Notable Releases of the Week (3/31)
A lot's happened in the music world this week. Goldenvoice announced a new hard rock & heavy metal festival taking place in the same place as Coachella called Power Trip with Ozzy Osbourne, AC/DC, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Guns N' Roses, and Tool; Operation Ivy's Tim Armstrong and Jesse Michaels reunited in a new band called Bad Optix; Be Your Own Pet released their first song in 15 years; and more. On top of that, it's an even more stacked week for new albums than last week was. I highlight 16 below, and Bill tackles more in Indie Basement, including The New Pornographers, Deerhoof, A Certain Ratio, Sondre Lerche, and Murray A. Lightburn (of The Dears).
On top of those, here a bunch of honorable mentions: Samiam, The Hold Steady, The Zombies, Molina, Lofgren, Talbot & Young, DJ Drama, Juicy J, Steve Gunn & David Moore, Louis IV (ft. Mick Jenkins, Moses Boyd & more), Chlöe, William Tyler & The Impossible Truth, The No Ones (R.E.M. Minus 5, Baseball Project), The Bar Stool Preachers, Matt Elliott, Rob Mazurek, OHHMS, A$AP Ant, Rotten Sound, Common Sense Kid, Spirit Possession, Alasdair Roberts, City and Colour, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Lucidity, Alberta Cross, Baaba Maal, Eddie Chacon, James Holden, Nova One, PACKS, Sunsetter, Fox Teeth, Buzzy Lee, Leggy, Luh Tyler, Miniaturized, nothing,nowhere., Rachel Baiman, Pépe, Piotr Kurek, Tzusing, Scott McMicken, Jared Mattson, the Ric Wilson, Chromeo & A-Trak EP, the Barrie EP, the Michigander EP, the Rosie Thomas EP, the dust EP, the TDJ EP, the Puscifer remix album, the deluxe edition of Tyler, the Creator's Call Me If You Get Lost, The Who's live orchestral album, and the Dead Moon comp.
Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?
Boygenius - The Record
When Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus first came together as Boygenius, they had originally only intended to do a 7" to be sold on their 2018 tour together. Once they got to writing, they came out with a lengthier, now-beloved EP, and in the years that followed, the trio continued to appear on songs together, including tracks on Hayley Williams' 2020 album Petals For Armor, Phoebe's 2020 album Punisher, Julien's 2021 album Little Oblivions, and Lucy's 2021 album Home Video. As we know now, a week after Punisher came out, Phoebe sent Julien and Lucy a demo and asked if the trio could be a band again. That demo was of "Emily I'm Sorry," one of the 12 tracks that makes up Boygenius' first full-length album, The Record, out now via their new major label home of Interscope Records. The trio have proved to have such natural chemistry over the years, and that continues for the entirety of The Record. Each member's distinct voice and songwriting style shines at various points, and the record always gets taken to another level when the three of them harmonize together. The record is full of the kinds of gorgeously intimate indie folk songs that these three have a reputation for making, but it's also got hard-edged rock songs like "Satanist," "Anti-Curse," and "$20," the last of which is a rare Boygenius song with screaming. And then there's "Not Strong Enough," which not only calls back to Sheryl Crow's "Strong Enough"; it's also a jangly folk rock song that sounds like it could've been a hit for Crow in the '90s or early 2000s. It's a subtly diverse record, and the more you listen, the more new songs stand out as potential highlights. It's full of clever turns of phrase, melodic surprises, as many pop culture references as their recent photoshoots (including songs titled "Leonard Cohen" and "Revolution 0"), and all the conversational-yet-devastating lyricism you'd expect from these three.
There's also an accompanying Kristen Stewart-directed film, which doubles as the music videos for the first three singles:
Gel - Only Constant
The track on NJ hardcore band Gel's debut full-length that seems poised to get the most people talking is the one that isn't a proper song at all. "Calling Card" is an atmospheric interlude track made up of voicemails from fans. One of them says "hardcore for the fucking freaks," a phrase that's become Gel's de facto slogan. "From the beginning of Gel, we never — for lack of a better term — gelled with the broader hardcore world," guitarist Anthony Webster said in a recent Stereogum feature. "Especially now, post-COVID, there’s a lot of young new kids, and a lot of pushback against those new kids from voices in the broader hardcore space. And I just don’t wanna be that person pushing them away. So I guess like, the whole hardcore for the freaks thing, we adopted in like 2019, and it really fully feels true now."
