Notable Releases of the Week (7/19)
It's been another busy week in the music world, with a new Sleater-Kinney song (and more from Carrie on Janet's departure), a new Replacements teaser, an Iggy Pop album announcement, the first song from Alec MacKaye and Mary Timony's new band Hammered Hulls, a late night TV surprise where Stephen Colbert sang "This Year" with The Mountain Goats, and more.
There are also plenty of good new albums out this week. I picked six that I highlighted below, but first some honorable mentions: Nas' The Lost Tapes 2, Ada Lea, Wreck and Reference, Good Riddance, Tomb Mold, Wormed, the first Jeromes Dream album in 18 years, and the Mike Love solo album with a Ramones cover and a Hanson feature (you gotta admit you're a little curious). Also, the new Flaming Lips album (which we reviewed earlier this year) is now streaming.
Check out my six picks below. What was your favorite release of the week?
Lingua Ignota - CaligulaProfound Lore
All it takes is a cursory listen to tell that Caligula, the new album from Kristin Hayter's Lingua Ignota project, is challenging, confrontational art. The themes of violence are right there in the song titles (which include "MAY FAILURE BE YOUR NOOSE" and "IF THE POISON WON'T TAKE YOU MY DOGS WILL"), and Caligula wastes no time revealing itself as abrasive, anti-pop music. It's the kind of music that'll probably turn off a lot of people instantly. Even decades after punk, industrial, and hardcore hip hop became mainstream, Caligula is still an album that'll scare your parents, neighbors, or any normies that hear you listening to it. But it's not shocking for shock's sake; it's a genuinely great example of provocative art, and there's a real depth to the songs on this album. As a gothy, outré, vocal powerhouse, Lingua Ignota has gotten her fair share of comparisons to Diamanda Galas, and she is indeed in the lineage of artists that Galas helped paved the way for, but she is very much a force of her own. She sings in a theatrical, dark-cabaret kind of way one minute, but then lets out shrieks as harsh and blood-curling as any noise, industrial, or black metal band the next. All the while, the instrumentation sounds straight out of the score of a horror film. The songs sound clearly inspired by theater and film, and the imagery in her lyrics is vivid enough to make you feel like you're getting the full cinematic experience even without any actual visuals. Kristin had help from members of The Body, Full of Hell, Uniform, The Rita, and more, and there's a good chance that fans of those artists will instantly like Caligula or already do. But it's a disservice to only compare her to other noise, metal, and industrial acts. Caligula is a genre-defying and medium-defying work that any serious music fan should explore.
Also read an interview with Lingua Ignota over at Invisible Oranges.
Beyonce - The Lion King: The GiftParkwood/Columbia
Beyonce's new companion album for the new Lion King remake is an expert fusion of Afropop and Western hip hop/R&B, and it succeeds on its own as album, totally separate from the film. Guests include Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino, Tierra Whack, Burna Boy, Mr. Eazi, and more. You can read my full review here.
Maxo Kream - Brandon BanksBig Persona/88 Classic/RCA
Houston rapper Maxo Kream's 2018 album/mixtape/whatever PUNKEN was one of 2018's best rap albums by a long shot, and even now -- over a year and a half since its release -- it still remains one of the 2018 albums in any genre that I still frequently think about and listen to. It's one of those albums that had almost nothing riding on it, no big-name guests, no big pop single; it just sounded so good. Maxo has a style that's deceptively poppy and simple but actually pretty intricate and full of deep storytelling; his hooks draw you right in and the substance in his lyricism keeps you going back for more listens. Not surprisingly, he's now on a major label, and Brandon Banks is his major label debut. This time around there's a couple big names on the album (Travis Scott and Schoolboy Q, as well as fellow fast-rising Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion), and you can tell from the production that it's a bigger-budget album than its predecessor, but Maxo is mostly not straying too far from the formula of PUNKEN. There are some songs that pick right up where that album left off (like the great album opener "Meet Again") and some songs that have the slick confidence you only develop when your career starts taking off (like "Still"), and throughout all of it, Maxo continues to hone his skill as one of today's finest new rappers. It seems like it might end up being a transitional album for Maxo Kream; it doesn't have the same humble charm that made PUNKEN an instant classic but it also doesn't go as fully pop as you might think an album featuring Travis Scott would. It's got a lot of high points, though it remains to be seen if any of these songs will have the same kind of longevity as "Grannies" or "Roaches." Either way, it's nice to see one of last year's most promising underground rappers not only getting major label recognition in an era where the odds are working against a rapper like Maxo Kream, but also to see him sharpening his knives in the process.
