REVIEWS


ALFRED BANKS
MERE EXPOSURE EFFECT
(UNDERDOG CENTRAL)

The versatile Alfred Banks can rap to a DJ, a band, or even a cappella. He can go a mile a minute or slow it down so you can keep up. This five-song EP tends toward the latter, favoring headbobbers over bangers and singalongs over long verses. The Caribbean tinge in “Show You” sounds like it’s gunning for song-of-the-summer status. Purists might think this radio-ready posture to be beneath an artist who can produce 15 minutes of bars off the cuff. But pitting unfiltered expression against what’s expected of a rapper is one of his ongoing themes. In 2015, Banks changed his stage name from Lyriqs da Lyraciss to his given name, signaling a shift to a more personal, less gimmicky approach. He continues to explore that balance, and “Toro” is as heartfelt as anything he’s dropped since he put out “Crazy Things” under the Lyriqs moniker. The new album’s title refers to the psychological phenomenon of familiarity determining preference, which could signal his frustration with having to curb his style in order to reach a wider audience. One thing’s for sure: he’s leaving no stone unturned in his quest to rise from underdog to top dog status. —Michael Kunz

BEST COAST
BEST KIDS
(AMAZON ORIGINAL)

Los Angeles’ beloved indie rock duo Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno are well known for their simple, surfdriven tunes and punchy lyrics. When they first came onto the scene in 2010, Best Coast made waves with their debut album Crazy For You, which included summery tracks about unrequited love and relationship blues. So when the group announced they would be pairing with Amazon Music to create an album specifically for children, it was understandably confusing for many. But their newest release, Best Kids, is a heavenly answer to the prayers of strung-out parents everywhere. With this record, gone are the days of mindlessly listening to your kids’ Wiggles CD on repeat—instead, you and your toddler can jam out to rockballad versions of popular lullabies like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “Rock-a-bye Baby.” The record even includes some original kids songs written by Best Coast, proving how versatile and consumable their songwriting style really is. If you can ignore the lyrics (and even if you can’t), this album sounds just like a typical Best Coast release. Of course, Best Kids is not a perfect replacement for real, in-theflesh adult music, but this record might help parents temporarily forget that the punk melodies they’re listening to are geared towards children. —Maeve Holler

CUPCAKKE
BLACKJACK
(SELF-RELEASED)

The Chicago rapper Elizabeth Harris, better known as CupcakKe, is unapologetically raunchy and wildly inappropriate. CupcakKe’s sexually fearless lyrical content is currently the funniest in the rap game. Following her third studio album, Ephorize, comes the single “Blackjack,” in which CupcakKe offers a solution to the housing crisis with the line, “I let him sleep in the pussy / because I help out the homeless.” She drops all sorts of off-the-wall references to pop culture, food, and everyday household items including: Scooby Doo, mayonnaise and bread, flowers, a casket, sex acts with french fries, comparing genitals to Ariana Grande’s ponytail, Fetty Wap, Snapchat face swaps, dial soap, Ashton Kutcher, and Amazon Prime— all of them conjoined, and flowing with finesse. The young rapper’s blunt delivery is charismatic. I’m not sure if this single is building up to a new mixtape or an EP, but either way, few rappers could execute this tier of dirty talk with such vigor. It’s not been done this well since Blowfly or Lil’ Kim’s Hard Core. —Nessa Moreno

DAMIEN JURADO
THE HORIZON JUST LAUGHED
(SECRETLY CANADIAN)

I remember sifting through discs at the record store years ago, searching for a copy of Damien Jurado’s coveted 1997 full-length album Waters Ave S. That record was the unexpected jumping-off point for the Seattle native to craft an extensive discography rife with sleepless experimentalism and despondent longing. For decades since, Jurado has been hailed as the king of indie-folk ballads and his newest release, The Horizon Just Laughed, fits this title perfectly. From start to finish, Horizon is breezy yet memorable—it deftly plays with different instrumental elements like sultry samba-esque acoustics, theatrical chord work, and even the power of silence. Additionally, this record acts as a poetic journey through time, cataloging life’s eccentric characters (namely on songs like “Cindy Lee”). While the use of these elements may stray from Jurado’s typical sound, each of the tracks are personal, heavy, and reluctant, like much of his earlier work. With the overlay of crooning vocals Jurado is most notorious for, Horizon should appeal to fans new and old. —Maeve Holler

