Album Reviews: Sleater-Kinney, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Migos

Sleater-Kinney — Path of Wellness (Olympia, WA/Portland, OR)

Though a more strict art-rock turn and the departure of certified drum-Goddess Janet Weiss certainly had given a mixed sense of niche to the last Sleater-Kinney record, they're asserting they're riotous as ever on their new album. With their classic bombast, a lot of tones from older records, and their exploration coming out of the production the most here, it feels like they're finding the balance between their roots and new horizons. The loose and angular riffing on "Path of Wellness" is a great showcase of their early day quirkiness, and the harmonies and tempo of No Cities to Love. With some of their more colossal-sounding guitar and drum work on play with "High in the Grass," it's wonderfully funky to hear them also blending in a more playful vocal here, instead of simply going to 11 the entire record. The bounce and punch of "Favorite Neighbor" is a refreshingly dark twist on tones they've touched on before, while also throwing in a lot of unusual bits of percussion and arrangements to really make it feel distinct in their body of work. "Bring Mercy" closes the whole release out in a massive wave of distorted pop, mixing all eras of the band into one, loud rallying call.

The Halluci Nation — Stay (Single) (Ottawa)

As a more modern hip hop track to counterplay many of the boistrous electronic fusion tracks they're perhaps best known for, The Halluci Nation (FKA: A Tribe Called Red) find a smooth summer love song. With a mix of sunny guitars, a funk backing and a thumping bass line to match the vocals of the track, the whole thing finds the perfect middle-ground to make something classic yet new. Despite the slow flow of the track, each chorus flies on its chanting vocals and the sense of warmth in its bones. Plus the subtle mix of ayo's and hey's that intro and outro the song play as a perfect layer to elevate its swaying energy, and prompt crowd chants in their next in-person concerts. 

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard — Butterfly 3000 (Melbourne, Australia)

It's time for another one of King Gizzard's quarterly releases (a truly daunting feat) as they show just how far personal acoustic exploration can take you. In their most electronically fuelled release in any recent memory, the project tries to break away from samey tones and use synths to interpret their already unique voice to something intriguingly new for them. Through riff-looping style, "Yours" lets bass and a keyboard craft a pretty rock-electronica hybrid, that manages to stick a great psychedelic landing. The jazz and more bouncy pop of "Interior Pop" is a great shift for them, blending in their love of exotic instrumentation to something hopeful and bright that they usually avoid. The slow descent of the melody in "2.02 Killer Year" blends into this wonderful exploration that can feel like Oblivion-era grimes and at times almost like Father John Misty. Even in their most direct rock sound on "Ya Love" there's such a sci-fi and bubbly tone to all this music here that King Gizzard show they're just so in love with playing around in sound that it's too joyous not to enjoy too. Honestly, after about 10 albums in just a few years, King Gizzard have finally found a wholly new direction to their sound.

Yola — Starlight (Single)  (Nashville, TN)

With a very classic Nashville-sounding instrumentation and arrangements, mixed into a Tina Turner-like vocal jam, Yola delivers a track that works on multiple levels. While there's a mysterious quality to the verses, Yola not only lends a powerful vocal but euphoria to the choruses in the emotion she pours into that fierce performance. The various strums and keyboard lines flesh out the track's spirit with a rustic quality and tones of funk too, to give an acoustic embodiment to Yola's personality and leanings as an artist. Much like the massive jump in the singing, there's a triumphant and excitement-inducing quality to the hand drums in the choruses here that really just make it pop in a way that's hard to exactly describe. With Yola confidently guiding the ever-growing band on this track it truly shimmers as a great vocalist track that feels more satisfying with every chorus.

Migos — Culture III (Lawrenceville/Atlanta, GA)

While Migos have always let their record track lists be an example of a more-is-more philosophy, they've soared more in singles than full records. While it certainly packs the same wealth of listens as Culture II, it lacks the wonderfully unhinged singles that made that album's long playtime feel worth it. "Avalanche" does offset (no pun intended) the more generic tracks here, with a very Isaac Hayes, 70s funk base to its sound, a majestic swirl of harps and brass, and the group's fun swagger to play out over the loose production. This kind of flow also lets "Straightenin" pop out, as every line feels like it lands with a such a vicious rhythm that you'll want to memorize it. The low-key sounds of "Time for Me" do feel strangely downbeat for Migos, but it gives enough room to play with harmonies and trading vocals that it actually stands out as an against-conventions gem for the group. The inherent grit in the riffs of "Need It" slam with fury, and force Migos to spit lines so fast and angrily that it feels like their most animated performance in years.