FLOOD ESSENTIALS: April 2019 feat. Khalid, Flying Lotus, Aldous Harding, and More

Give a listen to some of our favorite songs and albums from last month.

In search of new music? Look no further. From Open Mike Eagle to Carly Rae Jepsen to Pivot Gang, here’s what we recommend from the month of fools, spring showers, and Jesus’ resurrection (which somehow corresponds to bunnies and egg-hunting).


Khalid, Free Spirit (April 5, RCA)

Less than a year after Khalid dropped his EP Suncity, the twenty-one-year-old singer released second full-length Free Spirit, recycling two songs (“Saturday Nights” and “Better”) in the process. While the album—which topped the Billboard 200 chart—is largely devoid of risk, Khalid manages to put forth a few incredibly catchy tracks, including “Don’t Pretend” and “Talk,” with the help of industry veterans like Murda Beatz, Disclosure, and Hit-Boy. Free Spirit could easily be described as friendly or innocent; the pop songs feel a tad safe and constrained. But bearing Khalid’s age in mind, it’s very likely Free Spirit will be just one small step forward in the artist’s inevitably long career. — Anya Zoledziowski

Club Night, What Life (April 5, Tiny Engines)

If Zach Braff had had a falling out with Polyphonic Spree on the set of Scrubs, leading the band to spiral into disharmony, shed dozens of their auxiliary Annie Clarks, and release an album of not-obnoxiously-at-peace-with-the-world pop music, it would probably sound a lot like What Life. That, or Club Night vocalist Josh Bertram’s inflection recalls that of the early-aughts gimmick-rock band. The Oakland group’s debut full-length is wonky, mathy, sprawling, and a whole bunch of other adjectives that do not apply to the peace-cult chic of “Light and Day,” resolving with an enormous payoff on the seven-minute finale “Thousands.” — Mike LeSuer

The Flaming Lips, King’s Mouth: Music and Songs (April 13, Warner Bros., Bella Union)

The Flaming Lips’ fifteenth studio album is a fractured fairy tale involving the birth, reign, and death of a giant king. King’s Mouth dreamily ponders the miracles of existence and the cyclical aspects of nature via twelve interconnected songs, many of which feature narration from none other than Mick Jones of British punk legends The Clash and 1980s dance-punk pioneers Big Audio Dynamite. The album was released on April 13 in a limited-edition colored vinyl pressing for Record Store Day, and a digital release will follow in July. — Dan Epstein (Read our feature on Wayne Coyne here.)

Lizzo, Cuz I Love You (April 19, Nice Life/Atlantic)

For years, Lizzo has given us a playful, brilliant cocktail of feel-good-anthems and hater ammunition. Her long-awaited follow-up to 2015’s Big GRRRL Small World arrived as the funky and at times irresistibly vibrant Cuz I Love You. However, the anthemic bliss of “Juice,” the necessary call for curves on the dance floor of “Tempo,” and the triumphant embrace of inspirational black women on “Like a Girl” were overshadowed by Lizzo’s inability to handle some thoughtful criticism. This snowballed into people on social media questioning whether critics have any purpose at all. Although the album’s exuberant entrance was somewhat diminished by all of that, Cuz I Love You remains a beacon of indestructible confidence and self-love. — Margaret Farrell

Pivot Gang, You Can’t Sit With Us (April 19, Pivot Gang)

Chicago hip-hop collective Pivot Gang bulldozed into April with their almost flawless thirteen-track album, You Can’t Sit With Us. It’s clear the group—made up of brothers Saba and Joseph Chilliams, MFnMelo, producer daedaePIVOT, brothers Frsh Waters and SqueakPIVOT, and Saba and Chilliam’s late cousin, DinnerWithJohn—treats humor like an ointment for wounds. The rappers employ punctuated rhymes and clever one-liners to profess social justice, a strategy exemplified by MFnMelo’s bar, “Limit my earning, huh, then run the cost of livin’ up / I need what’s owed like reparation,” (“Death Row”) and Joseph Chilliam’s low-key feminist line, “You don’t gotta trim your bush / You don’t gotta Edward Scissorhands” (“Edward Scissorhands”). With features like Mick Jenkins, Smino, Jean Deaux, and Kari Faux, the project showcases the best hip-hop in Chicago and beyond. — Anya Zoledziowski

The Mountain Goats, In League with Dragons (April 26, Merge)

For every note of beautiful luster and well-turned phrase on John Darnielle’s new album with The Mountain Goats, In League with Dragons, we are reminded that he writes music and lyrics lean to the bone, with the passion of an old world craftsman. Pained by and patient with every detail, Darnielle could have been a cobbler or a baker, talking as he does about each element of the album’s characters and motives as if preparing a layer of leather or a flaky crust. — A.D. Amorosi (Read our feature on The Mountain Goats here.)