Gel formed in 2018, with three members who had previously played in the powerviolence-leaning band Sick Shit, and they gradually rose, with a series of increasingly good demos, EPs, promos, and as many live shows as they could play. Things really started to take off as the world began coming out of lockdown, with Gel stirring up more buzz than ever for their 2021 EP Violent Closure and their 2022 split with Cold Brats, and now Only Constant arrives as the culmination of everything Gel had been working towards. "Hardcore for the freaks" describes it perfectly; there's some garagey psychedelia, there's raw punk, there's chuggy hardcore, there's a dance beat, there's a tunefulness despite vocalist Sami Kaiser always sounding like they're tearing their vocal cords apart. Only Constant sounds antagonizing, but Gel are entirely welcoming. There's a little something in there for so many different types of hardcore fans, and as Gel's shows keep getting bigger, there's room for all the freaks to meet up in the pit.
LIES - LIES
As American Football were gearing up to write their fourth album, the pandemic forced the band's writing sessions to go virtual, and it wasn't working for the band, whose unique style was born out of in-person collaboration, especially guitarist Steve Holmes and drummer and trumpet player Steve Lamos, the latter of whom left the band in 2021. (He's back in it now.) But for Mike and his cousin Nate Kinsella, virtual collaboration was something they'd done even before the pandemic, and the pair had also begun experimenting with things like synthesizers and electronic drums and coming up with songs that existed outside of American Football's usual wheelhouse. So, they formed LIES, whose self-titled debut album is out now via Polyvinyl. It finds them leaning into influences like Depeche Mode, The Cure, Peter Gabriel, Robyn, and Majical Cloudz, influences that were mostly always there, but that Owen or American Football would've covered up with a noodly guitar riff or an odd time signature. With LIES, Mike and Nate embrace the new-wavey moves that their '80s heroes would've made, but even with a more synthetic exterior, LIES still sounds unmistakably like the work of Mike Kinsella. His singing and songwriting style remains unique, even when he's intentionally paying homage to another artist, and LIES is the kind of album that fits right in with the Kinsella canon.
Listen to our new podcast episode with Mike and Nate for much more on this album, some updates on American Football, and more, and pick up our exclusive dark blue vinyl variant of the LIES album.
Omnigone - Against The Rest
Bad Time Records
When former Link 80 member Adam Davis started Omnigone in 2018, he just wanted to play ska-punk again, but he didn't think anyone would care. Joined by former Link 80 bandmate Barry Krippene on bass and Reece Noble (brother of Link 80 vocalist Ryan Noble) on drums, Omnigone put out a self-titled EP in early 2019, and later that year they released their debut full-length record, No Faith, on a small new label called Bad Time Records. The album was made with a rotating cast of contributors, including members of We Are The Union, Rx Bandits, and more, and it became one of the early records associated with the now-fast-growing New Tone movement that Bad Time has been at the center of. Inspired by the recent influx of amazing ska and ska-punk records, Omnigone leveled up for their sophomore LP Against The Rest. For the first time in the band's career, they demoed everything in advance, wrote and rewrote parts. They made it with a trusted producer, Jack Shirley (Jeff Rosenstock, Joyce Manor, Deafheaven, etc), and they put a ton of emphasis on coming out with a great-sounding record. It once again features a rotating cast of contributors, this time featuring guest vocals from members of The Suicide Machines, Joystick, Half Past Two, Morrow, and more, and instrumentation from members of Rx Bandits, Catbite, Flying Raccoon Suit, and more, and it really does sound leaps and bounds ahead of what Omnigone were doing on the already-great No Faith. The formula is similar to that album and Link 80--upbeat ska meets fast-paced hardcore punk--but the production is more crisp, the band is tighter, and the songs are stronger. Adam told us in a recent interview that one of the record's biggest themes is "making the most of the time you have," adding, "It’s a horrible misconception that you’re done at 30. There is no reason to stop making art, to stop making music, to give up on dreams. At 46 I am still growing and changing, testing my limits and challenging my own beliefs." With Against The Rest, Adam walks the walk. It's an album that goes so far beyond "ex-Link 80"; it's fresh, urgent music that'll hit whether you're coming to this as a longtime fan of Adam's work or a ska-punk-curious newcomer.
