Notable Releases of the Week (9/17)
It's a very busy week for new music. I highlight seven new albums below, and Bill tackles José González, Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor, Yvette, Mild High Club, E.Vax (Ratatat), Don Broco, Blunt Bangs (ex-Black Kids), and more in Bill's Indie Basement, and here are even more honorable mentions: Lindsey Buckingham, Thrice, Alicia Walter (Oshwa), Supine, Mozzy, Tion Wayne, The Felice Brothers, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Emile Mosseri, Charley Crockett, Cold Beat, RP Boo, Curren$y & Kino Beats, ZillaKami, DijahSB, Mini Trees, Deviates, Dirty Shrines (Elway, Chumped), Alexa Rose, Plum Green, The Speed of Sound, You, Me and Everyone Know, Bad Bad Hats, Smoke Bellow, LURK, Demersal, Alien Weaponry, Becca Stevens & The Secret Trio, Spiritbox, the Amygdala / Listless split, the Billy Idol EP, the Troops of Doom (ex-Sepultura) EP, the Stingray EP, the Tems EP, the Fehlt EP, the Hundreds of AU EP, the Soul Blind EP, the Beths live album, the Straylight Run live album, the Hannah Georgas acoustic mini album, and the Dehd remix album (ft. Protomartyr, Lala Lala, and more).
Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?
Moor Mother - Black Encyclopedia of the Air
Last year, the jazz/hip hop/spoken word/avant-garde/etc artist Moor Mother released the new album Circuit City, which was made with her bandmates in the free jazz collective Irreversible Entanglements and was largely a jazz album. Since then, she's moved from Don Giovanni to ANTI- Records, and her ANTI- debut Black Encyclopedia of the Air is much more of a rap album, fueled by hip hop beats and guest verses from underground rap greats like Elucid, lojii, Pink Siifu, Nappy Nina, Maassai, and more. For the average pop music listener, it's easier to digest than Circuit City, but it's still not conventional by any means. Moor Mother is an innovative, experimental artist, and this album is a mind-bending, outré piece of art. Within the rap world, the closest comparison I can think of is something like Shabazz Palaces, but Moor Mother's resolute songwriting transcends any surface-level comparisons. It's admirable how she can make such drastically different albums within a short period of time, and sound like such a natural within multiple contexts. (And Irreversible Entanglements have another new album on the way too.) Black Encyclopedia of the Air registers as some of her most direct, most instantly-satisfying work yet, but judging by the way she's always worked, it's probably just one stop on her ever-expanding musical journey.
Carcass - Torn Arteries
Carcass helped define death metal in the late 1980s, and over 30 years later they continue to push the genre forward and put out music that rivals their most classic work. As young death metal bands emerge that imitate the style of Carcass' early work, Carcass themselves remain at the forefront of the genre. They're not relics; they're still trailblazers. Their 2013 comeback album Surgical Steel was widely (and deservedly) considered one of the best metal albums of the last decade, and their 2020 stop-gap EP Despicable proved they hadn't lost their edge in the seven years since that LP. The EP came out as Torn Arteries was delayed due to COVID, but now Torn Arteries is here, and it makes good on the promise of Despicable. Vocalist/bassist Jeff Walker recently told Rolling Stone that he'd "describe this album as dad rock," adding, "It’s probably not going to grab the average fan of the Eagles, but it’s got a slightly rock & roll element to it." It's an obvious exaggeration, but within the context of death metal, it's an apt description. This album isn't drenched in murk and gore; it's in touch with death metal's thrash, punk, and rock roots, full of crisp, melodic riffs that feel approachable without toning down the band's usual aggression. Carcass have been melodic since 1993's Heartwork, but still, this is different. This album really rocks in a way that's both nostalgic but also new for Carcass. It's some of their most accessible work yet, but it doesn't feel like an attempt at crossover success. It feels like an honest depiction of where Carcass are at as a band at this point in their long, storied career.
Pick up our exclusive white vinyl variant of the new Carcass album.
Lil Nas X - Montero
When Lil Nas X became one of the first artists to achieve actual fame from TikTok virality with "Old Town Road," he seemed like he'd either use the moment as a launching pad for a career, or quickly dissolve into one hit wonder status. When he hastily followed "Old Town Road" with his major label debut EP 7, the latter scenario seemed a lot more likely. The unfocused EP was split between two alt-rock songs, three trap songs, and one attempt at recreating the country/rap crossover of "Old Town Road," and all of it felt half-baked. The Cardi B appearance, which could have been a highlight, felt just as tossed-off and seemed to exist just to help sell the record. Only "Panini" proved to have any semblance of staying power, and mostly because the melody was lifted from a Nirvana song.
