Notable Releases of the Week (5/22)
Can you believe it's already Memorial Day Weekend? Normally this time of year would mean music festivals, but unfortunately all major US spring/early summer festivals (and lots of other things) are off. Hopefully you're still somehow making the best of this weekend, maybe plopping down in front of a nice livestream, or listening to some of the great new albums that came out this week.
I picked five that I highlighted below, but first, some honorable mentions: Owen Pallett, Deradoorian, Nation of Language, Fools (aka Grizzly Bear's Christopher Bear), Sech, Devil With No Name (mem Lord Mantis), Cosmic Putrefaction, Cauldron Black Ram, Esoctrilihum, FALL, Bill Nace, TG (Todd Goldstein of ARMS/Harlem Shakes), Katie Von Schleicher, Indigo Girls, and the Young MA EP.
Read on for my five picks. What was your favorite release of the week?
Jeff Rosenstock - NO DREAM
After literally half a lifetime as a cultishly loved underground punk musician -- including time fronting The Arrogant Sons of Bitches and Bomb the Music Industry! -- Jeff Rosenstock launched a solo career and all of a sudden ended up getting showered with critical acclaim and popular enough to sell out four consecutive nights at NYC's Bowery Ballroom (which became the Thanks, Sorry! live album). "I got so used to putting out records that only a few people in the punk underground liked," he said when he surprise-released his new album NO DREAM earlier this week, "...and a lot of people in the punk underground also didn’t like them, either." Jeff really started picking up acclaim when he put out 2016's WORRY., an album which incorporated more indie rock-friendly styles of music than his previous work and included a Smile-style song cycle -- the kinds of things that critics like. But, despite being more under a spotlight now than he's been in the 25 years that he's been performing and recording music for an audience, NO DREAM sounds like an album made by a person who doesn't care what the critics think of it, in the best way possible.
After living his whole life in New York, Jeff moved to LA while making this one, and that's reflected not just on the album artwork but in the sound of these songs. This sounds more like a '90s California pop punk record than anything else Jeff has made as a solo artist, and Jeff knows how to recreate '90s California pop punk in a way that sounds tasteful and fresh. NO DREAM might be the most wall-to-wall fun album Jeff has released under his own name -- almost all the songs are short, fast, punchy, and Jeff even writes "we hope it makes you feel good" on his Bandcamp -- but like his last few albums, it's fun music with a purpose. It may sound like classic pop punk but the lyrics are never carefree or juvenile or any other negative stereotype associated with the genre. NO DREAM is an angry, socially conscious record that tackles Trump's immigration policies, capitalism, hypocrisy, and other topics in a way that's smart, incisive and avoids cliche punk sloganeering. NO DREAM makes you feel good, but it also makes you think, and as has been the case with Jeff's last few records, I have a feeling it'll keep making you think as time goes on. His music has an immediacy and instant adrenaline rush to it, but it also has layers buried deep within the songs that reveal themselves over time. I can't claim to have cracked the surface just 48 hours after the album came into our lives, but I already can tell there's a lot to dig into on NO DREAM, and that it's gonna be worth it.
The 1975 - Notes On A Conditional Form
The 1975's new 22-song, 80-minute album is as overstuffed with ideas as can be. It covers a lot of new ground for this band, while remaining distinctly a 1975 record, and there's a lot to like about it. My full review is here.
Old Man Gloom - Seminar VIII: Light Of Meaning & Seminar IX: Darkness Of Being
Earlier this year, Old Man Gloom announced Seminar VIII: Light of Meaning -- their first album in six years -- to be released on May 22 (today). Less than a week later, they revealed that actually Seminar VIII: Light Of Meaning was the precursor to Seminar IX: Darkness Of Being, which came out the day its existence was revealed. So, just to make sure you're clear, Light of Meaning comes first in the band's long-running Seminar series, but is being released after the one that comes after it. Does that make sense? Anyway, none of this will ever really matter again, because right now both albums are out, both are fantastic, and both go very well together, no matter what order you listen to them in. These two albums are the band's first releases since their bassist Caleb Scofield sadly passed away, and Caleb's Cave In bandmate Stephen Brodsky has stepped up to the plate to fill in for him. As on last year's Cave In album, Caleb is actually credited on both of these albums, so presumably they had started recording them while Caleb was still alive. Still, his death is felt on these powerful albums -- "Death Rhymes" from Darkness of Being, a Brodsky-led acoustic song, is almost definitely a direct tribute to him. Brodsky does his old friend justice, he fits right in alongside his bandmates -- Aaron Turner (Isis, Sumac), Santos Montano (Zozobra), and Nate Newton (Converge, and who took Caleb’s place in Cave In) -- and he brings something new to the table too. As is always the case with Old Man Gloom, both albums are stunning showcases of sludge, noise, psychedelia, and more, but it also feels like there’s an extra hop in the band’s step on these LPs, a little more of a faster hardcore/punk side than they had last time. It’s not easy to move forward in the wake of tragedy, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it, but Old Man Gloom are doing it by hitting harder than ever.
Woods - Strange To Explain
Woods' last album, Love Is Love, came very quickly after City Sun Eater in the River of Light (and was often cut from the same great cloth), but Woods took three years to release this new one, which also follows Jarvis Taveniere moving to LA, Jeremy Earl becoming a father, and Jarvis and Jeremy working on the Purple Mountains album. It still sounds unmistakably like Woods, but the longer gap and the life changes also resulted in some new sounds, all of which Woods pull off. Bill's got a longer review of this one in Bill's Indie Basement.
Kota The Friend - Everything
Brooklyn rapper Kota The Friend has been on the rise since stirring up buzz for his 2019 album FOTO, and now he's back almost exactly a year after that album's release with his sophomore album, Everything. Kota had Saba on his last album and he's got Joey Bada$$ on this one, both of whom have fanbases who should definitely be tuned in to what Kota's doing. Like those artists, Kota is a fan of the jazzy production and slick rapping of '90s rap, but he also employs modern production techniques -- it's less "revival" and more using the past to shape the future. He's gotten better and more confident-sounding in the time since FOTO came out, and Everything is overall a bigger, warmer sounding album. The production really has room to breathe, and as a result, so does Kota. He sounds like he's taking his time a bit more on this one; not rushing to prove himself, just being patient and letting his music do the talking.
Looking for more recent releases? Browse the Notable Releases archive.
For even more metal, browse the 'Upcoming Releases' each week on Invisible Oranges.