Faintest Idea - The Road To Sedition
TNSrecords / Jump Start Records
It's a very good week to be a fan of ska-punk with an emphasis on punk. In addition to the Omnigone album, we also get the first album in seven years from UK band Faintest Idea. (Not to mention a new band from Operation Ivy's Jesse Michaels and Tim Armstrong.) Having formed in 2008, Faintest Idea were one of the bands who helped keep ska-punk alive after the third wave had died down but New Tone hadn't solidified yet, and they remain one of the best and most unique ska-punk bands of the past 15 years. They hail from the country that birthed both 2 Tone and UK82-style street punk, and both of those things come through in Faintest Idea, a tough, working-class band with a sound that can unite the hardest punks and the ska historians. They've got big bright horn lines, nods to early Jamaican ska, and a rough punk exterior, and they've also got politically conscious lyrics that tackle war, climate change, economic inequality, and other ever-pressing issues. And they haven't let the gap between albums slow them down; so much has changed in the world since they released 2016's Increasing the Minimum Rage, but Faintest Idea sound just as vital on The Road to Sedition as they did back then.
Zelooperz - Microphone Fiend
Since releasing his excellent 2021 album Van Goghs Left Ear, the eccentric Detroit rapper Zelooperz took an R&B/soul-inspired detour on 2022's Get WeT.Radio and then dropped the brief Might Not Make It EP this past January, but now he returns with his lengthiest, most expansive project since Van Goghs, Microphone Fiend. It's got production on multiple songs from frequent collaborator Dilip, alongside 454, Chuck Inglish, Zelooperz himself, and a few others, and it just has three guests: Young Coco, the aforementioned 454, and R&B singerJessie Robbie. Not that it needs many guests; Zelooperz himself has like six different voices and personas through the album, constantly keeping you on your toes and making unpredictable left turns. Microphone Fiend has the raw energy of a DIY punk band and the scope of a peak-era Kanye record; it's some of his most ambitious work yet.
Lamp of Murmuur - Saturnian Bloodstorm
Not Kvlt/Night of the Pale Moon/Argento
Lamp of Murmuur is already a household name in households that talk about underground lo-fi black metal, but the band--led by enigmatic multi-instrumentalist M.--seem to be coming out of their shell lately. After putting out multiple recordings over the course of three years (including a very limited tape run of his first demo that now goes for 70 bucks on Discogs), Lamp of Murmuur finally debuted a full-band live show in 2022, including a massive Roadburn appearance, and now they've put out their new album Saturnian Bloodstorm, which is their first release on streaming services. It's more accessible in the very literal sense that you can stream it everywhere, but also in the sense that the production is much clearer than the band's early lo-fi material, and the songs are noticeably catchier. Even the album art has more color and clarity than any Lamp release before it. "I felt I didn't want this album to sound the same as the others," M. told Invisible Oranges. "I felt it was time to make an affirmation of my own existence, an affirmation of my strength and vitality, to make an invigorating record." M. cites albums like Immortal's At The Heart Of Winter and Satyricon's Volcano as influences on the clearer sound ("all these albums that appeared during a weird time for black metal, in the early 2000s, when the big bands were going extremely big with their sound"), and chalks the melodic side up to combining black metal with the influence of classic hard rock and heavy metal bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Dio, and Black Sabbath. Read IO's full interview for much more on this remarkable LP.
Mystic 100’s - On A Micro Diet
Olympia, WA's Mystic 100's emerged in the late 2000s / early 2010s under the name Milk Music with a brand of swampy indie rock that hearkened back to proto-grunge bands like Dinosaur Jr and Meat Puppets. A couple of tracks on their early records also hinted at the Grateful Dead and Crazy Horse jams that inspired Milk Music's own SST-signed forebears, and on On A Micro Diet--the band's third full-length and first under the name Mystic 100's--they go full jam band. Multiple tracks on this album are sprawling, freeform jams that clock in between the seven and ten minute marks. One is nineteen minutes. These jams wander, but they never lose focus. Like the best live Dead tapes, Mystic 100's go off into outer space with purpose; they create a feeling that pulls you in. And they remain great songwriters too. Guitarist/vocalist Alex Coxen--whose voice can sound a little like Tom Verlaine--punctuates these jams with hooks that really pop out. On A Micro Diet reminds you that the lengthy jams are worth it when they've got something substantial to land on.
