The beginning of midterms, the end of Parent’s Weekend, and the anticipation of the imminent fall break: it must be the end of September on the Heights. As the hectic first month of school comes to a close here at BC, you may have missed a few of the fall’s best album drops during the excitement and slight mayhem that comes with returning to school. Here’s a rundown of some of the most notable releases from September.
Brittany Howard, Jaime (Rock, Sept. 20)
Alabama Shakes front-woman Brittany Howard delivered her first solo album, a raw record that is wholly hers. Jaime is clearly a labor of love and vulnerability, with Howard showcasing a range of emotions, as well as an impressive range of vocals. The influence of the Alabama Shakes, known for their limit-pushing sounds and mixes, is clearly mirrored here in Howard’s solo debut. What differs from her work with the Shakes is how reflective and autobiographical this album is, with songs like “Goat Head” touching on her personal experiences with racial identity, as well as her own life philosophies and desire for world empathy in “13th Century Metal.” Her track “Stay High” documents a desire to stay in a light and breezy moment forever and is most reminiscent of her work with the Shakes. My personal favorite track is “Short and Sweet,” a slow dance between Howard’s high vocals and acoustic chords. With unique mixes accompanied by a range of harmonies and sounds, Jaime is a fun and meaningful stroll through the mind of Brittany Howard.
Lana Del Rey, Norman Fucking Rockwell! (Pop/R&B, Aug. 30—basically September)
The long-awaited fifth album from “sad girl” queen Lana Del Rey did not disappoint. Norman Fucking Rockwell! is whiny and glamorous in the way only Lana is allowed to be. The project is wholly American, referencing ice cream and Hallmark, and most notably Norman Rockwell, the artist known for capturing everyday American life. The principal track, sharing a name with the title of the record, is a bluesy and sickly-sweet roast. An ode to summer, “Venice Bitch” is a melancholic clash of guitars that is nearly ten minutes long, conveying a desire to live in a classic American summer forever. Norman Fucking Rockwell! is a turbulent examination of loving recklessly and living in America, coming at a time when what it means to be American is being constantly questioned and redefined.
IDK, Is He Real? (Rap, Sept. 4)
IDK’s Is He Real? is a meditation on the question of the existence of a higher power, with the “He” in the title referring to God. Facing our chaotic, violent, and uncertain world, IDK grapples with faith and whether there really even is a God. IDK clearly takes influence from Kendrick Lamar, with the most evident example being track “24,” heavy with booming and deep piano sounds that are reminiscent of Kendrick’s “HUMBLE.” IDK exhibits creative and raw storytelling. Is He Real? is on the same wavelength as albums like Kanye’s The Life of Pablo and Chance’s The Big Day, yet lacks some of the lyrical flow and ease that Kanye and Chance achieve. With solid beats and an interesting theme, IDK’s Is He Real? is an engaging contemplation of faith.
The Lumineers, III (Folk Rock, Sept. 3)
The third album from The Lumineers, aptly named III, is a concept album surrounding the fictional Sparks family and is split into three distinct acts, with each act following a different member of the turbulent family grappling with addiction. The delicate piano scales of the primary track “Donna” tell of inner turmoil within the mother of the family, Gloria. Heartbreaking and raw, “Donna” is arguably the best song on the album. While “Jimmy Sparks” is sonically engaging with minor chords and acoustic guitars, it is a more tasteless and less subtle biography of the head of the family, Jimmy. Though most artists want their audience to listen to their records from start to finish, it’s of the utmost importance for III. The album is a story and a short film with its beautiful, stormy, and raw accompanying music videos. III channels the same bluesy and folksy sound The Lumineers have always carried, yet their third album is darker without the cheer and whimsy of their other works. III has a weight to it that those who are fans of songs like “Stubborn Love” and “Cleopatra” might not identify with, yet is an emotional and absorbing addition to the canon of The Lumineers.
M83, DSVII (Electronic, Sept. 20)
From French electronic group M83, led by Anthony Gonzalez, comes the entirely instrumental album DSVII. The record was inspired by video game music, evoking the naivety, innocence, and lightheartedness of early video games. Each song allows the listener to craft whatever fictional digital world they picture, putting the power of imagination into the hands of audiences. The piano-like sounds and notes of the synthesizer in “A Taste of the Dusk” conjure up an image of a hero in a video game wandering through a strange land, completing task after task. DSVII is lighthearted and in no way takes itself too seriously. Song after song elicits a sense of nostalgia that brings its listeners back to the sounds of video games that may have flooded their childhood.