The end of 2020 continues to near, and year-end lists continue to pour in (we posted a reggae list this week, and more BV lists are coming very soon), but this year is not done giving us worthwhile new music yet.

I highlight eight new albums below, but first, some honorable mentions: the second surprise Taylor Swift album of 2020, the second surprise Stugill Simpson bluegrass album of 2020, the surprise Moor Mother & billy woods album, Kid Cudi, The Avalanches, Kamaiyah, Guided By Voices, Boris & Merzbow, Killah Priest & Jordan River Banks, Pete Rock, Ogbert the Nerd, Live Skull, LNDN DRGS, Dueling Experts, Yashira, Heem, Terrace Martin, Perdition Sect (mem Ringworm, Incantation, Brain Tentacles), Folterkammer, Louis Philippe & The Night Mail, Late Night Final (Public Service Broadcasting), a surprise album of Chris Cornell doing covers, the Nilufer Yanya EP, the Heretical Sect EP, the Cro-Mags EP, the James Blake covers EP, the Muzz covers EP, the Bayside acoustic EP, M. Ward's Billie Holiday covers LP (benefitting Black Lives Matter causes), the Osees remix album, The Kills' rarities comp, the Belle & Sebastian double live album, Magnetic Eye Records' live at Saint Vitus series, and the Cyberpunk 2077 soundtrack (ft. Grimes, Converge, Tomb Mold, HEALTH, SOPHIE & Shygirl, Run The Jewels, The Armed, and more).

Update: the Lakeyah mixtape is out today too (and really good).

Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?

Boldy James

Boldy James - Real Bad Boldy
Real Bad Man

What an insane year it's been for Detroit rapper Boldy James. He went from a respected underground rapper to one of the most talked-about and prolific rappers around, with three full-length projects, two of which are widely considered some of the year's best albums (The Price of Tea In China with The Alchemist and Manger On McNichols with Sterling Toles). Now he wraps up 2020 with a fourth full-length, Real Bad Boldy, which was entirely produced by clothing designers/producers Real Bad Man and which features Stove God Cooks, Meyhem Lauren, Eto, Mooch, and Rigz. Real Bad Man also put out two compilations this year (which feature Boldy alongside Roc Marciano, Kool Keith, Pink Siifu, Flee Lord, Elcamino, Inspectah Deck, Willie The Kid, Blu, lojii, and others), and though they may not be iconic producers like The Alchemist, they've clearly figured out how to make that same type of chill, jazzy, psychedelic production that Boldy sounds so great over. I don't think Real Bad Boldy will dethrone The Price of Tea In China or Manger On McNichols as best Boldy James album of 2020, but it's a very solid album and more proof that anything Boldy touches right now is worth hearing.

Boldy is also on the new LNDN DRGS project that's out today.

Black Wing

Black Wing - No Moon
The Flenser

Black Wing is one of several projects of Dan Barrett, whose unmistakably impassioned voice also fuels Have A Nice Life and Giles Corey, and No Moon is the project's first release since its 2015 debut ...Is Doomed. Compared to the acoustic dark folk of Giles Corey and the shoegazy post-punk of HANL, Black Wing is a more electronic project, but even as the instrumentation changes, Dan's soaring voice and captivating songwriting do not. This album -- which Dan wrote and recorded during this year of self-isolation -- couldn't be the work of any other artist, and it scratches the same itch as Dan's other cult classics. Like most Have A Nice Life albums, it has instantly catchy parts ("Is This Real Life, Jesus Christ"), epic, climactic parts ("Choir of Assholes"), out-there experimental parts ("Vulnerable"), and more, and Dan swirls it all together into a sensory overload of brooding, desperate, life-affirming music.

Deftones Black Stallion

Deftones - Black Stallion

Deftones celebrated the 20th anniversary of their classic White Pony with this new remix album, featuring reworks by The Cure's Robert Smith, Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda, Squarepusher, DJ Shadow, Purity Ring, Phantogram, Blanck Mass, Clams Casino, Tourist, Salva, and others. More than a collection of remixes, it functions as a great album of its own, and it makes these 20-year-old songs feel new again. You can read my full review here.

