After a very stressful election week, it feels really good to know that, come January, Trump will finally be out of office. Celebrations of Trump’s defeat broke out across the country (and world), and as happy as we are, there’s still so much work to be done. Georgia’s runoff Senate elections in January will determine which party controls the Senate, and Stacey Abrams, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and others have discussed how donations to Fair Fight can help win this election for the Democrats. If you’re a Georgia voter who has not yet registered, you can register by December 7. Request your ballot now.
AOC also spoke to the NY Times about how the Democratic party needs to embrace the progressives who helped win this election for Biden, not the John Kasichs of the world who want to demonize the “far left,” and Amnesty International has outlined 11 human rights priorities that they call on the Biden administration to adopt, including healthcare, gender equality, U.S. killings of Black people, the climate crisis, and more. It takes about 30 seconds to send a pre-written email to Biden and the Biden Transition Team, urging them to take on this bold human rights agenda.
Last week being an election week, there were less new albums out than usual, but this week is stacked. I highlight 13 new albums below, and here are a bunch of honorable mentions: Future & Lil Uzi Vert, 2 Chainz, AC/DC, Goodie Mob (ft. Andre 3000, Big Boi & Chuck D), DaniLeigh, Luh Solider, DJ Kayslay, Vangarde (Mr. Lif & Stu Bangas), Quakers, Somerset Thrower, Frank Turner & Jon Snodgrass, The Bats, William Basinski, Of Feather and Bone, Katy J Pearson, Told Slant, Molchat Doma, Red Fiction, David Nance, Naedr, Luke Titus, Völur, Benee (ft. Grimes, Lily Allen, Flo Milli, and others), Mina Caputo (of Life of Agony), Jesse Kivel, the Lambchop covers album, the Marika Hackman covers album, Skatune Network‘s Undertale covers album, the Masego EP, the Stasis EP, the cursetheknife EP, the Positioner (ex-Japandi, Weatherbox) EP, the Le Volume Courbe EP, the Martha Skye Murphy EP, the Cakes Da Killa x Proper Villains EP, the World Be Free (mem Youth of Today, Terror, Chain of Strength, Strife, etc) EP, the Tricky EP, and the Elton John box with previously unreleased material.
Read on for my 13 picks, and read 8 more reviews in Bill’s Indie Basement. What’s your favorite release of the week?
Pa Salieu – Send Them To Coventry
Warner Music UK
Pa Salieu was born in Gambia, West Africa before relocating to Coventry, England, and with his debut project Send Them To Coventry, his goal is to put his home city Coventry — previously home to ska bands like The Specials and The Selecter and metal bands like Cathedral and Bolt Thrower — back on the map. “It’s up to people like me, to be honest, to bring Coventry back,” he told The FADER. It’s true that Coventry is not a city you hear a lot about in the music world compared to London or Manchester or Leeds or Bristol, but going by how startlingly unique Pa Salieu’s new album is (and what it’s called), Pa really might change that. The album wraps together drill, grime, dancehall, afroswing, and more. It’s not the only UK rap album to do so, but it does so in a way that goes above and beyond the norm, swirling together its melting pot of sounds on nearly every song. Pa is as good of a singer as he is a rapper, the production is phenomenal, and the songs are as purposeful as they are tuneful. “I’m not violent but I do have to explain the violence that I’ve seen,” Pa said in that same FADER interview, and that’s exactly what he did on “Frontline,” a powerful tale of street life that proved to be his breakthrough song. When Pa brags that he “skipped death” on “Block Boy,” he means it; he was shot in the head during a drive-by and survived, and he turned his trauma into even more motivation. Pa’s mission is to impact people all around the world with his real-life stories of struggle and injustice, and when he tells those stories with music this distinct and this enjoyable, it feels safe to assume people will listen.
Salaam Remi – Black On Purpose
Louder Than Life
“We were Black before the election and we will be Black after the election,” veteran producer Salaam Remi said when he released Black On Purpose, a lyrically powerful, musically brilliant protest album that serves as a reminder that a new president does not mean the work is over; it means the work is just beginning. The album opens with a Malcolm X speech and closes with one from Sandra Bland, it includes a stunning “Strange Fruit” cover sung by the late Betty Wright, and it’s got a stacked, multi-genre cast of guests including Black Thought, Common, Busta Rhymes, Nas, Chronixx, Stephen Marley, Bilal, CeeLo Green, Super Cat (a rare new recording by the dancehall legend), Jennifer Hudson, Anthony Hamilton, Doug E. Fresh, Spragga Benz, James Posyer, Mack Wilds, Mumu Fresh, Case, D-Nice, Teedra Moses, and Syleena Johnson.