But Lil Nas X didn't throw in the towel, and in the time since 7, he finally figured out a recipe that works. Across a string of singles with "Panini" producers Take A Daytrip -- including "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)," "Sun Goes Down," and "Industry Baby" -- Nas began crafting a maximalist, rap-infused pop sound that's more serious than "Old Town Road," more accomplished than 7, and more suited to his abilities than anything he'd released prior. He's definitely not a one hit wonder now -- "Montero" is his second chart-topper, and "Industry Baby" didn't come in far behind at No. 2 -- and even if some people initially spoke more about his videos than his music, the songs themselves have continued to hold up.
All three of those songs appear on Nas' proper debut album Montero, and Take A Daytrip either produced or co-produced the bulk of the album. They've become a great team, and Montero is full of songs that scratch the same itch as those lead singles. Features from Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat, and Miley Cyrus feel well-placed and well-executed, not just chosen to throw some other big names on the record. (Elton John is also apparently on "One of Me," but I don't hear his voice -- maybe that's him on piano at the end. And I guess Jack Harlow's verse on "Industry Baby" is alright.) "One of Me" directly addresses the critics who claimed Nas would never top "Old Town Road," but most of the album just goes ahead and tops that song without talking about it. The album is much more of a pop album than a hip hop album, and it's not necessarily the coolest or most groundbreaking thing ever released, but it's an impressively solid release that proves Lil Nas X has found a sound that works for him. For the first time in his career, he has a clear vision.
Adia Victoria - A Southern Gothic
Adia Victoria follows her Aaron Dessner-produced 2019 album Silences with A Southern Gothic, an album that she wrote in France about her home in the American South. She pulled inspiration from Alan Lomax's old field recordings, and interpreted some vintage blues on the album alongside her original compositions, and its raw, stripped-back sound comes from much of the album being recorded by just Adia and co-producer/instrumentalist Mason Hickman during lockdown. "I wanted the album to be a time stamp of where I was in 2020," Adia said. It was eventually executive produced by T-Bone Burnett and fleshed out by contributions from Margo Price, Jason Isbell, The National's Matt Berninger, Kyshona Armstrong, and Stone Jack Jones, but many of the original recordings from those early 2020 sessions remain. It's a powerful album, one that looks at classic blues through a modern lens, and carries forth the messages of those songs. "I was so anchored in the past and the Black brilliance that came before me," Adia said of the album, and she took that history and did something entirely new with it.
Injury Reserve - By the Time I Get to Phoenix
Moor Mother isn't the only artist with a futuristic, mind-bending rap album out this week. In a totally different way, Injury Reserve's blown-out sophomore album By the Time I Get to Phoenix walks a similar path. It follows their very promising 2019 self-titled debut album, which -- while very experimental -- was still firmly a rap album. This one's closer in practice to something like Tyler, the Creator's IGOR, a hip hop/art pop fusion so genre-defying that it feels like a disservice to call it a "rap album." It's a major artistic accomplishment, but it's also bittersweet, as it comes following the tragic, untimely death of group member Stepa J. Groggs. The album was largely completed before he passed and it features his contributions, and when the surviving members did have to add to the songs, they say they "stayed true to his constant insistence while recording to simply 'make some weird shit.'" That mantra sums up the album well. You can dive into all of the specific sounds and influences and genres and themes that make up this album, but above all else, this is the sound of three creative friends making some weird shit.
MONO - Pilgrimage of the Soul
Temporary Residence Ltd
Over 20 years into their career, MONO remain one of the most ideal versions of a post-rock band. Countless bands have formed in their wake with a similar approach to grand, sweeping, rock instrumentals, but even MONO's newer records tug at the heartstrings in a way many of their followers don't. Their latest triumph is LP11, Pilgrimage of the Soul, which was recorded in 2020 at the height of COVID. You can feel the anxiety of COVID coming through in a song like album opener/lead single "Riptide," one of MONO's heaviest and most metallic offerings yet, but more often than not, Pilgrimage of the Soul is actually a glistening, beautiful album. One of its most show-stopping moments is "Heaven In A Wild Flower," a seven-minute song featuring almost nothing more than a few minimal chords. On some songs, the drums are as melodic as the guitars ("Innocence," "Imperfect Things"), and on others, the rock band format is abandoned entirely (the piano and strings-fueled closer "And Eternity in an Hour"). As with any wordless music, the emotion needs to be conveyed in ways that don't rely on lyrics, and MONO remain masters of this. These songs feel hopeful and heart-wrenching all at once.
Employed To Serve - Conquering
UK band Employed To Serve have cemented themselves as staples of metalcore's latest wave, and with their fourth full-length Conquering, they aren't toning things down one bit. With the dual vocal approach of frontwoman Justine Jones and guitarist/vocalist Sammy Urwin, the album offers up a variety of harsh screams interspersed with melodic alt-rock hooks, and the instrumentation mixes crisp brutality with eerie atmosphere. The onslaught of riffs feels equally indebted to 2000s metalcore, '90s groove metal, and '80s thrash, and Employed To Serve do it in a way that feels both nostalgia-inducing and refreshingly modern. It has its accessible/melodic moments, but more often than not, it's totally pulverizing.
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.
And check out what's new in our shop.