Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

DMX makes his posthumous Exodus: 5 new releases we love

DMX
DMX
Photo: Clay Patrick McBride

There’s a lot of music out there. To help you cut through all the noise, every week The A.V. Club is rounding up A-Sides, five recent releases we think are worth your time. You can listen to these and more on our Spotify playlist, and if you like what you hear, we encourage you to purchase featured artists’ music directly at the links provided below. Unless otherwise noted, all releases are now available.

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DMX, Exodus 

[Def Jam Recordings]

Exodus was intended to be a comeback album, not a posthumous release, which makes it both a tragic reminder of DMX’s passing and far more vital than the usual grab-bag of remaining material released after the death of a significant artist. Many of the tracks here are fittingly suffused in dirt and aggression, courtesy of Swizz Beatz, the better to showcase the rapper’s growling delivery in its natural environment. Unsurprisingly, among the extensive list of heavy hitters making guest appearances (Jay-Z, Moneybagg Yo, Nas, Alicia Keys—even a long-ago-recorded contribution from Bono), X sounds most at home alongside his spiritual heirs in the Griselda crew, followed closely by the silken contrast of his duet with Snoop Dogg, “Take Control.” But even when it mellows, as on the light piano inflections of “Walking In The Rain” or soulful “Letter To My Son” (preceded by a moving clip of his young son greeting him), DMX can’t help sounding like he’s spoiling for a fight, which can occasionally result in a surprisingly anthemic juxtaposition, like with Keys’ lovely melody on “Hold Me Down.” No one will mistake this for his finest work—many of the tracks feel like retro throwbacks to an older era, and given the way his voice shifts in timbre and grain between certain tracks, it’s anyone’s guess how many years of recordings are documented here—but it’s a stirring reminder that few rappers could go harder. [Alex McLevy]

black midi, Cavalcade

[Rough Trade]

Honestly, the first track on Cavalcade, the new album from Britain’s ferociously arty post-punk outfit black midi, sounds worryingly like Primus. (Primus as filtered through a massively atonal Broadway show, but still.) Fortunately, things quickly get thrilling: “Marlene Dietrich” is a jazzy nightclub number; “Chondromalacia Patella” fuses Gang Of Four with Chicago-style math rock before erupting into a blistering, overdriven coda; six-and-a-half minute opus “Diamond Stuff” begins hauntingly spare, slowly accruing unusual instrumentation and orchestral-driven melodies as it goes; and so on. The unpredictability and jarring tonal shifts are part of the appeal—there aren’t many bands out there releasing albums where you can genuinely say you have no idea what the next song is going to sound like. Pairing cabaret-singer verses with steadily increasing rhythm-section freneticism on “Dethroned” leads into some genuine prog-rock chaos on “Hogwash And Balderdash,” as though Queensrÿche were being attacked by carnies. By the time ten-minute closer “Ascending Forth” offers up its anthemic beauty, the band has again subverted everything you thought you could expect. If that’s not rock, I don’t know what is. [Alex McLevy]

Teenage Joans, Taste Of Me

[self-released]

Goddamn, there’s nothing quite like discovering a band whose giddy thrill at performing their music in the most exuberant way possible makes every track come alive. The old-school vibes: The Muffs, that dog, Letters To Cleo—there are a bevy of ’90s alt-rock acts that can claim influence on Teenage Joans’ ebullient anthems. For the more recent progenitors: Rilo Kiley, Tegan And Sara, The Beths, and Charly Bliss’ first album are all touchstones for the curious. Australian duo Cahli and Tahlia know their way around a classic pop hook, and they pack as many fist-in-the-air, lighters-aloft moments as possible into the five songs on their debut EP, Taste Of Me. This is rock as adolescent angst writ large, even beyond the speaker-rattling “Something About Being Sixteen.” Every track captures the over-the-top sense of emotions too big for the body, a sugar-sweet blend of stellar riffs and fuck-off lyrics. If the essence of rock is the heady rush of feelings that need immediate, ferocious catharsis, then Teenage Joans are giving that feeling the appropriate voice. [Alex McLevy]

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Snapped Ankles, “The Evidence

[The Leaf Label]

With latest single “The Evidence,” London’s Snapped Ankles explores some post-punk and art rock obsessions with a danceable and repetitive (in a good way) song that blends Gang Of Four’s rhythm section and Devo’s “fear of the banal” lyrics. The song gallops to the high-hat heavy beat and spy-movie synth line that could be the jump-off at your dance party (assuming you and your friends are vaccinated). But there’s something more sinister here: a bit of the late Jay Reatard in the clicking percussion and the emotional spiral caused by an unreceived email. Still, like all great dance rock songs, there’s enough sloganeering in the lyrics that people could start singing along even if it’s their first time hearing it. “The Evidence” is guaranteed to stay lodged in your head long after the party ends. [Matt Schimkowitz]

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LPX, Go The Other Way, Called The Echo

[self-released]

At this point, LPX’s unerring knack for noisy, rough-around-the-edges pop perfection is getting almost unsettling. Go The Other Way, Called The Echo is Lizzy Plapinger’s third EP, and it shows no signs of creative stall, instead reinforcing the impression of an ever-evolving songcraft that runs forty years of pop, rock, and glam influences through her energetic muse, transforming every song into a miniature anthem of uplift and catharsis. Combining several of her singles over the past year with new tracks like the fast-paced, insistent testament to self-empowerment, “Reason In The Noise.” Plus, for maybe the first time, Plapinger actually slows things down more than once; “Delayed Gratification” is a slinky number that conjures visions of lazy afternoons, while downtempo electronic pop confessional “Deadweight” pays tribute to the value of casting off toxic relationships and experiences. As with past releases, these are excellent songs on their own, but accrue weight and depth from being arranged in like manner together, another collection of modern-pop gems that collectively showcase LPX as arguably the pop artist most overdue for mainstream discovery. Oh, and the rough punk cover of Le Tigre’s “Deceptacon” is just icing on the dance-floor cake. [Alex McLevy]

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Alex McLevy is a writer and editor at The A.V. Club, and would kindly appreciate additional videos of robots failing to accomplish basic tasks.