Notable Releases of the Week (8/20)
Another week, another round of concert uncertainty in the COVID era, with such giants as Neil Young and Nine Inch Nails cancelling shows due to concerns as other shows and festivals go on as planned. It's impossible to predict the future, but we're really hoping -- especially with the two most largest concert promoters requiring vaccination (AEG) and/or a negative test (in the case of Live Nation) -- that it will be safe for live music to continue.
As for recorded music, I highlight seven new albums below, and Bill looks at Tropical Fuck Storm, Jim Bob (of Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine), Shaun Ryder (of the Happy Mondays), and more in Bill's Indie Basement. More honorable mentions: Wanda Jackson, dvsn & Ty Dolla $ign, KK's Priest (Judas Priest), Rick Hyde, Shannon & the Clams, Between the Buried and Me, Alien Boy, Nathan Salsburg, Pile, Ingrown, Villagers, Darrin Bradbury, Justus Proffit, Morly, Bnny, The Joy Formidable, Trippie Redd, Gibberish, Lil Lotus, Badge Epoch, Kool & the Gang, Martha Wainwright, Palmistry, the new Bob's Burgers soundtrack, the Don't Worry acoustic EP, the Martin Gore (Depeche Mode) remix EP, the Nilüfer Yanya remix EP, the Angel Olsen covers EP (get the vinyl), the girlpuppy EP, the Molly Burman EP, the Living Weapon (mem Vein.fm, Vomit Forth) EP, the Tiwa Savage EP, the Tha God Fahim x Nicholas Craven EP, and the Mickey Factz, Blu & Nottz EP.
Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?
Sturgill Simpson - The Ballad of Dood and Juanita
High Top Mountain Records
Though Sturgill Simpson's been called a "country singer" his entire career, it's never described him all that accurately. The title of his 2014 album Metamodern Sounds In Country Music felt like a mission statement for his approach to songwriting, and the more his career progressed, the more he leaned into hard rock and progressive rock and away from what would traditionally register as country. During the pandemic, however, Sturgill got together with a group of session musicians known as The Hillbilly Avengers and cut two albums featuring bluegrass versions of his songs, stripping away the metamodern sounds and rock influences and taking them back to the sound of pre-rock & roll America. The sessions must have inspired him, because he ended up getting back together with those same musicians to write and record and entirely new album in less than a week, and that album is The Ballad of Dood and Juanita, which, in many ways, is kind of Sturgill's first real country album.
There's nothing modern or metamodern about The Ballad of Dood and Juanita; like those Cuttin' Grass albums, it's entirely acoustic and rooted in the country (and bluegrass and gospel) traditions that date back to the early days of the Grand Ole Opry. If not for the recording quality, you might think these songs were recorded 70 years ago. It might seem backwards-thinking for an artist who always seemed intent on pushing country music into the future, but Sturgill sounds so inspired on the album that it never comes off that way. It's also more than a collection of songs; lyrically, Sturgill tells a story throughout, and you don't need to pay extra close attention or read a lyric sheet to pick up on that. It's in that folk music tradition of using songs to pass down tales, and like many country greats of the past (like Willie Nelson, who appears on one of those songs), Sturgill's words stick.
Pre-order it on "natural" colored vinyl.
Deafheaven - Infinite Granite
Deafheaven have made a drastic shift towards non-metal on their clean-vocal-oriented new album Infinite Granite, but it still sounds like Deafheaven and it's great in its own way. You can read my full review of the album here.
Pick up a vinyl copy in our store.
Lorde - Solar Power
On Lorde's long-awaited Melodrama followup, melancholy, introspection, and programmed beats have been replaced by sunny acoustic guitars, featherlight psychedelia, and new age spirituality. Read more about it here.
Wolves In The Throne Room - Primordial Arcana
Deafheaven may not be doing post-black metal anymore, but if you're looking for a new album in that realm, the first LP in four years (and first for Relapse) from Wolves In The Throne Room should do the trick. They took a break from black metal at one point too -- on 2014's Celestite -- but they returned to the genre on 2017's Thrice Woven and the new Primordial Arcana sounds even more evil than its predecessor. Having co-produced most of their albums with Randall Dunn, the band handled this one entirely themselves, and they know how to make their own records sound gargantuan, even without the help of a big-name producer. These songs feel big and clear, but not at the expense of their harsh black metal tendencies. And it's a record that doesn't shy away from approachable melody, but not in a pretty "blackgaze" way. Even at its most accessible, Primordial Arcana feels haunting and sinister.
