Five Notable Releases of the Week (11/23)
Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! If you’re in NYC for the long weekend and looking for a show to catch, we’ve got a guide to NYC shows for Thanksgiving Weekend. And since today is Black Friday, that also means it’s Record Store Day Black Friday at independent record stores. If you need some suggestions of what to pick up, check out our list of 10 Record Store Day Black Friday titles we’d like to own (including, among other things, the new Würm compilation that’s worth seeking out digitally if you don’t pick one up today).
Given the holiday (and the impending end-of-year in general), it’s a pretty slow week, but there’s still some very worthy stuff out this week, including one very major album: the first Dipset album in 14 years. And even with slimmer pickings, still a few worthy honorable mentions this week: Cocky Bitches (Paul Leary of Butthole Surfers’ new band), Obliteration, Boosie Badazz, and Art Brut. Check out my picks below. What was your favorite release of the week?
After releasing two essential albums in the early 2000s, members of Dipset went their separate ways and focused on solo careers until finally Cam’ron, Juelz Santana, Jim Jones and Freekey Zekey reunited in 2010 and started talking about making a third album. What followed was label troubles, vaguer album talk, and on and off touring. Finally, the Harlem group went on a lengthy tour this year, and now — eight years after it was first promised — there’s a new Dipset album out in the world. It may not be another classic, but there’s enough of that old chemistry between the guys on Diplomatic Ties to make the wait worth it.
It opens with a soundbite of Drake talking and praising the group, as if to make it immediately known that — while popular rap doesn’t sound like this anymore — Dipset helped pave the way for the new guard and they’re back to claim their status as an influential group. They bring in Tory Lanez, Belly, and Trav for modern, auto-tuned hooks, and they’ve got some trap-leaning beats on the album that might also make it a little more appealing for today’s rap radio, but for the most part they stay true to their roots. A handful of the songs were made with their old production team The Heatmakerz, and Cam, Juelz, and Jim come armed with all the vicious shit-talk (aimed at Kanye for an entire verse on the first song), chest-puffed boasts, and tongue-twisting rhymes they built their careers on. There’s a certain magic that happens when they’re all in the room together, and they sound like they genuinely had fun making an album together again. The guest appearance that longtime fans will be most excited about is fellow reunited New York rap group The LOX (Jadakiss, Styles P, Sheek Louch), who show up to trade bars with Dipset over Cool & Dre’s head-nodding, throwback production on “Dipset / Lox.” If you’re partial to the sound of late ’90s / early ’00s New York rap, this is about as stacked a posse cut as you’ll get in 2018. Diplomatic Ties also goes down easy because, for the first time in Dipset’s career, they made a lean, nine-song album. This current streaming era may be causing rap albums to get longer and longer, but the early 2000s CD era had its fair share of overloaded rap albums too and Dipset were not immune. Diplomatic Ties trims most of the fat and offers up a concise snapshot of these guys doing what they do best.
You know how it goes: You spend the bulk of your career writing tender, bookish indie songs, and it’s great, but eventually everything starts to feel a little too precious and you finally say “fuck it” and make an album people can dance to. Following in the footsteps of collaborators like Sufjan Stevens and St. Vincent (and a bunch of other musicians), that’s exactly what Shara Nova did for her first My Brightest Diamond album in four years, A Million and One. She made it with producer The Twilite Tone, who’s best known for working with rappers/hip hop groups like Kanye West, Gorillaz, Pusha T, and Big Sean, and she doesn’t hold back in the slightest from making songs that sound as club-ready as those artists. It’s not completely out of the blue for My Brightest Diamond — her last album This Is My Hand saw her inching towards a more athletic sound — but it’s a more drastic shift in this direction than she’s ever taken before. And while these songs are perfect for the dancefloor, they also still retain that unique, instantly recognizable My Brightest Diamond sound. Shara still gives a refined, delicate vocal performance and there’s still a depth to her songwriting. She may often head into body-thrusting, four-on-the-floor territory that could fool pop radio into playing her stuff, but these songs are still more intricate than most of what you hear on pop radio. There’s also more going on here than just a love of dancepop. “You Wanna See My Teeth” has some of the loudest, heaviest guitars of any My Brightest Diamond song, and songs like “Another Chance” and “Mother” give the album a more atmospheric, more minimal side too. The album sees My Brightest Diamond going in a handful of directions at once, without ever losing focus and without fully abandoning the distinct appeal that My Brightest Diamond always had.
