Welcome back and hope everyone had a good new year's! (Or, as good as possible.) This is the first Notable Releases since before Christmas, but music did come out since then, so there's some stuff in here from the past couple weeks as well. (Find even more in our lists of the best punk songs and rap albums of December, our favorite songs of late December/early January, and the two new music roundups we ran over the holidays.)

Also, in case you missed it, check out our list of the 55 best albums of 2020, plus our lists of rap, punk/hardcore/emo/etc, metal, screamo, ska, reggae, jazz, and "lost" classic rock that we loved in 2020, and the Indie Basement list.

I highlight seven new albums below, but first, some honorable mentions: Viagra Boys (which Bill reviews in Bill's Indie Basement), Navy Blue, Modern Hut, Steve Earle, Barry Gibb, The Dirty Nil, Playboi Carti, Lil Durk, Flee Lord, Four Tet, Slaughter Beach Dog, Cicala, Casper Clausen, Skillibeng, Wax Tailor, the Marley brothers' Set Up Shop, Vol. 4 compilation, the Cienfuegos / De Carne e Flor split, and the Holy Figures EP.

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

Jazmine Sullivan

Jazmine Sullivan - Heaux Tales

It's been over a decade since Jazmine Sullivan debuted her throwback-yet-fresh R&B/soul on 2008's Fearless (home of the now-classic single "Bust Your Windows") and six years since she released an album (2015's excellent Reality Show), and now she finally returns with her fourth album, Heaux Tales, and it's another triumph. Between the spoken word interludes and Jazmine's lyrics, it's a concept album that Jazmine says is "about my observation of today’s women standing in their power and owning who they are." That comes through loud and clear, and the power in the messages are matched by the innovation in the music. She still frequently plays with retro ideas, but she reshapes them in new ways, like by putting vintage soul instrumentation over a trap beat ("Put It Down") or by channelling classic sounds through a lens of lo-fi bedroom pop ("Girl Like Me"). Not that Jazmine Sullivan has ever catered to the mainstream, but Heaux Tales feels like she's making music on her own terms more than ever before, making all kinds of bold, uncompromising decisions whether the radio will wanna play them or not.

R.A.P. Ferreira Bob's Son

R.A.P. Ferreira - Bob's Son
Ruby Yacht

R.A.P. Ferreira released one of our favorite rap albums of 2020 with Purple Moonlight Pages, and he followed it on New Year's Day with the new album Bob's Son, which he produced himself under his scallops hotel moniker. (The album's full title is bob's son: R​.​A​.​P. Ferreira in the garden level cafe of the scallops hotel.) The album's an ode to beat poet Bob Kaufman, and it ends with a reading of Kaufman's poem "Abomunist Manifesto," and Ferreira's own lyrics prove to be as surreal and tongue-twisting as when he's quoting Kaufman. The album varies from experimental spoken word stuff to straight-up rap songs, and the scallops hotel production makes for a hazy, psychedelic contrast to the warmer, jazzier sounds of Purple Moonlight Pages. That album felt like a milestone in Ferreira's already-great discography, and this one proves he's still got plenty more to say.

Frozen Soul

Frozen Soul - Crypt of Ice [LTD Edition Vinyl]
Century Media

Dallas' Frozen Soul quickly emerged as one of the brightest new voices in the Texas hardcore/metal scene with their killer 2019 demo/EP Encased In Case, and that led to them signing to Century Media who are now issuing the band's debut album, Crypt of Ice. It includes re-recordings of all three original songs from the demo plus seven new songs, and all of them offer up no-bullshit, ass-kicking death metal. Frozen Soul cite influences like Obituary, Mortician and Bolt Thrower, and they owe as much to those bands' thrashy death riffs and beastly growls as they do to the simplicity of hardcore, which makes sense given vocalist Chad Green previously did time in the hardcore-turned-death metal band End Times (whose guitarist Daniel Schmuck produced/mixed Crypt of Ice and has also worked with Power Trip, Creeping Death, and others). Frozen Soul don't shy away from the fact that their core influences are 25-30 years old, but they aren't retro or gimmicky about it either. They just stay true to who they are and what they love, and they write adrenaline-rush-inducing songs in the process.


Griselda & BSF - Conflicted (OST)
Griselda/BSF Records

The Griselda crew had a massive 2020, releasing a good chunk of the year's best rap albums, and 2021 finds them taking their show to the big screen with their own feature film, Conflicted, due out next week. It stars Benny the Butcher as "a Buffalo gangster who struggles to do the right after being released from prison," and Westside Gunn, Dave East, Armani Caesar, Boldy James, and others act in it too. All of those rappers are also on the soundtrack, alongside Lloyd Banks, Flee Lord, ElCamino, Eto, Ransom, and others, with production from the late DJ Shay, Daringer, Camouflage Monk, Cee Gee, IceRoxx, Fuse, 808 Mafia, and others. It's a "soundtrack album" in the vein of Black Panther or The Lion King: The Gift, really functioning as a cohesive album of its own, not just a compilation of songs that appear in the same film. The whole record is cut from the gritty, boom bap-inspired cloth that you'd expect from Griselda, and if you've been on the Griselda train so far, you're probably gonna find plenty to like about these songs. They've got all the rich-sounding '90s-style production and classicist rhymes you can ask for. (If you're unfamiliar, probably don't start here but check out Pray For Paris, W.W.C.D., The Plugs I Met, From King to a GOD, etc.)


Eyelet - The Devil Shining Out Your Eyes
Zegema Beach

It's not easy to pin down the new LP from Baltimore's Eyelet that dropped on New Year's Eve. Elements of punk, sludge, screamo, black metal, and more swirl around throughout these ten songs, and it never really fits neatly into any of those categories. Whatever you feel like calling it, it's very good, very gnarly stuff that sounds as dark and bleak as the cover art looks.

38 Spesh

38 Spesh - Interstate 38
T.C.F. Music Group

Not only did Rochester, New York rapper/producer 38 Spesh helm 2020 projects for Che Noir, Elcamino, Flee Lord, and others, he also squeezed in his own new project right before the year ended, Interstate 38. Even with features from heavy hitters like Che, Benny the Butcher, Elcamino, Ransom, and others, Spesh holds it down and delivers some of the album's best verses. (He also produced most of it, but did get beats from Dipset collaborators The Heatmakerz, NYC legend Buckwild, and others too.) The whole 11-song album is cut from the same boom bap-inspired upstate NY cloth that you'd expect from Spesh, and the gritty storytelling from Spesh and his guests leaves you hanging on every word.


awakebutstillinbed - Stay Who You Are
Acrobat Unstable

It's been almost three years since San Jose emo band awakebutstillinbed released their excellent debut album what people call low self​-​esteem is really just seeing yourself the way that other people see you, and they've finally released their first new music since then in the form of the stay who you are EP. Main member Shannon Taylor says these three songs were written and recorded during the pandemic and "don't fit on any of our other upcoming releases" (so, new album soon??), but they aren't throwaways. Opener "beauty" is loud, climactic emo as good as anything on what people call low self​-​esteem, and "leave" and "mirror" are both gorgeous doses of minimal, heart-wrenching acoustic emo in the vein of early Owen or Dashboard Confessional. Read more in my track review of "leave."


Looking for more recent releases? Browse the Notable Releases archive or keep scrolling down for previous weeks.

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