Every Friday at noon, Austin360 music writers Deborah Sengupta Stith and Eric Webb hijack the Austin360 Periscope account to talk about the week’s new album and single releases. These aren’t full reviews, but first impressions. Listen to music from this week’s show in our 360 First Spins: July 2015 Spotify playlist.
Jill Scott "Woman" – Listen on Spotify
DSS: Jilly from Philly is and always has been your super smart girlfriend who gives you the best advice, but never judges you for the stupid choices you make anyway. She’s also got the pipes to put most so-called R&B singers to shame. This album is perfect for anyone going through a rough break up, anyone who appreciates great singing or anyone who wants to celebrate the spirit of woman.
EW: When I think of Jill Scott, as a casual listener, I think of a mind-boggling voice. I can’t imagine that she could ever sound bad, even if she were singing the lyrics to, say, Crazy Town’s "Butterfly." (Which would actually be awesome.) My point: I am already impressed.
Ashley Monroe "The Blade" – Listen
EW: She’s not the progressively minded game-changer that Kacey Musgraves or Jason Isbell are, but Ashley Monroe more than does her genre proud. "The Blade" is a country album that would do Monroe’s BFF, Miranda Lambert, proud. The Pistol Annies member wrings pretty regret out of the title track, and while much of the album is down-home heartache, songs like "Winning Streak" embrace a saloon brawlin’ side of the singer that shows she could light up any honky tonk in Austin. The album’s not a barn-burner, but there’s a Dolly-lite charm to it.
DSS: Her sound seems custom made for Austin audiences. Also, any friend of Miranda Lambert is a friend of mine.
Prince Royce "Double Vision" – Listen
DSS: We’ve been talking a lot about R&B/pop artists who have ditched formulaic song structures and auto tune to push the genre in interesting new directions. Prince Royce is not one of them. The songs on this album are slickly produced, auto-tuned, made for pop radio anthems. (I wrote down "generic Justin Timberlake" in my notes.) "Back It Up" is very possibly the boppiest, bubble gum strip club song ever recorded. Having said that, no one’s going to give you the side-eye for slipping these songs into your pool party mix.
EW: I know this makes Deborah question everything she knows about me, but if I heard "Back It Up" on the radio, I would not turn the dial. I’ve bought more than one inane (but fun) Taio Cruz song in my life. Prince Royce is doing the same empty-headed thing; he just missed his moment.
Ducktails "St. Catherine" – Listen
EW: If Real Estate is too stressful for you, this Real Estate side project is "Atlas" on horse tranquilizers. Guitarist Matt Mondanile has taken that band’s lazy-day hammock rock and pulled the thread until it unravels into a blurry bliss-wave — think a kitschy Wild Nothing. There’s nothing here to perk your ear up in particular, but the title track luxuriates in trippy, washed out sounds and sacred images. "Surreal Exposure" is basically a Real Estate song with a crush on Ariel Pink. Pleasant, non-essential. It’s hot outside. Give it a spin.
DSS: Good tunes to while away a lazy summer afternoon.
Trae tha Truth "Tha Truth" – Listen
DSS: With a palpable sense of urgency and gorgeous, soulful Southern soundbeds, Trae speaks for the streets. Buoyed by guest spots from J. Cole, Rich Homie Quan, Dej Loaf, Rick Ross and many more, the album rises to rival the top tier of this year’s hip-hop releases.
EW: For someone whose voice sounds like his tonsils are made of unpolished granite, Trae’s flow is remarkably snappy.
Quick spins: Singles and EPs
Metric "Too Bad, So Sad" – Listen
EW: Metric’s upcoming synth project, "Pagans In Vegas," has me all sorts of giddy, because Emily Haines is my life-coach. The first single, "The Shade," is already a play-on-repeat staple, but this third cut elicited side-eye from me at 6:45 a.m. today. I’m pretty much on board until the chorus, where the George Lucas laser noises and Haines "WOO HOO!" prompt me to cover my face in secondhand embarrassment. That said, the more I listen, the more I "WOO HOO!" myself. I’m just trying to guard my heart, because I want to love this upcoming record so very much.
DSS: This sort of splits the difference between the dark synth we’ve been hearing a lot of this year and a poppier sound. I like it.
Fantastic Negrito "Fantastic Negrito Deluxe EP" – Listen
DSS: This is really just a re-release of Fantastic Negrito’s excellent debut EP from last year with two new songs, but I love this man and his sound so much I will keep talking about him every chance I get til the rest of the world is paying attention. He makes deep-down, gut bucket blues, some of the rawest, realest music I’ve heard in a very long time.
EW: You can’t fake the way he sounds.
Kurt Vile "Pretty Pimpin'" – Listen
EW: Kurt is coming to ACL Fest this year, and I predict that this irony-rich, Marcy Playground-esque alt-rock gem will go over swimmingly. There’s a little country hiding in there, too.
DSS: This is a very different sort of "pimpin'" than I’m used to.
Alice Glass "Stillbirth" – Listen
EW: Not to defer to Pitchfork for my critical assessment, but their review of this song compares Glass’ post-Crystal Castles solo debut to Kanye West’s "On Sight." It’s so apt that I have to mention it. "Stillbirth" builds a terrifying sand castle in the same techno-goth playground as Crystal Castles, but it’s arresting and pummeling in a distinctly shock rock way. Go forth and be musically fruitful, Alice.
DSS: Hard-driving and edgy. I like it.