Notable Releases of the Week (4/30)
More good news: this is a stacked week for new music. I highlight ten new albums below, and Bill reviewed the new Matt Sweeney & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy album and also talks about Teenage Fanclub, Guided by Voices, and more in Bill's Indie Basement.
On top of those 12, here are more honorable mentions: Beachy Head (mem Slowdive & Flaming Lips), Gojira, Shelley FKA DRAM, the posthumous Tony Allen album (ft. Danny Brown, Skepta, Sampa The Great, Damon Albarn & more), DJ Khaled (ft. a Jay-Z/Nas song, Cardi B, Drake, Lil Wayne, Post Malone, Megan Thee Stallion, Lil Baby, DaBaby, H.E.R., Migos, Justin Timberlake, and more), Marianne Faithfull & Warren Ellis, the Steve Von Till (Neurosis) ambient & spoken word albums, Bowerbirds, girl in red, Ashley Monroe, Cadence Weapon, Innov Gnawa, J.Period, Ya Tseen (ft. Portugal. The Man, Shabazz Palaces & more), Dropkick Murphys, Big Mother Gig, Rosie Tucker, Julia Stone, The Coral, Candy Apple, Adrian Crowley, Domkraft, Demons (mem Mae), Lee Baggett, Growing, Warish, Juan Wauters, Grave Flowers Bongo Band, Far Lands (mem Rosebuds, Gayngs), Paul Jacobs (of Pottery), Asunojokei, the Moodoïd EP, the Enumclaw EP, the Bad Visuals EP, the SEIN EP, the Hey, ily EP, Ben Seretan's piano/field recordings album, The Lillingtons' Enemy You tribute EP, the benefit tribute album to Phish's Farmhouse, Metronomy's expanded 10th anniversary reissue of The English Riviera, Flying Lotus' Yasuke score, and Jonsi's Tom Clancy's Without Remorse score.
Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?
Origami Angel - GAMI GANG
There's been a lot of talk about the arrival of fifth wave emo lately, and if it's not exactly clear where the fourth wave (the "emo revival") ends and where the fifth begins, well, that's pretty much always been the case with waves of emo. The third wave's arrival was marked by songs like Jimmy Eat World's "The Middle" and Dashboard Confessional's "Screaming Infidelities" -- both artists who were already part of emo's second wave -- and a lot of the original emo revival bands started putting out music around 2006 or so, when the third wave was still very much in effect. (The clearest break is between the short-lived '80s first wave and the emergence of the second wave in the '90s, but even that era has its exceptions.) And in true emo fashion, the fifth wave is coming to prominence now, but it had been right here under our noses for a few years already. One of the first key albums of the fifth wave is Origami Angel's 2019 debut LP Somewhere City, a record that some would argue is already part of the emo canon.
Now, with the fifth wave and full swing and with Origami Angel having already established themselves as one of its leaders, the duo are raising the stakes with GAMI GANG, a 20-song double album that's overflowing with ambition but never forgets Origami Angel's DIY roots. The album name comes from the slogan that Origami Angel fans enthusiastically cheer the way Bruce Springsteen fans yell "Bruuuuuuuuce," and it kind of speaks volumes that -- considering how under-the-radar this band still is in the grand scheme of things -- they can actually title their second album after their diehard fanbase's rallying cry without seeming like they're bragging or inflating their own importance. It's a rock star move, much like releasing a double album is, and Origami Angel pull it off gracefully.
In an interview with Ian Cohen for Stereogum, guitarist/bassist/vocalist Ryland Heagy joked that the album is like "Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness if the songs were about 60% as long," and Mellon Collie is a good comparison for more reasons than one. On that album, Billy Corgan was determined to write something that would be viewed as a classic; Origami Angel seem a little more carefree and lighthearted about it, but still, you get the sense that GAMI GANG is an album that's supposed to matter, and will. Like Mellon Collie, the album takes unabashed influence from classic rock but it's built to be loved by teenagers who only ever interacted with classic rock as a piece of history. (And by "classic rock" I do mean '60s/'70s, but food for thought: Mellon Collie is just as old now as Abbey Road was when that album came out.) And like MC and other great double albums, GAMI GANG really earns its length thanks to a wider range of musical variety than Origami Angel had ever shown off before. It's got just as many instantly-satisfying emo/power pop anthems as Somewhere City, but those anthems are interspersed with acoustic passages, trap beats, a bossa nova song, caustic post-hardcore, easycore breakdowns, and more. Sometimes GAMI GANG is as sugary as emo-pop gets, other times it's a gnarly, heavy record. And as on Somewhere City, Ryland Heagy continues to be a modern-day guitar hero whose tech-y fretwork connects the dots between Mike Kinsella and Eddie Van Halen. (For all the Smashing Pumpkins talk, another mid '90s alt-rock comparison that's impossible not to make is Weezer, whose Van Halen-obsessed nerd-emo is a clear precursor to GAMI GANG.)
