Notable Releases of the Week (2/21)
Before I get into this week’s new albums, I want to take a moment to honor Pop Smoke, the fast-rising Brooklyn rapper who was shot and killed at age 20 earlier this week. He had already quickly established himself as one of the brightest new voices in rap, but he was only just getting started and you could tell he had the potential to achieve so much more. Gone way too soon. Rest in peace, Pop.
As for this week’s new releases, I highlight six below, but first, some honorable mentions: King Krule, Best Coast, The Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli (who Bill interviewed), Wrekmeister Harmonies (ft. Thor Harris & Xiu Xiu), the first Downcast album in 25 years, Six Organs of Admittance, Guided by Voices, Cult of Fire, Seed of Pain, Medhane, Califone, Julian Cope, Amanda Palmer’s Australia charity album, Too Free (Big Freedia collaborator Awad Bilal + members of Merchandise and Callers), Royce Da 5’9″, Beauty Pill, Agnes Obel, Banoffee, Peggy Sue, Jan St Werner (of Mouse On Mars), Heart Bones (Har Mar Superstar + A Giant Dog’s Sabrina Ellis), and Humanist (ft. Mark Lanegan and members of Depeche Mode and Ride).
Read on for my six picks. What was your favorite release of the week?
Sightless Pit – Grave of a Dog
Lingua Ignota made her great 2019 album Caligula with contributions from Full of Hell’s Dylan Walker and The Body’s Lee Buford, she sings on three songs on The Body’s 2018 album I Have Fought Against It, but I Can’t Any Longer. and on one song on Full of Hell’s 2019 album Weeping Choir, and Full of Hell have two collaborative albums with The Body, so it was only a matter of time before a band like Sightless Pit formed. It’s the trio of Lingua Ignota (aka Kristin Hayter), Dylan Walker, and Lee Buford, and as is to be expected, these three gel together perfectly on this album. It’s a different kind of album than Caligula, which was much more in-your-face and theatrical, but with Kristin handling a lot of the lead vocals, it feels at least cut from a similar cloth. Like that album, it’s harsh and noisy and full of blood-curdling screams, but these songs can also — in their own weird way — qualify as pop songs. They have hummable melodies, head-nodding rhythms, and approachable song structures, just all delivered in an abrasive, alienating way. It’s kind of like if Streetcleaner-era Godflesh tried to make an art pop record. And if that sounds like your kind of thing, you’ll probably agree this is awesome.
Moses Sumney – græ (part 1)
Moses Sumney has released part one of his double album græ (12 of the total 20 songs), which gets released in full on May 15. I’ll probably write a lot more about the album once the whole thing is out, and I don’t even feel like I’ve spent enough time exploring all the depths and layers of these 12 songs to fully do them justice, but even from just a few listens, it feels like græ is shaping up to be one of the most monumental albums released this year. It gracefully moves from classical-inspired chamber pop to militant art rock to shimmering jazz to acoustic singer/songwriter material and beyond, and Moses ties it all together with his soaring, often-falsetto voice that can rival anything from Frank Ocean’s indie-soul croon to Thom Yorke’s psychedelic mumble. And his lyrics can be poetic, personal, and political, and they’re impactful whether he’s being blunt or relying on imagery and metaphor. It’s music that’s impossible to pigeonhole into one style or mood, but it all flows together naturally and isn’t just different for the sake of being different. It also feels easily like the best thing Moses has done yet, and I can’t wait to hear what the rest of the double album has in store.
Lee Ranaldo & Raül Refree – Names of North End Women
If there’s been one silver lining for Sonic Youth fans since the band broke up, it’s that we’ve collectively gotten even more music from the members than we got in the last few years of their career. Just about everything they release varies from good to great, and Lee Ranaldo’s work is no exception. Some of his stuff isn’t far removed from the songs he was writing in Sonic Youth, but his latest project — a collaborative album with Spanish producer and flamenco guitarist Raül Refree (who worked on Lee’s last few solo albums and produced Rosalía’s 2017 debut album Los ángeles — is a noticeable departure. Despite being made by two musicians who are primarily guitarists, Names of North End Women features hardly any guitar and was instead made with marimba, vibraphone, samplers, a vintage 2-inch Studer tape recorder, and a “modified cassette machine” that Lee had previously used in performances in the mid ’90s. And the result is an album that’s all over the place in the best way. There are spoken word/noise passages that recall Lee’s most avant-garde works, and then there’s the uplifting, Afrobeat-tinged title track that sounds like virtually nothing Sonic Youth have ever done. (And plenty of other stuff in between too.) This is far from your average Lee Ranaldo album, an impressive feat for someone nearly 40 years into their career.
Grimes – Miss_Anthropocene
Grimes’ career has been so marred by controversy lately, that you can almost forget that in the midst of pissing off thousands of Twitter users, she has also actually been finally rolling out a new album. Especially in this era where we have heightened exposure to all the things artists do and say, it can be easier to just ignore their music when those things become extra cringeworthy. But Grimes has also made some of the best music of the last decade and she hasn’t done or said anything so reprehensible that she’d have to fully be cancelled, so it would be tough to write off her new album entirely, even if it’s also tough to be as excited for it as you might’ve been for her last album. And I admit that right now, I can’t get myself as excited for Miss_Anthropocene as I would’ve been a few years ago, but once I click play, it becomes immediately clear that Grimes has written yet another great record. She continues to excel at adventurous art pop that still — even in this era where radio pop is pretty adventurous — sounds too weird for the radio, but it’s never weird for weirdness’s sake and never inaccessible. It sounds unmistakably like Grimes, but not exactly like anything else she’s done previously. It’s kind of the middle ground between Visions and Art Angels, combining the bigger sounds of the latter with the focus of the former. Even on the one song that sounds like it could actually be kinda mainstream — the ’90s-style acoustic alt-rock ballad “Delete Forever” — Grimes sounds like she’s staying true to herself. It’s so easy to let those outside, non-music factors sway your opinion in the moment, but with an album as well-crafted as Miss_Anthropocene, I think this will hold up after all the chatter about Grimes has faded away.
