Notable Releases of the Week (9/18)
At least here in New York, it suddenly feels like fall, and if you're looking for some new fall albums, here are some new releases that might scratch the itch. I highlight seven below, but first, some honorable mentions: the surprise Tyler Childers album, the Neil Young EP (recorded during his recent quarantine sessions), Kamaiyah & Capolow, A.G. Cook, Devi McCallion & Katie Dey, Deradoorian, Anjimile, Eastwood (mem Knocked Loose), Into It. Over It., Problem, Movements, Daniel Romano's Outfit, El Ten Eleven, Butcher Brown, Namir Blade, Vatican Shadow, Kingdom, Curren$y & Harry Fraud, Tobin Sprout, Sarah Davachi, Sundressed, Mercy Music, Carnation, Raven, Matt Berry, Ava Max, GQ's 9th Wonder-produced EP, The White Swan (mem Kittie) EP, the Militarie Gun (mem Regional Justice Center, Drug Church) EP, the Our Future Is An Absolute Shadow EP, The Faith's live at CBGB album, the Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secret live album, and the Dear Nora compilation.
Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?
Napalm Death - Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism
Napalm Death are best known as a grindcore or a death metal band, but ask long-running vocalist Mark "Barney" Greenway about their influences these days and he'll tell you Killing Joke, Young Gods, My Bloody Valentine, Bauhaus, The Birthday Party, and the Cocteau Twins. Earlier this year, they released a Sonic Youth cover, and though it could seem like an eccentric choice to some, "to us actually, the Sonic Youth cover is not that much of a step in a strange direction," Barney said. Not that Napalm Death have ever been easy to pin down, but -- like fellow long-running, shapeshifting heavy bands Neurosis and Swans -- their recent material has been especially genre-defying. Their most recent album, 2015's Apex Predator - Easy Meat (one of my 20 favorite metal albums of the 2010s), was clearly indebted to noise, industrial, goth, and other sounds that go far beyond your average deathgrind album, and ND incorporated all of it in ways that felt genuinely groundbreaking - no small feat for a band who had helped invent an entire subgenre three decades earlier. Now they're back with Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism, and it's once again a genre-defying, groundbreaking work.
Throes has its grindy moments like opening tracks "Fuck the Factoid" and "Backlash Just Because," but as the album goes on, it slows to a straight-up punk pace and even briefly settles into a mid-tempo post-punk groove (on "Amoral"). By not playing everything at whiplash-inducing speeds, and taking advantage of spacious production, Napalm Death were really able to open up their sound and go in all kinds of new directions. You can hear plenty of the less heavy influences that Barney speaks of coming through, but as he says, "I kind of twist [them], make it more abrasive." And it is indeed a very abrasive album, just one that takes more into consideration than eardrum assault.
Napalm Death -- a long politically outspoken band (whose cover of Dead Kennedy's "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" is just about as famous as the original at this point -- also take into consideration the world they're releasing this album into. "My thing really, specifically with this album, was we have a certain atmosphere within the world right now," Barney told MetalSucks. "There is a separation of peoples, there is a discrimination and dehumanization of certain peoples that’s just accentuated because of that populist, nationalist, protectionist sentiment... so I thought it was very important to focus on this stuff [on the album]." It's not an album that explicitly takes on people like Trump and Boris Johnson -- it's a little more poetic and open-ended than that -- but the anger and dissatisfaction that informed these songs is palpable and they'll resonate long past this current era.
Armani Caesar - The Liz
2020 is already the year of Griselda, but the label/crew are not done leaving their mark on this year. Having already dominated most of the spring and summer, they had planned a three-week onslaught in August that would start with Boldy James' Griselda debut (and third full-length of 2020) and end with Griselda mastermind Westside Gunn's Shady Records debut (and third album of 2020), with the Griselda debut by the label's newest signing, Armani Caesar, sandwiched in between. Unfortunately, shortly after Boldy James' album was released, frequent Griselda collaborator DJ Shay's life was cut short at age 48, and Armani and Gunn delayed their albums. Way before Griselda signed her, Shay helped put Armani on the map, and she and the rest of the Griselda team felt it wouldn't be right to release music right away.
After taking some time, Griselda continued their reign with Conway's excellent From King to a GOD last week, and now Armani (who appeared on "Anza" on Conway’s album) releases her album The Liz, and it's dedicated to Shay. "I want to dedicate this to Demetrius 'DJ Shay' Robinson," she said. "The first person to ever take a chance on me musically. He believed in my talent long before anybody else knew my name. There would be no 'Armani Caesar' if it hadn’t been for him."
Armani signed to Griselda earlier this year, and after inking the deal, she delivered a show-stopping verse on Westside Gunn's July album Flygod Is An Awesome God 2, which set the bar high for her own first Griselda project, and The Liz delivers. The core Griselda trio (Gunn, Conway, and Benny the Butcher) all rap on the album alongside production from frequent Griselda collaborators like Camoflauge Monk, Denny Laflare, and the legendary DJ Premier, so The Liz very much sounds like a Griselda album (gritty rhymes, psychedelic beats), but Armani doesn't need the group's more established names to boost her up. She's already a great rapper in her own right with menacing bars, airtight rhymes, and charisma, and she proves that again and again on this tape. Griselda frequently recall the '90s New York rap era, and Armani told The Source that Gunn envisioned her as Griselda's "first lady" in the spirit of Eve with Ruff Ryders, Lil' Kim with Junior M.A.F.I.A., and Foxy Brown with The Firm, and like all three of those rappers were in their early days, Armani Caesar sounds like a star in the making.
