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  • Writer's pictureEvan

Album Review Rewind: June '24

June was a triumph for music mainstream and alternative. The month kicked off with BRAT, the electro-infused pop masterpiece from Charli xcx which made a surprise breakthrough to the top of the charts. The success of such a boundary-pushing album foreshadowed the rest of the month: a never-ending run of artists reaching their creative heights, delivering some of the best material to drop in 2024.


Album Review Rewind Modern Masterworks

Charli xcx – BRAT (2024) [Electropop]

Album Review Rewind BRAT
Charli xcx - BRAT

 

Since 2019’s Charli, I have been an avid Charli xcx fan. The singer’s fusion of glamorous mainstream aesthetics with A.G. Cook’s industrial sound and the experimental influence of SOPHIE has made for some of the most exciting albums in the modern pop landscape. BRAT is her loudest, most uncompromising record to date, and easily her best.


Tracks like “Club classics”, “B2b”, and “365” combine Charli’s effortless catchiness with the head-bopping monotony of the European club scene. Other highlights like “Apple”, “Von dutch”, and “Girl, so confusing” adopt a more traditional pop structure, but the production remains vibrant and chaotic, pushing Charli to deliver her most emotive performance as her voice rises above the bubble of electronic noise.


There are raging club bangers as well as heartbreaking ballads, but the singer’s trademark sound permeates through every track, bringing a sense of order and energy to abrasive instrumentals most pop singers wouldn’t know what to do with. Building on the emotion of Charli and expanding on the harshest moments of how i’m feeling now, BRAT is a flawless culmination of everything that makes Charli xcx so unique.


Your Old Droog – Movie (2024) [Hip Hop]

Album Review Rewind Movie
Your Old Droog - Movie


Every year, the underground hip hop scene becomes more saturated. It can be a challenge to stand out in the ever-growing wave of half-grimy, half-soulful rap acts rising in the alternative scene, but Your Old Droog is a lyricist whose seamless writing ability puts him a level above the rest. Movie is a testament to everything that makes Droog special, showcasing the rapper at his most personal, most humorous, and most thoughtful.


Of course, there are classic Droog cuts like “Mercury Thermometers” and “What Else?” dedicated to spitting witty bars and flexing his talent to play on words, but the MC provides so much more than one-liners. “The Sandbox” is a brilliant storytelling track where Droog uses the framing device of the sandbox to narrate the futures of three children playing in the sand. On a more personal level, “Grandmother’s Lessons” dives into the life and legacy of his grandmother whose wisdom still lives on through Droog’s music.


Up there with the MC’s best albums, Movie is a contender for my rap album of the year, and an essential for any hip hop fan. The album brings together everything that makes lyricism so special: tight rhyme schemes, clever wordplay, and thoughtful storytelling.

 


NxWorries – Why Lawd? (2024) [R&B]

Album Review Rewind Why Lawd?
Nxworries - Why Lawd?

Why Lawd? Is further evidence that Anderson .Paak is incapable of delivering a subpar album. In collaboration with producer Knxwledge, the duo’s latest collaboration is a moody collection of R&B tunes tied together by themes of heartbreak and isolation.


Despite the grim subject matter, Knxwledge lightens the mood with a mix of rich basslines, gorgeous string sections, and funky guitar riffs. Paak doesn’t offer the upbeat, pop-centric attitude we’re used to, fully basking in the toned-down atmosphere with a laidback delivery and a moroseness to his voice. The two complement one another perfectly, working together to build one of the smoothest, most cohesive R&B records of the year.

 

Dua Lipa – Radical Optimism Extended (2024) [Dance-Pop]

Album Review Rewind Radical Optimism
Dua Lipa - Radical Optimism (Extended Versions)

I was disappointed with Radical Optimism, but nonetheless, it’s an album I frequently revisit. Highlights like “Houdini”, “Training Season”, and “End of an Era” are amongst the singer’s finest tracks ever, so with the announcement of an extended version of the LP, that disappointment turned to excitement once again.