Fana Hues

Fana Hues - Hues
Bright Antenna

Pasadena, CA singer/songwriter Fana Hues combines neo-soul, hip hop, and psychedelia on her debut project Hues, which finds her applying her subtly powerful pipes to an array of musical backdrops. The album is pieced together like a collage of sketches -- some of the songs almost sound unfinished, and not in a bad way -- with fleshed-out, multi-layered songs alongside quiet, minimal ones, neck-snapping beats alongside textural ambience, groovy basslines alongside sweeping strings. It's overflowing with great ideas, and Fana clearly knows how to pull them all off. But it also sounds like she has even more talent than Hues lets on, and that this is just the beginning.

Channel Tres

Channel Tres - I Can't Go Outside
Art For Their Good

Channel Tres has spent the past few years perfecting a unique blend of hip hop and house, and with his new EP-length mixtape I Can't Go Outside, he continues to push the envelope. This one features two big guests (Tyler the Creator and Tinashe), and it comes as no surprise that they fit perfectly into Channel's off-kilter yet approachable music. As the title implies, Channel made these songs at home during lockdown, and as a result, they have a rawer, more lo-fi feel than Channel's studio songs. There's also an urgency to them, like Channel knew they deserved to be heard in this barer form rather than saved for the next time he hits the studio. In a regular year, maybe we would've gotten his proper debut album, but meanwhile, I Can't Go Outside is like nothing else he's done yet.

Alaska Big Bunny

Alaska Reid - Big Bunny
Terrible Records

Alaska Reid already cut her teeth fronting the LA indie rock band Alyeska, but now she's going solo with the nine-song Big Bunny EP, which features production by PC Music's A.G. Cook (who's worked with Charli XCX, Jonsi, and others), Rodaidh McDonald (The xx, David Byrne, Adele, etc) Andrew Sarlo (Big Thief), and more, and is out now on Grizzly Bear bassist Chris Taylor's Terrible Records (Solange, Blood Orange, etc). Those producers help give Big Bunny a more modern, polished sound than the last Alyeska album (which was done with Sonic Youth/Dinosaur Jr collaborator John Agnello), but the earnest, punky vibe of Alaska's singing and songwriting remains. She namedrops Dinosaur Jr, The Replacements, Joni Mitchell, and Ella Fitzgerald as influences, and you can hear all of that coming through, even when the production veers a little more electronic and poppy. (This EP probably counts as indie pop or alt-pop but there are some Big Riffs on it.) Alaska combines poppy, grungy, and folky sounds with ease, but her biggest selling point is her melodies and voice, which hook you right off the bat and quickly sound like something you've known your whole life.

Less Than Jake

Less Than Jake - Silver Linings
Pure Noise

From American ska-punk's early '90s beginnings, to its mainstream boom, to its lull in popularity to its recent underground resurgence, Less Than Jake have always been there. They never stopped touring, never stopped releasing music, and proudly waved the ska-punk flag whether it was trendy or not. 2020 has been a big year for ska, with the Ska Against Racism compilation that brought together veteran bands like LTJ (who played Mike Park's original Ska Against Racism tour in 1998) with a whole crop of great newer bands. Now, just before the year ends, LTJ have released their own new album, Silver Linings. It's their first full-length since 2013's Fat Wreck Chords-released See the Light, first new music since 2017's Sound The Alarm EP, and their first new music since new drummer Matt Yonker replaced founding drummer/lyricist Vinnie Fiorello, and as co-frontman Roger Lima told us in a recent interview, the band felt refreshed while making this one. You can hear that in the songs, which sound like classic LTJ without feeling like rehashed versions of music they've written before. It's a fun, catchy, energetic record; not bad at all for a band nearly 30 years into their career.

Life's Question

Life's Question - A Tale of Sudden Love & Unforgettable Heartbreak
Triple B

One of the last tours I saw before the world shut down was the Higher Power/Life's Question run in February, which happened just after Higher Power released their killer Roadrunner debut 27 Miles Underwater. The UK band were of course the main draw, but Chicago's Life's Question were a great choice for support. Like Higher Power, they make hardcore that can be bludgeoning and metallic but also soaring and melodic, and they do it all tastefully. At the time, their latest release was 2019's self-released three-song A Tale of Sudden Love and Unforgettable Heartbreak EP, and they've since inked a deal with Triple B Records who just re-released the EP with new artwork and a new song: the thrashy, furious "Broke." It's a ripper that goes perfectly with the other three songs, and if you haven't checked out this very promising band yet, let this re-release be your introduction.


Looking for more recent releases? Browse the Notable Releases archive or keep scrolling down for previous weeks.

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