Notable Releases of the Week (2/19)
This is a hugely stacked week for new music. I highlight 13 new albums below, and here are a bunch of honorable mentions: Pauline Anna Strom (her first album in 30 years, released after her 2020 death), Socioclast, STR4TA, Suffering Hour, Fat Ray, Ponzo Houdini, Katy Kirby, Julia Stone, Lael Neale, The Lasso, Harakiri for the Sky, Jim Jones & Harry Fraud, Ex:Re with 12 Ensemble, Adeline Hotel, Mister Goblin, SG Lewis, Kid Congo EP, the Through Sand (mem Shai Hulud, Gouge Away) EP, the Hand Habits EP, the Mr. Eazi EP, the Ebhoni EP, the Lacrima (mem Funeral Diner, You and I, Coma Regalia, etc) EP, the Perfume Genius remix album, and The Fall's live album.
Also this week, we sadly lost three iconic musicians: reggae/dancehall pioneer U-Roy, Prince Markie Dee of The Fat Boys, and Françoise Cactus of long-running German/French indie duo Stereo Total. Rest in peace.
Read on for my picks for this week's Notable Releases. What's your favorite release of the week?
Cassandra Jenkins - An Overview on Phenomenal Nature
Ba Da Bing
Having established herself as a promising folky singer/songwriter on her 2017 debut LP Play Till You Win, Cassandra Jenkins is now finally back with a followup and it majorly levels up from her already-good debut. Warm, '70s-style folk music is still one of the big influences here, but Overview also finds Cassandra embracing a sophisti-pop/indie rock blend that's not unlike Kaputt-era Destroyer or the new Weather Station album. The album features production and guitar by everywhere-man Josh Kaufman (who's in Bonny Light Horseman, Muzz, and much more), as well as some sax by the equally in-demand Stuart Bogie (Arcade Fire, Antibalas, etc), and Cassandra really gels with both of them and comes out with gorgeous, unique arrangements all throughout this LP. The instrumentals alone on this album are gripping enough to stop you in your tracks, but sealing the deal is Cassandra's lyricism and vocal delivery, which feel casual and conversational but also poetic and quietly devastating. She often eschews traditional verse-chorus-verse structure and unveils her lyrics in a stream-of-consciousness style, drawing you into the stories and characters that live in these songs. She's created an entire world with this album, and it's easy to get lost in it.
The Best of the Worst - Better Medicine
Bad Time Records/Choke Artist
NJ ska-core band The Best of the Worst have been a band for 14 years, but they've only released one full-length (back in 2013) and they haven't put out a proper studio release of any kind since 2017. In the time since then, there's been a lot of increased attention on the ska scene, thanks in part the 2018 foundation of Bad Time Records, which has really helped bring together today's best ska-punk bands from all around the world and helped shine a light on how much the genre is thriving. Better Medicine is TBOTW's second-ever full-length and first for Bad Time (who are co-releasing it with the band's own Choke Artist label), and with all this momentum behind the genre and the label right now, there's been a lot of anticipation for this LP. Not only does Better Medicine deliver on that anticipation, it marks a clear step forward for the band and just might be the best thing they've ever done.
Following in the footsteps of bands like Folly and The Flaming Tsunamis, The Best of the Worst make ska-core where the "-core" part pulls from the chugging, throat-shredding sounds of hardcore and metalcore, and TBOTW have fully mastered the art of going from extremely heavy music to light, upbeat ska at the drop of a hat; their horn-lines are as fiery as their breakdowns. But Better Medicine does much more than just carry the torch for 2000s ska-core. The album has also has warm, indie rock-friendly production that makes it fit in with today's indie-punk scene, and there's a lot of poppier indie and punk in the music too. There's an array of vocalists and vocal styles on the album, and as with many bands associated with the New Tone ska movement, there's a real purpose to these songs. Better Medicine is an album concerned with bettering yourself and bettering the world around you. It's as progressive lyrically as it is musically, and it's a reminder that both this band and ska in general are still pushing forward.
