Some new hits for Fall
From the newest release of actor-turned-rapper Donald Glover to the resurrection of classic rock acts like Weezer, October has been a veritably fruitful month with regards to musical output, and listeners should be sure to make the following new releases the soundtracks to their autumn.
Childish Gambino, Kauai (Oct. 3)
Childish Gambino (the stage name of former Community cast member Donald Glover) is nothing short of legendary, both in terms of prolificity and lyrical genius. Combining his ability to spit masterfully-crafted rhymes with his noteworthy vocal potential, Gambino deserves to be heralded as one of the greatest rappers of our time.
Early October saw the dual release of the mixtape STN/MTN and the EP Kauai, which jointly constitute a follow-up to Gambino’s 2013 concept album Because the Internet. It is the aforementioned EP that is sure to strike listeners as particularly fresh and thought-provoking.
Album-opener “Sober” is exactly as the title describes – a rather typical Gambino breakup song, drenched in angst and uncertainty, and making outstanding use of sequencers.
“Pop Thieves,” on the other hand, is a terrifically endearing love song, featuring a wonderfully-catchy throwback R&B sound. Its follow-up track “Retro” showcases Gambino’s surprisingly nice falsetto, with an even more retro feel on the track’s hook.
Conversely, “Poke” is a darker, straight-ahead rap track, featuring some of the EP’s trappiest beats and an impressive verse by Atlanta’s Steve G. Lover III.
Finally, the penultimate track “Late Night in Kauai” opens with a spoken-word verse by Jaden Smith, who previously played the protagonist in Gambino’s concept album Because the Internet. If much of Gambino’s discography is a lesson in existential crises, “Late Night in Kauai” is a prime example of such musings.
Overall, Kauai is a noteworthy EP, especially when paired with STN/MTN to serve as a complement to Gambino’s wide-reaching ideas and ambitious projects.
Weezer, Everything Will Be Alright in the End (Oct. 7)
Weezer’s highly-anticipated new release is the group’s first album since 2010, and it provides incontrovertible evidence to their fans that the legendary alt-rockers are back in the swing of things.
“Ain’t Got Nobody” is a thrashing throwback to the band’s 1994 Blue Album (which makes sense, considering that both Everything and The Blue Album were produced by Ric Ocasek).
Lead single “Back to the Shack” is a nostalgic tune, one that advertises the group’s wish to return to its alt-rock roots. “Eulogy For a Rock Band” shares the same sentiment, with its chunky chords and heavy distortion effects.
“I’ve Had It Up To Here” features frontman Rivers Cuomo’s impressive falsetto and catchy guitar riffage in describing his refusal to compromise his integrity, and should be considered one of Everything’s standout cuts.
“Go Away” is a classic ‘50s-throwback, and it invites a vocal performance by Bethany Cosentino from the L.A indie duo Best Coast.
“Cleopatra” is yet another spectacular single from Everything, and its jangly guitar and folky harmonica parts help make it one of the album’s most unique tracks.
However, it is Everything’s ultimate three-part mini epic that is the final showcase of Weezer’s mighty resurrection. “Part I. The Waste Land” is a wholly instrumental track, showcasing extravagant guitar work. “Part II. Anonymous” is a claustrophobic hard-rocker, paying a hint of homage to Weezer’s heroes, Kiss. “Part III. Return to Ithaka” is another phenomenal instrumental track that closes out Everything with a wave of distortion.
While this record may not be everything that die-hard Weezer fans are looking for, it is certainly a welcomed addition to the group’s discography, and it provides convincing proof that the group is back at it again.
Wampire, Bazaar (Oct. 7)
Wampire, the little-known electro-indie duo from Portland, Oregon, released their second studio album earlier this month. Entitled Bazaar, it expertly (if not strangely) combines synth-slathered hooks with wonderful rock instrumentation.
Album opener “The Amazing Heart Attack” is a heavily-synthesized time capsule from the 1980s, one that sets the stage for the rest of the album’s vintage feel.
“Fly on the Wall” features an impressive saxophone performance by Thomas Hoganson; Bazaar not only draws on synthpop influences, but also on the impact of jazz-rock instrumentals.
Single “Wizard Staff” presents fantastic lead guitar work, just a cut below that of Mark Knopfler’s signature twangy sound, and it deserves to be proclaimed as one of Bazaar’s standout cuts.
“Millennials” is an altogether novel piece, combining an a cappella intro – thickly overlaid with what sounds like a Vocoder – with an indie-meets-Duke-era Genesis vibe.
“Life of Luxury” is an interesting break from the overall synth-rock feel of the album; an indie-folk number, it features stellar piano work and a bluesy lead guitar part.
Bazaar’s final track “People of Earth” is a spacey and distantly Bowie-esque tune that provides the last shred of evidence listeners need to believe that Wampire is as promising as they are. Audience members looking for a slightly more classic – if not eccentric – sound are sure to be impressed by this LP.
Foxygen, …And Star Power (Oct. 14)
From the aggressive noisiness of album-opener “Star Power Airlines” to the mellow, reverb-laden “Hang,” Foxygen’s newest double album both entrances and excites.
“How Can You Really” is a soft-rock tune reminiscent of Todd Rundgren’s 1972 Something/Anything?, or perhaps of Eldorado-era ELO. It is succeeded by the dark piano ballad “Coulda Been My Love,” which channels ‘70s singer-songwriters like Carole King.
“Cosmic Vibrations” morphs gradually from a Simon & Garfunkel-infused number to a fast-paced homage to the Doors, complete with a rock organ and all.
The climax of …And Star Power is its four-part Star Power saga, which combines thumping instrumental sections with glam-rock fashion, à la Foxygen’s ancestors Sweet.
“Flowers” is one of the record’s lightest pieces, combining sugary sun-pop with neo-psychedelic elements. However, it is starkly juxtaposed with the brashness of the prog-rock tune “Wally’s Farm,” which sounds like an undiscovered demo tape from Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother.
Even more of Foxygen’s influences are revealed as …And Star Power plays on: “Can’t Contextualize My Mind” is a bluesy, punky tribute to Cream; “Brooklyn Police Station” is a heavily-distorted tribute to Iggy and the Stooges; and even “The Game” sounds like a nod to contemporary indie-rocker Cat Power.
While at times …And Star Power may come across as unoriginal and imitative, it is nevertheless exciting. Fans of progressive rock and bubblegum pop will surely be entertained by this young, flashy indie outfit.