Notable Releases of the Week (9/20)
It’s been a more hectic than usual week for me, as I was away over the weekend for Riot Fest, and if you missed any of it, you can check out coverage of all three days (including Bikini Kill’s first Chicago show in 20+ years, Slayer’s final Chicago show, blink-182 playing Enema of the State, The Flaming Lips playing Yoshimi, The Village People, and so much more) here. Two of Riot Fest’s full-album sets (Enema of the State and Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm) are actually hitting NYC tonight, and today is also the release day for blink-182’s new album, which — compared to the last one — is not bad.
blink-182, along with five other new albums, are highlighted below, but first, some honorable mentions: White Ward, Drowse, M83, Kate Teague, One True Pairing (ex-Wild Beasts), David Kilgour (The Clean), Andrew Combs, Hangman, Cashmere Cat, Coffins, Urn, Ecstatic Vision, Snuff, Liam Gallagher, Chastity Belt, Molly Sarle, Twen, Efterklang, Monolord, Pieta Brown, Hiss Golden Messenger, The Number Twelve Looks Like You, Exhorder, Operator Music Band, Foxhall Stacks (Jawbox, Minor Threat, Velocity Girl, etc), the Mudhoney EP, and the Constant Elevation (The Movielife, Youth of Today, etc) EP.
Update: The new Blut Aus Nord album was surprise-released today.
Check out my six picks below. What was your favorite release of the week?
After Cult of Luna released 2013’s Vertikal, they made a vague statement that seemed to imply they were going on some kind of hiatus, but they re-emerged in 2016 with Mariner, which was a collaboration with vocalist Julie Christmas and unlike anything CoL had ever done before. Maybe doing such a drastically different project helped reinvigorate them, because Cult of Luna are officially back in action and they’ve got a new album that has them sounding like a fired-up, hungry band — not what you’d necessarily expect from a band who’s been doing it for 20 years. Core songwriter Johannes Persson calls the new album “the antithesis of everything we’ve done before,” and while it sounds a lot more like classic Cult of Luna than Mariner did, it does feel very fresh and new in ways. It’s got plenty of familiar Cult of Luna elements, from towering sludge metal to soaring post-rock to hints of psychedelia, but they do all of that and more in ways that don’t just feel like repeats of past Cult of Luna records. Sometimes they really change it up, like with the driving post-punk backbone of “Nightwalkers” or the far-out psychedelia of “We Feel the End,” which almost sounds more like late ’60s Grateful Dead than like post-metal, and other times they just making crushing post-metal of the highest degree. With Isis still (mostly) gone and no Neurosis album in the past three years, Cult of Luna are filling a much-needed void right now, and they’ve come out with a killer new album in the process.
blink-182’s second album with Matt Skiba is a massive improvement upon the first, and back to the darker and more adventurous path blink-182 began on the 2003 untitled LP, but it’s not without its shortcomings. You can read my full review of the album here.
NJ’s Discordance Axis remain one of the most-loved and most-missed bands in grindcore history, and while drummer Dave Witte is busy with tons of projects as usual, vocalist Jon Chang (also of the recently-defunct Gridlink) and guitarist Rob Marton have teamed back up in the new band No One Knows What The Dead Think. And while sometimes offshoots of classic bands do little more than tide you over for the inevitable reunion, No One Knows What The Dead Think are the real deal, and they’ve written one of the year’s best grindcore records thus far. Because of how brutal and unintelligible grindcore often is, it’s unsurprisingly a niche genre, but Discordance Axis became one of the rare grindcore bands to cross over into other audiences and I have a feeling NOKWTDT have the potential to do the same. The album really reminds you how crucial Rob Marton’s riffs are; as a songwriter, he’s far more melodic than your average grindcore guitarist and incorporates bits of thrash and metalcore and other genres without sacrificing the pure intensity of grind. Grindcore can often sound claustrophobic, but NOKWTDT’s songs sound like the grind equivalent of a wide open field. They sound massive, and that Marton isn’t afraid of a little melody only increases the chances that NOKWTDT might replicate Discordance Axis’ crossover success. And right now it’s hard not to compare these guys to Jon Chang and Rob Marton’s former band, but — as with Gridlink — I have a feeling it won’t be long before No One Knows What The Dead Think are widely considered a force of their own, with no need for an “ex-members of” disclaimer.
Since releasing two widely loved albums as the frontwoman of blues rock revivalists Alabama Shakes, Brittany Howard has stayed very busy, including with her bands Thunderbitch and Bermuda Triangle, and now she’s releasing her first-ever solo album. It’s called Jaime, named after her older sister who died at 13 from a rare form of eye cancer called retinoblastoma, and as you might expect from the title’s backstory alone, this is a more personal batch of songs than the ones Brittany has made with any of her bands. “It was too personal to put in anyone else’s hands,” she told Esquire of the album, which also sees her exploring her own experiences with racism, her own sexuality and romantic experiences (she recently married Jesse Lafser of Bermuda Triangle), and more. She also sings about the death of Prince, who is of course a big influence on Brittany and who a lot of reviewers have already compared this album too, and personally I also hear a lot of early ’70s psychedelic soul coming through on this album, more so than I’ve heard in any of Brittany’s other projects. That side of her music is aided in part by jazz/hip hop blender Robert Glasper, whose keyboards on this album are as pristine as Brittany’s voice.
If indie bands are gonna keep crossing over into jam band territory, it only makes sense that jam bands are gonna cross over into indie territory too. Marco Benevento — who has collaborated with everyone from indie staples AC Newman and Kevin Morby to members of Phish and the Grateful Dead — has actually been doing just that since way before anyone was writing thinkpieces on the matter, and if indie rock fans are still sleeping on him, his new album Let It Slide makes him harder to ignore in the indie world than ever. Almost the entire album channels the same kind of electronic-tinged psychedelic pop that made Tame Impala famous, and though Marco probably won’t be headlining arenas anytime soon, he certainly knows his way around a hook. Other recent albums of his have hinted at this direction, but Let It Slide goes all in, possibly thanks in part to modern-day psychedelic soul master Leon Michels of El Michels Affair, who produced the album and played various instruments on it. Leon has helped everyone from soul artists like Lee Fields and Charles Bradley to Lana Del Rey successfully achieve a sound that nails the balance between modern and vintage, and that’s exactly what Let It Slide does. Because of Marco’s John Lennon-esque falsetto and the album’s rubbery groove, Tame Impala is the comparison I come back to the most, but there are some comparisons to other modern indie bands to made be too, like Whitney and Portugal. The Man. Marco shows off his jazz roots on “Humanz” (which has guitar by Brad Barr of The Barr Brothers), and he reminds you all throughout the album that he’s a virtuoso pianist, so it’s not like he has fully dumbed down his technical side or anything, but Let It Slide is very much a (psychedelic) pop record. And while he probably needs no introduction in the jam/jazz world, if you’re a psychedelic pop fan and you still haven’t given his music a good listen, let this album change that.
Vivian Girls broke up in 2014, and in the time they were gone, their harmony-fueled lo-fi punk only grew more beloved and their cult status only increased. The continued interest in them encouraged them to come back, and now they’re finally releasing their first album in eight years, Memory, which has just about all the signifiers of classic Vivian Girls intact. Bill’s got a longer review in Bill’s Indie Basement.