Notable Releases of the Week (6/4)
Hey, hope everyone had a good long weekend and is enjoying their June so far. I'm out today so I'm gonna keep this relatively quick, especially since it's a very stacked week. I highlight ten new albums below, and here are plenty of cool honorable mentions: Greentea Peng (which Bill reviewed in today's Indie Basement), Kool Keith, Fuckin Whatever (mem Circa Survive, Taking Back Sunday), Hildegard (Helena Deland & Ouri), Loraine James, the first of two Militarie Gun (Regional Justice Center, Drug Church) EPs, Rise Against, Sleepy Hallow, Peter Rosenberg (ft. Westside Gunn, Roc Marciano, Ghostface Killah, Flee Lord, Stove God Cooks, Meyhem Lauren, Homeboy Sandman & more), Dead Heat, Inhuman Condition (mem Massacre, Obituary, Death), Parting (mem Empire! Empire!, Annabel, etc), Seputus (mem Pyrrhon), Mndsgn, Rostam, James, Crowded House, Red Fang, Somnuri, Talk Show Host, Raheem DeVaughn & Apollo Brown, The Raging Nathans, Night Beats, Lanternas, Stevenson (mem Gulfer), Billy F Gibbons, Totally Slow, Simone Istwa, Marina Allen, Latewaves, and Goose.
Read on for my picks for this week's Notable Releases. What's your favorite release of the week?
Japanese Breakfast - Jubilee
"After spending the last five years writing about grief, I wanted our follow up to be about joy," Michelle Zauner said when announcing the new Japanese Breakfast record Jubilee. "For me, a third record should feel bombastic and so I wanted to pull out all the stops for this one." And that's exactly what she did; Jubilee is her biggest-sounding, most fleshed-out, most varied album yet.
I don't want to say the singles were red herrings, but the three tracks that Japanese Breakfast released ahead of the album -- especially the '80s pop-inspired "Be Sweet" and "Posing In Bondage" -- wouldn't necessarily prepare you for the large breadth of music represented throughout Jubilee. '80s pop is definitely a core influence, as it always has been for Japanese Breakfast, but really nothing on this album is as purely pop as "Be Sweet." The album is also full of orchestrated chamber pop and peppered with bits of folk, country, jazzy sophisti-pop, futuristic electronics, and one part that kinda sounds like a Queen guitar solo. It's still unmistakably a Japanese Breakfast album -- Michelle's voice and songwriting style remains instantly recognizable -- but JB has never previously made music that feels this warm and spacious. Her previous album -- 2017's Soft Sounds from Another Planet -- felt like a breakthrough that took JB out of the DIY underground and pushed her to the forefront of indie rock, and Jubilee proves that Michelle remains motivated to raise the bar even higher. She's made a noticeable leap with each release.
Pick up Japanese Breakfast's new album on limited clear with yellow swirl vinyl in our store.
ME REX - Megabear
Big Scary Monsters
UK band ME REX have followed their 2020 double EP Triceratops / Stegosaurus with their debut full-length, and it's not your average full-length in any capacity. It's a song cycle that's made up of 52 tracks that range from 30-60 seconds, and it's intended to be shuffled and will sound like a cohesive album no matter what order you hear it in. That might sound gimmicky on paper, but it's not in the slightest. The album really does work that way, and that it sounds so natural is nothing short of an artistic triumph. The idea isn't totally absurd; when Brian Wilson was working on his storied masterpiece Smile, he mentioned that he had multiple pieces of music on the cutting board, and he tried out various ways of piecing it all together. ME REX did something similar, but instead of forcing themselves to choose between all the different possibilities, they presented the album in a way where you'll eventually hear every one. It makes for a listening experience that's a little bit different each time, but always familiar. It's also not unlike hearing the ways different songs bleed together at live shows compared to on studio albums. What's most interesting, though, is how accessible the album sounds despite seeming so daunting to listen to. The premise may seem like a brainy musician exercise, but the music is lush and emotive indie pop and Myles McCabe's voice and lyrics really tug at the heartstrings. The impassioned songwriting reminds me a little bit of Frightened Rabbit's The Midnight Organ Fight, but I kind of hate to make the comparison because that's such a singular album that means so much to so many people and really transcends whatever it might sound like on the surface. I have a feeling people will be saying that about Megabear one day too.
The album hits streaming services on June 18 (and gets a vinyl release on August 23), but it's currently streaming on shuffle on megabear.co.uk, and it's more suited to the band's own randomized streaming platform than to streaming services anyway. They also released a single, "Galena," which is made up of five of the album's segments, and you can stream that here:
Liz Phair - Soberish
The ups and downs of Liz Phair's career have been told countless times, but in case you need a refresher: in the '90s, Liz Phair began her career with three self-produced cassettes under the name Girly Sound, before switching to her given name and releasing three critically acclaimed, Brad Wood-produced albums on Matador, including her landmark 1993 debut Exile In Guyville, as well as 1994's Whip-Smart and 1998's Whitechocolatespaceegg. Then she signed to a major, linked up with the songwriting/production team between Avril Lavigne's "Complicated," and released her self-titled album in 2003, led by its world-dominating pop rock single "Why Can't I?". The album famously received a 0 from Pitchfork, the same publication that called Exile In Guyville the fifth best album of the 1990s.
