We’re already over one month into 2022, and it’s already been a very fruitful year for new music. If you need to catch up on some of January’s best stuff, check out our lists of the best punk/emo/hardcore songs and best rap albums of the month, as well as the Indie Basement January roundup, all of which we published earlier this week. And the new music isn’t stopping anytime soon — this week is stacked.
I highlight ten releases below, and Bill talks about more in Indie Basement, including The Jazz Butcher, A Place to Bury Strangers, Los Bitchos, The Reds, Pinks & Purples, and more. And for even more, this week’s honorable mentions include Korn, Black Country, New Road, Yeule, Yearning, Venom Prison, Divided Heaven, Wovenhand, Yo Gotti, Smoke DZA, V Don & Bodega Bamz, Thank, Joeboy, Myles Bullen, Beyond the Styx, EXEK, Bitch (of Bitch and Animal), Adekunle Gold, The Districts, The Rave-Ups, Mass Worship (ft. Barney of Napalm Death), Mac Gollehon, Katacombs, Partner Look, Smrtdeath (ft. Mark Hoppus, Lil Lotus & more), the Marissa Nadler EP, the ME REX EP, the Knuckle Puck EP, and the Double Gainer (mem Posture & the Grizzly, The Most) EP.
Read on for my picks. What’s your favorite release of the week?
Mitski – Laurel Hell
Mitski sparked retirement rumors when she called her 2019 Central Park shows her “last shows indefinitely,” but — coming off constant touring and her biggest album yet (2018’s excellent Be the Cowboy) — she was really just taking a much-deserved break, and she knew it wouldn’t be too long until she returned, because she’d actually already written most of Be the Cowboy‘s followup. According to her latest bio, she “wrote many of [Laurel Hell‘s] songs during or before 2018,” but didn’t finish mixing it until May of 2021, marking the most amount of time she’d ever spent on an album. The songs may date back three or four years, but they did evolve throughout the pandemic. They “slowly took on new forms and meanings, like seed to flower,” Mitski said, and added that the album evolved “to be more uptempo and dance-y.”
“I needed to create something that was also a pep talk,” she continued. “Like, it’s time, we’re going to dance through this.” That feeling very much comes through in the music; Mitski has written pop-friendly songs before (“Nobody”), but she’s never embraced ’80s-style new wave and synthpop as fully as she does on Laurel Hell songs like “Love Me More,” “Should’ve Been Me,” “That’s Our Lamp,” and especially “The Only Heartbreaker,” the latter of which truly feels world-conquering enough to win over the crowd when Mitski opens for Harry Styles this year. Laurel Hell definitely Goes Pop, and glossy synths definitely replace the guitar-oriented sound Mitski was once known for, but the songs still have that unique Mitski flair. She still made the album with longtime collaborator Patrick Hyland — she didn’t hire Max Martin or Jack Antonoff or anything — and it still has plenty of more intimate moments that don’t feel built for radio or arenas. (The slow-burning “Working for the Knife” is a highlight.) The biggest difference, is that after a trio of increasingly ambitious, shapeshifting albums, this one’s a little more uniform. Where Be the Cowboy especially would change up the vibe constantly, Laurel Hell kind of picks one overall feeling and sound and sticks to it throughout. It’s her poppiest album, but in a way, it’s her most dialed-back album too.
Grab Laurel Hell on red vinyl.
Animal Collective – Time Skiffs
Plenty of Kurt Cobain acolytes talk the “I never wanted to be famous” talk, but when Animal Collective became the biggest and hottest thing in indie with 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, it was a breakthrough that I truly believe the band was never striving for. So many indie bands in the post-Strokes aughts were concerned with Making It, and if you listen to the deeply strange sounds of Animal Collective’s early records, it seems safe to assume that they definitely weren’t. Yes, by the 2007 double header of AnCo’s Strawberry Jam and Panda Bear’s Person Pitch, they had adopted a catchier psychedelic pop sound than ever during a period of widespread interest in the genre, but even when they doubled down on the poppiness with Merriweather, it just seemed like coincidence that the interests of the indie rock mainstream had lined up so perfectly with Animal Collective’s own. This was reinforced by MPP‘s followup album, 2012’s Centipede Hz, an album that seemed so intentionally weird and off-putting that you had to assume Animal Collective were trying to back away from the newfound fame and/or weed out the bandwagon jumpers. And even if they weren’t doing that, they definitely weren’t trying to give the people what they want either. Even at their live shows supporting the album, Animal Collective reminded everyone that they are not a band who shut up and play the hits. Still to this day, Animal Collective are usually primarily concerned with performing whatever their newest music is, so if you go see them thinking you’ll hear all the big fan-faves, you’d be sadly mistaken. Their latest tour didn’t even include “My Girls.”
