Notable Releases of the Week (12/16)
We're halfway through December and the music world is fully in year-end list mode (including us -- we posted our list of the 50 best albums of 2022, as well as the 50 best punk albums and 30 best rap albums of the year, and we've got more lists to come), but new music is still coming out, and in fact, this is a pretty big release week. I highlight six new albums below, and here are a few honorable mentions: Lil Durk & Only the Family, Jacquees, For Tracy Hyde, Discreet (members of Total Abuse, Skeleton, and Creepoid), plus EPs from Nakhane, Your Old Droog, Quelle Chris & Cavalier, Zack Fox, Bloodclot, $uicideboy$ & Germ, PinkPantheress, NoCap, and Jabee & Conductor Williams, the Jim Jones Christmas album, compilations from The Alchemist and Thanks For Coming (aka Rachel Brown of Water From Your Eyes) and The Smile's live album.
Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?
Little Simz - No Thank You
Forever Living Originals/AWAL
After putting out one of the most grand, ambitious rap albums in recent memory with last year's Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, Little Simz tones things down a bit for the more concise No Thank You. It was entirely produced by her frequent collaborator Inflo (who also leads the SAULT collective), and almost every song features another frequent Simz/Inflo collaborator, Cleo Sol, whose soulful singing is a great contrast with Simz's assertive rapping, and an especially great fit on this more atmospheric, melancholic album. No Thank You finds Simz at her most solemn, lamenting the taboo surrounding mental health in the Black community, and airing her grievances about the music industry undervaluing and under-appreciating its artists, particularly artists of color. There's nothing in-your-face like "Boss," nothing sweeping and cinematic like "Introvert," no singalongs like "Selfish"; these are songs that ask for your patience, ask for you to sit down with them and listen to every word. No Thank You has gorgeous production, samples, and backing vocals, but for the most part, Simz doesn't dress her messages up in anything fancy. She has a lot of important stuff to say, and the world would benefit from taking the time to listen to her.
Jesu - Pity / Piety
Justin Broadrick (Godflesh, Final, Zonal, etc) made a surprise return this week with Pity / Piety, with two songs that are over 17 minutes each that Justin calls either a "long playing EP" or a mini LP. Even more so than 2020's Terminus, Pity / Piety finds Jesu exploring his slowcore, post-rock, and shoegaze influences, and the result is some of the most slow-burning, blissful music he's ever released. (As Terminus sometimes did, it reminds me of Low.) Those looking for Justin's towering metal side won't find it here, but Pity / Piety reminds you how much beauty is in his calm, minimal moments.
The Holophonics - LAVOS
Bad Time Records
Long-running ska-punk band The Holophonics are back with their most serious, personal, and musically ambitious album yet. Their fourth original album (and first for Bad Time Records) takes influence from all across the various eras of ska, reggae, and dub, while also incorporating emo, hardcore, skate punk, prog, and more. Lyrically, much of the album deals directly with the trauma singer/songwriter Eric Daino experienced after being assaulted by a former bandmate, which Eric writes about in ways that are vivid and deeply resonant. Read our interview/feature on the album for more.
Boldy James - Be That As It May
Tuff Kong Records
Detroit rapper Boldy James caps off a very busy 2022 with his fourth project of the year, Be That As It May. All four of his 2022 releases were made with different producers, and this one was made with Italian producer Cuns, who also released it on his label Tuff Kong Records. Boldy is great at picking producers who provide him with lush, laid-back, boom bap-inspired beats, and Cuns is no exception. He crafted a gorgeous backdrop, and Boldy taps into his Mary Poppins bag of lyricism for yet another full-length album of captivating bars.
Ab-Soul - Herbert
2022 isn't over yet, and TDE is making up for lost time before the ball drops. Last week brought the first SZA album in five years, and today brings the first Ab-Soul album in six. Ab-Soul got help from Joey Bada$$, Big Sean, Russ, Jhené Aiko, SiR, and more; while beats were contributed from James Blake, DJ Premier, and Hit-Boy alongside usual TDE suspects like Sounwave and DJ Dahi. Like his longtime labelmate Kendrick Lamar did on his long-awaited album this year, Ab-Soul uses Herbert to advocate for therapy and open up about mental health, particularly on the title track (his given name) and the somber "Do Better," and Herbert deals with grief as well, but the 18-song album isn't all dark and personal. It's also got plenty of flexes, shit-talk, goofy punchlines, and fun singalongs.
Young Dolph - Paper Route Frank
Paper Route EMPIRE
Before Memphis rapper Young Dolph was tragically shot and killed at age 36 last year, he had come close to finishing a new album called Paper Route Frank. Now, his estate is releasing the album, and they say that only minimal alterations were made from what Dolph himself had recorded. The album finds Dolph's unmistakable voice in fine form, and it reminds you that Dolph was still creatively pushing forward before his untimely death. Appearances come from Paper Route artists Key Glock, Big Moochie Grape, and Snupe Bandz, and the only other two guests are both artists Dolph has collaborated with multiple times during his lifetime: Gucci Mane and 2 Chainz. Posthumous albums too often seem like guest-filled cash grabs; Paper Route Frank does not seem like that at all.
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