It's another very busy week for new music. I highlight eight albums below, Bill highlights another six in Bill's Indie Basement (including Lost Horizons, King Gizzard, Mouse On Mars, the Stereolab comp, and more), and here's a ton of other honorable mentions: Blanck Mass, Cloud Nothings, Smerz, pulses., Nervous Dater, Drakeo The Ruler, Fred The Godson, Curren$y, Danny L Harle, NOFX, Sam Gendel, Adrian Younge, Timelost, Sloping, Karima Walker, Melvins, Jimmy Edgar, Culted, Jarhead Fertilizer, Forhist, Black Sheep Wall, A Winged Victory For The Sullen, Roosevelt, Vladimír Pavelka (Cult of Fire), Nightshift, Alice Cooper, Menahan Street Band, the PI$$ER dub/punk record, the KÖRD VÄRLD EP, the Mavi EP, the -(16)- / GRIME split, Danielson's Electric Jesus soundtrack, the Neil Young & Crazy Horse live album, and Willie Nelson's Frank Sinatra covers album.
Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - CARNAGE
In the time since Mick Harvey left the Bad Seeds, Nick Cave found a new core collaborator in multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis. Together, the pair wrote a trio of Bad Seeds albums -- 2013's Push The Sky Away, 2016's Skeleton Tree, and 2019's Ghosteen -- that marked a late-career boost in Nick's creativity and ranked among the best albums in his 40+ year discography. They also released a handful of film scores as a duo, and during the pandemic, they hit the studio together for their first-ever non-soundtrack album as a duo, CARNAGE, which is as good as any of the last three Bad Seeds albums. The first half of the record is largely more upbeat than Ghosteen and Skeleton Tree and brings back some of that classic Bad Seeds grit, and the second half continues the meditative direction of his most recent work. And whether it's a menacing song like "Hand Of God" and "White Elephant" or a glistening song like "Alburquerque" and "Lavender Fields," Nick sounds like he's channelling that same creative burst he had on his recent trilogy. His words are full of nature imagery, poetic turns of phrase, and suspense, and he delivers them in that same commanding baritone he employed on the last decade of Bad Seeds albums. Having billed Ghosteen as the conclusion of a trilogy, it's not immediately clear where CARNAGE will ultimately fall within Nick's vast catalog -- it could be an epilogue to that trilogy, a brief detour outside of Bad Seeds territory, the beginning of a new chapter, or none of the above -- but if there's anything we learned from Nick Cave in recent years, it's that it often takes some time for his records to reveal themselves. I loved Push The Sky Away when it came out, but I don't feel like I fully understood it until after Ghosteen came out and I could see it as just one part of a much greater thing. (Honestly, I probably still don't fully understand it.) Likewise, I expect CARNAGE to take on new life and new meaning over the years, and to emerge as just a snapshot of a bigger picture. Whatever it is, it makes me feel exactly how I felt when Nick Cave's last three albums were released. It so instantly feels like a triumph.
Julien Baker - Little Oblivions
The thing that won me over most about Julien Baker when she released her debut album Sprained Ankle was her ability to silence a packed crowd with just her voice and guitar. She could probably have continued to drop jaws with her entirely solo setup for the rest of her career if she wanted to, but it's also a treat to see her expanding upon her sound, and Little Oblivions is her most expansive music yet. It has everything from full-band rock songs to synthy indie pop to strummy acoustic songs to tearjerking piano ballads and more, and Julien continues to be a commanding singer and lyricist no matter the style of music. The folky indie rock of "Favor" features angelic harmonies by Julien's boygenius bandmates Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus (it was recorded the same day as the boygenius-assisted "Graceland Too" on Phoebe's Punisher), and the fleshed-out moments like those are just as compelling as the bare-bones songs like "Crying Wolf." The album has a welcoming familiarity to it -- especially if you've been following the past half-decade of Julien's career -- but it's a distinctly new chapter, as much of a progression from Turn Out the Lights as that album was from Sprained Ankle.
Pick up a vinyl copy of Little Oblivions in our shop.
Dreamwell - Modern Grotesque
Earlier this week, I looked back on the 10th anniversary of when the new wave of post-hardcore made its mark with seminal albums by Touche Amore, La Dispute, Pianos Become the Teeth, Defeater, Title Fight, and more. At the end of the article, I listed off some new bands who are keeping that sound alive, including Dreamwell, whose excellent sophomore LP is out today. The band do indeed cite Pianos Become the Teeth and La Dispute as influences, and you can definitely hear both coming through in the music, but Dreamwell make it their own, and they make this genre of music feel new and exciting again, just like those bands did a decade ago. As I wrote in my track review of the song "Sayaka," Dreamwell's screamo can be metallic and aggressive as much as it can be soaring and post-rocky, and it feels big enough to fill stadiums. "Sayaka" is one hell of a single, and Modern Grotesque is an album where every song is like that. It exceeds expectations right off the bat and just gets better with every listen.
Duke Deuce - DUKE NUKEM
Quality Control/Motown/Made Men Movement.
