Notable Releases of the Week (5/24)
As mentioned last week, I'm out of town for a bit and as a result, Notable Releases will be slightly more brief than usual until I'm back. I picked five this week and you can read more about those below, but first some honorable mentions: Mavis Staples, Sebadoh, Petrol Girls, Nocturnus AD, Vale, Earth, Diamond Head, Amyl and the Sniffers, Cate Le Bon (read Bill's review), J-E-T-S, Joan As Police Woman, Morrissey, Faye Webster, Slingshot Dakota, Neckbeard Deathcamp, Steve Lacy, and Mike Donovan.
Read on for my five picks. What was your favorite release of the week?
Flying Lotus isn't the kind of producer who needs an all-star cast of guest vocalists to make a compelling album from start to finish, but that doesn't make it any less exciting when he chooses to use one. Flamagra has ten guest vocalists across its 27 songs, and the album is paced and sequenced in such a way that you never get too much of one thing at a time. FlyLo weaves in the vocal tracks amongst his blissful instrumentals, and both are equally gripping. Some of these songs could really stand on their own as new FlyLo-produced singles for the guest artists involved -- the Anderson .Paak, Solange, Denzel Curry, and Shabazz Palaces songs are as strong as (or stronger than) anything those artists have released in recent memory -- but this is definitely not one of those producer-curated compilation albums. It all flows like one cohesive piece, and the guests all work within the unique world that FlyLo created. Whether it's those aforementioned show-stealing guest appearances; or ones like David Lynch and Tierra Whack that are almost more like narration; or the ones from George Clinton, Little Dragon, Thundercat, and Toro y Moi that seem to blend right in with the music; every guest is doing their part to build towards the greater good of this album. It makes sense that FlyLo has struck up a collaborative relationship with David Lynch, as FlyLo approaches this album similarly to the way Lynch directs his films. Like Lynch, FlyLo knows how to be the clear leader of a project without being the star. This album sees him sharing the spotlight more than he ever has before, and the result is arguably his most accessible album yet.
Any year is a good year for a new Black Mountain album, but 2019 was a good time for them to return because, with the unsettling rise of Greta Van Fleet and cries of "at least they're an actual rock band!", it's a good time to remember that Black Mountain have been making great "actual rock" records for nearly 15 years. Not that '70s hard rock is the only valid kind of rock of course (it definitely isn't), but Black Mountain are a modern band who are especially good at that kind of rock, and Destroyer is yet another triumph from them. It follows 2016's IV, which shared more than an album title with classic Zeppelin, but Destroyer is darker, heavier, and trippier than its Zep-obsessed predecessor. Songs like "Future Shade" and "Licensed To Drive" see Black Mountain offering up their unique twist on leather jacket-wearing highway rock, while songs like "Horns Arising," "Boogie Lover," and "FD 72" see them drenching their songs in the acid-infused proto-metal of stuff like Blue Cheer, but in a way that's both more modern and more evil. It's arguably the band's heaviest album yet, and it's not everyday that you see that 15 years into a band's career.
Near the beginning of the current decade, a new group of Brooklyn rappers emerged -- including Flatbush Zombies, The Underachievers, and Pro Era (of which Joey Bada$$ is a member) -- and they referred to the movement they were starting as Beast Coast. They toured together, collaborated together, and now they're using the Beast Coast name for the new ten-person supergroup they've formed with all three members of Flatbush Zombies, all two members of The Underachievers, and Pro Era's Joey Bada$$, Kirk Knight, Nyck Caution, CJ Fly, and Powers Pleasant. And if you're into any or all of the members' own projects, you should warm up to Beast Coast's debut album Escape From New York in no time. The Beast Coast guys have always existed just on the fringes of mainstream rap, popular enough to gain big fanbases but with music that rarely pays attention to dominant trends or The Conversation. Joey Bada$$ got pegged early on as a classicist (though he's developed his own sound on more recent work), while Flatbush Zombies and The Underachievers have honored the New York tradition of being as weird as possible without sounding like other New York rappers. The ten members of Beast Coast mostly all make music that sounds different from the others, but it all works very well together. That's very apparent throughout Escape From New York, which has very little filler and sums up the vibe of this unique Brooklyn rap movement very nicely.
UK art rock quartet Wild Beasts are no more, but those missing the band will happy to know that co-frontman Hayden Thorpe has wasted no time launching a solo career. And though he's been celebrating the album with some solo piano shows, Diviner does not favor the stripped-down sounds of your stereotypical "solo" album. He made it with longtime Wild Beasts producer Leo Abrahams, and it's as fleshed-out as many of the songs Hayden wrote for Wild Beasts. Hayden's voice is as distinct and tender as ever on this album -- longtime Wild Beasts fans should be hit with an instant rush of familiarity when they hear it -- and the arrangements are quietly ambitious. The album is piano-based, but it's also heavy on synths, enveloping atmospheres, and a steady rhythm section. Some songs, like the funk-tinged "Straight Lines" or the gothy synthpop of "Earthly Needs," are as full-sounding as anything by Wild Beasts. I'm sure Wild Beasts had their reasons for calling it quits, but Hayden seems like one of those guys for whom quitting music entirely is never an option. Put him in front of a piano, and beautiful songs are gonna come pouring right out. Diviner is proof of it.
Hot Water Music have been on the road this year celebrating their 25th anniversary, and for the occasion, they've been doing the nostalgia thing and playing two of their most-loved albums -- 1999's No Division and 2002's Caution -- in full. 2019 isn't all about nostalgia for Hot Water Music though. They've now got this new five-song EP out on Epitaph -- their first release for the label since 2004's The New What Next -- and it's a good reminder that these guys are still great at what they do. Not surprisingly given the political climate we're in, it's a more outwardly political batch of songs than Hot Water Music usually deliver, and that ups the urgency on these songs just a bit. But for the most part, these songs are cut from the same tried-and-true cloth that Hot Water Music have been using for years (not in a bad way). The heartland rock singer/songwriter element is still there, bubbling up beneath the band's punk rage and the gravelly grit in Chuck Ragan's voice, and both their sense of melodicism and their ability to rock the fuck out are in fine form. It's the Hot Water Music you know and love, and not every band can still do that 25 years into their career.
YG initially planned to release his new album 4REAL 4REAL in April, but then pushed it back after the tragic death of his friend/collaborator Nipsey Hussle who he now includes a tribute to, a recording of the speech he gave a Nipsey's memorial service; a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Nipsey’s children. He first said it was coming May 3, but May 3 came and went and then YG revealed it would instead be out May 24. Ahead of its release, he put out the 6ix9ine diss track "Stop Snitchin'" (after debuting it at Coachella) and the Latin-tinged "Go Loko," both of which showed off very different sides of him. Guests include Meek Mill, Kamaiyah, DaBaby, Valee, Boogie, Ty Dolla $ign, G-Eazy, SAFE, and more. I haven't heard this whole album yet, but everything YG does is worth a listen.