Notable Releases of the Week (5/15)
Last week was a huge week for new music, and this is an even bigger one. I highlighted eight albums below, including at least a few that already rank among my favorites of 2020, and Bill's got quite the lineup of new albums reviewed in Bill's Indie Basement today too: The Magnetic Fields, Sparks, Public Practice, The Dears, Sleaford Mods, and Peaking Lights.
On top of those 13 albums, here are some honorable mentions: Future, Polo G, Einsturzende Neubauten, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, I'm Glad It's You, Zeshan B, Nick Hakim, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, Moby, Jess Williamson, Western Addiction, Luke Jenner (The Rapture), Rose City Band (Ripley Johnson of Wooden Shjips and Moon Duo), Okkultokrati, In the Company of Serpents, ACxDC, Golden Retriever & Chuck Johnson, Retirement Party, El Alfa, OMB Peezy x DrumDummie, the deluxe edition of Moneybagg Yo's Time Served, the Henry Jamison EP (ft. Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste, Lady Lamb, Joseph & more), and Triptykon's "completed" version of Celtic Frost's Requiem trilogy, recorded live at Roadburn.
And last but definitely not least, rest in peace Little Richard.
Read on for my eight picks. What was your favorite release of the week?
Moses Sumney - græ
Moses Sumney released part one of his new double album græ back in February and we already named that one of our favorite albums of the year so far, so needless to say, we are excited the full album is finally here. The second "half" really has just six new songs (eight tracks total, including an interlude and an outro track) so if you've heard part one you've heard the bulk of the album, and if you like part one as much as us, you're gonna like the rest of it too.
It makes sense that græ is a double album; it's stuffed with so many more ideas than an average album usually is, and certainly more ideas than Moses' great 2017 debut album Aromanticism was. It also was a smart move to break it up into two parts because it's a lot to take in at once. It casually moves between loud, confrontational art rock ("Virile," "Conveyor"), soaring, climactic art pop ("Me In 20 Years," "Bless Me"), modern, experimental takes on classic soul and jazz-pop ("Cut Me," "Lucky Me"), real-deal jazz ("Gagarin," "Colouour"), raw, intimate bedroom folk ("Polly"), and plenty of songs that blur the lines between all of those things. It's inter-spliced with interludes that really add to the experience, and it's heavy on meditative atmosphere and avant-garde tendencies but it can really jump out at you too. It's easier to take in by hearing the two halves separately, but unlike Hayley Williams' similarly rolled-out album, græ doesn't really break up neatly into separate parts. Now that the whole thing's here, it really should be consumed as the one whole piece of art that it is. This album is not for tossing on in the background during your busy day, and it doesn't conform to the playlistification that a lot of modern music does. When you really sit down with this one, the rewards are endless.
Perfume Genius - Set My Heart On Fire Immediately
Set My Heart On Fire Immediately sounds like the culmination of everything Perfume Genius has done up to this point while also sounding like a step forward. It has an everything-all-at-once approach, but it always sounds cohesive. You can read my full review of it here.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - Reunions
On Reunions, Jason Isbell blends politics, personal struggles, and the classic rock canon for yet another another highlight of his recent creative hot streak. You can read my full review of it here.
Infant Island - Beneath
Fredericksburg, Virginia screamo up and comers Infant Island already released the Sepulcher mini LP this year, and today brings the release of their sophomore album, Beneath, their first full-length since their very good self-titled 2018 debut. Sepulcher was actually recorded after Beneath, but it makes sense why Infant Island chose to release that one first. Sepulcher is a collection of four great songs, but Beneath is a capital-A Album that ebbs and flows like one long song cycle. It's the best thing Infant Island have released by a mile and it's one of the most stunning albums to come out of the whole recent screamo revival yet.
As on Infant Island's previously released music, Beneath pulls from chaotic screamo, shimmering post-rock, some more melodic post-hardcore/emo type stuff, and some absolutely vicious metallic stuff too. But Beneath also spreads its wings further than anything Infant Island have put out yet, with a deeper dedication to both Eno-esque ambient music ("Colossal Air," "Someplace Else") and crackling noise ("Signed In Blood"). Music like that is sometimes intentionally written as "background music," but Infant Island make those parts sound as suspenseful as their more accessible, in-your-face songs. They're sequenced in such a way that they act like bridges between the vocal-oriented songs, and they're never skippable; without them, the other songs wouldn't hit as hard. Beneath also pushes the various styles of music that Infant Island experiment with to their extremes, and it fuses these styles together more seamlessly than ever. The sludge/black metal hybrid of opener "Here We Are" might be the heaviest song Infant Island have released yet, while parts of "Stare Spells" are downright beautiful in a way this band only hinted at previously. And the songs on this album rarely stay in one place for long or fit neatly into individual subgenres. They'll do things like move from delicate post-rock to spastic screamo to Neurosis-y sludge metal in the span of two minutes (as they do on "Content"), and it never sounds forced or out of place. Infant Island have also upped their musicianship game (the drumming on this album is the not-so-secret-weapon) and the production blows away that of their debut. Sometimes screamo benefits from raw, lo-fi production, but this album sounds big and crystal-clear, and it only helps bring out the best in Infant Island's songs.
