Never seen so many incredible new releases in just 30 days. Here are some of my favorite tracks released in the month of April. We got lots to catch up on.
Our chicano heartthrob! His first release since signing to Interscope Records, Cuco blesses us with a coming-of-age surf-and-blues ballad. Last fall, in the midst of a world tour, Cuco and his team were involved in an almost fatal car crash in Tennessee. All ten people in the car had to be hospitalized, and three months of touring had to be cancelled. He took to Instagram in the days following, saying, “We’re all alive by a blessing. Last night felt like hell on earth and I’m hurting and watching my brothers hurt. It’s a blessing to be here alive”. This new single is named after the narcotic the team took during this process of intense pain and slow recovery.
The song tells a story plagued by loneliness, helplessness, and isolation. That unforgettable guitar riff throughout the song carries me through a sad psychedelic lullaby that I cannot get enough of. I don’t think a day has gone by since the song’s release that I didn’t give it a listen. Or five.
The music video, released toward the end of the month, takes place in a whimsical Mexico City, where Cuco’s family comes from. It is full of easter eggs that take me back to the hispanic homes of my childhood. (That framed photo of AOC!) Cuco’s newest album is expected to release in the next few months, and his whole crew can be seen on tour this summer around North America.
“Hydrocodone is a music video dedicated to the memory of our past and future selves. It’s an abstract journey through a young man’s memories before and after a big accident. I’m constantly thinking about death and the way we honor it, so I wanted to depict a funeral scene where people are celebrating the passing of a different version of ourselves. Cuco is celebrating and leading this funeral procession because he is more alive than ever.”
– Jazmin Garcia, “Hydrocodone” video director
I think if glass in liquid form had a sound, it would be this new FKA twigs track. Her first release since the 2016 single “Good to Love”, FKA twigs teases her upcoming album, LP2, with the single “Cellophane”. Her hypnotic voice beams like never before in this extremely raw track.
This time last year, she revealed on Instagram that she had six tumors removed the previous December. Since then, her social media posts have shown off her journey in regaining strength by way of pole dancing and martial arts. Her celebration of these skills in the song’s music video is absolutely sublime. Aside from insane visuals, the music video contains additional audio elements that cannot be found in the studio version, like the chilling glass heels and roaring crowds.
“Cellophane” reminds listeners of a common thread throughout twigs’ discography; the power of vulnerability. She speaks of a relationship under constant scrutiny from the public, despite attempts to keep it privately tucked away. Wrapped in cellophane, thin and transparent, this pairing cannot escape exposure and exploitation. The surreal performance is so emotional and palpable. It is intimate, twisted, and unlike anything I’ve heard in a long time.
“when I wrote cellophane over a year ago a visual narrative came to me immediately, I knew I had to learn how to pole-dance to bring it to life, and so that’s what I did. thank you @Andrew_T_Huang (director), for elevating my vision beyond words. you are a visionary.”
– FKA twigs via Twitter
When I listen to this track, I want to be nowhere but in my ’95 Lexus, busting a (safe) 65mph on the highways of Florida whippin with my whole crew. Household name Kevin Abstract, a key figure in the iconic boy band Brockhampton, comes through with his first solo project since American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story. American Boyfriend gave us legendary tracks like “Empty”, “Miserable America”, and “Papercut”, all of which began to solidify Abstract’s early talents as an artist and producer.
The new album, ARIZONA BABY, is a departure of the alt-rock sounds we heard in his last solo album. Instead, in this new album, Abstract works with more experimental instrumentals alongside co-producers Romil Hemnani of Brockhampton and Jack Antonoff of Bleachers fame.
“Joyride”, the albums second track, is very reminiscent of André 3000’s The Love Below era. I gotta agree with Fantano on this one. However, unlike The Internet’s Busiest Music Nerd, I don’t think the track is overproduced. I appreciate the business and chaos. The pace of the track makes the disarray more than digestible, always providing a new element to cling to with each listen.
Although James Blake’s most recent album Assume Form debuted in January, the deluxe version, released in April, included the additional track “Mulholland”. The name likely comes from California’s Mulholland Drive, leading many to draw references to filmmaker David Lynch, known for Twin Peaks (1990-1991) and, you guessed it, Mulholland Drive (2001).
In terms of general production, “Mulholland” actually has quite a bit in common with FKA twigs’ “Cellophane”. Blake’s simple and clean piano ballad creates the perfect contrast for the pitch-shifted vocal track that makes this song so unique and emotional in a roundabout way. Then, out of nowhere, that beat comes in at 0:51. Breathtaking. This is the James Blake we know! This is the James Blake we love! Just when you start to get used to one pattern within the song, it throws you in another dimension. Personally, I might put a James Blake riff in the same realm of Cudi hums. You can’t help but feel as though you are floating from one dimension to another.
On April 26, TDE member Schoolboy Q dropped his fifth studio album CrasH Talk. As one of the many fans that loved the 2014 Oxymoron, and had mixed feelings on Blank Face (2016), I had high hopes for the new project. Ahead of the full release, Q dropped “CHopstix (feat. Travis Scott)”, which was met with a pretty poor response. I personally think the track is among the worst collabs that both Q and Travis have released in the last few years. Travis’ chorus is monotonous and not too easy on the ears. Q’s verses are simply lackluster. Coming from these two, we know how much more they could have brought to the table.
