Earl Sweatshirt – ‘Doris’
Love them or hate them, Odd Future have grown into somewhat of a phenomenon in the arena of indie hip-hop. In some ways, especially considering their show “Loiter Squad” on Adult Swim, they come across as little more than a Jackass-style troupe who are crass, pull pranks, offend people, and also happen to rap. However, one would be remiss to view the group solely this way. Let me take that further, one would be remiss to view the strength of the group as collective instead of individual. Frank Ocean came from this enclave, as well as their crude but undeniably talented leader, Tyler, The Creator. Last week saw the release of “Doris” by Earl Sweatshirt, the already critically acclaimed baby of the group. This kid is setting the bar for the rest of them. Just 19-years-old, Sweatshirt already has an interesting story. At 16, he released his debut, “Earl,” to pretty widespread positivity. Pitchfork called the album “mesmerizing,” which you don’t hear often enough in reference to hip-hop albums. However, Sweatshirt’s mother intervened when she noticed the way he was living. She forced him to back away from Odd Future and sent him to a boarding school in Samoa. At 18, he earned his way home, and got right back to work with Odd Future and on his sophomore album. A little over a year later, “Doris” is finally here and it really deserves attention. Most of the songs are slow burners dripping with wordplay, which is a style of hip-hop that appeals to me. It’s also very introspective, which is understandable considering the last few years of Sweatshirt’s life. We get appearances from a bevy of Odd Future members, including Ocean and Tyler, as well as a brief glimpse of the RZA on the hook of “Molasses.” In the end, Earl Sweatshirt is a kid trying to find his own way, in life and in the hip-hop game. He has a leg up because of the attention he’s already caught, and “Doris” is only going to propel him further. “Doris” is out now via Tan Cressida/Columbia Records.
Crocodiles – ‘Crimes of Passion’
Normally, when bands release albums of new material within consecutive years, it makes me cringe. I always remember how quickly the quality of Ryan Adams’ releases fell as he was seemingly discharging music about every four months for a couple of years. Since 2009, the band Crocodiles have released four studio albums, only keeping quiet over the span of 2011. I jumped on board with 2010’s “Sleep Forever,” I was hooked by the psychedelic hooks and hazy lo-fi production. Last year saw the release of “Endless Flowers,” which wasn’t a huge jump stylistically for Crocodiles, but brought about a line-up change and a boost in band morale. When I heard of the impending release of “Crimes of Passion,” I’ll be honest, I got a little tense, because I really love Crocodiles and I’m still riding a bit of a high wave from “Endless Flowers.” When I sat down for my first listen, my fears were quickly subdued and I was embraced in the fuzz rock, psychedelic revival that is “Crimes of Passion.” The album is joyous, effervescent, and effortlessly captivating, while maintaining a drugged out, hypnotic overtone throughout. Lead single, “Cockroach,” is the archetypal example of what makes “Crimes of Passion,” let alone the band, so great, as it bleeds the “sex, drugs, rock and roll” ethos Crocodiles embody. Highlights include the bright over, dark under “She Splits Me Up,” sassy—that word literally came to mind—“Gimme Some Annihilation,” and movement inducing opener “I Like It In The Dark.” So after two albums over the course of two years, I’m still just as in love with Crocodiles as I was when I first heard “Sleep Forever,” and for the first time ever, I feel that if they were to release another album in 2014, I would greet it with positivity. “Crimes of Passion” is out now via French Kiss Records.