Music Reviews: August/September

Ryan Gronich, Music Critic and Puzzle Master

RAP: 1999 – Rich Brian (August 25)

1999 is poppier than I figured it would be. I meant to review it as the rap album for this issue, but the vocal melody in the chorus of “Love In My Pocket” is literally identical to Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” and as hard as I tried I don’t think I could make that into rap. That doesn’t mean it isn’t good; “Sins” especially does a great job mixing wavy West-Coast guitar with a less heavy rapping style than Rich Brian usually goes with. SoundCloud rappers trying their hand at singing can be really hit-or-miss, but fortunately, I don’t think it goes too sour here. Rich Brian’s lyrics tend to be something I have to gently overlook to enjoy the hooks, but he appears to have gotten humbler than he was on 2018’s Amen, and I appreciate it. His label, 88rising, tends to turn grittier artists into radio-pop. While it doesn’t fit everyone, Rich Brian embraces it. I think he better suits this pop-rap style than he does the heavier stuff, and this EP excites me for whatever he’s got in store next. Give it a listen.


COUNTRY: Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs – Colter Wall (August 28)

I love syrupy tavern-esque country as much as the next American, and boy, do I love Colter Wall. His new album REALLY delivered. The vast majority of his stuff is slower than this, very much evocative of wandering the Canadian prairies he grew up on, but this record is noticeably different. His guitar strumming is a little peppier, with more harmonica than I’d normally expect. I was absolutely not prepared for his cover of Marty Robbins’ “Big Iron,” which so thoroughly delighted me that I let out a gasp when it first came on. It doesn’t have the backing vocals of Robbins’ classic version, but Wall’s deeper voice and his little improvised riffs in the background both suit the cover much better than you’d think they would. “Talkin’ Prairie Boy” is also just great; Wall has a sense of humor that he doesn’t let loose often, but this song is a hilarious, dry, cowboy-flavored poem that I can imagine being played to give his friends a laugh after a long day. All in all, Western Swing & Waltzes… has a lovely atmosphere and I highly recommend it, even if country isn’t much your style.


INDIE/ALTERNATIVE: Rabbit – Fox Academy (September 10)

You might be familiar with Fox Academy from “Lavender Blood,” which got some time in the internet spotlight a few years ago; it’s a quiet, shaky, murmured song off a 2015 album that fits that description in its entirety. Rabbit, however, is different. Fox Academy’s Michael Berland appears to have entered another phase, one that relies less on one-minute songs ripe with sampling but manages to paint just as much of a larger picture as 2015’s Luxury Beverage did. Rabbit is an album that I have to experience all at once on every listen. Berland invites three other artists to feature on this record, which is three more than usual, and it’s very indicative of Rabbit’s feeling; while the rest of the band’s material that I’ve heard can sound quite lonesome, this record seems friendlier. Its expected acoustic guitar is assisted by guest vocals, a drum machine, and bassy synthesizers, and overall is less of a mood record and more one you can listen to casually. If you’re looking for something alternative that isn’t the jangle-pop you’re probably used to, this album is a great pick.


I don’t just have to write blurbs about stuff I really liked lately– if you’ve got a request for me to talk about a new album you thought deserved it, shoot me an email at [email protected] and it’ll be a blast for both of us! Stay fresh, kids!