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Notable Releases of the Week (3/20)

Empty Country
Empty Country (photo by Rachel Browne)

Things are continuing to escalate so quickly — even just last week, which was already a crazy time, feels like a lifetime ago — so now more than ever we need the power and comfort of art and music to keep us occupied, hopeful, and sane. Thankfully, musicians are now doing cool things like streaming performances from home and of course there is tons of amazing concert footage available to revisit from the past, not to mention lots of great TV to watch. And musicians continue to release new music, this crazy week being no exception.

I’ve picked seven new albums that I highlight below, but first some honorable mentions: The Weeknd, Baxter Dury (which Bill reviewed), Rustin Man (of Talk Talk), former Klaxons vocalist James Righton, Brian & Roger Eno, Myrkur, TOKiMONSTA, Zebra Katz, Tony Allen & Hugh Masekela, NITE, Neck of the Woods, Lucifer, Helen Money, IIVII, Hyborian, the Constrict EP, the Alkaline Trio EP, and Morrissey I guess.

Also, Bandcamp is waiving its cut of sales today until 3 AM ET on Saturday (and many labels have pledged to do the same) to help support artists during the coronavirus outbreak, so if you’re looking to buy some new music, maybe do it today and do it on Bandcamp if you can. We have recommendations of 30 albums from 2020 and 15 metal albums from 2020 that are available on the platform. Several of the albums I write about below are also on Bandcamp.

Last but definitely not least, rest in peace Genesis Breyer P-Orridge.

Read on for my seven picks. What was your favorite release of the week?

Empty Country

Empty Country – Empty Country
Get Better Records

After mining the troves of ’90s indie rock and post-hardcore with Cymbals Eat Guitars, Joe D’Agostino is now fast-forwarding a few years and digging into early/mid 2000s indie rock with his new project Empty Country. Joe’s long been associated with and compared to The Wrens (whose Charles Bissell sings on “Ultrasound” on this album), and if Cymbals albums like Why There Are Mountains and LOSE were Joe’s Secaucus then this is his Meadowlands. That’s also a massive reductionism though because every Cymbals Eat Guitars album has been distinctly different from the last and the Empty Country album just sounds like the next frontier in Joe’s ever-evolving music career, but you probably get the idea. In place of the louder, punkier music that usually typified CEG, Empty Country uses strummy acoustic guitars, flourishes of folk and alt-country, string-laden chamber pop, and other calmer, prettier sounds to convey Joe’s songwriting, which remains as powerful and distinct as ever.

Empty Country is technically a “solo project,” and “acoustic guitars” + “solo project” usually equals something more stripped-down, but there are a lot of musicians playing on this album and it’s really as full-sounding as anything by Cymbals Eat Guitars. In addition to Joe and Charles Bissell, it’s got Cymbals Eat Guitars’ Anne Dole on drums, Rachel Browne of Field Mouse (who Joe is married to) and Rachel’s sister/bandmate Zoë on backup vocals, Anne Dole’s brother Pat on bass, and Zena Kay on pedal steel, and it was co-produced by Joe and Swearin’s Kyle Gilbride, the latter of whom is no stranger to making big, warm-sounding indie rock records (he’s also been behind the boards for Waxahatchee, Girlpool, Field Mouse, and more). It’s quieter than the Cymbals Eat Guitars albums but it’s just as vast, and fans of Joe’s immediately recognizable singing and songwriting style will probably agree that this album nails a balance between the new and the familiar. (And despite being quieter, Joe does sometimes raise his voice to the roar that gained his previous band some associations with “emo.”) Joe has a way with subtly off-kilter melodies that’s on full display on Empty Country, and his words are so personal and specific that they feel like a window into his world, yet he writes in such a way that even the most specific details can feel relatable on a near-universal level. Joe remains one of the most consistently rewarding indie rock songwriters of the last decade, but also one of the most criminally underrated/overlooked ones, so if you’ve been overlooking him or you checked out after CEG’s buzz-band era died down, hop on the Empty Country train now because this new band is already some of Joe’s finest music yet.

J Balvin Colores

J Balvin – Colores
UMG

Colombian reggaeton star J Balvin’s insanely anticipated Colores is here, and it effortlessly lives up to expectations. Read more here.

Sweven

Sweven – The Eternal Resonance
Ván Records

Death metal has been all the rage lately thanks to a crop of new bands who are taking cues from the genre’s earliest days in the late ’80s and finding ways to bring it into the now (like Blood Incantation, Tomb Mold, and Horrendous). But a few years before those bands released the critically acclaimed albums that brought this new wave of death metal to prominence, Sweden’s Morbus Chron were paving the way for just about all of them. Their second and final album, 2014’s Sweven, is a landmark of modern death metal, and it’s mix of prog, psych, black, and death metal is a clear predecessor to the current scene (and to the recent material by fellow Swedes Tribulation). Morbus Chron sadly aren’t around anymore to benefit from all the hype the genre is getting, but fortunately frontman/founder/songwriter/guitarist Robert Andersson now has a new band named after that 2014 album, Sweven, and their own debut album The Eternal Resonance is very, very good.

