Biweekly Album Roundup: Wiley, William Basinski, Ty Segall
Welcome to The Drainage’s biweekly album roundup! This will be released on a biweekly basis and consist of short synopses of 2-4 albums that we find important. We will tell you what each album is all about, include a best/worst track roundup, and give each album a rating out of five Emory Heads.
Emory Heads are very valuable, we do not give them out willingly.
We feel like, at times, long-form journalism is not entirely necessary for album critiquing. Sometimes we want the short story, or for critics to just cut to the chase. We don’t necessarily need to know about how you became a nihilist when your ears popped mid-flight listening to No Love Deep Web.
No. Rather, we want to know what is stimulating about the album. What is the purpose? What sets it apart? Do we enjoy the aesthetic? Our goal is to try and answer these questions without boring you with useless information.
We’ve got a pretty good crop of albums this week, so let’s get the ball rolling!
Wiley – Godfather
Grime pioneer Wiley is back with a new LP that references an epithet he is often tagged with: The Godfather.
A thick slice of Godfather‘s content revolves around this idea of what he’s done for the genre and how far he’s come. It features a considerable amount of personal braggadocio, meaning there are rarely moments on this album where Wiley comes off as relatable.
Now, personality is important in grime; it’s usually the defining characteristic of any record in the genre. Plus, wild, boasting temperaments usually go over pretty well when spitting over blood-pumping bass (it’s worked for Wiley in the past). But it’s Godfather‘s reliance on Wiley’s recycled, over-confident persona that has us a bit tired. It feels like at this point in Wiley’s career, he should be shedding light rather than sucking it up. At times, it’s like he’s still trying to prove himself.
Wiley, however, correctly embody his godfather role by curating an album that features the past and present of UK Grime. The album reads like a long studio session of grime heavyweights (including a good chunk of Wiley’s Roll Deep crew) rhyming over trunk-rattling beats. We cannot deny, we all have urges to throw shit around when listening to a bulk of this record.
So Godfather actually functions well as a contemporary grime showcase, but not so much as a Wiley solo release. Wiley still sounds great on the beat, but he’s lacking in serious engagement. We’re feeling 3/5 Emory Heads on this album.
Best Track: Bang (feat. Ghetts)
Worst Track: Laptop (feat. Manga)
William Basinski – A Shadow in Time
William Basinski gave us the first great album of 2017.
Beginning with an ode to the late David Bowie, A Shadow in Time is a two-track ambient piece that drops you somewhere in between limbo and euphoria. It’s arguably Basinski’s best work since the Melancholia/Disintegration Loops era.
The first track, ‘For David Robert Jones’, is composed of a 16-bar loop of slowly crescendoing, soft synth waves that sets a perfect backdrop for Basinski’s enigmatic tenor sax part. It’s twenty minutes of absolute bliss that burrows into a world of beautiful jazzy avant-sound.
As does the title track, ‘A Shadow in Time,’ but instead of forming a groove, Basinski works more with sound progression. The track moves from a steady, industrial soundscape into an immersive whirlwind, eventually ending with a beautiful piano composition. His placement is spectacular, we are still itching for more.
Above all, it is nice to see that a vet like Basinski hasn’t lost his touch. Much like Eno’s Reflection, A Shadow in Time is a reminder of where ambient music has been, what it’s done, and how far it has come. Unlike Reflection, however, A Shadow in Time is it’s own separate entity — it relies on nothing but its creator’s current prowess. We are feeling 4/5 Emory Heads on this album.
Best Track: A Shadow in Time
Worst Track: For David Robert Jones
Ty Segall – Ty Segall
We feel like, at this point, Ty Segall has the capacity to play literally anything.
Drag City’s prolific garage-rocker/face-melter has had an incredibly steady stream of releases over the past ten years, averaging one per year. Over the decade he has tried his hand at a myriad of different genres, but has always kept a remarkably poised songwriting style. This is the staple that has allowed him to channel his influences the way he so adamantly enjoys doing.
What we have here with Segall’s second self-titled is a pretty solid collection of well-written tunes, seamlessly bringing together his past influences on one all-encompassing effort. We’ve got Josh Homme-style guitar riffs, Iggy Pop-type energy, and vocal harmonies reminiscent of Ray Davies on this record. It’s a smorgasbord of vitality and competence that breathes life into multiple fading genres.
Additionally, Segall brings a bit of experimentation into the mix, which reaches an apex with “Warm Hands (Freedom Returned).” He finds a ten-minute bliss through stuttered rhythms and eye-popping vocal quirks. It is by all means impressive that Segall has reached a point where balancing experimentation and ability seems second nature.
This is an overall great record that will make a nice addition to Segall’s already extensive musical catalog. We look forward to what further advances he will make in years to come. We are feeling 4/5 Emory Heads on this album.
Best Track: Warm Hands (Freedom Returned)
Worst Track: Orange Color Queen
Some albums you may have missed this week:
Flaming Lips – Oczy Mlody (not bad, but meh.)
Julie Byrne – Not Even Happiness (boring, not too engaging)
Foxygen – Hang (haven’t listened)