Home / Blog / Album Reviews: Kelela, Liv.e, Big Laugh, Jadasea & more

Album Reviews: Kelela, Liv.e, Big Laugh, Jadasea & more

Jun 07, 2023Jun 07, 2023

The Grammys are behind us, the Super Bowl (with a Rihanna Halftime Show) is upon us, and in non-network-television-related music news: Camp Cope broke up!! The Australian indie/punk/emo trio made our favorite album of 2018 with How to Socialise & Make Friends. We'll miss them. In other news, Bill did an awesome interview with The Sisters of Mercy that talks about everything from System Of A Down to the possibility of a new album. We were also thrilled to launch exclusive vinyl variants of some of our most anticipated albums of the year this week, including Scowl, Drain, and American Football offshoot LIES.

Onto new music. I highlight seven new albums below, and Bill talks about more in Bill's Indie Basement, including Quasi, Amber Arcades, Civic, The Golden Dregs, Maps, and more.

On top of that, this week's honorable mentions include: Black Belt Eagle Scout, Andy Shauf, Rebecca Black, Flume, Narrow Head, Pearla, Venamoris (Dave & Paula Lombardo), In Flames, El Ten Eleven, Unwed Sailor, Lance Skiiiwalker, Planet On A Chain, Negative Blast, My Hair Is A Rat's Nest, Shy Glizzy, J.I., Kash Doll & DJ Drama, Pest Control, Tennis, Enchanting, Jad Fair & Samuel Locke Ward, Lisa O’Neill, Vic Ruggiero (The Slackers), Jill Barber, Iterum Nata (ex-Hexvessel), Supreme Beings Of Leisure, Afternoon Bike Ride, Seaming To, Joanna Mattrey & Steven Long, the View From The Soyuz EP, the Shady Blu EP, the Sial EP, the orchestral Foals EP, the Kelly Lee Owens EP, the Two Shell EP, the Laraaji comp, The Auteurs box, the Andy Bell comp, and The Rolling Stones live album.

Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?

Kelela - RavenWarp

Kelela takes her time. Since taking the world by storm in the early 2010s as a guest vocalist on electronic tracks by the likes of Teengirl Fantasy, Kingdom, and Daedelus, she's only released one mixtape, one EP, and one full-length album, along with a few standalone singles and remixes. But every time she does drop, it's always worth the wait, and Raven--her sophomore album and first new music in nearly six years--is no exception. The album was written, arranged, and executive-produced by Kelela, alongside co-executive producer Asmara of Nguzunguzu, with most of the production coming from LSDXOXO, ambient duo OCA, and Bambii--a tight-knit team that helped Kelela make exactly the album she wanted to make, without worrying about the expectations of outside forces like capitalism and the culture of white supremacy. Kelela calls the album "an affirmation of Black femme perspective in the midst of systemic erasure and the sound of our vulnerability turned to power," and she accomplishes that with a remarkable fusion of R&B, dance music, and ambient music. It feels like a natural progression from her earlier work, and feels as daring and futuristic today as her debut mixtape Cut 4 Me did ten years ago. On Raven, Kelela doesn't sound concerned with writing another "LMK," the pop-friendly lead single of her previous album Take Me Apart. That's not to say that Raven doesn't have its bangers, but it's an even more intimate, atmospheric album than its predecessor, and even its catchiest, most upbeat songs explore Kelela's experimental side. The production is wide-ranging and innovative, and Kelela has gotten even better at weaving her soaring voice in and out of the beatwork than she already was. Kelela benefited from arriving at a time when the crossroads between indie, electronic music, and R&B was a trendy place to be, but Raven affirms that Kelela is no trend-hopper. It doesn't really sound like any of the big R&B records of late, and with music this creative and refreshing, Kelela is better off that way.


Paramore - This Is WhyAtlantic

Paramore's first album in six years explores dance-punk, atmospheric ballads, and the emotional rollercoaster of the 2020s. It feels like a culmination of everything they've done, as well as an evolution. Read my full review.


