Stream These Albums: May 2019 - Rolling Stone
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Stream These Albums: May 2019

Here are the best albums of the last month: Tyler the Çreator
surreal summer odyessey, Faye Webster’s alluringly bummed indie-folk/R&B, Jamila Woods’ gospel-tinged rap-soul and more.

faye webster tyler the creator

Eat Humans, Sam Rock

Flying Lotus, Flamagra 

One might think of Flamagra as Ellison’s Apocalypse Now, or The Wall — it shows an artist at the height of their power, able to realize their most over-the-top imaginings, delivering a sprawling near-masterpiece teetering at the brink of overkill. The cast is full on: jazz fusion icon Herbie Hancock and P-Funk mastermind George Clinton represent for the old school; Solange, Tierra Whack, Anderson Paak, and Shabazz Palaces’ Ishmael Butler provide varying shades of the new. Will Hermes

Cate Le Bon, Reward 

Cate Le Bon’s fifth studio album, Reward, is ten sonically diverse tracks that are delicately layered in texture, accompanied by her swelling vocals that deliver short, surreal lyrics. The hazy piano on “Sad Nudes” is reminiscent of “Love Is Not Love,” a highlight from her great 2016 LP Crab Day. But it’s hard to go back and listen to earlier albums after Reward—the enhanced instrumentation and dreamy songwriting make this the singer’s strongest album yet. Angie Martoccio

Faye Webster, Atlanta Millionaires Club

The 21-year-old’s Atlanta roots allow her to effortlessly coalesce R&B with indie-folk. Whether she’s aching against twangy guitar in tropical disarray (“Hurts Me Too”) or pining for the past over mellow R&B rhythms (“Johnny”), Webster breaks musical barriers in such a way that musicians rarely do these days. She delves into her emotions and wears them on her jersey, and though at times this vulnerability and malaise feels tiresome, it’s her self-exploration that makes it worthwhile. Angie Martoccio 

Tyler the Creator, IGOR

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IGOR is an album for the summer months. It’s a rich and messy mélange of R&B, funk and rap that carries a luminous sheen and a bittersweet undercurrent; lyrically, Tyler traces the emotional journey of being the odd man out in a love triangle. “Your other one evaporate, we celebrate/You under oath, now pick a side,” he raps on “New Magic Wand.” On IGOR, Tyler seldom acts as the character he plays in the “What’s Good” music video, in which he vigorously shadowboxes while wearing a blonde bowl cut wig and a two-tone pink suit. Much more often he’s wounded and vulnerable, weighed down by real emotional labor. Danny Schwartz

The National, I Am Easy to Find

On I Am Easy to Find, the indie standard-bearers have reconfigured themselves with multiple women’s voices at the LP’s core, one portion of the roughly 77 musicians that temporarily explode the band’s quintet, and they pull it off without diluting their National-ness. The lyrical and formal suggestion, explored throughout the record, seems to be that it takes two to tango, and despite the canyon that separates our gendered perceptions, we share vast tracts of emotional territory, and are capable of deep empathy. Whether we act on it is another story. Will Hermes

Big Thief, UFOF

Big Thief’s third album creeps up on you. Unlike their previous LPs — 2016’s Masterpiece and 2017’s Capacity — on which sweet-n-sad folk-rock wrapped you in a warm embrace, UFOF sends a shiver down your spine in its simplicity. The album is 43 minutes of gentle, crackling coos from singer-songwriter-guitarist Adrianne Lenker about what lurks in the unknown (the final “F” in “UFOF” stands for friend). The impact is so quiet you might miss it, but it’s revelatory enough that you can’t escape it. Daniela Tijerina

Jamila Woods, Legacy! Legacy!

