Of the few 2016 records I find I’m still listening to regularly, Princess Nokia’s 1992 mixtape probably tops the list. Because 1992 was my introduction to the 25-year-old New Yorker, I know her first and foremost as a scrappy underground MC, but Nokia—real name Destiny Frasqueri—is an unfathomably multitalented artist, assuming wholly different sounds on each of her albums: eclectic EDM on 2014’s Metallic Butterfly, sun-drenched soul on 2015’s Honeysuckle. By contrast, 1992 glimpses Frasqueri’s adolescence in 1990s Spanish Harlem by way of nine impeccable hip-hop cuts, where she rocks Tommy boxers while drinking to Selena (“Saggy Denim”), slips her stash by the cops riding the train around town (“Green Line”), casts spells with her cousins (“Brujas”), and channels the fight of a Mortal Kombat character (“Kitana”). The album will get a remastered reissue September 8, complete with eight new songs, and I’ve been bumping the first of those all summer: “G.O.A.T.” is yet another left turn from Nokia, where she dons a new look and new delivery, and still somehow just completely kills it. I can’t wait to see what comes next. [Kelsey J. Waite]
Like a lot of people, I imagine, I drifted away from Andy Butler’s Hercules & Love Affair project after its sensational debut and subsequent split with DFA Records. The group’s follow-up, Blue Songs, was an ambitious detour into more recent dance-music history, but Butler’s voice felt lost among the detritus of its inspirations, and the record lacked the vital spark of Hercules’ disco roots. The lead-up to HLA’s fourth album, Omnion, has seen the release of several early singles, and while “Controller” is the closest the outfit has come to revisiting the innovative dance-floor ecstasies of its debut, the latest sneak peek, “Rejoice,” channels that same energy into something a little different. It imbues the group’s disco stylings with a stark industrial edge, but all the trappings melt away once Rouge Mary starts belting. Her performance, run through a brutally crunchy filter, is life-affirming and completely badass. [Matt Gerardi]
I do not like Lil B. Since the early 2010s, he’s been a sort of blog-rap mainstay, better known for his eccentricity, social media exuberance, surplus of catchphrases, and prolificacy than anything resembling a good album, or even that many good tracks. Lil B stans everywhere are chortling themselves hoarse at how little I “get it” right now, I know. This is all a post-2000s rap template, perfected by Lil Wayne but followed by Gucci Mane, Future, Young Thug, and many others, but B’s had surprisingly little substance to back up all the headlines. As much as I agree with “Fuck Kevin Durant,” I do not like listening to it.
But B’s gone quiet the past few years, hard at work on his sprawling statement of purpose, Black Ken. It is, as expected, all over the place, a 100-minute, 27-track monster that tries to recreate rap history in his gonzo image, but its first third or so is the sharpest and most cohesive stretch of music he’s ever recorded. “Berkeley” is a great example, an amber-hued hometown anthem that meets at the intersection of LL Cool J and EPMD. His gold-chain revivalism isn’t a watershed reinvention—if anything, it sounds like the album we all hoped the Cool Kids would make a decade ago—but it’s a lot of fun, and enough to shut those of us in the anti-Lil B contingent up, at least until he cuts a free jazz record about doggos or something. [Clayton Purdom]
Aside from the burned copy of Come On Feel The Lemonheads I probably still have in a CD binder somewhere, I never explored power pop all that extensively until recently, and that was through the back channel of being really into The Replacements. I’m still no expert, but one track that I really enjoy is “Rumor Sets The Woods Alight,” by British power-poppers The Records. The song opens the band’s second album, Crashes (1980), an appropriate title given that it failed to chart in either the U.S. or the U.K., and set The Records down the path toward another failed album and their eventual breakup. Anyway, “Rumor Sets The Woods Alight” is sort of a distant, hook-laden power-pop ancestor to The Toadies’ “Possum Kingdom”; they’re both offbeat songs with weird melodies, choppy guitars, and a catchy chorus about murder. [Katie Rife]
Julie Doiron cut her teeth in the ’90s as part of the noisy, Sonic Youth-inspired band Eric’s Trip, but found her voice more assuredly as a solo artist, crafting spare, quiet, frequently heartbreaking songs. (See 1997’s Loneliest In The Morning for the sparest and quietest.) And while she did rock out on occasion with The Wooden Stars, it was never quite as relentless as she gets on the first track from the first Julie & The Wrong Guys album, which comes out in September. “You Wanted What I Wanted” sounds inspired more than anything by late-’70s/early-’80s punk, perhaps most specifically X or even X-Ray Spex (minus the saxophone). It’s a welcome, fun blast of energy from a voice that’s been pretty restrained for a while. Doiron is joined by the rhythm section from Cancer Bats in The Wrong Guys, so there’s a hardcore pedigree at work here as well. [Josh Modell]