Five Notable Releases of the Week (3/11/16)
Last week there were so many great records that released that I spent the whole intro of this column just throwing out honorable mentions. This is a much slower week, so it's a good chance to catch up on anything you may have missed last time around. Still, there's good stuff as always and I've picked five.
Check out my picks below. What was your favorite release of the week?
Evan Weiss has been an insanely prolific member of the emo/indie rock/whatever-you-call-it world for well over a decade now. He either is currently or was in The Progress, Stay Ahead of the Weather, Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start, Damiera, Their/They're/There, Pet Symmetry and that's not even all of it. He's also a producer, having worked with veteran bands like The Jazz June as well as younger up-and-comers like You Blew It!. If you listen to melodic, guitar-based music in 2016, it's pretty tough not to run into this guy one way or another. Back in 2007, he launched the solo project Into It. Over It. with his 52 Weeks project, which had him writing and recording a new song every week for a year. IIOI has since become a full-fledged band (with a rotating lineup), and Standards is their third and best album yet. For this one, Evan teamed up with indie rock vet John Vanderslice to produce it, and his drummer for the record is the insanely talented Josh Sparks (who was also in Damiera for a time). Thanks to those two collaborators, it's simultaneously IIOI's warmest sounding record and the most technically complex. I've said this before, but to me the album comes off as a mix of early Death Cab and Owen (aka Mike Kinsella, who's in T/T/T with Evan), and if you like either of those, it's gonna be difficult to get turned off by this. Like both Mike Kinsella and Ben Gibbard, Evan has a sweet-sounding voice and he knows just when to dish out that lyric that won't leave you alone. "Leveled up and laying down on the concrete beside your house," he sings on the chorus of "No EQ." It's got just the right amount of specificity that you can't help but visualize it every time.
Into It. Over It. are touring, including a BrooklynVegan SXSW party.
(Soundcloud via Entertainment Weekly)
New York rap trio Flatbush Zombies came up around the same time as their neighbors Joey Bada$$, A$AP Mob, and a few others, a group of artists that at least a few people dubbed New New York. The Zombies' first mixtape, 2012's D.R.U.G.S., is as good a time capsule for what that period felt and sounded like as any. Now A$AP Rocky is a legitimate star and Ferg and Joey Bada$$ are at least familiar names in mainstream rap circles, but the Flatbush Zombies have remained out of that spotlight. And, all these years later, they're only just finally putting out their official debut album. It's easy to attach higher expectations to a proper album than a mixtape, even though D.R.U.G.S. would have been a fine debut album and it's hard to imagine Flatbush Zombies sounding as vital with some Grand Statement type of album anyway. But one listen through 3001: A Laced Odyssey quickly erases any skepticism. They're still doing what they do best: making references to LSD and Stanley Kubrick, rapping over warped, psychedelic production, and just sounding whacked out on almost every song. Maybe it's just because they put the same millennium in the album title, but it reminds me a bit of the first Deltron 3030 album. Flatbush Zombies are more drugs and less concept album than Deltron, but both groups have an interest in sci-fi, psychedelia, and not sounding like the trends going on around them. That last bit is part of why Deltron has had so much lasting power, and it's not crazy to think 3001: A Laced Odyssey will too.
Fort Worth, TX's Mind Spiders share members with The Marked Men, Radioactivity, Bad Sports, Video and more, and while those bands all make some sort of power pop-infused garage punk, Mind Spiders gives them a chance to really let their freak flags fly. Sometimes they're cranking out rippers that aren't a million miles away from those other bands, but other times they're making dark, synth-led new wave ("No FIlter") or dissonant, apocalyptic rock (the title track), or genuinely strange art punk ("Split In Two"). The record's constantly fighting between Devo-ish synths and the raw distorted guitars of The Marked Men, and Mark Ryan shifts from sounding evil to robotic to alien-like. The whole thing's under a half hour, but it's truly a wild ride.
Last year, Florida rapper Denzel Curry released a double EP of atmospheric druggy rap with enough aggression and complexity in his voice to keep it from ever fading into the background. Now he's back with a new mixtape, Imperial, and it's clear that he's becoming increasingly flawless at balancing those two sounds. On "Sick & Tired," he transitions between banging trap rap and and creepy psychedelia without missing a beat. The mixtape only has ten tracks, the only guests are Rick Ross, Joey Bada$$ and Twelve'len, and there isn't an ounce of fat on this thing. It hits its first major high point halfway through with "Narcotics," which has a hook and a message based on a line from NWA's "Fuck Tha Police," and sounds like a surefire hit. It's a dark song, and something about it feels inherently underground even though Denzel is bigger than ever. He deserves even more fame than he has, and let's hope his vision stays this clear and uncompromising when he gets it.
I'm usually pretty wary of a veteran band making an album with a new singer, but our pals over at Invisible Oranges said this was a fun record so I decided to give it a fair shake. It's no future classic, but IO wasn't wrong. It's the band's first album in nine years and their first with singer Rasmus Bom Andersen, who joined in 2014. The only member who remains from their timeless 1980 debut, Lightning to the Nations -- the album that spawned "Am I Evil?," the song that Metallica famously covered a few years later -- is lead guitarist Brian Tatler, and he's still got a few badass riffs left in him. The one-two punch of "Bones" and "Shout at the Devil" that kicks off the record is chock full of the kind of hard rock fretwork that never goes out of style, and he brings back that kind of magic on "Wizard Sleeve" too. Not to mention the nice twin leads on "Speed." (Can you tell by these song titles that this is a hard rock album?) The new singer has pipes, but at times he makes them sound a little too much like Audioslave or something. To stay on the bright side, it's still a new album by an absolute riff master with some juice left. Considering how many newer bands liberally pull from the sound Tatler helped pioneer, it's nice to hear that he still gives them a run for their money.
The album isn't streaming anywhere, but you can order it at Diamond Head's website.