As 2018 begins to draw to a close, album releases are becoming increasingly few and far between, with musicians bracing for the onslaught of holiday music, and clearing the way for Album of the Year lists. Rest assured, however, at the Sphinx we’ve been keeping our eyes on the ball, looking for the best new releases from the November month to share with you. This month’s roundup features two very different projects from ex-members of the hip-hop collective, Odd Future, the latest work from a New York jazz luminary and a lot of gushing over the new The 1975 record.
Tyler the Creator – Music Inspired by Illumination and Dr. Suess’ ‘The Grinch’ (Lily Blakeny-Edwards – Deputy Music Editor)
Tyler the Creator is back, with a Christmas EP he claims isn’t “too xmasy”. Following his work on the latest Grinch film that premiered earlier this month, the young rapper has released Music Inspired by Illumination and Dr. Seuss’ ‘The Grinch’, which features a collection of fresh holiday tracks, promising to make you feel festive, without a bombardment of typical cheesy sounding Christmas chart-toppers.
The album starts with ‘Whoville’, a light instrumental track beginning with a festive piano backing, before mixing it with heavier hip-hop drums, perfectly capturing the magical small town that is notorious in the world of Dr. Seuss. The album then moves into more synth-heavy tracks, such as ‘Lights On’, ‘Hot Chocolate’ and ‘When the Gloves Come Off’- all of which are upbeat songs, benefiting heavily from the collaborations that feature on them. However, a highlight of the album is the song ‘Big Bag’. With this being the only track where we hear Tyler rap, throughout the song the young artist depicts his Christmas experience, mixing an upbeat backing with more personal lyrics, making it a surprisingly dark yet still enjoyable take on the typically cheery holiday. Overall, this EP is a welcomed change from the aggressive merry Christmas tunes we’ve come to expect, and with its mellow yet festive sound, it’s guaranteed to put even the Grinch in the Christmas spirit.
The 1975 – A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships (Sarah Potter)
After waiting over two years, The 1975 finally released their long awaited third album last month. A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is their most adventurous album to date. With tracks ranging from the jerky, difficult to listen to electronica of ‘Give Yourself A Try’ – the first single released from this album back in May – to the happy, upbeat tune of their latest single ‘Sincerity is Scary’, a song reflecting on the current ironic postmodern culture and asking listeners to disregard it.
The overall feel to the new album is of growth and self-reflection, showcased by the sheer upbeat feel without the sardonic tone of the previous album. Songs such as ‘Give Yourself A Try’ and ‘Mine’ link heavily to this overall theme and add a sense of profundity, as the singer, Matt Healy, is reflecting on the past few years, filled with sobriety.
The final track on the album, ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’ acts as a closure; the ethereal effect of Healy’s voice in the final segment of this track links to the message of the song, despite its depressing undertone it almost feels accepting of death and what it brings. Overall, this new release by The 1975 is one of confidence and conviction; they want to address big topics and are not scared to use their platform to highlight them. A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships is just that: a brief look, prompting listeners to carry on reflecting on the issues the tracks bring up, long after they listen.
Eric Harland Voyager – 13th Floor (Daniel Marx – Music Editor)
At the present moment, it would be difficult to argue that there is an American jazz drummer more prolific than Eric Harland, having played on at least five really great jazz records in 2018 alone. However, while Harland is best known for his deft, measured, expressive drumming, his writing and band-leading are skills of his which ought to be addressed more often.
13th Floor is the third full length record from Harland’s band, Voyager, comprised of saxophonist Walter Smith III, pianist Taylor Eigsti, bassist Haresh Raghavan, and guitarists Julian Lage and Nir Felder. The six musicians bring Harland’s compositions to life with gusto and predictably astonishing dexterity, breathing vitality into the drummer’s layered, heady musical constructions. ‘Fast Five’ is a particularly thrilling moment on the record where the minimal chromatic tune, which starts out as the focus of the track, fades into the background creating a haunting groove, as the foundation for some of Harland’s most ferocious drumming on record.
This record is a calculated, yet thoroughly emotive work, wherein each musician works to push the others to greater musical heights; it’s a must for anyone looking for a high energy, contemporary jazz record.
Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs
Short albums have garnered major popularity in 2018, particularly within the hip-hop sphere, with albums like Kids See Ghosts, Pusha T’s Daytona and Vince Staples’ FM!, all running under 30 minutes. There’s something really appealing about an album that concise in that there’s no filler material – every beat, and every word uttered feels vital to the narrative of the record.
Ex-Odd Future member and cult favourite rapper, Earl Sweatshirt has joined the ranks of emcees releasing short albums in 2018. At 24 minutes long, Earl puts his stamp on the format by producing 15 short vignettes (only two of which run longer than two minutes), each one packed to the brim with personality and heavy lyricism.
Earl’s struggle with introversion and depression are prominent themes in the new album, with his mental state causing him to have to cancel a tour earlier this year. There are some incredibly hard-hitting moments here; for instance, where he reflects on not being able to see his depression creeping up on him and saying, “Why ain’t nobody tell me I was bleedin’?” There are also a number of blink and you’ll-miss-it moments of political protest in and amongst the jazzy beats and deep introspection- like on the opening track, where Earl offhandedly references the still ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
Some Rap Songs is a reflective, profound collection of immensely satisfying fragments, reminding us that it’s always okay to seek help when we need it.
And just because we liked it so very much…
The 1975 – A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships (Beth Bossert)
The 1975’s latest release, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, is a highly ambitious album full of alternative pop hits infused with dreamy soundscapes, all commentated by Matty Healy’s cynical and anecdotal lyrics.
This album covers heavier topics, as Healy exposes an honest side about his past drug addiction in ‘Love It If We Made It’, but he also delves into a social commentary on the internet’s role in human lives in ‘The Man Who Married a Robot’. Lighter themes are explored as several vulnerable love ballads are included, such as the dreamy and orchestral ‘Mine’. These somewhat old-fashioned sounding ballads provide a nice contrast from the darker ones of ‘Give Yourself a Try’ and ‘Inside Your Mind’. Additionally, there are several highly energetic and catchy songs to discover in this album, such as ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’ and ‘I Like America And America Likes Me’. But the highlight of the record appears towards the end, with a lively hit of 80’s inspired pop in ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’.
The record will truly surprise you as it starts with jarring sounds of distorted guitars and synthesisers, then gradually moves into stripped back songs with ethereal harmonies, piano and acoustic guitars. The album ends on ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’, providing the perfect crescendo and finishing the album on a high.