This week, we’re looking at some impressive LA R&B and Missouri-born hip hop, while taking a jump into Melbourne’s emo scene and right into Washington’s indie scene, as the likes of SZA, Chastity Belt and more are featured! Check out what our writers have to say about the following beloved records…
SZA – Z (2014)
by Lauren Ziegler
Given we’re finally just hours away from SZA’s long-awaited album CTRL, it’s time to revisit the power and glory of her last release, 2014’s Z EP. At a lengthy ten tracks, the extended play was Solana Rowe’s maiden release under Top Dawg Entertainment.
As first (and only) lady of hip-hop’s most respected label, it was a little difficult to categorise Rowe at first. It’s not a hip-hop album at all, aside from spectacular guest verses from TDE labelmates Kendrick Lamar (“Babylon”) and Isaiah Rashad (“Warm Winds”), as well as Chance the Rapper (“Childs Play”). That said, the production itself could easy be transplanted into hip-hop, all slinky keys and flirtatious, stuttering percussion.
The then-23-year-old delivered a record more trip hop than rap, more raspy, coquettish bedroom music than heady club beats or conscious gospel.
Like a smattering of diary entries written in the dead of night, Z deals with obsession (“Hiiijack”) and loss (“Childs Play”), fear (“Warm Winds”) and moral conflict (“Sweet November”), set to sparse instrumentation, vacuumed synths and coolly distant beats.
Z‘s most commercial moments – the tinny disco beats of “Julia” (named after the “baddest bitch that’s ever lived”, Julia Roberts) and the ethereal bulges of “Green Mile” – prove that while she thrives atop a less conventional veneer, her delivery and candour keep her gliding beneath the radar. Still, it made perfect sense to hear her open Rihanna’s last album Anti.
With a sound that balances as much influence from Sade or Portishead as it does her hip-hop contemporaries, Z is not to be overlooked. Do not sleep on CTRL tomorrow.
CHASTITY BELT – I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone (2017)
by Freya Langley
I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone is the third album from the Seattle Post-punk outfit, Chastity Belt. It’s a more melancholic, introspective record compared with their previous releases and really highlights the musical strength and diversity of the four-piece.
Julia Shapiro (Vox/Guitar) explores new emotional territory, delving deeper into the overarching themes of sexual politics and the female experience in her lyrics than the previous records. It’s deeply emotive, painfully honest and dark at times. The lyrics engender a highly-relatable vulnerability and through that empower and connect with their audience – there’s strength in vulnerability and strength and solace in vulnerability in numbers. All this combined with their signature layers of tangled melodies, soaring choruses and catchy hooks makes for an album that is both dizzying and grounding.
From the opening “Different Now”, with its rolling riffs and moody rhythm guitars and just a little bit of fuzz, to the gloomy title track, “Used to Spend”, Chastity Belt have made a record for lazy days and existential crises. It’s simultaneously comforting, empowering and emotionally stirring. It’s cool, but by no means calm – a truly beautiful record.
BON IVER – Bon Iver (2011)
by Jack Cain
A must listen for anyone with working ears, and for those without working ears I highly recommend finding the Braille equivalent. The second album from Bon Iver and one that stands as one of the tallest and most highly regarded musical accomplishments of the last ten years. It’s so highly recommended by myself to you the reader, that I can’t even put into words ways to describe it.
If I could, I probably wouldn’t as to not spoil the fruits of this wonderfully well structured musical masterpiece. And that word I do not use lightly. This album broke me and then it fixed me and then it broke me again. The lyrics will humble you, hurt you and haunt you but the music will hug you, help you and heal you.
MIGUEL – Wildheart (2015)
by Sosefina Fuamoli
Miguel‘s 2015 album Wildheart still stands out as one of my favourite R&B albums of the past five years. It’s sexy, it’s emotional and man, does Miguel’s vocals shine. This is a baby-making album, should you be after one, but as an entry point to Miguel’s music, I think Wildheart is perfect.
“a beautiful exit” opens Wildheart loftily, firmly establishing recurring imagery of Los Angeles, the Valley and the sun kissed environment hazy parties and late night antics are bound to go down in. “the valley” is explicit in its nature – getting right to the point: sex. A lot of it. Even then, it doesn’t come across as crass or over-exaggerated. It’s the perfect foil to “Coffee”, which is more romantic in its tone.
Wildheart focuses on female sexuality and Miguel’s appreciation for the female form and while there have been many R&B artists to have done this in the past, there’s a certain charm with Wildheart that has made it a repeat-listen even now, two years on.
Chuck it on.
FOLEY! – Hey, Don’t Worry About It (2017)
by Sam Kolesnik
Can you be happy and sad at the same time? Melbourne lords of posi-emo FOLEY! would probably be disappointed in you if you didn’t think so.
Or at least they’d write a song about a hypothetical conversation with you that acknowledged your differing viewpoint, and that maybe it was partly their fault you feel that way. Or maybe that they just misunderstood you because everyone was drunk at the same time, and that they regret ever thinking that in the first place. They’d back it up with the ridiculously catchy garage-punk that Melbourne is so good at producing.
It’d be happy. It’d be sad. It’d definitely be a banger.
That’s this album. Peppered throughout are lyrics brimming with the kind of honesty you only gain after graduating from being an emotional teen, but before you become numbed by old age.
It really shouldn’t be, but this album is fun. Songs like “I’ll Be Back” will make you want to grab your mates, grab a round of pints and jump around ’til your feet are sore (and some poor soul is looking for their shoe that fell off in the mosh). If you’re loving Camp Cope, The Hard Aches or The Smith Street Band, you’re wasting time right now by not listening to this album.