Notable Releases of the Week (4/19)
Coachella happens for a second weekend in a row, starting today. If, like lots of us non-Instagram influencers, you aren't there, this year weekend two is streaming live for the first time. And before you get too much FOMO, don't worry -- there are plenty of non-Coachella fests worth attending this year too. In case you missed it, check out pictures, videos, and recaps of weekend one.
As for this week's new music, I highlighted nine releases below, but first some honorable mentions: The Tallest Man on Earth, SOB x RBE, the Beyonce live album, Fat White Family (which Bill reviewed for Bill's Indie Basement), Stealing Sheep (ditto), Sad Planets (mem Black Keys, Guided by Voices, etc), Heart Attack Man, the Regional Justice Center/Wound Man split, Daniel Norgren, Field Medic, Jade Bird, Drugdealer, Loyle Carner, and the Self Defense Family EP. Also, the new Flaming Lips album got an early release on Record Store Day (which Bill reviewed), but if you weren't lucky enough to score a copy, stay tuned for the wide release on July 19. The new Sunn O))) album also came out on RSD and is now streaming on NPR but officially comes out next week.
Update: surprise Your Old Droog album out today too.
Read on for my nine picks. What was your favorite release of the week?
Kelsey Lu has made a name for herself playing cello with Solange, Blood Orange, Florence + the Machine, Sampha, Empress Of, Chairlift, and more, but she's also been putting out solo material for a few years and now finally releasing her debut full-length album, Blood, which is her grandest statement yet. The cellist/producer/singer made the album with producer Rodaidh McDonald (The xx, Sampha, Vampire Weekend, etc), and select songs have additional production from Adrian Younge, Skrillex, and and Jamie xx, but while Kelsey has often been a sideperson for bigger stars, Blood puts the spotlight on her for the entire show and she earns it. The album bounds between folky acoustic songs, alt-R&B, and orchestral art pop, and Kelsey's commanding voice ties it all together. It's the kind of album that could appeal to fans of just about all of Kelsey's past collaborators, and it's sure to get pegged with a lot of Bjork and Kate Bush comparisons too, but Kelsey really has her own sound. She defies genre in a more seemingly effortless way than most, and though she's deservingly an in-demand cellist, her voice is truly a treasure. She nails a balance between experimental songwriting and accessibility on this debut album that even some of the most legendary musicians didn't nail until their third or fourth albums. It's complex, outsider art but it's as visceral as it is cerebral. It's in the tradition of albums from Pet Sounds to OK Computer to A Seat At The Table, albums that music nerds obsess over but that are also understandably very popular. Blood (which, for what it's worth, is on a major label but doesn't sound anything like "major label music") may have that same fate.
Heather Woods Broderick's music has never fit neatly into a box. It has elements of folk music, classical piano, indie pop, ambient music, and more, and on her new album Invitation, all those sounds swirl together in an even more stunning way than ever before. The album is fleshed-out by rich string arrangements and includes everything from the wispy folk of "A Stilling Wind" to the bouncy pop of "White Tail" to the Tori Amos-esque "My Sunny One" to the downtempo electronic pop of "These Green Valleys," all acting as small parts of one greater, boundary-pushing piece. It's an album that stuns from start to finish, but it's absolute most stunning moment is on the song that was released as the first single, "Where I Lay." It starts out with just a swelling atmosphere and Heather quietly singing, and when the chorus hits, drums and soarrrrrrring vocal harmonies come in, turning the song into this larger-than-life thing that sounds like it was meant to be performed from mountaintops. It's the one moment this album steals you away from whatever you're doing, but patience and closer listening reveals a handful of other gorgeous moments on this LP. And the album has a cold, haunting atmosphere that your average "singer/songwriter" type albums don't always have. Some of this year's most acclaimed indie albums have been in this realm -- like Sharon Van Etten's Remind Me Tomorrow (which Heather contributed to), Weyes Blood's Titanic Rising, and Jessica Pratt's Quiet Signs -- but Invitation has a darker side that sets it apart from its peers.
