based singer, songwriter, and musician is a lush set of earthy, jazzy, aqueous soul music distinguished by her honeyed vocals and super warm productions handled by label-mate Ben Lamdin (aka Nostalgia 77) that are full of beautiful keys, fluttering flutes, subtle horns, and a generally dreamy tone. – AR

How To Dress Well - I Am Toward You (Sargent House)
Six years since his last record, influential LA-based artist Tom Krell returns with his sixth How To Dress Well album and he continues to push his amorphous, atmospheric, avantgarde pop into thrilling, distorted, profound territory with inspiration stemming from “pagan folk, ambient, slowcore, shoegaze, art rock, and, of course, R&B.” With his iconic falsetto, ethereal melodies, and inquisitive lyrics weaving through beautifully unwieldy productions, I Am Toward You is another bold step forward in HTDW’s story, bringing major recent life experiences – completing his PhD in Philosophy, getting married, becoming a father – and his constantly shifting perspective on his place in the music industry to fuel a dramatic singular sound. – AR

Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti & Frank Rosaly - MESTIZX (International Anthem)
This collaborative album between Bolivia-raised multi-medium artist Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti and Arizona-raised Puerto Rican drummer, composer, and sound designer Frank Rosaly is an immersive set of exploratory jazz inflected with lively Latin rhythms. Now based in Amsterdam, this married couple bring a symbiotic spirit to these tracks as they effortlessly infuse their multicultural influences together to create an absorbing and transportive sonic world. – AR

Kiefer - Something For Real (Stones Throw)
Fresh off releasing his fifth full-length album – 2023’s It’s Ok, B U – and subsequent live sessions for both KEXP and NPR’s Tiny Desk series, LA-based keyboardist/producer Kiefer Shackelford unveils his first official live album. Recorded live in Los Angeles without his bandmates being aware the set was being captured, Something For Real is a potent display of Kiefer’s jazz chops as he leads the Kiefer Trio (Kiefer on keys, Luke Titus on drums, and Pera Krstajic on bass) through a heady set of warm, rich, deep jazz cuts featuring original material alongside a sweet cover of Bobby Hutcherson’s 1975 track “Montara.” – AR

LA Priest - LA Fusion (Domino)
The latest EP from this solo alias UK-based musician Samuel Eastgate (aka LA Priest, formerly of Late of the Pier and one-half of Soft Hair alongside Connan Mockasin) is another fresh set of slinky groove-focused synth-pop with an off-kilter psych-funk streak. – AR

Meklit - Ethio Blue EP (self-released)
The latest EP from San Francisco-based Ethiopian-American vocalist, composer, and cultural activist Meklit Hadero is a warm and welcoming set of earthy R&B and organic neo-soul rooted in an Ethio-jazz undercurrent. – AR

Silver Skylarks - The Number One Set and Sound (Skylark Soul Co./Eastwood Music Group)
The debut full-length album from this Texas-based duo composed of songwriter/musician Danny Balis and producer Jeff “Skin” Wade is an assured set of instrumental-heavy throwback funk with splashes into Afrobeat, hip-hop, soul, jazz, dub, and Latin flavors. Frequently reminiscent of a '70s record that would be utilized by hip-hop producers and b-boy DJs, their vibrant, nostalgic and cinematic sound is enriched by lush instrumentation, plenty of horns, and notable guest contributions from Adrian Quesada, Large Professor, and Kool G Rap. – AR

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