The Rotation: Albums We're Listening to Right Now

Albums still matter. Here's what we're listening to right now, including Roddy Ricch, BEAM, Kaytranada, and more.

the rotation january


the rotation january

Every month, we try to keep up the daily onslaught of new music, and every month we highlight the best new artists. But what about the albums? In today's non-stop streaming economy, singles and playlists are more popular than ever, and the traditional full-length project has become less of a priority.

To most music fans, albums still matter, and a good album is an opportunity for an artist to present depth and versatility. Since we're usually focused on sharing all our favorite new singles, we realize that we don't talk about albums enough, so we started a new feature.

Each month, we'll ask some Pigeons & Planes contributors and friends of the brand to share which albums they're currently listening to and what they like about them. Here is the latest instalment of The Rotation.

Roddy Ricch - 'Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial'


Favorite songs: “The Box,” “Perfect Time,” “War Baby”

Roddy Ricch’s major label debut is a triumph that sees the Compton artist stake his claim as one of the most vital and versatile voices in rap today. Though the LP has some starry guests, there are songs like “Perfect Time” and “Big Stepper” where Roddy sounds like four different vocalists unto himself. The record rewards close listens, too, since particular effort was put into the song transitions.

Lyrically, Roddy isn’t out here reinventing the wheel, but he tells his tales of early-morning trapping and extravagant designer splurges with such conviction that it feels like the first time you’ve heard those topics addressed. “War Baby” is particularly stunning, beginning as a grim survivor’s story before bursting to life as an ode to perseverance complete with a soaring choir.

There might not be a single record as catchy as his DJ Mustard collaboration “Ballin,” but Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial is a perfect encapsulation of everything that makes Roddy one of hip-hop’s most promising newcomers. His star power is reflected in his commercial success, too. Despite not being an official single, "The Box" is Roddy's highest charting track to date, sitting at No. 3 on the Billboard chart for January 10—don't be surprised if it ends up as his first No. 1.—Grant Rindner

BEAM - '95'

beam 95

Favorite tracks: "Mad Gaal," "Unda Armor," "Stranded"

Forget (momentarily) Beam’s career and credits as a producer and writer for others when listening to his second solo album 95. Try to experience it as it is: a dizzying exploration of sounds from a Jamaican-born, South Florida-bred 24-year-old mashing the inspiration of his childhood with the sounds of his present. Its title references the year of Beam’s birth, an allusion both to his own youthfulness and how that influences his music (95 features generally modern song lengths, with most of the album’s standouts clocking in at or under 2 minutes) as well as roots in the era of hip-hop that was coming to a close during his infancy.

95 sounds like much released in 2019 and nothing released in 2019, careening from trap beats laced with Jamaican patois to loving recreations ‘90s hardcore hip-hop (the title track sounds like a Cypress Hill, Onyx, and House of Pain collaboration unearthed from some dusty DAT tape) to pop-rap that highlights Beam’s seemingly effortless faculty for infectious melody. 

Highlight “Mad Gaal” explodes with energy at the intersection of genres, deftly highlighting the shared ground between deep house and dancehall through its clever, discreet structure. “Mad Gaal” accomplishes a great deal in just over two minutes, showing that genres can co-exist and amplify one another without needing to be branded with the increasingly shapeless and unsatisfying qualifier “genreless.” In its way, “Mad Gaal” embodies 95’s mission statement, bursting with ideas, channeling Beam’s West Indian influence into a sound that is decidedly modern and subtly forward-thinking, and designed to move bodies.—Jon Tanners

Kaytranada - 'Bubba'


Favorite tracks: "10%," "Gray Area," "The Worst in Me"

Kaytranada's debut album was one of 2016's best releases, an exciting experiment of sounds and textures, genres and how to bend them. When he tweeted in November of 2019 that his album was complete, those two words—"album. finito."—were enough to set the imaginations of fans on fire. How does one follow up an album like 99.9% anyway?

Unlike 99.9%, Bubba is much more of a slow burn throughout its 50-minute runtime. Songs billow, seamlessly blending into one another while featuring addicting synths, pounding bass lines, and vocals from the likes of Pharrell, SiR, Kali Uchis, and others. Though it doesn't appear to have as many obvious bangers as 99.9%, Bubba feels more sure-footed and confident, and it's still a lot of fun.

