Five Notable Releases of the Week (9/28)
It’s the last week of September and it’s another stacked release week. (Time flies when you’re listening to tons of great new music.) Today’s honorable mentions include This Will Destroy You, Bliss Signal (aka James Kelly of WIFE/Altar of Plagues + Mumdance), Mudhoney, Restorations, Revocation, Tim Hecker, Danielson, Exploded View, Lala Lala, CHIC, Cher’s ABBA covers album, the alt-J remix album (ft. Pusha T, Danny Brown, GoldLink, Little Simz, and others), the Justus Proffit & Jay Som EP, Lil Wayne, and the big Tom Petty box set with previously unreleased material.
Also, apparently tomorrow is the day we get the second Kanye album of 2018, YANDHI, which is set to come out in conjunction with his performances on SNL’s season 44 premiere. Naturally, Kanye said all kinds of crazy stuff yesterday ahead of the album release. Stay tuned to see what happens tomorrow.
Check out my five picks for this week’s Notable Releases below. What was your favorite release of the week?
Marissa Nadler has been releasing haunting, dreamlike folk music for nearly 15 years, and while she never makes drastic changes to her sound, each new album feels fresh and exciting. For My Crimes is no exception, and one of the things that makes this one exciting is the killer cast of guest musicians. She sings with Angel Olsen on opener “For My Crimes,” with Sharon Van Etten on “I Can’t Listen to Gene Clark Anymore” and “Lover Release Me,” and with Kristin Kontrol on “Blue Vapor,” and throughout the album there’s also drums by Patty Schemel (Hole, Upset, etc), sax by Morphine’s Dana Colley, harp by Mary Lattimore, strings by Janel Leppin, and co-production from Lawrence Rothman and Justin Raisen. Even with that much star power on one album, though, the guests all know how to play backseat roles and keep the spotlight on Marissa Nadler. Her voice and her spare acoustic guitar playing is quiet but has a massive presence. Even if you try to put this album on while you’re working or scrolling through social media or whatever else you do while you listen to music, For My Crimes will pull you away from your daily routine and suck you into Marissa Nadler’s unique musical universe. The album gets off to a running start with the one-two punch of the title track and “Gene Clark,” which both easily rank among the strongest songs of Marissa’s career, and while those are two major highlights at the beginning, For My Crimes isn’t top heavy. It is deeply transfixing and emotionally resonant music from start to finish. It’s the kind of album where, once you’re sucked in, it ends before you know it.
LA rapper Reason (real name Robert Gill) isn’t very easy to Google, and up until recently, even if you came up with the right combination of search terms, there wasn’t a whole lot of information about him out there anyway. But one thing’s for sure: the man can rap, and he can do it really, really well. Fortunately, some of the people who noticed he could rap were the people behind Top Dawg Entertainment, and they’re now bringing his music to his widest audience yet. They quietly introduced him to the world earlier this year with his show-stopping verse on the Kendrick Lamar-curated Black Panther album. Later, they announced he’d open on tour for TDE’s Jay Rock (which is currently underway), and finally they revealed in August that they signed him, along with the release of a stunning single, “The Soul.” Then last week, TDE revealed his album There You Have It would be out in a week and here it is.
It’s technically not a “new” album, but a remixed and remastered version of an album Reason released with a slightly longer tracklist and different artwork last year (though the original version has mostly been scrubbed from the internet). “This is not a TDE production project, this is a project that Top discovered me off of that he felt was so good, he did not want to rob you guys of the experience of hearing it,” Reason said. He also added, “Therefore, there will be no TDE features on this project, but there’s an artist on here that helped me mold and scope this project to be what it’s going to be, his name is Xian Bell.” And “last but not least, with the exception of the remarkable and incredible DJ Swish, all of these records were beats I found on YouTube.” The album also doesn’t include “The Soul,” but Reason says, “‘The Soul’ was supposed to be the outro leading into the next project but we cut some joints. So when you listen, listen to ‘The Soul’ last.”
Reason seems primed to go on to do great things with his first proper album for TDE, but giving this wider release to the little-known There You Have It was a smart move, because Reason already sounds like a master with the beats and the small-name guests he chose by himself, without label involvement. Like labelmate/tourmate Jay Rock, Reason makes rap that sounds like it could’ve come out somewhere between 1997 and 2003, save for a few modern production flourishes. He’s got skits, gunshot sounds, and he makes no bones about favoring the lyricism and delivery of that era — he raps a few times on There You Have It about the struggles of trying to make it in an industry that isn’t super interested in that kind of music anymore. But Reason doesn’t come off like a bitter luddite or a relic, his music feels so urgent and so genuine that it can stop you in your tracks in 2018 just as much as it would have two decades ago. There You Have It is a deep, often depressing album, and Reason admits on it that he writes his best songs when he’s sad. (There’s some happier, more fun stuff too, though.) He’s an expert storyteller who will have you hanging on his every word, as he reflects on street life, race relations, family, love, sex, the aforementioned music industry, and more. The centerpiece of the album is the back-to-back of “Thirst” and “Colored Dreams / Killers Pt. 2.” “Thirst” is an aggressive, trunk-rattling snapshot of life on the streets, and then Reason completely switches gears for “Colored Dreams / Killers Pt. 2.” Over melancholic piano, he gives a first person account of living with the remorse of killing a man, and in the second half of the song, he lives with the regret of letting his own lifestyle set an example for his younger brother, which ultimately led to his brother’s death. It’s tough stuff to hear, but sometimes the toughest stuff makes for the most impactful art, and Reason has absolutely created art with an impact. Sometimes fans and artists can have a tendency to glorify this type of thing, but Reason isn’t doing that at all. As he says on the very next song, “I’m just praying for better days.”
