Notable Releases of the Week (1/28)
What a week it's been. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones broke up. Elliott reunited. And then there was Damon Albarn vs Taylor Swift, Neil Young vs Spotify, and Johnny Marr vs Morrissey. And in case you were wondering, emo's still not dead!
We also got treated to an array of new albums. I highlight eight below, Bill talks about Night Crickets (Bauhaus, Violent Femmes), Urge Overkill, Modern Nature, and more over in Bill's Indie Basement, and here are more honorable mentions: The Chicago Experiment (ft. Makaya McCraven, Jeff Parker, Joel Ross & more), Eels, Katie Dey, Combo Chimbita, Thyla, MØ, Grivo, Vegyn, NLE Choppa, Nija, Lawnmower Deth, Deeper Graves, Dark Meditation, Russ Rankin (Good Riddance), Pinegrove, Scruffpuppie, Earthless, Gloves Off, Schedule 1, Jethro Tull, the Wish Kit EP, the Jacques Greene EP, the Squirrel Flower EP, the Loose Teeth EP, the posthumous Michael Chapman album, the Beirut comp, the Fruit Bats comp, and PJ Harvey's Let England Shake vinyl reissue + demos.
Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?
Anaïs Mitchell - Anaïs Mitchell
Anaïs Mitchell has been living in the shadow of Hadestown for years. What started out as Anaïs' own small stage show in 2006 became an epic 2010 concept album featuring Justin Vernon, Ani DiFranco, and more, and eventually a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical. At this point, it's become something bigger than Anaïs herself. She released more music after Hadestown (including her 2012 album Young Man In America, a 2013 album of traditionals with Jefferson Hamer called Child Ballads, and a 2014 album of re-recorded older material called Xoa), but her output slowed for a while until she re-emerged as 1/3 of the great folk rock supertrio Bonny Light Horseman with Josh Kaufman and Eric D. Johnson (Fruit Bats) in 2020. Bonny Light Horseman (who reportedly have a second album coming this year) proved to be much greater than the sum of its parts, and it sparked collaboration and creative rejuvenation outside of the band too. Josh Kaufman produced last year's Fruit Bats album, which captured a lot of the same charm as BLH, and Josh also ended up producing Anaïs Mitchell's new self-titled LP, her first solo album in a decade, which also features Bonny Light Horseman contributors Michael Lewis, JT Bates, and Aaron Dessner (of The National), and the same engineer as BLH (Bella Blasko), plus Thomas Bartlett (Doveman) and string and flute arrangements by Nico Muhly. "Working on Bonny Light Horseman the last couple of years has a lot to do with this record," Anaïs told Katherine Cusumano in a new interview with Stereogum. "There’s really a little community that had already worked together, and this felt like a bunch of friends getting in a room."
Like last year's Fruit Bats album, Anaïs' new album really does feel cut from the same cloth as the Bonny Light Horseman album. It's looser, freer, and more down to earth than Hadestown. "This album isn’t larger than life," she said in an interview with Dorian Lynskey for The Guardian. "It is life-sized." Indeed it is, and that doesn't mean that it's in any way a lesser work than Hadestown. It's a more honest, personal album, and it feels like the album Anaïs needed to make at this point in her career. Like a lot of late-career self-titled albums do, it feels like a chance to hit the creative reset button and reintroduce herself. And for Anaïs Mitchell, that means writing an album of warm, gorgeous folk songs that stand tall on their own, regardless of anything she'd done prior.
Cloakroom - Dissolution Wave
Cloakroom were one of the earliest leaders of the 2010s wave of Hum-influenced heavy shoegaze bands, and in the time since they put out their instant-classic 2013 debut Infinity, that sound went from being scattered amongst a few likeminded bands to becoming a full-fledged subgenre. Cloakroom haven't released any of their own music in five years -- and in the time since then, frontman Doyle Martin became a member of fellow heavy shoegaze band Nothing -- but now they're finally back with a new LP, and it's a great one. Dissolution Wave is intended as a "space western" concept album, "in which an act of theoretical physics—the dissolution wave—wipes out all of humanity’s existing art and abstract thought. In order to keep the world spinning on its axis, songsmiths must fill the ether with their compositions." It's shoegaze, so if you don't pick up on all of that from listening to the often-obscured lyrics, you're probably not alone, but even without being aware of the concept, you can tell that Dissolution Wave is some of Cloakroom's most ambitious music yet. It's an album that can be heavy, beautiful, and hypnotizing all at once, and it's got an array of different moods, from light jangly indie pop to trippy psychedelia to brick-heavy sludge metal, from relatively upbeat to glacial-paced. It never stays in the same place for too long, and it just gets better with every listen.
Babyface Ray - FACE
Babyface Ray had been a staple of the thriving Michigan rap scene for years, and he had a mainstream breakthrough with last year's Unfuckwithable. Now he follows that with new album FACE, and proves that even if he's getting more popular, he's not watering down his sound at all. If anything, FACE feels less pop-friendly than Unfuckwithable, with much of it focused on slow-paced, melancholic production and Ray's in-depth lyricism. Assists from Pusha T, 42 Dugg, G Herbo, Wiz Khalifa, Icewear Vezzo, Yung Lean, and Landstrip Chip help shake things up, but more than anything else, FACE proves that Babyface Ray remains one to watch.