Instead of giving me a deeper appreciation for songs I disliked, the extended album merely cemented my love for ones I already adored. The extended cut of “Houdini” somehow improves on the original, giving the hypnotic instrumental more time to breathe before Lipa enters the track. The new version of “Anything for Love” turns a two-minute afterthought into a complete, four-minute song. Although the production and writing are still relatively simple, the head-bopping synth-line and bass work well with Lipa’s romantic presence.


Aside from those two, however, the rest of the extended versions feel redundant. Rather than adding elements or building on the ideas of the original, the instrumentals are awkwardly extended by a few seconds, filling space rather than justifying their extended length with something new and interesting.  It works in the case of “Houdini”, a song so rich in sound that it needs that full minute to build up, but for simpler cuts like “Illusion” and “These Walls”, the new versions add little. If you were a fan of Radical Optimism to begin with, you will likely love the extended versions just as much, but the additional length wasn’t enough to win me over.

 

Album Review Rewind Recurring Classics

Yukika – Soul Lady (2020) [City Pop]

Album Review Rewind Soul Lady
Yukika - Soul Lady

Few debut albums this decade have reached the heights of Soul Lady. The first LP from Japanese singer Yukika, she resurrects the smooth, jazzy sound of city pop, transforming the genre by incorporating slick shades of R&B and touches of electronica. Her vocals are strong and emotive, gliding over the gorgeous instrumentals with a cinematic presence.


Despite the language barrier, the sheer sound of Soul Lady is enough to appeal to any pop fan. Every track is brimming with detail, whether it be the flow of brass instruments, the luxurious basslines, or the patter of synths laced into every tune. Each song is so rich and lively, but Yukika is never lost in the mix, rising above the beautiful sound with a silky, elegant presence.

 

Little Brother – The Minstrel Show (2005) [Hip Hop]

Album Review Rewind The Minstrel Show
Little Brother - The Minstrel Show

When people discuss hip hop in the Midwest, J Dilla and Kanye West are the first acts that come to mind, but Little Brother are just as phenomenal. The Minstrel Show is their masterful sophomore album, blending hip hop with R&B for a stunning set of summery highlights.


Songs like “The Becoming” dive into the group’s origin and growth whereas others like “Cheatin’” parody overdramatic R&B singers. There is an eclectic mix of sincerity and comedy spread throughout The Minstrel Show, all delivered through slick rhymes from Pooh, smooth vocals from Phonte, and an endless stream of pristine instrumentals from 9th Wonder. The songs transition seamlessly, turning the album itself into one extended song, transitioning from topic to topic as the soulful production swells.


Album Review Rewind Underground Spotlight

 

Patty Honcho – The Black Madonna Piece (2024) [Jazz Rap]

Album Review Rewind The Black Madonna Piece
Patty Honcho - The Black Madonna Piece

For those unfamiliar, Patty Honcho is amongst the most innovative forces in the hip hop underground. A sharp lyricist with an arsenal or energetic flows and an ear for jazzy instrumentals, the rapper made a splash in 2023 with the funk-rap fusion, The Blaxploitation. A year later, the MC continues to evolve, delivering the most layered and varied release of his career.


The Black Madonna Piece sees Honcho embrace the grime of New York and fuse it with the jazz rap he has made his brand. Almost every song is produced by a different beatmaker, and as a result, no two tracks sound remotely similar. “Cathedral” is a menacing back and forth between Honcho and IAMGAWD, produced by the twisted klwn cat. “Here It Goes & Here It Comes” is a soft, piano-driven cut produced by Happy Art, where Honcho sings soulfully over an enchanting saxophone solo by WEX! the Master. The Black Madonna Piece is equal parts varied and consistent, with the MC breaking into new territory on every single song. A clear contender for the best album out of the underground in 2024, this is a project you cannot miss.