The most interesting aspect, though, is how the album allows you to delve into the world of Kaytranada. More than any of his previous releases, Bubba feels like an intimate portrait of who Kaytranada is, and moreover, what he's capable of.—Joyce Ng

Christian Alexander - 'Summer '19'

ca summer 19

Favorite songs: "So High," "Lemonade," "Someday, Sometime"

Summer '19 was Christian Alexander's second project of 2019, following his emergence with the beautifully sparse DIY pop of Summer '17 in April. Isolated from a music community or scene in Preston, in the North of England, and making music in his bedroom or garden, Christian Alexander's songs live in their own world, touching on themes like isolation and the challenges that come hand in hand with growing up and taking on more responsibility as an adult.

Although the songs on Summer '19 aren't overly polished, Christian's creativty and ambition comes to the fore as he hops nimbly between genres and incroporaes everything from rapped verses to sparse acoustic guitar ballads to the lefto-of-center pop of highlights "So High" and "Lemonade." It's still early days for this young artist, but all signs so far point to a long and vital career.—Alex Gardner

Read our April, 2019 interview with Christian Alexander here.

Jean Dawson - 'Bad Sports'

Jean Dawson Bad Sports

Favorite tracks: "90s Green Screen," "Bull Fighter," "Napster"

Of all our recent picks for Best New Artists, 23-year-old Jean Dawson might be the least predictable. Most artists start off by sounding like an amalgamation of their influences. You can listen to an act's early work and note, "Oh, this artist sounds like a mix of Post Malone and Khalid" or "This sounds like Billie Eilish, Lorde, and Amy Winehourse combined."

After one listen to Bad Sports, there's no way to simplify a description of Jean Dawson's music into a few references. When you can't compare a new artist to others, it's often a promising sign. On Bad Sports, Jean Dawson places gentle, melancholy melodies next to threatening surges of energy and weaves it all together with post-punk, new wave textures. He's a skillful songwriter, but he doesn't stick to the script. "Bull Fighter," for example, starts as a stripped back, dreary lullaby but also features a rap verse, a tempo change, and a guitar solo halfway through. On paper it doesn't make sense, but it sounds great.

Since Bad Sports, Jean Dawson has released a couple of loose singles hinting at even more experimentation to come. In the saturated state of music right now, it's becoming increasingly difficult to be surprised by something new. If you're looking for that rush of hearing something that is at once satisfying and challenging, check out Bad Sports.—Jacob Moore

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Arthur Russell - 'Iowa Dream'

arthur russell

Favorite tracks: “Everybody Everybody,” “You Did It Yourself,” “Barefoot in New York,” “In Love With You for the Last Time”

When he was 16, Arthur Russell ran away from his Iowa home, but Iowa never really left his music. The genre agnostic cult artist, beloved by the likes of Frank Ocean and Dev Hynes, has been dead for nearly 30 years but thanks to the loving care and diligence of Russell’s partner Tom Lee and Steve Knutson, of Audika Records, his library of unreleased music is slowly being made available to us. Iowa Dream is the latest posthumous collection, organized largely around his pop and folk songwriting—and his childhood memories.

It’s catchy, sometimes sad, sometimes whimsical music from someone who connected with and drew inspiration from the manic energy of New York in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but would think of home too. When he sings of “the dawn in New York City” in a high, beautiful twang on “I Never Get Lonesome,” you hear his journey, a beginning and an end.—Ross Scarano

Burial - 'Tunes 2011 - 2019'


Favorite tracks: “Come Down to Us,” “Kindred,” “Rough Sleeper”

Burial left such an indelible imprint on electronic music in the mid-200s with his first two albums, Untrue and Burial, but he had just as much to give in the 2010s, too. Across a series of increasingly experimental EPs and singles, Burial pushed his idiosyncratic sound into deeper waters. Tunes 2011 - 2019 is a remarkable reminder of why Burial has been built into such a monolithic and enigmatic figure, comfortably drawing listeners back into a rain-soaked world that’s both familiar and completely foreign. At two and a half hours, it’s an intimidating compilation, but it’s also one that more than earns its length. Any opportunity to revisit Burial’s second decade as a musician is one worth taking.—Joe Price