Notable Releases of the Week (10/23)
Before I get to new music, I'd like to turn your attention towards this week's tragedy in Nigeria, where at least 12 people peacefully protesting against police brutality were reportedly killed by the Nigerian army and police. It may be happening an ocean away from us, but it should concern everyone, and you can learn more and help take action at Amnesty International.
As for those in the US, vote. Vote blue and vote early.
On to the music. I highlight nine new albums below; Bill talks about Loma, Fuzz, Ela Minus, and more in Bill's Indie Basement; and here are more honorable mentions: Jeff Tweedy, Gorillaz (ft. Robert Smith, Elton John, St. Vincent, slowthai, Octavian, EarthGang, JPEGMAFIA, CHAI, Skepta, and more), clipping, The Mountain Goats, The Bouncing Souls (acoustic-ish album), Emel Mathlouthi (including covers of Black Sabbath, Nirvana, System Of A Down, Bowie, and more), Laura Veirs, This Is The Kit, Millie Manders and the Shutup, No Thank You, Sam Amidon, Actress, Mork Gryning, Ty Dolla $ign, I Love Your Lifestyle, Magik Markers, Songhoy Blues, Keaton Henson, Aquiles Navarro & Tcheser Holmes (of Irreversible Entanglements), Souvenirs, Bktherula, Bootsy Collins, John Frusciante, Tino Contreras, BleakHeart (mem Dreadnought, Vermin Womb, In The Company Of Serpents), Sen Morimoto, Plants and Animals, the Pierre Kwenders and Clément Bazin EP, the Zeal & Ardor EP, the Local Natives EP, the Zero 7 EP, the Wake EP, the LIMBS EP, the Stretch and Bobbito EP (with remixed freestyles by Biggie, Jay-Z, Big L, Method Man, and Ghostface), the Chuck Strangers EP, the Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings compilation, the Beastie Boys greatest hits, and the Brutus live album.
Read on for my nine picks. What's your favorite release of the week?
Adrianne Lenker - songs & instrumentals
Of all the album-making narratives that music fans love to romanticize, one that never gets old is the cabin-in-the-woods folk album. Sometimes those narratives are exaggerated, but other times they're very literal, and in the case of Big Thief singer Adrianne Lenker's two new albums songs and instrumentals, it was very literal. After COVID-19 cut Big Thief's tour short and global lockdown ensued, Adrianne rented a cabin in the mountains in Western MA, and while there, she got the inspiration to write and record. She drove to NYC to pick up (friend and engineer) Philip Weinrobe one morning, and they spent the next few weeks in the cabin, cooking directly on a woodstove, bathing in a nearby creek, and recording songs to analog tape. Adrianne said she had songs going into the project, but that once they started recording, she "was on a whole new level of heartsick and the songs were flying through [her] ears," and she ended up writing nine of the songs right there on the spot. So if these songs feel spontaneous and in-the-moment, most of them were. As the titles hint, songs features 11 "traditionally" structured folk songs, with little more than Adrianne's acoustic guitar and voice, and instrumentals features two lengthy instrumental tracks. The instrumentals are captivating and meditative, but the songs songs tap into exactly what makes Big Thief so great. Adrianne just has a way with words and melodies that's so hypnotic, and the more songs she writes, the less she sounds like any other artist. It's hard to say if songs is better or worse than the prolific songwriting session that led to two Big Thief albums and Adrianne's solo album abyskiss, but it feels like proof that Adrianne is just getting started and can't be slowed down. After releasing two hugely acclaimed albums in one year, a lot of artists might choose to take a break, but Adrianne just comes back right away with a whole new batch of songs that are just as compelling.
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band - Letter To You
Bruce Springsteen's last album was 2019's Western Stars, which featured an orchestra, was his first largely acoustic album since 2005, and was his best album in a while. Now he's already back one year later with a new album, and this time he's getting the band back together. Bruce and all current E Street Band members recorded Letter To You live in studio in just five days with no overdubs, and you can hear it in the refreshing, freeing sounds of this album, which is just about as good as Western Stars for entirely different reasons. Songwriting-wise, Bruce must have been on a roll after Western Stars; like that album did, Letter To You sounds very inspired for an artist over 45 years into their professional career. And as tender as that album sounded, Letter To You can feel even more stripped-back, eschewing The Boss' more bombastic tendencies in favor of an album that literally sounds like a rock band playing together in a room.