The self-titled LP was followed by the similarly polished Somebody's Miracle in 2005, and then the electronic pop (and rap) inspired Funstyle in 2010. The narrative that's followed her ever since "Why Can't I?" is that she "sold out," a narrative that followed tons of artists in the era when punk and alternative rock was breaking into the mainstream, and one that doesn't really hold up anymore. Today's alternative artists don't get accused of selling out because their fans tend to agree that 1) pop music is good, and 2) it's a good thing when your faves get successful. Liz Phair on the other hand had to spend years trying to shed the "sell out" narrative, and it's definitely been changing, especially because of a younger generation of music fans that discovered her music more recently. If you got into Liz Phair in the post-"Why Can't I?" era, there's a good chance you agree that 1) her '90s albums are enough to secure her legacy as a legend, and 2) "Why Can't I?" is a good song.
Excitement started to rise on a mass level when Liz put out the Girly-Sound To Guyville box set in 2018, giving new life to Guyville and a much more proper release to her Girly Sound tapes. And now it continues with Soberish, her first new album in 11 years, first produced by Brad Wood since the '90s, and first indie rock album since the '90s. Going pop is totally fine, but returning to the sound of your classic indie rock era three decades later? That's cool too. Soberish may not be another Guyville style classic, but it's a good album, and it's an effective full-circle moment for Liz's career. It really closes the book on the "sell out" narrative and reinforces that Liz is not just an indie rock legend but a lifer. 30 years after those Girly Sound tapes, she still knows how to tap right into that same charm.
We Are The Union - Ordinary Life
Bad Time Records
We Are The Union's 2018 album Self Care hit refresh on the long-running band's career, and it's also one of the best ska-punk albums in recent memory, but its new followup Ordinary Life is an even greater creative rebirth. It tells singer Reade Wolcott's coming out story as a trans woman, and it also features the band's warmest sounding, most innovative music. This is a new version of ska that fits right in with current indie/punk/DIY bands like PUP, Charly Bliss, and Soccer Mommy (all of whom Reade cites as influences), and it already feels like a new landmark for the genre. You can read much more about it in our recent feature, which includes an album review and an interview with Reade.
Pick up We Are The Union's new album on limited pink/black vinyl in our store.
Wolf Alice - Blue Weekend
Wolf Alice's third album is a big, sweeping indie rock album that includes everything from atmospheric ballads to mid-tempo indie rock to gnarly garage punk and plenty of the in-between. As singer/guitarist Ellie Rowsell said in Erin Christie's recent interview with her, "I kind of hope it sounds totally identifiable as Wolf Alice but just a bit more mature. I wouldn’t want it to be a huge departure, and I don’t think it is. I feel like it’s maybe just a grander version of what we’ve done before." That sums it up well. You can read Erin's full album review and the interview with Ellie here.
Pick up Wolf Alice's new album on limited transparent green vinyl in our store.
Lil Baby & Lil Durk - The Voice of the Heroes
Quality Control/Wolfpack Global/Motown/Alamo
Lil Baby and Lil Durk are two of the most prominent names within the current wave of melodic, auto-tuned sing-rap, and they've released plenty of great collaborations in the past, so it's exciting news that they've teamed up for an entire collaborative album. Like I said in the intro, I'm out today and I wasn't able to hear this album in advance, but the recently-released lead single is great and I'm looking forward to hearing the rest asap. I might write more on it later, but check it out for yourself now.
Death Goals - The Horrible and The Miserable
Death Goals is a chaotic hardcore two-piece from the UK who have been on the rise for the past few years (their first release was a 2017 split with Pupil Slicer, who released one of the best mathcore albums of 2021 so far), and The Horrible and The Miserable is their long-awaited debut full-length. It's a noisy, discordant record that mixes the fury of a band like Converge with the emotion of a band like Touche Amore (and "Exit Wounds" proves Death Goals could do IDLES-style talky post-punk if they wanted to), and wrapped up in that emotion are some powerful topics, like looking at the ways the LGBTQ community was affected by the rise of the alt-right. "I’ve always been very vocal about it in my personal life, identifying as queer, but after lockdown and being at uni it was far more prevalent in my mind," guitarist/vocalist Harry Bailey recently told Hardbeat. "Seeing the rise of the alt-right and such made me think that now is the time to start talking about this, as it’s something I need to get off my chest." You can feel Harry's frustration and anger in every scream, and the sincerity goes a long way. Aggressive music like this hits even harder when you can tell that the band means every single word.
Love Is Red - Darkness Is Waiting EP
Nashville's Love Is Red were staples of 2000s melodic hardcore, and their 2004 sophomore album The Hardest Fight is an underrated classic which helped pave the way for the heavy but tuneful and emotive style of hardcore that really started to take off in the early 2010s. They're now back with their first new music in 17 years, and it's a tight, crisp, powerful record that picks up where The Hardest Fight left off but also sounds urgent, inspired, and very current. You can read more about it here.
Corrupt Vision - These Hands of Mine
Over the past few years, Orange County's Corrupt Vision have become staples of modern-day ska-core. They play a raw, ferocious version of the genre that sounds like a cross between Choking Victim and Pig Destroyer, and they match the musical venom with unflinching lyricism that takes on police reform, white nationalism, mental health issues, and other crucial topics. They've just followed a four-year fun of EPs/splits with their first full-length album, and you can read more about it here.
oddCouple - Reflections
oddCouple is the moniker of Chicago producer Zach Henderson, who's worked with Jamila Woods, Chance The Rapper, Saba, Joey Purp, and more, and today he releases his new album Reflections, which features Jamila Woods, theMIND, Kweku Collins, Fatherdude, Elijah Blake, Melanie Faye, and others. It's an album that connects the dots between '70s soul, '90s R&B, modern hip hop and electronic beats, psychedelia, and much more, and oddCouple does it in a way that's both innovative and endlessly listenable. There's a little something for everyone on this record, and I highly recommend giving it a listen. Zach also spoke to us about the music that influenced the album, and you can read that here.
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.