We don't know if it's because summer is ending or if it's the general malaise of being a human in 2017, but looking at our picks for the best new music this month, it seems that Sad Boys ruled our September. On the album front we had Corbin shed his skin as Spooky Black for one hell of a powerful debut, transcendent crooner Moses Sumney somehow found yet another way to reinvent R&B and LCD Soundsystem came back from the dead with more late-era, middle-aged ramblings from their mastermind James Murphy. And that doesn't even begin to cover sad boy singles from Yung Lean, King Krule and Marilyn Manson.
But it wasn't all sad. This month also gave us a miraculous new full-length from Four Tet, an interplanetary love-ballad from Björk, a homespun reinvention from Miley Cyrus and a bevy of floor-fillers from the likes of Lorde, Kelela and ABRA.
All of those picks and more make our round-up of the Best Music of the Month.
Corbin - ‘Mourn’
We’ve loved Corbin ever since he awkwardly appeared in our lives as the durag-donning Spooky Black. He has always possessed a presence beyond his years (he’s still a teenager!) and his debut album as Corbin proves he will not cease haunting us anytime soon. For a 19-year-old to completely deliver on an intriguing and emotionally dense concept album about a reclusive bunker-dwelling couple ready to give up on the world is pretty incredible, especially when compared to what I would have come up with at the same age - how to properly pre-game for whatever stupid college party was happening that weekend. I haven’t even had a chance to mention how it sounds; sublime, with the dreamy and dark production courtesy of Shlomo and D33J providing the perfect compliment to the Baltimore singer’s unreal vocals.
Four Tet - 'New Energy'
It shouldn't have been surprising to hear just how superb New Energy is when it arrived this morning; after releasing a steady stream of singles all summer, we knew Four Tet's latest full-length was going to be stellar. Still, taking it in all at once is remarkable. Four Tet has presented us with a record that is simultaneously his most introspective and his most piercingly affecting, with waves of emotion crashing over his subdued soundscapes like waves upon the shore.
Jhené Aiko - ‘Trip’
What has our girl Jhené Aiko been up to since she dropped Souled Out back in 2014? It seems like she’s probably been dipping into some psychedelics and has definitely fallen in love with Big Sean. Her surprise album Trip is an epic journey mostly consisting of peaks with a few sluggish valleys. Songs like “Sativa” with Swae Lee are good ol’ fashioned jams perfect for smoking joints in between the sheets, and despite the album being a whopping 22 tracks long, the whole mind-altering drugs and/or sex shtick doesn’t get annoying by the end.
LCD Soundsystem - 'American Dream'
Some have complained that American Dream wasn't worth the years-long wait and the drama of LCD Soundsystem's false retirement. They say that there should have been more reinvention here, more surprises. But for devoted fans (like this author) who had made peace with this band's death, the fact that they are simply back making the exact kind of music they made a decade ago is enough. That they have managed to churn out a collection of songs that are among the most mature, explorative and playful of their career is just icing on an already very-sweet cake.
Miley Cyrus - 'Younger Now'
"By swapping roaches for country rhinestones and drugs for love, Miley Cyrus has unveiled herself as the star we all expected her to become when she said goodbye to the House of Mouse six years ago. But thanks to the years of controversial baggage that has preceded it, Younger Now accurately represents the blissful reconsidering of a pop star’s soul in an industry that’s spent so long scrutinizing the move she would make next. It might not be the most remarkable record of the year, nor the most resonating of her already ambitious catalogue, but this album is made with more heart and personal intent than pop albums need to be, and we should give Miley some serious credit for that."
Read our review.
Moses Sumney - 'Aromanticism'
It only takes about 60 seconds of listening to Moses Sumney's long-awaited debut album before chills will start creeping up your back. And they will stay there for the proceeding 40 minutes. Sumney's voice pushes the limit of what you can describe in words; ethereal doesn't even come close, listening to him sing results in a far more physical form of spirituality. Frank Ocean is probably listening to this record and trying to figure out how the hell he didn't make this first.
Mount Kimbie - ‘Love What Survives’
While Mount Kimbie might be associated with post-dubstep circa 2010 thanks to their debut album Crooks & Lovers, they’ve since assured us that their sonic palette is much more profound and ever-evolving. Love What Survives is a cocktail of post-punk, noise, bass music and pop shaken and stirred, with incredible collaborations from King Krule, Micachu, Andrea Balency, and James Blake mixed in. When consumed, its cosmic centrifugal force slowly pulls you away from everything you think you know about music in 2017 while simultaneously submerging you in sweet, sweet nostalgia. Perhaps we’re getting carried away. This album is very good and you should listen to it.
