Notable Releases of the Week (2/11)
February has been off to an insane start for big new albums -- especially within the indie world -- and this week is full of them. I highlight ten new releases blew, and Bill tackles more (including Ride's Andy Bell and Trentemøller) in Indie Basement, and the list goes on from there.
Honorable mentions this week include: Eddie Vedder, Empath, Mary J. Blige, Shamir, Raveena, All Away Lou, Trupa Trupa, Voivod, Wiz Khalifa & Juicy J, Dan Andriano & The Bygones, Frank Turner, Zeal & Ardor, $NOT, Amorphis, Escape from the Zoo (mem Days N Daze), Buke and Gase & Rahrah Gabor, Moonchild, G Perico, Backslider, La Armada, LAANDS, Weatherstate, Vundabar, Blonder, Slash ft. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators, the Sataray EP, the Televised EP, and the Inhuman Nature EP.
Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?
Cult of Luna - The Long Road North
Cult of Luna began a new chapter of their career with 2019's excellent A Dawn To Fear, and last year, they put out the Raging River EP, which they said "feels more like a bridge. A midpoint that needs to be crossed so we can finish what we started with 2019's A Dawn to Fear." Now that we've reached the other side of the bridge, it seems even clearer why Cult of Luna needed that last EP to close the A Dawn To Fear chapter. The Long Road North sounds like the start of a new one.
The Long Road North isn't a major departure for Cult of Luna, but it really does feel like a new version of this band, and it's very impressive that they can still do that over 20 years into their career. The songs are still lengthy, towering epics that toe the line between heavy and beautiful, and Johannes Persson's roar is still as powerful and throat-shredding as ever, but a lot is different about this one too. It's not really produced like a metal record, and Cult of Luna don't always play like a metal band. There's a lot of electronic manipulation going on, and drummer Thomas Hedlund often employs a skittering, propulsive style that feels more like In Rainbows than heavy metal. Some songs abandon the genre entirely, like the ethereal goth of "Beyond I" (with guest lead vocals by Mariam Wallentin of Wildbirds And Peacedrums), the Nick Cave-y "Into the Night," and the ambient closer "Beyond II" (featuring Bon Iver/Arcade Fire collaborator Colin Stetson), but even the heaviest, most aggressive moments feel like new territory for the band. It's an album that breaks down barriers between scenes and genres and is totally unafraid doing something out of the ordinary, and that's how the best music almost always gets made.
Pick up Cult of Luna's new album on opaque white vinyl.
Big Thief - Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You
Big Thief's new 20-song double album finds them at their most whimsical and their most serious, their most experimental and their most down-to-earth. It's the most sprawling, ambitious thing they've done. Read my full review of it here.
Pick up a vinyl copy.
Jazmine Sullivan - Heaux Tales, Mo' Tales: The Deluxe
Jazmine Sullivan released one of 2021's very best records with Heaux Tales, and now she's put out Heaux Tales, Mo' Tales, a deluxe edition with 10 more tracks that continue the theme of the original. Like on the 2021 edition, the new tracks are spliced together with spoken word interludes from women (including one from Issa Rae), and this time also from one man, talking about relationship experiences, and the spoken word tracks are matched by five soaring doses of neo-soul that continue the same theme. One of them, "Tragic," was released as a single last year, and that one already feels as enduring as the original Heaux Tales songs, and "Hurt Me So Good" feels like an instant classic too. The other three ("Roster," "BPW," and "Selfish") are more stripped-back and minimal, fueled mainly by acoustic guitar and Jazmine's powerhouse pipes, and even on those more intimate songs, Jazmine sounds larger than life.
alt-J - The Dream
alt-J still seem to get a reputation as an "uncool" band (at least in the US and probably mostly from people who read and write for music publications), but their haters increasingly seem like a vocal minority, and the music continues to speak for itself. Their instantly-huge debut album An Awesome Wave (which turns 10 this year) holds up well and still doesn't really sound like much else out there, and the more famous they get, the less pop-friendly their music gets. That continues to be true on their fourth album, The Dream. No two alt-J albums have sounded alike, but all of them sound unmistakably like alt-J (largely because of Joe Newman's distinct voice), and The Dream is no exception. It's a little more focused and accessible than its 2017 predecessor Relaxer, but there's still nothing as immediate as An Awesome Wave. It's the band's most gentle, chilled-out album, and it definitely pulls a little influence from '60s psychedelic pop. It's certainly not an album you'd expect to hear from an arena rock band in 2022, and yet, judging by alt-J's upcoming tour, they are very much an arena rock band. It's cool to see a band of their popularity making an album this out of step with trends, let alone one that sounds so pretty.
