Notable Releases of the Week (8/12)
This week on BrooklynVegan we took a trip down memory lane with a list of the best emo & post-hardcore albums of 2002, but there's also a lot of great new stuff out this week to talk about. I highlight nine new releases below, and Bill covers more in Bill's Indie Basement, including OSEES, Kiwi Jr, Max Tundra, Been Stellar, and Tony Molina.
And for even more, honorable mentions: Sylvan Esso, Hudson Mohawke, Jimmy Cliff, Erasure, Sports Team, Goo Goo Dolls, The Game (ft. Kanye, Ice T, Pusha T, A$AP Rocky, a 10-minute Eminem diss track & more), Royce da 5'9" (ft. Eminem, Black Thought, Pusha T, Big K.R.I.T. & more), Rod Wave, Young Nudy, Tony Molina, Rat Tally, Omar Apollo, Pale Waves, Peezy, Zach Barocas' New Freedom Sound, Faye, Doll Spirit Vessel, Kamikaze Palm Tree, Blue Luminaire, Golden Dawn Arkestra, Elaine Howley, Beverly Crusher, Easy Life, Tomu DJ, Locrian, Norma Jean, the Gel and Cold Brats split, the Your Old Droog EP, the Moreish Idols EP, the Fusilier EP, the Bella Poarch EP, the Take It To Heart EP, the Virgin Mother EP, the Amythyst Kiah covers EP, the Morgan Wade acoustic EP, the Danny Elfman remix album, the Tom Vek album of reworkings, and the Italians Do It Better comp.
Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?
Megan Thee Stallion - Traumazine
Few rappers in recent memory have risen to the top as fast as Megan Thee Stallion, and it's been a thrill to watch her take over the world and just get better and better as she does it. In a year that's already included much-talked about albums from Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, and Drake, Megan announced Traumazine just hours before its release, and it already feels like one of the year's true event albums. Megan's path to stardom has also been rattled by some serious personal roadblocks, and like 2020's Good News, Traumazine addresses Megan's personal struggles but she always comes out sounding triumphant, energized, and on top. It's an album that's as fun as it is serious, with plenty of much-deserved boasts, shit talk, and raunchy sex and love songs too. She contributes to the summer of house music with "Her," tacks on her Dua Lipa-featuring pop hit "Sweetest Pie" at the end, and fits in a few R&B slow jams (with help from Jhené Aiko and Lucky Daye), but for the most part, Megan sticks to what she's done best since her mixtape days: churning out catchy, hard-hitting, early 2000s-style rap with a modern twist and a huge personality that you'd never mistake for any other rapper on the planet. In addition to the aforementioned guests, she gives peers like Rico Nasty, Latto, Pooh Shiesty, and Key Glock a chance to shine, gets an assist from Future on (recent single) "Pressurelicious," and offers up a love letter to her Houston hometown with "Southside Royalty Freestyle," produced by Juicy J and Houston vet Mr. Lee and featuring Sauce Walka and Screwed Up Click members Big Pokey and Lil' Keke. It's become a cliché for massive artists to brag that they haven't forgotten where they came from, but Megan doesn't have to tell you; her music speaks for itself.
Danger Mouse & Black Thought - Cheat Codes
Talk of a Danger Mouse and Black Thought album dates all the way back to 2006, the year Danger Mouse was literally everywhere thanks to Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" and the year Black Thought's group The Roots released their beloved Game Theory. It went unreleased for so long that fans started to give up on it, and some even gave up on the idea of Black Thought ever releasing a solo album at all. But then, between 2018 and 2020, Black Thought released the Streams of Thought trilogy, and he said even more solo releases would be on the way, including his long-awaited collaboration with Danger Mouse. Now, over 15 years since news of the album initially broke, it's here. It's titled Cheat Codes (not Dangerous Thoughts, which was the original title), and it was worth the wait. It's Danger Mouse's first rap album since his classic Beatles/Jay-Z mashup The Grey Album, and his sample-heavy style is in fine form, with bits of chopped-up psychedelic soul where you can still hear the crackle of the vinyl. And as Black Thought did on the Streams of Thought trilogy, he reaffirms himself as one of the best rappers alive, delivering hard-hitting screeds that are reminiscent of the '90s rap era Black Thought helped shape and just as urgent today. And as if 12 tracks of fiery Black Thought verses aren't enough to make a great rap album, Cheat Codes also has an impeccable cast of guests, including the late MF DOOM, Raekwon, Joey Bada$$, A$AP Rocky, Run the Jewels, Conway the Machine, and Russ, plus hooks from Michael Kiwanuka, Kid Sister and Dylan Cartlidge. Given how long the album's been in the works for, that's presumably a real DOOM verse and not a leftover from the vault, and it's a real treat to hear a posthumously-released DOOM gem like this one. Every other rapper involved rises to the occasion too; you can't share a track with Black Thought and not bring your A-game, and everyone on Cheat Codes knows it. With any long-teased album like this one, you risk waiting so long that the world moves on from the music you've been making, but Cheat Codes avoids falling into that trap. It hits just as hard today as it would have in 2006, and its mix of veterans and comparatively newer rappers helps bridge that gap. But more than anything, Danger Mouse and Black Thought achieve timelessness by doing what they do best. May all mythically, long-shelved albums have such fates.
pick up a copy on vinyl.