In addition to “Strange Fruit,” it has creatively reworked covers of James Brown’s “Say It Loud,” Syl Johnson’s “Is It Because I’m Black,” and Bob Marley’s “Black Progress” (with Bob’s son Stephen Marley on vocals). The original Black On Purpose songs include references to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black victims of police brutality, calls for racial justice and freedom, messages of hope, protest march chants, celebrations of Black excellence, and incisive takedowns of racism – both systemic and in everyday life.
Amaarae – The Angel You Don’t Know
Amaarae is currently based in Ghana, which is just one of the many places the 26-year-old artist has lived — including the Bronx, New Jersey, and Atlanta — and her music sounds as well-traveled as she is. As she discussed with Pitchfork, her heroes are artists who have broken down boundaries like Missy Elliott, Kelis, Grace Jones, and Dolly Parton. She’s influenced by punk’s DGAF mentality, even if her music veers in other directions, and she’s influenced by her home country’s Afrobeats, even if she sounds too experimental to fit in with Ghana’s mainstream. Her new album opens up with a blaring noise track (which I hope she does more of in the future), and it settles into a kind of electronic art pop that kinda sounds like if Grimes or M.I.A. went Afrobeats, all while boasting a diverse cast of guests including UK rapper Kojey Radical, Nigerian Afro-fusionist Cruel Santino, French producer Kyu Steed, US indie-soul singer/rapper Maesu, and more. Her goal, as she said in that Pitchfork interview, is to get Americans to embrace Afropop the way the UK has. “I think it’s going to be a bit more difficult to get Americans into that mind space,” she says, but maybe an album like The Angel You Don’t Know — which really has more in common with America’s mainstream music than Africa’s — will start to open those doors.
theMIND – Don’t Let It Go To Your Head
Chicago soul/R&B singer theMIND hails from the same thriving Midwest hip hop scene as Noname, Mick Jenkins, Saba, Smino, Joey Purp, and Jamila Woods — all of whom have released albums that feature theMIND in recent years — but theMIND hasn’t released his own project since his debut 2016 mixtape Summer Camp. That changes now with Don’t Let It Go To Your Head — which features Chicago regulars Saba, Qari, Phoelix, and Sun, as well as likeminded LA rapper Kari Faux — and this new project was worth the wait. It’s a clear progression from Summer Camp, and dives even deeper into warm, soulful territory, with glistening jazz keys, syrupy funk bass, soaring vocal harmonies, and other signifiers that theMIND likes classic soul as much as he likes modern hip hop. It’s a gorgeous record, and it positions theMIND as an artist who’s slowly but surely reaching the same creative heights as his more famous collaborators.
Blood From The Soul – DSM-5
It’s been a very busy year for Shane Embury, who already released great new albums with his legendary band Napalm Death and his punk side project Venomous Concept, and now he has re-activated his short-lived ’90s project Blood From The Soul for a new album. Originally an industrial metal collaboration with Sick Of It All frontman Lou Koller, BFTS is now fronted by Converge’s J Bannon and rounded out by Dirk Verbeuren (Megadeth, ex-Soilwork), and Jesper Liveröd (Nasum). (Making this not only Shane’s third album of 2020, but J Bannon’s second.) Bannon was already a fan of the original BFTS (“I remember I bought that record the day it came out”), but he doesn’t try to recreate what Lou Koller did 27 years ago; this new lineup approached DSM-5 like an entirely new band. Lyrically, it’s a concept album written from the perspectives of both human beings and sentient machines, and musically, it’s exactly the kind of killer metallic hardcore you might expect from a Napalm Death/Converge crossover episode. Bannon mainly sticks to his trademark screams, and Dirk Verbeuren’s drumming gives this album more of a straight-up punk backbone than BFTS’ drum-machine-backed debut. The whole story behind this album seems almost too good to be true on paper, but once you click play you’ll see that it’s very true, and indeed very good.
Seba Kaapstad – Konke
Mello Music Group
Multi-national neo-soul/jazz group Seba Kaapstad feature South African, Swazi, and German members, and the influence of all of their backgrounds show up in their rich-sounding music. They debuted with the very good Thina last year, and now they follow it with Konke, which expands their sound and ropes in appearances by US rappers Quelle Chris and Oddisee and soul singer Georgia Anne Muldrow, who make this album even more of a multi-cultural affair. It’s jazz, hip hop, funk, soul, electronic music, and more all at once, and it’s fueled by intricately arranged instrumentation, multi-part harmonies, and in-the-pocket rapping. It’s clear that the band and their collaborators have an insane amount of talent, but talent alone doesn’t make for enjoyable music. Seba Kaapstad know how to shape their complex arrangements into something widely accessible, whether you’re a jazz expert or a hip hop head or a casual fan of pop music.