Gouge Away won over a good chunk of the punk and hardcore underground with their 2016 debut album, and they’ve since signed to Deathwish and made a followup album with the punk dream team of Jeremy Bolm (of Touche Amore) and Jack Shirley (of Comadre, producer for Deafheaven, Joyce Manor, etc). The new album’s got a handful of punk rippers that pick right up where Gouge Away’s debut left off, and leading the way is still Christina Michelle’s scream, which sounds as throat-shredding as ever. But Burnt Sugar is not just a repeat of their debut; far from it. A good chunk of songs on this album take Gouge Away’s sound into new territory. “Ghost” is the first time Gouge Away actually kinda sound like the band they’re named after, “Wilt (I Won’t)” sees them veering towards Jesus Lizard territory, while the beginning of “Raw Blood” sounds almost like Slint, and “Stray/Burnt Sugar” has Gouge Away quieting down and offering up Liz Phair/Breeders-style indie rock. (And they do it as well or better on this one song than many of the modern bands who built careers off of channeling that sound.) My favorite song on the album is probably “Dis s o c i a t i o n,” which kinda sounds like a cross between ’90s Dischord Records and Goo-era Sonic Youth, and it’s the song where Christina Michelle sounds more intense than I’ve ever heard her. “Woke up without sleeping, sighed without holding…,” she repeats over and over, sounding closer and closer to exploding every time. The emotion is so raw and unfiltered that it feels like you’re right there in the room with her as she records it.
Across their first three albums, Philly’s Horrendous perfected a type of old school death metal revival that got better and better with each album. Eventually they inked themselves a deal with larger label Season of Mist, and their first album for the label is Idol, which stretches far beyond the sounds of its three predecessors. It’s easily Horrendous’ best album yet. “Revival” is no longer a word you’d use to describe Horrendous’ music — there are still plenty of sounds from the past, but this time they come from all over the place. Idol never sounds like one specific subgenre or one specific era or one specific scene; it sounds like a band who have brought together various influences and came out with something they can truly call their own. The best example of this is the closing track, “Obolus.” There are parts that recall their earlier albums, parts that veer towards post-metal, parts that veer towards melodic sludge, howling clean vocals, tech-y stuff, thrashy stuff, slow stuff, fast stuff, and more, and even at eight-and-a-half minutes, the song leaves you wanting more. It’s the perfect ending to an album that also flirts with prog, psych, and still finds time for trademark Horrendous ragers. There were hints that Horrendous were starting to stretch their wings on 2015’s Anareta, but Idol is really where it all comes together. For the first time in Horrendous’ career, the boundaries of their music seem limitless.
To say 2018 has been a breakout year for Vallejo rap group SOB x RBE would be an understatement. They started the year off with the standout “Paramedic!” on Kendrick Lamar/TDE’s Black Panther album, then released their own great album Gangin, then members released solo projects, and all the while, SOB x RBE stayed busy on the road and they’ve got their biggest tour yet starting next week. Ahead of their tour, they dropped their second full-length album of 2018, Gangin II. I’m not sure if it sounds as instantly essential as its predecessor (it’s mostly cut from the same cloth), but it’s got a lot to like about it, it proves these guys are still hungry, and it’s a nice way to cap off what has been a killer year for SOB x RBE. Something that stood out on Gangin which is also clear on Gangin II is that SOB x RBE just sound like a group of friends who have a lot of fun rapping together. They don’t try to hop on any particular trends (some songs on this album sound like modern, singsongy auto-tuned rap and others sound like throwbacks to two decades ago), they haven’t brought in any big-name guests to make them more radio-ready (the only appearances are from fellow up and comers like Shoreline Mafia, YoungBoy Never Broke Again and soon-to-be-tourmate Quando Rondo), and there’s just a real genuine energy to their rhymes that suggests they make music for the thrill of making music. That said, they aren’t completely ignoring the public perception of themselves. A handful of songs on this album are about how far they’ve come, like one of the album’s best tracks, “Made It.” The album sounds like a victory lap, and with the rapid rise SOB x RBE have been on all year, they deserve to take one.