This is a lot easier than I thought.
When I started this column two weeks ago, I fretted about being able to find one new album to unconditionally recommend every week. Turns out the Gos are easier to come by than the Nos. In fact, I had to dig back into late December’s releases to find someone worth grouchily dismissing this week. Thanks for always being there when I need you, G-Eazy.
The Spook School—Could It Be Different?
Leading off with a chorus of “Fuck you, I’m still alive” so chipper it could probably only emerge from that distant realm of plentiful indie-punk choruses and tiny, noisy guitar hooks and unsinkable pop buoyancy known as Scotland, this Edinburgh quartet go on to explicitly queer a tradition where girlish and boyish voices always dodged rock’s gender rigidity anyhoo. Album three polishes their sound without candy-coating it and scales back their militancy but not their politics—if there’s no “Burn Masculinity” here, the group harmonies on “It’s been a bad year/ And I don’t think it’s getting better any time soon” project solidarity and Anna Cory’s “I Only Dance When I Want To” is a feminist anthem. And Nye Todd navigates the tricky waters of love and sex as a trans man in the age of increasingly visible gender fluidity with wit and verve and empathy, whether declaring, “I still hate my body/ But I’m learning to love what it can do” or generously telling a former boyfriend, “I hope she loves you like I couldn’t do.” It all seems so simple you’d think anyone could do this. My inbox contains a hundred Bandcamp links that prove otherwise. Oh, and they’re at the Whole on Saturday, so...
No Age—Snares Like a Haircut
After four whole years away, these two uncommonly direct L.A. art-punks have migrated from Sub Pop to Drag City, where Randy Randall’s ambient guitar clamor continues to summon beauty without ever faking grandeur, singer-drummer Dean Spunt still bashes with a linear determination that’s rarely brutish or impatient, and their lyrical epiphanies—more than ever—don’t seek to reframe your existence, but just help you make sense of your day. In short, this is comfort music for those of us whose anxiety responds better to controlled chaos than mindful silence. They luxuriate in their uniqueness (“A feeling that’s not felt/ By just anyone”), yearn inchoately (“There's so much I wish that I had”), critique elliptically (“We don’t talk much now that/ We don’t have to”), and threaten to take their ball and go home (“I got a lot to offer/ I don’t think I should bother”). They’ll keep bothering though. If they had it in ’em to quit, they’d have done it years ago. GO
Ty Segall—Freedom's Goblin
Segall’s familiarity with music that wasn’t recorded in a midwestern garage or performed in a San Francisco ballroom in the days before the moon landing allows him to pass as polymath in certain stringent rock revivalist quarters, and he really does blast through the “the past” with a charming lack of distinction. Horns that alternately suggest Abbey Road and Fun House, folksy glam stomps, stuffed-nose Marc Bolan vocals, reckless guitar freakouts—he digs it all so unconditionally that in this context, even his klutzy fumble of Hot Chocolate’s “Every 1’s a Winner” comes off as a smudgy fan letter rather than an outright desecration. With nonsense titles like “Despoiler of Cadaver” (“Why didn’t I think of that?” Robert Pollard groans), Segall doesn’t quite have the lyrical vision to pull this shambling 75-minute venture together. But there’s nothing shameful about being the Bruno Mars of scruffy retro-rock, and the worst I can say about Freedom’s Goblin is that its reach exceeds its grasp. What could be more psychedelic than that?
G-Eazy—The Beautiful & Damned
Handsome mediocrities—they’re just like us. They get wasted and regret it in the morning. They worry if they can distinguish between sexual attraction and true love. They, uh, flush their used condoms because they’re paranoid about groupies secretly inseminating themselves. So, OK, not just like us. This Bay Area nullity rhymes with numbing competence over serviceable pop-trap beats (a plentiful commodity) and professionally insinuating hooks (the two best are sung by his far-more-significant other Halsey and the far-better-than-this Kehlani) mimicking Drake’s illusion of spontaneously unspooling candor and Macklemore’s hoarseness. He still strikes the bad boy poses his sales depend on while insisting he’s a wiser man who has learned the price of fame. He may just have devised the formula for chart longevity as a subpar white rap star that the music industry has sought for so long, and you can bet he won’t be the last to exploit it.
Go Slow No is a weekly survey of new and overlooked album releases. The rating system is pretty self-explanatory: GO means listen to this now, SLOW means check it out when you get a chance, and means run screaming from the room if you hear so much as a note of it.