May 20th Release Day -Caustic Commentary: Porridge Radio, Tess Parks, Ravyn Lenae, Lykke Li & More

In a new weekly roundup, Glide drops caustic commentary on selected tracks from release day Friday.

Porridge Radio – “Splintered”

I don’t know if Porridge Radio keep getting better or if I just keep forgetting how good they are. Dana Margolin’s vocals should be grating, but they’re not. The catharsis of “Splintered” should not be as rewarding when similar sonic teases have been at play the entire album, but it is. It’s nearly impossible to pick just one track off an album like this. To hear them solitarily is to necessitate the next preceding song in your subconscious and to instinctually recoil after each guitar chord, but in this case it’s “Splintered”, and those recoils come from an organ.

Tess Parks – “Saint Michael”

Ever since her first album-length collaboration with Anton Newcombe, Tess Parks has essentially acted as an extension of the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Parks is more than a would-be background singer breaking off from the band though, she’s a different generation approaching the same ideas and doing more with them than Newcombe has in a long time. Now on her first solo album in almost ten years, she feels unobstructed, gradually building off that trademark sound into something new, at least for her. Sure “Saint Michael” features a notably retro guitar lead, but it darts in and out of the mix, leaving Parks’ smoky vocals and sparse piano arrangement to sell the rhythm and her own personality.

Ravyn Lenae – “Venom”

Lenae has built up a lot of momentum in the lead-up to her proper debut, with each new track toying with what kind of singer she would be. While she has proven repeatedly that she is more than adept at concocting her own string of R&B, she is for all intents and purposes, a pop singer. Or at least she should be. Steve Lacy’s stewardship has surely contributed to that conflict of personality, and Hypnos does all it can to push her towards neo-soul, but when Lenae eschews any restraint, like Lacy, she proves she can top charts. “Venom” comes right off the page. It’s effortless, in the same way as “Sticky” was four years ago, but more importantly it’s confident, a track that asserts itself as much as it embraces.

Lykke Li – “Carousel”

The Swedish singer-songwriter has never really gone wrong on any of her four preceding albums, and she doesn’t really go wrong here. What she does do, is take a step back, removing the excess and theatrics that have always been associated with her sound. The melody is there, Li is definitely there, and that’s really all that should matter. She describes this music as soul, which it’s not, but it is personal and intimate. On “Carousel”, she’s written one of her strongest tracks yet, an ethereal and moving lament to a lost relationship, something that defines the entire record. It serves as the crux of the album and a moment that owes a lot more to Li the person than to the conception she’s built around herself.

Boldy James & Real Bad Man – “Bo Jack (Miller Light)”

For how prolific Boldy James has been lately, it’s understandable that not every entry is going to approach The Versace Tape. Killing Nothing is another solid if minor release for James and that’s due in large part to Real Bad Man’s presence. Like their collaboration on Real Bad Boldy, the work is reliably tense, but only a few times does it transcend farther than its menace. “Bo Jack (Miller Light)” is one of those times, another miraculous track from one of the strongest rappers working today, and an alchemical mixture of his flow, the inescapable chorus, and another great beat – everything that makes him the crucial voice he is.

Everything Everything – “Kevin’s Car”

Everything Everything has lost just about everything that once made them an electrifying art-rock institution. But that doesn’t matter much with their fervent fan base and plenty of lingering good favor. Maybe it’s too harsh to deride an album like Raw Data Feel with those comparisons though. At its worst, it’s harmless and never annoying, although sometimes it seems like they’re warming up to it. And at its best, their thoughtful eclecticism has turned towards silly eclecticism and in many ways, still works. Take a track like “Kevin’s Car”, a kind of cosmic love song that is both repetitious and illusionary, evoking plenty of celestial references and the narrator’s general pitifulness in the same breath. Its trick is the bright delivery, never leaning towards pretention or really any kind of high-level consideration, instead, just giving the band and Jonathan Higgs plenty of room to fool around. “Pizza Boy” is way better than it should be too.

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