Five Notable Releases of the Week (9/2)
It's Labor Day Weekend, which means summer is basically over (not officially, but you know), and you're probably looking for something out of the ordinary to do. We've got a guide to concerts in and around NYC this weekend that you can check out, but maybe you're just having a BBQ or two. Surely you'll need some new music to blast as you're grilling, and I've picked five great new releases right here that you may wanna try out. One big honorable mention: the new Isaiah Rashad album.
Check out my picks below. What was your favorite release of the week?
As I'm writing this, Angel Olsen's new album isn't even officially out yet and "Shut Up Kiss Me" already feels like a contender for indie rock song of the year. Angel's last album, 2014's Burn Your Fire For No Witness, was one of the best of that year, but it still felt like a well-kept secret. You kinda had to be looking for it, and you probably needed some appreciation for '60s folk. But "Shut Up Kiss Me" lit a fire under the indie rock world, and it did it while staying both "indie" and "rock." It isn't winning people over because it's a pop song, it's doing so because it's so bold and so uninterested in hopping on someone else's bandwagon.
"Shut Up Kiss Me" is the best song on My Woman, but not by a longshot. This thing is stacked from start to finish, and really every song is its own beast. Angel rarely repeats herself here, and she gives the album the kind of arc where the only way to do it justice is by playing it front to back. It opens with the lead single "Intern," an atmospheric ballad that eases you right in. Then her folky side shows on "Never Be Mine," before going into the album's most rocking section, which begins with "Shut Up Kiss Me" and continues with "Give It Up" and "Not Gonna Kill You." Things get somber again after that, and as the album continues, it gets more and more adventurous. "Those Were The Days" is maybe the closest Angel's ever come to jazz. The seven-and-a-half-minute "Woman" lets Angel really stretch out and even get kinda jammy. And the closer, "Pops," is another ballad, but this time it's a lo-fi piano-led tune that recalls the home-at-3AM vibes of her earlier material. There's no question this is a major evolution for Angel Olsen -- if you miss that earlier material, you may even be disappointed. But if you welcome change, you may find it's her best album yet.
Ohio emo band Signals Midwest have been at it for a few years now, and they're back with their fourth album, At This Age, which emo's go-to guy Evan Weiss produced. You know Evan from Into It. Over It., The Progress, Their/They're/There, and a ton of other bands, and he's been a producer for You Blew It!, The Jazz June, and more. Evan's connected to emo's prime '90s era, the complicated mid-'00s era, and its current revival, and he's truly got a magic touch. That touch is all over this album, and if you like his music (or Bob Nanna's or Mike/Tim Kinsella's), you'll probably find something to dig here. These guys are so "Midwest emo" that they've even got "Midwest" in their name -- they're rooted in punk, they're sorta mathy, and they're melodic but not polished. It's everything you expect from a band like this. They're never reinventing the wheel, but they're tight and have a great knack for hooks, so it works.
While Kylesa are sadly on hiatus, the album filling their void this year is Helms Alee's fourth LP, Stillicide. The clean, psychedelic vocals of Dana James mixed with the harsher screams of Ben Verellen (formerly of Harkonen and Roy, the latter of which had his brother [and Botch drummer] Dave Verellen) is not far removed from Kylesa's Static Tensions/Spiral Shadow era. Not to get too caught up in that comparison though. Helms Alee are very much their own band and Stillicide is a uniquely great record. As Rob pointed out, the album's got elements of sludge, post-rock, math-rock, noise, and plain old hard rock, and with production from Converge's Kurt Ballou, it sounds great. It's also endlessly unpredictable. It gets heavy but also quiet, experimental but also accessible. It's one of the year's more distinct metal albums, and one with a lot of crossover appeal.
Back in the early '90s, Allison Wolfe helped pioneer riot grrrl with her band Bratmobile, and now she's keeping that spirit alive with a new band, Sex Stains. Allison co-fronts the band with Mecca Vazie Andrews (who has worked with Daft Punk, Toro y Moi, Marina Abramović and more), and the lineup also includes David Orlando (who has drummed for Warpaint), Sharif Dumani (who’s played with Cody Chesnutt), and Pachy Garcia. Like her old pal/fellow OG riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna is doing with her band The Julie Ruin, Sex Stains are staying true to the sound that Allison helped create but also sounding entirely modern. Like I said about The Julie Ruin too, part of that is surely because this sound is still so influential and relevant today. Sex Stains are signed to a label that's home to several bands who probably own a copy of Pottymouth (Don Giovanni) and touring with some of those bands too (Downtown Boys). It's a great thing to see these worlds colliding, and that new music is coming from it too -- not just nostalgia.
serpentwithfeet is the project of classically-trained vocalist Josiah Wise, who's currently based in NYC (after being born in Baltimore and spending time in Paris and London), where he's a regular in the queer music scene (maybe you saw him at The Maze in July). "I was like, ‘What would happen if I did my R&B thing over this classical shit?,'" Josiah said, and the result is his excellent debut EP blisters which is out today on the esteemed Tri Angle Records. Josiah wrote and produced the EP himself, with some additional production by his labelmate The Haxan Cloak, who also recently lent a hand to HEALTH, LUH, and The Body. With the R&B/classical combo and the very recent release of a Frank Ocean album with an orchestra, it's hard not to compare this to Frank, and the haunting melodies of EP closer "redemption" bring back some memories of that first James Blake album. It reminds me of when "alt-R&B" did actually mean something that was alternative to the mainstream, but that's not to say serpentwithfeet is destined to stay small. Tri Angle Records may be best known for signing outsider electronic artists, but it also helped launched the careers of How to Dress Well and AlunaGeorge. It's feeling very likely that serpentwithfeet is in the latter group.