The best albums of the week, from Rico Nasty, Drakeo the Ruler, and more

Photo credit: Jason Carman

Nothing opens the spigot for angry music industry tweets quite like Spotify Wrapped season. The streaming service’s year-end recap seemed to generate more impassioned debates this year — one side vehemently arguing that you shouldn’t give free advertising to a tech company that’s hamstrung the entire industry by not paying artists a living wage. The other camp concedes that, well, that’s right, but there are larger capitalist boogeymen to square up on, and many music listeners are still supporting their favorite artists through other avenues. As is typically the case, there’s some truth in both of these arguments. But the far simpler reading — people just like to share what they’ve been listening to, and probably aren’t persuading any agnostic friends to sign up for Spotify — might also be a realistic takeaway.

Luckily, Friday presents an easy, clear-cut way to contribute to artists with the year’s final Bandcamp Friday, with all proceeds going directly to artists and labels. Many of the week’s best new albums are available for purchase on the site, including records from Jordana, Respire, Deafheaven, and more.

Rico Nasty — Nightmare Vacation

One of the most fearless and omnivorous rappers working today, Rico Nasty, is back with what’s technically her proper debut. Nightmare Vacation moves with a fleet, skittering pace, as Rico’s unmistakable, imposing cadence glides through any number of subgenres. Her gravelly contours are perfect for the sort of material that lives up to her namesake, but she’s equally comfortable in a pitch-shifted ditty like “IPHONE.” Equal parts fire-breathing MC and covert-ops hyperpop artist, she’s just at home with 100 gecs’ Dylan Brady as she is with a punishing Kenny Beats track.

Drakeo the Ruler — We Know the Truth

Less than a month after his release from prison, Drakeo the Ruler is back with his second tape of the year. We Know the Truth, written entirely while he was behind bars and recorded in the three weeks after his release, is a return to the crisp vocal mixing and shit-slinging of tapes past. Drakeo recorded vocals on this year’s revelatory Thank You for Using GTL over the Men’s Central Jail phone line, cementing it as one of the best records of its kind. Now, he’s further hardened, and casting a wider net of guests, including Lil Yachty, ALLBLACK, Lil Mosey, and more.

Jordana — Something To Say To You

There’s hardly a dearth of activity in the bedroom indie songwriter space, but Wichita’s Jordana Nye emerges with taller ambitions. After March’s Classical Notions of Happiness, Jordana merged her two recent EPs together for Something To Say To You. Moving past the evangelism for sticky ‘90s melodic rock radio, she strengthens her elastic pop sensibilities. She has such a strong grip on how to offset understated, pulsating percussion with distorted, rippling guitar interjections. Jordana was alarmingly young when St. Vincent’s Strange Mercy came out, but she seems to have internalized its winning approach.

Respire — Black Line

From the moment this one kicks in with the foreboding strings, its enormous stakes are never in question. Dubbed as an orchestral post-everything collective, the Toronto outfit Respire incinerate everything in their wake on Black Line. Fusing screamo and shimmering post-rock, the band creates a mammoth onslaught of melody and searing intensity (go figure, it was mastered by Jack Shirley, who knows his way around that dynamic.) It’s the kind of post-hardcore opus that’s unafraid to work in some horns, imagine a better world, and wind up literally gasping for breath by the final moments.

Sigur Rós — Odin’s Raven Magic

I can feel it coming back — that increasingly severe phase of the pandemic when artists felt generous enough to revisit or drop otherwise dormant material. The case of Sigur Rós’ new live album is a bit more deliberate. Performed just a few times back in 2002, the orchestral post-rockers applied their widescreen mysticism to adapt the Icelandic poem Hrafnagaldr Óðins. A collaboration with Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, Steindór Andersen, and Maria Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir, the performance has existed in snippets online for 18 years, but now arrives in remarkable clarity on the edge of apocalypse.

Deafheaven — 10 Years Gone

Even more than the last concert I saw before the world went to hell, I’ve thought about the next one I was supposed to see. Deafheaven’s 10-year anniversary tour with Greet Death and Inter Arma would’ve shaved years of hearing off my life, but it’s looking like a small compromise from where I am right now. To make up for that retrospective tour, the towering shoegaze-y metal outfit hit the studio to re-record their planned setlist. Spanning right from their first-ever track, the comparatively immediate “Daedalus,” right up to 2018’s Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, 10 Years Gone isn’t quite a traditional live album. Even without crowd noise, it’s a valuable recreation of the band’s arc without the trappings of an album cycle — growing more assured in their velocity and banshee howls than the first time these were recorded.