 

Dome Lettuce – SHANIDAR 1 (2024) [Jazz Rap]

Album Review Rewind SHANIDAR 1
Dome Lettuce - SHANIDAR 1

Just three months after his last album, SHANIDAR 1 sees rapper-producer Dome Lettuce sharpen his skillset even more for the most varied and exciting project in his catalogue. A mixture of jazz rap, electronica, and ambient, the album drifts through genres, tied in a cohesive knot by the rapper’s carefree presence and introspective pen game.


“Bird’s-eye” is a woozy trip into psychedelia where Lettuce rhymes over a dizzying swirl of repeating samples. “truly awesome” sees the rapper float over a sea of synths and drums, whereas “fall” dives into more traditional jazz rap territory. Regardless of whatever production he rhymes over, Lettuce delivers his thoughtful bars with his signature conversational flow, matching the spacey atmosphere of the LP with his dreamy presence.

 

Bean Lebouc – Born Into the Culture (2024) [Instrumental Hip Hop]

Album Review Rewind Born Into the Culture
Bean Lebouc - Born Into the Culture

Hailing from the Channel Islands, Born Into the Culture is the first complete project from Jersey producer Bean Lebouc. In just 10 tracks, the producer defines his unique brand of hip hop, using the sample-chopping core of rap music and folding in elements of electronica, ambient, and psychedelia.


Some tunes are hard-hitting with a thumping drum pattern, such as “Change of Name”. The song is a colourful splatter of sounds wherein notes of bass, woodwind, electric guitar, and faint vocals fade in and out of the mix. The disorganised stream of sounds is given direction by a simple drum kick, transforming disorder into order.


“Le Jardinet” is a languid, triumphant tune whose warm guitar licks contrast against the icy backdrop of rippling synths. “New Wave Shootout” is the producer’s deepest dive into the world of electronic music, creating what sounds like a house instrumental played in reverse. Whether you like straightforward boom bap or a taste of ambient music, the eclectic range of sounds on Born Into the Culture guarantee you will take away at least one track as a new favourite.

 

Goldy – ORO (2024) [Hip Hop & R&B]

Album Review Rewind ORO
Goldy - ORO

Few debuts from 2024 are as impressive as Goldy’s ORO. The rapper-producer crafts a rich, enveloping world of funk and soul, blessing every instrumental with buttery smooth bars and an insatiably charismatic mic presence. In 10 songs and a mere 21 minutes, each track is a bitesize taste of Goldy’s talent, with the project gradually transitioning from summery funk beats to elegant jazz rap instrumentals.


“Donald Glover” is a crisp pop rap cut where Goldy matches every syllable to the punch and flow of the soulful instrumental. “Wait Up!” follows a similar sound, where the MC surfs over a wave of flashing synths and disco-style percussion. Audrey Hempel sings on the back end of the track, adding even more vibrance to the irresistibly catchy tune. With stellar hooks, pristine production, and clever writing from beginning to end, ORO is guaranteed to make your year-end list.

 

Matt Draugos – Moonrock Rose: Elseworlds (2024) [Abstract Hip Hop]

Album Review Rewind Moonrock Rose Elseworlds
Matt Draugos - Moonrock Rose: Elseworlds

Four years after the last instalment in the Moonrock Rose series, rapper Matt Draugos has made a comeback with a fresh batch of high-energy verses. Each song sees the MC take a classic MF DOOM beat and spin it into his own song, writing new hooks and colourful verses to show off his lyrical abilities.


On the opening track, “Strange Visitors”, Draugos hops on the instrumental for King Geedorah’s “Fazers”, mastering the otherworldly beat with cutthroat flows and multilayered rhyme schemes. The rest of the project is just as energetic, with Draugos’s love for DOOM bringing out a fire in his delivery and a sharpness to every bar. What makes Elseworlds even more compelling is the rapper’s choice in beats. Rather than going for all the obvious instrumentals from Madvillainy or MM…FOOD, Draugos takes deep cuts from Czarface albums like on “Godbomb”, making the listen as unpredictable as it is exciting.

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