Nakhane - Bastard Jargon
For their third album, South African artist Nakhane aimed to balance the rage they feel in the world as a Black queer person with the love, sex, and other forms of pleasure that are just as integral to who they are as a person. To help them achieve this, Nakhane recruited the legendary Nile Rodgers, who executive produced and played on Bastard Jargon, an art pop journey that sounds like a cross between Prince, Grace Jones, and past Nakhane collaborator ANOHNI. Perfume Genius, 3D of Massive Attack, Moonchild Sanelly, Raphael Saadiq, and others contribute to the LP as well. It's a feel-good album, both lyrically and musically, and it's also an interesting, innovative album that defies easy categorization. It's an album that wants you to feel, think, and dance all at once.
Kommand - Death Age
20 Buck Spin
If you're into the whole hardcore-adjacent death metal thing, then Kommand (an LA death metal band whose members did time in Hoax, Trash Talk, Lock, Warfare, and more) needs to be on your radar. Following two self-released demos in the late 2010s, they put out their debut LP Terrorscape on Maggot Stomp in 2020, nabbed a co-sign from Converge vocalist Jacob Bannon, and then signed to 20 Buck Spin for their killer sophomore LP Death Age. The album clocks in at 26 minutes, and that brief runtime is all you need to fall in love with Kommand's gnarly, no-frills death metal. The production is swampy yet tight (Arthur Rizk mixed and mastered), and Kommand have got some heroic guitars on this album, but they stay true to the simplicity and brevity of their hardcore roots. Regardless of subgenre, they know that hitting with blunt force results in great heavy music, and that's what they do for the entirety of Death Age.
London Brew - London Brew
Because of the genre's love of improvisation and re-interpretation, jazz pieces are rarely ever set in stone. Some of the greatest jazz recordings of all time have been responding to or re-imagining someone else's composition, and that's exactly what London Brew have done with their self-titled debut album. It's a collective featuring some of the brightest voices in and around the UK jazz scene--including Nubya Garcia, Shabaka Hutchings (Sons of Kemet, The Comet Is Coming, Shabaka and the Ancestors), Tom Skinner (Sons of Kemet, The Smile), Theon Cross (Sons of Kemet), Dave Okumu (The Invisible), Benji B, and more--and as the name implies, the music was inspired by Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, but also by the city of London--its creativity and its struggles. It's not a covers album or a tribute album; it's an entirely new album (with some Miles samples) that carries on the spirit of one of Miles' most beloved works. Shabaka defines Bitches Brew as "a bunch of musicians making music because of the love of making music, as a social force and as a social construct," and that's what London Brew is too. It takes you on a vast journey off the bat, opening with a 23-minute song, and it covers so much ground, from improv jazz to psychedelic rock to hip hop production. It's a stunning, immersive project that defies genres and eras and expectations. Miles would be proud.
B. Cool-Aid - Leather Blvd.
B. Cool-Aid is the duo of rapper Pink Siifu and producer Ahwlee, but Leather Blvd.--their first full-length album since their 2017 debut LP BRWN--is much more multi-faceted and has much more going on than what you might expect from a "duo album." That's because Siifu and Ahwlee recruited a collective of musicians operating in the spirit of the Soulquarians, the many-membered group of musicians who contributed to classic albums like The Roots' Things Fall Apart, Erykah Badu's Mama's Gun, and Common's Electric Circus. They brought in DJ Harrison, leader of jazz/hip hop band Butcher Brown, to create original, live-instrumentation pieces that Ahwlee could apply his sample-heavy style to. "Over the years, I’ve been hella in the crates," Ahwlee said in press materials for the album. "Just sample, sample, sample [but] I’ve [also] been working on my own musicianship over the past two or three years. So having them [Butcher Brown] jump on it was just inspiration." They also brought in a slew of other vocalists, ranging from forebears to peers, including Ladybug Mecca of Digable Planets, V.C.R, Liv.e, MoRuf, Denmark Vessey, Quelle Chris, Nita Darling, Big Rube of Dungeon Family, Jimetta Rose, Devin Morrison, Foushée, and more. The result is a lush, communal album that toes the line between jazz-rap and neo-soul. It does justice to the '90s-era albums that paved the way for B. Cool-Aid, but Siifu, Ahwlee, and their friends make it their own.