Hazing Over - Pestilence EP
When the 2019 Shin Guard/For Your Health Death of Spring split took the screamo world by storm, I don't think anybody could've guessed what those two bands would end up doing two years later. Last week, FYH released their excellent debut LP In Spite Of, which is about 20 minutes of genre-defying post-hardcore that barely count as "screamo," and Shin Guard definitely aren't screamo anymore. They aren't even Shin Guard. They underwent some lineup changes and are now called Hazing Over, and they're embracing the hardcore, metalcore, and deathcore influences that got them into heavy music in the first place. The first taste of the new sound is the four-song Pestilence EP, which is a pulverizing culmination of all the music that's been inspiring them lately. When we asked them to name the five biggest influences on this EP, they named deathcore icons Job For A Cowboy, their own Pennsylvania metalcore peers Kaonashi, grindcore/powerviolence band Escuela Grind, mathcore legends Botch, and Japanese heavy shoegazers Coaltar of the Deepers. That's a pretty diverse list of bands, and honestly, you can hear all of that coming through on these four songs. There's definitely some deathcore, making Hazing Over one of the latest bands to proudly revive much-maligned Myspace genres, but they're doing it in a way that feels genuine and brings fresh perspective to the genre. Elsewhere on the EP, they work in ethereal electronics on "Jock," a riff that sounds like Bleach-era Nirvana on the title track, and some American Nightmare/Modern Life Is War-style melodic hardcore on EP closer "Ungodly." There's a lot more going on than just 2000s metalcore/deathcore revival, just like Shin Guard were really always doing more than just '90s screamo revival. No matter what this band does, they make it their own, and Pestilence has me very much looking forward to what they decide to tackle next.
Ghetts - Conflict of Interest
UK rapper Ghetts has been a staple of grime since the genre's initial mid 2000s boom, and as UK rap continues to evolve and morph with other sounds from all around the world, so does Ghetts. His latest album and Warner debut barely qualifies as grime and if you didn't know any better, you might mistake it for a new artist just going by how hungry and fresh Ghetts sounds on it. Sometimes the album reminds you of the brash spitter that the world met 15 years ago (back when Ghetts was still known as Ghetto), but it often owes a lot to moody American R&B, and Conflict of Interest is as effective when it's somber and introspective as when it's aggressive and in-your-face. It's stacked with impressive guest appearances, from fellow vets to promising newcomers, including Skepta, Stormzy, Pa Salieu, Dave, Giggs, Emeli Sandé, Miraa May, and more, and the guests all fit in naturally and don't just feel like they're there to boost sales of Ghetts' major label debut. Even when Ed Sheeran shows up on "10,000 Tears," the album resists catering to the mainstream. It's long, but it's also an album you can't judge from just one or two songs. Even all the pre-release singles couldn't quite prepare you for the album's lyrical and musical depth.
Your Old Droog & Tha God Fahim - Tha YOD Fahim
Tha God Fahim and Your Old Droog's recent collaborative album Tha Wolf On Wall St is one of the year's best '90s boom bap style albums, and just three weeks later, they're already back with another collaborative LP. The two rappers are still taking cues from the same era on this one, and it's still largely produced by Tha God Fahim, who handled all of Tha Wolf On Wall St's beats (plus it has some production by Quelle Chris, Preservation, Nottz, and more), but it's a noticeably different album. Its predecessor was dark, somber, and deadly; in comparison, this one feels brighter, louder, and more lively. It makes sense that this album has artwork and song titles that are full of basketball references, and its predecessor was named after a Scorcese film full of crime, corruption, hard drugs, and extravagance. These new songs have the same energy as a buzzer shot.
