Last week we did our first album haul of the year, and it was a good one! After a week of training our new volunteers, these purchases are now ready available for loan in the library. Check out what we got to see if anything tickles your fancy, and come find us on the top floor of the Union to get involved:
Ariana Grande – Dangerous Woman; Anohni – Hopelessness; Ian William Craig – Centres; DJ Khaled – Major Key; Rae Sremmurd – Sremmlife2; Gucci Mane – Everybody Looking; Fifth Harmony – 7/27; PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project [vinyl]; Jessy Lanza – Oh No [vinyl]; James Blake – The Colour in Anything; Kaytranada – 99.9%; Anderson.paak – Malibu; Beyonce – Lemonade; Drake – Views; Mitski – Puberty 2; YG – Still Brazy; Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree; Parquet Courts – Human Performance; The Avalanches – Wildflower; King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity; JME – Integrity>; Skepta – Konnichiwa; Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition; patten – Ψ; machinedrum – Human Energy; Elysia Crampton – Elysia Crampton Presents: Demon City [vinyl]; Ziur – Deeform [vinyl]; Fatima Al Qadiri – Brute [vinyl]; SOPHIE – Product; Yves Tumor – Serpent Music [vinyl]; M.E.S.H. – Piteous Gate [vinyl]; Princess Nokia – 1992; Frank Ocean – Blond; Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book; Lil Yachty – Lil Boat; Junglepussy – Pregnant with Success.
Not sure what to take out? Here are some of our members’ top picks:
Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion: Side B
Carly Rae Jepsen didn’t achieve a lot of commercial success with her 2015 release Emotion, in fact most people still only know her as the girl who sang ‘Call Me Maybe’ at 26. However, she did attract both critical acclaim and a lot of diehard fans – many of them queer, hence her headlining at Brighton Pride this year – and it is for them that Emotion: Side B, an album of offcuts from Emotion, was released. In a world that tends to look down on anything associated with teenage girls, it’s not surprising that she gets dismissed. Her music has no pretensions to artiness and deals almost exclusively with the stuff of adolescence: dumb crushes and break ups (only one song ‘Higher’ is actually written about a relationship in progress). Her songs are about the kind of emotion where we feel at our most childish and vulnerable, sung over synth beats that are empowering and energising. Therefore, just as it’s easy to miss the sadness and sexuality of her lyrics in the infectious 80s-influenced tunes, it’s easy to forget that Carly Rae Jepsen is not in fact a teenage girl but almost 30 years old. The fact that her music doesn’t seem to fit who she is in real life, however, is central to what makes Jepsen unique as a popstar. In a time when albums are becoming increasingly autobiographical, she’s resisted the pull to make herself into a brand – her face isn’t even shown on the cover art, instead replaced with a yellow-pink gradient. The most obvious contrast that can be made is with the likes of Taylor Swift: while they both deal in relatable songs about the obsessive unreality of young love, Swift’s are always at their core about the person Taylor Swift and, crucially, are commercial successes. Also unlike Swift, Jepsen doesn’t deal in ballads; every song on Emotion: Side B is high-energy, retro-sounding and slickly produced mall-pop. The album’s only bum note is ‘Store’, which sounds like the verses and chorus of two different songs spliced together, but has a great enough premise – dumping someone by going to the store and never coming back – that it can get away with this discordance. As an album of offcuts, Emotion: Side B was never going to be Jepsen’s greatest work but it’s still better than most of the sad white boy indie-rock you could be listening to otherwise. Don’t let sad white boys make you think you’re too good for Carly Rae Jepsen.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity
Nonagon Infinity, King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard’s latest effort, is a complicated, heavily layered piece of work; surprisingly very reminiscent of King Crimson and the early prog bands of the 70s. Starting with a heavily syncopated mantra-esque affirmation that “Nonagon infinity opens the door”, the opening track launches you into a crunchy dystopia with the Spector-style walls of sound immersing you in the band’s newfound heaviness. This is a side of the band only glimpsed at on previous albums, such as I’m in your mind fuzz. Continuing in this style the first half of the album cycles through various musical motifs with every song bleeding into the next. A highlight of this collage is the song ‘People-Vultures’ with a hooky riff and intriguing lyrics such as “People Vultures/ God approaches/ final hearing/ disappearing”. Such lyrical ambiguity only serves to further demonstrate the estrangement of the lead singer and songwriter Stu Mackenzie’s bizarre mind from reality, which is passed onto the listener. As the songs continue to merge into one, more interesting elements and influences start to peek out from the thick sludgy guitars and doubled up drums, such as in the song ‘Mr Beat’ that, whilst being in 7/8, remains catchy and fluid with a Jethro Tull feel to it. The song also demonstrates Mackenzie’s flute wizardry that is, however, unfortunately in vain due to the production showing little sympathy to woodwind instruments in a mix full of wide-panning stereo drums and swirling guitars. This production generally tends to favour the band’s frantic style, with songs such as ‘Road Train’ and ‘Evil Death Roll’ benefiting and having an almost doom metal edge. This final track ‘Road Train’ is a furiously driving song, which eventually ploughs back into the album’s first song, making the record an infinite loop; just as well, since it takes a good few thousand listens to pick out every little piece of gold subtly hidden by the Australian seven piece.
