Five Notable Releases of the Week (7/8/16)
The album out this week that some people have been waiting fifteen years for, is The Avalanches’ sophomore LP Wildflower. You may want to spend your whole week (or month) (or year) just listening to that, but I’ve picked five other great LPs out today that are also very worth hearing.
Check out my picks below. What was your favorite release of the week?
Paradise Gallows is Inter Arma’s third full length and the followup to their 2013 breakthrough Sky Burial, and it very well may be the most diverse-sounding thing they’ve done yet. After a two-and-a-half minute intro track (“Nomini”) that has the kind of wailing melodic leads that recall popular ’80s metal as much as recent Baroness. Inter Arma break into the seven-plus minute “An Archer in the Emptiness,” which has them offering up low, death-y growls over an ever-changing palette of sounds. That’s actually not one of the longer songs here — about half the songs are around or above the ten-minute mark — and it’s only a hint of what’s to come. The album has a sludge dirge here, a black metal blast there, and a handful of moments that near Swans-like territory. The slow-moving “Primordial Wound” is brooding rock with vocals that are very Gira-esque, with the heaviest parts sounding closer to Swans’ pals Neurosis. That continues into the next song “The Summer Drones,” and by the time you’re this far into the murk, it’s almost hard to imagine that just a few songs ago you were listening to gruesome death metal. Inter Arma then bring you right back to the start though, with the instrumental “Potomac,” which picks up where the “Nomini” riff left off and takes things into even prettier territory. Two more lengthy songs follow — the title track which is back in the Swans realm and “Violent Constellations” which is back to the antisocial extreme metal. And finally closing things out is the haunting noir-folk of “Where the Earth Meets the Sky.” It’s the perfect comedown for an album that takes you on the kind of trip this one does.
If it wasn’t clear from all the Swans comparisons, that Inter Arma is a metal album that non-metalheads will probably like, and here’s a non-metal album that I’ve already suggested metalheads would like. Emily Jane White makes music that’s not dissimilar to Chelsea Wolfe or Marissa Nadler (who she’s collaborated with), which means it’s delicate and folky but also genuinely dark. They Moved in Shadow All Together, her fifth full length, is her darkest yet. Emily struck gold right away with her 2007 debut Dark Undercoat, but that album was rawer and a little Neil Young-ish, and now she’s working with much dreamier (or, nightmarish) sounds. There’s an ethereal atmosphere to these songs, pounding drums that show up from time to time, and some gloomy string arrangements. Those all add to the overcast setting of this album, but it’s still Emily’s voice and gentle guitar or piano that form these strong songs. They’re the kind of songs you could imagine seeing her play with no accompaniment and still be just as won over. It may be prime time for outdoor BBQ albums and Songs of the Summer here in New York, but for those 3AM nights alone in your dimly lit room, an album like this is perfect.
After a very solid run of mixtapes and indie-label albums, Schoolboy Q made his major label debut in 2014 with Oxymoron. It had some fire on there (like the Kendrick Lamar-featuring “Collard Greens”) but also some poppier songs that screamed “major label debut” a little too loudly (like “Hell Of A Night”). Now he’s back with his second major label album, Blank Face LP, and it looks like Q is taking things back to a harder, darker sound. It’s probably the most high-profile new-school rap album to rock a very fitting verse from Jadakiss in a while, to give you an idea. The closest it comes to having a true “hit” is “THat Part” with Kanye, and even that song is murky and minimal. And the closest it comes to an R&B slow jam is the Miguel-featuring “Overtime,” but that song’s not without Miguel’s gooey psychedelia. Mostly this album is all in Q’s personal, unique world; it feels very West Coast but not tied to any particular trend. Among the guests that standout most are two West Coasters who broke in a big way since Q’s last album: Vince Staples, whose own dark minimal rap isn’t too far removed from Blank Face LP, and Anderson Paak, whose take on neo-soul fits in real nicely here. Mostly though, it feels like the kind of album where you’re in Q’s head, not bogged down by showy guest verses or bombastic production, or really anything.
Kathleen Hanna’s influence is maybe more prevalent than ever, with the impact of her timeless bands Bikini Kill and Le Tigre felt in so much of today’s punk rock. So it’s a pretty great thing that she’s still making urgent music and also associating with the new world. The Julie Ruin’s upcoming tour includes shows with Speedy Ortiz, Allison Crutchfield, Seth Bogart and PWR BTTM, and their new sophomore album is on Hardly Art, home of Tacocat, Chastity Belt and Colleen Green, all modern punk/indie artists with good hooks and a purpose. Hit Reset is both classic Kathleen Hanna and also an album that fits right in with those newer bands. It’s less abrasive than Bikini Kill and less danceable than Le Tigre, but it occupies a nice middle ground and the power in her voice/lyrics hasn’t waned a bit. She can sound as sarcastic and take down sexism as much as she did in the early ’90s, but she can also sound more somber. Whatever mode she’s in, she remains one of punk’s most iconic singers and the album’s peppy backdrop makes it fun to listen to every time.
After their 2014 debut album Loom on Topshelf, Gainesville screamo band Frameworks signed to Deathwish and they’re now back with album number two, Smother. Loom didn’t exactly reinvent the wheel — any number of ’90s screamo acts came to mind when listening to it — but it showed they were clearly not content to just copy the past, and that comes across even more strongly on Smother. While contemporary bands in the genre like Touche Amore and Pianos Become the Teeth are expanding their sound into new territories and incorporating clean vocals (no shade, just stating), Frameworks look like pretty great contenders to carry the genre’s torch. Like Touche Amore’s last two LPs, the vocals are screamed but so clearly and over such melodic music that you often forget there are no sung vocals. (Which is to say, this is not exactly pg.99 or something.) It’s a loud, crushing record, but emotion takes precedence over abrasion. It’s the kind of thing where you can already imagine a room of young people rushing the stage to get as close to Luke Pate’s mic as possible. It could be the cathartic hardcore record that some kid needs and deserves, and even if you’re a little older and already have stuff like this in your collection, you may find yourself feeling like a teenager again.