Notable Releases of the Week (7/23)
It's been a weird summer, with the very noticeable effects of climate change coinciding with the cathartic release of looser lockdown restrictions as well as the very valid concern that maybe things aren't going back to normal. (Get vaccinated!) One constant of summer, though, is good new music, and this week is especially stacked.
I highlight eight new releases below, and Bill also discusses Piroshka (mem Lush, Modern English, Elastica, Moose), Mega Bog, Anika, and more in Indie Basement. Even more honorable mentions: David Crosby, Yung Bleu, Molly Burch, Ransom & Big Ghost Ltd, Joel Ford & Hand Habits, Ora the Molecule, White Denim, Craven Idol, Sirius Blvck, Tara Jane O'Neil, Mordred, Rosenau & Sanborn (mem Volcano Choir, Sylvan Esso), Left Field Messiah (ex-Hot Hot Heat), Band of Bastards (mem Trail of Dead, Sparta), The Twin (mem Josha Fit For Battle, Small Brown Bike), the Samia EP, the Teamonade EP, the Information_Age (mem Pallbearer, Pinkish Black) EP, the Jhariah EP, the Obongjayar & Sarz EP, the Brittany Howard remix album, and the Woods deluxe edition. And Kanye did premiere his new album Donda last night (it features a reunion with Jay-Z), but (not surprisingly) it hasn't been officially released yet.
Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?
Darkside - Spiral
Nicolas Jaar is extremely prolific under his own name and with his Against All Logic project, but the DJ, electronic musician, and singer/songwriter has only ever released one album with Darkside -- his collaborative project with guitarist Dave Harrington -- and it's one of the best albums he's ever released. So it's very exciting that now, eight years after that album came out, Darkside are back with a sophomore album, Spiral, and this one might be even better. As on the debut, Darkside is more heavily "song"-oriented than Nico's solo material, and it injects Nico's electronic art pop with vintage prog/psych vibes, thanks in large part to Dave Harrington's masterful fretwork. Harrington saves the guitar heroism for the very last song on Spiral, but Darkside embrace prog and psych in various other ways all throughout Spiral, from the gorgeous acoustic guitars of "The Question Is To See It All" and the title track to the Eastern-tinged drones of "Lawnmaker" and "I'm The Echo." The album connects the dots between '60s/'70s and futuristic electronic music in ways you rarely hear. Nico's voice is frequently in the forefront, and these songs are more accessible than most of his solo material, but Spiral still has a dark, abstract vibe that sounds like Dark Side of the Moon by way of Kid A. It's an album that washes over you one minute, and hypnotizes you the next. Its exterior is a bubbling, murky atmosphere, but at its core lies some of Nicolas Jaar's most affecting songwriting.
Dave - We're All Alone In This Together
Dave released one of the best UK rap debuts in recent memory with 2019's Psychodrama, and from the first few bars of its followup We're All Alone In This Together, Dave makes it clear that he's intent on avoiding a sophomore slump. He kicks the album off with stories of growing up as a young, first-generation British Nigerian and the hardships that he, his family, and his community faced, and it sets the tone for the rest of the album. We're All Alone In This Together favors minimal production and is largely void of hooks, as Dave leads the way with his lyrical diatribes. It could start to get boring if Dave wasn't such a great storyteller, but he leaves you hanging on every word. The album has a clear focused sound throughout, with production mostly coming from Dave himself and Psychodrama collaborator Kyle Evans (alongside some contributions from James Blake, Jae5, and Mount Kimbie's Dominic Maker), and even when other UK rap stars like Stormzy, Ghetts, Giggs, and Fredo show up, nothing distracts from Dave's vision. It's not until later in the album that Dave gives you anything remotely pop-friendly, with a couple P2J-co-produced forays into Afrobeats (the Wizkid-assisted "System" and the Boj-assisted "Lazarus) and an offering of R&B (the Jae5-produced, Snoh Aalegra-featuring "Law of Attraction"), but the way the album is sequenced, it asks you to commit to the pensive, dead-serious songs before letting you in on its more easily digestible side. We're All Alone In This Together's most show-stopping song is one that lies right in the middle of the album's pop side and non-pop side: the eight-minute "Both Sides of a Smile," which finds Dave waxing poetic alongside gorgeous James Blake vocals and some bars from the promising new UK rapper Sha Simone. That song feels like the album's climax, but Dave wants the comedown to be as cold and hard as the opening, and he closes the album out with two of its most emotionally bare songs: "Heart Attack" and "Survivor's Guilt." On the former, which clocks in at 10 minutes, the beat drops out and we're left with nothing more than Dave rapping. Even without any cushioning, his voice alone proves to be as commanding as the album's most melodic moments.