Comparisons to classic rock and '90s alt-rock and other emo bands aside, GAMI GANG feels so instantly monumental because it makes it clear that Origami Angel have a sound and style of their own. It was all there on Somewhere City, but now they're better, tighter, and more unmistakably unique.
Manchester Orchestra - The Million Masks of God
Manchester Orchestra are over 15 years into their career, and they're still pushing forward. The Million Masks of God is a "movie album" that demands to be heard from start to finish, and it induces nostalgia for Manchester Orchestra's earlier albums without sounding like anything they've ever done before. You can read my full review of the album, and my interview with Andy Hull, here.
Pick up the album on transparent light blue vinyl from our shop.
The Alchemist - This Thing Of Ours
The Alchemist has been a consistently great hip hop producer since the early '90s, and he's pretty much always cooking up something great, but he's especially been on a roll lately. In the past 14 months alone, he's produced entire top-tier projects for Boldy James, Freddie Gibbs, Conway the Machine, and Armand Hammer, along with standout tracks on albums by Jay Electronica, Westside Gunn, and more. When Alchemist brought his laid-back jazzy production style to the forefront of underground rap last year, I made the case that he first began perfecting his current sound on his 2018 EPs Lunch Meat and Bread and his 2019 album Yacht Rock 2, albums with different guest rappers on every song but that clearly had Alchemist in the director's chair. Now he finally releases a new EP in the spirit of those records, This Thing Of Ours.
Like Lunch Meat and Bread, This Thing Of Ours has four songs, including an instrumental version of each one. Earl Sweatshirt is on two of them ("Nobles," alongside Navy Blue, and "Loose Change") and there's one with Sideshow and Boldy James ("TV Dinners") and another with Maxo and Pink Siifu ("Holy Hell"). It's short, but it's immensely satisfying and very much lends itself to replays. Alchemist and Boldy James show off as much chemistry on "TV Dinners" as they did on last year's The Price of Tea In China, and it's great to hear comparative newcomers like Navy Blue, Maxo, Pink Siifu, and MIKE collaborator Sideshow entering Alchemist's world. But perhaps the biggest treat is that 50% of this EP is with Earl Sweatshirt, an artist who would be perfect for an entire collaborative album with Alchemist. They've worked together a handful of times in the past (on "E. Coli," "Wind In My Sails," "45," "Whole World," "Warlord Leather," "Mtomb," "Play It Cool," and "Falling Out the Sky" off the new Alchemist/Armand Hammer album), and every time they do it's a treat. Earl's booming, stream-of-consciousness delivery contrasts so well with The Alchemist's lush, psychedelic production, and the two tracks on This Thing Of Ours are among the best they've made together yet.
Dawn Richard - Second Line: An Electro Revival
Since reinventing herself on 2012's Armor On EP, New Orleans artist Dawn Richard has become one of the most innovative R&B singers of the past decade, and she changes up her style from project to project, always keeping things interesting. After releasing most of her recent music on her own Our Dawn label, she has now signed to indie giant Merge Records for her sixth full-length album Second Line: An Electro Revival, and it's another progression and triumph. As the title implies, the album fuses together New Orleans' tradition of Second Line parades and futuristic electronic music. Dawn calls the album "a movement to bring pioneering Black women in electronic music to the forefront." The album is interspersed with spoken word interludes that honor Dawn's New Orleans roots, and the songs are fueled by clubby, forward-thinking production. If you removed Dawn's voice, Second Line would be a great, 3-AM-on-the-dancefloor friendly electronic record, but with her singing and her story worked in, it becomes unique, inventive pop music. (Sometimes she does break from the electronic vibe, like on the lush, vintage soul of "Mornin | Streetlights.") With an intro, outro, interludes, and an intermission, Second Line is structured like a film or a play. It's very much designed to be heard from start to finish, and it's most rewarding that way as well. It's one grand, intricately crafted piece of art from an artist who has been making strong statements like this for most of her career. If you still aren't listening to her, you're missing out on a truly remarkable artist.
Cruelty - There Is No God Where I Am
Cruelty have been on the rise since forming in 2017, thanks to some promising EPs/splits/demos and tours with fellow UK hardcore-adjacent bands like Renounced, Higher Power, Big Cheese, and their debut full-length album There Is No God Where I Am very much delivers on all that promise. The album was made with an all-star team -- it was recorded by Ian Boult (who did Basement's debut LP), mixed by Taylor Young (God's Hate, Twitching Tongues, ex-Nails), and mastered by From Ashes Rise's Brad Boatright -- so it's no surprise that it sounds great, but the credit really goes to Cruelty, an excellent new band who have written a very impressive debut album. It's dark, heavy, intricate music that blurs the line between bone-crushing metalcore and atmospheric post-metal. In the spirit of latter-day Converge, it does have some bludgeoning metalcore riffage but it's more focused on creating bleak, artful, devastating soundscapes than sheer brutality. There's been no lack lately of promising young bands making hardcore-adjacent music, but it's not every day you hear a debut album this mesmerizing.
