Notable Releases of the Week (2/7)
It’s been a pretty rough week in the music world, with the deaths of not just the hugely influential post-punk icon Andy Gill (Gang of Four) but also Josh Pappe (D.R.I., Gang Green), Ivan Král (Patti Smith, Iggy Pop), Buddy Cage (New Riders of the Purple Sage), and Andrew Brough (Straightjacket Fits, Bike). Rest in peace to all of those greats… and play some music this weekend in their honor.
Also this week, The Format reunion was announced, the Mr. Bungle reunion began, and I (shameless plug) launched a new column called In Defense of the Genre on punk, pop punk, emo, post-hardcore, etc etc. The first edition has the five best songs of January.
As for this week’s new releases, I highlight seven below and you can read about the new Shopping and Isobel Campbell in Bill’s Indie Basement. Some more honorable mentions: Nicolas Jaar’s new Against All Logic album, Makaya McCraven’s Gil Scott-Heron reimagining, 2 Chainz’s T.R.U. crew compilation, Navy Blue, Saigan Terror, Giver, Antibalas, La Roux, Say Hi, John Moreland, Pop Smoke, D Smoke, Boldy James & The Alchemist, the Birds of Prey soundtrack (ft. Doja Cat, Megan Thee Stallion, and more), and the Buggin Out EP.
Read on for my seven picks. What was your favorite release of the week?
Envy – The Fallen Crimson
Temporary Residence Ltd
Screamo is having a moment right now, but it’s a genre that ebbs and flows and it’s also a genre where a lot of the key bands tend to be short-lived. But no matter what’s happening within the genre at any given moment, Envy are always a constant. The Japanese band have been around since the genre’s inception in the ’90s, and they remain one of the best and most influential bands. When bands like Thursday helped bring screamo to the American mainstream in the 2000s, Envy released a split with them. When Envy’s influence was impossible to ignore on breakout 2010s metal bands like Deafheaven and emo bands like La Dispute, Deafheaven and La Dispute both brought them on tour. They’re as musically relevant today as they were the day they released their 2001 classic All the Footprints You’ve Ever Left and the Fear Expecting Ahead, and their new music has continued to rival their classics. Their last album, 2015’s Atheist’s Cornea, rivaled any of the similar music coming out at that time, and now they’re finally back with a followup to that album, and it’s yet another triumph. Whether you’re coming to this album as a longtime Envy fan or you’ve been pointed in its direction because you like the newer bands Envy influenced, The Fallen Crimson will deliver. Like its predecessor, it stands tall next to Envy’s classics and it sounds as fresh and forward-thinking as anything happening today within screamo, emo, metal, post-rock, and beyond. It’s got gorgeous, sweeping crescendos as well as moments of brute force. It’s got almost as much of an emphasis on spoken word as it does on larynx-tearing shrieks. It’s genuinely great music that succeeds outside of any context at all. Envy have remained an important, influential band by keeping their ears to the ground, welcoming new generations of fans and band-friends, and consistently making music that can be loved in the moment, without feeling like you need to “do your homework” on what makes them so important and influential. And with The Fallen Crimson, they’ve done it all over again.
Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats – UNLOCKED
Yesterday, Denzel Curry and Kenny Beats put out an entertaining short film where they argued over who leaked the music the two had collaborated on. Clips of the music were in the film, but there was no concrete word on what exactly they made and when we’d hear it, until midnight when the pair surprise-released their new project UNLOCKED. On paper, Denzel and Kenny are a match made in heaven. Denzel’s one of the rawest, hardest-hitting rappers around at the moment and Kenny (who produced all of Rico Nasty’s Anger Management, most of her Nasty, most of Vince Staples’ FM!, and more) is one of the rawest, hardest-hitting producers. So it may come as no surprise that they work as well together as they seem like they would. Both have been on hot streaks for the past couple years, and neither shows any sign of slowing down. Denzel’s bars on UNLOCKED actually go harder than the ones on the two great albums he released in the past two years, and Kenny’s production is the perfect backdrop for Denzel’s rage. Both also sound like they had a lot of fun with this project — they’re both very modern, of-the-moment artists, but they throw in all kinds of clever nods to the music they presumably grew up on without seeming retro. It’s not just the (awesome) cover art that looks like a turn-of-the-millennium psychedelic supervillain rap album; UNLOCKED also has vintage voiceovers, references, cadences, and production flourishes that recall all kinds of ’90s/early ’00s rap. If its brevity, surprise release, carefree attitude, or the fact that it was recorded in three days make UNLOCKED seem like it’s somehow less essential than the landmark albums he recently released, it isn’t. Denzel was already sort of a veteran when he made his 2017 magnum opus TA13OO, and last year’s ZUU felt like his effortlessly pro-level victory lap, and even with all that, this project immediately feels like some of his best work. “People say I will fall off but I’ve been here for a while,” he raps on “DIET_.” Understatement.