Author & Punisher - Krüller
Author & Punisher, the one-man industrial band led by Tristan Shone, has been going strong for 15 years, and with Krüller, he's written an album that sounds like it could be his biggest breakthrough yet. His 2018 Relapse debut Beastland flirted with a bigger, more accessible sound, but even that one's pretty abrasive compared to the inviting sounds of Krüller. For the first time in his career, he's released an album that primarily features his clean singing, with his screamed vocals taking a more backgrounded role, and his voice is clearer and more in the forefront than ever. (And for someone who used to primarily scream, Tristan has a very strong singing voice.) Two songs ("Misery" and "Centurion") were made with Tool's rhythm section (drummer Danny Carey and bassist Justin Chancellor), and along with the seven original songs, there's a genuinely inventive cover of Portishead's classic Dummy closer "Glory Box," and it doesn't feel crazy to think that Tool and Portishead fans would like this album. It also recalls Nine Inch Nails at their catchiest, or a newer band like HEALTH, who Author & Punisher is touring Europe with this fall (with Perturbator headlining). Still, Author & Punisher isn't selling out or watering down his sound or anything. It's still heavy music, and it's still just as creative as anything he's done in the past. If anything, the cleaner, catchier sound just brings out his strengths even more.
Dissidente - The War On Two Fronts
Bad Time Records
Pittsburgh ska-core/punk band Dissidente first surfaced with the FRONTLINE EP in 2017, and now -- five years and a ska resurgence later -- they've finally put out their anticipated debut album, featuring re-recordings of three songs from the EP plus 11 new rippers. They make angry, political, anthemic punk and ska-core songs that fit in nicely next to bands like Anti-Flag, Strike Anywhere, Leftover Crack, and Propagandhi, and The War On Two Fronts is some of the most refreshing stuff released from a new band in this realm in a while. Their lyrics have real depth to them, no empty sloganeering or surface-level "government = bad" type stuff, and they bring as much energy to their activism as they do to their mosh-pit-opening rhythms. They're also just as much a punk band as they are a ska band -- in a recent interview, they actually told us they've had a harder time getting asked to open for ska bands, because they don't have horns -- and it's great to have a new band existing so naturally in both worlds at a time when ska still often seems like its own niche. They're bridging a gap that deserves to be bridged, and making great music in the process. Read more about this record here.
Pick up the new Dissidente album on limited-to-100 transparent sea blue vinyl.
Cousin Stizz - Just For You
Boston rapper Cousin Stizz has always existed just on the fringes of mainstream rap, and after two major label albums, he's now back with his first independent release since the mid 2010s. He's back to operating fully on his own terms, and he sounds more confident in himself and more comfortable with where he's at; as a result, Just For You is one of his strongest releases yet. Over a warm backdrop that includes pitched-up soul samples, triumphant horns, jazzy keys, atmospheric synths, and more, Stizz delivers inviting, self-assured bars that feel relaxed and energized all at once. He may hail from Boston, but on this album he reminds me a little of Midwest rappers like Mick Jenkins and Smino, the latter of whom appeared on Stizz's last album. Still, Stizz has a vibe of his own, and on Just For You, it's clearer than ever that Stizz aspires to be no one other than himself.
Alto Arc - Alto Arc EP
Alto Arc is the new project of Deafheaven's George Clarke, Hundred Waters' Trayer Tryon, PC Music associate Danny L Harle, and make-up artist Isamaya Ffrench, and they've just released their debut EP. It's just five songs, but the music is a lot. It's a dark, creepy EP that exists somewhere between noise, art pop, and industrial, and it's also theatrical and cinematic, pulling as much from horror and other film genres as it pulls from music. And you might think George Clarke teaming up with Danny L Harle and a member of Hundred Waters would be an even further departure from metal than Deafheaven's very non-metal album Infinite Granite, but the opposite is actually true. This is some of the harshest, most abrasive music George has ever released; his screams are truly blood-curdling, and the way they match up against some of Alto Arc's hyperpop influences is truly unsettling. Alto Arc have already said more music is on the way, which is good news. This EP feels like the start of something great.
Napalm Death - Resentment is Always Seismic – a final throw of Throes
Napalm Death are back with a new mini-LP that they call "an extension of - or partner recording to" their excellent 2020 album Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism. It's kind of an odds and ends collection from the Throes sessions -- with two covers, one remix, and five outtakes -- but even Napalm Death's odds and ends can feel as life-affirming as their proper albums. The covers each represent a different side of Napalm Death's DNA, punk (Bad Brains' "Don't Need It") and industrial (Slab!'s "People Pie"), and ND's versions nail the balance between retaining the charm of the originals and making them sound like Napalm Death songs. Both of those sides are shown off with ND's original material too, from the industrial-leaning "Resentment Always Simmers" to the punky "By Proxy," but most tracks fall somewhere in between, offering up the kind of genre-less heavy music that Napalm Death have been honing for decades. And the record ends with a a dark ambient rework of "Resentment Always Simmers" (titled "Resentment Is Always Seismic") by Napalm Death bassist Shane Embury's electronic solo project Dark Sky Burial, leaving the often-whiplash-inducing mini-LP off on a droning note.
Spoon - Lucifer on the Sofa
Spoon are back with their tenth album, and in his very praiseworthy review, Bill writes. "Spoon sound BIG here -- it's a modern studio album -- but these 10 songs crackle with electricity." Read the whole thing here.
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.
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