Dej Loaf – All Jokes Aside
All Jokes Aside is Def Loaf‘s first mixtape in almost two years. During that time, the Detroit MC has raised her profile dramatically, featuring on a number of tracks with everyone from Young Thug to Lil Durk, while releasing her #AndSeeThatsTheThing EP late last year. All Jokes Aside finds Loaf in fine form as she continues her development as a rapper.
The appeal of Loaf, for me, has always been her sing-song vocals, and while still part of her sound, All Jokes Aside finds Loaf focusing more on her rapping than her singing, and explaining so by rapping on Chase Mine, “Lately I’ve been on my rap shit / Had to stop singing for awhile.” Keep Going, Goals and Bitch Please are great examples of Loaf the rapper, and her ability to change her flow mid-rap. Die 4 It has Loaf singing on an R&B tip while the only feature is former No Limit soldier Silkk The Shocker on the early 00s era Bout That.
Verdict: All Jokes Aside further cements Dej Loaf as one of hip-hops most engaging talents.
Gallant – Ology
It’s always great when an artist you’ve followed from their infancy finally starts to get their just reward, as is the case of rising L.A. based crooner Gallant. Having released a number of singles over the past six months and had everyone from Zane Lowe, Seal, Sufjan Stevens and Elton John singing his praises, Gallant’s finally dropped his long anticipated debut Ology.
Across 16 tracks Gallant fulfils his promise as one of the most exciting singers going, delivering an album full of emotion and heart headlined by his incredible vocals. Gallant has a remarkable ability to pitch-shift seamlessly, delivering soothing vocals on Bourbon before his falsetto erupts on Bone + Tissue. Gallant is also his own backing vocalist, filling in the space with delicate harmonies and vocal nuances that add to the overall intricacies of his stellar soundscapes.
Weight In Gold, the huge hit single Zane Lowe premiered on his first Beats 1 show, is the album’s centre piece, with Gallant exploring his vocal strengths over the minimalistic retro production. Elsewhere, Counting and Open Up are heartfelt ballads, Talking To Myself is a jazz infused pop number, while Skipping Stones – a duet with Jhené Aiko – intertwines the two’s vocals in a spiral of haunted beauty.
Verdict: A early contender for album of the year.
Mogwai – Atomic
The ninth studio album from Scottish post-rockers Mogwai is another powerful instrumental affair. Atomic is the soundtrack to Mark Cousin‘s experimental documentary, Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise, that looks at the Hiroshima atomic bomb and its legacy.
This is another absorbing release from Mogwai, once again showing their creative flair and continued growth as band that’s unbelievably been around for over two decades. While the electronic blips of U-235 and driving synths of Weak Force are Mogwai trademarks, it’s the horn section of opener Ether and string section of Are You A Dance? that build on Mogwai’s atmospheric soundscapes.
Even for a project based on something as devastating as the atomic bomb, Mogwai bring a sense of hope and euphoria to their arrangements. Closing track Fat Man, a subtle piano number that builds to a crashing crescendo, is the perfect summation of what Mogwai are about and why no band does post-rock better.
Verdict: One of Mogwai’s most consistent works yet.