From the outside looking in, it seems like New York rap has been adrift for years, with 50 Cent seemingly more interested in tweeting about #SMSAUDIO than rapping, Jay Z being old and wack, Nas posing for album covers with his ex-wife’s wedding dress and all quiet on the Dipset front. The city’s rap output has been so thin that you couldn’t even really be mad when A$AP Rocky got a $3 million record deal for a lot of swag and a little substance. So when Your Old Droog (“droog” being a Russian word for friend) released his debut EP on the internet earlier this June, everyone who heard it thought he was a rejuvenated, disguised Nas and with good reason. Droog stays in the pocket for the length of this brief, golden age-period piece. He weaves narratives with clever rhymes, and the beats are nice. It’s a fun, auspicious listen. (Elliot Pearson)
Sea When Absent is the name of the new album by A Sunny Day in Glasgow. Out on Lefse Records, it’s mostly a pop record, albeit dreamy and laced with shoegaze conceits. Throughout vocalist Jen Goma sounds relaxed and confident, with a range from deeply and darkly sonorous to wistfully, flutteringly beautiful. “Golden Waves” is glassy and dreamlike on account of Goma’s voice, and the instrumentation here trickles, ebbs and flows around the composition for an effect that gives listeners the opportunity to drift along with the band’s sonic exposition. On “The Body, It Bends,” her voice and lyrics are surrounded by a cascade of vocal overdubs and keyboard-nuanced melodic bits that make for an elusive, rewarding musical experience. At times overwrought and willfully complex in its attention to detail, Sea When Absent demonstrates that shoegaze and its 21st-century twilight derivatives can still equal compelling music. (August March)
Mastodon’s latest, Once More ’Round the Sun, is jam-packed with driving riffage, obscurantist and semi-mystical lyrics, and drummer Brann Dailor’s high-pitched, prog-influenced drumming. The band has been noted for not following traditional rocanrol songwriting formulas, and this album is slightly more melodic than its predecessors, though it’s still impossible to tell if Dailor ever makes use of the bass drum on his formidable kit. The vocals are raw and searching but sometimes seem little more than an afterthought to the soundtracks. All this is evident in rambly but somewhat epic sounds found on the title track and follow-up “Asleep in the Deep.” “Feast Your Eyes” travels at or near the speed of sound but doesn’t seem to get anywhere. Don’t get me wrong; I dig Brent Hinds’ chunky guitar gymnastics, but it would be cool if the band embraced some sort of discipline in their songwriting process. At least the album art is bitchin’. (August March)
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Sloan Armitage • acoustic, singer-