It's already the last weekend of July (this summer is flying by!), and this is a particularly exciting week in the music world, as one of the most widely-anticipated albums of the past few years is finally here. That's not all though; it's one of eight that I highlight below, and Bill talks about more in Bill's Indie Basement, including of Montreal, Wombo, Tallies, Sun's Signature (Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins), the new Orbital comp, and more.

On top of that, honorable mentions: King Princess, Maggie Rogers, Psychic Ills & Gibby Haynes, Domo Genesis & Evidence, Stick To Your Guns, $uicideboy$, Kuedo, PHONY, Murder by Death, Josh Rouse, DC Gore, Funeral Chic, Reeking Aura, Gehenna, Whiskey Myers, Castrator, Cara Neir, Bastions, Haunted Horses, Wilder Maker, Patrick Holland, Bankroll Freddie, Wiz Khalifa, Deaton Chris Anthony, Domi & JD Beck, Black Magnet, Death Bells, Kaidi Tatham, Andrew Tuttle, Jamie T, the Tim Kinsella & Jenny Pulse EP, the Lava La Rue EP, the Bent Blue EP, the Anberlin EP, the Leon Vynehall EP, the Guilty Simpson EP, the Joe Armon-Jones & Mala EP, the Fotocrime covers EP, the Emily Yacina comp, and the Incantation comp.

Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?

Beyonce Renaissance
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Beyoncé - Renaissance
Parkwood/Columbia

Renaissance, Beyoncé's first album in six years and first since her world-conquering Lemonade (which we named the 8th best album of the 2010s), is finally here. And I don't wanna rush judgement on one of the most widely-anticipated albums of the year, but it's hard not to have some immediate thoughts on something you've been waiting this long for, and here's one: it's really fucking good. Read my full first-impressions review for more.

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Friendshi
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Friendship - Love the Stranger
Merge

If you've heard anyone talk about the Philly DIY band Friendship, you've probably heard words and phrases like "underrated" or "cult following." They've got three albums dating back to 2015, including two on Owen Ashworth's Orindal Records, and they're the kind of albums that you can't listen to without having an emotional reaction. Their folky, slightly countrified indie rock is deceptively simple, and lead singer Dan Wriggins packs so much weight into his plainspoken delivery. The solo EP that he put out last year is just as affecting. Well, maybe Friendship are finally about to get the recognition they deserve; they've signed to indie powerhouse Merge Records, and their label debut Love the Stranger is the most expansive thing they've released yet. Its 17 songs include fleshed-out versions of two tracks from Dan's solo EP, and the album covers so much more ground than Friendship albums ever have before. Dan sheds some light on why that is:

We all got to stretch out, chase our personal musical fixations, and build on each others’ work. Bradford Krieger, our engineer at Big Nice Studio, has a mind-blowing creative energy and hundreds (thousands?) of instruments. I wanted the album to sound like Emmylou Harris and the Hot Band in the ’70s. Pete wanted it to sound like a semi full of spent fuel rods, barreling towards a runaway truck ramp. Jon kept reminding us that the studio is an instrument, and Michael wanted it to sound like the breakdown two-and-a-half minutes into Shuggie Otis’ "Strawberry Letter 23."

Still, even with all that ambition, Love the Stranger manages to sound just as understated as any prior Friendship release. Even its most complex arrangements are delivered with subtlety, and that's the best way to let Dan's voice and lyricism shine. They cite artists like Lucinda Williams and their Merge labelmate Lambchop as influences, and similar to Lambchop's Kurt Wagner (or Pedro the Lion's David Bazan), Dan gets so much power across without ever raising his voice. It's the kind of album that stretches out like a wide open landscape. It seems calm and serene at first, but the more you let it consume you, the more it becomes overwhelming.

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Amanda Shires
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Amanda Shires - Take It Like A Man
ATO

The story of Amanda Shires' seventh album dates back to 2020, when Lawrence Rothman reached out to Amanda to see if she'd sing on their album Good Morning, America. Amanda said yes, which led to the song "Thrash the West," and then also led to Lawrence working on Amanda's 2021 Christmas album For Christmas. Amanda had been fresh off the acclaimed 2019 debut album by her supergroup The Highwomen (with Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, and Natalie Hemby) and her own great 2018 album To the Sunset, but she had considered throwing in the towel on her solo career. Lawrence convinced her otherwise, helped rekindle her love of music and songwriting, and she ended up writing over 20 potential songs for what would become Take It Like A Man. She whittled it down to 10 and hit the studio with Lawrence producing, and with contributions on several songs from her husband/frequent collaborator Jason Isbell, as well as their 400 unit bandmate Jimbo Hart, guest vocals from Maren Morris and Brittney Spencer, and more.

Take It Like A Man is a casually genre-defying mix of earthy country and folk songs, horn-fueled soul, jazzy balladry, swaggering rock, and more, and it finds Amanda writing some of the most painfully honest songs of her career, including songs that address issues that she and Jason had been having in their marriage without mincing words, and songs that find Amanda opening up about the time she's increasingly spent focusing on herself. "I'm uncomfortable with the idea of everything in the public seeming so perfect, and needing to be presented right," Amanda said in press materials for this album. "Just because people listen to Jason's records and go to his shows and whatnot doesn't mean they don't need to know that our marriages look exactly the same as theirs." She refers to the album as "a document of what the past few years have been like for me" and adds "everything on the record is autobiographical; I didn't hold anything back." That raw, unfiltered truth is what makes these songs hit harder than almost any others in Amanda's career, especially on the album's goosebump-inducing centerpiece "Fault Lines," a song so candid that Amanda almost left it off the album. As tempting as it can be to hide behind metaphor, albums like this one are a reminder of how powerful it is when you truly hold nothing back.

