Notable Releases of the Week (5/29)
This is a truly huge week for new albums. I highlight ten below, and here are some honorable mentions: Deerhoof (which Bill reviewed), Sweet Whirl, Nicole Atkins, Ace Hood, Lil Yachty, Joell Ortiz, 2nd Grade, NOUS (whose lineup includes Chris Bono, Thor Harris, Greg Fox, Shahzad Ismaily, and more), Greg Fox (who also has a solo album out today), Bad Moves, PINS, Gary Olson (The Ladybug Transistor), Jade Hairpins (members of Fucked Up), Christian Lee Hutson, Seer Believer (mem Gleemer), Young & Heartless, Brant Bjork, Lesser Glow, Many Blessings (mem Primitive Man), the Dej Loaf EP, the Same Side (mem The Story So Far) EP, Flying Lotus' instrumental version of Flamagra, El-P's Capone score, Iggy Pop's The Bowie Years box set, and Joyce Manor's compilation of rare early material.
Update: after this was published, Lil Wayne released a deluxe edition of Funeral, featuring Benny the Butcher, Conway the Machine, Doja Cat, Lil Uzi Vert, and more.
Read on for my 10 picks. What was your favorite release of the week?
Mrs. Piss - Self-Surgery
Mrs. Piss is the new duo of Chelsea Wolfe and Jess Gowrie, who has drummed for Chelsea both live and in studio since 2017 (and who's also in Horseneck). Chelsea handles vocals and guitar while Jess handles drums, guitar, bass, and programming, so it may sound on paper like, if it's Chelsea and the same drummer she's been working with lately anyway, that it wouldn't be much different than Chelsea's solo work. And sometimes their debut album Self-Surgery sounds a lot like Chelsea's solo material (like "Knelt"), but Jess' influence as a songwriting and production partner is really felt, and as Chelsea says, this album "[channels] some wild energies that [she doesn't] typically put into [her] own music." It really sounds like a collaboration with a drummer -- the percussion on Self-Surgery is often as loud and bold and front-and-center as Chelsea's vocals, and it gives this album an exciting, harder-hitting edge than Chelsea's own music usually has. Much of it has more of a raw, fast punk vibe than we're used to hearing from Chelsea (as you'd probably hope from a band called "Mrs. Piss"), and fellow fans of Chelsea's noise rock-oriented Apokalypsis album will probably agree that it's a treat to hear Chelsea go further in this direction than ever. The punk stuff is great, but another highlight is "You Took Everything," which finds Mrs. Piss going in a harsh, screamy, industrial metal direction. It seems pretty clear that Chelsea and Jess have set no boundaries for this project, and it's good news to hear that this isn't a one-off album and they're already thinking about where to go next. Right now it's just the two of them, but Chelsea says they "plan to invite more womxn musicians along for future Mrs. Piss recordings," so maybe this will turn into one big collaborative collective one day. Can't wait to find out.
Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist - Alfredo
As I wrote last year when Freddie Gibbs released his second collaborative album with Madlib, the excellent Bandana, Gibbs is at his best when he's paired with the right producer for an entire project. The two Madlib albums prove this, as does his 2018 album with Curren$y, Fetti, which was entirely produced by The Alchemist. Gibbs and Alc are back together again on Alfredo, a new ten-song project that was just announced yesterday and arrives in full today, and once again, they prove to be a perfect pair. Gibbs has spent his whole career rapping his ass off and not worrying about pop crossover, but he himself has helped bring more attention to his style of raw, gritty rap, and lately he's been busy lending verses to other albums that are cut from a similar cloth and getting a pleasantly surprising amount of attention, like Boldy James' The Price of Tea in China (entirely produced by The Alchemist) and Westside Gunn's Pray For Paris (featuring production by The Alchemist). And Alfredo really feels like it has more of a kinship with those two albums than with Bandana or even Fetti. Westside Gunn and Boldy James aren't on this album, but WSG's two Griselda partners are (Conway the Machine, who put out the Alchemist-produced LULU EP this year, and Benny the Butcher, who's on both The Price of Tea in China and Pray For Paris), and it also features Tyler, the Creator in the same cold, hard street-rap mode that he appeared in on Pray For Paris. (Side note: I for one would love to see Tyler continue to drop these kinds of verses on projects like this... or make one of his own!) (Second side note: Tyler's also on "T.D" alongside A$AP Rocky and Tierra Whack on the new new Lil Yachty album that's out today.) The only other guest is Rick Ross, and his verse is great too. The whole thing is a quick listen and there's absolutely no filler. The semi-surprise announcement probably escalates the excitement a bit, but just going by the kind of endurance that the aforementioned related projects have had this year -- and the rolls that both Gibbs and Alc have been on lately -- I have a feeling that the excitement is gonna last.