Despite my dissatisfaction with “CHopstix”, I still was looking forward to the project’s release, hoping for something far from that single. Unfortunately, as a whole, the album left me wanting more from Q. While much of the songs I find to be pretty unforgettable, especially because there are so many of them (17 tracks in total), I do think there are some great standout performances. My favorites include “Dangerous (feat. Kid Cudi)”, “Black Folk”, “Floating (feat. 21 Savage)”, “Die Wit Em”, and “Water (feat. Lil Baby)”.
When it comes to “Dangerous”, maybe (most likely) its my inherent Cudi bias, but I think its a tremendous track. First off, I can’t be the only one that heard that guitar intro and thought of nothing but “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden. The instrumental on this track is worlds beyond the majority of others on this track. Instead of jumping straight into the beat, it builds and continues to add layers, creating a broader picture and more interesting story. Q’s verse is simple, but I think the writing is vivid and striking if you give the words themselves a good listen. I just wish it was longer— gimme another verse Q! That’s all I ask!
Unlike many of the artists on this list, Anderson .Paak has been releasing music consistently, and in large quantities, for the past five years. With Ventura, released on April 11, .Paak delivered what he calls a more “soul-centered” project. The instrumentals are so dynamic from top to bottom, and .Paak’s energy is infectious as always. Ventura is chock-full of summertime anthems. If anything, I think the project could have benefitted from one or two more slow/smooth soul tracks to contrast the constant upbeat grooves. However, packing a punch track for track may have been the goal overall. With a great album every single year since 2016’s Malibu, .Paak fans are truly being spoiled.
The project’s second track, “Make It Better (ft. Smokey Robinson)”, is a clear standout in my opinion. There are fingerprints of some of soul’s greatest figures all over this track, with nods to the Bee Gees and Al Green, and a feature from the one and only Smokey Robinson. All of the song’s elements are well thought out and make for a fun, playful track.
KENNYYYYYY! The legendary Rico Nasty has teamed up with her most frequent collaborator, production powerhouse Kenny Beats, to deliver the mixtape Anger Management. On April 4, exactly three weeks before the project released, I got to hear Kenny speak in a masterclass at NYU. While he talked briefly of collaborations with Ski Mask The Slump God and JPEGMAFIA, all attendees wanted all the info they could get about the upcoming Rico project. Hearing about their creative process as collaborators and goals inside the studio made me extremely excited to hear the final project.
I appreciate the album’s structure, beginning with aggressive bangers and transitioning to more reflective slower-paced tracks following the “Nasty World (Skit)” halfway through. As a huge EarthGang fan, I instantly was drawn to “Big T******”. The production also boasts an exciting collaboration between Kenny and Baauer. EarthGang and Rico provide distinct performances that fuse together seamlessly on the absurdly amazing track.
For the first time in two years, The Internet frontman Steve Lacy dropped solo material with the single “N Side”. Based on some Instagram posts, followed by the release of this track, it seems as though Lacy’s sophomore project is due to release in the next few months. And, with two appearances on the new Vampire Weekend album Father of the Bride, 2019 could be the year of Steve Lacy.
For me, “N Side” is reminiscent of some of Lacy’s older tracks like “Some”, and also some Internet songs like “Mood”. “N Side” is nothing we haven’t seen before from Lacy. While I do think the track’s repetitive guitar and steady pace make it a predictable track , I think it’s a decent reintroduction to his solo work for those who only are familiar with The Internet. I do particularly like the heightened, plucked bass toward the songs close and remain anxious to hear the full album. Hopefully he ditches the repetition and dips into those quirkier niche sounds that we’ve seen from him before. No matter what, I love the man all day every day.
Speaking of The Internet, keyboardist Matt Martians released a full length album, The Last Party, late this month. This release comes two years after his last project The Drum Chord Theory, which includes his most well known solo song to date “Dent Jusay”, which features fellow Internet group members Syd and Steve Lacy.
“Knock Knock” features lots of fun ad-libs and audio effects atop that charming bass and impressive drum pattern. For me, the percussion is the star of this song. It is constantly shifting paces and patterns, keeping listeners on their toes. I love the shift around the 2:00 minute mark. Martians displays pretty impressive vocals as he harmonizes with himself to finish off the groovy track. Into it.
Another Chicano favorite, except this one is Hoosier Omar Apollo! One of the earlier faces in the bedroom pop era, I have been quite impressed by Apollo’s growth over the last year. His new EP Friends showcases his diverse abilities as a singer, songwriter, and musician. There is something for everyone on this project. From the Internet-esque funk on “Ashamed” to the stripped back “Trouble”, Apollo’s ability to span so many sounds in just seven tracks, while they remain cohesive, is refreshing.
“Friends” immediately struck a chord with me (all puns intended, of course). The raw guitar plucking paired with Apollo’s alluring vocal quality might make you shed a tear. It got a tear out of me, anyway. The layered vocals add dimension while keeping it simple and to the point. Seeing this live would be a vision.
Extra Extra! A few more tracks not released in April, but still shined bright for me this month. (Some more recent than others.)