Memphis rapper Duke Deuce shook the rap world with his 2019 single "Crunk Ain't Dead," which single-handedly made the case that crunk really wasn't dead, and it eventually attracted three of the genre's pioneers -- Lil Jon, Juicy J, and Project Pat -- who appeared on a remix of it. The song wasn't a fluke, as Duke proved on this year's "Soldiers Steppin," another over-the-top crunk song (and video) that put an entirely fresh spin on the genre, and now he returns with his new album DUKE NUKEM, featuring that song and 13 others. This time, he's recruited a handful of big-name current rappers -- including A$AP Ferg, Offset, Young Dolph, Mulatto, Lil Keed, and more -- and the album, finds him continuing to fuse his love of '90s/early '00s crunk with modern-day trap. It's a savvy move, one that rappers like DaBaby and Megan Thee Stallion have already had a lot of success with. Like both of them, Duke Deuce clearly loves Y2K-era rap, and he's finding ways to introduce that stuff back into today's rap mainstream, rather than being full-on retro or full-on catering to modern radio. Sometimes he lets himself get a little too sucked in to generic trap-pop (the best songs are definitely the most in-your-face, abrasive ones), but if this album proves to be a breakthrough for Duke Deuce, it'll be a much-deserved one.
Gel - Violent Closure
Especially in fucked up times like these, there will always be a need for raw, short, fast, and loud hardcore, and there will probably always be new bands that come along and tap into the sound with all the vigor and ferocity of the bands who pioneered the genre over 40 years ago. One of the latest bands to do that is NJ's Gel, who just issued their killer new seven-song 7" Violent Closure on Atomic Action! Records this week. Not a single song on this record makes it to the two-minute mark, and the whole thing moves along at breakneck speed, with one gnarly song after another. It's classic-style hardcore that's covered in a psychedelic haze, and Gel seem to exclusively traffic in dark, minor-key songs, sounding more negative and pessimistic than overly aggressive. They aren't doing anything totally out of left field for the genre, but sometimes you just want a new band to scratch a familiar itch and do it right. Gel do it right.
Porcupine - The Sibyl
New Morality Zine
Since forming in 2017, Chicago band Porcupine have released a few EPs, splits, demos, and a Suicide cover, and The Sibyl is their latest and quite possibly best EP yet. If it feels like the culmination of everything they've been doing over the past few years, that might be because a couple of these songs surfaced in rougher forms on their early releases, but these are their best-sounding recordings yet and this EP as a whole is so musically diverse. It pulls from all across the heavy music board, with bits of screamo, hardcore, black metal, sludge metal, grindcore, metalcore, noise rock, post-rock, and more. It kind of reminds me of a cross between Portrayal of Guilt and Regional Justice Center, with the seamless genre-hopping of the former and the primitive rawness of the latter. Sealing the deal is vocalist Dawson, who sounds impassioned and desperate and human, matching the chaotic aggression with cathartic emotion.
Glitterer - Life Is Not A Lesson
Title Fight remain on hiatus, but luckily co-frontman Ned Russin has stayed prolific with his solo project Glitterer, and his new album Life Is Not A Lesson (recorded with his TF bandmate/brother Ben Russin on drums) is his most Title Fight-like Glitterer album yet. In fact, some of the energetic punk songs on this record sound even more like classic Title Fight than most of the band's shoegazy swan song Hyperview. That's not to say Ned is looking backwards or anything, not at all. These songs share some traits with Title Fight's fan faves, but it's clear that he continues to progress as a songwriter, and so far he hasn't repeated himself. And it's easy to focus on the TF-style songs because it's been a while since Ned's put out that kinda thing, but this is still a Glitterer record, with a handful of cool synthy indie pop songs too. It's a good mix of the last couple Title Fight records and the usual Glitterer sound, and it's pretty unique stuff. Ned's songwriting style is increasingly unmistakable, and I can't think of too many other songwriters that fuse together the variety of sounds that Ned does. (If you want a deeper look into what those sounds are, Ned spoke to us about some of the album's musical and literary influences.)
Mikey Erg - Mikey Erg
As one third of The Ergs!, Mikey Erg released some of the best no-frills, Ramones/Buzzcocks-indebted pop punk of the 21st century, and he then went on drum in tons of other great bands and launch a solo career, which has been as fruitful as his classic band. Mikey's last solo record -- 2019's Waxbuilt Castles -- was billed as an ode to Mikey's pre-punk influences, but for his new self-titled record, he's entirely back on the punk train. From the Clash homage on the album cover to faithful covers of Green Day's "Going To Pasalacqua" and Pearl Jam's punk-inspired "Spin The Black Circle," the album is a love letter to some of Mikey's formative influences, and the original songs are all strong enough to fit in with the classic bands this album pays tribute to. As Mikey said when discussing the "Going To Pasalacqua" cover, "those early Green Day records are, of course, undeniable classics," and if you agree, you'll probably like everything Mikey wrote for this LP. Like pre-Dookie Green Day, these are the kinds of super catchy, fat-trimmed punk songs that just never got old. Elsewhere in his track-by-track breakdown of the album for Punk Rock Theory, Mikey namedrops Sicko, Husker Du, Big Drill Car, and Big Dipper, all of which are also good reference points for this LP, and it ends with the Big Muff-coated sluddgy power pop of "Give Up," a song that sounds like a lost outtake from Weezer's Blue Album. If reading this paragraph has you feeling nostalgic, do yourself a favor and click play.
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.
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