Congratulations on making it another week through 2020. As you may know, Notable Releases is about this week's new albums, but before I get to that, here's some stuff we ran on BV this week about older music to occupy your time this weekend: a look back on all 16 Sonic Youth studio albums, 28 essential songs from the shoegaze / heavy crossover, tons of newly unearthed '80s DC hardcore live videos (of Fugazi, Dag Nasty, Government Issue, Descendents, 7Seconds, Moss Icon, Shudder To Think, GWAR, One Last Wish, Soul Side, and more), and also a just-released full Fugazi concert from 1999.
As for this week's new albums, I picked six to highlight below, and here are some honorable mentions: the posthumous Juice WRLD album, Bob Nanna (Braid), Rufus Wainright, Akai Solo, The Beths, Broadway Calls, The Jayhawks, Skeleton, Maggot Heart (ex-The Oath, Beastmilk, etc), The Streets, A Grape Dope (mem Tortoise), Sam Prekop (The Sea and Cake), Silver Scrolls (mem Polvo), Asher Gamedze, Executioner's Mask, Rebel Wizard, 100 gecs' remix album (ft. Charli XCX, Rico Nasty, Kero Kero Bonito, Fall Out Boy, Craig Owens, Injury Reserve, and more), Inter Arma's covers album, Tara Jane O'Neil's covers album, the Voivod EP, the guest-filled Massive Attack EP, and The Gloria Record reissue.
Check out my six picks below. What was your favorite release of the week?
Apollo Brown & Che Noir - As God Intended
Mello Music Group
There must be something in the water in Buffalo right now. Not only is it home to the unstoppable Griselda, it's also home to Che Noir, a rapper who's been on the rise since fellow Upstate NY rapper 38 Spesh (of Rochester) helped put her on the map with a handful of collaborations in 2018 and 2019. Now she linked with the great Detroit producer Apollo Brown -- whose psychedelic, jazz-inflected style has made him one of the most consistently great underground rap producers of the past decade -- for her second project of 2020 (following February's 38 Spesh-produced Juno), and armed with Apollo Brown's beats, her raps sound tighter than ever. The album boasts guest verses from Skyzoo, Planet Asia, Ty Farris, and the legendary Black Thought, and still, Che -- who was born the same year Black Thought was recording The Roots' breakthrough album Do You Want More?!!!??! -- is never overshadowed. Her rhymes fall perfectly in the pockets of Apollo Brown's production, and her lyricism is compelling song after song after song. She'd been a promising artist for a while, but with As God Intended, she makes that leap from "promising" to one of the most commanding new voices in modern '90s-style rap.
My Morning Jacket - The Waterfall II
Back in 2015 when My Morning Jacket released The Waterfall, frontman Jim James told Steven Hyden in an interview on Grantland that the band had another album's worth of songs ready to go and that "the two records aren’t related or anything. I don’t want to put it out as, like, The Waterfall II or anything like that." The album ended up getting shelved, though two of its songs trickled out over the years -- "The First Time" on the soundtrack to Showtime's Roadies and "Magic Bullet" as a standalone single -- and one ("Welcome Home") actually dated all the way back to MMJ's 2011 holiday-themed iTunes Session EP. Now, the full album is here -- and it actually is called The Waterfall II -- but don't mistake this for b-sides or songs that weren't good enough to make the cut for The Waterfall. It's easy to see why Jim James said the two albums aren't related; The Waterfall II is a great record in its own right and it really doesn't sound too much like its predecessor.
Much of the album finds MMJ leaning heavily into Flaming Lips/John Lennon-style psych pop, something The Waterfall hinted at on "Thin Line" but which MMJ dive much deeper into on this album. It's an MMJ album, so it's not only that -- there's also rollicking country-funk ("Climbing The Ladder"), hard rock-infused soul ("Wasted"), tender folk music (the aforementioned "Welcome Home"), and more -- but that soaring psych-pop side feels especially dominant on this album. The Waterfall II finds a balance of feeling new for MMJ but also sounding unmistakably like no other band. The album reminds you that MMJ have been flirting with jam band territory long before it became trendy to do so, and it also reminds you how great and distinct Jim James remains as a singer and songwriter. MMJ have always been the full package -- a fiery, jam-friendly live band but also experts in the studio with an arsenal of great songs -- and The Waterfall II proves that, over 20 years into their career, that's still the case.
