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With so many releases flying at you, here are recommended vetted listens from Nialler9 for you this week, as collated in the Nialler9 New Albums Spotify playlist, updated weekly.
Album of the week:
Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy
Odd Future feels like a long time ago after listening to Flower Boy. The boy known for anarchy and inciting disruption and violence (that got him banned from the UK) is a man now and while he’s still a lone wolf, he’s still anti-social and short-of-temper, Flower Boy is a mature effort. It’s the first time on record that Tyler has addressed that he’s gay, which won’t be a surprise to fans reading his tweets for the last few years but will be for anyone who knows him for derogatorily deliver homophobic slurs in his rhymes (his defence which is ignorant at least is that was ‘just another word.’). Flower Boy (or Scum Fuck Flower Boy as Tyler’s been billing it) is filled with references to his sexuality. “I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004.” / “Wonder if you look both ways / When you cross my mind/” and a song called ‘Garden Shed’ where the shed is basically the closet (“Garden shed for the garçons / Them feelings that I was guardin’ / Heavy on my mind”) are just some examples. Why does it matter? Because being gay in 2017 in rap is sadly still a big deal hence Tyler’s public reluctance to come out. Tyler’s friend Frank Ocean (who appears here twice) may have come out but Tyler had built his career on an Eminem-style world-hating characters so Flower Boy feels like the first steps of Tyler admitting who he really is.
Beyond the lyrical content, the album is lush and Tyler’s most focused album yet. The arrangements are kaleidoscopic, soulful and psychedelic jazzy. Tyler’s delivery is at his best, his tightest and his most interesting. ‘I Ain’t Got Time’ and the A$AP Rocky-featuring ‘Who Dat Boy’ is the toughest thing here yet the album is defined by a prettiness that is fresh. Guests Estelle, Jaden Smith, Steve Lacy, Kali Uchis and Anna Of The North fit into the tapestry of the album. The hooks are deep on ‘Boredom’, ‘November’ and ‘Pothole’ but there’s an overall sweetness to the tracks. Things are still complicated and divisive for Tyler but the self-discovery suggested on Flower Boy leads Tyler to his best, and most-honest statement yet.
Cornelius – Mellow Waves
For his first album in 11 years, Keigo Oyamada, the Japanese musician with the cult following has somewhat surprisingly picked up where his discography left off. Mellow Waves isn’t massively different from his last album Sensuous in 2006 and that’s no bad thing because no-one makes music like this quite like Cornelius. Experimental in operation but always in thrall to the meeting points of melody and rhythm, cascading layers and harmonic prettiness, Cornelius albums are singular things. Mellow Waves, as the title suggests is probably his most chilled overall yet the bright sparks that defined this bright spark remains in the sonics.
Lana Del Rey – Lust For Life
The Hollywood obsessed Lana returns to deliver an album of faded glamour like no other. Lust For Life won’t likely win her any new fans but there are new shades to the music here with appearances by Stevie Nicks and Sean Ono Lennon among them. The American songstress languishes in languid retro pop for the most part but modern pop production seeps in as do zeitgeisty guests A$AP Rocky and The Weeknd. A Lana Del Rey song title generator could have come up with the titles of ‘Beautiful People Beautiful Problems’, ‘Summer Bummer’ and ‘When the World Was At War We kept Dancing’ for sure but Del Rey knows her American obsession is one of her greatest strengths. Lana is a drag but to those that love her, her mythic sadness and heartbreak whoever or whatever it’s aimed at, is central to her appeal.