The hump day half-dozen: Thundercat, Ultraísta, Empress Of + more!
It’s time for round three of the “hump day half dozen!” It may be the final week of classes, but that doesn’t mean our music staff is letting up on their love of sharing new music with the world. As long as new music keeps coming, we’ll be here to offer some of our recent favorites!
I’m Your Empress Of
Empress Of’s album I’m Your Empress Of is a stunner with its infectious, dancey beats. Lorely Rodriguez uses heartbreak as a backdrop to tell a refined story about finding her roots as a woman. The titular track sets the tone of the album with a deeply emotional recording from her mother in which she says “I only have one girl, but the only girl is like having thousands of girls because look how many times she reproduces herself in each one of you.” Rodriguez also explores themes of sexuality and immigration and does so with a fresh perspective. She infuses her music with beautiful samples, tight production, and rich vocals that are laced with grief and pain. The album is set up so that the listener rides the emotional rollercoaster with her; in 33 minutes, you follow her journey as she begins vulnerable and ends up victorious with her coming-to-terms of independence. This album is extremely catchy and sticks in your head, however, if you listen to it too much, I believe it can be easy to get tired of the songs. I’m Your Empress Of is the type of club music specially made for the dreamers and hopelessly romantic. Listen to it, but warning: you may unconsciously tap your foot, bob your head, or replay the tracks numerous times (: —Sonya Boukengolts
Social Crutch is an album that pays tribute to the sounds of the 90’s with modern touches that make the album unique. Gold Cage’s debut album often reminds me of bands like Duster or Galaxie 500, with the slowcore track “What is Left,” as well as moving in a faster and more contemporary sound with “Spaghettify.” The reverb-heavy instrumentation and vocals create an atmospheric mood that’s perfect for some quiet reflection. —Ryan Walchonski
It Is What It Is
Thundercat delivers with a project stitching together a bunch of short ideas with a mixtape-esque flow as on “Drunk,” with a more trimmed length and a dialed back goofiness factor. That’s not to say It Is What It Is is super serious, it just backs its goofiness up with some great melodies and really fresh production, compliments of Flying Lotus, BBNG, Sounwave, among others. In fact, Thundercat might be at his best when he is hanging out with (and supported by) his friends: the silly Zack Fox interlude on “Overseas” is just ridiculous enough to work as a transition into the surprising depth of “Dragonball Durag”; Louis Cole adds some choice percussion on a punk-adjacent, 150bpm ode to bromance (“I Love Louis Cole”); and everyone’s favorite Brainfeeder, Kamasi Washington, pops in every so often for some incredibly spicy seasoning above pensive bass arpeggios. Thundercat does a great job at crossing his fierce technical abilities and musical vocabulary with listenable pop tunes, at the same time playing with sounds and even people presumed to be passe (shoutout for the Steve Arrington of Slave feature). And Lil B is in the mix so it’s gotta be a 10/10. —Spencer Smith
Olhava is a Russian band specializing in crafting atmospheric black metal, and their latest effort, Ladoga, showcases that they are at the top of the game when it comes to creating lush and impactful songs. This album can almost be considered ambient as much as it is black metal. It consists of four black metal songs, with five ambient songs laced between to create a dynamic yet cohesive experience. The way these tracks flow together so nicely is one of its major draws to me. Listening to this album is almost like listening to one song. The softer ambient interludes fit very nicely with the feel of this album overall, and the harsh, fast black metal sections are blended in such a way that they somehow feel peaceful and soothing. The lyrics speak of nature and its connection to the speaker, and although these lyrics are all in Russian, these feelings translate so well just through the music. This album is a journey that is best experienced with a front-to-back listen, and I believe it to be one of the best examples of what modern atmospheric black metal has to offer. This is a fantastic album that I would recommend to anyone interested in ambient, black metal, or blackgaze music. —Derek Adams
Ultraísta is the product of collaboration between three musical powerhouses: producer Nigel Godrich (of Radiohead fame), drummer Joey Waronker (Beck, REM), and vocalist Laura Bettinson (FEMME, Lau). And their writing and recording process on Sisters was far from traditional. The songs were largely from improvisational sessions between the three members–each bringing in different musical aspects to push the songs in new directions. “Tin King” is a gradual build from Bettinson’s hypnotic vocals underscored by Waronker’s punchy-but-subdued drumming and a walking synth bass to a grand, high-energy conclusion. “Ordinary Boy” is testament to Waronker’s range as a percussionist with its driving, changing beats. “Water in My Veins” is a grittier, funkier track with its fuzzier synths and city noise samples, and its follow-up “Bumblebees” is a cleaner, subtler track that replaces city sounds with nature sounds. Sisters in a testament to each of these artists range and talent, as well as their dedication to the improv recording style. But this leads to Sisters ending up feeling like more of a gallery of songs than a cohesive unit. —Alex Gosek
The new album from Wasted Shirt presents Black Pus in top form with some Ty Segall icing on top. Black Pus is up to his usual tricks here; frantic and technical drumming combined with a wacky sound pallet, resulting in noise rock that is as manic and gleeful as it is menacing and aggressive. Ty Segall’s contribution is largely through his guitar leads, emphasizing the noisiest side of his playing. This adds an additional layer of psychedelia to Black Pus’ frenzy which defines the duo as a unified entity as opposed to two separate ones, and I can easily imagine the two of them jamming out in some garage. I really enjoyed the vocal performances across this album because of their high energy and variety. The main focus is on the instrumentals, but the chants, growls, and murmurs add atmosphere; I feel like I’m listening in to a world full of zany characters. I also have to emphasize how great the bass sounds, although I believe it is triggered by Black Pus’ drums. It’s thick and fuzzy, and the most captivating moments on the album happen when it is pounding at the forefront. Ultimately this album won’t be for everyone, and I can’t say the compositions and riffs are as memorable as each individual’s best works from the past (check out Lightning Bolt’s album from last year). If tripping out and smashing your face into the concrete while grinning ear to ear sounds like a figurative pastime you would enjoy, however, this album is definitely worth the listen. —Evan Rubin