We have made it to Part 3 of Blocland Present’s Blocland’s Albums of the Year. What a fuckin ride. We are all still recovering from Lemon’s brutal takedown of Alex Cameron.1 Many questions still linger.
Which writer will pick up the first sponsorship? Who will Ben Garrison lambaste next? Will Wendy’s fuck up yet again? What was the message encoded in Yacht’s Kill review of Bell Witch? What is gypsum steel and why is my neighbor harvesting it? So many questions that need to be answered. But first onto albums 10-6. Gypsum steel will have to wait.2
Albums 10-6 are kinda what you would expect in an order that seems about right. We have really lost our edge in this section. We hope to get it back with albums 5-1.
20. Zola Jesus Okovi
19. Couch Slut Contempt
18. SZA CTRL
17. Suf and Friends Planetarium
16. The Horrors V
15. Bell Witch Mirror Reaper
14. Big Thief Capacity
13. White Reaper The World’s Best American Band
12. The XX I See You
11. Alex Cameron Forced Witness
LCD Soundsystem American Dream
With a send off as iconic as MSG, it was hard to imagine that a return for LCD Soundsystem could be anything other than a Kingdom Come. But, James Murphy and Co. surpassed expectations by taking a darker turn with “american dream.” Tracks like the ice cold “How Do You Sleep?” and devastating “Black Screen” show that Murhpy is still hungry, and that he is determined to be more of an “American Gangster” than a “30 someting” resting on a “Beach Chair.” These are Jay-Z references, because he also retired and then came back. “oh baby,” indeed. One.
I like this album because I’m an intellectual. I also feel like this multi-millionaire wine-bar owner really gets me and shares my ennui (That’s a French word. James Murphy and I know stuff like that.) In general, I just find his musings about his malaise, sung in a voice a mother and possibly others could love, really relatable and a lot of fun. If you don’t get it, it’s likely cause you’ve never lived in New York. Also, I bet you’ve never ever cracked an Updike. Does John Updike even mean anything to you philistines?
Anyway, how about those beats! They’re somethin’ else and definitely don’t just sound like washed-up half-assed Bowie/Eno/Suicide rip-offs. I’m so glad they didn’t really break up after making a huge deal about how they were breaking up. American Dream will do wonders for their legacy.
In conclusion, this album is about as good as its cover.
Vince Staples Big Fish Theory
Vince Staples is a complicated guy. His 2015 debut album Summertime ’06 was built around shadowy production and bleak recollections of doomed youth in a violent and impoverished Long Beach, California. His public persona, whether he’s defending moms who don’t get him or critiquing Eminem freestyles, has proven to be as consistently insightful as it is hilarious. Up until now, opposing personality traits and boundary agnosticism didn’t quite lend themselves to a concise rap archetype. It’s on his sophomore effort where Vince manifests as hip hop’s futurist.
Throughout Big Fish Theory, Staples inhabits a dim, hedonistic club haze constructed by a cast of dance producers ranging from Flume to SOPHIE. Staples glides over the top of thumping house beats and inserts himself into clattering UK garage blurring the line between man and machine. Despite wildly inventive production choices, Vince stays firmly in the spotlight. From album opener “Crabs In a Bucket” to “Rain Come Down” a frequently sharp and restless mind takes on cultural divides, romantic entanglements, and the importance of representation. Now, give him that Grammy. While you’re at it, you better give him that VMA too. Hell, give him a Tony! He’s earned them all.
When does a fish transcend medium-ness and become truly “big”? Is it when a child points at a fish and exclaims, “Wow, that’s a big fish!”? Is it when a fish recognizes its size and marvels at its own bigness? Or is it when you need … a bigger boat? But then again, isn’t it all relative — wouldn’t a giant trout that’s king of a mountain stream be just a pathetic little minnow in Earth’s vast oceans? What if the fish is alone, bobbing adrift like the lonely goldfish on the cover of Vince’s album? What then? Does that fish become big, small, and everything inbetween?
These are important questions, but despite the tease of a title, Vince doesn’t give us one goddamn thing work with. Cowardly and wrong. Shame on you, sir.
Father John Misty Pure Comedy
There is an easy reading of Josh Tillman’s career, one that tracks his rise to semi-prominence as the drummer for a beloved blogrock band, vaulted into a wholly undeserved position as an “important” singer-songwriter by a thinkpiece industrial complex eager to lionize any act with a prefabricated narrative. This less-than-charitable perspective sees Tillman as a charlatan, an icon for a generation so far down the rabbithole of irony and poptimism that they seek to rehabilitate 70s soft rock, music so MOR that even their lamest uncles wouldn’t have been caught dead playing it. A Mark Kozelek for the over-educated set, more famous than Koz only because he wears good clothes and has a neck. A 21st century Phil Collins, who jumped straight from “Abacab” to “I Can’t Dance” without bothering to write any deathless pop jams in the interim. A profoundly disingenuous smirker, who mocks you for enjoying his knowingly half-assed yacht rock even as he claims to be the arbiter of artistic authenticity. A pale, impotent phony who’s never written a melody anyone could hum, or a lyric anyone could quote out loud without looking like a pretentious twat.
Anyway, he put out an album called Pure Comedy this year, and it ranks #8 on our list.
