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Music Mondays: June Review Roundup

Every month, dozens of albums get added to KSPC’s ever-growing library. Our dedicated staff of DJs and volunteers have a long tradition of sharing music that we love with each other. In this column, we open that up to you all by going over recent additions to the library, both old and new, for your reading/listening pleasure. If these write-ups pique your interest, do support these artists if you are able!

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Arca – KiCk i

By Alan Ke PO ’22

Arca has it all. Since her debut as an artist, she’s been nothing but prolific, with feature after feature, and collaborations with the likes of everyone from Kanye to Björk. The music on KiCk i, while always distinctively Arca, traverses this diverse range of musical influences and finds a middle ground between propulsive club beats and operatically layered songwriting. Songs like the gorgeous, unraveling “Calor” and “Afterwards,” which sounds like it could have fit perfectly onto Björk’s Vespertine, are sandwiched between frantically shifting club songs “Riquiqui” and “Watch.” This juxtaposition of harshness and melody is where Arca finds herself most comfortable, yet also when her prowess shines through. On “La Chiqui” Arca’s mechanical beats converges with the glossy beauty of SOPHIE, resulting in a textured melange of glitchiness and convoluted melody. Even the most mellow points are guided by beats that sound like they’re from a cyborg on its dying breaths. Closer “No Queda Nada” is a tender ballad underscored by erratic percussion, the antithesis to the velvety vocals that Arca provides. KiCk i reconciles beauty, both natural and synthetic, into a dynamic, genre-bending experience. Ask Arca how she does it? To put it in her own words, “You’ll never know me. Ask me how I got here? Bitch, I worked hard.”

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Dogleg – Melee

By Alan Ke PO ’22

You better bet that album title is a reference to the second iteration of the Super Smash Bros. series, Melee. Just like the game it takes its name from, this album is full of aggression and fast-paced playing with a fervor unlike any other. All in all, a strong debut from Dogleg, with some moments that’ll grip you with intensity and others that sort of just get washed out since there tends to only really be one dynamic on this whole project. Despite the one-dimensionality of the second half, the album’s closer – or rather, “Ender” – is quite remarkable for its loud/quiet dynamics and incredible breakdown. The standout tracks on the first listen are “Prom Hell” and “Fox,” some of the best uses of the band’s pent-up angst. Something about their style reminds me of Sunny Day Real Estate, though with a much more pronounced post-hardcore edge to it.

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Grimes – Miss Anthropocene

By Alan Ke PO ’22

Closing in on her fifth studio album, Grimes has honed a futuristic pixie pop sound that she has claimed as her own. Miss Anthropocene shows her progression as an artist, no longer making rough, experimental oddities on Bandcamp but crafting a mature, fully fleshed out project with a clear conceptual vision centered on two seeming opposites, mythology and AI.

Artistically, Grimes found her footing on her previous album Art Angels and now with Miss Anthropocene, she’s hit her stride. Unfortunately, this means that some songs on here are too tame for their own good. Though enjoyable, some songs like “Darkseid” leave impressions of stagnancy. The song covers familiar territory for Grimes, almost perfectly mirroring one of Art Angels’ weaker tracks “Scream,” featuring the same guest and structure but with less character. However, these weak points are offset by a few highlights teeming with both personality and Grimes’ signature eccentricity. Tracks like “Delete Forever,” “Violence,” and “My Name Is Dark” standout as points where Grimes’ vision is unbound, where future and fantasy collide. What Miss Anthropocene lacks in variety, it makes up for in the occasional momentary bliss of synthetic beauty.

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Mutono – GERG

By Graham Hirsch PO ’23

While GERG is Mutono’s debut album, this more acts as his re-entry into the music industry. Prior to this, he had been releasing music under the name, Kidepo, and has only started to use his real name after coming out. GERG acts as a way for Mutono to announce himself to the world without holding anything back. Because of this, many songs off of this debut album are raw and hold nothing back. They are mostly about the struggle he’s had to accept himself as who he is as well as within his community.