Four years after the polarizing Centipede Hz, Animal Collective returned with Painting With, a perfectly fine album that was more inviting than Centipede Hz but still never going to generate the mass interest of Merriweather or Strawberry Jam (or even Feels or Sung Tongs), and that was followed by a six-year gap between albums, the longest Animal Collective have ever gone. If Animal Collective’s goal was to retreat from the hype machine and become a cult band again, they’ve succeeded. So it’s interesting that, in a time where their diehard fanbase makes up the bulk of their audience, they’ve released what is easily their catchiest album since Merriweather Post Pavilion.
Time Skiffs feels more relaxed and low-key than MPP and Strawberry Jam, but like those albums, it finds Animal Collective indulging in their Beach Boys love and writing futuristic, hallucinatory pop songs. It’s a gorgeous album, and Animal Collective’s commitment to psychedelia is admirable. Unlike in 2009, “trippy” is not a word that gets thrown around in the zeitgeist much today — even Tame Impala, the most popular psychedelic pop band of the last decade, sound sober in comparison to Time Skiffs — and if you’ve been feeling like indie rock’s third eye has been shut for a little too long, this album might be the thing you’ve been missing.
Grab ‘Time Skiffs’ on translucent ruby vinyl.
Saba – Few Good Things
Chicago rapper Saba has stayed busy in recent years with the Pivot Gang album and a string of non-album singles, but he’s only now finally releasing a followup to 2018’s Care For Me, Few Good Things. Most of those non-album singles seemed too good to be kept off Saba’s next album, but clearly he had a strong vision in mind, because Few Good Things is more than a collection of Saba’s latest tracks; it’s one vast journey that only makes sense from start to finish. Even the recent singles that do appear on this album couldn’t have prepared anyone for the grand statement that Few Good Things makes. Across its 14 tracks, it incorporates the introspection of ’90s alternative rap, soul balladry, George Clinton-via-OutKast psych-funk, hardened Chicago drill, auto-tuned trap-pop, and more, and it brings in a slew of amazing guests to help Saba achieve his vision (Black Thought, Krayzie Bone, G Herbo, 6LACK, Smino, Mereba, Fousheé, Saba’s group Pivot Gang, and more). And it doesn’t feel like the guests stopped in to the studio, recorded a verse, and left; Few Good Things feels more like those classic Soulquarians records, where one big collective came together to create a communal, multi-layered piece of art. Mood-wise, it’s a more joyous album than the grief-inspired Care For Me, but just as detailed and reflective. Saba knows how to write songs that scan as “catchy” on first listen but are filled with in-depth lyricism that takes multiple relistens to unpack. Based on how well his previous work has endured, I have a feeling we’ll be unpacking Few Good Things for a long time too.
Rolo Tomassi – Where Myth Becomes Memory
Having started out as a chaotic mathcore band in the mid 2000s, Rolo Tomassi have evolved drastically over the years, both genre-wise and lineup-wise. (Lead vocalist Eva Korman and co-vocalist/keyboardist James Spencer are the only two original members.) They sound less purely batshit now than they did in the beginning, but even more experimental, with elements of post-rock, dream pop, sludge metal, post-hardcore, metalcore, art rock, and so much more coming together to form a totally undefinable sound. Their 2018 LP Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It was their most ambitious (and most acclaimed) yet, but its followup Where Myth Becomes Memory takes things even further. Time hopped back and forth between a lot of different stuff, but Myth fuses everything together more seamlessly. Some songs lean more firmly into metal/post-hardcore territory, while others could pass for Sigur Ros or Mew, but more often than not, Myth is one super-genre where all of Rolo Tomassi’s disparate interests come together at once. The band call the album the “final part” of the “unintended trilogy” that began with 2015’s Grievances and continued with Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It, but even if this stunning album closes the latest chapter of Rolo Tomassi’s career, it also opens the doors to so many new directions Rolo Tomassi could go in next. As is always the case with this band, the possibilities seem endless.
