Father John Misty reaches the apex of hopelessness on God’s Favorite Customer, while Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay (Tunng) embrace the surreal on LUMP, and New York no-wavers The Dreebs take pleasure in the claustrophobic on Forest Of A Crew. These, plus catching up with A$AP Rocky’s recent Testing in this week’s notable new releases.
And don’t miss our featured reviews of albums out today by Neko Case, Oneohtrix Point Never, and Kanye West:
Father John Misty, God’s Favorite Customer
Josh Tillman sounds tired. Whereas Pure Comedy brought the universe into his musical world, grand-scaling both Tillman’s cleverness and an earnest love for humanity, he sounds all by himself on God’s Favorite Customer, wracked with self-doubt, on the verge (perhaps at the apex) of hopelessness. He’s his comically dark self during hazy nightmare “Mr. Tillman,” mind fractured and teetering at the edge of bender doom in a hallucinogenic hotel. “Hangout At The Gallows” is positively, dreamily dour, and “The Palace” is nearly cripplingly lonesome. There’s little to adorn most of these songs—lyrically economical, sonically without much pageantry—but the intimacy and honesty results in some of Tillman’s most stunning songwriting. On the aching “Just Dumb Enough To Try,” he forces a death grip on hope for the victory of love and self-betterment, against all odds, and “The Songwriter” deftly examines the destruction that can be inherent when your partner is your muse.
RIYL: Elton John. Warren Zevon. Fiona Apple. Glorious, cursed love. Sisyphus. John Lennon.
Start here: “Please Don’t Die” rolls easy with an understated twang, howling harmonica, and twinkling piano, combining some of Tillman’s best moves—heart-baring vulnerability, swirling melodies, and just a touch of the surreal—to convey that familiar feeling of when we just can’t stand to lose someone. [Matt Williams]
As an intimate meditation on modern womanhood, Laura Marling’s Semper Femina was about as grounded as could be. Just a year later on LUMP, the debut of her side project with Tunng founder Mike Lindsay, Marling shakes off the pressures of authorship and embraces the surreal, ditching her persona of world-weary folk singer to be the medium for the faceless expressive force the duo call LUMP. While her lyrics might be free to lean into the abstract, Marling’s vocal performance is still recognizably folksy, down to her cadence and melodies on nearly every track. Lindsay has wrapped her voice in pulsing, hypnotic arrangements that easily slide from euphoric to ominous, and on the album’s dreamiest cuts the atmosphere gets filled out with sunny woodwinds and an angelic choir of Marlings harmonizing into infinity. All that surrealist pop plays out over 30 minutes of interlocking songs, enough to keep you thoroughly entranced and get you hoping LUMP might soon inspire its hosts to deliver more.
RIYL: Grizzly Bear. Tunng. Wye Oak’s Shriek.
Start here: “Late To The Flight” kicks off the album in stunning fashion, welcoming listeners with a shimmering aural sunrise painted in flutes and endless layers of Marling’s delicate voice. [Matt Gerardi]
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The Dreebs, Forest Of A Crew
Forest Of A Crew, the third album from New York no-wavers The Dreebs, finds them quivering in the space where the warm becomes the curdled. The trio take pleasure in generating an electrifying tone, then batting it around during disorienting four-minute blasts of heavily rhythmic industrial punk, generating friction until the original sound is fried beyond recognition. This is uncomfortable, claustrophobic music that sounds like it’s been sourced through paper-thin apartment walls or dredged up from sewers, but The Dreebs are experts in shaping it all into an appealing form of ugliness, one that finds power in its own absurdity. A handful of ambient passages space the record out, giving us much-needed breathing room while also serving as compelling soundscapes in their own right, while the record finds its thematic peak in “De Beers,” a terrifying and gorgeous song named for the horrific means the titular company has used to source its precious gems.
RIYL: The Jesus Lizard. Girl Band. A hovering sense of dread.
Start here: “My Killer” is the album’s most immediate song, a three-minute jam of scuffed beats, hoarse singing, and merciful tension relief that recalls Drum’s Not Dead–era Liars [Marty Sartini Garner]
A$AP Rocky, Testing
A$AP Rocky set out to find a new sound on Testing, his third LP and first since the death of close collaborator A$AP Yams. And the Harlem rapper succeeded in his quest, crafting an intriguing mix of garbled white noise and amp interference interspersed with splashes of instrumentals and a smattering of A-list features from the likes of FKA Twigs, T.I., Kid Cudi, Dev Hynes, and more. Though the finished project is as loose and incohesive as its title might suggest, there’s a lot to like about Testing: “Buck Shots” fits comfortably into the current trap trend, while “Kids Turned Out Fine” could be the stoner joint of the summer, and the Frank Ocean-featuring “Purity” harkens back to syrupy, chopped-and-screwed days.
RIYL: White noise interspersed with A$AP barbs.
Start here: Backed by Moby’s churning production, Rocky transcends his competition on “A$AP Forever.” [Nina Hernandez]
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