Lady Gaga - Chromatica
Lady Gaga returns to dance-pop on her very fun new album Chromatica, which was primarily produced by BloodPop and also features Elton John, Ariana Grande, BLACKPINK, Skrillex, M83 collaborator White Sea, and more. You can read my full writeup on the album here.
Preservation - Eastern Medicine, Western Illness
Veteran underground rap producer/DJ Preservation has been at it for over two decades, and his impressive credits include producing several Mos Def (aka Yasiin Bey) songs and touring as his DJ, contributing to the cult classic Wu-Tang Meets the Indie Culture album, and more recently being one half of Dr. Yen Lo with Brownsville rapper Ka (who also put out a great new album earlier this month, featuring some production by Preservation). With all the work he's done, Eastern Medicine, Western Illness is actually only the second time he's put out his own full-length album with guest rappers. Preservation's got some old pals on this one like Ka and Roc Marciano, but one of the things that's so remarkable about Eastern Medicine, Western Illness is that Preservation isn't just content to churn out throwbacks to his earlier sound. This album stands out as something unique in Preservation's discography.
He recorded the album in Hong Kong and dedicated it to the people of Hong Kong, and he also featured some local artists on it: rapper Young Queenz, opera singer Michelle Siu, and guzheng player Chin King. He also is clearly tapped in to the current underground rap scene and featured a handful of artists who are either new and rising or who have been around but are having more of a moment now than ever, including Navy Blue, Mach-Hommy, Your Old Droog, Billy Woods, Quelle Chris, and more. All of those artists are different, but they all share a love of both golden age rap tradition and experimental futurism, which makes them perfect for a Preservation record. Preservation also really knows how to tie it all together and make Eastern Medicine, Western Illness sound like one cohesive record even though there's a different rapper on every track. It's more a concept album than a compilation, and if you like your rap on the psychedelic, left-of-the-dial side, you should not sleep on it.
Medhane - Cold Water
Speaking of rap on the psychedelic, left-of-the-dial side (and albums that feature Navy Blue), Medhane's Cold Water is another fine addition to the current underground rap scene. Medhane's been insanely prolific lately -- this is his second full-length of 2020, following Full Circle, and his third in the past six months, including last fall's Own Pace -- and for some artists that would be over-saturation, but Medhane just keeps getting better. The production on Cold Water is some of the most stunning in Medhane's discography yet, and his rapping is louder and clearer and more purposeful than ever. Medhane's peers tend to fall on the warped, trippy, abstract side of rap, and Cold Water is indeed psychedelic, but Medhane separates himself from the pack with the clarity in his rhymes. This isn't an album where the haze washes over you; when Medhane tells the stories of his personal struggles, you listen.
Xibalba - Años En Infierno
Now that the whole hardcore/death metal crossover thing is really on trend, here comes Xibalba with their first album in five years to remind you that they've been doing it since before it was hip and now they whip even more ass than ever. Años En Infierno (which translates to "years in hell"... yep) is the band's first album produced by Power Trip/Code Orange collaborator Arthur Rizk, and the bigger, cleaner production only makes them sound more furious. The rhythm section is a total gut punch, and Nate Rebolledo's growls have grown far more evil in the past five years. Things really suck right now, and sometimes when things suck you just want the most white-knuckling, jaw-clenching shit in the world to help release all the bad feelings you're harboring up inside, and that's exactly what Años En Infierno is.
