Recordings | September 2017

Three albums we're listening to this month

By Julio C. Reyna, September 2017 Issue.

Artist: Lana Del Rey
Album: Lust For Life
Label: Interscope
Rating: 3halfstars

“It’s more than just a video game.” On Lust For Life, her fourth major label release, Lana Del Rey is doing Lana Del Rey better than Lana Del Rey has done Lana Del Rey on previous efforts. What that means is for someone who so frequently – and openly – borrows, it was only a matter of time before she started referencing herself and pulling from her own archive.

With 16 tracks lasting 72 minutes, this is her longest album yet. The themes and sonic aesthetics are familiar as well; there are heartbreakers, the love of old cinema and allusions of Americana. There are gunshots, strings, hip-hop beats. A for-the-fans affair that a casual listener may find to be a bit bloated. The album is also her most collaboration-heavy, featuring the likes of A$AP Rocky, Playboi Carti, Sean Ono Lennon, The Weeknd and Stevie Nicks.

The most all-encompassing song on the album is “13 Beaches,” which showcases the lyrical intensity of Ultraviolence, the atmospheric buildup of Honeymoon and is polished off with the hip-hop finish that made tracks from Born To Die so memorable.

“Coachella-Woodstock On My Mind,” finds her amid an existential crisis during Father John Misty’s set at Coachella when she found out that North Korea was launching missile tests. And this album isn’t without one of her infamous one-liners: “In My Feelings” delivers with “I’m crying while I’m cumming.”

Lust for Life opens optimistically about all the promise a new relationship can bring on “Love” and concludes with “Get Free,” where she acknowledges that, perhaps, she has spent too much time inside in her head is ready to move things along. She is not sure when the changes in her life will come but she is finally open to them.

Artist: Arcade Fire
Album: Everything Now
Label: Columbia
Rating: 2stars

Could you imagine sitting in a pitch meeting where the idea of a $109 fidget spinner with a USB connection containing a band’s album not only gets approved but eventually gets released and sells out in minutes? This was one of the many wacky promotional gimmicks that Arcade Fire has subjected us to in the middle of campaign for their new album Everything Now. While the headline-grabbing stunts are nothing new, the lack of substance in their work is.

“Everything_Now (continued)” does some double duty here, acting as both the introduction and conclusion to the album creating an infinite loop of playback or “Infinite Content” (the title of not one, but two tracks). The band sonically expands on the dance ambition initially presented during its previous effort Reflektor. The former found the band asking questions about God and even wondering out loud what their legacy will be, but Everything Now finds the band frustrated with constraints and complacency that success has afforded them.

“Creature Comfort” flaunts synths and hard bass over the anthemic line, “God, make me famous!” The soaring vocals lead listeners to believe someone is seeking perfection but, come to find out, the song is actually about someone committing suicide listening to the band’s first album.

There is the eventual moment an act has so much hype that they realize they have reached a point where no matter what subject matter is presented or how little effort is put into a project, venues will still be filled and headlining spots on a music festivals bill will automatically be gifted. This is the exact moment Arcade Fire finds themselves. And like the fidget spinner and grand promotional gimmicks, Everything Now is everything but and will stay in 2017.

Artist: Mura Masa
Album: Mura Masa
Label: Anchor Point/Polydor
Rating: 4stars

It is quite impressive that Alex Crossan, or Mura Masa, has come so far in his career at only 21 years old. In just three years he has gone from Soundcloud protégé from the island of Guernsey (a town of 6,000) to playing major music festivals around the world. This DJ/ music producer/songwriter has given us an entirely self-produced and fun-filled debut that hops between genres and is presented in an effortlessly cohesive manner.

Mura Masa starts with “Messy Love” and song that has a distorted male vocal longing for affection, with the marimba punctuating throughout. It is one of the rare moments that the album does not have a featured credit.

An stand out track is “Nuggets” featuring Bonzai, an aggressive kiss-off that serves to remind you who is in charge. It is also a song you may want to consider adding to future going-out playlists. In the instantly europhic “1 Night” featuring Charli XCX, we have her asking if things can be taken back to how things were before and providing one of her most exciting pop moments since “Boom Clap.”

On “Blu” there is a feature by Damon Albran of the Gorillaz. Legend has it that the band’s Demon Days was not just the first album Crossan ever purchased, but also that one that influence his sound and most inspired him to make music on his own terms. True to form, the song goes in a different direction than the previous tracks and is mostly a guitar-driven album closer.

While this self-titled debut is full of features, their purpose is to simply elevate his distinct sound, and Mura Masa shines through, because this is his show after all. For a debut, it shows great promise – especially as part of a genre where an artist can easily give into just pushing buttons and hiding behind a Macbook.