21 Savage – ‘Issa Album’


Issa Album by 21 Savage (Slaughter Gang/Epic, 2017)

The night before I heard this, a friend described 21 Savage on this album as “romantic.” Cartoon cover aside, I couldn’t imagine a man who claimed to have no heart on one icy, soulless rap record to show soft, warm emotion — or any kind of emotion, for that matter. And he still shows affection with juvenile shallowness, again comparing sex to candy. His hooks overall continue to thrive off of disengaged apathy. Yet he’s also vocal throughout the record to explain he’s deeper than sex, drugs, and violence, and that he is, in fact, a man who can feel.

21 doesn’t expand enough to back up his talk. His best songs here follow his old tricks: hooks about indulgence, repeated until none of it bare much joy. The more the textures of the album resembles the comatose haze of the Metro Boomin’-assisted Savage Mode, the better it sounds. But at least he’s self-aware: there is a song called “Numb”; in another called “Nothin’ New,” he opens with being type-casted as one who “only raps about murders and pistols,” only to try to break away from it.

New inclusion of topic as a gesture to show growth is a reveal of family and his struggles to raise them. It’s a small appearance, though to his credit, so was his mention of autobiography of his middle-school years in “No Heart,” and that still was enough to carve some humanity in him. I side with him through a more familiar territory on him being at too close of a proximity to death and coping with such anxiety as well as grief. He’s rather brief at describing his pill habits than his peers, yet it’s always revealing. And there’s an air of cliche to a 21 Savage song called “Dead People.” It probably doesn’t help its decaying beat recalls the gloom behind the title track to Savage Mode. But it’s a case of an artist doing what he does best.


2017 albums, report card: Q2

Yesterday, I posted my highlights for quarter two. And here, you get the full list of what I listened to these past three months from 2017, organized by grade. These include albums from quarter one, January to March, because you can’t get through everything in one go. I’m sure you’ll miss some (glaring?) omissions. Please know I just have not got to them, and eventually I will — whenever that will be.

I’d say anything 6 or above is worth checking out from this list, which should be more than plenty.

Continue reading “2017 albums, report card: Q2”

Quarter Two 2017

My favorite thing to watch this quarter were the comeback acts who has spent a decade or more in silence. The most important one to me was Wolfgang Voigt, who put out a new album Narkopop under his legendary project Gas for the first time since 2001; the fact the title riffed off his last album, the ambient-techno classic Pop, made things even more exciting. Techno also saw both a new Porter Ricks album and a new Dopplereffekt full-length for the first time in 18 years.

On to the rock side of things: Slowdive’s return isn’t so surprising given their festival appearances in the past few years, but not since their peers My Bloody Valentine has a giant from a previous generation delivered like their new self-titled album. (There’s also a Ride comeback but, uh, next.) For anyone keeping with Japan’s rock music, Cornelius is back with a new album, Mellow Waves, his first since 2002. And yo, any country heads excited for the new Shania Twain album, her first since 2002’s Up?

Here’s list of my favorite albums and singles that I heard during quarter two, April to June. Some Q1 releases are here because I got to them late. If you want to check out my overall favorite albums of the first half the year, there’s a list for that too.



  • Actress — AZD
  • Amber Coffman — City of No Reply
  • Aye Nako — Silver Haze
  • BFlecha — Kwalia
  • Charlie Bliss — Guppy
  • Colin Stetson — All This I Do for Glory
  • DJ Quik & Problem — Rosecrans
  • Feist — Pleasure
  • Gas — Narkopop
  • Geotic — Absyma
  • Hey Violet — From the Outside
  • Jlin — Black Origami
  • Jonny Nash — Eden
  • Kayoko Yoshizawa — Yaneura Ju
  • Kodak Black — Painting Pictures
  • Mary J Blige — Strength of a Woman
  • Paramore — After Laughter
  • Playboi Carti — Playboi Carti
  • Ricardo Villalobos — Empirical House
  • Road Hog — Haul Ass
  • Sam Outlaw — Tenderheart
  • Satellite Young — Satellite Young
  • Seiko Oomori — kitixxxgaia
  • Slowdive — Slowdive
  • Sorority Noise — You’re Not as ___ as You Think
  • Tei Shi — Crawling Space
  • various artists — Mono no Aware



  • BiS — “gives”
  • Blanck Mass — “Rhesus Negative”
  • Dadaray — “Woman Woman”
  • DIA — “Will You Go Out with Me”
  • Dreamcatcher — “Good Night”
  • EXID — “Night Rather Than Day”
  • Gas — “Narkopop 2”
  • GFriend — “Fingertip”
  • Hey Violet — “Break My Heart”
  • Ibibio Sound Machine — “Give Me a Reason”
  • IU — “Palette” ft. G-Dragon
  • Juana Molina — “Cosoco”
  • Lil Uzi Vert — “XO Tour Llif3”
  • Lovelyz — “Now, We”
  • Mondo Grosso — “Labyrinth”
  • Mura Masa — “1 Night” ft. Charli XCX
  • Nite Jewel — “2 Good 2 Be True”
  • Quelle Chris — “Buddies”
  • Perfume Genius — “No Shape”
  • Playboi Carti — “Magnolia”
  • Satellite Young — “Don’t Graduate, Senpai!”
  • Seiko Oomori — “Dogma Magma”
  • Shakira — “Me Enamore”
  • Terrence Dixon — “Confusion of Another Kind”
  • Triple H — “365 Fresh”
  • WJSN — “Miracle”
  • Yaeji — “Feel It Out”
  • Yuu Kikkawa — “Sayonara Standard”



