Notable Releases of the Week (5/28)
It feels like a slightly slower week in the music world due to Memorial Day (hope everyone has a nice long weekend! bummer that it looks like rain in NYC), but there are still some heavy hitters this week that are not to miss. I highlight six new albums below, and here are some honorable mentions: Mustafa, Dodsrit, Moon-Drenched (OSEES, TVOTR, etc), Satanic Planet (The Locust, Slayer, etc), Perturbator, Kele (of Bloc Party), Cheval Sombre, Silver Talon, Jill Whit, Alastor, Bleeth, Honey (mem Turning Point), Quivers, winterforever, UV-TV, N0V3L, Andre Ethier, T-Tops, 81355, Wombo, Khandra, Ghastly, the orchestral Moby album (ft. Jim James, Mark Lanegan & more), the Hot Mulligan EP, the Cirith Ungol EP, the acoustic GWAR EP, the Ty Segall live album, the Bowie tribute album (ft. Helado Negro, Khruangbin, Meshell Ndegeocello, We Are KING & more), and the 4-way split from Kurama, p.s.you'redead, Thotcrime, and The Queen Guillotined.
Also, the return of in-person events in New York continues to escalate. Cuomo just announced this week that venues in all of New York State have the option of going to 100% capacity for fully-vaccinated people. That comes after this week's Knicks games at MSG happened with a 15,000 person capacity. In case you missed it, the scene was pretty nuts:
Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?
DMX - Exodus
When DMX's life was tragically cut short at age 50 this year, it was revealed that he had been working on a new album -- his first since 2012's Undisputed -- before he passed. It's loaded with guest appearances, as posthumous albums often are, but X's longtime collaborator Swizz Beatz (who executive produced the album and handled most of the beats) tells GQ that it was in fact finished before he died. "It’s been labeled as an album that's kind of been pieced together since he left, but it's not like that. Every song on that album, he was here for, he approved, he spoke with the artists, he vibed with the artists. He was very hands-on with this project. And he did this project while he was living."
Of those guests, some of them are the same people that X was frequently on tracks with back in the day, like The LOX and Jay-Z (who appears alongside former rival Nas on "Bath Salts," marking the second time this year the two have been on a song together). Others, like the three core members of Griselda, are leading a new movement in rap that's very much in the spirit of what DMX and Ruff Ryders were doing in the late '90s and early 2000s. Snoop Dogg is on there, and his Verzuz battle with DMX last year actually helped lead to the making of this album, which was recorded in Snoop's studio. Other staples from DMX's era like Lil Wayne, Alicia Keys, and Usher show up. Newer Memphis rapper Moneybagg Yo's verse was added posthumously, because -- according to Swizz -- the song was supposed to feature the late Pop Smoke, but Pop's verse ended up being used elsewhere first. DMX's son Exodus Simmons is on the album, and the record's most personal song is one that finds X speaking directly to his son. And for some reason Bono's on there too. I don't think anyone expected it to be on par with his classic It's Dark and Hell Is Hot - Grand Champ run, but there are some good songs on there (the ones with Griselda and The LOX are highlights), and it's just a nice treat to get one more offering from DMX, whose contributions to culture and vast influence are still felt today.
Noctule - Wretched Abyss
Translation Loss/Church Road
UK post-hardcore band Svalbard made arguably their best album yet with 2020's excellent When I Die, Will It Get Better?, and now singer Serena Cherry is exploring a different musical side of her with the debut album by her black metal solo project Noctule. Where Svalbard's lyrics lean social and political, Wretched Abyss was inspired by the RPG game Skyrim. Each song is about "different dungeons, story lines and weapons within" the game. "I have always associated Skyrim with black metal," Serena said. "The snowy mountain settings, the morbid themes, the Norse mythology backbone – it just goes hand in hand for me." Granted, it's black metal, so the lyrics aren't necessarily discernible, but whether you're a Skyrim obsessive or not, this record is just a kickass example of post-black metal. Serena's shriek is just as powerful as her singing and screaming in Svalbard, and Wretched Abyss really nails the tornadic atmosphere of black metal in a fresh, modern way.
black midi - Cavalcade
black midi are probably the most critically acclaimed and popular math rock band since Battles, and like Battles, they're also a weird, intense art rock band and not just a math rock band. It's inspiring to see how much they've taken off; it's not often that a band this technically skilled and this deeply weird gets this level of success. Inevitably, coming from a niche genre and achieving crossover success is gonna draw some criticism -- and I'll admit that sometimes I respect black midi more than I personally enjoy them -- but if you take Cavalcade as a whole and don't judge it by the singles or the first few songs, I think it becomes clear that they really deserve all the attention they're getting. You can't pin this album down from just one song or even three; there's all kinds of different stuff all over the record, and for all the discordant, amelodic stuff, there's also some genuinely beautiful stuff on there. If you give it the time and patience it demands, it's a rewarding listen.