Indigo Sparke - Echo
Indigo Sparke is a singer/songwriter from Australia who since moved to the US, where she met Big Thief, whose Adrianne Lenker ended up co-producing her debut album Echo with frequent Big Thief producer Andrew Sarlo. Indigo is also backed on the album by Big Thief's rhythm section (drummer James Krivchenia and bassist Max Oleartchik), and it features Nick Hakim (on "Baby"), co-writing by Shahzad Ismaily (on "Dog Bark Eecho"), and engineering/mixing by Phil Weinrobe (who worked on Adrianne and Buck Meek's solo albums, plus Leonard Cohen, and others). That's all worth mentioning because Big Thief/Adrianne Lenker fans will probably like this album, but more specifically, these haunting, dreamlike folk songs remind me of stuff like Mazzy Star, Indigo's Sacred Bones labelmate Marissa Nadler, and early Angel Olsen. It's very somber music, not the kind of album that jumps out at you, but one that gradually sucks you in. And it achieves a lot with very little; these songs often have almost nothing more than Indigo's voice and acoustic guitar, and no matter how minimal the album gets, it remains gripping.
The Hold Steady - Open Door Policy
Positive Jams/Thirty Tigers
Coincidentally (?) being released the same day as Cassandra Jenkins' new album is The Hold Steady's new album, which features contributions from Cassandra, was also produced by Josh Kaufman, and also has Stuart Bogie on the sax. It follows 2019's Thrashing Thru the Passion, which was rolled out with singles over a period of two years, and in comparison, Craig Finn says "Open Door Policy was very much approached as an album vs. a collection of individual songs, and it feels like our most musically expansive record." It's also their second album with secret weapon keyboardist Franz Nicolay back in the band, and THS seem like they've got their chemistry back even more than they did on Thrashing Thru the Passion. If you miss the Boys and Girls In America/Stay Positive days, this new LP very much scratches the itch.
Black Dresses - Forever In Your Heart
Black Dresses broke up last year, and members Devi McCallion and Ada Rook went on to do various other projects (on their own and with Katie Dey, Backxwash, and others), and though they remain broken up, they did release a new album this week that they say was "assembled during 2020." As you'd expect from this impossible-to-define duo, the music is all over the place, from metalcore to bedroom pop to industrial to noise and much more, and they make it all sound cohesive. You can read more about it here.
Youth Novel - Youth Novel
Ann Arbor, Michigan screamo band Youth Novel had abandoned an unfinished album when they broke up in 2017 (and members went on to play in other projects, including Blue Noise), but during the pandemic, guitarist Maya Chun and bassist Jon Riley revisited the material with new vocalist Nathan Whittle and the result is a new self-titled album. Like the music Youth Novel released during their initial run, it's frantic, '90s-style screamo, but it's a darker, harsher, and more claustrophobic sounding album than their earlier work. And the aggressive parts are balanced out by some gorgeous EITS-esque post-rock too. Read more about the LP (including the album description written by Fred Thomas) here.
Gravesend - Methods of Human Disposal
20 Buck Spin
We named NYC black/death metal trio Gravesend's debut LP Methods Of Human Disposal one of the metal albums we were anticipating this year, so we were thrilled to premiere a full stream of it earlier this week. As we said then, this album is a whirlwind of filth, but with just enough clarity and precision to make these songs rise above the murk. (It was mixed by Power Trip collaborator Arthur Rizk, who knows how to make bands sounds crisp without sacrificing any of the sonic assault.) Read more here.
Wild Pink - A Billion Little Lights
Since their 2018 sophomore LP Yolk in the Fur, NYC's Wild Pink have been reliable makers of tender, gorgeous heartland indie rock that falls somewhere between The Antlers and The War On Drugs, and their new LP A Billion Little Lights is no exception. To get an even better idea of what went into this album, read frontman John Ross' list of music that influenced it.
Mogwai - As The Love Continues
Temporary Residence Ltd
25 years and 10 albums in, Mogwai remain at the top of the post-rock game, and their Dave Fridmann-produced new album (which also features contributions from Atticus Ross and Colin Stetson) is no exception. Bill's got a review coming in Bill's Indie Basement so stay tuned. Grab the double LP on transparent yellow vinyl in our store.
Tindersticks - Distractions
UK indie rock veterans Tindersticks continue to explore new ground with their 13th album Distractions, which, to quote Bill's review, mostly eschews their signature lush orchestration for minimal arrangements that noticeably draw from dubby post-punk. Read more in Bill's Indie Basement.
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.
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