Teenage Halloween - Teenage Halloween
NJ has a long, rich punk history, and its latest, greatest export is Teenage Halloween. The Asbury Park band debuted with the Eternal Roast EP in 2017, and they now follow it with their first full-length, which is a massive step-up from the EP and one of the strongest punk debut LPs I've heard all year. They dabble in '90s/'00s style melodic punk, soaring heartland rock, Thin Lizzy solos, ska-punk style horns, emo, folk punk, and more, and though those are all familiar sounds on their own, you probably haven't heard them combined like this. It's an album that probably could've come out at any point in the past 20-25 years, but the way that it breaks down barriers between scenes and genres so naturally feels like a very modern development. It's an album that should bring together fans of anything from The Lawrence Arms to Jeff Rosenstock to The Hotelier, and sealing the deal is singer Luke Henderiks, whose raspy voice and personable lyrics about growing up queer in the New Jersey suburbs make Teenage Halloween stand out from the bands that might seem "similar" on the surface. The music is too personal to boil it down to comparisons, and you can feel genuine emotion and passion in every syllable Luke sings.
Fenne Lily - BREACH
UK singer/songwriter Fenne Lily first won us over with her guest appearance on Aldous Harding's great 2017 album Party, and she very much kept the excitement going with her own 2018 self-released debut album On Hold, which was co-produced by PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish and mixed by Ali Chant, both of whom had also worked on Party. In the time since that album, Fenne signed to Dead Oceans (Phoebe Bridgers, Mitski, Japanese Breakfast, etc), and her first album for the label, BREACH, picks up where On Hold left off and finds Fenne taking her music into even bigger-sounding territory. This one was produced by Brian Deck (who's helmed indie rock classics like Modest Mouse's The Moon and Antarctica and Iron and Wine's Our Endless Numbered Days), and Steve Albini was involved too, so it's no surprise that it sounds good. But good production is nothing without good songs, and Fenne has plenty of those. The album spans from somber, bare-bones folk songs to ethereal slow-burners to loud, driving indie rock anthems, and Fenne has mastered it all. She's also managed to make an album that was born out of the kind of anxiety and loneliness that a lot of people are probably feeling this year, but that sounds hopeful too. "I was breaking through a wall that I built for myself, keeping myself safe, and dealing with the downside of feeling lonely and alone," she says, and also adds, "I think this record is proof that I can be emotionally stable, even if right now I feel a little bit up and down." We all feel up and down this year, and a warm, welcoming record like this one does help make everything feel just a little bit more grounded.
MC Eiht - Lessons
As a member of Compton's Most Wanted and then as a solo artist, MC Eiht was one of the leaders of '90s West Coast rap, but his career faded away a bit in the 2000s, until Kendrick Lamar helped bring him back into the mainstream consciousness by tapping him for a show-stopping verse on "m.A.A.d. city" off Kendrick's generation-defining 2012 album good kid, m.A.A.d city. Eiht followed that verse with his own new album, Which Way Iz West (his first in 11 years), which was executive produced by East Coast legend DJ Premier and featured tons of Eiht's fellow West Coast peers. That same year, he publicly ended his long-running feud with DJ Quik by appearing on Quik and Problem's Rosecrans album. Eiht was officially back, and thankfully this time he decided to not go away for as long. Earlier this year he released the 27-song double album Official and now he's already back with another 20-song album, Lessons. Once again, DJ Premier is involved, as is his former CMW groupmate Tha Chill (on five songs), B-Real of Cypress Hill, Noble of The Outlawz, Havoc of Mobb Deep, Kurupt, Kokane, Talib Kweli, and more. But Lessons isn't just about inducing nostalgia. He's got two key newer rappers -- Conway the Machine (who released his own great new album last week) and Dave East -- who have both launched successful careers that take after the hard-hitting sound Eiht and his peers helped define in the '90s. It's mutual admiration (and mutually beneficial) at its finest; Eiht helped pave the way, and now guys like Conway and Dave East are creating a space for this kind of music to thrive and attract younger audiences today. And not only is the stage properly set for Eiht to put out an anticipated album 30 years into his career, but Lessons delivers. He's just as sharp of a rapper today as he was on "Streiht Up Menace"; if anything, he might sound even more menacing with age. He's a true lifer and a legend, and if you don't believe us, believe Conway: "Eiht is one of my all-time favorite emcees," he said. "It was an absolute honor to work with the legend."
Steve Arrington - Down to the Lowest Terms: The Soul Sessions
Along with Parliament-Funkadelic, Ohio Players, and others, funk legend Steve Arrington and his '70s/'80s-era band Slave were key influences on the development of G-Funk, thanks in part to artists like Snoop Dogg and NWA sampling his work, and he'd been having a resurgence in recent years due to collaborative releases with Dam-Funk, an appearance on the new Thundercat album, and more, and now he has just released his first proper solo album in 11 years. The production was overseen by Stones Throw founder Peanut Butter Wolf, who brought in modern-day beatmakers from the Stones Throw roster like Knxwledge, Mndsgn, Jerry Paper, Apifera, DJ Harrison and J Rocc (along with a few from outside of the label like Benedek, Gifted & Blessed, and more), and like Thundercat and Dam-Funk, the modern producers knew exactly how to help Arrington modernize his sound without losing the charm of his classic work. The new album honors many of the soul/funk traditions that Arrington's music has been steeped in since the 1970s, but if you didn't know any better, you might mistake this for a new artist in today's hip hop/R&B scene. It sounds impressively fresh for an artist who's been at it for 45 years, and it's a treat to hear a groundbreaking veteran like Steve Arrington still making such lively, relevant-sounding music today.
Osees - Protean Threat
A year without live music is an especially bad year the long-running, extremely prolific garage rock band Osees, whose reputation as an intense live band precedes them, but fortunately they've got a new album and it's a blast. It goes from blistering punk to trippy, psychedelic jams and beyond, and you can read more about it 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.