Ozzy Osbourne – Ordinary Man
It sadly but surely seems like the Prince of Darkness’ career is coming to an end. Black Sabbath already went on their final tour in 2016, and Ozzy has been trying to go on his own final tour for two years but it keeps getting postponed due to health issues. In the midst of all these postponements, Ozzy also managed to put together a new album — his first in ten years — and it seems very likely that it could be his last. If it is, he’ll (all things considered) be going out on a pretty high note. It’s not exactly Blizzard of Ozz, but it already feels a lot stronger than his last album (2010’s forgettable Scream), and that’s not necessarily surprising. Ozzy’s voice was in much better shape on that final Sabbath tour than it had been in a while, and don’t forget Sabbath’s 2013 comeback album 13 was really not half bad. Also, instead of using session musicians/hired guns, Ozzy made Ordinary Man with the rhythm section of Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, and say what you will about those guys’ recent careers, but it’s almost always gonna sound better to record with lifelong pros/rock stars who can headline arenas and stadiums with their own bands than hired guns, and you probably aren’t cool enough to hate on the people who made Appetite for Destruction and Blood Sugar Sex Magik anyway. (Not to mention GNR’s Slash lends lead guitar to “Straight to Hell” and “Ordinary Man,” the latter of which also features guest vocals by Elton John, and “Scary Little Green Men” has guitar by Tom Morello, who will also be playing a lot of arenas this year.)
Ozzy also made this album with producer/guitarist Andrew Watt, who he first worked with when Post Malone tapped him to sing on “Take What You Want” off Post’s 2019 album Hollywood’s Bleeding. Say what you will about Post Malone, but Ozzy says that collaboration reinvigorated him, and hey, if Post Malone’s producer is what it takes for Ozzy Osbourne to release his first album in a decade, then that’s what it takes. Working with Andrew Watt did at times give the album more of a 2020-era radio-friendly feel than a truly great Ozzy album would ever need or have, but there are plus sides to the more contemporary sound too. It’s not like he tried to make a Post Malone album or anything — Ozzy is still being Ozzy and judging by Andrew Watt’s riffs, Watt gets what kind of songs suit Ozzy best — but it doesn’t hurt that this album actually sounds like something from 2020 and isn’t just washed up old man rock. (That said, the obvious worst song is the one that features Post Malone, album closer “It’s A Raid,” a generic rocker that would’ve even sounded outdated the year the first Black Sabbath album came out. Also, tacked on as a bonus track is the Ozzy collab from the Post Malone album, which also features Travis Scott. So, technically, Travis Scott is on an Ozzy Osbourne album. What a time.)
Ordinary Man does have some obvious callbacks to Ozzy’s classics, like when he reuses the “all right now!” from “Sweet Leaf” and the guitar squeals from “War Pigs” on album opener “Straight to Hell,” a song that also features Ozzy singing “I’ll make you defecate” more times than I ever wanted to hear Ozzy sing “I’ll make you defecate” (once). But the album’s best moments come when Ozzy recalls his glory days without blatantly mirroring them, like with the classic-style doom of “Under the Graveyard” or the harmonica-aided heavy blues of “Eat Me.” Ordinary Man also succeeds when Ozzy doesn’t relive his past at all, like on the Elton John-featuring title track. Not that Ozzy hasn’t done ballads before, but you might’ve seemed nuts if you told somebody in the year “Iron Man” and “Your Song” came out that one day they’d collaborate, and it totally works. The album isn’t without filler, and it’s not like you’d ever reach for it over the Ozzy-era Sabbath albums or Ozzy’s first few solo albums. But if this is the last new music we ever get from the Ozzman, and it gains him some new fans who go back and discover the classics in the process, I’d say he wrapped his career up pretty nicely.
Kamaiyah – Got It Made
GRND.WORK / EMPIRE
Kamaiyah emerged as one of the most promising new rappers around with her stunningly fully-realized debut 2016 mixtape A Good Night in the Ghetto (which we since named one of the 100 best rap and R&B albums of the 2010s). It was built on throwback G-Funk but felt like a breath of fresh air, and it got a lot of people very excited for her proper major label debut album (which was originally set to come out in 2017 via Interscope). Kamaiyah still never ended up releasing that album, and instead she put out the Before I Wake mixtape in 2017 and a bunch of other singles since. Now she’s back with her third mixtape, Got It Made, which still isn’t the “proper debut album” type of leveling up we hoped would follow A Good Night in the Ghetto, but which proves Kamaiyah is still really good at sounding like Kamaiyah and reminds you that no one else really sounds like her. It feels a little harder and colder than A Good Night in the Ghetto, which always sounded like a warm summer day no matter what time of year you listened to it, but it’s still largely cut from the same super-fun G-Funk bounce as that album. Kamaiyah may not have turned into the star it once seemed like she’d be, but she’s still very capable of cranking out high-quality, undeniable West Coast rap songs.
Looking for more recent releases? Browse the Notable Releases archive.
For even more metal, browse the ‘Upcoming Releases’ each week on Invisible Oranges.