Every week I’ma bring you some recommendations from recent additions to our inventory here at Exploded Records in Juiceland at 45th and Duval. I have great taste. You should trust me.
FKA Twigs — M3LL155X [FRESH]
As a musician becomes famous, fans often quake at the possibility that the interesting elements of the music will vanish in favor of whatever sound happens to be hot on the local thoroughfares. FKA Twigs’s new EP, M3LL155X, entirely thwarts that expectation. Twigs’s contradictorily unsettling (sometimes even disturbing) sound has only become more so in this release. Thanks to the heavier integration of noise and glitch music, these beats are no longer just eerie or unsettling, but sometimes downright startling. Adding to this intensification, auto-tune and other vocal effects intercede more frequently than on her last release. To put it simply: this music doesn’t sound human. Anyone encountering FKA Twigs’s voice (in any of the many, many forms it takes on this record) while out on a late-night walk through the woods would run the other way. However, she maintains, or even heightens, her pop appeal through an increase in polish. LP1 was by no means cheaply produced, but M3LL155X has the kind of attention to detail one would expect from a major label chart-topper, not an alt-pop independent release. The EP has a video spanning nearly its entire length which follows in her tradition of unsettling and seductive videos but, like the album, brings it to new heights of horror. There’s an evil witch and a terrifying blow-up doll and please make it stop. M3LL155X was just released on vinyl and we’ve got it.
Earl Sweatshirt — I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt [FRESH]
I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt is one of the best-titled albums of all time and one of the strongest rap releases of the past year. In interviews, Earl has repeatedly referred to this record as the only one of his works he stands by one hundred percent and, while it’s not perfect, it stands head-and-shoulders above his previous releases, Earl and Doris. Sure, those records had some solid verses and a few well-formed songs but, as albums, always felt strangely rushed, full of half-finished tracks and lacking in varied vocal delivery. I Don’t Like Shit remedies these issues, giving us thirty minutes of incredibly technical, undeniably clever (“I don’t act hard / I’m a hard act to follow”), and eminently listenable rap music. Relative to its length, the project is ambitious. Earl produced all but two of the tracks himself (Left Brain tackled one and the two collaborated on the remaining one), developed an array of new vocal tones not present in his previous work, and braved the mostly-hook-free aesthetic that can be the kiss of death for albums produced by less capable rappers. This is a complete record, not an assemblage of loose tracks or the aborted remnants of a larger project. This is what I’ve spent the past four years waiting for from Earl. And he delivered. The vinyl came out just last month.
Outkast — Aquemini [CLASSIC]
Aquemini is all about duality. Andre and Big Boi play an asymmetric game of doubles wrestling, each of them taking the time to display their expansive skillset while leaving enough room for the other to do the same. They don’t often interact directly in the sense of finishing one another’s sentences or playing dubbed-in hype man, but they are clearly operating on the same planet throughout the album. That planet includes space travel and fun but shady night clubs and gun talk and social commentary and dense metaphors and conventional clevernesses and unconventional song structures. Crude “you do a sixteen then I do a sixteen then we do a hook then you do a sixteen then I do a sixteen then we do a hook” structures appear sparingly; each song is staged as a unique journey through an uncertain nebula that could turn fun, or dark, or contemplative every four bars. The album, by contemporary standards, is lengthy (an hour and a quarter), but has more than enough content and variety to justify that length. While the MCs tend to maintain enough distance from one another that the album could easily be cut up verse by verse and reassembled as two distinct solo releases, Big Boi and Andre 3000 swapping the role of shepherd through their shared dimension is what allows a collection of great beats and great verses to ascend and become a great album.
Got more thoughts if you’d like to drop by soon and chat it up. Be well.