Notable Releases of the Week (9/11)
It's been a shortened week due to Labor Day (I still can't believe the "unofficial end of summer" is technically here because what are seasons), and like last week, it's also a slightly shorter week as far as new albums go. There are some good ones through, five of which I highlight below.
First, some honorable mentions: Marilyn Manson, Uniform, Jeremy Gara (Arcade Fire), Bobby Sessions, YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Blitzen Trapper, Susanna, Everything Everything, Skeletal Remains, Void Rot, the second Ihsahn EP of 2020, the Blind Idol EP, the Best Coast live EP, the Age Sixteen compilation, and the Mastodon rarities compilation.
Read on for my five picks. What's your favorite release of the week?
Conway the Machine - From King to a GOD
"Lotta albums are suddenly starting to feel a little more Griselda-esque / Talk to Ebro, ask Sway in the morning / about the impact of this movement, sure they'll say it's enormous," Conway raps on the Griselda posse cut "Spurs 3" (with Westside Gunn and Benny the Butcher) off his new album From King to a GOD, and it's a boast that'd be very tough to argue against. They've been working towards this moment for years, but 2020 has been the year of Griselda. Not only is Conway, Gunn, and Benny's gritty, psychedelic, vintage-yet-fresh sound infiltrating the mainstream and influencing several other artists, but the Griselda team have been more prolific than ever this year and basically everything they touch turns to gold. Conway already released two very good EPs this year -- the Alchemist-produced LULU and the Big Ghost Ltd-produced No One Mourns The Wicked -- plus plenty of projects in previous years, but he considers FKTG to be his first official album and it's not hard to see why. In comparison, LULU and No One Mourns The Wicked sound like projects where he was working out his muscles and warming up. FKTG is the culmination of years of hard work, a capital-A album that takes you on a journey and keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time. There were already a few Griselda-related albums released this year that are on track to be called classics one day, and FKTG is yet another.
Conway worked well with the one-rapper, one-producer format of this year's two EPs, but FKTG finds him working with an array of producers (Alchemist, Daringer, Hit-Boy, Beat Bucha, Havoc of Mobb Deep, Murda Beatz, Erick Sermon, DJ Premier, Khrysis), and the musical variety works to this album's benefit. All the guests rise to the occasion too. With a mix of guys who paved the way for Conway (Method Man, Havoc, Lloyd Banks) and his peers (Freddie Gibbs, Flee Lord, El Camino, Armani Caesar), everyone's accustomed to the menacing sonics of the Griselda universe, and everyone knows how to play their role. Conway is the album's star, but a star needs the right supporting cast and this album has it. A lot of those names have appeared in Conway's liner notes many times before, but the song that stands out most is "Fear of GOD," where Conway crafts a more accessible version of his sound with two key collaborators: Hit-Boy and DeJ Loaf. Hit-Boy -- the increasingly versatile producer who got famous working with huge names like Beyonce, Jay-Z, Kanye, and Kendrick; who's fresh off working on the new Nas and Big Sean albums; and who's also got an album with Benny on the way -- gives Conway a triumphant, stadium-sized beat and Conway knows exactly what to do with it. And when DeJ Loaf comes in singing, the song is brought to a whole other level.
The depth and diversity of the music on this album is matched by that of Conway's lyricism. He deservingly boasts about Griselda's fame, he tells detailed autobiographical stories, and he takes on the times we've been living through this year. In June, in the midst of all 50 states protesting police brutality at once, Conway dropped "Front Lines," a powerful takedown of America's broken justice system, racial profiling, and murder at the hands of police. That song appears on From King to a GOD, and though it's the album's most overt protest song, it's not the only time this album takes issue with the police. These songs often find Conway responding to the world around him right now, but he also leaves them open-ended enough that we can assume they'll still sound relevant in five or ten or fifteen years.
Though 2020 has been a huge year for Griselda despite the chaos going on around them, it's also been a year with a very personal tragedy. DJ Shay, who produced several songs for the label/collective, sadly had his life cut short at age 48 this past August. In honor of Shay, Conway made some last-minute adjustments to his album. He added in three interludes with recordings of Shay speaking about Conway and Griselda, and he mourned his death and paid tribute to him on the powerful "Forever Droppin Tears." Shay played a crucial role in helping to develop the Griselda sound, and even if he didn't produce any songs on this album, his influence could already be felt on it. So it's fitting that now his voice is on it too.
Also, along with the release of this album, Conway announced his Shady Records debut, God Don't Make Mistakes.
Lo Tom - LP2
In 2017, David Bazan released the electronic solo album Care and also reunited with his former Pedro the Lion bandmate TW Walsh for the first album by Lo Tom, which also includes Starflyer 59 members Jason Martin and Trey Many (the latter of whom has also drummed for Pedro the Lion). At the time, Lo Tom sort of filled the void for those who missed Pedro the Lion-style indie rock, but in the time since then, Bazan re-activated Pedro the Lion for the great 2019 album Phoenix (without TW Walsh's involvement), so that void doesn't necessarily need filling anymore. Which is why it's great news that Lo Tom's LP2 is not at all a repeat of LP1. David Bazan's voice and style remain unmistakable, but none of his recent projects have found him singing over music this heavy. Much more so than Lo Tom's first album, this one is full of sludgy, grungy riffs, and the darker, harder attack suits them well. Starflyer 59 are no stranger to heavy guitars, but even their heavy songs come with a shoegazy wall of sound and aren't as loud and clear as these songs. This record sounds like what might've happened if Pedro the Lion formed five years earlier and got lumped in with Seattle's grunge scene, but not in a way that makes it seem outdated today. Lo Tom sound inspired, and they sound like they had a lot of fun making this. Sometimes you just need to rock the fuck out and not think too hard about it, and that's what it sounds like they did.
Coma Regalia - Marked
Since forming in 2010, Lafayette, IN's Coma Regalia have been one of the most prolific and longest lasting bands in the current screamo scene. This year alone, they released a split with Sonagi, Obroa-skai, and Indisposed and a split with Burial Etiquette (both great), and to celebrate their 10th anniversary, they recently put out a 158-song career-spanning compilation, just to give you even more of an idea of how prolific they've been. Their lineup shifts a bit (always with guitarist/vocalist Shawn Decker as a constant), and for this new 12-song full-length, they've got legendary screamo lifer Tom Schlatter (You and I, Capacities, Hundreds of AU, etc) on bass (like he was on the split with Sonagi/etc) and Jason Wolpert on drums (like he was on the split with Burial Etiquette). As ever, Coma Regalia remain a force to be reckoned with -- raw, pulverizing, and chaotic but with the occasional bright melody slipping through and an overwhelming amount of unfiltered emotion. This kind of music works best when you can really feel the band's passion, and that's very much the case on Marked. It also just happens to be a great collection of short, filler-less songs that are over way too soon.
The Flaming Lips - American Head
If you miss the psychedelic pop balladry of The Flaming Lips' Soft Bulletin/Yoshimi era, you'll probably be very happy with the new Flaming Lips album, which features a duet with Kacey Musgraves, and which Bill reviewed.
Doves - The Universal Want
The Flaming Lips aren't the only veteran band with a grand, atmospheric pop album out today. Manchester's Doves are back with their first new LP in over a decade, and Bill reviewed that one too, calling it one of their best.
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.