Notable Releases of the Week (8/9)
It's been another big week in the music world, and in case you missed them, here is some recent news I'm excited about: the first new Tool single off their first album in 13 years is here, Marc Almond is performing Soft Cell on a US tour, and The Locust are back. Also, in case you missed it, The Stooges' groundbreaking debut album turned 50 earlier this week and I wrote about it here.
As for this week's new releases, I picked six that I highlighted below, and here are some honorable mentions: Fionn Regan, Rick Ross, Ra Ra Riot, Electric Youth, Strung Out, Murs & 9th Wonder & The Soul Council, Infinity Crush, Zombie Apocalypse, and Destruction.
Read on for my six picks below. What was your favorite release of the week?
Marika Hackman appears nearly nude on the cover of her new album, and she has spoken very openly about how the songs -- including ones titled "blow," "hand solo," and "conventional ride" -- are about sex, so you don't even need to click play to know this is her most confrontational album yet. "It’s blunt, but not offensive. It’s mischievous," she says, summing up the album perfectly. That said, as she also explains, the album shouldn't have to be considered "shocking" (as her parents said it was), especially because of the double standard that description creates. "Why does it sound shocking coming out of my mouth? Women have sex with each other, and it seems to me we aren’t as freely allowed to discuss that as men are. But at no point am I disrespecting the women I’m having sex with. It can be fucking sexy without banging people over the head with a frying pan. It’s sexy sex."
These would all be fun -- and important -- talking points, even if the album didn't sound very good, but the strong message behind the album is matched by some of the strongest songwriting of her career thus far. The album opens with the bare-bones folk of "wanderlust," a gorgeous song that recalls Marika's 2015 debut We Slept At Last, but Any Human Friend quickly changes pace from there. 2017's I'm Not Your Man saw Marika transitioning from folk to indie rock, and Any Human Friend sees her taking I'm Not Your Man's indie rock and adding in new wave basslines, funky guitar patterns, and bubbling synths. She made the album with help from co-producer David Wrench, whose recent credits include David Byrne, Let's Eat Grandma, and The xx, and this album is the closest Marika has ever sounded to artists like those. Still, it's not your typical "indie rocker goes synthpop" album. It's still got a very raw, DIY sound and spirit. It's like if the post-punk revivalists of the early 2000s still had the humble charm of '90s indie rock. Individual parts of the album recall music from all over the past four decades of rock and pop music, yet Any Human Friend also sounds like the kind of album that could only come out today.
Slipknot's classic material has been getting a handful of critical reassessments recently, and We Are Not Your Kind -- their first album in five years -- proves they're still pushing forward and still capable of making good new music too. You can read my full review here.
i, i is full of gorgeous arrangements fueled by soaring horns and thunderous percussion, beautiful pop hooks, adventurous song structures. It covers some pretty interesting ground, but it's the first time a Bon Iver album hasn't been a huge leap from its predecessor. You can read my full review of the album here.
Yoni Wolf's indie rock/indie rap project WHY? has consistently made interesting albums (his last, 2017's Moh Lhean, was pretty solid), but it's been a while since one of their albums left an impact like Alopecia, which WHY? treated to a 10th anniversary tour last year. So, Yoni decided to drastically change it up. "I wasn't feeling the idea of going back in and making another ten or twelve song album. It felt arduous. It felt like too much," he said. Instead, he made a visual album with 19 short tracks split up into various "movements" that come together to create a constantly-shapeshifting 31 minute and 46 second whole. The album -- which features contributions from Sylvan Esso and Lala Lala -- really only works when played from start to finish, as it's more like one big collage than a collection of songs, similar to recent albums by Solange, Earl Sweatshirt, and Tierra Whack. Throughout the album, WHY? touch on atmospheric post-rock, wacky art rock, hard-hitting hip hop, quiet singer/songwriter stuff, and a lot of the in-between, and it's pretty amazing to see how seamlessly it all fits together. WHY? may never have another classic on the level of Alopecia again, but AOKOHIO at least proves that they're not content to settle down and keep making the same albums all over again.
Georgia Anne Muldrow has been on a roll lately. Last year, the singer/producer put out Overload, her first album for Brainfeeder and a high point of her already-fruitful career, earlier this year she followed it with the instrumental album VWETO II on Mello Music Group, and now she's back with a third new album in less than 12 months, the latest G&D album, Black Love & War. G&D is Georgia's project with her frequent collaborator and husband Dudley Perkins (aka Declaime), and Black Love & War proves this duo is still making music as powerful as they were over a decade ago. The production and Georgia's singing are all rooted in the same type of '70s-style psychedelic soul as Georgia's solo material, and Dudley's bars are as hard-hitting as ever. Like on past G&D albums, it's a truly collaborative effort, with no one artist ever overshadowing or stealing the show from the other. And Georgia and Dudley have as much musical chemistry as they presumably have in life. As the title suggests, it's a political album, one that recalls the protest records of '70s soul music as much as it recalls today's political hip hop. It also only takes a few listens for the album's powerful message to sink in.
Mary Timony has been busy this year. Not only did her band Ex Hex release their very good sophomore album It's Real in March, she's now also playing bass in the new band Hammered Hulls, which features fellow DC punk vets Alec MacKaye (Untouchables, The Faith, Ignition, etc) on vocals and Mark Cisneros (Kid Congo, The Make-Up, etc) on guitar, plus Chris Wilson (Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Titus Andronicus) on drums. The first two songs on their three-song debut 7" sound like they could've come straight out of the '90s DC/Dischord post-hardcore scene, and minute-long closer "Looking After You" is a ripper that hearkens back to the label's '80s era. And who better to be making that kind of music today than pros like these? It's nothing you haven't heard before, but Hammered Hulls play these songs with enough passion that it doesn't really matter if they're doing something totally new or not. And besides, sometimes you just want this kind of stuff, and it's exciting to be getting more music like this from the people who helped invent it in the first place.