It's another busy week for new music, with some especially heavy hitters from the indie world and a lot of other great stuff too. I highlight ten new releases below, and Bill highlights even more in Indie Basement, including Metronomy, Midnight Oil, Sea Power, Sally Shapiro, and Elephant Stone.
On top of all that, here are a bunch of honorable mentions: Matt Pike (High On Fire), Gregor Barnett (The Menzingers), Curren$y & The Alchemist, Bad Boy Chiller Crew, The Body & OAA, And So I Watch You From Afar, Lavender Country, Shout Out Louds, Immolation, Yeat, Sada Baby, BUÑUEL (Eugene S. Robinson of Oxbow), Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, Kendra Morris, Big Nothing, Dreamtigers (mem Caspian, Defeater), Ann Beretta, A Will Away, Brick by Brick, Modern Studies, White Lies, Shovels & Rope, Methyl Ethel, Liam Benzvi, Bottom Bracket, the Human Issue EP, the Gilded Age EP, the Blue Hawaii EP, the Ergs EP, the deluxe box set of Tame Impala's The Slow Rush, the Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros live album, and the Ben Gibbard-curated Yoko Ono tribute album (ft. Death Cab, David Byrne & Yo La Tengo, The Flaming Lips, Japanese Breakfast, Sharon Van Etten, U.S. Girls, Jay Som, Deerhoof & more).
Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?
Hurray for the Riff Raff - Life On Earth
On their last album as Hurray for the Riff Raff, 2017's The Navigator, Alynda Segarra broke from the alt-country sound of her early years in favor of something with a harder edge and an album that embraced the Puerto Rican musician's Latinx heritage. Its peak was "Pa’lante," which became an iconic protest song of the Trump era. Five years later, Alynda is finally back with a followup, Life On Earth, and they're once again going in a different direction. They cite an array of different influences on the album, from Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s 1986 new age classic Keyboard Fantasies to Vietnamese American poet Ocean Vuong (whose voice is sampled on this album) to the organization Freedom for Immigrants, which Alynda recently started working with. They enlisted the help of producer Brad Cook, who they chose due to Cook's work on Waxahatchee’s Saint Cloud, Kevin Morby’s Sundowner, and Hand Habits' Placeholder, but perhaps the biggest difference about this album is that Alynda wanted to finally stop looking backwards. "So much of my twenties was spent being very nostalgic and feeling I was born in the wrong time," they said in the press materials for this record. "I didn’t want to do that anymore, because finally there’s resistance happening, a young-people movement wanting to change the world. Popular music has also been opened up more toward women and people of color, queer people. I was more excited about being in the present moment, and I wanted to use the tools of now."
Using the tools of now is exactly what Alynda did on Life On Earth, an album that moves between soaring, synth-coated indie rock, tender folk music, piano balladry, spoken word-infused sophisti-pop, horn-fueled art pop, and some of that ambient new age influence they picked up from Beverly Glenn-Copeland. And Alynda wasn't trying to write a protest song like "Pa'lante" this time around, but they do get political, speak-singing about ICE on "Precious Cargo," looking at colonization on "Rhododendron," and taking inspiration from climate change, the pandemic, and the 24-hour news cycle. They also get personal, like on "Pierced Arrows," a self-described "heartbreak song" which includes a line about Alynda trying to avoid running into their ex on Broadway. And in many ways, the political songs are personal too, especially the album's climactic, penultimate track "Saga," which finds Alynda taking inspiration Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s Senate testimony and coming out with a powerful song about processing, and eventually overcoming, their own trauma ("I don't want this to be the saga of my life"). The Navigator positioned Alynda as a musician-meets-activist, but Life On Earth may actually be her most radical album yet, on both a musical and lyrical level. Her words pop out at you, and prove to be as poetic as they are blunt, as detailed and intimate as they are universally impactful. All the while, the album's ever-changing musical backdrop keeps you on your toes and makes the record fly by. It's a genuinely significant work that sounds full of intent, self-assurance, and the determination to prove oneself -- not that the Alynda Segarra of 2022 needed to do that.
Beach House - Once Twice Melody
Beach House are finally back with their anticipated eighth album, Once Twice Melody. As an 18-song double album that clocks in at over 84 minutes, it's a lot to take in, but Beach House (wisely) rolled it out gradually in the form of four EPs over the course of three months, so there's a good chance you've already taken in 75% of it before reading this. It's the band's most overtly psychedelic album, the most drastic musical evolution they've undergone in a while, and it might be my favorite of theirs since Bloom. I highly recommend it, and if you want to read more about it, I also highly recommend checking out Bill's review.
