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Notable Releases of the Week (9/6)

Squid
Squid (photo by Holly Whitaker)

Time really does fly — Labor Day is in the rearview which means summer is basically over (hope everyone had a good long weekend!), and it’s even been starting to feel a little like fall outside, at least here in New York. There are plenty of cool albums out this week, but it doesn’t feel as massive as last week, which gave us the new Lana Del Rey and Tool albums that are still the talk of most online music circles. If you haven’t heard those yet, get on it! Meanwhile, I highlighted seven of this week’s new albums below.

First, some honorable mentions: Bat For Lashes, Lower Dens, Kayo Dot, Tinariwen, Mizmor, Post Malone, Frankie Cosmos, The Highwomen, The Messthetics (mem Fugazi), Kindness, Adam Green, Chrissie Hynde (of The Pretenders), Western Settings, the first Moving Targets album in 25+ years, the “lost” Miles Davis album from 1985, the Death Cab For Cutie EP, the Robyn Hitchcock & Andy Partridge EP, the +/- {Plus Minus} EP, the Alessia Cara EP, the Pearla EP, and the Drugs of Faith EP.

Check out my seven picks below. What was your favorite release of the week?


Squid Town Centre

SquidTown Centre EP

Speedy Wunderground

 

 

Dan Carey’s Speedy Wunderground label has been on a roll lately with shining a spotlight on super talented, up-and-coming arty UK rock bands, including one of the biggest breakout indie rock bands of the year, black midi, and Squid. Squid’s new Town Centre is the first EP for Speedy Wunderground, which previously was only a singles label, and if the label plans to continue to put out more major releases, this is a hell of a place to start. It’s also a great introduction to Squid, who previously released the Lino EP in 2017, but really started to find their groove on followup singles like “The Dial” and “Houseplants,” and have now fully hit their stride with Town Centre. (And if they keep progressing at this rate, it probably won’t be long before we look back on Town Centre as just another stepping stone on Squid’s path to greatness.) Like black midi, Squid seem very into the Talking Heads, and they fit in loosely with the shouty post-punk revival that’s been getting buzz lately (IDLES, Fontaines DC, Shame, etc), but — also like black midi — they’ve got a lot more going on musically than those bands and they can’t really be pigeonholed into any one style of music. Recent singles saw them developing a knack for ’80s NYC funk-punk, but the Lino EP is much more psychedelic and atmospheric than that, and both of those things and more are worked into Town Centre. The EP opens with the trippy instrumental “Savage,” and it’s not the kind of intro track you can just skip. By the time it segues into “Match Bet,” that song’s mathy, Radiohead-like guitar riffs hit even harder than they did when “Match Bet” first dropped as a single. Throughout the EP, they successfully tackle motorik grooves, free-jazz sax, and a bit of psych-pop revival that recalls groups like Django Django and The Beta Band. They almost remind me — in spirit more than in sound — of Deerhunter. Like that band, Squid come off like obsessive students of the art rock canon, but they’re good songwriters too, not just good record collectors. Town Centre sounds like the work of a hungry group who have absorbed all the hip subgenres of the past half-century of rock music, and are spitting it back out with the hopes of one day being considered as important as their heroes. It remains to be seen if Squid can keep the momentum going long enough to get there, but for now, they’ve made a fascinating EP that deserves all the hype it’s already gotten and will presumably continue to get. It may just be four songs, but each one is pretty long (the whole EP clocks in at just over 23 minutes) and Squid cover more ground on these songs than some of their fellow buzz bands do on full-lengths.