Chicago r&b poet Jamila Woods generated her first major “who is she?!” moment beside Chance the Rapper in the “Sunday Candy” video (by Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment). Her LP debut HEAVN answered that question a year later with a personal set of gospel-tinged rap-soul hybrids. Her new Legacy! Legacy! views the personal through a lens of cultural history. Songs are named for giants: “MILES,” “ZORA,” “EARTHA,” “BALDWIN,” “BASQUIAT,” and if the connections aren’t always obvious, they’re always inspired. Will Hermes

Rhiannon Giddens, There is No Other 

With its mix of originals, covers and traditional songs, Giddens’ latest encompasses the disparate strands of her heritage like nothing before, blending the canon-recasting interpretations of her 2015 solo debut Tomorrow Is My Turn with the historically-minded storytelling of her 2017 opus Freedom Highway and this year’s Songs of Our Native Daughters, a black feminist roots reclamation recorded with Leyla McCalla, Allison Russell and Amythyst Kiah. Jonathan Bernstein 

Charly Bliss, Young Enough

The second Charly Bliss LP has plenty of bright, bracing power-pop: “Hard to Believe” and Bleach” are New Pornographers-worthy in their quick and easy sleekness, while the That Dog-y “Camera” riffs cleverly on identity theft. It also sees the band leaning a little heavier on New Wave synthiness that was present but inchoate on Guppy. That somewhat moodier texture fits the album’s difficult subject matter. “I’m at capacity/I’m spilling out of me/Desecrated and complacent,” Hendricks sings over the mechanical beat and keyboard blips of “Capacity.” On “Chatroom,” she processes the aftermath of a sexual assault, turning pain into rage. Jon Dolan

Human Switchboard, Who’s Landing in My Hangar?

Formed in Kent, Ohio during the late Seventies, Human Switchboard only released one full-length LP, 1981’s Who’s Landing In My Hangar, but it remains an absolute classic. The band’s was of its time; singer-guitarist Robert Pfeifer was a Lou Reed superfan and co-leader and organ player Myrna Marcarian had a husky, searching voice like Patti Smith. Yet, where a lot of cool post-punk bands of the time were filling their albums with dada screeds about modern alienation, Human Switchboard sang about basic stuff like love and loss, the thrills and setbacks and weirdness of trying to find someone. Jon Dolan

Mavis Staples, We Get By

In her seventies, gospel-R&B legend Mavis Staples has emerged as perhaps the hardest-working singer of her generation, releasing more albums of original material over the past decade (five, and counting) than even her famously prolific contemporary Willie Nelson. On her new album, We Get By, Ben Harper serves as Staples’ newest collaborator, writing and producing a series of defiant declarations of peace, justice and heartbreak. From the charging electric blues of “Change” to the modern soul protest of “Brothers and Sisters,” Staples further refines the type of socially conscious artistry she rediscovered on 2017’s If All I Was Was Black, in the wake of horrors like Charlottesville and Trump’s child-separation policy.  Jonathan Bernstein 

Marc Anthony, Opus

Either Marc Anthony had his Aviators on while making his new album, Opus — or he is just blithely uninterested in the awkward contortions the middle-aged make when they attempt to seem hip. Salsa turned Anthony into a million-selling star in the Nineties, and salsa is what he gives you in 2019. He doesn’t even attempt another version of 2013’s “Vivir Mi Vida,” which traded tenacity and specificity for the benign, anyone-can-chant-this qualities that make global hits. Anthony’s refusal to change with the times on Opus is unfashionable, but intelligent. Elias Leight

Carly Rae Jepsen, Dedicated 

Four albums in, the notion of Jepsen coming out with a “mature” album would be anathema to all that is Carly Rae. And she seems more than happy holding the mantle of cheerful, mid-tempo pop-rock for her generation – a great American tradition passed down from the Monkees to Wilson Phillips to Hanson. The downside is that when your fans expect you to bring the hooks, you better bring them. Jepsen doesn’t appear constrained by those expectations, maybe because pop’s two main ingredients – melody and melodrama – come to her naturally. Sarah Grant 

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