Notable Releases of the Week (8/26)
Big week in the music world! We got the first new Botch song in over 20 years! Arctic Monkeys announced a new album. My Chemical Romance finally began their North American reunion tour, and it's already been eventful. An AI rapper called FN Meka got signed to Capitol Records and dropped a few days later, and it turned out one of the people behind it was E.Town Concrete vocalist Anthony Martini (who has already severed ties).
It's also a very busy week for new albums. I highlight 11 below, and Bill covers even more in Bill's Indie Basement, including Rachika Nayar, Pantha du Prince, Ezra Furman, Corridor's Jonathan Personne, The Lounge Society, JJULIUS, and William Orbit (ft. Beth Orton, Georgia, Lido Pimienta & more).
Plenty of honorable mentions on top of those too, including Muse, DJ Khaled, Diamanda Galas, Meyhem Lauren & Daringer, No Trigger, Bret McKenzie (Flight of the Conchords), Lisa Gerrard & Marcello De Francisci, Sigh, Thoughtcrimes (ex-Dillinger Escape Plan), Dendrons, Bibi Club, Will Hoge, Benoit & Sergio, Spite House, Antonio Sánchez, Eyedress, Chris Forsyth, Jim Lauderdale, Lotus, Marcus King, Machine Head, Hierophant, Drego & Beno, 4s4ki, Tiny Blue Ghost, Gryphon Rue, UTO, Thee Sacred Souls, Let's Whisper, the Have Mercy EP, the Glassing EP, the Flossing EP, the Lilith Two (p.s.you'redead) EP, the Landlords EP, the FUR EP, the Nyck Caution EP, the fallfiftyfeet EP, the AKAI SOLO EP, the Kelow LaTesha EP, the Mike Park/Catbite split, the Valerie June covers EP, the Selena remix album, the second volume of Declaime & Madlib's lost '90s material, the Lee “Scratch” Perry box, and the Blondie box.
Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - Let's Turn It Into Sound
After 2020's new age-y The Mosaic of Transformation and this year's Emile Mosseri collaboration I Could Be Your Dog / I Could Be Your Moon, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith returns with Let's Turn It Into Sound, her most pop-oriented release since 2017's The Kid, if not her most pop-oriented release ever. Its ten thrilling tracks fuse pounding, dancefloor-moving percussion, gorgeous ambient soundscapes, and bursts of avant-pop hooks, and the result is an immersive album that grabs your attention off the bat and surprises you at every turn. Its retrofuturistic, technicolor album artwork and music videos feel like the perfect visual representation for this music. Even when you're not looking, this album induces those vivid shapes and colors in your brain.
Pick up a copy on neon yellow vinyl.
Roc Marciano & The Alchemist - The Elephant Man's Bones
Roc Marciano and The Alchemist have both been long responsible for the shaping the type of gritty, nostalgic yet innovative underground rap that's been having a moment these past few years, and they continue to remain at the forefront of this latest wave. The Alchemist has entirely produced a handful of the most-loved albums in recent memory (by Freddie Gibbs, Armand Hammer, Boldy James, and more), while Roc Marciano has also been a prolific producer lately, helming recent albums for rising underground faves like Stove God Cooks and Flee Lord. Now Roc Marciano teams up with The Alchemist for The Elephant Man's Bones, his first own rap album since 2020's Mt. Marci and his first album entirely produced by one person since 2018's Kaos with DJ Muggs. Roc Marciano creates dense lyrical passages that you're not gonna fully process in one listen, and The Elephant Man's Bones is no exception, with an array of bars that sound great on the surface but beg you to come back and keep unpacking them. He never goes for anything easily-digestible, but The Alchemist's glistening bells and pianos and warm, clipped-up jazz and soul samples bring just a bit of brightness to Marci's dusk. They're a perfect pair, and well-suited guest verses from Action Bronson, Boldy James, Knowledge the Pirate, and (wait for it) ICE-T only sweeten the deal.
Pianos Become the Teeth - Drift
"If everything is loud, then nothing's loud." That's something Pianos Become the Teeth guitarist Mike York said during our recent podcast interview with him, and it's a sentiment that very clearly informed Drift, Pianos Become the Teeth's fifth album and their darkest and weirdest yet. Having helped shape the new wave of post-hardcore in the late 2000s and early 2010s, Pianos Become the Teeth pivoted to a more melodic, clean-sung style of post-hardcore on 2014's era-defining Keep You and got even brighter and poppier on its 2018 followup Wait For Love. When Pianos finished writing a followup to Wait For Love, they ended up scrapping the whole thing, deciding it wasn't up to their current standards, and it left the band wondering, "Is this kind of like, the end of this?" Fortunately, it wasn't. The pandemic hit, giving the band time to re-asses, so they started from scratch on a new record, and this time they went into with the mentality that they'd hold nothing back. Every idea they had, no matter how weird, they'd try it.
