Notable Releases of the Week (11/1)
Are you tired of listening to "Monster Mash" and "The Time Warp" and "Halloween," and want some new albums to throw on instead? Oh good, because plenty are out today. I highlighted five below, but first some honorable mentions: Cunts (mem Retox, Qui, etc), A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Nile, Miranda Lambert, Turnover, Jubilee, Nocturnal Sunshine (aka Maya Jane Coles), Itasca, Angel Witch, Cannabis Corpse, Sarke (mem Darkthrone), Vetiver, Jeffrey Lewis, Omni, MakeWar, Sammi Lanzetta, The Deer, Year of the Cobra, Counterparts, TR/ST, CUP (Nels Cline + Yuka Honda), Fenella (Jane Weaver), Jeff Lynne's ELO, the Integrity / Bleach Everything covers split, the Wounded Touch EP, and the Queensway EP. Also out today are The Damned's best-of and R.E.M.'s Monster 25th anniversary box.
Read on for my five picks. What was your favorite release of the week?
Sudan Archives, the musical moniker of violinist/singer/songwriter/producer Brittney Parks, follows a string of promising EPs and singles with her first full-length album, Athena. She's already a highly established musician with lots of acclaim and high-profile festivals and tours under her belt, so her "debut" album is less of an introduction and more of a culmination of everything she's been building towards during her few years in the spotlight. That said, she's always previously offered up her music in small doses, and this is the first time she's putting out a sprawling full-length album that ebbs and flows and weaves interludes in between songs, and this more ambitious project suits her well. It also contains some of her very best songwriting. The album's two lead singles -- "Confessions" and "Glorious -- are the two best songs she's ever written, and deeper Athena cuts like "Down On Me" and "Coming Up" aren't far behind. Throughout the LP, she ties together vintage psychedelic soul, modern atmospheric R&B, hip hop, Afrobeat, synthetic electronic music, and the organic, traditional sounds of her own violin, and she makes all of these sounds seem like they were always meant to be together. As both a violinist and a singer, her raw talent is undeniable, and she knows how to flex her chops without taking the focus away from concise pop songs. Her EPs were great, but in hindsight, they sound a little more scatterbrained than Athena, like Sudan was using them to try out a bunch of different sounds to see what stuck. On Athena, the conclusion she came to is that they all stuck, and she figured out how to turn them into one cohesive piece.
Earl Sweatshirt (semi) surprised the world with a new project, Feet of Clay, and it's cut from a similarly psychedelic cloth as last year's experimental Some Rap Songs, but also quickly registers as a more accessible album than its predecessor. It's great stuff, and you can read my full review of it here.
Michael Kiwanuka's stature has grown significantly since releasing his great 2016 album Love & Hate, thanks in part to "Cold Little Heart" becoming the iconic theme song of Big Little Lies and a sleeper hit. It resulted in some pretty high expectations for his new album Kiwanuka, and not only does Kiwanuka deliver, it's the best thing Michael has released yet. Read my full review here.
Guru sadly passed away in 2010, but his former Gang Starr partner DJ Premier has unearthed an LP's worth of posthumous Guru verses for One of the Best Yet, the first Gang Starr album in 16 years. He roped in a number of guests to help flesh everything out -- J. Cole, Q-Tip, Royce Da 5’9″, M.O.P., Jeru the Damaja, Nitty Scott, Talib Kweli, Big Shug, Freddie Foxxx, and Ne-Yo -- but it feels more like a Gang Starr album than, say, Duets: The Final Chapter felt like a Biggie album. Preemo keeps the whole thing sounding focused, and all the guest verses sound like they could've been featured on a '90s Gang Starr album too. An album like this can never feel like a true comeback, but One of the Best Yet comes pretty close. As you'd probably expect, it totally ignores current trends in rap and just gives you what you want from Gang Starr. DJ Premier remains a master of boom bap, and Guru's verses remind you that he remained a gifted MC up through his final days.
Earlier this year, Deerhunter released the very enjoyable Cate Le Bon-produced album Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?, but before they made that album together, Cate and Deerhunter's Bradford Cox were artists in residence at 2018's Marfa Myths festival and made this collaborative EP for the Marfa Myths record series. (The EP's release also follows Cate's 2019 album Reward and the 13-minute song that Deerhunter released yesterday.) While Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? and Reward are both traditionally structured, song-oriented albums, Bradford and Cate let their freak flags fly on Myths 004, offering up a few "pop" moments but mostly indulging in their weirder, more experimental tendencies. You can read even more about this EP in Bill's Indie Basement.