In a new weekly roundup, Glide drops caustic commentary on selected tracks from release day Friday.
Guided By Voices – “Mad River Man”
Ever since Robert Pollard started fleshing out his songs past the two-minute mark, his releases with GBV have become more and more scattershot. That’s probably an exaggeration. Although none of his later-career albums have really come close to matching the charisma and imagination of his 90s output, the slip in quality seems to have really festered over the last 10 years. Crystal Nuns Cathedral is another disappointment, with only a couple tracks worth listening to and only one worth mentioning. “Mad River Man”, is a surprisingly strong slow burn, with easily the best chorus on Crystal Nuns. With its tempo switches and busy drums, the most energetic the band has sounded in longer than I care to remember, and it’s still a downbeat, muddy, garage track.
The Weather Station – “Sleight of Hand”
It’s hard to pick a stand-out from this collection of leftover ballads, not because these tracks are so good but because they’re so similar. The differences from song to song are subtle, and each carries its weight in its lyricism more than its dynamics. Regardless, How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars often works best at its softest moments, and on “Sleight of Hand” Tamara Lindeman builds a simple melody into heart-wrenching repetition. As the anger and resentment unfurl with soft, sprinkled horns creeping in, Lindeman is able to create just as much drama as her band did on Ignorance.
Your Old Droog – “Scooby Snacks”
The fact that this Ukrainian American rapper has come forward with a light, EP-length collection of tracks that all deserve to be included on this list, is not exactly serendipitous. After all, he releases a few albums every year. However, this batch of songs does stand apart from the rest, and that’s mostly due to the work of his producer Nicholas Craven, whose samples manage to come off as effortless and evocative as possible. Droog is more than serviceable and at a time like this, refreshing, but Craven is the one to keep an eye on.
KAINA – “Blue”
Helado Negro sells this track and that has nothing to do with KAINA, whose newest album it’s a worthy successor to 2019s Next to The Sun. Instead, it has to do entirely with the run that Robert Lange has been on over the last five years. KAINA deserves credit for bringing in the heavy hitters, Sleater-Kinney features elsewhere, but Lange deserves credit for making a KAINA track sound like it belongs on a Helado Negro album.
Nilüfer Yanya – “Try”
The one-time EP queen stunned on her 2019 debut, and reminded us of how great those EPs were on her compilation last year, but her newest PAINLESS could be her best yet? Maybe not, but at least the best this week. Yanya’s confidence is off the rails, carrying herself like a late-career popstar more than a 26-year-old. “Try” works the best, probably because it is a pop song, or at least could be if it wasn’t so downtrodden, but also because Yanya knows how to be emotive without ever coming across as cloying, another pop star trick.
Luna Li – “Cherry Pit”
Luna Li’s debut is a special little album, more than her airy vocals would lead you to believe. “Chery Pit” especially, comes across with the same laid-back guitar prowess the Strokes have masted on their most recent releases. Everything remains buoyant though, Li lets the guitar noodle in and out, gets busy with the drum machine, and keeps both from coming off as just flourishes. The harmonies are what sell the whole album though, and on “Cherry Pit” when every element of the track is building towards a swell, only those vocals keep the track’s head above water.
Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul – “Hey”
A choice cut from a pretty meager album, when Adigéry isn’t shoehorning in spoken word platitudes and cutting the instrumental equivalent, she can still find time to craft a pretty great pop track. That’s not a knock against what she’s saying or doing specifically as much as it is a knock against her ability to do so. After all, when a song as strong and catchy as “Hey” can evoke the themes of Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race so well, it can have more of an impact on its audience and Adigéry can avoid any unwanted Gil-Scott Heron comparisons.