Inspired at least partially by the story of Bon Iver's debut album For Emma, Forever Ago, they made the album in a secluded cabin in the woods -- a round, 1970s cabin that belongs to Mike's uncle -- but the Bon Iver album that's most applicable to the actual music on Drift is his corroded 2016 art pop opus 22, A Million. Those are the kinds of albums Mike says he always gravitates towards, albums where "you're trying to say something, but you're also trying to say something sonically on top of lyrically, that maybe most people are just gonna pass by because they can't get past the weirdness that it already exists in." That description suits Drift as well as it suits 22, A Million; it still sounds like Pianos Become the Teeth, but it goes in the almost polar opposite direction as the bright, melodic Wait For Love. This album has a rawer aesthetic, thanks in part to producer Kevin Bernsten (who also helmed the band's early screamo records), and it often feels disconcerting and claustrophobic. Guitars are often used as textural instruments rather than for typical rock guitar parts, there's a greater emphasis on electronics, discordant melodies often take precedence over instantly-satisfying ones, and the band used an old 1960s Echoplex analog tape echo to create eerie loops that pop up throughout the album. Another reference point Mike mentioned during our interview was Portishead, and their '90s records are a very apt comparison for a lot of what's going on here. As with Portishead, Drift's smallest, barest moments often feel like its biggest.
For a band who have always been tied to what's become known as the "new wave of post-hardcore," Drift might be the first album in Pianos Become the Teeth's career that doesn't feel "post-hardcore" at all. It veers closer to post-rock or art rock or even ambient music than any offshoot of hardcore, but Pianos Become the Teeth do find time for a few explosive moments, and when they do, they really earn them. It's an album that you really have to listen to from start to finish and pay close attention to, and when you do, those few louder moments feel even more climactic because of the journey it took to get to them. Because it's such an overall quiet record, those loud moments feel even louder. It's an album that requires patience and repeated listens, but the payoff is always worth it. Pianos Become the Teeth could've easily pleased longtime fans with another Keep You or another Lack Long After, but it's even more inspiring that -- five albums and roughly 15 years into their career -- they're continuing to push themselves to move forward, and make a record unlike anything they've made before. Drift already feels like it'll be a divisive record amongst fans -- perhaps even more divisive than when they started using clean vocals on "Hiding" and then Keep You -- but those are the kinds of records that tend to hold up and further reveal themselves over time, that continue to be ripe for revisiting. As satisfying as a predictable Pianos Become the Teeth record would've been in the short term, Drift is the slow-burning gift that's gonna keep on giving.
Pick up 'Drift' on red vinyl.
JID - The Forever Story
JID is such a constant force in hip hop -- between his many singles, guest features, and contributions to Spillage Village and Dreamville albums -- that it's almost hard to believe it's been four years since his last album, DiCaprio 2. But that is indeed the case, and despite being so prolific since then, it really does feel like he saved his strongest material for the new full-length. The Forever Story finds JID operating at the top of his powers, sounding more confident and more original than he did on DiCaprio 2, and coming out with his most cohesive project yet. From the warm, multi-layered production to JID's spitfire rhymes to the features (Lil Wayne, Lil Durk, BADBADNOTGOOD, Ari Lennox, Ravyn Lenae, Kenny Mason, 21 Savage, EarthGang, Baby Tate, more), The Forever Story is a complete work of art. It's been clear since the early days that JID is a highly skilled rapper, but The Forever Story reveals there's now an even grander scale to his vision.
Meechy Darko - Gothic Luxury
Brooklyn rap trio Flatbush Zombies have been constants in the ever-thriving world of New York rap for over a decade, and they remain active and have shows coming up this year. The decision for group member Meechy Darko to put out his debut solo album wasn't because Flatbush Zombies went on hiatus or anything; it was because Meech was faced with one of the most significant tragedies of his life -- losing his father to the hands of Miami police -- and "I had no choice but to make this the most personal thing I’ve ever done because fortunately or unfortunately, I'm in an extremely soul-stirring part of my life right now," he said. "It's very important to capture this while I can still feel." To make this highly personal album, he also needed to stray from the "crazy shit, crazy-colored hair and psychedelics" of Flatbush Zombies and craft a darker, more cinematic sound, and he recruited executive producer Dot Da Genius to help him achieve it. The production suits the album perfectly, and Meech holds nothing back lyrically, opening up about everything from inner mental health battles to the system of racism and police brutality that took his father's life, and keeping you on the edge of your seat the entire time. An impeccable cast of guests help him out (Freddie Gibbs, Denzel Curry, Black Thought, Busta Rhymes, Kirk Knight, and Vita), and all of them bless the album with standout appearances without distracting from Meech's vision.
Teen Suicide - honeybee table at the butterfly feast
Run For Cover
After changing the band's name to American Pleasure Club back in 2017, Sam Ray has revived the Teen Suicide moniker for its first new album in six years, and honeybee table at the butterfly feast is a real everything-all-at-once kind of album. Sam made it while battling a "mysterious respiratory illness" that he couldn't receive a proper diagnosis for, and he said he "only [chose] songs I felt were my best, and which best represented me as an artist, because by this point I was looking at it as my last album. Whether I died from the illness or was just unable to ever sing and work like I had before, I wanted to get everything done that I possibly could." He also said that dealing with the fear of death made it his most personal album yet, and that definitely comes through in the often-introspective lyrics. Musically, it's like a patchwork quilt of ideas, pulling from noise pop, bedroom folk, emo, screamo, power electronics, and more, and combining it all in ways that feel delightfully jarring. (Picture like, The Microphones meets Deerhoof, with a little bit of The Locust sprinkled in here and there, but even that's just scratching the surface. It also goes well with last year's Spirit of the Beehive album.) Sam already rolled out five of the album's 16 songs as singles, but honeybee table is the kind of album you really need to hear all at once to get. When you listen start to finish, the seemingly disparate ideas end up all feeling connected.