Khruangbin & Leon Bridges - Texas Moon
Dead Oceans/Columbia/Night Time Stories Ltd
Khruangbin and Leon Bridges' collaborative 2020 EP Texas Sun remains a unique gem in both artists' discographies, a four-song offering of '70s-style psychedelic soul that's further out than any of Leon's solo albums and goes down smoother than any of Khruangbin's albums. It does justice to the '70s greats without sounding too retro, and it never gets old, even after several repeated listens. Now, almost exactly two years later, Khruangbin and Leon have done it again with Texas Moon, five songs cut from that same cloth. Like its predecessor, Texas Moon feels like music you've known your whole life. It has an old soul and a nostalgic warmth, and it's instantly comforting every time it comes on. Khruangbin's grooves are hypnotic, and Leon's molasses-smooth voice goes down effortlessly. If your taste in soul leans towards stuff like Rotary Connection, The Undisputed Truth, Shuggie Otis, or The World Is a Ghetto-era War, don't miss out on this great EP.
Pick up a vinyl copy.
Alice Glass - PREY//IV
Eating Glass Records
It's been almost eight years since Alice Glass left Crystal Castles, about seven years since she released her debut solo single, and almost five years since she released her debut solo EP, and now she's finally put out her first full-length as a solo artist, PREY//IV. Though as the album title implies and as she told NME, Alice sees this as her fourth album, hence its title following the same Roman numeral theme as Crystal Castles' three albums with Alice. "Look at the writing credits throughout the years," she said, "and I am the most consistent songwriter on the CC records."
Alice is also the core songwriter on this album, and she's found a new creative partner in former HEALTH member Jupiter Keyes, who produced her 2017 EP and assumes that same role here. The music shares some traits with the music Alice made with CC and some traits with the music Jupiter made with HEALTH, but mostly it finds her moving forward, making experimental, industrial-tinged pop that finds her at her most maximalist and abrasive. There's a good argument to be made that the alt-pop boom of the past decade took influence from the music that Alice made with Crystal Castles, but in a time where "alt-pop" and "pop pop" don't always sound very different, PREY//IV reminds you that Alice is still weirder than everyone else. These songs seem intended to provoke and antagonize, and they're not for everyone, but that's the point. PREY//IV finds Alice operating on her own terms; you're welcome to join her for the ride, but hold on tight, 'cause she's not stopping for anyone.
Big K.R.I.T. - Digital Roses Don't Die
After Big K.R.I.T. released his most ambitious album yet with 2017's 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time -- a double album with his usual Southern rap on disc one and more of a vintage soul sound on disc two -- he returned to his roots with 2019's K.R.I.T. Iz Here, a straightup rap album that was presented as a sequel to his classic 2010 mixtape K.R.I.T. Wuz Here. Now, he's back with another new album, and this time he's leaning almost entirely into his soul/funk side. Digital Roses Don't Die does have rapping on it, but it almost feels wrong to call it a rap album. It's largely fueled by soulful singing and lush, organic instrumentals that really embrace the vibe of '70s funk and soul, not just use that music as source material for samples. It's an upbeat, uplifting album, and K.R.I.T. said in an Instagram Live session that's because he wanted to counteract the feelings of the pandemic with something more positive. "I wanted to make an album that was just happy and it was the ups and down of the base idea of just love," he said. "It’s not a derivative of what we going through in the moment."
Foreign Hands - Bleed The Dream EP
In the January roundup of my column 'In Defense of the Genre,' I said if you took one look at that Foreign Hands artwork and thought "that looks like the best early 2000s metalcore CD I never bought," you are going to want to hear their new song "Separation Souvenir," and that's true of the entire Bleed The Dream EP. Foreign Hands, whose vocalist Tyler Norris also plays guitar in Wristmeetrazor, tap into the sound and look and feel of that era with so much authenticity, and they rival a lot of the best bands from back then too. And there's more to them than nostalgia. Even if you didn't buy CDs that look like that 20 years ago, Foreign Hands could be your new favorite band. Like the aforementioned Wristmeetrazor and other peers like Knocked Loose (whose Isaac Hale contributed some co-writing to this EP), Foreign Hands pull influence from the late '90s and early 2000s but they aren't stuck in the past. They embrace modern production, making Bleed The Dream sound like the best parts of turn-of-the-millennium metalcore without any of the outdated aspects, but not so modern that they lose the raw charm of this genre's early days. And across these five songs, they touch upon metalcore's crushingly heavy side, its clean-sung accessible side, and its more experimental side too. Bleed The Dream covers a lot of ground in a short running time, and it's got me very excited to hear what they do on their next full-length.
