This week’s essential listening also includes wild raps from Megan Thee Stallion and crushing grindcore.
Every week, the Noisey staff puts together a list of the best and most important albums, mixtapes, and EPs from the past seven days. Sometimes it includes projects we’ve written about on the site already; sometimes it’s just made up of great records that we want everyone to hear, but never got the chance to write about. The result is neither comprehensive nor fair. We hope it helps.
Tyler, the Creator: IGOR
Tyler, the Creator has a few ideas as to how you should enjoy his just-released album IGOR. Stay far, far away from Twitter. Listen all the way through, ideally with no distractions—but definitely without your phone nearby. Avoid message boards at all costs, and a loud volume is ideal, too, whether it be through headphones or speakers. There are probably less precious ways to dictate the conditions in which your new album is heard, but Tyler is not wrong. IGOR is a masterful work by a polymath, an architect of an entire universe that coheres more clearly with each release. The Playboi Carti-assisted “EARFQUAKE” is a highlight, as is the psychedelic disco-funk of “WHAT’S GOOD.” But trying to tease out specific moments in the uninterrupted flow of IGOR is a fool’s errand. Tyler was right. This is an assemblage of scattered ideas that coalesce into something bigger. Unlike anything else in his discography, IGOR shows Tyler untethered and at ease. Look what happens when you log off of Twitter. —Will Schube
Carly Rae Jepsen: Dedicated
It’s been nearly five long years since Carly Rae Jepsen released E·MO·TION, her critically beloved third album and the bearer of many a banger about painful crushing, schoolgirl longing, and never quite getting what you want. Now, on Dedicated, we see a sultrier side of Jepsen—one who isn’t afraid to overtly reference more adult dalliances. Jepsen said in an interview that her biggest influence for these songs was Donna Summer, but there are also bits of early-aughts synth pop, 80s glam, and 70s roller-rink anthems to be found here.
On “Want You in My Room,” she croons, “Don’t go / the night’s not over / On the bed / on the floor / I don’t care anymore;” on “Party for One,” she revels in masturbatory solitude. “Too Much,” one of the standout tracks, brings to mind not-so-distant throwbacks like Annie and The Knife, and she ups her annunciation and matures her lovelorn angst. Maybe she finally got what she wanted, and realized that requited love ain’t always what it’s cracked up to be. —Hilary Pollack
Megan Thee Stallion: Fever
Don’t look now, but Megan Thee Stallion just released one of the best rap albums of the year. The first woman signed to 300 Entertainment might be the biggest thing to come out of Houston in the last decade (Travis Scott doesn’t count; he was born on the internet) and if you didn’t already know her name, you definitely know it now. On Fever, the influence of fellow Texas legends UGK and southern rap icons Three 6 Mafia are readily apparent. In a direct nod to those influences, the album includes a verse from Juicy J on album standout “Simon Says,” and “W.A.B.” is a fresh take on Three 6 Mafia’s “Weak Azz Bitch,” that flips the song with Megan’s own flavor. Consider this her coronation. —Leslie Horn
The National: I Am Easy To Find
The National have become one of the foremost active American bands by largely sticking to their guns with subtle tweaks at their grand and melancholic alternative rock. Over eight albums and almost two decades as an active band, their latest I Am Easy To Find is a creative leap that proves how they’ve managed to maintain their success. It’s a cinematic LP, not just because it was made in collaboration with 20th Century Women director Mike Mills, who made an Alicia Vikander-starring short film as a companion piece. The production is lush and densely orchestrated with songs like “Rylan” standing among the band’s finest offerings. —Josh Terry
Erika de Casier: Essentials
Though its songs were all written around the same period of time, Essentials flows like a ‘Best of’ CD (a fact that its title knowingly nods at), each track packed tight with immediately addictive hooks and laced with all the tinny hi-hats and liquid synths of a lost Brandy album.
But if the sound is retro, de Casier’s concerns definitely aren’t; on “Good Time,” she sings about the role that phones play in our modern conceptions of romance. “Don’t write it in a message / Just say it to my face,” she pleads before the chorus cuts straight to the heart of the never-ending DM dance: As she sings “I had a really, really, really, really, really good time,” you can practically feel her typing out each “really,” praying that it sounds sincere. —Sam Goldner, “Erika de Casier’s R&B Feels Like Hitting the Club with an Old Friend”
Injury Reserve: Injury Reserve
Arizona’s punk-rap pit-starters come into their own as zoners on this thoughtful and varied self-titled effort. So intent on disrupting your expectations that they get fellow fire starter Rick Nasty to murmur over a bear that sounds like Japanese environmental music, this trio adopts a rap-smarter-not-harder approach.