Panda Bear & Sonic Boom - Reset
It's already a great year for Animal Collective, who released their most widely-loved album in over a decade with Time Skiffs, and now Panda Bear has another great LP out in the world. He made it with Sonic Boom (aka former Spacemen 3/Spectrum member Peter Kember), who co-produced Panda Bear's albums Tomboy and Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, but this time they've billed it as a collaborative album. Sonic Boom does some singing too, and the album really began with Sonic Boom revisiting his old doo-wop and early rock & roll records, samples of which these songs are built around (The Everly Brothers, Eddie Cochran, The Troggs, The Drifters, etc). It's source material that makes a lot of sense for both Panda Bear and Sonic Boom, who both have long histories of putting a psychedelic spin on early pop music, and it's a treat to hear how they take these samples and reshape them into something they can fully call their own, making songs that feel nostalgia-inducing and fresh all at once. Reset is also a reminder that Panda Bear and Sonic Boom really do make a great pair; Tomboy and Grim Reaper remain two of Panda Bear's strongest solo albums, and Reset is cut from a similar cloth. Like Time Skiffs did for Animal Collective, it feels like the kind of record that Panda Bear fans would probably hope he'd make, but it also sounds like an album that Panda Bear and Sonic Boom had a lot of fun making. They're not just great musicians, but also huge music fans, and digging through those old records seems like it rekindled their love with some formative influences.
Pick up the Panda Bear & Sonic Boom album on yellow vinyl.
Fugitive - Maniac EP
20 Buck Spin
Power Trip lead guitarist Blake Ibanez said in a recent interview with Banger TV that he had a new project on the way, and hinted that it picked up where Power Trip's final album Nightmare Logic left off. And, while obviously nothing can replace Power Trip or their much-missed frontman Riley Gale, the debut EP by Blake's new band Fugitive makes very good on the promise he made in that interview. For this band, he's joined by Skourge vocalist Seth Gilmore, along with members of Creeping Death, Impalers, and more, and the four original songs (and cover of Bathory's "Raise the Dead") on their debut offering Maniac really do pick up where Power Trip's thrash/hardcore blend left off. And while comparisons to Blake's beloved former band are inevitable, Fugitive already do stand out as a beast of their own. There's a little more death metal in the mix, and Seth's gnarly scream goes great with Blake's crisp guitar style. It's a brief EP, but I'm hoping Fugitive are in it for the long haul; this is some of the most fun metal/punk crossover I've heard in a minute.
Boris - Heavy Rocks
Boris just do not quit. Earlier this year, they released W, a decidedly non-metal companion to 2020's NO, and now they're back with their second album of 2022, which is also the third album in their Heavy Rocks series, which began in 2002 and continued in 2011. Like the past two installments, Heavy Rocks tells you what you're getting right there in the name; it's Boris' way of tapping into proto-metal, proto-punk, and hard rock, and putting their own loud, fresh spin on it. The amps sound like they're overheating, the vocals and drums are unhinged, and everything has a raw production style that really makes these songs feel alive. Throughout the album's first nine rippers, you can hear anything from Stooges and Motorhead worship to blaring noise and feedback, and it's all done in a way that's distinctly Boris. And then Boris go for something brooding and ethereal on the tenth and final track, which is called "(not) Last song," and which comes to an abrupt end, mid-vocal wail. Given the track title and how prolific this band is, it seems like they're sending us off by letting us know we haven't heard the last of Boris. And given how hard this band still goes, that's a very good thing.
Pick the new Boris up on gold vinyl.
