Legendary post-hardcore outfit Quicksand goes contemplative on its first album in 22 years, while the rarities collection Phases captures Angel Olsen’s lovelorn evolution. These, plus Yung Lean in the week’s notable releases.
Note: You can read our review of Taylor Swift’s Reputation, released today, here.
Angel Olsen, Phases
Following 2016’s highly praised My Woman, Angel Olsen returns with Phases, a collection of B-sides, rarities, and demos from 2012 and on. The first two tracks alone are worth the price of admission: “Fly On Your Wall” is a slow-marching heartbreaker that makes meaning from unrequited love, while “Special,” like My Woman’s “Sister,” stretches out slowly before building to a rich climax of reverbed guitar. Olsen throws her voice around on “Sweet Dreams,” jangly guitars and dirty bass bringing sultry drama to these otherwise intimate, folk-inflected songs. The back half delivers more of what one might expect from a rarities compilation: spare sketches and stripped-down covers (Springsteen’s “Tougher Than The Rest” is especially affecting) that fit into an artist’s catalog yet can’t find a home on a full-length.
With echoes of her other work, Phases captures the deepening of Olsen’s sound over time. She’s lovelorn and introspective throughout, but both her music and lyrics have become more complex and willing to wander. The compilation also more fully paints her influences: from the lilting heartache of Patsy Cline (“May As Well”) to the prideful warble of Roy Orbison (“Sweet Dreams”). With its plaintive lyrics, Phases further shows that Olsen, like those venerable musicians, is a persistent truth teller, an authentic voice no matter what style she’s working in.
RIYL: Other Angel Olsen. The Last Picture Show. Having your heart broken.
Start here: If the mournful guitar and drums on opener “Fly On Your Wall” don’t get you, perhaps its chorus—“A love never made is still mine / If only real in my mind”—will. [Laura Adamczyk]
It would take a minor miracle for Interiors to be anything but Quicksand’s third-best album. The New York band released a pair of fairly flawless post-hardcore albums in 1993 and 1995 (Slip and Manic Compression) before slowly grinding to a halt by 1999. The band—whose frontman Walter Schreifels cut his teeth in more frenetic hardcore bands Gorilla Biscuits and Youth Of Today—always felt like a more accessible version of Fugazi, more tuneful and slightly less confrontational. When you’re creeping up on 50, though, it’s harder to play music that’s so necessarily filled with young confusion and anger. All that said, Interiors acquits itself well as far as reunion albums go. Quicksand doesn’t attempt the blistering acrobatics of its younger self, instead getting a bit more contemplative. That makes for a mostly mid-tempo record with a few solid standouts, including album-opener “Illuminant” and the vibey, spacey “Cosmonauts.” It’s still the third-best Quicksand album, but the distance between it and second place isn’t nearly as far as it might’ve been.
RIYL: This band from the ’90s called Quicksand. Fugazi.
Start here: “Illuminant” makes the most obvious moves toward the Quicksand of old, though never with quite as much energy. [Josh Modell]
Yung Lean, Stranger
Hip-hop and emo make strange but increasingly frequent bedfellows, particularly in the untamed wilds of the internet, where Soundcloud Satanists like SpaceGhostPurrp proliferate and real-world monsters like XXXTentacion record heart-on-sleeve acoustic-guitar lamentations. More popularly, Lil Uzi Vert’s nostalgia for the present and Lil Yachty’s all-ages youth party have explored the place where ostentatious confessionalism and trap production meet. The baby-faced Swedish rapper Yung Lean has occupied this intensely hatable intersection for years, naming it “sad boy rap” and planting his flag there with mock-seriousness back in the early 2010s. Stranger is his third and probably best album, in that the aquatic, post-cloud rap production is uniformly good, and the bleating, preposterous lyrics are frequently delivered too slowly and blandly to consume on a cognitive level. Slow down and you’ll find almost impressively empty koans about blowing money, being sad, and getting high. His flow is less ostentatiously stilted than on earlier efforts, as if, now that this territory is being explored successfully by others, he no longer needs to exaggerate his outsider status. He floats into the vapor, drugged out and miserable, like the album itself.
RIYL: Lil Yachty. Clams Casino. Vaping.
Start here: “Red Bottom Sky” finds Yung Lean at his most tuneful. [Clayton Purdom]
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