This week was St. Patrick's Day and it's also the week we'd normally be at SXSW (there's a virtual edition, and BV hosted a showcase with M For Montreal last night), both of which are major reminders that it's officially been over a year since coronavirus turned our world upside down. Live music in New York is scheduled to return on April 2 at 33% capacity and with strict social distancing guidelines, so things are starting to look a little hopeful, but a return to the true live music experience still seems far away and we really, really miss it.

Luckily, we still have recorded music to keep us going, and this week brought plenty of great new stuff. I also took the time to revisit some older music with a list of 15 progressive post-hardcore albums from the 2000s for my 'In Defense of the Genre' column, and Nina Corcoran looked back on Manchester Orchestra's Mean Everything to Nothing.

As for this week's new albums, I highlight six below, and here are some honorable mentions: the Serj Tankian EP of music that was originally written for System Of A Down, Chad VanGaalen, Loretta Lynn, Alex Somers, New Bums (Six Organs, Skygreen Leopards), Sore Dream (Full of Hell), Manslaughter 777 (The Body, MSC), Kota The Friend & Statik Selektah, Nappy Nina & JWords, Ghost of Vroom (Mike Doughty), Jane Inc, Bell Orchestre (Arcade Fire), Batushka, Gazelle Twin & NYX, Too Much Joy, Real Numbers, Endless Garbage (Oh Sees), Internet Dating, Bicycle Inn, Middle Kids, William Doyle (East India Youth), Joyce Wrice, Boise Cover Band (Built To Spill), Year Twins, the Show Me The Body EP, the Becca Mancari EP, the Safety EP, the Pretty/Normal (ex-Aviator, Verse) EP, the Fléau EP, the Zero Again EP, the Protoje deluxe edition (of last year's great In Search of Lost Time), and the MONO orchestral live album.

Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?

Flying Raccoon Suit - Afterglow
self-released

What's happening within ska right now is called New Tone, and not a "ska revival," for a reason. The bands who are defining this current era of ska are of course influenced by the previous generations, but they aren't really "reviving" anything; they're doing something new. And if you need proof that new and exciting things are happening within the genre right now, look no further than the new LP from Mississippi's Flying Raccoon Suit. They have releases dating back to 2012, but they didn't solidify their current lineup until 2016, and it's with this lineup that they've written their best album yet, Afterglow. You can probably safely call it a "ska-punk" album, but outside of one or two songs, Afterglow doesn't sound like '90s ska-punk. Throughout the album, they experiment with lumbering metal riffs, throat-shredding hardcore, DIY indie rock, surf rock, explorative jazz, upbeat Klezmer, and more, and Flying Raccoon Suit have a firm grip on all of these styles of music. It never sounds like they're biting off more than they can chew, and it comes together a lot more seamlessly than you might expect. You can hear all of these different sounds when you dissect it, but when you just sit back and listen, it's just an enjoyable rock record with big hooks and a ton of energy. If you don't think you like ska, Afterglow probably has a song or two that will prove you wrong.

 

Lana Del Rey - Chemtrails Over The Country Club
Interscope

Lana Del Rey's new album continues the earthy, bare-bones vibe of her 2019 album Norman Fucking Rockwell, and it makes following up an instant classic look easy. You can read my full review of it here.

 

Benny the Butcher - The Plugs I Met 2
Black Soprano Family

At this point, Griselda is a gigantic force within both mainstream and underground rap, and the growing collective remains almost too prolific. There's a lot of good stuff that's come out of the Griselda camp in the past few years, and one of the very best releases is Benny the Butcher's 2019 project The Plugs I Met. It perfectly captures Benny and his pals' abilities to tap into gritty '90s New York boom bap in a way that rivals their forebears and feels vintage and modern at the same time. Benny went in a smoother, more polished direction on last year's Burden of Proof -- an album that's excellent in a totally different way -- and we now know that at the same time he recorded that album, he recorded a sequel to The Plugs I Met. Burden of Proof was recorded entirely with producer Hit-Boy in California, while Plugs 2 was done in Brooklyn with Harry Fraud, and as Benny says, "you can hear that influence." Plugs 2 has a different cast of collaborators than Plugs 1 (which was produced by Alchemist, Daringer, Beat Butcha, and the late DJ Shay and featured Black Thought, Jadakiss, Pusha T, and more), but it captures that same grimy feel of pre-Jiggy Era New York. Harry Fraud taps into that sound perfectly, and guests like New York vets Fat Joe and Jim Jones, as well as the versatile 2 Chainz, fit right in. Like on all of his projects, though, the star is always Benny himself. He has a seemingly endless arsenal of knockout punchlines, and he brings plenty of them to this new record.

By the way, Burden of Proof is now available on vinyl and you can get it in our store.

 

Pink Siifu & Fly Anakin - $mokebreak
Lex Records

One of last year's best rap albums was the collaborative LP from Pink Siifu and Fly Anakin, Fly Siifu's. It's a psychedelic, jazzy, post-boom bap album that shows off tons of chemistry between Siifu and Anakin and reminds you why these two are some of the most prominent names in rap's thriving underground. Turns out, they've got more where that 22-song album came from: a new 9-song EP, $mokebreak, which is every bit as good as the full-length (and is also being paired with the full-length on a new deluxe edition). The EP has some of the same producers as the full-length (iiye, Ohbliv, Graymatter, Ahwlee) and guests (Fousheé, B. Cool-Aid), but it also has an impressive cast of new collaborators, with verses from Chuck Strangers, YUNGMORPHEUS, MAVI, Zeeloperz, Koncept Jack$on and production from Ewonee and Black Noi$e -- all artists who are defining this current moment in underground rap as much as Siifu and Anakin themselves. If you heard the full-length, you pretty much know what to expect from the overall vibe of the EP. The production is hazy and hypnotic, and there's a smoky, laid-back vibe to the rapping too, but in a way that still feels forceful and bulletproof. Fly Siifu's was a great show, and every great show deserves its equally great encore.

 

New Pagans - The Seed, The Vessel, The Roots and All
Big Scary Monsters

Belfast band New Pagans have been on the rise for the past few years, with an EP and a handful of singles dating back to 2016, and if you've been following along with their career, you've actually already heard almost every song on their debut album The Seed, The Vessel, The Roots and All. But if you haven't, hop aboard now, because this LP is a great introduction to this very promising band (and it's recorded a lot better than their early singles). It exists somewhere between punk and post-punk -- it kind of reminds me of mid 2010s stuff like Priests and Makthaverskan -- with songs that are as driving and anthemic as they are arty and angular, and there's some definite Sonic Youth-style noise rock in the mix too. Like all three of those bands, New Pagans also write music with a purpose. If you're curious about their views on sexist double standards, they make it clear as day on album closer (and major highlight) "Christian Boys." But even on the less overtly finger-pointing songs, Lyndsey McDougall always uses her melodic shout to make a point.

 

Rodeola - Arlene
self-released

Rodeola is the project of Bloomington, Indiana folk singer Kate Long, and she has albums dating back to 2006, but I hadn't heard of her until this new album Arlene, which has been getting some buzz, and as soon as I clicked play, I immediately felt like I'd be missing out on a great, underrated songwriter. People who have heard of her include Joan Shelley, Nathan Salsburg, and Elephant Micah’s Joe O’Connell, all of whom appear on this record (Joan and Nathan sing on the gorgeous "Northern Flicker"), and I think fans of those artists will like Rodeola too. Like Joan especially, Rodeola hearkens back to '60s/'70s folk like Joni Mitchell and Sandy Denny, and her music sounds as timeless as those artists still do.

 

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.

And check out what's new in our shop.