Ghost Fame - Nobody Wants To Be Here, Nobody Wants To Leave EP
We recently posted a list of 20 essential melodic hardcore albums from the 2000s with bands like Defeater, Have Heart, Verse, The Carrier, Ruiner, etc, and at the end of the list, we mentioned five newer bands who are bringing that sound back today. One of them was Lowell, Massachusetts' Ghost Fame, who are definitely influenced by all of those bands, and who made their new EP with former Defeater member and Verse/The Carrier producer Jay Maas. Nobody Wants To Be Here, Nobody Wants To Leave is the band's second EP, following 2019's To All My Past Friends, and it's a big step up from their debut. It's been a while since I've heard a new band tap into that late 2000s melodic hardcore sound as directly and as expertly as Ghost Fame do, and since so many of those bands are broken up, there really is a void to be filled and Ghost Fame are filling it. They've got some cool contemporary guests on this EP too -- members of Boston chaotic hardcore band MouthBreather are on "False Chevalier" (and MouthBreather's Nick Cates co-recorded the EP with Jay Maas) and Great American Ghost's Ethan Harrison sings on "Scenes From A Marriage" -- and with bands like One Step Closer and Have Heart offshoot Fiddlehead bringing widespread attention to melodic hardcore again, Ghost Fame have arrived at the perfect time. Right now, they're inducing nostalgia for a beloved period of hardcore, but at the rate they're progressing, they could be on their way to defining a new moment for the genre too.
Redeemon - S/T EP
When Americans think of UK ska, they often think of 2 Tone, but the UK have had a thriving ska-punk scene for years and one of the most beloved bands in that scene was the now-defunct Beat the Red Light, whose former members have now formed the ska-punk band Redeemon alongside members of UK folk punks Smokey Bastard, proggy post-hardcore band Junction of Tiger Street, and musicians who have played on records by California ska-punk legends Voodoo Glow Skulls. Redeemon formed in 2020 and first caught my ear with their song "Purpose" on Bad Time Records' 2021 compilation The Shape of Ska Punk To Come: Volume II, and now they've just put out their debut EP on Pookout Records (with US distribution by Bad Time). Picking up where Beat the Red Light left off, Redeemon's self-titled EP is ripping ska-punk/ska-core with the occasional metalcore/deathcore breakdown, putting it in a similar boat as US bands like Still Alive and The Best of the Worst. Like those bands, Redeemon reminds you that ska-core can be fun and upbeat but it can also be genuinely heavy, and the way Redeemon move between those two vibes is seamless.
Swami John Reis - Ride The Wild Night
John Reis is a lifer, an icon, and as incredibly prolific as ever. He's fronted Rocket from the Crypt, The Night Marchers, and Sultans; played guitar and/or sang backup in Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes, and Pitchfork; and he's had other projects over the years like Back Off Cupids and his surf rock album with The Blind Shake. Right now, he's gearing up for the debut album by his new supergroup PLOSIVS (fronted by Pinback's Rob Crow), but first, he's releasing his first proper solo album as Swami John Reis. He cites influences such as Flaming Groovies, Paul Revere And The Raiders, The Kinks, and The Saints for this record, and you can hear that coming through in these catchy, fat-trimmed, garage punk nuggets. He's got the same unmistakable voice he brought to Rocket From the Crypt 30 years ago, and it's a treat to hear him making a rock & roll record again for the first time in nearly a decade. Like a lot of great rock & roll, Ride The Wild Night doesn't ask you to think too hard about it. It just gives you one fun rock song after the next from a guy who's a master at doing exactly that.
Ras-I - Kingman
Back in 2020, we named Ras-I's "Kingman Ting" one of the best reggae singles of the year, and now, about 18 months after that song was released, Ras-I has put out his sophomore album Kingman, featuring that song and eight others. It's got guest appearances from other artists at the forefront of modern reggae (Dre Island, Royal Blu, Christopher Martin), and it's a noticeable evolution from his 2019 debut LP Tsojourna. Compared to the more traditional/roots sound of his debut, this one touches on a lot of different stuff, from the darker side of '70s reggae to modern hip hop to soulful balladry to hints of jazz, from socially/politically conscious songs to love songs. It's Ras-I's sophomore album, but it feels like a reintroduction, and it proves that he knows how to push reggae into the future, not just mine its past.
Looking for more recent releases? Browse the Notable Releases archive or scroll down for previous weeks.
For even more metal, browse the 'Upcoming Releases' each week on Invisible Oranges.
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