They pare back the seasick distortion and 808 firebombs in favor of cheeky samples—like the speech-to-text “how to make a song” instructions that open “Rap Song Tutorial” or the Teriyaki Boyz riff on “Jailbreak the Tesla”—and casual barbs at biters, influencer-types, and the industry old guard who has little hope to understand them. Still when they rage, they rage hard, as on the Cakes Da Killa and JPEGMAFIA noise-rave “GTFU,” upon which they repeatedly implore their listeners to “get the fuck up.” You’d be wise to listen to them. —Colin Joyce
Spencer Radcliffe & Everyone Else: Hot Spring
The stunningly pastoral arrangements on Hot Spring transcend the anxiety-laced malaise throughout. The plaintive “Here Comes The Snow” gorgeously ambles to make for one of Radcliffe’s most beautiful songs yet especially when he sings, “Some people do the dance with death just to learn how to live.” Though the pedal steel and the guitars echo the touchstones of Cosmic American Music, the LP is hardly a country album. Single “Bloodletting” belies its pretty composition, full of lush strings and Lyons’ wailing pedal steel as Radcliffe sings, “Missiles dancing in the clouds that waterboarded roofs below / Peace and love were nice while they lasted, but now it’s time to lock and load.” —Josh Terry, “Spencer Radcliffe and Everyone Else Chuckle at the Void on Their New Album”
Full of Hell: Weeping Choir
I have never been hit in the chest harder than the time I saw Full of Hell open for Nails. Some big cargo shorts fuck spin-kicking with reckless abandon lost control of his flailing limbs and planted a big meaty forearm right in my sternum, knocking the wind out of me and nearly sending me tumbling to the floor of one of the worst rooms to see live music in Manhattan, sure I was facing certain death at the sole of a Doc Martens boot. I survived, but that blunt force is a pretty decent metaphor for the grindy noise that Full of Hell has morphed into over the years. Weeping Choir finds their take on hardcore getting ever more gnarled and weird, which paradoxically only allows it to hit harder. It’s full of feedback and noise and twisted field recordings, which only add to the disorienting effect of the punishment. Approach with caution, be ready to get stomped on. —Colin Joyce
Nadia Tehran: Dozakh: All Lovers Hell
As a tried-and-true punk raised in a small Swedish town by Iranian parents, Nadia Tehran knows alienation. “Everybody wants to belong to something,” she said in an interview with Paper magazine earlier this week. “We’re a whole generation growing up like you and me and our friends and our families who have this sense of rootlessness and feel like they exist in a gap or some kind of void that you inherit.”
Her debut full-length Dozakh: All Lovers Hell feels like an attempt at tracing all the contours of that void both in personal and universal terms. Most of the songs here feel like they’re about searching for connection and the things that prevent such connection from being possible. “Down” spells out these themes most explicitly: “I try, but I’m still locked out / I’m still locked out.” She adopts a lot of different styles across, darting from jittery sound poetry to airy ballads to punkish rippers that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Yeah Yeah Yeahs record. It makes sense in a way. The void doesn’t have borders, why should her sound? —Colin Joyce
Institute: Readjusting the Locks
These days, everyday dread is coupled with the march toward another election cycle, in which, Institute singer Moses Brown says, no one seems equipped for “writing truly effective policy” or upholding existing ideas—like the Green New Deal or Universal Basic Income—that could stand to truly improve the lives of marginalized people in the country and around the world.
This is the backdrop for Readjusting the Locks, 13 tracks more anxious and upset than Institute has ever felt before. It’s their third record for Sacred Bones, and it’s the most wound-up and unsettled by a long shot. Press materials cite ’77 punk as a possible reference point, but that doesn’t really seem to capture the spirit of it—not exactly. Those bands were having a good time, and this record—even at its most “rockin'” moments, like the chugging opener “MPS”—has this undertone of dread. You can hear it in the way the rhythms sorta unravel, or in Brown’s wheezy resignation. There’s this feeling that everything might not be alright in the end. — Colin Joyce, “Institute’s Freak-Punk Tries to Make Sense of a Disorienting World”
Ryan Pollie: Ryan Pollie
As Los Angeles songwriter Ryan Pollie was gearing to finish his excellent self-titled solo LP, his first since he dropped the moniker Los Angeles Police Department, a cancer diagnosis turned his life upside down. Though he had already been asking big questions in his already written lyrics, like on the spiritually intense “Aim Slow,” his song “Only Child” directly deals with his illness. Pollie singing, “the benadryl IV has my head turned around/my hair is falling out/my parents are calling now.” It’s a heavy listen considering the circumstances but Pollie has an effortless interpretation of ’70s rock ‘n’ roll, taking as many cues from Harry Nillson as he does the hushed intimacy of contemporaries like Sufjan Stevens. He’s quietly put out some of the most heart-rending folk inspired tunes this half-decade and even without overcoming his health struggle, this would be his most resilient collection yet. —Josh Terry
Slow Pulp: Big Day EP
Slow Pulp formed in Madison but decamped to Chicago last fall. Their expansive and atmospheric rock that can turn from taking cues from surging ’90s alternative to folky quiet in an instant. Their latest EP Big Day finds the band picking up where they left off on their soaring 2018 single “Steel Birds.” Here there are big choruses, loud guitars, and soothingly disorienting vocals from lead singer Emily Massey. Opener “Do You Feel It” slowly evolves into a grandiose freakouts with galloping drums, searing lead guitars before abruptly fading out while “High” maintains its fire-breathing intensity with overpowering bass and chugging riffs. Even as the arrangements bounce all over the place, Massey’s voice is the anchor that keeps it centered. —Josh Terry