It's been a rough week in the music world with the deaths of Kraftwerk's Florian Schneider, "My Boy Lollipop" singer Millie Small, The Stranglers' Dave Greenfield, UK rapper Ty, Bad Company's Brian Howe, Wussy's John Erhardt, and Grand Prospect Hall owner Michael Halkias, and our thoughts are with all of their friends and families right now. Play some of their music this weekend in honor of them.
On a more positive note, it's a huge week for new music. I highlighted eight new albums below, and here are some honorable mentions: Blake Mills, Kehlani, Ric Wilson & Terrace Martin, Ghost Work (mem Seaweed, Minus the Bear, Snapcase, Milemarker), Gleemer, Daedelus, Thomas V. Jäger (Monolord), Brant Bjork, Green Carnation, Goden (ex-Winter and Cycle Sluts From Hell), ...and Oceans, Okkyung Lee, NAV, I Break Horses, Eve Owen, Pozi, Buscabulla, Blakk Soul, Middle Distance, and Holy Wave.
Read on for my eight picks. What was your favorite release of the week?
Fake Names - Fake Names
Back in 2015, I saw Refused play a surprise 2 AM set at Brooklyn's Saint Vitus where they covered classics by Black Flag, Fugazi, Snapcase, Earth Crisis, and more. It was obvious that Dennis Lyxzén was having the time of his life playing legendary hardcore songs, and he was good at it too, so it was very exciting when we learned that Dennis would now be fronting the new supergroup Fake Names alongside some of the very hardcore legends who paved the way for his band: Brian Baker (Minor Threat, Dag Nasty, Bad Religion), Michael Hampton (S.O.A., Embrace, One Last Wish) and Johnny Temple (Girls Against Boys, Soulside). Of all the members' many other bands, Fake Names sound the most like the mid/late '80s melodic hardcore/proto-emo of Dag Nasty, Embrace, and Soulside, and sometimes they echo the hardcore-informed alt-rock that Husker Du was doing in Minnesota around the same time the Revolution Summer was going down in DC. The production's a little cleaner than it should be for this kinda thing (the rawness of Brian Baker's other current punk supergroup, Beach Rats, would be more fitting), but it's tough to deny how catchy these songs are and it's fun to hear Dennis indulging in his most straight-up punk tendencies.
Hayley Williams - Petals For Armor
Paramore singer Hayley Williams' first-ever solo album is finally here, and it's a pretty noticeable departure from Paramore's music that goes in all kinds of exciting new directions. You can read my full review of it here.
Ka - Descendants Of Cain
Underground New York rap veteran Ka has been at it since the '90s (when he was a member of Natural Elements), and after taking a hiatus from music (and becoming a firefighter), Ka has been releasing music at a pretty consistent rate for the past decade or so and everything he does continues to be great. His last record was the 2018 Hermit and the Recluse LP (a collaboration with LA producer Animoss), and now he's back with Descendants Of Cain, his first solo album in four years. And he's done it once again. His ominous, plainspoken delivery is in its usual fine form, but the production (which was mostly handled by Ka himself, along with some contributions from Animoss, his Dr. Yen Lo partner Preservation, and Roc Marciano, who also raps on "Sins of the Father") is some of his most psychedelic music yet. Just going by the beats, Descendants Of Cain is almost more like Shabazz Palaces than like the last few Ka albums, but Ka's clear-eyed delivery works in smooth contrast to the head-trip production and keeps things firmly grounded. He remains a great lyricist too, weaving clever rhymes and one-liners into his web of narrative-driven storytelling ("Was dropped in Gotham, I had to blossom to grow roots / Chase the product, got up on his shoulder with no boost"). As with all recent Ka albums, the appeal of Descendants Of Cain reveals itself right away, but it also demands repeated listens. Ka packs so many ideas into his records, and you always seem to hear something new each time you click play.
Mark Lanegan - Straight Songs of Sorrow
As the Screaming Trees frontman, a Queens of the Stone Age/Mad Season collaborator, a long-running solo artist and more, Mark Lanegan has released more music over the past three and a half decades than most people can keep track of, and he's been insanely prolific and consistently great lately. Straight Songs of Sorrow is his third full-length albums in the past 12 months, and it's yet another winner. Bill's got a longer review of it in Bill's Indie Basement.