DELISH DA GODDESS
VIOLET EP
(SELF-RELEASED)

Gabriel Major (Delish) has been releasing trunk-rattling, bounceinfluenced trap online and putting on some of the wildest live shows in New Orleans since 2013. She’s not big on self-promotion, though, and until recently, received almost no press. In June, she dropped her seventh EP, Violet, for the sleepy South Louisiana town where she was raised. It’s her best yet, demonstrating a newfound ability to harness the raw energy that makes her such a powerful presence into a streamlined project. Violet opens and closes with recordings of a very young Major singing “You Are My Sunshine” and an alphabet song, respectively, and contains two interludes in which her parents reminisce about their salad days, “working for $1.35 an hour” and “buy[ing] big old bags of weed.” These vignettes set the scene for five new songs, each showcasing a different version of Delish. On “Corn & Grits,” she comes in on the second verse with a laidback flow that would be right at home on an Awful Records tape, before switching it up and spitting fire on the song’s back half. She carries that energy into “Time Will Tell,” demolishing the best beat on the album. “Queen” finds her turning a mid-career-Lil Wayne-type beat into a catchy, selfcongratulatory anthem with the refrain, “I guess they calling me a dyke now / but I’m dykin’ with they mommy.” On “Nals (Not Another Love Song),” she goes slow and low, waxing semi-repentant about a girl who got away. The album’s final track (before toddler Delish’s ABCs outro) is a remix of frequent collaborator Stash Marina’s “Muerte Del Amore.” She delivers some of her kinkiest bars here over a somber, boom-bap beat that could have come from Ant (of Atmosphere). It’s a weird juxtaposition, but it’s the only track that doesn’t fit in an otherwise perfectly rounded collection. —Raphael Helfand

OVLOV
TRU
(EXPLODING IN SOUND)

Ovlov’s still got it. TRU is the first release from Connecticut’s favorite noise-rock group in over half a decade, and the record is dripping with vulnerability and nostalgia. While frontman Steve Hartlett has announced the demise of Ovlov time and time again, the group seems to have nine lives. Not only do they keep cropping back up on tours, compilations, and more, but their recent stint inevitably led to the release of this long-awaited album. Ovlov’s diehard East Coast fanbase will be happy to hear that new tracks like “Halfway Fine” and “Spright” are faraway echoes of 2013’s Am, with coiled, yet sprawling guitar and yearning, muffled vocals. It’s hard to ignore that the New England supergroup’s sound has matured past the point of disorganization they’re best known for. TRU shows a more purposeful form of Ovlov, and tracks like “Tru Punk” embody this shift. With less reverb and more melodic complication, this album rings in a tender sentiment that is hard to resist. This is not to say that Ovlov has lost their edge—in fact, they’ve just regained their threshold for high-powered fuzz tunes. Throw on this tape and transport yourself back to those middle-of-the-winter house shows. —Maeve Holler

PERSUADERS
FORCED TO FUCK: THE ANTHOLOGY
(SHATTERED)

King Louie Bankston, New Orleans’ most prolific punker, is back with yet another release from a seasonal project that could make a lesser degenerate’s career. Persuaders is a power trio—a veritable supergroup of long-tooth New Orleans rockers who’ve been wrecking shit for decades—featuring “Shag” on drums and King Louie Bankston on lead vocals and guitar (Gibson’s iconic Flying V no less), rounded out by Jason Panzer on matching Flying V, who ably duels Louie throughout the Persuaders’ catalogue. Though these guys are almost AARP eligible, Persuaders sounds like a crew of gas-huffing teens circa 1983, blasting “Seek and Destroy” over and over in their parents’ suburban garage, then jamming on that energy while a cheap tape deck records the whole thing. “Baby Baby C’mon,” one of the more memorable tracks, chugs along with serrated guitar harmonics and a frustrated suitor’s pleas. Though Forced to Fuck is packaged as an anthology, I have it on good authority that there’s a ton more unreleased material, and possibly a future date at Phil Anselmo’s studio compound, Nosferatu’s Lair. Poseurs come and go, but Persuaders never die. —Dan Fox

THE BRETON SOUND
S/T
(SELF-RELEASED)

