TEST SPIN: Nick Cave — Skeleton Tree

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, a “post-punk super group,” plays the kind of music that makes you want to be a roadie, a groupie, a super fan. They sound like an older, alternative Adele: refreshingly soulful.  Skeleton Tree, their new album released on September 9, carries the weight of a universal conscience. Nick Cave patches together old lyrics in a new way that resonates in your ear drums, makes its way into your cerebrum and sends a cascade of interneurons down toward your heart.  Skeleton Tree is irresistible from its first echoing electric chord.


TEST SPIN: Izzy Bizu — A Moment of Madness

Once in awhile, an artist appears who produces exactly what you were looking for. The pop music scene has been overly blessed with strong female leads, from any of Ariana Grande’s continuously multiplying tracks (I love her and Nicki Minaj, but “Side to Side” is a bit much for me to get out without wincing a bit — “wrist icicle/dick bicycle?” Really?) to any of the pure gold that Rihanna and Beyoncé rain down on us. I’d been craving someone with a bit of a different sound for a while and around last spring ran into Izzy Bizu’s “White Tiger,” off her 2013 EP Coolbeanz. This track is liquid happiness and believe me, it makes a much better alarm then your AT&T default track “Spring Morning.” With a minimal rhythm of piano and percussion by her side throughout, it feels about as wholesome as watching How to Train your Dragon with your grandma (which is a 10/10 would recommend, by the way). It’s clean in lyrics and in production, it’s light, it’s substantial and it leaves you feeling the same as the track comes to a close.


TEST SPIN: Isaiah Rashad — The Sun’s Tirade

Isaiah Rashad has always seemed like a guy caught between two worlds. Back in 2013, the Tennessee native turned heads by signing to Top Dawg Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based label previously exclusive to artists like Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q, rappers raised in the city and deeply indebted to its musical history. And while Rashad operates comfortably in that scene, his blatant reverence for Southern rap and J Dilla-soul mark him as something of an outsider on TDE’s roster. After more than three years on the ever-growing label, the 25 year-old’s role there remains unclear. Even so, he’s one of its most compelling artists — that rare student of rap baring his influences on his sleeve, all the while crafting a signature, vital sound.


Let’s Be Frank: Arts & Entertainment Writers Take On Frank Ocean’s New Projects

Four years after his revered and still-bumped Channel ORANGE, R&B singer/enigma Frank Ocean has finally put out two follow-up projects: Endless and Blonde. Frank Ocean fans from the Arts & Entertainment section reflected on the albums: Were they worth the wait? Will they ascend to the same level of praise of Channel ORANGE? Chris Stanton: I had a friend make the mistake recently of criticizing Blond(e) to me, arguing that the hype around the album combined with Frank’s general aura of mystery had led to reactionary praise — longtime fans and casual passerby alike loudly proclaiming their hosannas to prove that they totally get art, man. Call it a product of spontaneous album releases or the performativity of social media, but the immediate public response to this sprawling project (TWO albums???


Spears Falls Short of Glory

Pop has changed. Over the course of the last decade or so, what was once an outlet for one-dimensional electronic ballads such as Spear’s Top 10, Toxic, has become one that allows expression of the complexities of more than simply romance, artists are expressing the intricacies of their lives. Pop has come to encompass a great deal of music as well. Suddenly, Adele, Ed Sheeran and Britney Spears are all in the same category. That being said, in many respects, the pop bar has been raised in just the last 10 years.


TEST SPIN: Glass Animals — How To Be A Human Being

Glass Animals’ sophomore album, How To Be A Human Being, presents a bold expansion from the intimate and smooth vibes in 2014’s ZABA. The band has had a distinctive sound since they released their first EP, Leaflings, in 2012. That sound has carried with them through their second self-titled EP and first album. Unlike the cryptic lyrics on ZABA that better communicated feelings than messages, each track on this album tells a story inspired by hundreds of recorded conversations with real people that the band met on tour. These conversations were distilled into the 11 fictional characters featured on the album artwork.


TEST SPIN: Carly Rae Jepsen — E•MO•TION: Side B

The great CRJ may be the only person in history who can give you a one-year anniversary gift made entirely of last year’s leftovers and leave you feeling blessed beyond belief. Released on August 26 almost exactly one year after the release of its first part, E•MO•TION: Side B is actually a short and sweet compilation of the songs that didn’t make the cut for the former album. It drips with simple pop and cascades into a kind of positive despair at the difficulty of relationships which culminates in the standout “Store” which — oh, oh, we need to have a chat about “Store.”

I remember not wanting to like her music when she came out with her earlier albums; they felt vapid, they had empty lyrics and a spaced-out ’90s background that felt like some selection of music chosen from a deflated volleyball. I mean, “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy/Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry/Sunshine on the water that is so lovely/Sunshine almost always makes me high” is not groundbreaking lyricism; neither is “You talk so sweet and it’s dribbling like honey/It’s just one taste/I see what your tryin’ to do, oh oh, yeah yeah/It’s hot, stakes are getting higher.” But at some point I decided that there’s something in there, some strange Krabby Patty secret recipe that hits you with that dopamine and makes you crave the replay button. To be fair, the Krabby Patties weren’t cooking too well in her first Album, Tug of War.


TEST SPIN: Frank Ocean — Blonde

I have a difficult time describing Frank Ocean’s music. Perhaps it’s a surreal introspection of the most morose and neurotic reactions to something tragic, like the loss of love and the painful journey that follows it. Maybe it’s a conceptual project of youthful hope and fervor in a world that is far less than ideal. Maybe it’s just sad. Regardless, Ocean’s new album Blonde is brilliant.


TEST SPIN: Katie Dey — Flood Network

Who the fuck is Katie Dey stealing from? I’m scratching my head and listening to Flood Network over and over and over again, but I just can’t figure it out. At first glance it seems like there’s no way an album so steeped in internet culture, electronic beats and that post-ironic brand of savvy melancholia which has come to define bedroom maestros the world over could possibly have sprung into itself sounding so brashly little like anything else in the world. But — excepting Dey’s first EP, asdfasdf — it does. It’s an album to itself, and a remarkable, confusing, comforting, vulnerable, terrifying, difficult one at that.


TEST SPIN: The Avalanches — Wildflower

The last time The Avalanches released a full-length album, George W. Bush was just elected president, the internet was still in its infancy compared to the totalizing social presence it ballooned into in the mid-naughties and Sept. 11 hadn’t happened yet. Since I Left You, the group’s debut, is as danceable as it is radical in form. The Avalanches methodically overlaid 3,500 samples to create a funky, rich album that is easily playable at a party, yet also deeply rewarding to listen to while alone. Released initially to moderate success in their native Australia, the album has since grown internationally to be revered as among the sharpest examples of contemporary plunderphonics, a genre of samples-based music.