Imarhan - Aboogi
Tuareg greats Imarhan return with a followup to 2018's Temet, Aboogi, which features collaborations with Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys (singing in his native Welsh), Sudanese singer Sulafa Elyas, Tinarwen’s Abdallah Ag Alhousseyn, and Tamanrasset poet Mohamed Ag Itlale (also known as Japonais), the latter of whom passed away shortly after this album was recorded. The album is rooted in traditional Tamasheq music and it's not sung in English, but it's easy to see why Imarhan have connected with so many people in the English-speaking indie rock world. As I also wrote when reviewing Temet in 2018, Imarhan's music has so much in common with the British/American definition of "psychedelic rock," and Aboogi is a trippy, hypnotic, guitar-based rock record that feels fresher than even some of today's biggest psychedelic rock bands. The melodies are arresting, the aura is transportive, and the music completely defies whatever language or cultural barriers that may exist.
For more on this album, read the band's list of music that influenced it.
Krallice - Crystalline Exhaustion
The thinkpieces on Brooklyn black metal may have died down, but hometown heroes Krallice are going as strong as they were a decade ago, regardless of whatever the latest trend in metal is. They've remained extremely prolific over the years, and they continue to push the boundaries of their own music. Crystalline Exhaustion follows last year's Demonic Wealth, and with six songs in 50 minutes, it's a shapeshifting journey through Krallice's unique version of avant-garde black metal that finds time for synthy ambient interludes, blackened brutality, tech-y freakouts, atmospheric climaxes, and even prominent use of marimba. And throughout all of that, it never gets too ambitious for its own good and it always puts strong melodies above anything else.
We don't have this album, but pick up three older Krallice albums on vinyl in the shop.
Amber Mark - Three Dimensions Deep
It's been about five years since NYC R&B singer Amber Mark stirred up buzz with her debut EP 3:33am, which was followed the following year by her sophomore EP Conexão, and though she's kept releasing singles since then, she's only just now finally putting out her debut full-length album, Three Dimensions Deep. A lot of those singles never ended up making it onto any other releases, but Three Dimensions Deep does include the five singles she put out in 2021, so if you heard those, you probably have a good idea of what to expect from the woozy, soul-searching R&B that this album has to offer. The 17-song album is split into three acts, Without, Withheld, and Within, and the result is a spiritual, philosophical concept album that examines both the self and the universe. With songs that channel modern alt-R&B, classic '90s R&B, neo-soul ballads, Prince-style synth-funk, and more, there's a good amount of different stuff going on here, and the musical variety is matched by Amber's thoughtful lyricism that rarely -- if ever -- relies on clichés. It was surprising that Amber waited so long to finally put out an album, but with a concept this focused, it makes sense why she had to weed out all those non-album singles along the way. The idea of the "album" has lost some of its significance in certain corners of the streaming-driven music world, but it's clear that it's an entity that Amber still strongly believes in.
Josephine Foster - Godmother
For over 20 years, Josephine Foster has written folk songs that feel like long-lost home recordings from the mid 20th century, songs that feel totally out of step with modern trends and production styles, and that have such an old soul and timeless quality that they sound as authentic as the artists who pioneered this style of music decades ago. Her latest album, Godmother, continues down that path, but it also brings in baroque arrangements, ambient textures, and electronic synths, making for an album that manages to feel both vintage and futuristic at once. It also, as Josephine explains, sounds a bit more out of this world. "You may notice me travelling a bit further sonically from our precious earth, aspiring to rise into broader astral perspective," she said in a statement, "to contemplate the light and origins of it all, as I do believe there is a grand source that is the sum of it all, us all. Performing all the parts on this recording, you may sense me focussing gestures of my singing into the instrumentation, which is a very great relief indeed, as the voice has such grand dreams to be set free." The embellishments are subtle enough that the album doesn't feel like too drastic of a departure, but it's just enough to shake up Josephine's time-tested formula.
Your Old Droog & Tha God Fahim - Tha Wolf On Wall St 2: The American Dream
Last year, the highly prolific rappers Your Old Droog and Tha God Fahim each released a handful of different projects, including two together, one of which was Tha Wolf On Wall St. We named that one one of our favorite rap albums of 2021, so it's exciting to learn that the pair's latest collab is intended as a sequel to that specific project. Tha Wolf On Wall St 2: The American Dream features beats by Nicholas Craven, Messiah Music, Fortes, and Conductor Williams, and like its predecessor, it's an offering of vintage-style boom bap that rivals the '90s greats it was influenced by. It also feels a little lighter in tone than the first Wolf On Wall St, but with just as much depth in the lyricism and just as effortlessly great.
Looking for more recent releases? Browse the Notable Releases archive or scroll down for previous weeks.
For even more metal, browse the 'Upcoming Releases' each week on Invisible Oranges.
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