Falls of Rauros - Patterns In MythologyGilead Media
Maine black metal band Falls of Rauros are back with their first album since 2017's Vigilance Perennial and first for Gilead Media, Patterns In Mythology. Their last album was one of the best metal albums of that year, but this new one might be even better. While Vigilance Perennial still had a lot of focus on the band's folk-leaning side, Patterns In Mythology dives deeper into their post-rock side, and the result is some of the most gorgeous, majestic, and melodic music they've made yet. It's their cleanest sounding album so far, but that doesn't take away at all from the intensity. If anything, the clearer production only makes Falls of Rauros' music hit even harder than it did on their last album. Save for a brief instance of clean vocals, Patterns In Mythology sticks to shrieked vocals and they haven't lost their evil edge in that realm one bit, but this is an album where I find myself more caught up in the instrumentation than the vocals, and their many dynamic peaks and valleys and soaring guitar melodies on this album can hold your attention as well as some of the best instrumental bands. It's one of those albums that entrances you to the point where you might not realize how sucked you in are until the album ends, and you're left feeling like you were abruptly dropped back to reality from the trip. It's always worth treasuring when you find music that's able to do that, and with Patterns In Mythology, Falls of Rauros have done it in exceedingly triumphant ways.
Saul Williams - Encrypted & VulnerablePirates Blend
It seems like, the more Saul Williams makes music, the weirder and more undefinable it gets (in a very good way). His latest album, Encrypted & Vulnerable, is a spacey, psychedelic, highly experimental album that pays no attention to the lines between pre-existing styles of music yet doesn't really feel like it's hopping around between sounds either. It creates its own weird world, miles away from past or present trends, and it spends the entirety of its 13 songs diving deep into that world. Saul made the album with a diverse cast of musicians that includes production wiz Dave Sitek, art pop maverick My Brighest Diamond, psychedelic jazz composer Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, and more, and that list should give you an idea of how all over the place Encrypted & Vulnerable is. (Saul also made multiple contributions to Christian Scott's great new album.) Saul's delivery is somewhere between rapping, singing, and spoken word, and he often blurs the lines between those three things with a single verse. He's taking on some powerful topics on this album too: "Encrypted & Vulnerable is simultaneously a personal and intimately optimistic takedown on struggle, defiance, awareness, aloneness, and a takedown of heteronormative capitalistic patriarchal authoritarian politics in topics ranging from love, technology, religion, war, to migration," he says. Encrypted & Vulnerable is as unflinching in its lyricism as it is in its sonic experimentation. It's an album that starts out weird and gets even weirder, surprising you even after you think you've got it pinned down.
Enforced - At The WallsWAR Records
Enforced hail from the same hometown (Richmond) as Iron Reagan (and recently toured with them), and their new album At The Walls was mixed and mastered by the guy who produces all the Power Trip records (Arthur Rizk), and like both of those bands, Enforced are making some of the best modern crossover thrash around. They're not just revivalists though; they also worked closely with Integrity's Dwid Hellion (who designed the album artwork and sang on "Skinned Alive"), and they share some of that band's raw, evil, metallic hardcore as well. They rely on some familiar crossover tricks (machine gun riffage, wailing whammy bar solos), but they seem intent on bringing that music into the now. Like the aforementioned Power Trip, they manage to write '80s-style music that sounds current just because it's played with so much purpose. (And also like Power Trip, they feel more like a punk/hardcore band at heart than a metal band.) They rock the fuck out for the entirety of this record, and when music is this much fun, you won't be thinking too much about what other bands they might sound like (though if a song does seem familiar, it might be because many of them are remastered versions of songs that first appeared on their demo and EP).
The stream of this album isn't public on Bandcamp yet, but you can hear the whole thing at Cvlt Nation.