Pinch punch, welcome to a whole new month. Or for our Jewish readers, a whole new year – L'shanah tovah to you. The heating has now been switched on in my (poorly insulated) London flat, but while the weather in the wonderful city I call home might be veering towards the increasingly dark and cold, there's no shortage of musical fire to keep me nice and warm.
This bumper week saw the release of the eagerly anticipated fifth album from Detroit rapper and inimitable character Danny Brown, entitled uknowwhatimsaying¿ (more on that below), as well as new records from the delightful Angel Olsen, Carla dal Forno and legendary musician Nick Cave, to name just a few.
Below, as ever, is a playlist of our favourite new releases from the last seven days. As well as a few initial thoughts on some of the most noteworthy offerings – coming courtesy of DIIV, Radiohead's Ed O'Brien, and the aforementioned Danny Brown. Enjoy.
Danny Brown - uknowwhatimsaying¿
You can glean a lot from Danny Brown’s album covers. Each is fairly accurate representation of the general mood of the album; XXX a sexually explicit and drug heavy record, Old more warped yet still cartoonish, Atrocity Exhibition by far the most dark, distorted and manic.
And with the latest offering, uknowwhatimsaying¿, Brown displays his now famous humour and self-awareness, the colourful artwork reminiscent of mid-90s TV, yet still distinctly modern. While the production is certainly less discordant and experimental than on his critically acclaimed last album, that’s not to say he has come remotely close to falling into the trap of being derivative or uninventive.
The Q-Tip produced lead single ‘Dirty Laundry’ already hits like a Danny Brown classic, its off-kilter instrumental sounding like some sort of fairground carousel ride or kids TV theme – albeit one that accompanies lyrics about selling drugs and having sex with strippers. In fact, all of the collaborations across the pleasingly succinct 33 minutes are perfectly pitched, be them guest verses from the likes of JPEGMAFIA (also on production duties), Run The Jewels, Obongjayar and Blood Orange, or productions from Flying Lotus, Thundercat and the aforementioned Q-TIp.
Ultimately I think uknowwhatimsaying¿ has much more replayability than the sometimes difficult and occasionally grating Atrocity Exhibition, and there can be little argument that it further cements Danny Brown’s place as one of modern hip hop’s most interesting and inventive artists. JK
EOB - 'Santa Teresa'
Because Radiohead is the best band of all time there is of course a lot of interest in any of the members solo material.
Having put out eight albums since they released their debut album in 1993 (into a pre 36 Chambers and Midnight Marauders world) it’s a bit surprising that it’s taken so many years for the band to build up a healthy discography of solo material.
Of course most of the attention goes to Thom Yorke and his five works outside of Radiohead, but Johnny Greenwood has also made a name for himself in film scoring. Drummer Phil Selway has put out a couple solo efforts to muted receptions. Bassist Colin Greenwood has never put out any solo material and neither had guitarist Ed O’Brien, until now.
Radiohead’s third guitar player, O’Brien role in the band often boils down to sonic soundscape architect. His additions are most often atmospheric and complementary in nature (think 'Treefingers' on Kid A), so it should come as no surprise that his first solo single is in a similar vein.
’Santa Teresa’ is a thick liquid collage of sound that is more a vibe than a song. It would fit in better at an art gallery than a festival. But that’s not a bad thing at all. The track is an immersive, transcendental experience which passes much quicker than its five and a half minute length would make you think. The feeling it conveys is something akin to stepping outside of our ourselves and our era and stumbling upon a primordial sonic force.
While I’m not sure what a whole album of this kind of music would feel like, I am quite intrigued to see what he comes up with. AW
DIIV - Deceiver
Even the album title refers to the band’s prior demons, now living in the respite of sobriety after years of falsehoods and substance abuse. Once navigating the maze of heroin addiction, a feedback loop of controversy – regularly dropping out of shows, former band members bigoted outbursts, for instance – and a well-documented breakup with Sky Ferreira, frontman Zachary Cole Smith no longer lives in denial. Deceiver is a firm statement of his creative coherence, yet the pitfalls of sober struggles and its relative mundanity are ever-present.
Moving past the masquerade of reverb-saturated lead vocals/guitar lines, DIIV have a newfound clarity, not only in a personal sense but a professional sense. There’s genuine bite, purpose, and perhaps a modicum of regret to opener ‘Horsehead’ and ‘Taker’; the crunching, swooning undercurrent of effects-laden lead guitar are now brooding in the mix rather than taking forming the basis of their compositions. It feels symbolic of Cole’s newfound grit, having locked horns with addiction and won the duel.
A sign of the cyclicality of trends, perhaps, but Deceiver without doubt draws from the snarling ennui of The Smashing Pumpkins and the swirling sonic dynamics of My Bloody Valentine. Not entirely new per se, but DIIV are gleefully stepping out from their own shadow; with an adoring fanbase, and vats of unfulfilled potential, it’s a step in the right direction nonetheless. TC
DIIV play Desert Daze Festival in California next weekend (10-13 October), read our recent feature on the festival here