Bonus: Non-2017 Albums

  • Akina Nakamori — Bitter and Sweet (1985)
  • Asako Toki — Bittersweet (2015)
  • Big Tymers — How You Luv That, Vol. 2 (1998)
  • Blanck Mass — Dumb Flesh (2015)
  • Boris — Heavy Rocks (2002)
  • Boris — Akuma no Uta (2004)
  • Charisma.com — Aidoro C (2016)
  • Compton’s Most Wanted — Music to Driveby (1992)
  • Do or Die — Picture This (1996)
  • The Egyptian Lover — On the Nile (1984)
  • Gang Parade — Barely Last (2016)
  • Gary Numan — The Pleasure Principle (1978)
  • Hitomi Toi — The Memory Hotel (2015)
  • IU — Chat-Shire (2015)
  • Juanes — Mi Sangre (2004)
  • Kinky — Kinky (2002)
  • LL Cool J — Radio (1984)
  • Master P — Ghetto D (1997)
  • Prurient — Bermuda Strain (2011)
  • Ryuichi Sakamoto — Beauty (1989)
  • Seiko Oomori — Tokyo Black Hole (2016)
  • Sugababes — Angels with Dirty Faces (2002)
  • Tommy February6 — Tommy February6 (2002)
  • Tommy February6 — Tommy Airlines (2004)

2017 albums, report card: Q1

In case you missed it, I posted a list of my album/song highlights from the year so far. And below is the full list of albums I checked out during January-March. There has already been so many, so sorry if I missed one. (Apologies to Sampha, Big Sean, and those who released albums in the last week of March.) Don’t take the numbers too seriously. A 5 isn’t necessarily bad, I more so don’t remember much from it besides it being pretty OK. You can see AOA’s single making it in my highlights list, for example. Any record that’s a 6 or more I’d say is worth your time.

I also keep a Spotify playlist with a choice favorite song from every album (available on Spotify) I listen to. Here’s the link if you want to check it out.

Continue reading “2017 albums, report card: Q1”

Quarter One 2017

The first quarter of 2017 had some unneeded noise. Rap got big debates inflating OK albums and pointless beefs. Indie rock’s old guard spent too much time bickering about how the genre’s dead for the tenth time. And I definitely do not need your negative Yasutaka Nakata opinions.

Once parsed through the chatter, quarter one turned eventful. R&B has yet to lose steam after one wonderful year. (Shout out to The Internet, whose members keep giving with their respective solo projects.) K-pop has been exhausting yet really exciting to follow. Dance music has brought incredible records, from rookies to veterans to dream collaborations, with its experimental side also fruitful. Folk has brought voices much needed for this torn generation. And for the record, indie rock is thriving through its new blood, and rap already has had a lot to offer from people not named Drake, Quavo or Future. You can go to the UK for those, though you don’t really have to.

A Kamaiyah tape, a Feist album, a Lorde album, and a new fucking Gas album in the near future — I think 2017 is only getting started.

Here’s a round-up of my favorite music from the first quarter of 2017.



  • Allison Crutchfield — Tourist in This Town
  • Asako Toki — Pink
  • Charli XCX — Number 1 Angel
  • Fatima Yamaha — Araya EP
  • Future — HNDRXX
  • Jay Som — Everybody Works
  • Jens Lekman — Life Will See You Now
  • Kehlani — SweetSexySavage
  • Kelly Lee Owens — Kelly Lee Owens
  • Nelly Furtado — The Ride
  • Noveller — A Pink Sunset for No One
  • Octo Octa — Where Are We Going?
  • Power Trip — Nightmare Logic
  • RaeLynn — Wildhorse
  • S.E.S. — Remember
  • Suiyoubi no Campanella — Superman
  • Suzy — Yes? No? EP
  • Thundercat — Drunk
  • Wiley — Godfather




Bonus: Favorite New Non-2017 Albums

  • Autechre — LP5 (1998)
  • Belly — Star (1993)
  • callme — This Is Callme (2016)
  • Every Little Thing — 4 Force (2001)
  • Fennesz & Ryuichi Sakamoto — Cendre (2007)
  • Izumi Macra — Identity (2016)
  • Jan Jelinek — Loop-finding-jazz-records (2001)
  • Jens Lekman — I Know What Love Isn’t (2012)
  • Lori McKenna — The Bird & The Rifle (2016)
  • miss A — Touch EP (2012)
  • PASSPO — Beef or Chicken? (2015)
  • Pet Shop Boys — Behaviour (1991)
  • Richard X — Richard X Presents His X-Factor, Vol. 1 (2003)
  • Scarface — Mr. Scarface Is Back (1992)
  • Shampoo — We Are Shampoo (1994)
  • Silent Siren — S (2016)
  • Sistar — So Cool (2011)
  • Slowdive — Pygmalion (1994)
  • Soichi Terada — Sounds from the Far East (2015)
  • Suiyoubi no Campanella — UMA (2016)
  • Throwing Muses — The Real Ramona (1991)
  • UGK — Super Tight (1994)
  • Whodini – Back in Black (1986)
  • Yamaneko — Pixel Wave Embrace (2014)