ABRA - "Novacane"
The self-proclaimed “darkwave duchess” slid this new jam out into the universe in the knick of time. Like most of her songs, it’s dark, it’s wavey, and we can’t seems to get enough. ABRA flexes her production skills, layering turbulent synths over a sinister beat, topped up with what we assume are her own post-anesthetic pitched down vocals.
Björk - "The Gate"
With another full-length on the way barely two years after the release of her last one, it is clear that Björk is at a creative high-point. That was how we felt before the release of "The Gate," the lead single from her upcoming Utopia. But after experiencing the crystalline, delicate perfection of both the track and the video, it seems that music's most illustrious chanteuse is on one of her loftiest creative peaks yet in her decades-long career as a high-priestess of the imagination.
Coucou Chloe - "Flip U"
Making music that is equal parts danceable and frightening is a skill that few have; blending gut-busting grooves with gut-wrenching horror is not as easy as one might think. Yet Coucou Chloe was apparently put on this earth to do precisely that. Listening to "Flip U," the highlight from this month's Erika Jane EP, is like living inside a supernatural rave. Her dancehall commands are delivered in an eerie, pitch-shifted deadpan while a colossal beat arrives over the sounds of leaky faucets and whining buzz-saws. It's dangerous, but that's what makes it so enticing.
Kelela — “Frontline”
Kelela links up with producer Jam City for another hazy jam that has lingered in our subconscious all month. Also lingering in our subconscious is the phrase we used to describe the R&B singer’s sublime vocals when we named it one of our best tracks of the week - “like a motorcycle wrapped in silk.”
King Krule - "Dum Surfer"
Is this the rap equivalent of post-punk? Zombie rockabilly? Surfer music for people stuck on their couch after drinking too much cough syrup? All the above is the most apt description for "Dum Surfer," the second single from King Krule's highly-anticipated new album The Ooz. Krule has always made music that doesn't sound like anyone else, but with his latest, he's managed to outdo himself; not even other King Krule songs sound this oddball bananas without sacrificing an inch of its groove.
Lorde - "Homemade Dynamite" Remix ft. Khalid, Post Malone & SZA
Lorde's new album Melodrama is far better than it needs to be; as a cohesive whole, it is astonishingly well-produced, with each song ticking into place like clockwork. In short, it is hard to improve on. Yet somehow, she managed to corral three of 2017's biggest success stories into an updated version of highlight "Homemade Dynamite" without it ever once sounding over-crowded or overly-busy. Is there anything this girl can't do?
Lunice - “Drop Down” ft. Le1f and SOPHIE
Montreal’s Lunice takes a trip to the ballroom with New York rapper Le1f and PC Music’s SOPHIE. As soon as the metallic liquid droplets rain down, you know it’s about it to be lit. The percussion is unbelievably fat, and the rest of the sound design makes us feel like we’re in a vogue ball circa 3017. Weeks later, this one’s still got us ever-so-tempted to death drop in the middle of the office.
Marilyn Manson – “WE KNOW WHERE YOU FUCKING LIVE”
We’re ready for Marilyn Manson to collaborate with Lil Uzi Vert (confirmed), Justin Bieber (not confirmed but fingers crossed), and Satan (ongoing), to continue his global goth domination. In the meantime, we’ve been enjoying this all-caps rager, and will continue to air guitar in the office no-holds-barred.
Post Malone - "Rockstar" ft. 21 Savage
Considering that it's only been with us for a couple weeks, it feels like it might be too soon to declare "Rockstar" the best Post Malone song. But on the other hand, has he even come close to making a hit this propulsive? The hook of the chorus is so delectably syrupy that it lurks in the back of your mind, much like the drug of choice that featured guest 21 Savage frequently laments, though he doesn't even need to fall back on it in a scene-stealing verse. It's an unbelievably dark yet hypnotically catchy song, perfectly encapsulating the perils of celebrity culture in 2017.
Yung Lean – “Hunting My Own Skin”
Our favorite sad boy appears to be changing his somber ways. “Hunting My Own Skin” sounds more like a wholesome, sun-filled mushroom trip than an MDMA comedown in a windowless room fueled by dirty Sprite. Successfully conquering his demons by the sounds of it, Yung Leandoer is set to drop his next album Stranger in November, and we’re excited that we’ll soon be able to bathe in more of his beams of light.
Be sure to check out our picks for the Best Music of August right here.