This is a very busy week in the music world, especially in NYC with Governors Ball (where I'll be shortly). As for new albums, Bill highlights a whopping 10 in Bill's Indie Basement, including the insanely stacked Velvet Underground & Nico tribute LP (ft. Michael Stipe, Matt Berninger, Sharon Van Etten, Kurt Vile, St. Vincent, Courtney Barnett, Iggy Pop & more), Absolutely Free, The Connells, Public Service Broadcasting, Film School, and more, and I highlight five more below.

On top of all that, here are several honorable mentions: Boys Noize (ft. Rico Nasty, Kelsey Lu, Jake Shears, Abra & more), Westside Gunn's second part of #HWH8 (ft. Tyler the Creator, Jay Electronica, Madlib, 2 Chainz, Rome Streetz, Mach-Hommy, and more), Esperanza Spalding, Andy Shauf, Nao, Angels & Airwaves, Third Eye Blind, Natalie Imbruglia, Poppy, Rivers of Nihil, Alessia Cara, Pembe, Left In-Between (ex-Suis La Lune), Blu, D Smoke, The Muslims, Lukah, Macie Stewart (Ohmme), Judas Knife (mem Garrison, Bold, etc), Jesse Malin, Ada Lea, Shortly, Caleb Landry Jones, Unto Others, William Shatner, The Ophelias, Sam Johnson (Choke Up), Solemn Brigham, Abraskadabra (get it on limited gold vinyl), Undergang, Succumb, Frames, Sad Park, Pop. 1280, Mas Aya, James Barrett, It Only Ends Once, Momentum, Dark Lo & Havoc, Radiant Baby, Maxshh, Little Hag, LLNN, Nolan Potter, Sonido De La Frontera, Japanese Breakfast's Sable soundtrack, the Johnny Cash live album (recorded in 1968 at pre-Fillmore West venue The Carousel Ballroom), the Kari Faux deluxe edition, the Lyra Pramuk remix LP, the Jagjaguwar covers compilation, the Blue Stingrays (mem Heartbreakers, Mudcrutch) expanded reissue, the Matt Pond PA reworked reissue, the Queers covers album, the Brigid Mae Power covers EP, the Anna B Savage EP, the Insect Ark EP, the Grace EP, the Scarecrow (Exhumed, Death Angel) EP, and the Blodet EP.

Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?

One Step Closer - This Place You Know
Run For Cover

As a melodic hardcore band from Wilkes-Barre, One Step Closer have been hit with comparisons to Title Fight all throughout their blossoming career. It's not undeserved -- OSC consider Title Fight a major influence and they share a knack for conveying small town dread with aggressive hooks -- but their debut LP This Place You Know goes far beyond comparisons to any one band. Their impassioned, heart-on-sleeve shouts often recall TF's old pals Touche Amore, and their knack for fearless innovation within hardcore echoes Turnstile. When asked about their influences, they're quick to mention the untitled blink-182 record and Tom DeLonge's short-lived side project Box Car Racer, albums that messed with the punk formula in a way that was simultaneously darker, heavier, and prettier. You can hear how those records inspired the direction of this one, and not just because OSC also begin their record with a song called "I Feel So."

This Place You Know, released on Run For Cover following a great 2019 EP on Triple B, is a massive step up from anything OSC have previously released. It has big, warm production that allows them to branch out from the strict confines of hardcore, but that still allows their heavier songs to hit you like a ton of bricks. Ryan Savitski's screams are goosebump-inducing, and the brief instances of clean-sung vocals make for an effective change of pace. The record always keeps one foot firmly planted within hardcore, but it's also not afraid to include a song like "Hereafter," an emo-infused trek through clean guitars, pianos, and hummed vocals that's pretty enough to fit on Clarity. This Place You Know has the kind of musical and emotional ambition that some bands don't show until their third or fourth album, so it's impressive that OSC are starting here. It's one of the most accomplished debut albums the hardcore scene has produced in years, and it leaves multiple possible directions that OSC could naturally go in next.

