The second installment of The Phoenix’s monthly playlist series — a line of articles where Phoenix editors make Spotify playlists of the best new music each month and then select some of their favorites to write about — focuses on September’s new releases, featuring music from a broad range of genres.
This month’s playlist contains some of The Phoenix editors’ favorite new music from September, including NIKI’s debut, Big Sean’s comeback, a few sophomore albums and many more singles.
niiice. – “internet friends”
One of the last bands The Phoenix reported on in person before the COVID-19 pandemic put music on hold — the Minneapolis-based rockers niiice. — released their sophomore album “internet friends” Sept. 25. While the two singles they released gave early insight into what the album would sound like (and included one of the best drum parts on the album), the true gems were left to be discovered on release day.
The record is yet another step forward in their musical progression — wide-ranging vocals, chaotic drum fills and driving bass riffs are all part of the band’s display of musical prowess. Frontman Roddie Gadeburg’s melodic vocals often turn into guttural streams to drive home the emotionally driven lyrics centered around the gripes of being a young adult.
NIKI – “MOONCHILD”
Indonesian singer/songwriter NIKI released her debut album, a combination of several pop subgenres — specifically electro-pop and dream-pop — with tinges of R&B mixed in. The 10 tracks are split up into three “phases,” a play on the lunar title of the release, which is in itself fitting, as the whole album feels like music to be played on a night walk on the beach.
The watery, open sound of tracks like “Pandemonium” are in high contrast from the more radio-oriented tracks like “Selene,” but both extremes of the album work together and share a bit of a dark feeling to them. Fans of Lorde and Billie Eilish should be swarming to NIKI’s shows — whenever those happen again.
Barely Civil – “I’ll Figure This Out”
Wisconsin-based Barely Civil dropped their sophomore album “I’ll Figure This Out” Sept. 4. The follow-up to 2018’s “We Can Live Here Forever” somehow manages to be even more sonically cohesive than its predecessor with songs that flow seamlessly into the next.
Dynamic beats from drummer Isaac Marquardt drive along Connor Erickson’s soft vocals until the song picks up and the two let loose along with bandmates Ben Forst and Alex Larsen. The slow-burn track “North Newhall” exemplifies this best, starting with Erickson singing over a guitar riff before the instrumentals explode into tremolo picking and gang vocals.
Big Sean – “Detroit 2”
Big Sean released the 21-track sequel to his 2012 mixtape “Detroit,” marking his first album since 2017. While features can bog down an album, especially one that’s more than an hour long, they keep this one alive. The record has guest appearances on two-thirds of the album, including spoken word pieces from funk musician Stevie Wonder — who also hails from Michigan — and comedian Dave Chappelle who tells the story of meeting Big Sean’s dad in Detroit.
However, at times the features outshine Big Sean during his own songs. The topical “Guard Your Heart,” which features Wale, Earlly Mac and Anderson .Paak, is a lyrical highlight in which Wale raps, “And the robbers robbed, you wylin’ ‘cause yo’ product gone / We mad that Eric Garner, Breonna, Gianna father gone.”
All of these are available on Spotify and other streaming services.