Leon Bridges - Gold-Diggers Sound
When Leon Bridges arrived in 2015 with his debut album Coming Home, it was clear that he was a very gifted singer, but he hadn't found his own sound yet. He was channelling the look, sound, and feel of classic soul records, and doing it really well, but he hadn't yet figured out how to separate himself from his influences. He knew it too, as he revealed in a very lengthy new feature for Texas Monthly. "I’m not going to be fulfilling your wet dreams of having a soul revivalist man," he said, looking back on the early years of his career, "I’m way more than this." He proved that to be true on his expansive, genre-blurring 2018 sophomore album Good Thing, and even more so on 2020's Texas Sun EP, a psychedelic rock-tinged collaboration with the band Khruangbin. His goal from here on out is to keep pushing forward, and Gold-Diggers Sound makes good on that promise.
Multiple songs on the new album find Leon collaborating with Terrace Martin and Robert Glasper, two musicians who have helped bridge the gap between classic jazz and modern hip hop, and they played crucial roles in shaping the sonic universe of Gold-Diggers Sound, which fuses swelling jazz horns with the beats and arrangements of modern, hip hop-adjacent R&B, and also slips in some other sounds like some of Texas Sun's psychedelia and a little of Prince's futuristic funk. As ever, Leon proves to be a powerhouse singer, and he approaches this album with conviction, whether he's singing a sensual love song or a mournful protest song like "Sweeter," which Leon also released as a single last year in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Gold-Diggers Sound is an album that finds Leon at his most vulnerable and his most honest, and it feels like the most distinctly Leon Bridges album yet. He's not your soul revivalist; he's carving out a path that's entirely his own.
Descendents - 9th & Walnut
Before Descendents released their 1981 debut EP Fat and their massively influential 1982 debut album Milo Goes to College, they put out the surfy 1979 single "Ride the Wild"/"It's A Hectic World" with vocals by guitarist Frank Navetta and bassist Tony Lombardo, as they hadn't recruited lead singer Milo Aukerman yet. A slew of other songs were written during that period too, but once Milo joined, the band shifted towards the melodic hardcore/proto-pop punk sound that they're now best known for. Frank and Tony left the band after Milo Goes to College's release, and Bill and Milo kept it going with a new lineup, but in 2002, Bill reunited with Frank and Tony to finally give proper studio recordings to their early material, including "Ride The Wild," "It's A Hectic World," a cover of The Dave Clark Five's "Glad All Over," and 15 other previously unreleased songs. The trio then performed a set of those songs at ALL's Stockage fest in 2002, with Frank and Tony (and sometimes Bill) singing. The plan was to eventually revisit the recordings and have Milo record vocals for them, but the project got put on the backburner and then Frank sadly passed away in 2008, leaving the fate of the album in question.
Then, during the pandemic, Bill sent Milo the material, and Milo recorded his vocals for all of the songs at his home in Delaware. The result is 9th & Walnut, which is now finally here. The surfy vibe heard on the original "Ride the Wild"/"It's A Hectic World" single remains, but with Milo singing, these songs don't sound as drastically different from Milo Goes to College as the '79 single did. The recording quality is a lot better than that single, but Bill, Tony, and Frank made sure to keep these sounding humble and raw, so they'd retain the spirit of Descendents' earlier years, and they captured that vibe perfectly. The only reason you'd know this album wasn't actually recorded in the early '80s is that Milo's voice sounds a little different now. Other than that, this is Descendents at their most classic and most pure.
EST Gee - Bigger Than Life Or Death
In the past year or so, Louisville street rapper EST Gee has become one of the fastest-rising and most promising rappers around. His 2020 project and first release for Yo Gotti's CMG label, I Still Dont Feel Nun, stirred up some buzz and got an extra boost from its standout single "Get Money," which features Gee's label boss and got a video earlier this year that's racked up around 12 million views. Gee continued to rise following appearances on songs by Lil Baby and Jack Harlow, and now he keeps the momentum going with another very good new project, Bigger Than Life or Death.