The Breton Sound are a special brew of local rockers who have evolved in all different corners of the New Orleans scene. The band was originally the creative design of Jonathan Pretus after he hung up his hat from Cowboy Mouth and found a melodic partnership with Stephen Turner in a Weezer cover band. But once Pretus found Joe and John Bourgeois, the band changed gears. Their new EP brings more depth and energy into their already vigorous songs but ditches the edginess of past releases, opting instead to offer something more ethereal. “Why Are You Still Here” flaunts the catchy songwriting flair of Pretus, submerged in warm distortion. “Illuminate” gives John B. ample space for rhythmic subtleties—that are now more refined after cutting his teeth drumming in ska bands—and satisfies radio-rock fans with a chorus hook. The EP was recorded at Esplanade Studios on a new version of Studio One, a DAW pioneered by Presonus, courtesy of the band’s new producer, Jeff Glixman (known for engineering bands such as Kansas and Black Sabbath). With so much weight behind the release, it seems risky to take chances with a prototype system. But to the average listener, these are good rock songs that meet the needs of any alt-rock fan and feature nuanced flexing of each musician. Now with a stronger team behind the band, it could potentially leave room for more adventurous songwriting. —Robert Landry

VARIOUS ARTISTS
COMMUNITY RECORDS COMPILATION VOL. SIX
(COMMUNITY)

New Orleans’ own punk/indie label has released its sixth compilation, fresh off the heels of their collaboration with Omaha’s Saddle Creek Records. This sampler showcases the label’s continued maturity. Having begun with a roster of ska and screamo bands, Community now hosts guitar-driven bedroom pop with the occasional post-punk freak out, and at least one neo-funk oddity. Lyrical themes tend toward unrequited love (Nova One’s “If You Were Mine”) and domesticity (Pope’s “Lil Stevie”). Highlights include “Onset” by Hikes, with its frenetic start-stop drumming, loud/soft dynamics, and powerful hook. Mean Girls’ noisy and chaotic “Bitter Babes” and Keeping’s charmingly melodic “Empty Portal” stand out as well. “Speed R4cr” by Sexy Dex and the Fresh—the aforementioned neo-funk oddity—is a tight, fast mix of electronic drums and anime references. This compilation is streaming on Soundcloud and available as a free CD at local record stores. —Michael Kunz

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KING ZENO
NATHANIEL RICH
(MCD)

Nathaniel Rich’s titular king is ironically titled for a striving jazz musician and small time crook in the days just after World War I. He’s not the only one struggling in this imaginative novel of New Orleans a century ago. A police detective tries to hunt down the notorious Axeman—the fiend behind a series of real-life unsolved murders from the era—despite being nearly incapacitated by memories of the war. A mafia family is torn apart by internal strife while attempting to push into legitimate business. Meanwhile, the Spanish flu epidemic rages and workers toil in disgusting conditions to build the new Industrial Canal. The notion of being buried alive, literally or metaphorically, haunts each of Rich’s primary characters, who seem to be yanked from any momentary accomplishment to handle one emergency or another. That can make the novel feel self-indulgently bleak: we can see in the distance that someone is enjoying the era’s explosion of jazz concerts and celebrating the city’s engineering achievements, but it’s not the characters we’re invested in. Still, the novel is worth reading for New Orleans resident Rich’s well-researched take on the chaotic period just between the Great War and the Jazz Age of the 1920s. —Steven Melendez

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BLACKKKLANSMAN
DIR. SPIKE LEE
(FOCUS FEATURES)

The tale of Ron Stallworth, a Black cop infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan, seemed like the perfect premise for Spike Lee to make his return to creating politically relevant, insightful, and compelling features. In light of recent revelations that Lee’s company was paid over $200,000 by the NYPD to create promotional content, BlacKkKlansman has the feel of pro-cop propaganda. Lee presents us with a story from the era of COINTELPRO, a program designed to infiltrate and sabotage Black empowerment organizations. Yet officer Stallworth and his imperfect, but well-intentioned police department works with the FBI to take on the KKK, and even confronts its own internal racism. Even if this (disputed) retelling were to be taken at its word, it could only be responsibly contextualized as an extreme aberration from historical and modern norms in policing, where the adage “the cops and Klan go hand in hand” is consistently borne out by the facts. That context is absent. Despite a handful of punchy scenes, and regardless of being flawlessly cast, well acted, and beautifully captured by cinematographer Chayse Irvin, the film was a fatality of its own dubious values. Even critics of the police can suspend their position to enjoy a good cop film now and then, but BlacKkKlansman’s many missteps make that impossible. There are moments in this film where interesting and important truths are told. For example, in real life, the role of white women in fomenting racial terror is often minimized. But in BlacKkKlansman, a woman numbers among the bumbling, wicked white supremacists; the film also includes a story of a lynching catalyzed (as many were) by a white woman’s evil lies. Unfortunately, these elements are overpowered by the film’s weaknesses, like scenes where Lee juxtaposes Black power and white power gatherings, implying some equivalency. As an afterthought, Lee threw in a nauseating montage of live footage from the white power vehicular attack in Charlottesville last year, exploiting Heather Heyer’s death in a scene that doesn’t fit the movie and misses the point that cops had assisted the white nationalists that day. It is unclear why Lee would choose to tie the film to that event, rather than taking the opportunity to spotlight Black-led uprisings. For the surreal experience of being in a theater of people cheering on the cops while watching a film purportedly about racial justice, see this film—but be warned that you will be subjected to the ancillary indignity of an insufferable score with a real cheese grater of an endlessly repeating guitar riff. In the opening scene, Lee alerts us that the film was based on “some fo real, fo real shit.” In actuality, BlacKkKlansman is a piece of historical revisionism and a tragic waste of resources and talent. —Beck Levy & Beau Patrick Coulon

