By Austin Woods
Aesop Rock – Spirit World Field Guide
Aesop Rock’s latest record offers the usual fare: synth-heavy beats, whirlwind flows, surreal imagery and jaw-dropping rhymes. Thematically, the album is framed as a guidebook to “the spirit world,” hence the prevailing mood of wonderment and ecstasy. But, as always, the powerhouse behind this album is Aesop’s mastery of words. From the “oo” assonance on “Pizza Alley” to
the “Chaka Khan/polygon” rhyme on “Attaboy,” Aesop’s word slinging is as delectable as ever. Unfortunately, with an overstuffed track list and generally aimless song structures, Spirit World Field Guide wears thin towards the end and winds up feeling a bit samey. I adore his lyricism, but I wish his song-craft didn’t pale in comparison.
Poppy- A Very Poppy Christmas
This is holiday music done right. On this EP, Poppy tones down her trademark weirdness for a subtle melancholy tone. Her voice takes on a whispery quality, which the music complements nicely. The opening track is especially ethereal, and “Kiss In the Snow” sounds almost lo-fi with its acoustic guitar and drum machine combo. Perfectly capturing the bleak, pensive side of this time of year, this EP will make a worthy addition to anyone’s holiday playlist.
Liturgy – Origin of the Alimonies
Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, the mastermind behind Liturgy, deems this album an opera, and it certainly earns the designation. The music, replete with jittery strings, organs and flute lines, is Liturgy’s most ornate and avant-garde yet. The eight-piece chamber ensemble assembled for this project exhibits masterful tension and release, especially on “The Fall of SIHEYMH,” which slowly builds and erupts in a menacing flurry of noise that lives up to the “transcendental black metal” name. For all its eerie qualities, however, the album captures a state of bliss and spiritual ecstasy rather than negativity. The best part: Hunter-Hendrix keeps it short and accessible at a modest 37-minutes.
Dreamcrusher – “Chrysalis”
In just 16 and a half minutes, Dreamcrusher has crafted an aural equivalent to the apocalypse. This track really does sound that spacious and epic, with spectral vocals, grainy textures and thumping industrial percussion. “Chrysalis,” released as a single from the upcoming Fiction EP, showcases Dreamcrusher at their most intense, morbid and, most importantly, loud.
Ariel Pink – “Short Man’s Syndrome”
On Dec. 1, Ariel Pink dropped this track in anticipation of his upcoming album Sit n’ Spin. The release will be the newest addition to Ariel Archives, a series of retrospectives and reissues of material previously recorded under the Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti moniker. With its filthy lead guitar lines, stomping drums and spooky melody, his gothic influences (including Christian Death, Bauhaus and The Cure) are on full display here, but with a distinctly Ariel Pink spin.
Tierra Whack – “Peppers and Onions”
On this track, Tierra Whack is her usual playful, childlike self, with an undercurrent of melancholic introspection and social commentary. The instrumental bounce and cartoonish employment of autotune make the track so infectious that you hardly notice this at first. Short, catchy, charming and vulnerable, this is Whack doing what she does best.
Lana Del Rey – “Summertime The Gershwin Version”
To help raise support for the Los Angeles and New York philharmonic orchestras, Lana Del Rey recorded this cover of George Gershwin’s seminal “Summertime,” the foundation for Sublime’s “Doin’ Time,” which she also covered for her previous album. Del Rey’s trademark timbre, the orchestral arrangement and jazzy piano lines all make this a subtle, faithful take on the original— but perhaps it’s just a bit too faithful. While I enjoyed this cover a lot, it certainly would have benefitted from some creative flourishes of its own.