Along with the more recently written material, Letter To You contains three songs Bruce wrote in the early '70s and shelved: “Janey Needs a Shooter,” “If I Was the Priest” and “Song for Orphans." Bruce said he discovered the songs while going through his vaults for an upcoming box set that includes a few full "lost albums," and we're obviously looking forward to hearing that, but meanwhile it's also a treat to hear those (very good) '70s songs recorded in the same no-frills manner as the new ones. If you weren't told which songs were which, you'd probably never guess which songs Bruce wrote 40 years ago and which he wrote last year. That the whole album sounds so fresh and cohesive really speaks to how timeless Bruce's songwriting always has been and continues to be.
Junglepussy - Jp4
NYC rapper Junglepussy has spent the past half-decade or so establishing herself as a staple of NYC's underground music scene, regularly appearing at small, independent venues like Trans-Pecos and Acheron and eventually working her way up to some of the city's most beloved festivals like Fool's Gold Day Off and Afropunk. Her 2018 album Jp3 proved to be both a breakthrough in popularity and a creative triumph, and that led to her inking a deal with the influential indie label Jagjaguwar, who co-releases her anticipated album Jp4 today. Produced by TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek and Fool's Gold Records' Nick Hook, Jp4 is as much a melting pot of sounds as the NYC music scene that birthed Junglepussy is. Across its 10 filler-less tracks, the production and hooks touch on everything from Shabazz Palaces-style experimentalism to Tame Impala's modern-day flower power psychedelia to Tinashe's airy R&B to Santigold's art pop to lo-fi jazz to beats that close the gap between trip-hop, UK garage, and Atlanta trap, and Junglepussy ties it all together with her loud, booming, classically New York raps. It's the most musically diverse and the most experimental album she's ever made, but just as tight and accessible as her earlier works. Junglepussy may already feel like a veteran to some, but Jp4 is a new beginning.
Chamber - Cost of Sacrifice
The past few years have seen an increasingly growing wave of bands injecting new life into metalcore, including Code Orange, Knocked Loose, Vein, SeeYouSpaceCowboy, Sanction, Year of the Knife, and others, and if you like those bands, you should definitely be turning your attention towards Chamber if you haven't already. Like a bunch of those aforementioned names, they're signed to Pure Noise, who inked a deal with them in 2019 and then released the Ripping / Pulling / Tearing compilation, which comprised their two previous EPs and one new song. As good as all the material on that comp is, their just-released debut full-length Cost of Sacrifice is even better. Like some of their other modern metalcore peers, Chamber have figured out how to tap into the thrills of turn-of-the-millennium metalcore while eschewing the cringier moments that came with the genre's mainstream success in the 2000s, and they incorporate other sounds from that era too. Throughout Cost of Sacrifice, you can hear Botch/Converge-style mathcore, Deftones' atmopshere, Slipknot's chaos, and the well-polished accessibility of 2000s metalcore (producer Randy LeBoeuf knows exactly what he's doing), but Chamber take this palette of 20-25 year old sounds and totally reinvent them. They induce nostalgia while simultaneously feeling like a fresh new band, and sometimes that's how the best new music is created -- a little familiarity to draw you in, and exciting new sounds to keep you coming back.
DeJ Loaf - Sell Sole II
Yellow World/BMG Rights
Half a decade ago, DeJ Loaf was on track to be one of rap and R&B's biggest new stars. She had just released her Columbia debut -- 2015's #AndSeeThatsTheThing EP (which we named the 43rd best rap or R&B album of the 2010s -- and the anticipation for her debut album Liberated was high. Liberated was delayed and delayed (and presumably eventually aborted), and what followed instead was label troubles and a few independently released EPs and mixtapes as she tried to overcome the way Columbia handled her career. Fortunately, it didn't matter that the music biz didn't know what to do with her, because the people did. DeJ's music went viral on TikTok, keeping her fanbase strong as she continued to steadily release music. Now, years after she first made her mark, DeJ has finally released her first proper full-length album. It's called Sell Sole II, named after her breakthrough 2014 mixtape Sell Sole. "I felt the need to do a Sell Sole II because that’s how I was feeling recording these records," she said. "Back to the root."