 

earthgang-mirrorland

EarthGangMirrorland

Dreamville

 

 

J Cole’s Dreamville label was once mainly known as a way for Cole to rep some other artists who shared his love of rap classicism, but rap’s “Middle Child” has been vastly expanding his empire lately to include artists whose music isn’t much like Cole’s at all, and artists who are starting to become stars of their own. The label’s most recent breakout is J.I.D, and it looks like J.I.D’s fellow Atlanta natives and Spillage Village members EarthGang are up next. They have three EPs on Dreamville dating back to 2017 and a handful of independent releases before that, and now they’ve just released their full-length Dreamville debut, Mirrorland, which makes good on the promise of all those early releases. Mirrorland is rooted in a long history of Atlanta rap music; it isn’t much like the trap music that the city is famous for today, but it isn’t completely removed from that music either, as evidenced when Young Thug shows up on “Proud of U” and fits in perfectly. They are sort of to Atlanta what, say, Flatbush Zombies are to New York. The way that the Zombies have taken all the weird sounds of ’90s New York rap and made them sound fresh and somehow even weirder for a new generation, EarthGang are doing that for ’90s Atlanta groups like OutKast and Goodie Mob. Like their ATLien forebears, they’ve got just as much a knack for fast-paced rapping as they do for soulful singing, and just as much a knack for electronic production as they do for live instrumentation. Later tracks on the album like “Blue Moon, “Trippin,” and “Fields” veer into real-deal funk, jazz, and soul, while plenty of other tracks would fit in seamlessly with modern-day rap radio. EarthGang have been building towards a big moment for a while, and it feels like Mirrorland is the thing that will finally make it happen. It goes down easy, with a perfect mix of the familiar and the new. If this album is the first you’re hearing of them, don’t be surprised if it’s far from the last.

 

IDK Is He Real

IDKIs He Real?

Clue/Warner

 

 

Following a few projects as Jay IDK, IDK dropped the Jay from his name and made a fresh start with 2017’s great IWASVERYBAD (released on the Adult Swim label), an album that saw the Maryland rapper ruminating over his life before, during, and after the time he was locked up at age 17. He came off at times like a young Kendrick Lamar, a gripping storyteller who was wise beyond his years because he’s been through some shit. IDK followed it last year with the guest-filled, just-for-fun EP IDK & Friends, and this week he put out his major label debut, which picks up where the powerful storytelling of IWASVERYBAD left off. IDK’s major label debut ropes in (uncredited) appearances by of-the-moment stars like Tyler the Creator, Pusha T, Burna Boy, J.I.D, and James Blake, and even while surrounded by a more all-star cast than ever before, IDK always remains the star of his own show. Between the spoken word interludes and IDK’s own verses, there’s a real profundity to Is He Real?, which tackles violence on the streets of IDK’s hometown, racism, religion, and more, but IDK isn’t always in philosopher mode. Sometimes he’s talking about the world at large, other times the album is a raunchy, dick-measuring contest. And sometimes he’s talking about sex and religion — and how they intersect — all at once. No matter what he’s talking about, he’s a compelling storyteller, the kind whose words often drill their way into your brain on first listen. And he’s as good with hooks as he is with lyricism, sometimes in surprising ways, as on “Digital.” Thematically, it’s one of the album’s darkest songs, and it’s also one of the catchiest.

 

Sheena, Anika and Augusta - Simple Pleasures

Sheena, Anika & AugustaSimple Pleasures EP

Asian Man Records

 

 

Sheena Ozella (Lemuria), Anika Pyle (Chumped, Katie Ellen), and Augusta Koch (Cayetana, Gladie) have all been staples of the indie-punk scene for years, and now they’ve put their heads together for a collaborative EP, which only lasts for eight minutes but that’s enough to show how powerful these three sound together. The four-song EP has one song led by each member, followed by a fourth where they all harmonize in unison, and though it’s short, it’s not a tossed-off side project. These are some of the most instantly impactful songs we’ve heard from these three in recent memory. All three members usually front driving indie-punk bands, but for this EP they’ve taken more of a folky singer/songwriter approach — with no rhythm section — and the more bare-bones arrangements make for pin-drop moments where you fall dead silent and just let each singer’s words drill their way into your brain. “Conversations with Nicole” is fleshed out by some gorgeous string arrangements, but otherwise these songs just let Sheena, Anika, and Augusta’s voices and guitars do the talking, and that’s all they need. I know they’re all busy with other bands, but I hope this isn’t just a one-and-done EP. Its only downside is that it leaves you wanting so much more from this group.