Justin Pearson spent the bulk of his musical career fronting the impossible-to-pin-down hardcore band The Locust (before also playing in Retox, Head Wound City, Dead Cross, and more), so he’s no stranger to making weird, genre-defying music, but Planet B is among his weirdest and most genre-defying yet. It’s a duo with producer Luke Henshaw, and after forming a few years back, they’ve now released their first full-length album, which combines hip hop, industrial, and the ferocious post-hardcore that Justin is usually known for in a way that doesn’t sound like much else out there. Not many groups could fit abstract rap vet Kool Keith, industrial vet Martin Atkins (Ministry, Killing Joke, Public Image Limited, Pigface, Nine Inch Nails, etc), and Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner on the same album (besides maybe Planet B’s Ipecac labelmates Dalek), but Planet B do it and they make it sound incredibly natural. The album is sort of like a more psychedelic, more punk version of rap rock, and it sounds a hell of a lot better than most music that gets called that. It’s aggressive, it’s strange, and it literally sounds like it comes from another planet, but it’s not unapproachable. The opposite, actually; this is one of Justin Pearson’s most accessible projects yet.
DonMonique – Black Kate Moss
When Brooklyn rapper DonMonique put out her debut EP Thirst Trap back in 2015, she seemed primed to be one of New York’s bright new voices, but instead she spent most of her time since then out of the spotlight. Three years and change later, she’s finally back with a followup, and she once again sounds ready to take this city (and beyond) by storm. She’s got that classic New York attitude of wanting to sound as menacing as possible. While much of the country is trying to imitate the sound of Atlanta rap right now, DonMonique is staying in her own lane. Every song on Black Kate Moss has the kind of ominous, eerie production you could imagine scoring a horror flick, and she navigates these beats with a booming, bassy delivery that’s as tough and convincing as any of the greats. When she calls herself “New Kim, Old Nicki” on the song of the same name, you believe her.
As usual, some Albums of the Year lists have been coming out before all of the year’s albums have come out. That can often be a disservice to late-in-the-year releases, but sometimes you luck out and a publication includes an album that’s still not out yet. Other times you luck out even more and that album ends up being one you may have accidentally skimmed past, but instead it knocks you off your feet on first listen. In this case, the album in question is …And As We Have Seen The Storm, We Have Embraced The Eye, the third album from Germany’s Chapel of Disease, which came in at #15 on Decibel’s list, sandwiched right in between Deafheaven and the legendary Satan. Chapel of Disease are a death metal band at their core, but they look beyond the genre and incorporate all kinds of music in very inventive ways. As Metal Archives points out, the band is named after two Morbid Angel songs (“Chapel of Ghouls” and “Angel of Disease”), and they have that same early, thrash-inspired death metal sound and similarly grimy vocals as Morbid Angel, but there’s also a sense of modern-day hardcore punk urgency. And there are also bright, catchy guitar riffs that propel these songs even more than the reverby, slightly backgrounded vocals. Similar to bands like Kvelertak, Martyrdod, and Tribulation — but very much in their own way — you’ll probably be humming along to Chapel of Disease’s riffs before you’re memorizing their lyrics, and they’ve figured out how to bring the melodicism and the guitar heroics of classic rock into modern extreme metal. There are leads and solos that will make this album as palatable for Van Halen and Zeppelin fans as much as death metal fans. There are clean, dusty blues riffs. There’s even a part that kinda sounds like Dire Straits. It’s the kind of album that reminds you of the pure thrill of rock and roll. From the second you hit play, it rips you out of your seat and takes you on the high-speed ride of your life, and it never lets up.