Time just moves differently this year, so we may be past the halfway point, but this week we started taking a look back at some of the albums we love from the first half or so of 2020, including 11 punk albums and 14 emo/screamo/post-hardcore albums. If you’re looking for stuff in those realms that you may have missed, check out those lists.
Meanwhile for this week’s new music, I highlight nine new albums below, and here are some honorable mentions: June of 44‘s first new recordings in 21 years (reworked versions of older songs), The Stooges’ live album of the original lineup’s final show (recorded in 1970), Popcaan, Jaga Jazzist, Krallice, Amine, Washed Out, Death By Stereo, Marlowe (L’Orange & Solemn Brigham), Jaye Jayle, Misery Signals, Terrell Hines, A Grape Dope (mem Tortoise), Faceless Burial, Vincent Cross, Onslaught, Deep Purple, and Alison Mosshart‘s spoken word album.
Today’s also a Bandcamp Friday (and there are lots of cool special releases out, including live material and rarities by both Sonic Youth and Boris), which means Bandcamp are giving all profits directly to artists and labels, so if you’re buying new music today, we recommend doing so on Bandcamp. All below embeds are Bandcamp if applicable.
Read on for my picks. What was your favorite release of the week?
The Microphones – Microphones In 2020
P.W. Elverum & Sun
You read that right, The Microphones in 2020. Phil Elverum (who retired the moniker in 2003 and has gone by Mount Eerie ever since) brought back the name he used for such classic albums as The Glow Pt. 2 for the first time in 17 years, and the result is a one-song, 44-minute album where he muses on the very idea of being “The Microphones.” “There is too much focus on the title of a thing,” Phil told us in a new interview. “Ideally, we can just make stuff without a title for it and without an identity for it. Things can just rest on their own merit, but that’s too idealistic [laughs] and impossible.” You can read much more about this excellent new album here.
Jason Molina – Eight Gates
As if a new Microphones album in 2020 isn’t enough early 2000s lo-fi singer/songwriter nostalgia, we also got an entire, never-before-heard album by the late Jason Molina (Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co), who tragically passed away in 2013 at age 39 from complications related to alcoholism. This isn’t the first time that posthumous Jason Molina music has been released — in 2019, Secretly Canadian released Love & Work: The Lioness Sessions, featuring nearly an album’s worth of previously unreleased songs from the same era as Songs: Ohia’s 2000 classic The Lioness — but Eight Gates is the first complete collection of songs that Jason himself had envisioned as an album and just never was able to release. It’s the last thing he was working on before his death, and it’s a reminder that Jason was a creative force until his very last day and that he was taken from us way too soon. The last album he released in his lifetime, Magnolia Electric Co’s 2009 album Josephine, was a little brighter and a little more alt-country than Jason’s classic turn-of-the-millennium work, but Eight Gates is a melancholic, bare-bones album that really captures the same spirit as the early 2000s Songs: Ohia material. Like those albums, it’s devastating to listen to — especially now, given his fate — and the songwriting is as compelling as Jason’s ever was.
Steve Von Till – No Wilderness Deep Enough
When Neurosis co-frontman Steve Von Till set out to make No Wilderness Deep Enough — his first solo album in five years — he originally planned for it to be an ambient instrumental album — a genre he explores in Neurosis sister band Tribes of Neurot and solo as Harvestman — but then after he hooked up with producer Randall Dunn (Sunn O))), Earth, Marissa Nadler, etc) and added cello (by Brent Arnold) and french horn (by Aaron Korn), Dunn encouraged Von Till to sing over the music, and Von Till obliged. When you listen to No Wilderness Deep Enough, you can hear how it very much could have been an ambient album, with its layers of bubbling electronics, and that plus the string and horn arrangements is no small part of what makes this a much more embellished album than your average acoustic guitar singer/songwriter album. (Not that anything Steve Von Till does is “average.”) Like much of his previous work, the songs on No Wilderness Deep Enough pretty much sound like the quiet, folky moments on late-period Neurosis albums (A Sun That Never Sets onwards), and that’s a very appealing thing. Steve may not have the same name recognition on his own as Neurosis, but if you like the music they’ve been putting out over the course of the past 20 years, this album is essential. It feels instantly familiar and refreshingly new all at once.