 

sandro-perri-soft-landing

Sandro PerriSoft Landing

Constellation

 

 

It took Sandro Perri six years to release his last album, the great In Another Life, but only one year to return with a new followup to that album, Soft Landing. Soft Landing is his fourth solo album overall, and, following the electronic-tinged art pop of his last two albums, it’s his most guitar-based album since his 2007 solo debut Tiny Mirrors. But it’s a much different type of guitar album than the folky Tiny Mirrors. It opens with the 16-minute “Time (You Got Me),” a jammy, freeform song that isn’t unlike the Grateful Dead-informed indie rock of the new Cass McCombs album. The rest of the songs have more digestible lengths, but that jammy spirit lingers, whether he’s veering into jazzy territory (“Floriana”), funky sophisti-pop (“Wrong About The Rain”), or an update on the folkier sounds of his debut (“Back On Love”). He sounds like he had a lot of fun breaking out the electric guitar for this one, and he seems to focus on picking his way through vibrant leads as much as he focuses on singing. It’s a very chilled-out, relaxed album, and it can meander off into space but it always finds its way back to earth.

 

Iggy Pop Free

Iggy PopFree

Loma Vista/Caroline International

 

 

It’s an old cliché that aging punks eventually leave the young, loud, and snotty songs behind and start getting into jazz, so it’s no surprise that Iggy Pop — one of punk’s founding fathers, and one who already embraced jazz influences as far back as The Stooges’ 1970 sophomore album Fun House — would make a jazz album at 72 years young. Iggy hinted at a late-career pivot to jazz on 2009’s Préliminaires and 2012’s French covers album Après, but then he released 2016’s Post Pop Depression. Iggy made Post Pop Depression with members of Queens of the Stone Age and Arctic Monkeys, and it was hailed as a return to form to the days of his first two Bowie-produced albums and was widely considered Iggy’s best in years. But Iggy — who remains perhaps the most consistently wild performer in rock music — said he “felt drained” after the Post Pop Depression tours, and as a result, chose to make a more meditative album. The results are Free, and it’s the true late-career pivot to jazz that Iggy said Préliminaires would be. He enlisted in the help of ambient guitarist Noveller and jazz trumpeter Leron Thomas, and while his grizzled voice sounds as instantly familiar and appealing as it did on Post Pop Depression, it’s often the instrumental arrangements that carry the bulk of the weight on Free. If Post Pop Depression felt like a potential late-career classic, this one feels more like a cool experiment. It doesn’t always succeed, but it’s nice to see him trying something new this far into his career, and it at least keeps you on your toes more than when Iggy was making uninspired pop punk with Sum 41.

 

drew-thomson

The Drew Thomson FoundationThe Drew Thomson Foundation

Dine Alone

 

 

The last Single Mothers album, 2018’s Through A Wall, was the most breakneck-speed punk record of their career. And as they’ve been touring that, main member Drew Thomson had been working on a solo album where he explores a very different side of him. The comparatively lighter Drew Thomson Foundation explores music like indie rock and alt-country, or really whatever Drew is in the mood to make at the moment. Single Mothers have very much been defined as a “punk band,” but it seems like Drew has set no limits for himself with his solo project, and he also sounds more relaxed and more refreshed on these songs than he’s sounded in Single Mothers in a while. It may have started as the passion project for ideas that didn’t fit with his main band, but the new album is as good or better than anything his main band has done. He still has a punk edge to his singing and his songwriting on this album, and he can still sometimes sound like Craig Finn (who he has long been compared to), but mostly he’s in his own world, making the music he wants to make. And we are all the more lucky for it.

 

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