Get the new One Step Closer LP on white vinyl.

 

The Body and BIG|BRAVE - Leaving None But Small Birds
Thrill Jockey

BIG | BRAVE are usually known for making towering, clean-sung post-metal, and The Body are usually known for making weird, warped versions of metal, so it's fascinating that they've come together for a collaborative album that sounds nothing like either of those things. They took influence from traditional folk rock, and pulled lyrics and melodies from Appalachian, Canadian, and English hymns and folk songs, coming out with a record that's more in the spirit of Steeleye Span or Fairport Convention (or Bonny Light Horseman) than the modern metal scene. Not that metal never crosses paths with folk rock -- it absolutely does -- but Leaving None But Small Birds is not metal by any definition. It's an earthy, psychedelic folk rock record, and BIG | BRAVE singer Robin Wattie's soaring voice is perfect for this kind of thing. When it's done well, this kind of music truly never goes out of style, and Leaving None But Small Birds sounds as timeless as the folk rock greats.

 

Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine - A Beginner's Mind
Asthmatic Kitty

A few years ago, Sufjan Stevens took LA singer/songwriter Angelo De Augustine under his wing, signing him to his Asthmatic Kitty label, touring with him, and singing with him on multiple occasions. Now he's gone a step further, and released an entire collaborative album with him. The process was apparently heavily collaborative -- "one person writing a verse, the other a chorus, churning out chord progressions and lyrics willy-nilly, often finishing each other’s sentences in the process," reads a press release -- and their chemistry feels second nature. The album often sounds like classic Sufjan, and then Angelo will take over and the transition will be seamless. The pair brings to mind artists like Simon & Garfunkel and The Everly Brothers, duos who sang in such close harmony that there was often no clear leader. And while it's not a "Sufjan Stevens album," he seems to have taken it just as seriously as one. Its tender sound recalls albums like Seven Swans and Carrie & Lowell, and many of these songs are gorgeous enough to have fit on either of those. And though it's easy to talk about it more in the context of Sufjan's music, Angelo is no slouch. He provides plenty of gorgeous moments of his own, and hearing him right next to a master like Sufjan really speaks to the power of his own artistry.

 

Ashley Shadow - Only The End
felte

Vancouver singer/songwriter Ashley Shadow is an artist who takes her time. She'd been playing with various musicians for years before releasing her self-titled debut solo album in 2016, and now it's taken her over five years to follow it with her second LP, Only The End. The album was made with some key collaborators, including Joshua Wells (who's in Black Mountain and Lightning Dust with Ashley's twin sister Amber Webber), Neko Case associate Paul Rigby, Colin Cowan (Elastic Stars), Ryan Beattie (Himalayan Bear), and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, and that last one provides a gorgeous duet with Ashley on "Don't Slow Me Down." But more than anything else, the driving force is Ashley's voice. Her delivery is quivering yet powerful, with the warm intimacy of a folk singer but without ever feeling small. The music follows suit, fueled by folk traditions but often building to a crashing rock crescendo. The patience that Ashley has with her career comes through in the music too; this doesn't feel like music that's supposed to fit in with any current trends, but it's clear that a lot of thought and care went into these songs.

 

Lakeyah - My Time
Quality Control

Tyler, the Creator isn't the only artist bringing awareness back to DJ Drama's legendary Gangsta Grillz mixtape series this year. Rising Milwaukee rapper Lakeyah has just dropped a DJ Drama-hosted tape, My Time, her third full-length in the past 12 months. It features Tee Grizzley, Tyga, and Bankroll Freddie, and they and Drama all play supporting roles -- it's clear that they all know they're in the presence of a rising star. As on 2020's Time's Up and this year's In Due Time, Lakeyah feels like she's testing the waters, putting out relatively brief projects while she hones her promising sound. She's experimented with tough, shit-talking rap songs, somber, inward-looking ones, and pop and R&B, and this mixtape is largely focused on her shit-talking side. She sounds like she's out for blood on these songs; getting in her path would be foolish.

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