RODENTS OF UNUSUAL SIZE
DIR. QUINN COSTELLO, CHRIS METZLER, & JEFF SPRINGER
(TILAPIA)

Everyone who lives in South Louisiana knows what a nutria is—an invasive wharf rat twice the size of a shih tzu, with bright orange teeth and a nasty, long gray tail. But chances are we don’t know them like Thomas Gonzales, a fisherman from Delacroix, does. He and a cast of living folk heroes hunt nutria down to supplement their incomes and protect their home from the land loss these unusually large rodents hasten. Rodents Of Unusual Size tells the tale of man vs. rodent, a saga of life amidst calamity and rapid coastal erosion. A strangely compelling, informative, charming, and entertaining documentary, Rodents is to South Louisiana what the film Okie Noodling (2001) was to Oklahoma. Beautifully animated scenes convey the arrival and activity of nutria (narrated by Wendell Pierce), adding to the rich and textured exploration of this bizarre part of South Louisiana culture. Beautifully rendered footage of the Gulf South serves as the perfect backdrop for a colorful cast of archetypal Louisianans. The film speaks in their language, sharing their struggles and triumphs with dignity and care, capturing well the local blend of comedy, tragedy, eccentricity, and precarity, not to mention entrepreneurial ingenuity; nutria-centric hustles extend beyond hunting to cuisine and even fashion. It isn’t any surprise that the culling of these tangerine-toothed nuisances, and the people most intimately connected to that task, is a largely untold story. What is surprising is how enjoyable that tale is, and how perfectly the life and times of an invasive exotic species reveal the habits and habitat of a local one— Louisianans. —Beau Patrick Coulon

EIGHTH GRADE
DIR. BO BURNHAM
(A24)

Indie coming-of-age dramas often skew one of two directions— cloyingly nostalgic or bitterly ironic. Refreshingly, the story of Kayla Day’s passage from middle to high school surpasses the limitations of the genre. Eighth Grade is a brilliant cinematic debut by writer-director Bo Burnham, whose previous work includes mostly stand-up specials and bit parts in film and TV. The movie centers on Kayla (embodied by Elsie Fisher), a superlative outcast struggling to follow the upbeat advice she doles out over her YouTube channel. The daughter of a quirky, loving single dad (Josh Hamilton), Kayla faces all the quintessential adversaries of the juvenile years—popular kids, crushes, parties—along with some very contemporary scenarios, like active shooter trainings and sexts. Whether your pubescence was pre or post Columbine/eggplant emojis, Kayla is powerfully sympathetic. The portrayal of Kayla’s nascent sexuality, which so easily could feel exploitative or derogatory, is skillfully, realistically navigated, inducing visceral cringes while still respecting the characters, and without sexualizing children. Eighth Grade so effectively establishes the palpable fragility of the adolescent condition that every small moment of growth feels like a triumph, every setback a blow to the gut. Watching Eighth Grade as an adult generates the dual devastating experiences of identifying with Kayla and wanting to fiercely protect her (and thus, by extension, your own young self ). The film’s greatest triumph is that it eschews cynicism, introducing a protagonist who is capable of showing up for herself during what (for many) is the worst time in one’s life. We stan a pimply icon. —Beau Patrick Coulon & Beck Levy

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