Pick up our exclusive deep blue vinyl variant, limited to 200.
Dreadnought - The Endless
Dreadnought don't do small. Their latest is a concept album that "[explores] the everlasting struggle between human light and suffering," and it's an ever-shapeshifting trek through progressive rock, folk, black metal, classical, post-rock, and more. It's kinda like a modern-day Aqualung, if Aqualung pulled from atmospheric black metal instead of bluesy hard rock. As on past releases, the songs are long and Dreadnought cover so much ground, moving seamlessly between ethereal/melodic and harsh/heavy. It's album that refuses to accept the binary of "metal" and "non-metal," and instead crafts a musical universe that's neither and both all at once. Those bands that don't fit in neatly anywhere often end up making some of the most exciting music; Dreadnought are one of those bands, and The Endless is one of their strongest yet.
Stella Donnelly - Flood
The lead single of Australian singer/songwriter Stella Donnelly's sophomore album Flood is the upbeat disco/post-punk of "Lungs." It's a good choice for a single, as it's the poppiest song on the album, but it's also kind of a red herring. From there, Stella channels her home country jangle-pop heroes The Go-Betweens on the breezy second track "How Was Your Day?," and then she starts slowing things down, focusing more on mellower, piano-based songs that depart from her largely guitar-based debut album Beware of the Dogs. The new instrument of choice -- which Stella says she hadn't really played since childhood -- gives the album a deeper, lusher feel than its predecessor, and embellishments like the flugelhorn on the molasses-sweet indie pop of "Move Me" add to that too. Stella also faced a lot of changes in her personal life as she was making this album -- she moved around a lot, and found herself displaced due to border restrictions on multiple occasions -- but even with all these changes, the keen, sharp wit that made Beware of the Dogs so instantly likable remains.
Pick up 'Flood' on opaque red vinyl.
Rapper Big Pooh - To Dream In Color
Back in 2019, only a few months before the world shut down, the great underground rap duo Little Brother (Rapper Big Pooh and Phonte) surprise-released their first album in nearly a decade, the very good May the Lord Watch, and they since appeared on a song on this year's posthumous Phife Dawg album and have plans for a documentary due in 2023. And now, amidst all this Little Brother excitement, comes the first solo album from Rapper Big Pooh in four years. I'm admittedly not as up on Big Pooh's prolific solo career as I probably should be, so I can't say how To Dream In Color stacks up against his many other records, but coming off of May the Lord Watch, it keeps the excitement and momentum going. The production is rich and warm, and Big Pooh is in fine form, rapping with all the hunger he had in his early days. It's nostalgia-inducing and fresh all at once, and it culminates in one of Big Pooh's most powerful recent songs, "In Surround Sound," where he reflects on Little Brother's reunion, Phife's death, details about his personal life, and more.
Julia Jacklin - PRE PLEASURE
Australia's Julia Jacklin debuted with 2016's folky Don't Let the Kids Win, went in a more indie rock direction on 2019's Crushing, and now she has made her richest-sounding, most expansive album yet with PRE PLEASURE. It embraces both her folky side and her more rocking side, but it also branches off into sophisti-pop territory, with glistening pianos, jazzy guitar chords, saxophone, and grand string arrangements (courtesy of Owen Pallett). (The album was co-produced by Marcus Paquin, who helped The Weather Station go in a similar direction on last year's Ignorance.) Julia cites "big pop music like Celine Dion, Robyn and Luther Vandross" as inspirations, "music that wasn’t so heavy, big feelings, big production," and adds, "You lose sight of what putting on a big, beautiful song can do." And that's definitely what Julia shoots for this time around: the big and the beautiful.
Pick up 'PRE PLEASURE' on white vinyl.
Mach-Hommy (& Tha God Fahim) - Dollar Menu 4
The elusive and always-great underground rapper Mach-Hommy has continued his Dollar Menu EP series with Tha God Fahim today with the surprise fourth installment. This one's only billed as Mach-Hommy for whatever reason, though Tha God Fahim does appear on every song, and Your Old Droog is on three tracks too (Big Cheeko and JuJu Gotti also appear). The chemistry between all three of them is seamless, and Dollar Menu 4 is another effortlessly great of dizzying wordplay, clever punchlines, and hazy beats.
Read Bill's Indie Basement for more new album reviews, including Rachika Nayar, Pantha du Prince, Ezra Furman, Corridor's Jonathan Personne, The Lounge Society, JJULIUS, and William Orbit (ft. Beth Orton, Georgia, Lido Pimienta & more).
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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