DREAMEND "SO I ATE MYSELF, BITE BY BITE" (2010)
This folk-rock concept album written from the point of view of a serial killer is not gonna be for everybody. Some parts of the album aren't even for me. During some of the album's more gruesome moments I find myself cringing from "the edginess" rather than disgust. Though that's probably me. This album has a number of great little folk-rock tracks that vaguely lead into one another, before the final song ties the whole story together in a straightforward (a little too straightforward) way. Now while several songs on the album are quite small, the final track is one of the biggest and most bombastic songs I've heard. That final track builds and builds and recalls the entire album, and when it crescendos around 3 minutes in, it gives me chills every time. It's a folk-rock epic unlike anything I've heard and, while I love and recommend the rest of the album, I love and recommend "An Admission" so much that it's the main reason I'm writing this. So if only one song, please listen to "."
Favorites: "Where You Belong," "Repent," "My Old Brittle Bones," "Aching Silence," "An Admission"
ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER "MAGIC ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER" (2020)
Listening to Oneohtrix Point Never is kind of like surfing the radio stations of your own memories and emotions. OPN is skilled at pulling from a variety of places to create a singular sound, and this album is just beautiful at it. Bright, slow synths sweep underneath icy synth stabs, giving way to pop songs that fight against themselves, before fading to radio static and DJ signoffs. It feels like taking a road trip through myself. I'm on a highway, at night, no other cars, left alone to my thoughts.
Favorites: "Long Road Home," "I Don't Love Me Anymore," "The Whether Channel," "No Nightmares," "Imago," "Lost But Never Alone"
EL-P "CANCER 4 CURE" (2012)
I remember the first time I listened to this album. I checked it out because I liked the art but was quickly disappointed to find out it was rap. (Cuz rap is that music my older brother never stops listening to.) On a trip a few weeks later, tired of listening to the same Modest Mouse albums over and over, I gave it another shot. Mainly because the production on the first track was killer. This time though? It clicked. Oh man, it clicked. I was in fuckin love. This is rap? I thought, dodging shards of my shattered expectations as they fell like glass rain to the ground. Ho-lee shit. And everything was better than it was before.
Favorites: "Request Denied," "The Full Retard," "Oh Hail No," "Tougher Colder Killer," "Stay Down," "$4 Vic / Nothing but Me and You (Ftl)"
DAWN GOLDEN "STILL LIFE" (2014)
There's something about this album that really connects with me. Maybe it's the echoey percussion, the mournful synths, the small, strained vocals. This is my go-to bummed-out album. each song adds more shades to a dim painting of a vaguely quieting pain — one that's still drowning you, but is numbed by something that will probably end up hurting you even more. The album reminds me of being on a rainy street at 5am, breathing thin fog, glancing disconnectedly at strangers as they drive under the deep orange streetlights. Eyes used to the darkness, but feeling sunrise right around the corner.
Favorites: "Discoloration," "Sleight Orchestra," "Swing," "The Beekeeper," "Chevrotain," "Last Train"
070 SHAKE "MODUS VIVENDI" (2020)
Let's get this out of the way right now: that album art is fucking sick. Oh my god. I can't handle how absolutely rad-beyond-rad It is. Beautiful. And then you get into the music, this sleek, synthy, trappy production, and it's like, oh, hell yeah. But then there's shake's vocals. She's flipping her style back and forth on every song, hitting so many tones and so many emotions so perfectly, crafting these incredible songs that feel like personal grooves and festival anthems at the same time. It's amazing. This album is like a dictionary of vibes.
Favorites: "Come Around," "Morrow," "Guilty Conscience," "Rocketship," "Under the Moon," "Flight319"
RINA SAWAYAMA "SAWAYAMA" (2020)
What the hell do I say about pop perfection? I guess I'll start here: I've been a fan of Clarence Clarity for a long time. He's got such a unique production style. Ao when he teamed up with Rina Sawayama, I was excited to see what they'd make. And boy howdy have they done a damn good job together. This album is so incredible. Rina's vocals feel like an encapsulation of the pop sound of the last 30 years, she rules these songs so effortlessly, I mean, "XS" is "Toxic"! It is!! She is so good. There's a reason she's already done a duet with Elton fucking John. The strength of her vocals, with the sensibility of Clarity's smashed-together-pop production, it's just like. . . fuck. God damn.
Favorites: "Dynasty," "XS," "STFU!," "Comme Des Garçons (Like the Boys)," "Bad Friend"