Welcome to yet another wonderful semester of the TSL music column, where good tunes of all kinds are never in short supply. Whether you’re into pop, rap, grime, metal or post-wave Soundcloudcore, I’ve got you covered. Since we’re only a few weeks into the semester, there’s not much to cover by way of my usual focus on Claremont events (save the usual suspects, like Art After Hours every Thursday at the Pomona College Art Museum, and the obvious, like the EDM day-fest Daze that's going down tomorrow on Walker beach).
That said, midterms are on the horizon and I imagine most students’ music situations are in need of a pick-me-up: The readings won’t let up, the autumnal equinox didn’t actually save you from the threat of heatstroke, and you can only listen to that Mac DeMarco album so many times before the whole “look, I put my real address at the end of my record” thing reveals itself for the gimmick it is.
But fear not! This first column of the year is dedicated to getting you caught up on some essential late-summer tuneage.
LA Priest – Inji
I’m not sure how this one managed to fly under the radar, but I am sure it’s one of the best synthpop albums you’ll hear this year, if you can even call it that. With shades of funk, R&B and ambient, it’s the sort of indie jewel you’d expect from Jai Paul, but made by a white dude from England named Sam Dust. As former frontman for Late of the Pier, he was already responsible for one of the most beguilingly poppy albums of the oughts, and his follow-up doesn’t disappoint as it drifts from full-on dance numbers like “Oino” to doldrum ballads like “Lady’s in Trouble With the Law.”
Elysia Crampton – American Drift
Much of the discussion around Elysia Crampton has centered around the political implications of her work. That’s not surprising, given the academic framework she steeps herself in (nearly all her interviews mention the late great queer theorist José Muñoz) and the frankness with which she’s discussed her experience as a transgender woman of color. But it often feels as if it ignores the part where her music is incredible. An intoxicating blend of cumbia, baile, crunk and forward-thinking electronics, American Drift is absolutely essential. If you’re into Arca (or Arca by way of his production for FKA Twigs), you’ll find much to love here. It also features the best sample of Lil Jon’s “OH YEAH” ever. Period.
Suzanne Kraft – Talk From Home
While I guess there’s a bit of bias here talking about L.A. homeboy Suzanne Kraft, I’m not recommending this gorgeous record just because I see his goofy face bopping around the dance floor at damn near every show I go to. I’m recommending it because it’s simply stunning, a gorgeous soundtrack for a lazy Saturday afternoon. Or night. Or really just any time you need pure vibes. Starting off as a slowed-down funk record and easing into drifting ambience, it’s one of those records that can keep you company whether you’re dozing off or sipping morning coffee. Intimate and warm, it’s got the California thing nailed down in ways most artists can only dream about.
Domenique Dumont – Comme Ça
This one’s rather strange. Released by a French label known almost solely for leftfield house and techno, it’s somehow my favorite “pop” release from this year. Give the title track a listen, and I guarantee you’ll be hooked. Atop a subtle bed of delayed guitar lines and twinkly percussion, the best indie pop melodies I’ve heard in ages bubble and pop. It’s almost like chillwave, if you replaced all the Tumblr nostalgia and hazy graphics of sunsets with bleached screencaps of Godard. Perfectly poised and infinitely comforting, it’s a real diamond in the rough that’ll soundtrack summers for years to come.