Oryx - Lamenting A Dead World
Oryx hail from the thriving Denver metal scene, and their excellent third album Lamenting A Dead World features contributions from members of other heavy hitters in the scene like Primitive Man, Blood Incantation, Spectral Voice, the now-defunct Clinging To The Trees Of A Forest Fire, and more. Oryx might not be as much of a household name as those other bands just yet, but hopefully that changes after Lamenting A Dead World. It's some of the most intense post-metal I've heard this year.
Lamenting A Dead World is made up of five lengthy songs (the longest of which is 15 minutes), and it's as heavy as it is atmospheric and beautiful. It pulls from sludge metal, black metal, punk, noise, post-rock, and more, and Oryx have gotten even better at fusing all that stuff together than they were on 2018's Stolen Absolution. Matching the towering tone of the music is the conviction in the album's themes, which were inspired by the "dark underbelly of humanity" that came to the forefront of mainstream America in 2020. "This album was written as a reflection on the insanity of what it means to justify existence in the age of self-diluted piety," vocalist/guitarist Tommy Davis said. The lyrics favor metaphor and imagery more than blunt political statements, but, taken in tandem with Tommy's quote, it becomes clear that Oryx aren't just channelling vague, generic horror. They're responding to the horror of real life.
Leon Vynehall - Rare, Forever
British producer/DJ Leon Vynehall has been making some of the most interesting electronic music of the past few years, and he continues to evolve with each new album. 2014's Music for the Uninvited and 2016's Rojus were futuristic house albums, while 2018's Nothing Is Still shifted towards ambient music, jazz, and modern classical. The new Rare, Forever kind of ties together everything Leon did on those last three records. Unlike Nothing Is Still, Rare, Forever's eyes are set on the dancefloor, but the kinetic beats on this album are embellished by the kinds of atmospheric, sometimes-jazzy textures that Leon's last album experimented with. It's a more immediate album than Nothing Is Still and a prettier album than Rojus and Music for the Uninvited, and it's also his most overtly psychedelic album. Leon's music has been hypnotic and trance-like in the past, but it's rarely this trippy.
Fresh - The Summer I Got Good At Guitar EP
Fresh are a UK band who have been around for a few years and have two albums under their belts (2017's self-titled and 2019's Withdraw), and they make bold, catchy indie-punk in the vein of Camp Cope, Muncie Girls, Great Cynics, etc. They're now back with the new five-song EP The Summer I Got Good At Guitar and it's some of their most powerful stuff yet. Singer Kathryn Woods (also of ME REX and cheerbleederz) has so much conviction in her voice, and whether she's delivering scathing takedowns of sexism in the music scene or singing personal, introspective songs, you really feel it. Kathryn's melodies are as compelling as her words, and for just five songs, there's a good amount of musical diversity on this EP, from punk rippers ("Girl Clout") to somber acoustic songs ("Cry For Help") and a few songs that occupy the exact middle ground.
Action/Adventure - Pulling Focus EP
There's a pretty big pop punk revival happening right now, and one of the genre's most promising newer bands is Chicago's Action/Adventure. Their Pure Noise debut Pulling Focus is unabashedly catchy, glossy pop punk with a hardcore/emo edge in the vein of early 2000s Drive-Thru Records or early 2010s stuff like The Wonder Years, and it's some of the best music I've heard in this style probably since The Wonder Years were still a pop punk band. You can read more about this EP -- including a track-by-track breakdown by the band -- here.
Burial & Blackdown - Shock Power of Love split EP
Long-running electronic musician Burial remains consistently great, and though he hasn't put out a full-length album since 2007's classic Untrue, he continues to release tons of material (his Tunes 2011-2019 compilation was one of the best albums of the 2010s), and today he follows last year's gorgeous "Chemz" single with a new split with Blackdown (who Burial remixed all the way back in 2006). The new EP, titled Shock Power of Love, features two new songs from each artist, and the whole thing is great. On Burial's half, "Dark Gethsemane" sounds like classic Burial, while "Space Cadet" takes his music in some very cool new directions.
Looking for more recent releases? Bill reviewed the new Matt Sweeney & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy album and also talks about Teenage Fanclub, Guided by Voices, and more in Bill's Indie Basement. For even more, 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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