Vandoliers - The Vandoliers
If you're not familiar with the Vandoliers, the Texas band make gritty, punky alt-country that's landed them tours with Lucero, Old 97's, Turnpike Troubadours, and other likeminded acts, and they've got three albums dating back to 2016, including 2019's Bloodshot Records-released Forever. After the sale of that label, Vandoliers launched their own Amerikinda Records (named after their debut LP), and their first release for their new label is the sorta-self-titled The Vandoliers. Across these 11 songs, they continue to prove themselves as a band that demand to be heard. They can break out a fiddle song as authentic as you'd expect from a Texas country band, and they can also roll with punk bands thanks to rippers like "Bless Your Drunken Heart." And whether it's a rousing rocker or a tender ballad, the Vandoliers' songwriting has heart, and that's really what makes these songs so versatile. Whether you're coming to it as a country fan or a Southern/heartland rock fan or a punk fan, you're gonna find something you like.
Mariel Buckley - Everywhere I Used to Be
Birthday Cake Records
After stirring up some buzz with 2018's Driving in the Dark, Canadian singer/songwriter Mariel Buckley returns with a new album, Everywhere I Used to Be, and it's an even stronger collection of songs than her promising debut. This one was produced by Marcus Paquin (Arcade Fire, The Weather Station, etc), who gives it a cleaner sound than its predecessor, and Mariel's delivery has only gotten even bolder in the four years since Driving in the Dark. Still, even with a few tighter nuts and bolts, Mariel's songwriting style remains spontaneous and raw, and she really knows how to bring these songs to life. The album casually defies genre, drawing upon propulsive heartland rock anthems, pedal steel-fueled alt-country, intimate folk songs, and atmospheric balladry, and Mariel uses her shapeshifting Americana landscape as a vessel for her vivid storytelling. Her songs have as much nostalgia-inducing imagery as an old dusty photo album, while also dealing with heartbreak, frustration, and god-fearing Christians. She's got a couple songs that feel like instant hits (like album opener "Neon Blue" and the War On Drugs-y lead single "Shooting at the Moon"), but most of this album takes a few listens to reveal itself. And as you see when you give it the time it deserves, the attention to detail is stunning.
Kelsey Waldon - No Regular Dog
Oh Boy Records
After sharing the stage with the legendary John Prine at the Grand Ole Opry in 2019, Kentucky-born country singer Kelsey Waldon signed to his label Oh Boy Records, which marked the label's first new signing in 15 years and helped kickstart a mini renaissance for the label, which has since gone on to sign Tré Burt, Arlo McKinley, and Emily Scott Robinson, solidifying a great new generation of the Oh Boy family in the process. Kelsey's first album for Oh Boy was 2019's White Noise/White Lines, her third overall, and now she follows it with No Regular Dog, her most expansive album yet. Breaking way from the more rustic, traditional country music of her first three records, the Shooter Jennings-produced No Regular Dog incorporates influence from rock, soul, folk, blues, and more, and there's a hint of psychedelia in the atmospheric production and those soaring pedal steel parts. She's still clearly in love with decades-old music, but No Regular Dog is a more modern-sounding record than anything she'd done previously. "Everything’s in there, all the music I’ve ever known and loved," she said in press materials for the new album. "I wanted to show my whole color scheme and create something that’s less of a honky-tonk thing and more like a big, beautiful picture of everything I see in country music." She matches the impressive musical backdrop with gripping stories that offer hard-earned wisdom and introspective reflection, while touching on addiction, mental health, self-worth, and more. She writes her first love song with "Simple As Love," gets political with "History Repeats Itself," and mourns the death of John Prine with "Season's Ending." No Regular Dog casts as wide a net thematically as it does sonically, pushing boundaries just enough so that she stands apart from whoever you might think to compare her to. Like the song says, she ain't no regular dog.
The Halo Effect - Days of the Lost
Not to stereotype Swedish songwriters, but they really do understand the power of a sugar-sweet melody over there -- even, and sometimes especially, the metalheads. Case in point: The Halo Effect, the new supergroup fronted by Dark Tranquillity vocalist Mikael Stanne with current and former In Flames members Jesper Strömblad, Peter Iwers, and Niclas Engelin. All four of these guys are responsible for helping to create the Swedish melodeath genre, and with The Halo Effect's debut album Days of the Lost, they bring you right back to the genre's '90s heyday. It's harsh and heavy, with all the bludgeoning rhythms and venomous shrieks you want from death metal, but it's also really fucking catchy. The title track is one of the catchiest songs I've heard all year, in any genre. The Halo Effect aren't doing anything that the members haven't done before, but they're firing on all cylinders and tapping directly into what makes the '90s melodeath sound so appealing. As far as current-day interpretations of this sound go, Days of the Lost is up there with the best.
Read Bill's Indie Basement for more new album reviews, including OSEES, Kiwi Jr, Max Tundra, Been Stellar, and Tony Molina.
Looking for more recent releases? Browse the Notable Releases archive or scroll down for previous weeks.
For even more metal, browse the 'Upcoming Releases' each week on Invisible Oranges.
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