Noname – Ace
One of 2017’s most sensual and heady albums has dropped in the form of Noname’s Room 25. Imagine Erykah Badu’s cosmic knowledge exchange delivered in Chance the Rapper’s frank chatter and you’re close, but Noname has an unruffled confidence and wry worldview that is all her own. The boom-bap backings may be pretty but they belie a savage edge, as the Chicago rapper goes in on Uncle Toms and beta males (“The way I lullaby your brokenness, believe me I’m Ripley”). It’s hard to pick a highlight but Ace is an absolute gem, and not just because it shouts out the UK. Two midwest MCs, Smino and Saba, drop by, with the latter almost stealing the show with a domino rally of a verse, words tipping over in an impressively unbroken stream.
Lana Del Rey – Venice Bitch
Let us give thanks as LDR goes into the DGAF phase of her career. Not only is her forthcoming album called Norman Fucking Rockwell but the second single to be taken from it is called Venice Bitch and is nearly 10 minutes long. Her schtick has long involved a love-hate relationship with American iconography, and now she seems to be falling on the side of love – she longs for that Norman-Rockwell-painting life for her and her partner, with the lovely image “on the stoop with the neighbourhood kids / callin’ out bang bang kiss kiss” perhaps the first inkling of their nuclear family. The song earns its length, stretching out into the warm evening in a haze of fuzz guitar and wandering analogue synth tones.
Kiran Leonard – Unreflective Life
The time signature hopscotch of math-rock powers this truly magnificent song, but where that genre often gets bogged down in technicality and bad jeans, Kiran Leonard elevates it to powerful, elegant heights. The prolific songwriter from Saddleworth Moor is only 23 but operating at a seriously mature level, here dissecting the narcissism of internet culture. You can almost feel the weather systems passing across the song, soft breezes in the verses whipping into choppy squalls for the choruses and, with the tearjerkingly powerful guitar solo, an electrical storm of emotion.
Behemoth – Wolves Ov Siberia
One of the most anticipated metal releases of the year is I Loved You at Your Darkest by Polish satanists Behemoth, which, if Wolves Ov Siberia and previous single God = Dog are anything to go by, will be symphonically heavy. Where God = Dog used pulverising blast beats and had a video that epically inverted Christ’s crucifixion, Wolves Ov Siberia is more of a rollicking romp. Frontman Nergal roars things like “We hail the flame, we hail the ice / Beyond bosom, beyond materia / We reject! We fucking deny!” while riffs stride confidently across the battlefield.
Robyn – Honey
Returning with her first completely solo material since 2010 is pop’s patron saint of heartbreak, with Metronomy’s Joe Mount co-producing. But while Honey is sung in a trademark melancholy minor key, she’s clearly fed up of being “in the corner / watching you kiss her,” and so on. Instead, Honey drips with sex: “At the heart of some kind of flower / Stuck in glitter, strands of saliva / Won’t you get me right where the hurt is?” Suffice to say, the title doesn’t refer to something you’d spread on toast, unless that’s what you’re into. Be sure to check out our long read on Robyn from last week, too.
Lil Uzi Vert – New Patek
The best rap of this year has been marked by a willingness to get psychedelic. Travis Scott’s Astroworld, A$AP Rocky’s Testing, Swae Lee’s Swaecation, Playboi Carti’s Die Lit, basically anything involving Young Thug – all have their heads in the clouds, possibly elevated there by some substance. Lil Uzi Vert’s new track is up there with them, hoisted aloft by the remarkable production by Dolan Beats, with a floaty harp melody sampled from anime series Death Parade. Uzi’s lyrics may cleave to cliches about clothes, jewellery and round bottoms but his flow – tumbling forward in a permanent high register – is addictive enough to run towards the six-minute mark.
Julia Holter – I Shall Love 2
Aviary, the new album from highbrow dream-popper Julia Holter, is nearly 90 minutes long, and sees her head back to the slightly more conceptual, suite-like approach of albums like Tragedy and Loud City Song. But, moth-like, she always circles back to the bright filament of pop. I Shall Love 2 is a big-hearted psych symphony: a trilling, wordless vocal line invites in a whole orchestra, who eventually fill the song to bursting – it pops, and dies away instantly.
Jimothy Lacoste – Fashion
If you want proof that irony, in the hands of the internet and social media, has modulated into something infinitely complex, just take a look at Jimothy Lacoste. His persona – posh nerd rapper and possible fuckboi – is extremely silly, and yet created with so much deadpan flair that it totally works. It helps that his songs gently slap: following the likes of Getting Busy!, Drugs and Future Bae, Fashion is his best track yet, an ode to his snazzy dressing (“Tucked in shirt, lovely cords”) backed by dreamy G-funk. Is he serious? Best not to ponder it too hard.
Westerman – Albatross
London songwriter Will Westerman has been knocking around for a couple of years now, leaving swoons and sighs in his wake. The acoustic Mother Song was a breathtakingly sad yet sexy calling card, but, with producer Bullion, he has since added subtle drum machines to create 80s-facing pop balladry. With a doleful voice somewhere between Arthur Russell and Car Seat Headrest’s Will Toledo, on Albatross – the first track from his new EP – Westerman sketches out a series of lazy afternoons, with possible romances hovering around the edges.
Objekt – Secret Snake
Along with fellow travellers such as Laurel Halo, Call Super and Minor Science, TJ Hertz, AKA Objekt, has carved out a new space for techno. His music keeps the jaw-slackening (or, depending on what you’re on, tightening) power of 4/4 beats, but takes in lessons from dub, jazz and psychedelia. The result is a dizzying, intelligent but rambunctious kind of dance music. In the wake of his most commercial moment to date, Theme from Q, comes Secret Snake, another supremely confident and original track. A swaying dancehall-adjacent beat and some subtly kooky vocal samples power the dub techno of the first half, before it explodes into a burst of giant melody.