The Album Cycle: New releases reviewed from Leisure, Lady Gaga, D.R.A.M., The Trendees & more

‘The Album Cycle’ features new releases reviewed, every Friday.


D.R.A.M. – Big Baby D.R.A.M.

Rising to prominence when his vibe-blurring future classic ‘Cha Cha’ copped a sort-of-backhanded co-sign by rap’s most ruthless sonic magpie, D.R.A.M. probably could’ve been forgiven here for turning in a forgettable cash-grab and promptly relocating his entire career to Iggy Azalea Island. In a novel turn of events, though, this debut full length might just be one of the albums of the year. From the coke-bloated glam rock chug of the Young Thug-assisted ‘Misunderstood’ to straight-up mid-’90s neo-soul on Erykah Badu collaboration ‘WiFi’, it’s an album that flirts and fucks with genres and moods joyfully and indiscriminately. If you can listen to ‘Cash Machine’ without crying from happiness, we are assuredly not friends. – Matthew McAuley

Clockwise from top: D.R.A.M., Lady Gaga, Tkay Maidza, SHINee

Clockwise from top: D.R.A.M., Lady Gaga, Tkay Maidza, SHINee

Tkay Maidza – Tkay

With her major label debut, Tkay Maidza is delivering on three years; buzz at the age of just 20. Born in Zimbabwe, raised in Adelaide, Maidza has supported Troye Sivan, Rita Ora, Years & Years and Charli XCX – acts that say more about the market she’s being geared at more than her sound, which is a cross between Santigold and Lorde. Her album Tkay mostly follows a formula of big pop choruses, rapped verses and EDM beats; with the edges of her idiosyncrasies smoothed off, there’s no song as charming as U-Huh from her 2014 EP. But she’s clearly very talented, and the album is likeable: hope it does well enough so she can push the boundaries with the next one. – Elle Hunt

The Trendees – Trendees Go To Town

Oamaru no-fi goons blast through six songs in twelve minutes on their new 7″ EP (on Wellington label Epic Sweep). ‘ABANDONED HOSPITAL”s in-the-red psychedelic hiss doesn’t prepare you for the anthemic ‘Dona Marina”‘ a tribute to conquistador Hernán Cortés’s interpreter/lover that boasts a vocal cadence reminiscent of The Enemy-era Chris Knox, whereas closing track ‘FRIENDFRIENDFR’ (at a positively epic three minutes and forty-nine seconds) has a plaintive refrain of “I just want to be your friend but do I have the credentials yet?” over The Fall-esque clatter. – Stevie Kaye

Leisure – Leisure

For all the obvious benefits of assembling a band with people who already have a lot of experience being in and around bands, it’s a strangely rare occurrence for the whole of a ~supergroup~ to match the sum of its parts. Harder still is matching the hype when your semi-mysterious first-ever single goes wild viral. Leisure is an eponymous record facing both of these challenges, but one that struggles with neither. Fittingly, the vibe’s more Saturday warmup / Sunday comedown than anything especially earth-shattering, but if you’re looking for quiet breakbeats and earnest lads singing cute harmonies to soundtrack your summer, there’s plenty to love here – I’ll be surprised if ‘Your Love’ isn’t occupying significant space in the country’s collective psyche by mid-February. – MH

SHINee – 1 of 1

K-pop boyband SHINee’s fifth album is a fascinating window on the unfolding 90s revival, the span of the decade treated as a sonic lolly scramble – opener “Prism”‘s hyper-kinetic 2-step is followed by the title track’s glossy New Jack Swing (and don’t miss the video’s gorgeous period-fashion fetishism), while “SHIFT”‘s delirious squeals’n’chirps nods to the UK’s current dance-pop plundering of handbag house. From New Edition and NKOTB to N’Sync, SHINee have studied their heritage as assiduously as any folk act. – SK

Lady Gaga – Joanne

Lady Gaga may be making her significant transition yet – to a Serious Artist. It’s almost hard to remember the time in which Gaga stood atop the pop world, a colossus in a meat dress. Despite ushering in the current Top 40 framework – dance beats, event videos, social media ubiquity – at some point she crossed the line from extravagant to embarrassing. First single, ‘Perfect Illusion’, suggested that she was still unaware of where that line was. But on Joanne, Gaga pulls a U-Turn and drives her Trans-Am straight into red state America. It’s less country, more cock rock. ‘A-YO’ gets the best out of both Gaga and Mark Ronson; Beck gets a writing credit on ‘Dancing in Circles’ and ‘Million Reasons’ is the best of her piano ballads. Joanne won’t see Lady Gaga scaling the heights of 2009-11, but it does suggest that she’s not a completely spent force. – James Dann

Roy Montgomery – Headquarters

Christchurch titan Roy Montgomery (his band the Pin Group were Flying Nun’s first release) breaks his silence in the form of a four-LP set, the scope of which lets him sprawl out in an engaging fashion. The signature foggy reverb of his guitar playing is usually something for whom a little goes a long way, but while there’s classic instrumentals like ‘Overdrive’ blown-out fuzz, the chiming ‘Hungover Heroes’ or the drum-machine driven nod to the late Snapper guitarist in ‘Six guitar salute to Peter Gutteridge’, he also foregrounds his laconic baritone (Jonathan Bree’s the closest Kiwi vocalist, and they work very different instrumentation) on the likes of ‘As the Sun Sets’ and ‘You Always Get What You Deserve’ – “I woke up wearing someone else’s cliche”, he intones against all evidence, “I’m as something something something as it gets”. – SK

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