Get our exclusive splatter vinyl variant, limited to 250 (it was sold out, but we just found some more copies).
Telethon - Swim Out Past the Breakers
Take This To Heart Records
The '90s were a weird time, where major labels were scooping up alternative rock bands left and right on their quest for the next Nirvana, and dropping them the minute they failed to deliver. It resulted in a lot of bands who are seen now as one-hit or few-hit wonders that ended up as relics of the buzz bin era, not famous enough to be enduring stars but too mainstream to be kept alive by the cool indie rock critics. Some of those bands made great records that went deeper than their singles might have you believe -- bands like Everclear, Harvey Danger, Fastball, and Superdrag -- and I have a feeling that the members of Wisconsin's Telethon are fans of those records. Not only did they name their new LP Swim Out Past the Breakers after a lyric from Everclear's "Santa Monica," they also frequently recall the punky power pop that informed the deep cuts of Sparkle and Fade and Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone?, as well as the McCartney-esque pop rock found on some of those later Fastball and Harvey Danger records. It's a sound that still feels underrated today, and Telethon freshen it up, breathe new life into it, and make a case for it as a relevant style of rock music. They do other things throughout these 16 songs too, like waltz ("Shit [Jansport]"), ska ("Cyan"), and EDM ("Barry's Interlude"). To keep the '90s comparisons going, sometimes it has the anything-goes vibe of Green Day's Nimrod. But to not stay stuck in the past, a more modern artist that feels like a major reference point here is Jeff Rosenstock. Like Jeff's recent music, Swim Out Past the Breakers is quirky but serious, modest but ambitious, and extremely catchy. These feel like songs you've known your whole life, but it's a good thing you haven't. If Swim Out Past the Breakers came out in 1997, some major label would've probably turned this vast album into a one hit wonder.
DARE - Against All Odds
Fullerton, California straightedge band DARE have stirred up a great deal of buzz in (and outside of) the hardcore scene over the past few years (thanks in part to The Weeknd), and with their debut LP for the venerable Revelation Records, they prove the hype has been deserved. It's a huge step up from the EPs and singles they've already released in every way -- the band is tighter, the songs are more memorable, and the sharper production only makes them sound more in your face. Angel Garcia's scream sounds like he swallowed gravel, but it's still punchy and forceful. Lyrically, the album moves from fun straightedge anthems to songs critiquing racial injustice to more personal topics, and Angel shouts every last word like he truly means it. (Guest vocals from Movements' Patrick Miranda and Terror's Scott Vogel add fuel to the fire too.) Backing him is a band who are in attack mode from start to finish, and who've got a great groove too. As punishing as these songs are, you can dance to every single one of them. For more on the album, read my recent interview with the band.
Pick up DARE's new album on limited yellow vinyl.
Chynna - drug opera
Philly rapper Chynna tragically passed away in 2020 at age 25 from an accidental overdose, just as she was finishing up work on her first full-length album, drug opera. In the time since her passing, her family arranged to have the album released, and they wanted the music to be unaltered from the way she had envisioned it, including the projects name. Only minor production edits were made due to some sample clearances. Knowing Chynna's fate, it's not always easy to listen to, but the choice to keep Chynna's original vision intact was a crucial one. It's a portrait of an artist who was struggling with pain and mental health, and its honesty resonates deeply. Chynna's delivery is low and somber, but it's also cold and hardened, tougher in a subtle way that plenty of rappers who brag about how tough they are. It's also intentionally anti-pop, with guest appearances from other rap outsiders like Junglepussy and A$AP Ant and production from electronic wizards and underground rap beatmakers like Jimmy Edgar, Suicideyear, Nedarb, and Pro Era's Kirk Knight. It's an album that was built to exist in its own world, one that we're lucky to be getting a peek into.
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.
And check out what's new in our shop.