Rapidfire Reviews: Jadasea, Mister Goblin, Clementine Was Right, Rave Ami

Posted: by The Editor

Although there’s a new Vince Staples album out, it’s been hard for me to pull myself away from Jadasea to give it the time it deserves. Jadasea’s Too Many Tears, from early May, is superficially similar to Staples’ Dark Times (busy but uncluttered beats, unaffected vocal delivery, unvarnished lyricism), it isn’t a one-to-one (and besides, Jadasea’s far closer to Earl or his label head MIKE). Nonetheless, the point remains that Too Many Tears is one of the most gripping albums of ’24, a new watermark for the South London rapper.

Jadasea put out two records in 2023, each time partnering with a producer: first was Pressure Sensitive with Anysia Kym, followed by The Corner, Vol. 1 with Laron. For Too Many Tears, though, Jadasea mostly goes it alone; no guest rappers feature, and he produced the majority of it himself. Jadasea sounds effortless all throughout the album, equally at home over the loping jangles of “Say Hi” as on the classic piano of “Not Much 2 Say” as on the jingly soul samples of “Betting on You.” He’s never showy, but when he does pick up the pace like on “Lighter Up” he commands attention. He’s right about one thing: “if people don’t start with this shit,” it really is over.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

On the final song on The Weakerthans’ final album, frontman John K. Samson lists off a string of household objects he’d like to be in order to feel useful: “I just wish I were a toothbrush or a solder gun / Make me something somebody can use.” On “The Notary,” a single from Mister Goblin’s fourth LP Frog Poems, Mister Goblin expresses a similar thought, at first crowing that “I want to be a notary / so that somebody somewhere will always need me” and then wishing to be “a library / so somebody somewhere could always use me.” For The Weakerthans, it was a lilting sigh; for Mister Goblin, it’s just the normal musings of a day in the life. It’s a humorous, characteristically self-deprecating way to express a prevailing human sentiment–so it’s quintessential Mister Goblin.

Where Frog Poems differs from previous Mister Goblin albums is in its broader musical scope; pre-release materials compare moments on the album to the skronky, mathy post-hardcore of turn-of-the-century groups like Shiner and No Knife, and that influence is pronounced on “Run, Hide, Fight,” a song that’d feel wildly out of place on an album like Bunny, but fits surprisingly well here, even following the more tender “Mike Shinoda.” He runs farther in the other direction too, though–”Saw V” is a folksier tune than Mister Goblin’s attempted before, like a beefed-up “One Year Later,” pedal steel and all; it’s one of his best songs ever. “Fit to Be Tied” has a similar energy, although immediately following “Saw V” it makes for an interesting pairing on a record so varied. “Grown Man” is the bridge between the two halves of Mister Goblin, pairing mellow acoustic guitars with a booming chorus. That chorus, by the way, goes from the ever-relatable “I’m a grown man / and I can’t take care of myself” before shifting into the even-more-relatable ‘”I’m a grown man / and I smell like shit and Cheerios.” Again, that’s classic Mister Goblin. And maybe he “can hardly pick out [his] own clothes,” but one thing he can do is a hell of an indie rock album.

Disappointing / Average / GoodGreat / Phenomenal

Tell Yourself You’re Going Home is, indeed, an album about going home. Or, rather, Clementine Was Right’s third LP is about what happens when you can’t go home, about seeing the people you love move or pass away, about seeing the place you grew up torn to the ground or burned to the ground. Many of these songs take place in small towns, rural towns, river towns, “Wal-Mart towns,” and the characters are grieving, down on their luck, abjectly poor, or some combination of all of the above; they’re “working at the mill” and “sleep[ing] in the river” and “feel[ing] lost.” They may be down, but importantly they’re never out. At the end of “It’s Ketchup (We’re Fuckups),” Mike Young groans, “we’re fuckups” but follows it with a key insight: “so what?” It echoes Titus Andronicus’ most enduring rallying cry: “you’ll always be a loser, and that’s okay.

Of course, an appealing narrative means little to a record if the music isn’t up to par, but fortunately Clementine Was Right are up to the task. Their sound is an appropriately blue-collar blend of heartland rock, folk rock, and alt country throughout the LP’s forty or so minutes, and Young’s got a voice to match: raspy and gritty enough to suggest days of hardship but tuneful enough to sell a hook without needing to belt. Still, it’s great when he does; the bar band jam “Meet Me in the Dark” is carried by a full-throated chorus, and the Springsteenian “There Are No More Almond Trees” makes use of both his quavery yells and his ability to drawl in a near-rap cadence, and he sounds great bolstered by the gang vocals in the hook of “River Boys.” He hands off the reins to drummer Dick Darden on “Attic Full of Barbie Limousines,” but the band doesn’t miss a beat at all, and then again to Gion Davis on the penultimate “Goddamn Universe,” which finds Clementine Was Right in spoken-word post-rock mode. Just like everything else, they make it sound natural.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Each song on Rave Ami’s No Arc has a one- or two-sentence description on their Bandcamp page. Most are hyper-specific, and some even seem to be directed toward particular people. But for “Those Endearing Young Charms,” one of the best cuts on the album, the description reads: “the dark side of a good time †† don’t act so surprised.” It’s a pithy way to summarize the whole of No Arc: it’s dark and it’s claustrophobic and it’s anxious, but you can dance to it.

Indeed, there are a couple tracks on here–opener “Ave Atque Vale” and lead single “Waiting Room Boogie” in particular–that draw from the dance-punk of early 2000s NYC; “Ave Atque Vale” imagines the stream-of-consciousness catharsis of Los Campesinos! filtered through the scuzz of Q and Not U in a way that doesn’t actually sound like either band, an arresting opening track. “Waiting Room Boogie,” of the two, feels less distinctly Rave Ami, much closer in sound and in leery spirit to something like They Threw Us in a Trench…. “Glimmer Twins” and the aforementioned “Young Charms” harnesses a similar fizziness, but to different ends; the former is a jubilant, fuzzed-out post-punk romp, while “Young Charms” bolts through wobbly verses and call-and-response hooks before arriving at a sax- and clarinet-led coda, a surprising but natural endpoint for the track. It’s an eclectic album–I haven’t even mentioned the Unwound-gone-surfing vibes of “Get Crucial!” or the constantly evolving six-minute ender “Give Me a Shot”–but I think far more bands could stand to let their personality shine through the way Rave Ami’s does on No Arc.

Disappointing / Average / GoodGreat / Phenomenal

Zac Djamoos | @gr8whitebison

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