Dead To A Dying World's third album, Profound Lore debut, and best album yet, Elegy, is an expansive heavy album that features contributions from Swans/Neurosis collaborator Jarboe, Thor Harris (ex-Swans), and members of Bell Witch, The Angelus, and more. You can read my full review of the album here.
Wand's Cory Hanson has played in Ty Segall's band and Wand have also toured with Ty Segall, which got them lumped in with the garage rock scene early on, but Wand have gradually been expanding their sound and new album Laughing Matter isn't garage rock at all. It sounds like a more psychedelic version of '90s Radiohead (and on the very last song, it sounds like Lou Reed). Bill's writing a longer review of the album today for Bill's Indie Basement.
Norwegian band Blood Command's last album, 2017's Cult Drugs, sounded like an over-the-top ambitious mix of Paramore, At the Drive In, The Blood Brothers, Shiny Toy Guns, black metal, industrial, and more, and on the last song, they even brought in some jazz-like freeform sax. Its followup EP Return of the Arsonist is slightly less all over the place (and no freeform sax this time), but still a swinging-for-the-fences, punk/metal/pop hybrid that's too fun and interesting to ignore. On "Don't Strike A Match, Use The Lighter" and "No Thank You, I'm More In To Fake Grindcore," Blood Command sound like a vicious, whiplash-inducing hardcore band, on the title track and "Afraid of Water" they sound like a (non-cheesy) arena pop punk band, and on "Ritual Knife," they're a crushing sludge metal band. They cover more ground on this five-song EP than some bands do in their entire careers, and they make all this stuff work together so well. It's one of those EPs that whips by so quickly and gives you such a rush that all you wanna do is play it again.
P.S. If you dig this EP, I also recommend that great new Brutus album (and vice versa).
In the time since Chicago rap group Pivot Gang last released music, 2013's JIMMY mixtape, co-founder Saba had a major breakthrough as a solo artist (his 2018 album Care For Me was one of the best rap albums of last year), and now Pivot Gang are back with their first new music since Saba's breakthrough. If you're coming to them via Saba's fame, you'll be very satisfied with You Can't Sit With Us. Similar to Care For Me, it's full of smooth soul hooks, intricate rapping, and pristine, moody production. Guest appearances come from other greats in Pivot Gang's Chicago-area scene like Mick Jenkins and Smino, as well as other likeminded artists like Kari Faux and Sylvan LaCue, and not surprisingly they all fit into Pivot Gang's world naturally. It's been a great time for this scene and this kind of music -- Mick Jenkins and Smino also put out great projects last year, as did Noname and Joey Purp -- and if you've been into any of this stuff, You Can't Sit With Us could be the next new favorite on your list.
Hardcore is often thought of as something that's by kids for kids, something you grow out of quickly before going on to make and listen to more "mature" types of music. But there have of course been examples of artists aging gracefully within hardcore, and with their new album With This Thread I Hold, Chokehold are one of them. It's been nearly 25 years since the Canadian vegan straightedge band made an album, and on this reunion LP they sound as vital as they did in the '90s. Chokehold were also always a band to take a stand for the right reasons, and in the era of Trump and the alt-right, it's a great time for a band like this to make a comeback. The new LP sees Chokehold tackling a handful of timely issues, and even if you can't understand the lyrics (which, to be honest, are often indiscernible), you can just feel that this album is full of anger, passion, and meaning. It's the kind of teeth-clenching, white-knuckling hardcore that feels like an attack on the status quo just for existing. And despite Chokehold being away for over two decades, they don't sound rusty or out of touch at all. Glad to have them back.
To be totally honest, this album is not for me, but some of my co-workers are excited about it and it's one of the BV team's most anticipated albums of the spring, so I'd be remiss not to include it here. It features the major breakthrough single "Juice," collaborations with Missy Elliott and Gucci Mane, and more.
More Pain is the new grindcore duo from Justin Pearson (The Locust, Retox, Dead Cross, etc) and his Head Wound City bandmate Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), and their debut EP clocks in at less than two minutes. Pearson is obviously a natural at this kind of thing, and it's always awesome to hear Zinner exploring his heavier side. This short-but-sweet EP rips -- check it out the next time you happen to have 71 seconds on your hands.