Bad Bunny - Las Que No Iban a Salir
Bad Bunny's hot streak cannot be stopped. Las Que No Iban a Salir is his second album of 2020, and -- counting his collab album with J Balvin -- his fourth full length in under a year and a half, and like all the other music he's released in the past 16 months, it's effortlessly enjoyable. This one was presumably a bit more effortless for Bad Bunny to make too -- it's ten songs (half the amount of his last album), including a freestyle and a remix of Jhay Cortez's Como Se Siente -- and much of this album was very likely recorded during quarantine, without a proper studio. Still, he managed to rope in some major guests -- including veteran artists Don Omar and Nicky Jam -- and the whole thing sounds nearly as pristine as Bad Bunny's more polished works. The guests add some welcome star power ("Pa’ Romperla" with Don Omar is especially a standout), but as has always been the case, Bad Bunny's unmistakable voice carries the bulk of this album's weight. Even on these quickly-put-together songs, he has a way of pulling you in that's unrivaled even by his most popular peers.
Sheff G - One and Only
Even before Pop Smoke's tragic, untimely passing, he had become the face of Brooklyn drill, but Sheff G was one of the subgenre's originators before Pop took off and he's been continuing to hone his sound and further solidify a brand of drill that's strictly New York. One and Only is Sheff's second full-length project following last fall's The Unluccy Luccy Kid, and like on that project, Sheff continues to take his booming delivery in a more sing-song direction. It makes him increasingly accessible (recent single "Moody" is at least as catchy as when Drake borrows Brooklyn drill), but Sheff manages to do it without losing the grit of his earliest material. One and Only is also a lean project like its predecessor; it whips by with just ten songs plus an intro and outro, and it really has no noticeable filler or any of the ill-fitting big name guest verses that too often bog down rising rappers' records. Sheff G is clearly on a roll right now, and it seems like nothing is distracting him from his strong sense of direction.
Paradise Lost - Obsidian
Paradise Lost are a legendary band who have been making music for over 30 years and who have released some life-changing classics, and Obsidian is the sixteenth album in this band's storied career. I feel like I should admit that I'm not necessarily an expert on all 15 of the previous ones, but I know the short version of their story is that they helped pioneer death-doom and gothic metal in the early '90s, and then basically became a synthpop band before eventually returning to metal, and that their last two albums -- 2015's The Plague Within and 2017's Medusa -- are especially seen as successful returns to form. I also know that Obsidian is a damn good record. Obsidian was made with the same producer as the last two albums (Jaime Gomez Arellano), and in guitarist Greg Mackintosh's own words, "One or two tracks maybe carry on from where Medusa left off, but for the most part this is quite a different album. It is much more varied and diverse. I’d say that it’s one part Medusa, one part Draconian Times/Icon, one part Gothic and one part totally new sounds." That's a pretty spot-on way to put it, and this album sounds as good as Greg makes it sound on paper. It's got plenty of the band's classic death-doom and gothic metal type stuff, but it's also got 4AD-style goth, Sisters of Mercy-style post-punk, eerie dark folk, and more. It's the Paradise Lost you know and love, mixed with some new stuff, and that's a pretty great place to be three decades into your career.
For much more on Obsidian, check out Joseph Aprill's in-depth interview with vocalist Nick Holmes over on Invisible Oranges.
Conway the Machine - No One Mourns The Wicked
Conway the Machine dropped his Alchemist-produced EP LULU at the tail-end of March, and now the Griselda member is already back with another new EP, this time produced entirely by Big Ghost Ltd (who put his own new album Carpe Noctem out earlier this year), with instrumentation by Hector Puente Colon Jr & The Santiago Men’s Basketball Philharmonic Orchestra. The EP is bookended by two heavier tracks -- the rap/doom metal hybrid "Dead Flowers" and the almost horrorcore sounding "Sicarios" -- but mostly it's what you expect from Conway: hazy, psychedelic production matched in intensity by Conway's gritty bars. The only two guests are Griselda associates El Camino and Flee Lord, but Conway has no trouble carrying the bulk of this EP on his own. He still finds ways to make familiar music sound fresh, he loads this EP with memorable punchlines, and really it's worth listening just to hear him rhyme "paraphernalia" with "Arabic tailor."
Looking for more recent releases? Browse the Notable Releases archive.
For even more metal, browse the 'Upcoming Releases' each week on Invisible Oranges.