Review Roundup: JPEGMAFIA, Charli XCX and (Sandy) Alex G

Mini-reviews for three of September's biggest albums.

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JPEGMAFIA - “All My Heroes Are Cornballs”

I really wanted to like this more than I do, but the problems I had with JPEGMAFIA’s 2018 album "Veteran" remain.

Don’t get me wrong, both “Veteran” and “All My Heroes Are Cornballs” are great albums (especially “Veteran,” which is probably the best hip-hop album of 2018). Unfortunately, though, they suffer from the same issue — they are full of half-baked ideas. At least on “Veteran,” I feel like I could give him a pass because it was a foray into a new direction for JPEG. “Veteran” was the true definition of an experimental album: he was throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what stuck. On “All My Heroes Are Cornballs,” it feels like he ignored what he learned from “Veteran,” and created something just as underdeveloped.

I guess what I’m saying is I want him to make a super cohesive album that isn't all over the place for once. Sure, his unpredictability is part of the appeal, but can you imagine an airtight, fully fleshed out release from him? It would be incredible.

Either way, it’s JPEGMAFIA. It’s still mostly great anyways. His attempt at adding more melodic singing to his songs work wonderfully and the insane, mind-melting production he’s known for is still there. If you liked “Veteran” like I did, you’ll like this.

Charli XCX - “Charli”

Charli XCX’s “Charli” is bubblegum bass at its most accessible, but don’t let that push you away. “Charli” is a poptimist masterpiece.

The way Charli balances her bold stylistic choices is an incredible achievement for an artist already hailed as one of pop's saving graces. From the catchy electropop beat on songs like "1999" to the glacial bubblegum bass of tracks like "2099," Charli creates an album that is filled with splendor at every turn.

"Charli" serves to fully proclaim Charli XCX as one of the decade's best pop stars, a title she was already on the shortlist for anyway.

(Sandy) Alex G - “House of Sugar”

Most of (Sandy) Alex G's new record showcases his incredible knack for melody, but the middle of the album feels a bit too desolate and incomplete to fully win me over.

The album's first four tracks live up to the expectations set by the immaculate singles for this record, which were almost perfect across the board. "Gretel," for example, is a dream pop masterpiece.

Once the record hits "Taking," things begin to take a repetitive and unfinished turn. Compared to the excellence of the first four tracks, "Taking" and "Project 2" are too tedious, and "Bad Man" just doesn't do much for me despite its admittedly solid vocal melody.

Everything comes back together on "Sugar," a dark neo-psychedelic track with a menacing piano sprinkled throughout and odd robotic vocals. The songs from "Sugar" forward are far more developed than those in the middle of the tracklist. The album's closer, "SugarHouse - Live," may seem like an odd inclusion, but the live version just adds more warmth to the already cozy tune.

"House of Sugar" is a solid album with incredible highlights, even if it’s not perfect all the way through.

Edited by Joe Cross | jcross@gmail.com

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