Pick up the Rolo Tomassi LP on ‘tan labyrinthine’ vinyl.
2 Chainz – Dope Don’t Sell Itself
2 Chainz was already about 10 years older than his contemporaries when his solo career took off in the early 2010s, but I don’t think anyone back then would have predicted the wise elder statesman role that he’d take on by 2019’s Rap or Go to the League. He continues to be a lifer and a legacy artist in the making, but he also still knows how to make bangers for parties and clubs, and all of that comes through on his seventh proper solo album, Dope Don’t Sell Itself. At 12 songs, it’s one of his shortest projects – a refreshing move in the age of so many major rappers putting out 20+ song albums (with 30+ song deluxe editions). 2 Chainz’s distinct voice is still a force, and he also recruits an impressive cast of younger rappers that help make this album sound fresh, from rising superstars like Lil Baby, Lil Durk, Roddy Ricch, and Moneybagg Yo, to up-and-coming Detroit rap leader 42 Dugg to the charismatic Griselda-adjacent spitter Stove God Cooks. The album’s got club songs and street songs and a little bit of R&B balladry, and with its short running time and no real filler, it’s easy to keep coming back for more.
Erin Rae – Lighten Up
Almost four years removed from her 2018 debut solo album Putting On Airs, Nashville singer/songwriter Erin Rae returns with her sophomore album Lighten Up, and it’s a noticeable step forward from her debut. Citing Bobbie Gentry and Scott Walker as core influences, Lighten Up feels like a melting pot of late ’60s / early ’70s influences, including Nashville country, British folk, and a hint of the era’s psychedelia, and the expert production from frequent Father John Misty collaborator Jonathan Wilson nails the retro vibe and adds a fresh spin. (For a more modern comparison, it’s cut from a similar cloth as Weyes Blood’s Titanic Rising, and Erin’s band for the album includes keyboardist Drew Erickson, who had a hand in shaping that album too.) There’s a standout guest appearance from Kevin Morby on “Can’t See Stars,” and other guests include Hand Habits and Ny Oh, so Erin’s in great company, but it’s always her own voice, songwriting, and vision that steers the ship. Like her ’60s/’70s influences, Erin has an old soul and there’s a timeless quality to her music; it’s hard to imagine songs like these ever going out of style.
Circa Survive – A Dream About Death EP
Circa Survive follow last year’s A Dream About Love EP with the similarly-titled A Dream About Death, and both find the band branching out into atmospheric art pop territory and making some of the best music of their career. Read more about this one here.
Junglepussy – Jp5000 EP
NYC rapper Junglepussy follows her great 2020 album Jp4 with a brief but very effective EP, Jp5000. Over ominous and at times cinematic production, Junglepussy rattles off bars that have as much in common with the tough, deadly mid ’90s NYC sound as they do with the hazy, abstract rap of someone like Earl Sweatshirt. She continues to be both a gripping and inventive lyricist, and her words jump out at you on first listen. With 5 songs in under 12 minutes, Jp5000 ends too soon but always leaves you wanting more.
Perennial – In the Midnight Hour
If all this talk about the new Meet Me in the Bathroom documentary has you in the market for some early 2000s-style dance-punk, look no further than the new Perennial album, In The Midnight Hour. The band’s list of influences on the album include Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Blood Brothers, Swing Kids, Black Eyes, The Faint, Refused, Le Tigre, The Hives, The Rapture, Fugazi, pageninetynine, Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman, and more, and if you can picture all of that swirled together, you’ll get a very good idea of what this fiery LP sounds like. Read more about it here.
Cate Le Bon – Pompeii
Cate Le Bon follows Reward (one of our favorite albums of 2019) with Pompeii, which Bill says is “both arresting and compelling and yet another entirely unique in Le Bon’s discography where no two records sound alike but all are clearly birthed from the same creative spirit.” Read his full review in Indie Basement.
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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