Columbia might've given up on her, but the rappers she's connected with over the years haven't, and this album is loaded with impressive guest appearances. The Detroit rapper tapped two of her city's biggest recent breakouts (42 Dugg and Sada Baby) on "Tap In," she reunites with her "Back Up" partner Big Sean on "IDK," she ropes in stars like Gunna, Lil Uzi Vert, 6LACK, and Rick Ross, and she re-connects with the Griselda crew on "Get Money," which features Benny the Butcher, Conway the Machine, and Boldy James. (DeJ and fellow Detroit rapper Boldy James go way back -- she recorded guest vocals for his long-in-the-works 2020 album Manger On McNichols about a decade ago -- and DeJ just graced Conway's new album with a standout verse too.) That's a lot of very exciting artists, but no one overstays their welcome and DeJ does the majority of the heavy lifting. As ever, she moves seamlessly between rapping and singing, she remains a pro at both, and she has a distinct sound that you'd never mistake for any other artist. As soon as you hear any song on this album, it scratches that unique itch that only Dej's music can scratch. We may never hear Liberated (which in 2016 was reportedly "90 percent complete") and we may never know how different Sell Sole II is than that album would've been, but at this point it doesn't really matter. DeJ Loaf's career has been to hell and back, and it's no small feat that she made it out with a rock-solid debut album like this one.
PUP - This Place Sucks Ass
Last year, Canadian punks PUP released their third album Morbid Stuff, which was not only the best PUP record yet but so instantly-classic that we named it the 23rd best punk or emo album of the decade just eight months after it came out. (And still stand by it!) So needless to say, we're very excited that they've now got an EP with six more songs that rip just as hard as anything on Morbid Stuff. Titled This Place Sucks Ass, the EP was named after an inside joke that PUP make on tours, and which has become a pretty accurate summation of the world in 2020. The EP mixes songs from the Morbid Stuff sessions that didn't make the cut with the entirely new "Rot" and a revved-up cover of Grandaddy's "AM 180," so some of this was recorded before the pandemic, but it still feels fueled by the spontaneity of getting something out in lieu of touring. "Everything sucks and that’s OK, because it sucks for everybody," said frontman Stefan Babcock. "And we can make it a little bit better by being together in the shittiness." Honestly, that same quote could apply to Morbid Stuff, so this EP may be partially the product of a shit year, but "being together in the shittiness" is kind of what PUP do best. They don't shy away from the ugly parts of life; they confront them head-on and they invite you to do the same while having a truly cathartic experience. They've written some of the best punk songs of the 21st century in the process, and this EP is no exception.
Pallbearer - Forgotten Days
As you'd expect from a subgenre with an abbreviation for "traditional" in the name, trad-doom is not an easy genre to break ground in, but Pallbearer have become one of the rare bands to do it. They recall the classics, but they always manage to make it their own, and Forgotten Days finds them doing what they do best. Brett Campbell's vocals still sound like Ozzy Osbourne and Geddy Lee in a blender, the band's riffs still worship at the altars of Sabbath and Candlemass, and Pallbearer still dabble in atmospheric prog passages that tip their hat at Pink Floyd. For some bands, employing the same tricks four albums in would start to get old, but Forgotten Days is as compelling as just about anything this band has done previously. It's one of their most immediate albums; following 2017's proggy Heartless, Forgotten Days is more straight-up metal and more direct. It's also one of their best sounding albums, thanks to the great producer Randall Dunn, who's worked with everyone from Sunn O))) to Earth to Marissa Nadler to Cloud Nothings and tons of others. Like Randall himself, Pallbearer are a versatile band, masters at heavy metal but not afraid to cross over into other worlds. That's been the case many times before and it's the case again on Forgotten Days, which is definitely metal but which is also just a great, anthemic rock record. Loud, aggressive, and catchy guitar rock may not be as dominant as it used to be but it definitely still exists, and if you're looking for it, do not skip out on Forgotten Days.
Undeath - Lesions Of A Different Kind
Rochester death metallers Undeath stirred up buzz with their 2019 demo and Sentient Autolysis EP, which caused them to catch the attention of Prosthetic Records (who signed them for the release of their debut album Lesions Of A Different Kind) and The Black Dahlia Murder's Trevor Strnad (who guests on the album's title track). Late '80s / early '90s style death metal continues to make a big comeback, and while some recent bands have pulled the genre towards prog or psych or punk, Undeath take a more direct, no-frills approach. "We didn’t set out to be the heaviest band or the loudest band or the most 'evil' and 'mysterious' band," vocalist Alex Jones recently told Invisible Oranges. "We just want to write great death metal songs that get stuck in your head." It's easy to see why they're quickly catching on; Lesions Of A Different Kind is a pulverizing, relentless record, and if you like anything from classics like Cannibal Corpse and Carcass to new bands like Tomb Mold and Blood Incantation, this is very worth checking out.
Looking for more recent releases? Browse the Notable Releases archive or keep scrolling down for previous weeks.
For even more metal, browse the 'Upcoming Releases' each week on Invisible Oranges.