Morbus Chron fans will probably be very excited about how this album sounds, but it does more than just pick up where Morbus Chron left off. Sweven the band goes even further down the genre-blurring rabbit hole than Sweven the album did. It’s almost a disservice to talk about this album in terms of “death metal” or any other subgenre for that matter. It’s still a harsh album, vocally, but instrumentally it’s even more prog/psych than Morbus Chron was. For the uninitiated, Tribulation remains a good reference point because that band also continues to be more of a prog/psych band than a metal band, save for the black/death-inspired vocals, but Sweven are also a very different band than Tribulation. Tribulation ultimately write really evil versions of pop songs, and The Eternal Resonance can be closer in spirit to Pink Floyd or post-rock, with long, sprawling, dreamlike passages that are about sucking you in to the overall experience. It requires a bit of patience (which, given the state of the world right now, you probably have), but it doesn’t take very long to realize it’s very worth it.

Crow Killer Enslaved to One

Crow Killer – Enslaved To One
New Age Records

Before coronavirus cancelled live music, one of the most exciting package tours in modern-day metalcore/hardcore of the year was going down: Sanction, SeeYouSpaceCowbowy, Vamachara, and Typecaste, with support varying by date from Dying Wish, Adrenaline, Foreign Hands, and Salt Lake City’s Crow Killer. Just as Crow Killer wrapped up their run on the tour this past weekend, they released their debut album, Enslaved To One. As their bio points out, they were formed from the ashes of Aftermath of a Trainwreck, Cool Your Jets, and Close Grip after Close Grip vocalist Brad Hancock was tragically shot and killed outside of a concert in Salt Lake. They got booked on This Is Hardcore after releasing just one EP and playing 14 shows, so this may be Crow Killer’s first full-length album and they still may be new to a lot of people, but they’ve clearly already got roots cemented in the hardcore scene. So it should come as no surprise that this album is such a well-crafted debut. Raw, ’90s-style metalcore is the fuel behind these songs, and it’s a pulverizing record at times, but it’s not all toughness and brute force. Enslaved To One spends almost as much time in more melodic, dramatic screamo/post-rock and spoken word territory, and the band has a sense of humor too (one song ends with the band breaking out into a Creed singalong, complete with fake Scott Stapp accents, and there’s a Home Alone sample on the album). The album as a whole shows what Crow Killer is all about more so than any individual song, but its crowning achievement is its penultimate, two-part song “Bring Back the Blood.” The first part features David of Sanction, and the second part features Crow Killer duetting with sung vocals by Megan Golden, who adds a whole new dimension to their sound. It sounds like a metalcore version of Circle Takes the Square or something, and it’s some of the coolest stuff I’ve heard from an upcoming hardcore band this year.

The Fight Endless Noise

The Fight – Endless Noise
Triple B Records

For more of a straightforward hardcore record, you can’t go wrong with The Fight’s Triple B debut Endless Noise. This LIHC band has been on the rise thanks to a promising sound that blurs the line between classic American hardcore like Sheer Terror (whose current drummer Anthony Corallo produced Endless Noise) and ’80s UK Oi! and street punk, and Endless Noise is their tightest offering yet. No unnecessary frills at all, just pure anger and breakneck-speed songs that are over and done with in the blink of an eye. Their influences may all be 30-40 years old, and they aren’t trying to hide that, but this is classic punk/hardcore done right and The Fight bring enough personality to the table to make it feel like their own.

Irreversible Entanglements Who Sent You

Irreversible Entanglements – Who Sent You?
International Anthem/Don Giovanni

Irreversible Entanglements is the collective of poet/MC Camae Ayewa (aka Moor Mother), saxophonist Keir Neuringer, trumpeter Aquiles Navarro, bassist Luke Stewart, and drummer Tcheser Holmes, and Who Sent You? is their masterful, enthralling sophomore album. It’s like part free jazz, part Gil Scott-Heron, and it sounds like an underground performance arts space come to life in your headphones. Trying to describe it doesn’t really do it justice; it’s so lively and powerful and spontaneous and you kinda have to just hear it for yourself to understand why. I promise you won’t regret it.

Eye Flys Tub of Lard

Eye Flys – Tub of Lard
Thrill Jockey

Eye Flys is the band of Full of Hell guitarist Spencer Hazard, Backslider bassist Jake Smith (on guitar and vocals), former Backslider drummer Patrick Forrest, and Triac’s Kevin Bernsten on bass, and Tub of Lard is their first full-length album following last year’s promising Context EP. Tub of Lard picks right up where Context left off and makes it even more clear that Eye Flys are a very worthy band in their own right and not just a “side project.” Tub of Lard offers up 10 tracks of killer sludge-punk and it’s a tighter, more forceful collection than Context. As on that EP, you can hear hints of anything from Unsane to The Jesus Lizard to Helmet to the Melvins, but Eye Flys make it their own.

Looking for more recent releases? Browse the Notable Releases archive. Also check out 30 albums from 2020 we recommend buying on Bandcamp today.

For even more metal, browse the ‘Upcoming Releases’ each week on Invisible Oranges. Also check out 15 metal albums from 2020 we recommend buying on Bandcamp today.

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