Review: Best albums released this summer (so far)
As the summer nears its end, the Emerald looks back at some of the best albums released during the time of the year when car windows stay rolled down and music means everything. Displayed chronologically, these are the albums the Emerald thinks are must-listens for the summer of 2018.
Kanye’s Five Album Run – Various Artists (May 25th – June 23rd)
In the summer’s dawn, Kanye West rolled out a catalogue of five albums he executively produced, week after week, for a variety of associated artists. First, it was Pusha T’s greatly successful “Daytona,” then Kanye’s eighth solo album “Ye,” followed by a collaborative project between Kanye and Kid Cudi titled “Kids See Ghosts,” then Nas’ “Nasir” and finally Teyana Taylor’s “K.T.S.E.” to finish the lineup.
What unifies the Wyoming Sessions (where the recording/creation of these albums took place) is their compressed tracklisting. None of the five records exceed more than eight songs (K.T.S.E. being the only one with eight, the rest only containing seven) and 27 minutes (most of the albums run for about 22). One can listen to an entire album on the way to work, and another album on the way back. Aside from the shorter run-time, Kanye’s forever-exciting musicianship behind the boards is something never to be missed.
“God’s Favorite Customer” – Father John Misty (June 1st)
Father John Misty’s fourth album, following his 2017 commentary “Pure Comedy,” eases back on his pointed beliefs as to why the world is the way that it is; his new album finds its motivation in FJM’s need to look within, instead of projecting. Written in a six week span coinciding with heavy marital dissonance and consequent emotional distress, “God’s Favorite Customer” affords the cynic reflection and understanding, all while maintaining FJM’s position as, almost in jest, just a few steps ahead of the rest of us.
The production is bigger than just a “folk-rock” labeling: The almost viscous piano on “The Palace,” the running melodies on “Mr. Tillman” (maybe his most sarcastically personal work yet), and the heavy pouncing on “Disappointing Diamonds Are the Rarest of Them All” gives the record a gravitational pull. Exploring all the timbres within himself, like the transition from the playful “Date Night” to the sobering “Please Don’t Die,” FJM throws it all to the wall, and what sticks is a vulnerable self-portrait.
“Year of the Snitch” – Death Grips (June 22nd)
With “Year of the Snitch,” the most far-out group that can generously be considered hip-hop takes another big step toward the “far-out.” Yet, they do so by subtly compromising the fiery ball of disorienting, industrial energy that seems to fill every nook of their now six album catalogue.
While still throwing a punch at nearly every measure with erratic drums now familiar on Death Grips tracks, “Year of the Snitch” miraculously shows some yield in between the lines: in the haltering outro of “Hahaha,” the moments of recomposure in “Dilemma” and “The Fear’s” occasional swelling and wavering synth and piano — when you listen carefully, these moments almost comfort. Though most of the time frantic thanks to MC Ride’s roars, “Year of the Snitch” offers a bit of what’s been missing in the majority of previous Death Grips releases: resolve.
“Hive Mind” – The Internet (July 20th)
Like Tyler, The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt and the rest of the Odd Future syndicate, The Internet can’t — and doesn’t want to — shake the ever-existent bravado that can only be described as Odd Future, despite the group’s golden years being a half-decade behind them now. While the aura remains, each functioning entity of the collective fills an intriguing, individual space; like Tyler’s eccentric artistry or Earl’s apathetic humdrum, The Internet puts forward the energy of the easy-going and the forward-thinking, and their latest album, “Hive Mind,” embodies just that.
Brilliantly weaving live instrumentation and tasteful sampling and loops, the album contains funky and fluctuating bass lines, electronically-tinged acoustic guitar and is punctuated by Syd’s floating vocals. After taking some time off to explore their individual music interests in recent years, Syd, Matt Martians, Steve Lacy, Patrick Page II and Christopher Smith reunited to bring The Internet’s most cohesive work yet, a detailing of the Internet’s collective “Hive Mind.”
“ASTROWORLD” – Travis Scott (August 3rd)
To many, Travis Scott’s third album, “ASTROWORLD,” finally meets the potential most are sure Scott can reach: a sprawling manifesto of progressive, dynamic hip-hop bred out of the traditions of early 2010s Cudi and Kanye. On the record, Scott’s visions seem to crystallize, finally translating without falter to those who are gladly carried by the currents of trap — and also those who stubbornly swim against it.
Scott has a way of being almost offensively personal, unscathingly real, and “ASTROWORLD” continues this trend. On the first track, “STARGAZING,” Scott makes his status clear, “Got new money, got new problems, got new enemies / When you make it to the top, it’s the amenities,” making the chip on Scott’s shoulder one of the selling pieces of the album. Featuring personnel such as Frank Ocean, Kid Cudi, Drake, Pharrell, Mike Dean, Tame Impala and Thundercat, among others, “ASTROWORLD” is as bold as its all-caps lettering.
Other albums released this summer worth listening to:
“Everything Is Love” – The Carters (Beyonce and Jay Z) (June 16th)
“Scorpion” – Drake (June 29th)
“The Now Now” – Gorillaz (June 29th)
“TA13OO” – Denzel Curry (July 27th)
“Family Portrait” – Ross From Friends (July 27th)
“I Don’t Want: The Gold Fire Sessions” – Santigold (July 27th)
“Swimming” – Mac Miller (August 3rd)
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