Liv.e - Girl In The Half PearlIn Real Life

A lot can change in three years, and Liv.e is no longer the artist that she was on her 2020 debut LP Couldn't Wait To Tell You, a lovestruck psychedelic neo-soul album inspired (and co-signed) by Erykah Badu. She since went through a rough breakup, and themes of heartbreak are all over this darker, stranger followup. "If Girl in the Half Pearl ‘sounds chaotic,'" she said in a recent SPIN interview, "it's only because my life was chaotic." Liv.e wrote all 17 songs herself, and handled production on about half of them, with Mndsgn, Aaron Liao, Solomonphonic, and John Carroll Kirby contributing production as well. Her goal, she told Rolling Stone, was "doing the weirdest shit ever and making it sound fire." Mission accomplished; Girl In The Half Pearl is fueled by abrasive breakbeats, distorted vocals, stumbling jazz passages, gooey funk, outer-space synthesizers, and vintage telephone noises. "Top three drugs we trying to make you feel on: Molly. Speed. PCP," she told SPIN, and "druggy" describes this album better than any particular genre. The Erykah Badu comparisons probably won't go away entirely, but it'd be just as--or more--accurate to compare Girl in The Half Pearl to Nine Inch Nails. It's music that's as transportive as it is unnerving.


Big Laugh - Consume MeRevelation

Milwaukee hardcore band Big Laugh formed in 2019, released a demo that same year and the Manic Revision EP the following year, and now they've signed to the legendary Revelation Records for their electrifying debut full-length Consume Me. Citing both classic Revelation/NYHC bands like Judge and Burn as well as Japanese hardcore bands like Gauze and Bastard as influences, Big Laugh kinda sound like the exact middle ground between those two things. Sometimes they also remind of early Ceremony, and fans of contemporaries like Scowl, Gel, and Spy should definitely hop on the Big Laugh train if they haven't already as well. The record is just one fast-paced, ridiculously fun ripper after another that almost never lets up on the gas until showing off a more dynamic side with closer "The Fall" (which, at three and a half minutes, is noticeably longer than any other track on the album). Big Laugh aren't reinventing the form, but they've got personality, the record is a blast to listen to, and even with a vast sea of great hardcore and punk bands right now, this one stands out.


Thin - DuskTwelve Gauge

Three years after blessing us with their chaotic debut LP Dawn, NYC trio Thin bless us with a followup, Dusk. Given the titles, you can probably expect some continuity, and Dusk does share a lot of traits with its predecessor but also feels like a clear step forward. Thin's formula--a mix of screamo and mathgrind that fits nicely next to bands like Converge and Portrayal of Guilt--is even tighter, more punishing, and more concise on Dusk than it was on Dawn, and the record sounds better too, thanks in part to engineer/mixer Colin Marston. Like its predecessor, it's got 14 songs that clock in at around 15 minutes, and one of them is an instrumental track of blues guitar. It also finds time to explore slower, more dissonant territory without ever softening the blow of their high-speed chaos. Its runtime may be brief, but Thin get a lot done with these intense, complex songs, and nobody can ever accuse them of overstaying their welcome.


Jadasea & Laron - The Corner: Vol. 110k

Jadasea is a UK rapper who's appeared on several albums by NYC underground rap leader MIKE (including his new album Beware of the Monkey), and he's signed to MIKE's 10k label. He's also a collaborator of King Krule, with whom he's a member of the new group Aqrxvst. Laron is a NYC producer who's probably best known for working with Brooklyn drill rapper Jay Critch. And this week, they teamed up for the collaborative album The Corner: Vol. 1. Guest appearances come from both NYC (MIKE, Wiki, and Sideshow) and the UK (John Glacier and Pinty), and The Corner: Vol 1 feels like a true transatlantic collaboration. Laron departs from the drill/trap type production that he's become known for and instead channels the hazy, psychedelic style that MIKE tends to use, which is perfect for Jadasea's abstract lyrical style. It's a lengthy, immersive album, with 26 songs in nearly an hour--over twice as long as Jadasea's last project--and it really establishes Jadasea as a force.


Yo La Tengo - This Stupid WorldMatador

Bill's Album of the Week in Indie Basement this week is the latest from Yo La Tengo, which he calls "a terrific album in one of the most consistently great discographies of the last 40 years," adding, "Yo La Tengo doesn't throw any curveballs on This Stupid World, but they don't need to. This is nine examples of a band still in control of their sound, still within its bounds, but still finding new inspiration." Read his full review in Indie Basement.


Read Bill's Indie Basement for more new album reviews, including Quasi, Amber Arcades, Civic, The Golden Dregs, Maps, and more.

Looking for more recent releases? Browse the Notable Releases archive or scroll down for previous weeks.