Notable Releases of the Week (1/17)
The music world (and beyond) have spent all week mourning the tragic loss of Rush member and drum god Neil Peart. I’ll get to this week’s new music in a minute, but before I do, maybe take a moment to spin some Rush this weekend if you haven’t already. We lost a true legend.
It’s also been a really big week for music festival lineup announcements (including Governors Ball, Primavera Sound, New Orleans Jazz Fest, Oblivion Access, and more), and we recently took the opportunity to run down lists of albums we’re anticipating this year (and metal albums we’re anticipating). One of those anticipated albums is in this very post.
I picked seven new releases to highlight this week, but first a few honorable mentions: the posthumous Mac Miller album, the surprise Eminem album, the deluxe edition of Dreamville’s Revenge of the Dreamers III comp, of Montreal, The Good the Bad and the Zugly (the band of Kvelertak’s new singer), 070 Shake, OOIOO, The Innocence Mission, Stretch & Bobbito + The M19s Band, The World/Inferno Friendship Society, Theophilus London (ft. Tame Impala, Raekwon, and more), Algiers, Pinegrove, Mura Masa, Halsey, Aoife Nessa Frances, Porta Nigra, Kateon (ft. members of At The Gates and Obscura), the End It EP, the Holy Fawn EP, and the Raekwon EP.
And head to today’s Bill’s Indie Basement for more on the new Holy Fuck, Whyte Horses (ft. La Roux, John Grant, Gruff Rhys, Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell, and more), and the first A Girl Called Eddy album in 15 years.
Read on for my seven picks. What was your favorite release of the week?
Bill Fay – Countless Branches
British folk singer Bill Fay released two classic albums in the early ’70s (1970’s Bill Fay and 1971’s Time of the Last Persecution), but his career came to a halt until his work was rediscovered in the internet era, earning Bill cult status and gaining him a new fanbase within the modern-day indie rock community. He’s gone on to have a mutually appreciative relationship with Wilco and Current 93, and he signed to indie rock label Dead Oceans early last decade, for whom he released his first new album in over 40 years, 2012’s Life Is People. (Okkervil River, The War on Drugs, AC Newman, and others have also covered his work, and one of his most famous fans is Nick Cave.) The new album proved that Bill Fay still had plenty more to say, as did its 2015 followup Who Is the Sender?, and now Bill is back with his third comeback-era album and first in five years, Countless Branches, which finds him continuing to write and sing gorgeous songs, half a century removed from his debut. Like his last two albums, it was recorded with producer Joshua Henry, but they took a slightly more stripped-back approach this time, recording much of the album with just Bill, his piano, and “some rudimentary home recording equipment.” Bill of course has the resources to make something much grander sounding at this point in his career, but he sounds best at his most intimate so it’s a real treat that he chose to make the new album this way. Also a nice treat is the bonus tracks on the deluxe version of this album, which include some full-band versions of songs that ended up in solo form on Countless Branches, providing even more context for how intimate Bill and Joshua chose to make this album sound. The bonus tracks also include a solo version of “Your Little Face” which does appear in full-band form on the main album, a live-in-studio version of “Don’t Let My Marigolds Die” from Time of the Last Persecution, and some other non-album tracks. It’s a truly essential addition to a long-established catalog, and it’s not everyday you see that from an artist with this much history.
AJJ – Good Luck Everybody
AJJ unlimited LTD
A lot of musicians have released albums inspired by the Trump era over the past few years, but I don’t think I’ve heard another one like this. AJJ have rolled up so many things that are wrong with our society and tackled them head-on without metaphor, in a darkly funny, near-stream-of-consciousness way. It’s an album that constantly threatens to come off as too on the nose, or as like a Twitter feed set to music, or as destined to quickly sound dated — which, actually, AJJ sort of wants; “We can only hope that this material will be dated next year and AJJ can move on to worthier subjects, singer Sean Bonnette wrote — but somehow it never does. It always sounds like smart and incisive commentary, and still functions as enjoyable music even when you’re sick of political commentary. (Not to mention it has exciting guest appearances from Kimya Dawson, Thor Harris, Jeff Rosenstock, and Laura Stevenson.) And, sometimes, the album itself seems sick of all the commentary too: “This is the golden age of dickotry, probably the last golden age of anything, and the ugliest word in the English language is anthropocene. Good luck, everybody.”
Bombay Bicycle Club – Everything Else Has Gone Wrong
Bombay Bicycle Club’s first album in six years — following a hiatus — is here, and it’s not just a good comeback but a new beginning. You can read my full review of it here.
Criteria – Years
Cursive have been pretty busy lately, having launched their own label 15 Passenger and releasing two albums in two years on it, in addition to doing lots of touring. And when they announced their 2020 tour, they snuck a little surprise in there: Criteria, the long-dormant band led by former Cursive member Stephen Pedersen, were getting back together to open. And a couple months later, Criteria revealed that they’d be releasing their first new album in 15 years on Cursive’s label. It’s called Years, named for the fact that it’s actually been in the making for a while, and it basically finds Criteria picking up where they left off on 2005’s Saddle Creek-released When We Break, just with crisper, bigger-sounding production. The more polished sound suits them well, and helps elevate their chunky post-hardcore/alt-rock to a level where Criteria sound like even more of a force than they did during their initial run. The songwriting is inspired, the songs rip, and it just feels great to have this band back.
…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – X: The Godless Void and Other Stories
Need more veteran post-hardcore-ish indie rock? Austin indie rock vets …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead are back with their first new album in nearly six years — the followup to 2014’s IX — and their first for Dine Alone Records. The new album follows Trail of Dead’s 20th anniversary tour for Madonna and co-frontman Conrad Keely’s return to Austin after living in Cambodia for five years, and Trail of Dead said the anniversary tour helped reinvigorate them, which you can definitely hear on this new record. It’s not totally out of left field for Trail of Dead or anything, but it finds them doing what they do best, banging out the kind of aggressive indie rock songs they’ve excelled at since the late ’90s.
The Professionals – The Professionals
Madlib is coming off a very strong 2019 that saw him release his great second album with Freddie Gibbs (a collaboration that will continue live this year at major festivals like Coachella and Primavera Sound), that really good single with Wiki, and that non-album single with Freddie Gibbs that also features Madlib’s real-life brother Oh No. And now, Madlib and Oh No are kicking off 2020 with their own collaborative album as The Professionals, a project they’ve had together for over a decade but are only now releasing a full-length album with. And as expected given Madlib’s recent hot streak, this long-awaited album is really good. Madlib’s production is as warped and psychedelic as ever, and Oh No keeps everything grounded with cold, forceful rhymes that act as a well-matched foil to Madlib’s trippier production. Oh No handles almost all of the rapping himself, and for the few times he does bring in guests, it’s other long-running underdogs like Chino XL and former Slum Village member Elzhi, both of whom show up in fine form on standout track (and recent single) “Superhumans.” It’s a much lower stakes album than MadGibbs, and The Professionals probably aren’t about to play Coachella, but if you don’t care about any of that and you’re just looking for a great underground rap record, look no further.
Anti-Flag – 20/20 Vision
Who knew railing against fascists and white supremacists could sound so upbeat and catchy?
Looking for more recent releases? Browse the Notable Releases archive.
For even more metal, browse the ‘Upcoming Releases’ each week on Invisible Oranges.