Inventions - Continuous Portrait
Temporary Residence Ltd
On the totally opposite side of the spectrum, sometimes when things suck you'd rather listen to something calming, and also out today is the first Inventions album in five years, Continuous Portrait, a gorgeous album that can really add some serenity to your life. Inventions is the duo of Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (of Explosions in the Sky), and even if you haven't listened to this project yet, it should come as no surprise that these two veteran musicians can make such blissful, uplifting music when they put their heads together. Continuous Portrait acts like ambient music, but there's a real energy to it. It doesn't just fall into the background, it hooks you and keeps you in suspense, waiting to hear what unexpected turn this duo will take next.
Ondara - Folk N' Roll Vol 1: Tales of Isolation
Last year, the Bob Dylan-obsessed, Kenya-born, America-dwelling folk singer J.S. Ondara released his stunning debut album Tales of America. He displayed a songwriting style that was wise beyond his years, and a truly angelic voice. When you saw him live, his voice was only more breathtaking. He understandably was nominated for a Grammy. As the album title implied, Tales of America was about J.S. Ondara living out his own personal American dream. Today, Ondara (who has dropped the "J.S." from his moniker) has surprise-released a followup album, Folk N' Roll Vol 1: Tales of Isolation, and as the title of this one implies, this came together during the pandemic and is a direct reaction to it. Ondara wrote and produced the album himself while in lockdown in Minneapolis in just one week (!), and going by lyrics like "I'm not an essential worker" and "Hey Mr. landlord... I haven't paid my rent" and "Honey, the restaurants closed," you can see just how much these insane times (understandably) impacted Ondara's writing. The whole thing may have come together quickly, but it feels just about as fleshed-out as its predecessor and Ondara's soaring voice and storytelling ability is still just as compelling.
Problem - Coffee & Kush Vol 1
Diamond Lane Music Group/Rostrum Records
Compton rapper Problem continues to be severely underrated. One of his recent albums, Rosecrans, was a collaboration with the legendary DJ Quik, and he helped Quik continue to revitalize the West Coast sound that he helped pioneer in the early '90s and make it sound fresh in the late '10s. He's up there with Kendrick Lamar and the late Nipsey Hussle as far as modern rappers keeping the '90s West Coast sound alive go, and he continues to prove that on Coffee & Kush Vol 1. The album was executive produced by his real-life cousin (and frequent Kendrick Lamar collaborator) Terrace Martin, and it features a touching Nipsey Hussle tribute (over a Janet Jackson sample) and nine other tracks that toe the line between '90s throwbacks and current trends. And as a rapper, Problem continues to display an immense amount of skill. He's been making music for over a decade, but he still sounds like someone who's hungry for a breakthrough. Judging by these ten new songs, he continues to deserve one.
Anuel - Emmanuel
Sony Music Latin
Anuel (who apparently doesn't go by Anuel AA anymore) is one of the pioneers of Latin trap and he's quickly become one of the genre's biggest stars, and today he finally follows his 2018 debut Real Hasta la Muerte and his string of non-album singles with his anticipated sophomore LP, Emmanuel. At 22 songs that clock in at nearly an hour and a half -- including last year's singles "China" (ft. Daddy Yankee, Karol G, Ozuna & J Balvin) and "Secreto" (ft. Karol G) -- it's twice as long as Real Hasta la Muerte, but it avoids dragging thanks to a wide variety of musical styles and an impressive cast of guests. Emmanuel has everything from Latin trap bangers to pop-reggaeton to R&B ballads to darker, more intense songs like "Antes y Después" and "Mi Vieja." Guests include Bad Bunny on two songs, a speedy Lil Wayne verse on "Ferrari" (where he includes a few lines in Spanglish and ends his verse with "bust down got coronavirus, lil bitch!"), blink-182's Travis Barker on album opener "No Llores Mujer," which is an adaptation of Bob Marley's classic "No Woman, No Cry" (Barker is like becoming the new Slash; a non-vocalist guest who shows up to be as flashy as possible and there's actually demand for it), Enrique Iglesias, Farruko, Zion, Mariah, and more. Anuel is still the star of the show, but more so than Real Hasta la Muerte, Emmanuel sounds like a communal, collaborative project, much like its biggest single "China" already was.
Looking for more recent releases? Browse the Notable Releases archive.
For even more metal, browse the 'Upcoming Releases' each week on Invisible Oranges.