The new album features 15 new songs, including recent singles "Bigger Than Life Or Death," "Lick Back," and "Capitol 1." It also features a handful of big name guests, including Future and Young Thug on a new remix of "Lick Back"; Lil Baby, 42 Dugg, and Rylo Rodriguez (all on "5500 Degrees"); and his label boss Yo Gotti on two songs (one of which also features 42 Dugg); as well as Lil Durk (on "In Town") and Pooh Shiesty (on "All I Know"). The guest appearances are well-picked and well-executed, and they should hopefully draw in some new listeners, but the feeling you get from Bigger Than Life Or Death is that EST Gee himself is on his way to the forefront of rap. He's got a cold, hard delivery and he knows how to wrap his gritty storytelling in an accessible package without toning down the pure venom of his street rap roots.
Bizzy Banks - Same Energy
One week after appearing on a song on the posthumous Pop Smoke album, Bizzy Banks -- a bright new voice in the Brooklyn drill scene who associated with Pop Smoke before his untimely death -- has released his own new mixtape. Pop Smoke's influence looms large over a lot of Brooklyn drill rappers, but what separates Bizzy Banks from the pack is that he doesn't sound like Pop Smoke (or Sheff G or Fivio Foreign or really any other prominent Brooklyn drill rapper). In a recent interview with Alphonse Pierre for Pitchfork, Bizzy cited early 2000s New York rappers like Fabolous and Juelz Santana as influences, and you can feel that more classic New York vibe coming through in the way Bizzy tells his stories and crafts his rhymes. And Same Energy reminds me of the New York mixtape era that Juelz Santana and the rest of Dipset came up in. Like those early Dipset mixtapes, Same Energy is a tough-as-nails record that feels built for the streets, not the radio. The only ploy for mainstream acceptance seems to be "Adore You," a softer, R&B-tinged track with a hook from PnB Rock, but Bizzy Banks feels like the kind of rapper who could infiltrate the mainstream of the strength of his rapping alone. On songs like "City Hot," "My Shit," and "Bandemic," he sneaks subtle hooks into his rapping, and his words get stuck in your head even without the assistance of an in-demand guest singer.
Alexis Marshall - House of Lull . House of When
With their 2018 comeback album You Won't Get What You Want, Daughters became a rare band whose post-hiatus material was drastically different and probably even better than anything they'd done in their early years. It's an album that pulls from goth, industrial, and the avant-garde, with Nicholas Sadler crafting haunting guitar symphonies as Alexis Marshall croons and barks his way through the madness. On his debut solo album, Alexis goes further in the direction that his contributions to You Won't Get What You Want hinted at. With the help of Daughters drummer Jon Syverson, Lingua Ignota, and Evan Patterson (Jaye Jayle, Young Widows), Alexis has written songs that sometimes sound even more devastating than the last Daughters album, but they also sound noticeably different than that album. There's no replacing Nicholas Sadler's guitar work, and Alexis doesn't try to. These songs are more atmospheric and more freeform, but with Jon Syverson's thunderous drumming keeping them focused. Like Lingua Ignota's own music, this album can often sound like pure horror. It's not music you can just have on in the background. It grabs your attention right off the bat, and if you're in the right mood for its abrasive racket, it can be spectacular.
Wild Red - Brain Squeeze EP
Dark Medicine/Streets of Hate
Fantasy Camp is the emo-rap project of Jonah Kramer, who recently released a song with Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, and he's opening part of Wicca Phase's upcoming tour with Anxious too. Other dates on that tour are being opened by Wild Red, Jonah's pop punk band that also features members of One Step Closer and Choice To Make. Last year, Wild Red put out a promising three-song demo, and today they follow it with their six-song debut EP. It's a scrappy, lo-fi take on pop punk that sounds like hearing a band cover Dookie and Blue Album songs through a closed, poorly-soundproofed door, and Jonah's distorted vocals make it sound even hazier. It's fun, simple, and nostalgic, and sometimes that's all you need for music like this.
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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