Julianna Barwick - Healing Is A Miracle
Julianna Barwick has been busy over the past few years, but she actually hasn't released a proper new full-length album since 2016's Will. That changes today with Healing Is A Miracle, her first LP in four years and first for Ninja Tune, following two albums on Dead Oceans and one on Asthmatic Kitty before that. Healing Is A Miracle is also Julianna's first album with high-profile collaborators -- harpist Mary Lattimore, beatmaker Nosaj Thing, and Sigur Ros frontman Jonsi (who she met through his partner Alex Somers, who produced Julianna's 2013 album Nepenthe) -- and this more collaborative effort has resulted in Julianna's loudest, most fleshed-out, most massive sounding album yet. Much of the credit belongs to Julianna herself, though, as even the songs without collaborators find Julianna making grander music than ever. It's also her best-produced album. Her earlier work had a lo-fi crackle, but this new album is as clean and shimmering as can be.
Margo Price - That's How Rumors Get Started
Crossover country great Margo Price is finally back with a followup to her great 2017 sophomore album All American Made, and it represents a few firsts for her. Following two releases on Jack White's Third Man Records, it's her first for Loma Vista Records (also home to St. Vincent, Marilyn Manson, Iggy Pop, and others); following two albums with producers Matt Ross-Spang & Alex Munoz, this one was produced by fellow crossover country great Sturgill Simpson (with co-production from David Ferguson and Margo herself); and following two albums made with her touring band, this one was made with an impressive cast of veteran session musicians: guitarist Matt Sweeney (Chavez, Zwan, etc), bassist Pino Palladino (Elton John, D'Angelo, etc), drummer James Gadson (Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, etc), and keyboardist Benmont Tench (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers). And the changes can be heard in the music -- this is Margo's most polished album to date, and it's her most genre-defying too. It hops between hard rock ("Twinkle Twinkle"), gospel-soul ("Hey Child"), upbeat dance-rock ("Heartless Mind"), and jangly songs that kinda sound like R.E.M. or Fleetwood Mac more than they sound like country ("Stone Me," "Gone To Stay," the title track). It's clearly her most ambitious and hardest to pigeonhole yet. What hasn't changed, though, is Margo's knack for emotionally resonant songwriting with introspective wit and instantly satisfying melodies. That's How Rumors Get Started may sound like a departure on the surface, but at its core, it's the Margo Price you know and love.
Dinner Party - Dinner Party
Sounds Of Crenshaw/Empire
Dinner Party is a new supergroup from four musicians who have long navigated the middle ground between jazz and hip-hop -- Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper, Kamasi Washington, and 9th Wonder -- and Dinner Party is their debut album. As Glasper himself said in an interview with The FADER, these four have an almost effortless chemistry, and it's no surprise since most of them have collaborated multiple times before. Terrace Martin and Robert Glasper already play together in the great jazz/hip hop crossover group R+R=NOW, and Terrace, Robert, and Kamasi all contributed to Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly and all took part in Terrace's new "Racism On Trial" piece. Both Terrace and Robert have worked with 9th Wonder multiple times too. And the cherry on top of Dinner Party is guest vocalist Phoelix, who also helped shape the current jazz/hip hop crossover with his work on Noname's modern-day jazz-rap classic Room 25.
Phoelix sings on four of the seven songs on this album, and the other three are either instrumental or feature Terrace Martin's trademark vocoder work, and Phoelix's voice brings the album into neo-soul territory too. Whether or not anyone's singing, Dinner Party remains a thrill. It blurs the lines between jazz and hip hop even more than R+R=NOW. It really feels like an album that can connect fans of Miles with fans of Madlib, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a group of musicians who can do that better than these guys can.
Sharptooth - Transitional Forms
Baltimore's Sharptooth made a name for themselves as one of the brightest new voices in political hardcore with their 2017 debut LP Clever Girl (which, among other things, includes a rager called "Fuck You Donald Trump"), and they're now back with their followup Transitional Forms, which is bigger and better in every way. The band now sounds tighter and heavier and more varied, the production is crisper (this one was produced and mixed by Brian McTernan, Paul Leavitt, and Sharptooth guitarist Lance Donati), and the anger that fuels these songs is even more palpable than it was on Sharptooth's debut. As powerhouse screamer/singer Lauren Kashan puts it, the album tells the "story of my personal struggle with the societal, interpersonal, and internal constructs that have left me feeling small, afraid, broken, and utterly hopeless," and you hear how all of that informs the incisive lyricism on this LP.
Compared to Clever Girl, Sharptooth push their sound to new extremes in a handful of new directions. The nu-ish chugs of "Say Nothing (In The Absence of Content)" find Sharptooth at their heaviest, "Life On The Razor's Edge" finds them at their most atmospheric, and at least a couple songs find them upping the melodicism in interesting ways. "The Gray" belongs in the same lineage of melodic hardcore as bands like Modern Life Is War and Comeback Kid, while "153" sounds like a fresh update on the metalcore-tinged hard rock of mid 2000s Every Time Die, and "Evolution" gets a dash of melodic punk from Anti-Flag frontman Justin Sane's guest spot. The variety of the album keeps you on your toes, while the pure rage and adrenaline that fuels these songs keeps your blood rushing.
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.