Believe the Hype - No Ripcord Recommendations

  • Owen Pallett Island

    Considering the avant-garde associations suggested by Island's sonics, it makes sense to weigh the lyrics according to the same, progressive metrics, allowing that the words exist not as prose narrative but as poetic abstractions standing in for more universal meanings, in which case the lyrics scan not as fanciful art-rock but something more akin to a Benjamin Britten libretto, equally storm-trodden and queer, extrapolating present moments through a flux of memory penduluming between adolescence and obsolescence, while asserting that those two points on a human's timeline somehow coexist, overlap, mirror each other, and, as a result, provide a reflection for the listener; a deep, cosmic insight into their own life, into my own life, like staring into a bottomless pit, seeing oneself in the charcoaled chasm, then retreating to the teat, evoking a feeling akin to Becket's assertion about life that humans are “[birthed] astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more.”
  • Bob Dylan Rough and Rowdy Ways

    Despite returning to likeminded songwriting sensibilities, it's surprising to hear how Dylan's rumbling croak has turned into a deeper whiskey baritone. There's a dusky sternness to his voice which accentuates the stark minimalism of songs like Black Rider, personifying the equivalent of Max von Sydow playing chess with the Grim Reaper as he sings over a tempo that sounds like a slowed-down Spanish bolero: "If there ever was a time, then let it be now/let me go through, open the door." And on My Own Version of You, he does that thing where he repeats an intoxicating, slightly off-kilter groove as while cranking out a plethora of stream-of-consciousness references—singing in a noir-ish tone as he examines what it is to be Bob Dylan. For someone who's voice earned him much ridicule for sounding gruff, yet sincere, as if he's never sung in an affected tone (actually, he has!), his chainsmoking has finally caught up with him and is doing him quite the favor.
  • Sports Team Deep Down Happy

    Sports Team are very adept at juxtaposing those feelings of ennui and undergraduate anxiety with urgent, driving songs. On Here's the Thing, Rice has had it up to here with hearing other people's advice over a crisp, Buzzcocks-like melody. Fishing is humorous and witty, where tries to make sense of his object of affection's mixed messages in his well-educated, young-angry-man ways: "I can't make sense of all the letters you write/ It's like your pen doesn't work/You're so much better in type." Rice is clearly bothered and can't catch a break, but Deep Down Happy moves along with such exuberant energy (thanks to lead songwriter Rob Knaggs) that we can't help but feel amused and entertained by his petty annoyances.
  • Laura Marling Song for Our Daughter

    While there are moments with more levity, Marling casts this world with a haunting backdrop of striking stories and superb instrumentation. It’s the rare album where a stripped-down approach entirely works, making these tales central and unmissable in their telling. Fortune is one of the great songs of the year, and it does only with fluttering acoustic guitars, steady strings, and subdued vocals. I don’t really like writing pieces or my reviews around myself, but this is the album I needed to hear in a time of great anxiety. It is peaceful and near-perfect in a way that I think many people could use right now. I think you should hear it.
  • Yves Tumor Heaven to a Tortured Mind

    Gospel For a New Century slams the door open here with skipping horns and textured drums, feeling like an intentional change of pace from anything you’ve known about Tumor’s messy but fascinating style in the past. Once their distinct but soulful voice drops in, something exciting seems afoot. With the huge electric guitars that blaze through the chorus, it’s easy to excuse a line like “come and light my fire, baby” because of how genuinely explosive it all is. As quickly as it had erupted, the song cuts off harshly in only three minutes and twenty seconds. This is only the first track on the album, but it seems like a perfect thesis, with its aching heartbreak and explosive psychedelic rock backing.
  • Soccer Mommy color theory

    The centerpiece of the album, yellow is the color of her eyes, explores her mother’s terminal illness through a papered-over sense of serenity. Echoing guitars sparkle like a setting sun over a beach, with little touches percolating throughout the song. But the calm that Allison creates is one of resignation, rather than peace or acceptance. “Loving you isn't enough/You'll still be deep in the ground when it's done,” she sings, a devastating line that will reverberate in the bones of anyone who’s lost somebody. As the song ends, the guitar devolves into distortion, the calm slipping into chaos.
  • Burial Tunes 2011-2019

    All of Burial’s sonic trademarks are accounted for here (skip-and-swing beats, subterranean bass, evocative vocal samples, and, of course, vinyl crackle), with simultaneous acknowledgment of the shifts in his sound—which really began in 2012 with the release of Kindred. That three-track EP saw Burial come into impressive form compositionally, as he stretched out the once relatively standard runtime of his tracks to the ten-minute-plus mark. This paid dividends, allowing him to add dynamic shifts in tone, texture, and tension between passages within the same song. And from there on out, on a semi-yearly basis, he kept treating us to high-stakes music via low-stakes formats.

    Part of this broadening of the palette is likely to be due to the experiences that have shaped twigs’ life since the release of LP1 five years ago. As well as medical trauma, she’s spoken out about being pigeonholed as an R&B artist purely because she’s a woman of colour (a ludicrous assertion given her work owes more to Björk than Beyoncé), and suffered racist abuse and media scrutiny thanks to a relationship with actor Robert Pattinson. Whilst it’s not explicitly clear that he’s written about on the record, it’s tempting to conclude that cellophane in particular, with its closing couplet of “They’re hating, they’re waiting / And hoping I’m not enough” is related to the experience of their partnership.
  • Richard Dawson 2020

    The result is an album of uncompromising vulnerability and rawness. Even Jogging, a song that begins with a heavy metal riff promising defiance or anger, instead opens with the line, “Recently I've been struggling with anxiety.” Dawson himself has clarified, “I certainly think it’s the saddest record I've written. I found it too much making it actually. I was really overwhelmed by it.” The most emotionally ravaging song on 2020, Fulfilment Centre, is also its longest track. Made up of stretches of gentle pop music which are intruded on by a dissonant, pointillist Sufi swirl of guitar and drums, Dawson evokes the drudgery of people working in an Amazon warehouse. Robotic voices chatter commands about “productivity” in the background, while the song's subjects are revealed to be increasingly bleak, despondent, and broken. The chorus says it all: “There's nothing left of me by the time I shuffle homeward on the early morning train. To eat a little breakfast and sleep a while, before it starts again.” The end of that song adds another verse to the chorus, but I won't print that here. Experience it for yourself.
  • Big Thief Two Hands

    As powerful as these songs are, there is no denying that some of Two Hands' most effective moments are those that cut close. Given the rapt attention and imagination that U.F.O.F. commanded, you almost feel guilty relishing some of the more direct pleasures displayed here. The title track is a cousin to Cattails from the prior album, sharing a similar percussive style. But while Cattails swayed on the hazy horizon, Two Hands is right in the room with you. Maybe the softer songs of the prior album prove superior to those here, but when any push of force is put into motion the sturdiest songs here are undeniable, as is the case here.