Essential tracks: Kacey Musgraves offers straight talk in new song 'Biscuits'

Randall Roberts
Contact ReporterLos Angeles Times Pop Music Critic
Reviews of Kacey Musgraves' 'Biscuits' song, Earl Sweatshirt's 'Grief' and Lightning Bolt's 'Fantasy Empire'

Kacey Musgraves, "Biscuits" (Mercury Nashville). The first new Musgraves song since the sharp singer and songwriter stormed Nashville with "Same Trailer, Different Park" doesn't stray too far from her formula, which is a good thing. It was written by Musgraves, hotshot producer Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark — the same team responsible for Musgraves' smash "Follow Your Arrow" — and harnesses pedal steel, banjo and a hand-clapped backbeat in service to a treatise on privacy.

Not the digital kind but the neighborly variety. In an uplifting takedown of a gossip, Musgraves chides while preaching on the debut single from a forthcoming untitled sixth album. "Just hoe your own row, yeah, and raise your own babies/ Smoke your own smoke and grow your own daisies/ Mend your own fences and own your own crazy/ Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy." Sounds like a plan.

Earl Sweatshirt, "Grief" (Tan Cressida / Sony). The first track from the prodigious Los Angeles rapper's surprise new album is grim and claustrophobic. Amid a crawling, minimal beat, humming mid-range noise and words about a forced isolation due to "snakes sliding in the street" and "pigs, riding in 'em," the track reveals a soul wallowing and alone.

The video is just as grim and striking. Shot in black and white and then reversed, Earl's face glows white with an all-consuming blackness surrounding him. In what's become a kind of Sweatshirtian trademark, near the track's conclusion the beat shifts gears. On the screen, the change is accompanied by the arrival of masked drummers encircling the rapper. A sofa catches fire. Earl lights a (second, or third) joint, his final words resonating: "I just want my mind and time back. When they're both gone you can't buy 'em back."

Lightning Bolt, "Fantasy Empire" (Thrill Jockey). Certain loud guitar rock records serve as brain erasers, a form of shock therapy zapping through aural inputs and (to mix metaphors) cleaning the proverbial clock. Lightning Bolt is one such thing. Specifically, Brian Chippendale (drums, grunts) and Brian Gibson (bass guitar, noise) bent on celebrating, deconstructing and destroying primal punk-metal-noise sounds with aesthetic help via schooling at the Rhode Island School of Design. Fast and loud, the band draws from Black Flag-style hard-core punk, Slayer-esque speed metal and the all-consuming grindcore of Napalm Death.

"Fantasy Empire" is Lightning Bolt's eighth album since 1999 and the first recorded in a studio, not a warehouse. It's a remarkable mess, like abstract collage versions of metal jams. Chords race, drums go spastic while Chippendale's unintelligible, distant voice barks words out about something or other. Metal tropes fly and loop, speeding through fast-tempoed pieces titled "Mythmaster," "Dream Genie" and "Snow White (and the 7 Dwarves Fans)." The songs sort of sound like your basic distorted metal works, but the riffs don't move in circles like most. Rather, Lightning Bolt bends and bows time signatures until they run in oblong ovals, like they're having seizures. It takes a few listens — and much volume — to translate. Once it does, the rebooting begins.

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