Notable Releases of the Week (8/14)
Happy one week anniversary to "WAP"! It's all anyone can talk about, and for good reason. When was the last time a song made Republican politicians this angry? Of course it's not actually the only new music worth talking about and listening to this week. There's a (sorta) new Mr. Bungle song, a new Sufjan song, and more, and I wrote about five new albums below.
For some slightly older music, earlier this week we recapped some hardcore and folk albums that we love from 2020 so far, and for something much older, we looked back on underrated post-punk legends The Sound.
Before I get to my six picks, some honorable mentions: Black Noi$e (ft. Earl Sweatshirt, Danny Brown, MIKE & more), Young Dolph, Kath Bloom, Jim O'Rourke, Deathcave (ft. members of Botch and Black Breath), Busty and the Bass (ft. George Clinton, Macy Gray & more), A.G. Cook, Son Lux, Eric Slick, Jim Bob, Dave East, Kathleen Edwards, Bill Frisell, Titan to Tachyons, Bruce Hornsby (ft. Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, The Shins' James Mercer, Jamila Woods & more), the Twelve'Len EP, the Coi Leray EP, the Black Marble covers EP, the Tanya Donelly covers album, and the Whitney covers album.
Read on for my six picks. What's your favorite release of the week?
Boldy James - The Versace Tape
We don't deserve how prolific and consistently Boldy James and the Griselda crew have been this year. Boldy already released two full-length albums, The Price of Tea In China (produced entirely by The Alchemist) and Manger on McNichols (a live-band, jazz-rap album made with producer Sterling Toles), both of which are among the best rap albums of the year so far, and now he's got a third full-length, The Versace Tape, his debut for Griselda Records. It was produced by Jay Versace and executive produced by Griselda Records owner Westside Gunn, the latter of whom also releases his third album of 2020 this month, and there are even more Griselda albums on the horizon in the next month or so. Gunn and Griselda labelmate Keisha Plum appear on The Versace Tape's closing track "Roxycontin," which is as good as any of Boldy's collabs with the Buffalo crew this year ("Scrape the Bowl," "Claiborne Kick," "Buffs vs. Wires"), but other than that song and "Cartier" (ft. El Camino), Boldy handles all the rapping himself on The Versace Tape and he continues to be a force. As I said recently, his bassy delivery seems subdued on the surface, but once it sneaks up on you, it's deadly. If you've been keeping up with all the music Boldy already put out this year, his voice is probably already drilled into your brain, and The Versace Tape sounds like the effortlessly great victory lap that you're entitled to run after dropping projects as impactful as The Price of Tea In China and Manger on McNichols.
Burna Boy - Twice As Tall
It's been a while since we've seen a crossover Afrobeat star take off like Burna Boy, and not only is he increasingly popular, he's also highly prolific and basically everything he's touched lately has turned to gold. The past year has seen him release his excellent album African Giant, an EP with DJDS, standout collaborations with Beyonce and Stormzy, and more, and now he's already back with another highly accomplished full-length album. As ever, he breaks down barriers between genres and regions in a way that feels entirely natural. Diddy co-executive produced it, DJDS reprise their role on opening track "Level Up (Twice As Tall)," and other beats on the album come from a mix of Nigerian producers, American hip hop producers (Timbaland, Mike Dean), and UK hip hop (J Hus collaborator Jae5). Guests vary between African legend Youssou N’Dour, US rap vets Naughty by Nature (on a song also called "Naughty by Nature"), current grime king Stormzy, Coldplay's Chris Martin, and Kenyan Afro-pop group Sauti Sol. They all bring their own unique styles to the album, but Burna Boy always remains the star of the show and he makes everything fit into his world. African polyrhythms, reggae, funk, IDM, rap, R&B balladry, and so much more swirl together throughout this album, and Burna Boy delivers it with both starpower and artistic innovation. It's "pop" in the sense that it's accessible and would've had no trouble filling the very large venues Burna Boy was supposed to play on his 2020 North American tour that didn't happen, but not in the sense that anything is formulaic or predictable. Burna Boy remains a visionary, and if he keeps going at this rate, then we're probably still far from seeing him reach his full potential.