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Fishing for Fishies (April 26, Flightless)

Where does Fishing for Fishies fit in among the fourteen King Gizzard albums of the last seven years? It depends on what you appreciate most about them. Of these new offerings, “The Bird Song” is one of their prettiest—a kind of ’70s West Coast uptempo jam with weird changes and crystal clear production. If you’re a fan of their fuzzy, unhinged garage style, you’ll find hints of it tucked into “Real’s Not Real” in between breezy pop passages. The title track is also a bit of an oddity, a bright tune that feels like somebody set Unknown Mortal Orchestra loose in the harmonica shop. The rest of the record is kind of fascinating in its obsession with the “boogie”—both as a verb and as a musical genre. No less than three songs get that word in the title, and the band seem to wallow in the hypnotic streamlined blues riffs that made the best songs of ZZ Top, T. Rex, and Canned Heat sound so amazing. — Jon Pruett

Aldous Harding, Designer (April 26, 4D)

Aldous Harding is one of the most enigmatic and underrated artists of the past five years. On her new album Designer, the follow-up to 2017’s Party, the New Zealand singer-songwriter searches for meaning through sometimes sagacious, mostly evasive, and always fascinating lyricism. Overall, Harding is an eerie mystic, unpredictable and alien, who will make you feel comfort and intrigue in equal measure. — Margaret Farrell

Rodrigo y Gabriela, Mettavolution (April 26, Rubyworks)

The Rodrigo y Gabriela value proposition is as appealing today as it ever was: The tactile pleasures and rhythmic allure of the flamenco tradition, played with the speed and aggression of metal, often looped through distortion and effects pedals for just the right flourish of surrealism. The duo clearly knows their wheelhouse, but playing to strengths isn’t the same thing as settling into formula, and the new Mettavolution is further proof of the endless possibilities that wheelhouse abides. Start with the obvious showstopper: A nineteen-minute excursion into Pink Floyd’s “Echoes,” proof of their ability to sustain momentum and tension over the long haul. But before you even get to that, there are six (much shorter) originals, as tuneful, funky, and surprising as anything they’ve ever done. — Josh Hurst

PAWS, Your Church on My Bonfire (April 26, Ernest Jenning Record Co.)

For Your Church on My Bonfire, PAWS enlisted Andy Monaghan of the tender indie-folk band Frightened Rabbit. It seems like a puzzling choice, until the swirling reverb of opener “What We Want” gives way to Philip Taylor’s tender croon. It’s a stinging ode to the passing of his father, a hardship that informed a good portion of this record’s bleak subject matter. The majority of the album has the electric quality of classic college rock and big-room post-punk, but it moves at a much slower pace than their previous material. — Eli Enis (Read our feature on PAWS here.)

Hash Redactor, Drecksound (April 26, Goner)

Drecksound is what GØGGS’s Pre Strike Sweep would sound like if it were played through by a contemporary English post punk band in the vein of Shame or Eagulls or Savages. Which is weird, because Hash Redactor are from Memphis—and, in fact, fronted by Alec McIntyre, Ex-Cult guitarist and bandmate of GØGGS’s growler Chris Shaw. Filled out by members of NOTS, the project is an exercise in McIntyre trying to be heard over harsh guitar melodies, which range from the cheekiness of early Parquet Courts on “Step 2 Success” to In-the-Red sinister on “Lotion Poet Laureate.” — Mike LeSuer

Flying Lotus, “Takashi”

The Lotus has landed with the first three tracks from his seriously anticipated new album, Flamagra: “Fire Is Coming” (featuring David Lynch), “Spontaneous” (featuring Little Dragon) and early favorite “Takashi.” FlyLo continues to evolve, adding new and unexpected twists and turns to his future-shocked jazz electric. Spoiler alert: we’ve heard the whole album (due for release on May 24) and it’s fantastic. — Scott T. Sterling

FKA twigs, “Cellophane”

One of the best songs of 2019 thus far comes from the unmatchable FKA twigs. It’s been three years since her last big project release, and now she’s broken her silence with the vulnerable “Cellophane,” immense despite its minimal production. She’s exposed, her vocals strenuously balanced while singing breathily, “I don’t want to have to share our love / I try, but I get overwhelmed.” The song grows gradually, swelling first with anguish and then resilience. — Margaret Farrell

Taylor Swift (feat. Brendon Urie of Panic! At the Disco), “ME!”

