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.
Vince Staples, FM!
[Blacksmith/Def Jam Recordings, November 2]
One of the most maddening things about FM!, Vince Staples’ new surprise LP, is that it’s a side note, a “break” from recording his next album, and yet it’s 22 minutes of the tightest, most exciting hip-hop you’ll hear all year. Back in early spring, Staples dropped “Get The Fuck Off My Dick” and was trolling everyone with a GoFundMe to pay for his early retirement; on FM!, he’s promised “No concepts, no elaborate schemes, just music. Because nowadays, who needs more bullshit?” FM! returns to the streets that taught Staples, where a radio program called “Big Boy’s Neighborhood” is broadcasting, threading songs together with listener call-ins, interludes from Earl Sweatshirt and Tyga, and bumpers giving away Kehlani tickets. Drop-ins from West Coast neighbors like Jay Rock, E-40, and Kamaiyah make it feel like a family affair. Like most of Staples’ work, FM! is fleet and effortless while also paranoid and deep, conjuring carefree summer evenings but also the violence and racism plaguing the streets. We’ll have a more in-depth review of FM! next week. For now, have “FUN!” [Kelsey J. Waite]
Dead Can Dance, Dionysus
[PIAS, November 2]
The press materials for Dead Can Dance’s ninth studio effort, Dionysus, include detailed instrument credits for each song, with the note that Google might help identify a few of the more obscure ones. That’s helpful advice: The thought-provoking album—which is separated into two major acts, then further divided into a total of seven individual movements, all inspired by the titular Greek god of wine and fertility—features co-principal member Brendan Perry playing intriguing stringed and percussion instruments with globe-spanning origins. This rich rhythmic tapestry is combined further with found sounds and droning vocal chants. As a result, Dionysus ends up a mélange of folk and world music for a range of mythological situations, including solemn invocations and religious rites, theatrical revelry, and verdant celebrations. Co-principal member Lisa Gerrard doesn’t sing often, although when she and Perry join forces on “Act II – The Mountain,” a song bolstered by a Bulgarian bagpipe called the gaida, their intertwined vocal wails conjure steely, regal majesty. [Annie Zaleski]
Curren$y & Freddie Gibbs, Fetti
[ESGN/Jet Life, October 31]
There are a lot of collaborative rap projects these days, but few with the promise of Fetti, which cuts the laconic charisma of Curren$y with the world-class fire-spitting of Freddie Gibbs. One dude never stops rapping, the other can rap over anything, and producer Alchemist splits the difference by largely de-emphasizing drums, creating a rich haze of soulful, noirish beats that the two emcees take turns slicing to ribbons. For a 24-minute LP, it’s surprisingly structured, with the ambling guitar lick of “New Thangs” melting easily into the Miami Vice glitter of “Saturday Night Special.” An easy rapport develops between the two rappers, who trade images and moods between bars: Gibbs brings out the paranoia in Curren$y’s luxe-life boasting and Curren$y makes Gibbs’ hard-won boasts sweeter. All three parties come out better than they went in; if only all collaborations were so fruitful. [Clayton Purdom]
Makaya McCraven, Universal Beings
[International Anthem Recording Co., October 26]
Makaya McCraven isn’t the first jazz musician to shape lengthy free jams into tight statements of intent, but his mode of working feels particularly 21st century. The Chicago drummer and bandleader processes his jams in post-production with a remixer’s touch, turning his sessions into raw material for what he calls “organic beat music.” Universal Beings is his third record in the past 12 months, and also his best. It finds him in musical conversation with stars of the London, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles jazz scenes, with a side of vinyl dedicated to recordings from each city. True to form, the London sessions with saxophonist Nubya Garcia are funky in a Herbie Hancock mold, while L.A. is more of the drifting ambient of Leaving Records than the mile-a-minute pulse of Brainfeeder. Not surprisingly, though, it’s the Chicago side that’s the strongest, drawing on the city’s perpetually underrated jazz history for a wigged-out set that flirts with free jazz without ever crossing into atonality. All told, Universal Beings is a triumphant snapshot of what’s feeling like a historic moment for jazz as it begins its second century. [Marty Sartini Garner]
Stove, ’s Favorite Friend
[Exploding In Sound, October 31]
It’s impossible to write about Stove without writing about Ovlov, whose many hiatuses allowed guitarist-vocalist Steve Hartlett to start Stove as a solo project. But it’s never been a competition. Even in 2018, with both bands releasing new records, neither Ovlov’s Tru nor Stove ’s Favorite Friend feel oppositional. If anything, the two bands have begun to highlight what the other does so well. Stove has grown not just in sonic scope, but the addition of drummer-vocalist Jordyn Blakely, bassist Alex Molini, and guitarist Mike Hammond shows that the Newtown, Connecticut four-piece is capable of delivering on the experimental promise Hartlett had long been hinting at. “Mosquiter” is built on fluttering drum grooves and guitar riffs that always sound like they are about to fall out of step, and “Annoying Guy” features blast beats and tremolo picking that’s by far the heaviest thing Hartlett’s ever put on record. While Stove was often seen as a side project, it’s become a distinct entity all its own, and ’s Favorite Friend is proof of it. [David Anthony]