Bruce Lee Band - Division In The Heartland EP
Asian Man Records
Ska and ska-punk is having a real moment right now, and ska-punk as we've known it for the past three decades would not exist without Mike Park. Between his bands Skankin' Pickle, The Chinkees, and The Bruce Lee Band, as well as his label Asian Man Records (which just turned 25) and his beloved compilations and benefit tours, Mike Park shaped the sound, feel, and ethos of ska-punk all throughout the '90s and into the 21st century. He took a break from writing his own ska-punk for a while, but in the 2010s, it came back to him. "I think Jeff Rosenstock and I were just listening to like Operation Ivy and Suicide Machines and we were just like, 'oh man, let's put out a ska-punk record," Mike told us last year. The result was the first Bruce Lee Band album since their 2005 breakup, and first with the new lineup, which includes Jeff Rosenstock. Jeff himself has remained a huge champion of ska as he's gotten more popular than ever as a solo artist, and that really amplified this year with the release of SKA DREAM (a ska reworking of his great 2020 album NO DREAM) and the 9-hour ska playlist that he, members of his band, and the Polyvinyl Records staff curated after SKA DREAM's release. Meanwhile, Jeff had been making ska-punk records and playing ska-punk shows with the Bruce Lee Band the whole time, and now they're back with another new EP, their first release since this whole new ska boom.
The band's semi-revolving lineup includes Mike, Jeff, Dan Potthast (MU330), and Kevin Higuchi on this EP, and it's got five songs that really hit hard in the era of social and political unrest that we've been living in. (Four are sung by Mike, and one -- "BLT" (Bruce Lee Theme) -- is sung in Korean by Jeff.) Bruce Lee Band really carry on the 2 Tone ska tradition of writing fiercely political songs that sound irresistibly fun and catchy. Like the band's other recent albums, this EP has a warm, modern tone that separates it from the Bruce Lee Band's early records and really sounds like something new. Mike Park was making some of the best ska-punk around in the early '90s, and he's doing it now too. The short-but-sweet Division In The Heartland is no exception.
Bachelor - Doomin' Sun
Bachelor is the collaborative project of Melina Duterte (Jay Som) and Ellen Kempner (Palehound), two of the most reliably solid indie rock musicians around, and it comes as no surprise that good things happen when these two put their heads together. (Not to mention, Big Thief's Buck Meek and James Krivchenia and Chastity Belt's Annie Truscott contributed to the album too.) The songs tend to channel '90s indie rock (stuff in the vein of Liz Phair, The Breeders, etc), but sometimes they shake things up like with the sparkling art pop of "Anything At All," the piano ballad "Aurora," and a few folky tracks. Like the best '90s indie rock, it's a very humble sounding album, but underneath the casual, seemingly effortless surface is an arsenal of great hooks. Melina and Ellen both have a knack for sticky melodies and sharp lyrics, and that comes across on Doomin' Sun just as much as it does in their respective main projects.
Pledge - Haunted Visions
Portuguese band Pledge formed in 2018 with members of We Are The Damned, Larkin, Mr. Miyagi, Verbian, and others. Just to be transparent, I'm not familiar with any of the members' past bands, and I wasn't familiar with Pledge until hearing the two singles from their debut LP Haunted Visions earlier this week, so I can't tell you how it compares to what these musicians have done before, but I can tell you that this is some of the best aggressive music I've heard in 2021 so far. The album is a patchwork quilt of raw, harsh, basement-style screamo, melodic emo, atmospheric post-metal, '90s-style metalcore riffs, electronic/industrial passages, and more, and it's all delivered with an insane amount of passion and precision. Vocalist Sofia Magalhães (also of We Are The Damned, Hicks Kinison, Vaee Solis, Crisis, and Botswana) nails the ear-piercing shrieks of '90s screamo, and she also has a genuinely soaring clean-singing voice. It sounds like if Brutus all of a sudden decided to start channelling Orchid and Saetia, or something of that nature. The ingredients are all familiar, but the way that Pledge pieces everything together feels refreshingly innovative.
Lou Barlow - Reason To Live
Just a month after Dinosaur Jr released their new album Sweep It Into Space, Dino bassist/sometimes-vocalist (and Sebadoh frontman) Lou Barlow has released a new solo album. The album's in Lou's classic lo-fi style, and it includes everything from shambolic acoustic songs to synthier songs and more. Bill's got a review of the album in Indie Basement.
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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