I was extremely impressed by this album, it’s got some incredible production and mastering to go along with Mutono who has an amazing voice and written lyrics. His voice as well as the structure of most of these songs remind me of songs that Khalid has made, where the artists float effortlessly over a slow beat backed by heavy 808s. It is apparent, that Mutono has put an enormous amount of work into this project; it’s his masterpiece and you can tell.

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R.A.P. Ferreira – Purple Moonlight Pages

By Alan Ke PO ’22

Rory Ferreira (aka Scallops Hotel/Milo) loves to speak in tongues. The way he approaches rapping is anything but straightforward. From name-dropping references to nerd culture to rapping about Hegel, he acts more as a guru than an MC, making you a student of the green horse for rap. Usually there is a dose of humility in the rhymes Ferreira dishes out but on this mixtape, he rides his anxiousness with swagger and a sense of determination. Though the project sometimes finds itself rather directionless and more focused on an atmosphere of relaxation, that’s the purpose. Abstract raps are accompanied by understated, mellow beats. Never does Ferreira hand his message to the audience directly, his flow must always be deciphered. The awareness of that fact is what manifests in the arrogance that is confronted here.

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Toy Bastard – Life For Cowards

By Alan Ke PO ’22

Ethan Ives’ claim to fame is being the stalwart guitarist for the indie rock group Car Seat Headrest. Since his entry into the band, their live performances were given a jolt of sometimes blues-y, always invigorating guitar work inspired by the likes of Neil Young to David Byrne. Here on Ives’ solo debut as Toy Bastard, those influences from the quirkier side of the dad rock canon are brought out to the forefront. The effectiveness of it certainly varies from song to song on this project, though it never comes out as derivative or a tired homage. Ives more so channels familiar sounds towards something consistently personal. The result is something equal parts Foo Fighters and Soundgarden, a perfect homage to Ives’ home state of Washington.

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Grouper – AIA Alien Observer

By Alan Ke PO ’22

A lullaby sung in the key of space.

Sublime. Liz Harris’ music is nothing short of heavenly. Entering this album is almost ritualistic, like being administered a divine vision. In one of the most graceful ways imaginable, it lulls you into a state of semi-consciousness with the opener “Moon is Sharp.” Its drowned out melodies come in waves, like near-forgotten memories briefly resurfacing and quickly subsiding into the oblivion that is forget. These moments indulge in the abstract, hazy immateriality of pure atmosphere. Meanwhile, songs like the title track and Vapor Trails exhibit a semblance of harmony. As a listener, these more melodic songs serve to guide the listener through the chasms and nebulae the album traverses.

Though the album finds itself centered around a space theme, it more so exhibits the vitality of something sentient, ever-evolving, akin to a forest or some aquatic biome. Harris’ immaculate sounds teeter on the margins of foreign and familiar, but never does this indeterminism beget tension or instability. That’s the beauty of this record. Everything about it is alien but simultaneously controlled and comforting.

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Xiu Xiu – Knife Play

By Alan Ke PO ’22

Few groups manage to pull together a debut as harrowing and dark, let alone consistent as Xiu Xiu’s Knife Play. It’s hard to pinpoint a single place where these songs come from since, as with most Xiu Xiu albums, each song tells its own story. From the incredibly personal “Suha” to the hopeless abyss that is “Luber,” each song compounds an overall feeling of dread, self-loathing and even trauma.

Though Xiu Xiu were still in their infantile stages at the time of this album’s release, their sound is no less experimental than what fans can come to expect. For instance, the first track is opened with the percussive clanging of gamelan instruments and Stewart’s liberal use of assorted noises give each track its own flavor, if you will. Though Xiu Xiu would eventually hone their sound instrumentally and tonally A Promise, and later revisited on Girl With Basket of Fruit, no Xiu Xiu album comes close to attaining the suffocating mood of Knife Play . Though comparable, the biggest distinction between this work from the former is the suicide of Stewart’s father, which strongly influenced the writing of A Promise.

At times, this album can be difficult to stomach for the raw emotions that Stewart sets forth with such violent gracefulness. While Stewart draws from an eclectic history of disturbing stories, the songs are all so elegantly tied together by their shared emotional weight, like a dark cabaret occupied by various nightmares.

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