Little Simz - Drop 6 EP
UK rapper Little Simz released one of last year's very best albums with GREY Area, a loud, intense, powerful record with instrumentation as interesting as Simz's insanely good rapping. (She tours with a band and also plays bass herself during the improvisational jam section of her live show, further driving home that the instrumental aspect is a big part of Simz's music.) She hasn't really talked about her next proper album yet, but while stuck at home in quarantine, she decided to bang out this new EP. It's just five short songs that clock in at 12 minutes and she put the whole thing together in about a month, but it doesn't sound like an off-the-cuff project. It's brief, but it's a great listen and it often rivals GREY Area. It's full of innovative production, gut-punch one-liners ("You ain’t seen no one like me since / Lauryn Hill back in the ’90s, bitch"), and the same type of edge-of-your-seat intensity that GREY Area has. If this is what she comes up with in just a month, I can't wait to hear what her next proper album is gonna sound like.
Bishop Nehru - Nehruvia: My Disregarded Thoughts
New York rapper Bishop Nehru first started picking up buzz in the early 2010s as a young teenager who was very good at replicating the way New York rap sounded around the time Nehru was born (which was 1996). He caught the attention of big names like Disclosure, Kendrick Lamar, and underground rap legend MF DOOM, who ended up teaming with him for the NehruvianDOOM album in 2014. It seemed like Nehru was gonna have a big break, but then he had a record label deal fall through, his later albums were quiet releases rather than big events, and he kinda faded into the background a bit. If you haven't been paying attention to him lately, though, it's worth changing that, because he's continued to hone his craft and his new album Nehruvia: My Disregarded Thoughts is genuinely great. He reunites with DOOM who raps on the song "Meathead" and he also tapped the legendary DJ Premier to produce "Too Lost," but Nehru produced most of this album himself and it turns out he's just as good at making beats as he is at rapping over them. Now 23, Nehru is still a very young guy, but he's been around so it's no real surprise that he has the wisdom of a vet and sounds like an elder statesman on this LP. He still echoes '90s New York rap, but he does it in a way that sounds forward-thinking, not in a way that sounds overly retro. He's also not just good at classic-style bars, which was always his strong point; he's also gotten a lot better at hooks. Just being able to rap like the greats of the past gets old fast, but writing memorable songs -- which Bishop Nehru has definitely done on this album -- does not.
O'Brother - You and I
O'Brother have spent the last decade-plus crafting a grungy, sludgy take on post-hardcore, but if you think you've got them pegged and you already know what to expect from their new album You and I -- their first in four years -- then you probably haven't heard it yet. It was produced by frequent collaborators Andy Hull and Robert McDowell, the core duo of fellow Atlanta band Manchester Orchestra, and though O'Brother have worked with those two plenty of times before, it's never sounded like this. Their trademark sound is still here, but they combine it with electronic art rock that recalls Radiohead or The Fragile-era Nine Inch Nails, haunting acoustic dirges, and other off-kilter sounds that make for what is overwhelmingly the band's most experimental album yet. There is definite precedent for emo/post-hardcore bands going art rock -- and of all of those precedents, this new O'Brother album most reminds me of Thrice's art rock experiment The Alchemy Index -- but it manages to be exciting every time, as long as the band does it right, and O'Brother very much do. You and I is as cerebral and musically adventurous as just about any of today's art rock, but the band's sludgy post-hardcore roots make it a hard-hitting, heavy record too. It's powerful, intricate music, and it's nice to see a band who have already taken an album on a 10th anniversary tour reinventing themselves this far into their career.
Shiner - Schadenfreude
Two Black Eyes
"Sounds like Hum" has become shorthand for describing bands who inject shoegaze, post-rock, space rock, and other atmospheric sounds into heavy, melodic post-hardcore, but Hum weren't the only band doing that kind of thing back in the day. Kansas City's Shiner -- who had releases on DeSoto, Sub Pop, and other labels and made records with Shellac's Bob Weston, Jawbox's J Robbins, and more -- were doing a similar thing around the same time, and they helped pave the way for a lot of today's post-hardcore bands too. (They also toured with Hum in '98 and recorded at Matt Talbott's studio.) Shiner broke up shortly after the release of 2001's The Egg, but they have been reunited for live shows since 2012, and today they're releasing their first new album in 19 years, Schadenfreude. It basically picks up where The Egg left off, and since their sound is so prominent and influential right now, Schadenfreude echoes Shiner's classics while also fitting right in with today's post-hardcore scene. It's got everything you want from this band -- big riffs, good hooks, a hard-hitting rhythm section, and pillowy atmosphere -- and Shiner make it sound like a day hasn't gone by since 2001.
Looking for more recent releases? Browse the Notable Releases archive.
For even more metal, browse the 'Upcoming Releases' each week on Invisible Oranges.