Courtesy of Dreamville

TEST SPIN | J. Cole – KOD

“KOD. 3 meanings. Kids on Drugs
King Overdosed
Kill Our Demons
The rest of the album I leave to your interpretation.”

J. Cole tweeted this on April 19 prior to releasing his new album, KOD. The rapper’s fifth LP features 12 songs, all of which fuse to tell a succinct story about what I believe is the culmination of addiction and pain through technology in 2018. What is most interesting about KOD is that it is an exploration of many types of relevant pain in 2018.

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TEST SPIN | Bazzi — COSMIC

“You so fucking precious when you smile,” sings Bazzi on the opening lines of his breakthrough single “Mine” which was released in October of 2017. The song rose to prominence in early 2018 after being featured in a Snapchat filter as well as on a recent playlist curated by Taylor Swift. The song has been streamed millions of times and has peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. Largely due to “Mine” and an endorsement from Apple Music granting him heavy promotion, the 20-year-old Michigan native Bazzi’s debut studio album COSMIC had become one of the most highly anticipated albums of 2018. And its arrival has not been a let down.

Courtesy of Third Man Records

TEST SPIN | Jack White – Boarding House Reach

To prepare myself to listen to Jack White’s album Boarding House Reach that was released last Friday, I did a few things. First, I listened to some of his popular songs from his previous band, The White Stripes, such as “Seven Nation Army” and “We’re Going To Be Friends.” Those songs had a familiar comfort, as I recognized their tunes. My next step was to listen to “Servings and Portions from my Boarding House Reach,” a collage of the songs from his upcoming album. I was struck by the stark contrast between the predictable and rhythmic music of The White Stripes and the erratic, almost manic energy of White’s personal collage. Just like a photo collage has pictures messily taped together with scribbles of dates and places, the album collage felt like different parts of each song were just taped together… but somehow it kind of worked.

Courtesy of Def Jam

TEST SPIN | Logic – Bobby Tarantino II

From the release of his debut mixtape Young Sinatra, Logic has been dropping the jaws of listeners with his fast-paced lyrical acrobatics. His discography includes three studio albums and seven mixtapes consisting of a diverse collection of bangers and vibes, each packed with jumbles of tongue-twisting talent. Drawing on inspiration from directors like Quentin Tarantino and artists like Jay Z, Logic writes concept albums that tell stories in which science fiction meets street and emotional vulnerability meets eye-rolling confidence. On March 9, Logic released his newest mixtape, Bobby Tarantino II, as a follow up to 2016’s Bobby Tarantino. The original Bobby Tarantino was widely criticized for its lack of a coherent concept, its simplicity and for the aloof, braggadocious version of Logic that it presents.

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TEST SPIN | Camp Cope — How to Socialise and Make Friends

Camp Cope’s sophomore release — How to Socialise & Make Friends — is a session beer of an album: best enjoyed in one sitting. In 2016, the Melbourne-based trio blew up with a self-titled debut that introduced listeners to their jangly strain of indie-rock. The band then jam-packed the ensuing two years with performances, tours and new music. They released a split with Philly trio Cayetana, toured with emo luminaries Against Me! and Modern Baseball and reached a larger audience with performances on Audiotree Live and triple j. “I feel like I’ve lived 10 lifetimes in the time that I’ve been in this band,” drummer Sarah Thompson told Stereogum in a February interview.

Courtesy of Triple Crown Records

TEST SPIN | Sorority Noise — YNAAYT

Sorority Noise’s March 2 release — YNAAYT — is almost entirely composed of stripped-down songs from their 2017 release You’re Not as _____ as You Think. Many bands have released essential demo, remastered or acoustic albums. Some present wholly new takes on fan-favorite songs. Others let listeners peek behind inside the recording process and hear the band play around with yet to be finished tracks. YNAAYT doesn’t provide any such insights or revelations. It feels rushed and underdeveloped, lacking new melodies and interesting ideas.

Courtesy of Low Country Sound / Elektra

TEST SPIN | Brandi Carlile – By the Way, I Forgive You

Sitting in Ithaca Bakery getting ready to listen to By the Way, I Forgive You, I thought back to the first time I heard Brandi Carlile during an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Her song “The Story” was a major part of the musical episode in season seven and it’s been a constant in my Spotify throwback mixes since. I already associated her music with the faux cloudy Seattle of Grey’s, so I was ready to delve into the new album with my latte in hand. “The Story” showcases what folk singers and specifically Carlile do best: wrap a heartbreaking story in anthemic music. In her opening line (“All of these lines across my face / Tell you the story of who I am), Carlile makes something personal feel utterly universal.

Courtesy of Matador

TEST SPIN | Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy

“You gotta listen to Twin Fantasy!” urged my friend to me at about the same time that Car Seat Headrest’s 2016 Teens of Denial was prompting me to reconsider whether rock was actually dead. I knew lead singer and songwriter Will Toledo had already released a whopping 12 albums under the Car Seat moniker before signing with Matador Records, but after watching Toledo shriek out “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” with nothing but an acoustic guitar and a toy drum set to accompany him in what must be the shrillest Tiny Desk Concert to date, I struggled to believe that his work could get any more lo-fi. When I did finally endeavor into Toledo’s 2011 homemade opus Twin Fantasy, I was torn. While I could recognize the gumption of a kid who self recorded 10 minute rock n’ roll epics about his depression and somehow had the talent to make it all sound convincing, I struggled to plod my way through the blown-out vocals and macgyvered production to find something that resonated with me. Eventually, after several more dogged listens, I finally accepted defeat and admitted to myself that I just couldn’t get into Twin Fantasy.

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TEST SPIN | AWOLNATION — Here Come the Runts

I was fortunate enough to discover AWOLNATION early, and I continued to listen until their first album, Megalithic Symphony, caught the attention of the masses. With this, I abandoned them out of pretentious spite. Years later, I am happy to say that Aaron Bruno and company haven’t lost their ability to create unique, genre-noncomforming music. If AWOLNATION was a lesser band, they may have simply tried to recreate the sound and success of their smash-hit “Sail.” However, Here Come the Runts sees Bruno dramatically shift his instrumentation, following in the footsteps of ’80s-era rockers. This is echoed in the album’s thematic focus — Bruno’s “runts” are the successors to Springsteen’s working-class Americans, those that are pushing on despite the stress and struggle of modern America.

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TEST SPIN | Brockhampton — SATURATION III

For a generation who practically grew up on the internet, the age-old American adage of “Do It Yourself” has never loomed so tantalizingly close overhead. Want to make a music video for Youtube? Do it yourself.  Want to organize a rally on Facebook? Do it yourself.