Khruangbin & Leon Bridges – Texas Sun EP
Dead Oceans/Columbia/Night Time Stories Ltd
Soul singer Leon Bridges started proving on his 2018 sophomore album Good Thing that he wasn’t content to remain as “safe” sounding as he did on his impressive but excessively pleasant 2015 retro-soul debut Coming Home, especially on songs like “Bad Bad News,” which saw Leon veering into psychedelia. When touring in support of that album, he struck up a relationship with his jammy psych/rock/funk openers Khruangbin, and that resulted in this four-song collaborative EP which just doesn’t veer into psychedelia but embraces it fully. If you dig psychedelic soul classics like War or Cloud Nine-era Temptations even more than you dig the smoother stuff Coming Home was routinely compared to like Sam Cooke, you might agree that Texas Sun is the most appealing thing Leon has done yet. Khruangbin’s trippy atmospheres and snakey guitar lines can really take you there as well as anyone who played the original Woodstock, and Leon’s voice makes the songs soar in a way that even Khruangbin’s vocal-oriented songs don’t. They bring out the best in each other, and I hope this isn’t the last time they collaborate ’cause I’m already left wanting more.
Nada Surf – Never Not Together
It continues to be amazing (and no small feat) that Nada Surf could’ve been ’90s alt-rock buzz bin one hit wonders but instead became one of the most consistently great indie rock bands of the new millennium. They’ve more or less stuck to a similar style since 2002’s career-reinventing Let Go, and the new album is pretty much cut from that same cloth (though there’s serious “Popular” vibes on the talky parts of “Something I Should Do”), but it continues to work for them. Nada Surf are an example of “if it ain’t broke…” done right, and Matthew Caws remains one of the most affecting songwriters of our time. His voice hasn’t aged a bit and it’s still instantly satisfying on each new record, and his way with words and melodies remains intact too. If any of this sounds like a backhanded compliment, it’s not meant as one. You might know what you’re getting from this band, but that doesn’t make it any less appealing each time.
Typecaste – Between Life EP
There are a lot of exciting things happening within hardcore and metalcore right now, and it feels like every few weeks there’s a new band who threatens to rise up out of the underground and leave a wider-scale impact without softening their blow or overtly catering to non-hardcore kids. And I’m no A&R scout, but right now my money’s on Typecaste being one of the next bands to make the leap. They’re following their very good, self-released 2018 EP Creature of Habit with their even better third EP (and Flatspot Records debut), Between Life, and they sound like more of a force to be reckoned with on these four songs than ever. The riffs are beefier, the drumming is crazier, the production is crisper, and the band’s dual vocal attack (the growly guy and the shrieky guy) is more intense and more memorable. It’s a bludgeoning, no-bullshit-taking EP until the very last track, “Under the Wreath,” where Typecaste show off that they can also work in melodic alternative rock without veering into cheesy territory. It’s just one song, but if Typecaste have more where this came from, their future’s just gonna keep looking brighter.
Obongjayar – Which Way Is Forward?
London-via-Nigeria artist Obongjayar’s last project was his 2017 Bassey EP, and in the time since then he’s released collaborations with Danny Brown, Wiki, and Everything Is Recorded that have helped get his name out there more than ever. Now he finally releases his first new EP since all that, Which Way Is Forward?, and it continues to prove that Obongjayar is an artist worth paying attention to. He blurs the lines between hip hop, soul, jazz, electronics, Afro-pop, art pop, and more, and really ends up being impossible to pigeonhole. “Dreaming In Transit” is another fine example of the kind of modern-day Afro-pop that fellow Nigerian artist Burna Boy has been popularizing, while EP highlight (and recent single) “God’s Own Children” sounds like Sons of Kemet and Funkadelic in a blender, and then penultimate track (and my personal favorite song) “Carry Come Carry Go” is as smooth and tender as slow-jam masters like Maxwell and D’Angelo yet still chaotic. Even those descriptions don’t feel like they do this EP justice. It’s really not like much of anything happening within pop/hip hop/etc right now. Just listen to it.
Green Day – Father of All…
Billie, The Hives called and they want their shtick back.
Looking for more recent releases? Browse the Notable Releases archive.
For even more metal, browse the ‘Upcoming Releases’ each week on Invisible Oranges.