Beyoncé – Lemonade
While 2016 has been a year-long theatre of calamities, it was also the year that Beyoncé quenched our thirsty throats with a cool glass of Lemonade. In what is no doubt the musical event of the decade, the unparalleled Goddess of Sound weaves deftly through multiple genres to give us, the undeserving masses, more than an album. She gives us art. This is not a record to be put on in the background while getting ready to go to Fruity or some similar hedonistic disco party; the Empress of Music takes us on a journey with this record, one that charts the beautiful, strange and oftentimes painful experience of being a black woman in a white world. With influences spanning across Yoruba mythology to dancehall, Lemonade educates and enlightens (while also going extremely hard).
First and foremost, this is an album about healing. It charts one woman’s discovery of her husband’s infidelity in the haunting ‘Pray You Catch Me’ and the subsequent rage, apathy and eventual forgiveness of this unnamed cad (I won’t get into speculations about the Ethereal Chanteuse’s love life here). And now I shall give the highlights:
- ‘Don’t Hurt Yourself’ is arguably the greatest rock song of all time (I say arguably but there’s no argument – it’s the best).
- In ‘All Night’, we witness Beyoncé actually invent the concept of love before our very ears.
- ‘Freedom’ is the modern day Negro spiritual that will be the soundtrack of the revolution.
- After listening to ‘Daddy Lessons’ once, I went out that day and bought a Stetson hat and cowboy boots.
- ‘Love Drought’ is the aural equivalent of a very cold, very juicy melon.
- ‘6 Inch’ is a top five Beyoncé track because it features no mention of men and the beat bangs.
- ‘Sorry’ cleared my blemishes and restored my bank account to positive numbers.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
Nick Cave’s records have always had an eerie quality to them, but on his 16th album this is even more apparent. Completed following the tragic death of his 15 year-old son Arthur in July 2015, Skeleton Tree is plagued by death, evident in the cry of “Nothing really matters when the one you love is gone” on ‘I Need You’. Dark, brooding, almost industrial synth lines provide the basis for Cave’s mournful croon, a far cry away from the melodic guitar of 2013’s Push The Sky Away, whilst the pairing of delicate piano and gloomy synths on ‘Girl In Amber’ sounds as though it was pulled straight from the Twin Peaks soundtrack. Proof that over 40 years into his career Cave is still capable of reinventing the wheel he arguably created. Both painful yet beautiful, Skeleton Tree is a haunting masterpiece.
Parquet Courts – Human Performance
Parquet Courts have been an underground concern since the release of Light Up Gold back in 2013, and now on their fifth album they look set to break into the mainstream. Polished, yet still maintaining their DIY ethos, Parquet Courts’ sound even more thrilling here. “Dust is everywhere, sweep”, implores frontman Austin Brown over scratchy, urgent guitars on opener ‘Dust’, the trivial subject matter showing the band haven’t lost their fun side; whilst the rollicking guitars and hook-laden vocals on highlight ‘Outside’ replace ‘Stoned and Starving’ as their post-punk anthem in waiting. Human Performance is a masterclass in making you dance via 3-minute slices of Pavement-esque punk.