Pure Comedy practically begs you to dislike it. The only thing that stops it from outright groveling for disapproval is Josh Tillman’s increasingly oblivious expedition into the tunnels of his pooper. 3 Dude’s got more mileage down (up? Neither? Maybe he’s contorted himself into some human donut, constantly chasing the nugget of Charlie “The Truth” Puth at end of his digestive tract while simultaneously pulling the end further from his face by doing so, therefore dooming himself to an eternity of smelling his own farts.) there than [REDACTED STRANGER THINGS SPOILER].
Let’s start with “Leaving LA”. Why the hell is this meandering piece of self-indulgence 13 minutes long? It’s just the same thing, over, and over, and over, and over and (13 overs later) again and then it doesn’t even have the decency to finish its final sentence? Why, when you add so much pomp and circumstance to each and any one of your crappy opinions, do you just quit as you were building to some “grand” conclusion? If you were trying to rip off Hallelujah, why not just make it into a 4 minute pop song easily coverable by contestants on the Voice?
What reality are you even writing about on the rest of these songs? Nothing about any of these observations remotely resembles anything about my obviously correct and infallible world view.4 And if you disagree with me then gosh darn you, whichever farm animal sticker you put on your lapel on your way to the ballot every four years. What do you even have to complain about? You are a musician, totally living the dream in the glorious limelight, performing for people who would cheer even if you farted into a microphone.5 Enjoy it, dammit. Stop singing your silly little opinions over ornate, downtempo Celine Dion (at least she EARNED her prestigious Las Vegas residency, unlike SOME people) ballads and expect us to fall in line like sheeple. I’m no sucker and I see right through you Joshy baby! 6
This album makes me mad and now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to yell about it on the internet and make everyone agree with me. I guess the synths on Magic Mountain are kinda cool. 7
Hey Blocland Faithful! Remember our wildly popular review of this album? Yes? You do?
Can I please still post the link?
No thank you? It’s in your favorites already?
Got it. Thanks for everything.
King Krule The Ooz
Scream it with me now: “COULD WE ALIGN?”
From the opening notes of “Biscuit Town” to the heartfelt cries of a man so lonely he compares himself to the briny deep, The OOZ is Archy Marshall’s personalized love letter to anybody that’s listening.
Across its 19 tracks, Archy soars through the sky and dives into the ocean like the “Half Man Half Shark” he claims to be on The OOZ deep cut. That song, along with “Vidual”, “Emergency Blimp” and “Dum Surfer” are engulfed by more subdued cuts like “Logos”, “Czech One” and grande finale “La Lune”. Sprinkled throughout are bookended tracks “Bermondsey Bosom (Left)” and “Bermondsey Bosom (Right)” along with “Cadet Limbo” and “The Cadet Leaps” that help provide aural buoys throughout the album’s hour plus runtime to prevent the listener from drifting out too far. It’s these subtle sequencing decisions throughout The OOZ that help make the album feel like the watery depths Archy describes lyrically throughout the entire album.
The end result is an extremely personal artistic statement of intent, but carefully crafted to make the mind of Archy Marshall feel like a world of its own that could be inhabited through repeated listens. The mood is that of a darkly lit lounge bar, not too far off from the house band in the backroom of Twin Peak’s Roadhouse. All fronted by a young man so comfortable with himself he can freely fly his freak flag all the while highlighting the loneliness that standing out brings. His desperate cry for anybody to align with him punctuated with a disgruntled, “AHHHHH,” justifies every abrasive note that precedes it. It’s frustrating. It’s real. It’s love. It’s The OOZ.
King Krule II: The Secret of the Ooz
Listening to The Ooz for this review was a bit like reading a 400-page novel for a book club. I kept stopping songs halfway through to go back and start again because I hadn’t absorbed a single thing. I guess this is some real mindblowing genre-fuckery for anyone born after 1995, and it closely replicates the experience of hanging out with folks of that generation, who get high on prescription drugs and prefer talking about fucking to actually fucking. More like THE SNOOZ.
Jay Som Everybody Works
Profundity in mundane. Beautify in simplicity. Jay Som’s Everybody Works is not necessarily treading uncharted waters thematically: divergent relationships, establishment of sense of self, seeking out a place in the world; yet these ageless themes sound new and complex explored thru the lens of Melinda Duartes sonic palette. Most endearing (and my personal #1 most listened to song from 2017), title track Everybody Works, tackles the uncertainty of future at the dawn of adulthood (ostensibly 22), at the key moment where all the forces in life seem to demand a charted course. “I swear I’ll be good” could easily be a battle cry. This is how I’ve chosen to live. This is my life and I’ve chosen to follow my own path. What separates Jay Som from the rest is the earnestness of her delivery, and the honesty in the music that she’s created.
Everybody Works is Jay Som’s big heart-on-the-sleeve tribute to the minutiae of modern life. The small things, if you will. Everybody Works fixates on everyman monotony ranging from riding the bus to saving money. Jay Som and the band specialize in a perfectly modest and workmanlike instrumentation informed by the bookish bedroom pop of Yo La Tengo and Camera Obscura Releases like these are vital. It’s important to have a reminder for why I didn’t give a shit about indie rock in 2017.
- We received hate mail and death threats because of it. We will not take it down though. Blocland stands by Lemon’s right to free speech.
- Killer line for my gravestone.
- The average small intestine is actually shorter than this album -raptor jesus)
- OH! We came from vaginas?! THANK YOU FOR THE REVELATION FATHER! -rj
- Is that not what’s going on here? -rj
- I just wish we could see you the way bloc sees you Josh. -rj
- Yeah, ‘So I’m Growing Old On Magic Mountain’ pretty much eclipses everything that comes before it, especially if you start the album on that song. -rj