Download fall albums that stand out among summer hits
Summer can often be defined by the songs that ruled the airwaves, blaring out of car radios across the nation. The summer of 2018 will be remembered for songs like Cardi B’s “I Like It”, Ella Mai’s “Boo’d Up” and the slew of Drake singles that ruled the charts. But, the transition from summer break to school means your go-to playlist may need some modification. In the closing weeks of summer, plenty of great music has come out to aid the change of the seasons, so here are a few albums to give a chance this school year.
Blood Orange - "Negro Swan"
Made in studios around the world, "Negro Swan" is the fourth Blood Orange album, and arguably the strongest. Produced entirely by Dev Hynes, the album is a mix of R&B, alt-rock and pop music. Hynes does not shy away from embracing all of his influences, with rappers like Puff Daddy and A$AP Rocky appearing alongside indie acts like Porches and Kelsey Lu.
The album is narrated by Janet Mock, the boundary-breaking transgender rights activist, writer and TV host. Over the course of the album, she talks about forming your own families and support networks through friends. Speaking to Pitchfork, Hynes said, “The underlying thread through each piece on the album is the idea of HOPE, and the lights we can try to turn on within ourselves with a hopefully positive outcome of helping others out of their darkness.” That is a message that anyone can get behind.
Recommended songs: “Charcoal Baby”, “Runnin”, “Saint”
Mitski - "Be The Cowboy"
Mitski is one of the best writers in music right now, crafting songs that dive past surface-level narratives of love. She relentlessly cross-examines her behavior, spelling out every shortcoming and personal victory in layman’s terms. Mitski seems to be enamored by the little things, singing of the everyday routines of relationships with reverence.
The record runs the gamut of alt-rock, going from acoustic tunes to heavier tracks with a full band. On “Nobody” Mitski shows her versatility, making a disco/alt-rock hybrid which is incredibly fun as long as you ignore the somber lyrics. The album is also very concise, with only two songs running longer than 3 minutes. The best quality of "Be The Cowboy" is the painstaking honesty that is evident on every track, which makes it an engaging listen.
Recommended songs: “Nobody”, “Two Slow Dancers”, “A Pearl”
Pink Siifu - "Ensley"
Rap is often braggadocious, with artists flexing at every available opportunity in an attempt to keep the spotlight squarely on themselves. Pink Siifu is not that kind of rapper, as he has been frank regarding the struggle of most independent artists. As an NYC transplant by way of Alabama, he has been working for Postmates delivering food around the city on his bike. His music matches his reality, with songs that process the world as it moves around him.
The music also matches his geographical journey, with sample-heavy loops reminiscent of 90’s East Coast Hip-Hop and his southern drawl. A poet since his college days, the verses are often delivered like a spoken word performance. Pink Siifu is candid about life in a big city where it is easy to lose yourself, and his sense of self shines through on each track. As a whole, "Ensley" is a calming listen that exposes a different side of the rap game, one more true to everyday life.
Recommended songs: “Pray Everyday”, “Decisions Ova Jerk Chicken”, “Pops Tired”
Ben Khan - "Ben Khan"
Sometimes making an album is a struggle, something Ben Khan can attest to. In conversation with Noisey, he said, “There was a point where I went to Kashmir to see my Dad for three weeks. I was really stressed out and not knowing what to do with (music). It was a great reset going away from everything.”
The songs across his self-titled debut album usually settle into a deep groove influenced by R&B and electronic music in equal measure. Borrowing from the classical Indian music that Khan surely heard growing up, the record joins his two worlds. Eastern percussion like tablas intermingle with soaring synths on “monsoon daydream” and a sitar segues into smooth guitar riffs on the lead single “ruby”. The vocals are heavily processed, with all different sorts of autotune and filters transforming his voice. His debut is a stunning showcase of South Asian pop-futurism, one of the best since M.I.A. ruled the charts.
Recommended songs: “2000 angels”, “ruby”, “waterfall”
Along with these albums, there is plenty of great music coming in the next few weeks. New BROCKHAMPTON, Joyce Manor and a Lil Baby/Gunna collaboration tape are on the way. Keep your eyes and ears peeled, as there is always something new to give a spin.