This column will highlight music worth listening to that has been released during the interim between issues of The Pioneer Log. All genres and artists will be considered and generally, four of five albums will be chosen. For this issue, albums by Danny Brown, Nick Cave, Angel Olsen and Robert Glasper were selected.
Danny Brown – “uknowhatimsayin¿”
Everything that makes Danny Brown one of rap’s reigning virtuosos is present on “uknowhatimsayin¿.” His delivery, rhyme schemes, lyrical wisdom and beat selection are all at their absolute best. Q-Tip, legendary producer/MC, executively produced this album. Paul White, JPEGMAFIA, Standing on the Corner, Thundercat and Flying Lotus are all listed in the production credits. Together, these artists curated a selection of beats that are jarring yet irresistible. There exists a synergistic relationship between Brown and his beats. Every song on this album will leave you with something stuck in your head: a couple of mind-bending bars, a thirst-quenching hook or a piece of perspective distilled from Brown’s 38 years on this Earth. In a decade rife with exceptional experimental rap albums, Brown cements his place at the apex with his most recent album.
Angel Olsen – “All Mirrors”
After her lauded 2016 release “My Woman,” Angel Olsen returns with her new full-length “All Mirrors.” Unlike her previous more rock-oriented albums, this new record relies on synths and other electronic elements and effects. The album is spacious and, despite the electronic production, warm. Olsen also brings in string arrangements on a few tracks. Even with the emphasis on fleshed-out production, her voice still commands the pace and attention of the album. In its second half, it shifts to a slower and more pensive tone without getting dull. This is a commendable album worthy of attention from fans of the artist and indie music in general.
Nick Cave – “Ghosteen”
One of the most celebrated artists, Nick Cave, returns with a somewhat surprise release. Announced only a week before its release, “Ghosteen” continues the trend of somber, poetic albums of Cave’s later career. On this album, he has long left behind the punk blues that defined his early career. Most tracks on this album feature sparse synth arrangements accented by Cave’s sorrowful, yet astute lyricism. The title track, which starts the second side of the album, slowly builds until Cave enters with the lyrics, “This world is beautiful / Held within its stars.” The arrangement continues to build as he sings pensively. Strings, piano and backing voices slowly enter to create a lush arrangement that all started from a single synth. These scarce elements gradually ebb and flow throughout the 12-minute piece. This song encapsulates what makes this album so great: pure wisdom from one of the most learned people in popular music complemented by gentle and alluring instrumentals. “Ghosteen” is another essential work in Cave’s enduring and diverse discography.
Robert Glasper – “Fuck Yo Feelings”
Modern jazz pianist Robert Glasper created this mixtape with the purpose of allowing him and his collaborators to create a free-flowing album devoid of inhibitions. This resulted in a sprawling 19 track-long project featuring contributions from some of rap, jazz and R&B’s modern greats such as Denzel Curry, Rapsody and Herbie Hancock. Although it is intriguing and unexpected to have songs with collaborations between Curry and Terrace Martin or YBN Cordae and Hancock, the novelty ultimately wears off. What is an impressive project at first glance, soon comes off as a bit forced. This album is worth listening to for fans of modern jazz and hip hop.