Album reviews: King Tuff, Cardi B, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Parquet Courts, Dr. Octagon and Goat Girl

Goat Girl's debut album "comes as a welcome broody breeze." Image: Holly Whitaker Goat Girl’s debut album “comes as a welcome broody breeze.” Image: Holly Whitaker

King Tuff

“The Other” (Sub Pop)

Didn’t King Tuff used to rock? Last year, an exhausted Kyle Thomas paused to recover and reflect—and he’s clearly going for some kind of contemplative statement on “The Other,” (yes, the title carries those pretentious quotes). But whether about alienation on the titletrack or about toxic technology on “Circuits in the Sand,” the proclamations are unfortunately borne by Thomas’ semi-shriek, and his prolix faux-Dylan balladry is often compounded by plodding tempos, as if gravitas can be achieved by cumulative effect.

Cardi B

Invasion of Privacy
(Atlantic)

Who’s invading who? Cardi B’s debut full-length kicks down doors, spewing obscenities with menace and glee, sporting a pack of irresistible tracks from Frank Dukes and Boi-1da. It’s almost enough to say that the massive hit “Bodak Yellow” is just another track on Invasion of Privacy. But it’s a real album, shifting between nighttime parking lot vibes (“Drip,” featuring frequent collaborator Migos) and sunnier vibes (“Best Life,” featuring Chance the Rapper), closing with the SZA-assisted “I Do,” a dirty lullaby which ends with Cardi predictably on top.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Sex & Food (Jagjaguwar)

I’ve never gotten too excited about Unknown Mortal
Orchestra’s funky, at times proggy, indie, and I can’t say Sex & Food changes my mind, but I also can’t deny it’s something the band does well. Ruban Nielson’s brain is a fertile musical space, even if he could use a hedge trimmer. Sometimes he nails it, as on “Hunnybunny,” replete with a Steely Dan-ish guitar solo. But often, UMO gives me the feeling of listening to the composing process—most songs are impressive the way M.C. Escher drawings can be—neat tricks to conceive, execute and leave behind.

https://unknown-mortal-orchestra.bandcamp.com/album/sex-food

Parquet Courts

Wide Awake! (Rough Trade)

Gil Scott-Heron, they ain’t.
Amid howling political prose on the opening one-two punch, “Total Football” and “Violence,” Parquet Courts’ Andrew Savage just can’t resist slipping in “and fuck Tom Brady.” Despite natterings about dismantling institutions, these are the same old Courts. And producer Danger Mouse feels squandered, as there’s not much to distinguish Wide Awake! from the band’s past work. That’s not a pure complaint; solidly danceable rock abides, and “Mardi Gras Beads” almost makes a Pavement/Phish alloy sound like a good idea. Parquet Courts plays the 9:30 Club in D.C. on June 7.

Dr. Octagon

Moosebumps: An
Exploration Into Modern Day Horripilation
(BULK)

As Dr. Octagon, Kool Keith teamed up with Dan the Automator and DJ Q-Bert to make Dr. Octagonecologyst, often viewed as the high point of Keith’s varied, decades-long career. After a couple of unapproved– by-Keith releases, Moosebumps represents the true return of Dr. Octagon, with Automator and Q-Bert in for the weird-as-hell ride. The production is resolutely old-school, but Keith’s rhymes are endlessly futuristic, or maybe just timeless—surreal, funny, clinically lewd, cracked. When Keith shouts out Ernest Borgnine, you know that Moosebumps is an imperfect but worthy sequel.

Goat Girl

Goat Girl (Rough Trade)

London quartet Goat Girl released the wonderful “Cracker Drool” single last fall, equal parts jangle, surf and angular post-punk. The band’s debut conjures that rush from time to time (on “The Man,” e.g.), but in general the fed-up indie comes as a welcome broody breeze. Proper songs alternate with brief scribbles that underscore the band’s graceful nonchalance—Goat Girl clearly cares, but doesn’t demand that we recognize it, which is part of why we should. Singer Clottie Cream brings a baleful tension on cutslike “Viper Fish” and “The Man.”