Young Jesus - Welcome to Conceptual Beach
Even more so than on their previous four albums, the Young Jesus of Welcome to Conceptual Beach sound like they've absorbed all kinds of different sounds from the past three decades of indie rock, and they package them together in a way that feels familiar and new at the same time. Throughout this album, you can hear Bon Iver-style vocoder, clamoring Slint/Sonic Youth-like jams, cleaner guitar excursions that fall somewhere between Built To Spill and American Football, Beirut-esque indie folk, Antlers-esque crescendos, some Talking Heads worship, some indie-friendly jazz passages, and more, and you usually get two or more of these things on the same song. (And maybe it's just the shared Talking Heads worship, but sometimes I hear a little early Local Natives.) Founder/frontman John Rossiter often favors a subdued vocal style on this album, but can still erupt into a post-hardcore roar when the song calls for it. It's easily their most ambitious album, and it just might be their best yet too.
Primitive Man - Immersion
Denver's Primitive Man haven't released a full-length album since their 2017 sophomore album Caustic, but that doesn't mean they haven't been busy. They released splits with Unearthly Trance and Hell and members released music with other projects like Black Curse and Many Blessings. With all this activity, it hardly feels like it's been a whole three years since an album, but it has, and Immersion is a triumphant return. Primitive Man have always been an extremely heavy band, and as impossible as this seems, Immersion just might be even heavier than their last album. It's got clearer production than Caustic, and that just makes them sound even more brutal. The thick, sludgy riffs hit you like a bag of bricks even more than they did on the last album, and the production allows for Ethan McCarthy's harsh roar to cut through the mix with even more ferocity. Primitive Man have also always been a sludge band with a noise side, and that comes through on this album too. Relapse lists both Thou and Merzbow as artists whose fans Primitive Man is recommended for, and Immersion kind of sounds like the exact middle ground between those two artists. And like both of them, it's abrasive but also tasteful and artistic. It's supremely heavy music that goes beyond pure heaviness. The attention to detail is staggering.
Arlo McKinley - Die Midwestern
Oh Boy Records
Ohio-born country singer Arlo McKinley released his debut album (as Arlo McKinley & the Lonesome Sound) back in 2014, and that album caught a few ears in the country scene, but it didn't make the mark that Arlo had hoped and he almost gave up on music entirely. One of the album's fans was Tyler Childers, who invited Arlo to open for him and sing on stage with him a few years later, and eventually that led to Arlo making a fan out of another famous person: the late, legendary John Prine, who signed Arlo to his Oh Boy Records label before passing away earlier this year. Arlo, now 40 years old, makes his Oh Boy debut with Die Midwestern, his first new music in six years and an album that's already shaping up to be a potential breakthrough. Die Western is more polished than Arlo's lo-fi debut -- he made it at Memphis' legendary Sun Studio with producer Matt Ross-Spang (Prine, Jason Isbell, Margo Price, etc) and a backing band of Ken Coomer (Uncle Tupelo, Wilco), Rick Steff (Cat Power, Hank Williams Jr.), and Reba Russell (Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison) -- so it sounds great, but it's not overly polished. Arlo comes from a punk/DIY background, and that mindset informs these songs as much as classic folk and country does. He especially reminds me of fellow Matt Ross-Spang collaborator Jason Isbell, and if you like Isbell's great new album, you may find that Die Midwestern pairs very well with it. Like a lot of great country singers, Arlo fills his songs with real-life hardships -- from heartbreak to addiction -- and when he opens his mouth to sing about everything he's been through in his 40 years on this planet, you feel it.
Ho99o9 - Blurr
Toys Have Powers / 999 Deathkult
Ho99o9 have been blurring the lines between real-deal rap and real-deal punk, rock, and metal for a few years now, and they've been putting out some pretty amazing collaborations lately too. They recently teamed with blink-182's Travis Barker to cover Bad Brains on a livestream, and today they released a new mixtape that they made in quarantine, Blurr, which features Eyehategod frontman Mike IX Williams on closing track "Firefly Family." It's a ripper, and Mike fits right in with Ho99o9's sound. The album also features Pink Siifu (on the song "Movie Night"), whose own 2020 album NEGRO pulls from both rap and punk, and N8NOFACE (on "Flesh 'N Blood"). As you'd expect from this group, the mixtape constantly hops between genres without ever losing focus. It's got stuff that could appeal to fans of anything from Flatbush Zombies to Denzel Curry to Death Grips to Nine Inch Nails to Godflesh to Bad Brains to Integrity to plenty of other music from all across the board. It's wild stuff, and it also comes with a video for the entire 34-minute mixtape.
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.