The lead singles off Swift’s album releases are often misleading. Impersonal, trumpet-heavy anthem “Shake It Off” was one of the weakest tracks on 1989, and the dizzying “Look What You Made Me Do” deceptively implied that Reputation would be all petty grievances. More than anything, her first releases set the tone for a fresh era of music and style. Taylor tried out ripped t-shirts and snarling bass drops on Reputation—a record that ended up being more lovestruck than angry, though a few of the love songs featured vengeful asides. Now, for her upcoming seventh studio effort, it seems Taylor has returned to starry-eyed roots: in the video for the aggressively capitalized “ME!” (and the accompanying Instagram posts she’s been using to titillate fans), there’s pastel, glitter, and an attitude befitting the front of a Lisa Frank folder. The song is bland, gaudy synth-pop that will stick in your head after one listen, as Swift tunes are wont to do. But if I know Taylor, there are bigger and better things to come. — Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

Escort, “Outta My Head”

NYC disco revivalists keep hope alive with this percolating party-starting dance-pop strut. While the track is a sure-fire dance floor filler, the music video is a shot-for-shot remake of Journey’s 1983 hit, “Separate Ways.” It’s pretty, pretty good. — Scott T. Sterling (Watch the video here.)

Open Mike Eagle (feat. Danny Brown), “Unfiltered”

It was an absolute blessing to receive a clip of a gapless Danny Brown in formal wear desecrating a drab office after materializing out of Open Mike Eagle’s mouth, and even more of a blessing to consider the surreal imagery’s context: a music video on Open Mike’s new Comedy Central show, The New Negroes. Obviously the show exists as more than just a vehicle for a weekly exclusive collaboration between Open Mike and a guest rapper, and obviously the first video in the series, “Unfiltered,” isn’t meant to be taken too seriously. But the fact of the matter is that it slaps. Blending the cool humor of Open Mike with Brown’s hardcore rap verses, the track is a long-awaited reunion for the rappers after 2012’s “Cobra Commander.” Mike LeSuer (Read our feature on The New Negroes here.)

Teen Body, “Fell Off”

The Brooklyn band’s new album Dreamo is a lush exercise in shimmering shoegaze textures and dream-pop aesthetics. The LP opens with “Fell Off,” a gorgeous tumble of cascading guitar melodies, narrated by singer Shannon Lee’s emotive vocals. Dream on. — Scott T. Sterling (Listen to the song premiere here.)

Carly Rae Jepsen, “Julien”

It’s been a long four years since Emotion—a cult hit with critics and pop fanatics alike—and finally Carly Rae’s fourth album is upon us. Back in the cold, dreary depths of January, we were blessed with springtime vigor on “Party for One,” the lead single off Carly’s May album Dedicated: the track celebrated singledom and enjoying your own company when no one else will, and some of the corresponding art featured Carly alone in bed, eating twizzlers and pizza, a distinctly millennial #mood. On the album’s most recent single “Julien,” she’s left alone once more—technically pining after a lost lover, if we’re going by the lyrics—but the bouncy disco beat tells a far more contented tale.
— Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

PUP, “Sibling Rivalry”

Morbid Stuff seems to be the near-unanimous favorite among the young Toronto post-punk group’s small discography, and although the record is a veritable FLOOD Essential™, the third single from the record is a clear standout. With an unabashed black metal guitar riff recurring throughout, the track is the latest chapter in the saga of Stefan Babcock struggling to put up with other people’s bullshit. Lyrically, “Sibling Rivalry” combines the tension of spending way too much time with someone and the austere conditions of the great outdoors: Most of us are familiar with the physical and mental strain fostered by one too many days of camping—but given the unmatched intensity of Babcock’s vocals, we can only imagine there’s another factor at play here.
Mike LeSuer (Read our feature on PUP here.)

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