A$AP Rocky – TESTING
Positive: Rocky is more vulnerably creative on TESTING. He stays true to himself, yet there is finally room for a Man With Feelings to shine through where previously getting money and hoes was the leitmotif. It is no doubt that the influence of the likes of Frank and Tyler is audible on TESTING, but regardless this is A$AP Rocky through and through. A true highlight is “Fukk Sleep” featuring the ever elusive FKA Twigs. Honourable mentions include “OG Beeper,” “Gunz N Butter,” and “Purity”.
Negative: I’m all for Skepta’s worldly fame but “Praise The Lord (Da Shine)” is unoriginal and bangs on for far too long. Flutes? Aren’t we over those yet? I know I can’t love everything Rocky does but there’s instances where it’s disappointing to hear him fall back on hackneyed phrases and recycled instrumentals like on the aforementioned and for instance “Buck Shots”.
Why? A$AP Rocky is not only handsome, fashionable, and popular, he is also a darn good rapper.
How? If you’ve been lucky in life: aware of your privilege and happy with how alienating this lifestyle sounds. If you’ve been less lucky: happy that misery can lead to artistry/success and that something close to your reality is being represented so honestly.
When? When you have an open mind.
For fans of: Danny Brown, Schoolboy Q, the rest of the A$AP Mob
Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
Positive: The main reason I love Parquet Courts is that they are unapologetically critical without losing their carefree and boyish playfulness. This leads to a sincerity that is hard to fabricate and even harder to hate. The general attitude on Wide Awake! seems to be “yeah, we’ll call you out on your bullshit, but we won’t stop the party in order to do so”. The production, courtesy of Danger Mouse, gives the record a live-ish feel that I welcome wholeheartedly as that is really how this music ought to be enjoyed.
Negative: Although Wide Awake! is not a long album, it feels a little lengthy. This can only be due to the sameyness of it all. Though I can hardly tire of the lads, after six albums and two EPs it does seem like a rather big catalogue of tracks that are essentially all quite similar.
Why? Because tracks like “Wide Awake” and “Almost Had to Start a Fight” are quirky summer rock tracks and slacker anthems like “Mardi Gras Beads” and “Freebird II” are perfect for those late and sun-soaked afternoons.
How? Filling the open air.
When? To eliminate the festival FOMO.
For fans of: Thee Oh Sees, Black Lips, Ty Segall
Pitou – I Fall Asleep So Fast (EP)
Positive: Clearly drawing inspiration from sources ranging from classical to Joni Mitchell, Pitou’s arresting voice is reminiscent of Dolores O’Riordan mixed with Marika Hackman and Ane Brun. Her sound is dark and folky, and fits in the larger Dutch framework of artists like Eefje de Visser and Luwten. It is a very pleasant sound that Pitou is exploring and will no doubt develop further.
Negative: I Fall Asleep So Fast is clearly an EP in that there is not really a clear structure or style to speak of. “Problems” was released as a single quite a while ago but although it is a very strong folk pop effort, it does not really mesh with the other songs on the EP that play a lot more with production, instrumentation, and the interlacing of folk with experimental.
Why? Because Dutch music is having a bona fide MOMENT and I’m not just saying that because it’s my homeland.
How? This is great music to listen to by your lonesome.
When? At that time when evening turns into night.
For fans of: Sharon Van Etten, Bernice, Marika Hackman
Rufus Wainwright – Rufus Wainwright (1998)
Positive: Although never having received proper mainstream fame, Rufus Wainwright has had a long successful careers with a most dedicated fanbase. I might not have been there from the start but have definitely become one of these loving fans. From the very start Wainwright’s confessional writing has been sublime, and a track like “Foolish Love” which opens this album is a prime example of this. The sound he has perfected over the year, borrowing from opera, Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, classical, country, and folk, can be traced all the way back to this debut record. Insanely ambitious, this is an impressive debut record that brought forward a sound unparalleled by any other artist.
Negative: In relation to his wider oeuvre, this debut has an innocence and purity that leaves it feeling a little safe at times. It’s obviously wrong to claim that a crystal meth addiction can really help your creative vision, but from sophomore album Poses onwards there is an edge to Wainwright’s sound that is missing on this initial record.
Why? There is no one like Rufus Wainwright and however you feel about him, you ought to at least be familiar with him.
How? This is great music to go out into the world with. Pop your headphones on and see how the world changes with this album filling your ears.
When? When you’re feeling slightly scornful yet determined.
For fans of: Joan As Police Woman, Fiona Apple, Antony and the Johnsons