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Ithaca
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Ithaca - They Fear Us
Hassle

UK band Ithaca's 2019 debut LP The Language of Inquiry arrived just as the "metalcore revival" was gaining widespread attention, and it was the perfect time for that record, which proudly borrowed from the early 2000s Ferret/Trustkill Records sound that had been considered deeply uncool by tastemakers for two decades. Well, tastemakers be damned, that shit is everywhere again, and as with most revivals, the best bands are taking things far beyond just imitating their heroes. That's very true of Ithaca's sophomore album They Fear Us, one of the most inventive metalcore releases I've heard this year. More so than Ithaca's debut, the new album finds singer Djamila Yasmin Azzouz balancing out her vicious screams with clean-sung vocals powerful enough to fill an arena. On one hand, Ithaca offer up brutal mathcore chaos, and on the other, they seem unabashedly in love with radio-friendly pop. The final song even brings in shiny electronics that sound closer to The xx than to a metal band. The end result is even more antagonizing than a band that's just aggressive; Ithaca have figured out how to alienate "regular" people and metal purists all at once. It's the perfect musical backdrop for the album's lyrical themes, which are often about reclaiming power -- both personally and societally -- and getting vengeance on those who want to strip you of it. What better musical backdrop for challenging masculine power structures than an album that fucks with the formula of a too-often-male-dominated genre?

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Florist
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Florist - Florist
Double Double Whammy

Brooklyn's Florist have been making beautiful, delicate indie folk for a decade now. For their fourth full-length album, they've created a dreamy, pastoral soundscape, punctuated by birdsong and their tender songs, which sound fuller and more immediate than ever. They lived and recorded together in the Hudson Valley for a hot, rainy month during the summer of 2019 to make their new self-titled album, working in a more communal way than ever before; "We called it Florist because this is not just my songs with a backing band," says Emily Sprague. Both the process and the surrounding nature flourished in the resulting songs. At nineteen tracks (ten of which are interludes and instrumentals), Florist is not a quick or succinct listen, but rather a meandering walk on a sunlight-dappled path, emerging into sunlight for standouts like the gorgeous "Sci-Fi Silence." [Amanda Hatfield]

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Beach Rats
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Beach Rats - Rat Beat
Epitaph

Back in 2018, Lifetime's Ari Katz, Bouncing Souls members Pete Steinkopf and Bryan Keinlen, Bad Religion/Minor Threat/Dag Nasty guitarist Brian Baker, and drummer Danny "Dubs" Windas teamed up as Beach Rats and released the killer Wasted Time EP on Bridge 9. Four years and a pandemic later, they've signed to Epitaph and they've got a full-length album, Rat Beat, out now. Picking right up where the EP left off, Rat Beat is full of under-two-minute rippers that sound straight out of the '80s hardcore scene, and it's no surprise that Beach Rats pull this off, with a guitarist who helped invent that kind of music joined by musicians who were raised on it. And Beach Rats are not trying to reinvent anything; they're just playing music they love. "You’re gonna get authentic punk and hardcore from Beach Rats because we are all from the '80s," Bryan Keinlen says. "It’s literally taking it back to some of our biggest influences like Negative Approach and Poison Idea, And of course, Minor Threat." Brian Baker adds, "You get into a practice room with no agenda and you start fucking around and a chord progression becomes the verse. Then comes the chorus, the breakdown. Then, maybe a weird part. That’s it." It's a thrill to hear these guys do something so fun, timeless, and void of frills, and it just hits different when you're OGs and lifers like the members of this band are. I'm not sure Brian Baker has written riffs like these since he was in Minor Threat, and what a treat to hear Ari Katz delivering his most snot-nosed punk songs since the last Lifetime album. Beach Rats don't take themselves overly seriously, and you shouldn't either. Just do what they're doing and let yourselves enjoy one of the most fun styles of music ever invented.

Pick up Rat Beat on clear vinyl.

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Chat Pile
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Chat Pile - God's Country
The Flenser

"We’re trying to capture the anxiety and fear of seeing the world fall apart," Chat Pile bassist Stin told Nat Lacuna in a recent interview for New Noise. As an Oklahoma band, they were also "very consciously [trying] to express and represent the feeling of living in the southern plains," Stin adds, and that's evident from the album's sarcastic title of God's Country alone. "The title is very silly and had the potential for so much darkness," vocalist Raygun Busch added, and it's true; you can envision the band rolling their eyes at the title, but it also induces a feeling of horror. Chat Pile's music does the same. Pulling from bands that toe the line between noise rock, post-hardcore, and sludge metal like the Melvins, The Jesus Lizard, and Unsane, Chat Pile have crafted a sneering, punishing musical backdrop to spew their hatred towards a country that favors the rich, eats the poor, and reinforces a system that was built on oppression. From the discordant arrangements to Raygun's sardonic delivery, it's an album that will likely leave you feeling some mix of hopeless, angry, and uncomfortable, which is entirely the point.

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Maxo Kream
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Maxo Kream - Weight of the World (Deluxe)
RCA

Houston rapper Maxo Kream's Weight of the World was one of our favorite albums of 2021, so we're excited that now it has a deluxe edition with six new tracks, and a handful of exciting guests including Benny the Butcher, Anderson .Paak, and BabyFace Ray. (Not to mention the original version already featured Tyler the Creator, A$AP Rocky, Freddie Gibbs, Monaleo, and Don Toliver.) The unique charm that Maxo brought to the original album is all over these new songs too; not many people disguise in-depth lyrical bars as deceptively simple hooks quite the way he does.

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Read Bill's Indie Basement for more new album reviews, including of Montreal, Wombo, Tallies, Sun's Signature (Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins), the new Orbital comp, and more.

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.

And check out what's new in our shop.

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Soccer Mommy vinyl
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