Tkay Maidza – Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2
Music scenes and genres are less territorial and more fluid than ever, and in 2020, it’s just not weird at all to see a rapper sign to 4AD, the iconic independent label that was initially best known for releasing goth, post-punk, and indie rock records by Bauhaus, Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Pixies, and more. Australia’s Tkay Maidza is the latest hip hop act to join the label, and though she may be a different genre than the classic 4AD bands, her approach is similar. She’s anti-commercial (but not inaccessible), uncompromising in her vision, and what she’s doing really feels like something new. Her debut for the label is her new eight-song EP Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2, which fuses trap beats, dance beats, syrupy funk, psychedelic soul, and more, and it’s all led by commanding performances by Tkay, who’s just as good at singing as she is at rapping. The only two guests on the EP are JPEGMAFIA and Kari Faux, both of whom are a great match for Tkay. All three have their own sound, but they share a vision for making forward-thinking, boundary-pushing hip hop, and if you like JPEG and Kari but haven’t heard Tkay yet, let this EP change that.
The Fall of Troy – Mukiltearth
Big Scary Monsters
This is a good year for fans of tech-y, proggy post-hardcore. Not only did we get the long-awaited Protest the Hero album, we’re getting the first Fall of Troy album in four years too. As we recently said when talking about their 2005 sophomore album Doppelgänger in our list of 15 albums that defined the 2000s post-hardcore boom, The Fall of Troy’s sound has held up exceptionally well, and it feels like it’s still influential today. (Particularly on Shin Guard, one of the best new hardcore/screamo bands, whose riffs can be very Fall of Troy.) Mukiltearth is basically everything you want from this band — flashy riffs, chaotic song structures, harsh screams, flamboyant clean vocals — and it’ll bring back memories of the white belt era, but it sounds great today too. Especially given their influence on a wave of new bands, maybe it’ll be the start of a much-deserved comeback.
Mukiltearth isn’t out until Saturday (8/8) but we’ll update with a stream once it is. Until then, you can stream the two singles and you can pre-order it during the Bandcamp fundraiser.
Update (8/8): it’s out!
Terminal Nation – Holocene Extinction
20 Buck Spin
With protests against racism, police brutality and other injustices happening all across the country this year, protest music has been hitting even harder than usual, and Little Rock, Arkansas band Terminal Nation’s new album Holocene Extinction is 35 minutes of in-your-face, abrasive, cathartic, really fucking good protest music. They pull from early death and black metal as much as they pull from hardcore punk, and their songs exist within a thrilling middle ground that never fits neatly into any of those genres. It’s a record that asks not for reform, but an entire dismantling of the system. It resonates especially strongly right now, and it will continue to until there’s some real change.
Terminal Nation vocalist Stan Liszewski also gave us a track-by-track breakdown of the whole album and you can check that out for more on this killer LP.
Year of the Knife – Internal Incarceration
Pure Noise Records has been on a roll lately, and one of their most promising new signings is Delaware metallic hardcore crew Year of the Knife. They were supposed to open the Code Orange tour this year, and if you like when that band was more of a straight-up hardcore/metalcore band, you’re almost definitely gonna like this too. It’s got razor-sharp production by Converge’s Kurt Ballou, and it’s just rager after rager. It’s a blast to listen to and it sounds like it’d be even more of a blast to be in the pit for these songs at the tour that never happened, but it’s also a very dark record. The lyrics tackle addiction and loss, and the gloomy tone of the music follows suit.
Constant Elevation – Freedom Beach EP
Last year, vocalist Vinnie Caruana (The Movielife, I Am The Avalanche, Peace’d Out) and drummer Sammy Siegler (Youth of Today, Judge, CIV, Rival Schools, Glassjaw, etc) released a self-titled EP together as Constant Elevation, and it was a very fun throwback to the kind of youth crew melodic hardcore that Sammy helped pioneer in the ’80s, and the most straight-up hardcore thing Vinnie had done since The Movielife’s 2000 sophomore album This Time Next Year. In the time since then, they’ve expanded Constant Elevation into a five-piece band — with bassist Jani Zubkovs (Caspian) and guitarists Mike Ireland (I Am The Avalanche, Pass Away,) and Jim Carroll (Spiral Heads, American Nightmare, The Suicide File) — and their first full-band release, Freedom Beach, is a major step up from the debut. It sounds like they’re starting to treat this band as more than a side project — the production is better, they sound way tighter with five musicians, and they can do things like gang vocals now too. I like a lot of the more adventurous music that Vinnie has made with his other bands, but he remains very, very good at this kind of thing, and it’s awesome to hear him put his heart into it like this. Make a full-length next!!
Billy Nomates – Billy Nomates
Billy Nomates is affiliated with Portishead’s Geoff Barrow (who produced this album) and the Sleaford Mods (whose Jason Williamson provides guest vocals), but she’s really got a sound of her own that combines post-punk, minimal synth, country, pop, and more and sounds a lot more cohesive in execution than it does on paper. Bill’s got a longer review in Bill’s Indie Basement.
Looking for more recent releases? Browse the Notable Releases archive or keep scrolling down for previous weeks.
For even more metal, browse the ‘Upcoming Releases’ each week on Invisible Oranges.