Larry June & The Alchemist - The Great Escape
Larry June is a San Francisco rapper who's been really taking off these past few years, and he's already got more albums, mixtapes, and EPs than the average person would ever be able to keep track of. He often picks beats that are steeped in West Coast tradition, but he's got love for the East Coast too. In 2020, he did a project with NYC producer Harry Fraud (Keep Going), and now he's got an entire album produced by The Alchemist, who's more responsible than almost anyone for keeping the sound of New York's boom bap era alive today. Larry and Alc have worked together before--including on Jay Worthy's 2020 track "Rainy Night In SF," when Larry appeared on Curren$y and The Alchemist's 2022 album Continuance, and when Alc produced a track on Larry's 2022 album Spaceships on the Blade--but this is their first time doing an entire project together. Both do what they do best, and they prove to have a ton of chemistry. Alchemist's beats are smokey and hypnotic, and Larry matches the mood with bars that are both laid-back and perfectly in the pocket. The sunset-colored hues of the "60 Days" video set the tone for the entire album. It's loaded with cool guests; Action Bronson, Joey Bada$$, Boldy James, Evidence, Jay Worthy, and members of Slum Village sound as great over Alchemist beats as you'd expect, and Big Sean shows up with a verse that proves he can compete with the classicistic rap underground when he really wants to. The Great Escape is yet another addition to Alchemist's seemingly-endless recent string of great albums produced entirely by him, and it feels like it could be one that turns a lot of new people onto Larry too. If you've yet to dive into his already-extensive catalog, this wouldn't be a bad place to start.
Katie Gately - Fawn / Brute
Experimental art pop artist Katie Gately returns with Fawn / Brute, the followup to 2020's Loom. It was inspired by the birth of her first daughter, and the album is split into two halves. The "Fawn" half is, in Katie's words, "childlike and upbeat," because "[she] wanted the album to feel like something [her] daughter could enjoy as she grew up," while the "Brute" half is inspired by the "volcano of emotion, angst, and conflict" we feel as we enter our teenage years. Fittingly, the second half of the album sounds darker, weirder, and more abrasive than the first. There's a clear shift in mood as the album enters its second half, but the whole thing flows seamlessly. And as with most of Katie's work, Fawn / Brute presents a warped view of pop music. Her songs are powered by erratic percussion, buzzing synths, and off-kilter melodies that range from whimsical to eerie. If you've been obsessed with those new Fever Ray and Yves Tumor records, you might find that this one scratches a similar itch.
NOIA - gisela
NOIA (aka Gisela Fulla-Silvestre) follows EPs from 2016 and 2019 with her first full-length album, gisela, out now via Cascine. She made the album while living between NYC and Barcelona, and it features her singing in Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, and English. It also features a variety of different styles of music, ranging from Mediterranean folk music to thumping house-pop to reggaeton to experimental electronic manipulation, and she gets help from Buscabulla, Ela Minus, and Maria Arnal along the way. Gisela also made us a very intriguing list about the specific influences behind the album, and you can read that here.
Davido - Timeless
Davido reminds you why he's become one of Afropop's biggest crossover stars with his fourth album Timeless. Its diasporic sound pulls from Afrobeat, reggae, hip hop, and more, with guests ranging from Angélique Kidjo to Skepta to Asake, and the whole 17-song, 50-minute album is a breeze to listen to.
Read Bill's Indie Basement for more new album reviews, including The New Pornographers, Deerhoof, A Certain Ratio, Sondre Lerche, and Murray A. Lightburn (of The Dears).
Looking for more recent releases? Browse the Notable Releases archive or scroll down for previous weeks.
Looking for a podcast to listen to? Check out our new episode with Mike & Nate Kinsella of American Football and LIES.