With the first quarter of music releases of 2015 coming to a close, the WSN staff recommends albums released so far this year.
“I Don’t Like Shit. I Don’t Go Outside”
Earl Sweatshirt makes it clear that he has more than his share of demons on the haunting “I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside.” The Los Angeles-native’s follow-up to his debut album “Doris” sees him exploring themes surrounding his childhood, the loss of his grandmother, his rise to fame and his relationships. A brutally honest introspection, Sweatshirt’s flow is halted but doesn’t feel forced — rather, it feels as though he has a lot weighing on his mind. His moody yet sharp verses are coupled with dark and brooding production — all but one of the songs were produced by Sweatshirt — and it is clear he’s doing things on his terms. It only runs 30 minutes long, but even a single listen-through will leave you with plenty to think about. The album ensures that the 21-year-old Sweatshirt’s future is bright, though he has a dark past to deal with first. – Alex Bazeley, Deputy News Editor
“Dark Sky Paradise”
In the rap world, most people’s top three mainstream rappers have included Drake, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar. With his 2015 release “Dark Sky Paradise,” however, Big Sean proves his ability to compete with the best, easily making it the album that will alter some previous critics’ opinions about the 26-year-old rapper. Tracks like “I Don’t Fuck With You,” “Research,” which features Ariana Grande, and “Blessings,” which features Drake, E-40, and Kanye West, work well for Sean to break into mainstream radio play. With tracks like “One Man Can Change The World,” Sean touches on darker subjects, such as his grandmother’s recent death, portraying a deeper, more somber side of the rapper who usually exudes confidence and does not touch upon darker areas. “Dark Sky Paradise” presents a more emotional, moodier Sean, easily establishing it as his best release to date. – Alexa Spieler, Arts Editor
A breakup album seeping with lo-fi production and a balanced sensibility, producer Emile Hayne’s debut album tracks a relationship from its highest points to its eventual dissolution. Replete with a range of guest musicians, from Lana Del Rey to Nate Ruess of fun., the record expresses a span of different emotions and exudes the influence of each guest musician’s individual style while keeping with Hayne’s concept and superb production. Any self-respecting dream pop fan or alternative rock fan will appreciate this record, but it is the melancholy souls that will find the most refuge in this record’s sepia-toned songs and ethereal sensibility. – E.R. Pulgar, Music Editor
Released in January, Viet Cong’s self-titled debut full-length holds the chill of the winter wind close to heart. It is a cold, unwelcoming album at first touch, a sort of post-punk bristling with lo-fi bass lines and pounding drums throughout. Yet for all the bleakness — of song titles, vocal delivery and instrumentation — the album maintains a little glimmer of brightness. After three minutes of an oppressive drum and synth beat, the song “March of Progress” toys artfully with glistening guitar arpeggios and frenetic pop energy, marking a turning point for the album into reserved optimism. Jingle bells and quick, breathless guitar rhythms play alongside the abrasive noise, not clashing but rather showing that, even through the snow and sleet of winter, the sun is never too far away. Viet Cong, for all its meanness and abrasiveness, has lot of love in its heart. – Richard Shu, Deputy Copy Chief
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, March 25 print edition.