Pink Siifu & Fly Anakin – Fly Siifu’s
Pink Siifu has become one of the most prolific and consistently great underground rappers of the past few years, and having already released NEGRO — a DJ mix-style album that fuses noise, punk, jazz, spoken word, and more — he’s now back with a more straight-up rap album, and it’s a collaboration with another great underground rapper, Fly Anakin. “More straight-up” is relative — it’s still a lot more experimental than mainstream rap — but the vibe is all bulletproof bars over psychedelic, jazzy, boom bap production, and Siifu and Anakin do it extremely well. The 22-song album has a different producer on almost every track (including beats by Madlib, Animoss, Ohbliv, Budgie, Jay Versace, and more), but all the contributors adhere to the one, cohesive sound and vision of Pink Siifu and Fly Anakin. (As do the three guests: Liv.e, Fousheé, and $ILKMONEY.) It’s the kind of album you can just throw on whenever and get sucked into, and Pink Siifu and Fly Anakin prove to be natural collaborators. They’ve got a ton of chemistry, and they know exactly how to feed off each other and bring out the best in each other without one rapper ever stealing the spotlight from the other.
Davido – A Better Time
Davido Worldwide Entertainment/Sony Music U.K./RCA
Afrobeats star Davido originally intended his recent single “FEM” to be a party song, but when protests against police brutality in Nigeria broke out this year, “FEM” — which translates to “shut up!” — became a protest anthem. “I didn’t even make that song thinking all that was going to happen,” Davido told Rolling Stone. “I can’t say I’m happy that us Nigerians have been pushed to the wall to be protesting, but also I can say that I’m pleased to have my song be a tool and a voice for them to just spill out their anger and just release stress.” Like “FEM,” A Better Time isn’t explicitly protest music, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist in opposition to corruption, oppression, and systemic violence. It’s a feel-good album that offers joy in the face of injustice, or healthy escapism. The title asserts that Davido has one-upped his hugely-loved 2019 album A Good Time, and whether or not you like it more, you can’t deny the intent to give listeners an even better time than he did on the last record. ” In African music, we don’t really talk about negative stuff,” he said. “We dance, we have fun.” Like A Good Time, A Better Time is firmly planted within his home country’s Afrobeats, but it frequently crosses over into American hip hop and R&B too. (Davido was born in Atlanta before moving to Nigeria, and he’s also lived in Alabama and London.) The album features fellow African musicians Tiwa Savage, Sauti Sol, Sho Madjozi, Mugeez, Mayorkun, C Kay and Bella Shmurda, alongside American artists like Nicki Minaj, Nas, Young Thug, Lil Baby, and Hit-Boy, and Davido’s songwriting shares DNA with all of them. Whether you’re coming to it because of an interest in African music, or because of an interest in hip hop, or both, A Better Time is just a good, fun pop record. It doesn’t break down barriers between different genres and cultures so much as it as imagines a world where those barriers don’t exist.
Liam Bailey – Ekundayo
As the home of the second largest Jamaican population living outside of Jamaica, the UK has been one of the most reliable exporters of reggae music since the 1970s, and one of the country’s brightest new voices within the genre is half-Jamaican, half-English artist Liam Bailey. He released his debut album Definitely NOW on Sony Masterworks in 2014, but he since parted ways with his major label and signed to Leon Michels & Danny Akalepse’s Big Crown Records, a label best known for contemporary artists that put a highly authentic spin on vintage soul. Leon Michels produced Ekundayo, and the result is an album that’s much warmer and more timeless-sounding than Definitely NOW. Leon helps Liam achieve with reggae the same vibe that Big Crown often achieves with soul. Some songs sound like lost warped 45s from the early reggae era (“Cold & Clear”), some sound like glossy early ’80s Sly & Robbie productions (“She Hates This Life”), and some sound like modern hip hop/R&B (“Paper Tiger”). (It’s also worth noting that there’s a non-album remix of the song “Champion” featuring Black Thought.) Liam and Leon don’t shy away from their influences, but they twist them in such a way that 50-year-old styles of music sound right at home next to contemporary ones.
Jesu – Terminus
Back in July, Justin Broadrick (of Godflesh and many other projects) released the heavily electronic Jesu EP Never, and now he returns with a new full-length album, Terminus. There are some electronics on this album too, but it’s overall a much different beast than Never, and it’s also different than Jesu’s classic post-metal/heavy shoegaze sound. It’s a guitar-centric record, but it’s more focused on slowcore, dream pop, and the quieter side of shoegaze. Sometimes it’s doomy and gloomy; other times it’s some of the brightest and poppiest work in Jesu’s discography. I can understand how “bright and poppy” might turn off fans of the guy responsible for Streetcleaner and half of Scum, but — similar to likeminded artists Alcest and Boris — Justin Broadrick has proven himself as an artist who can succeed at opposite ends of the darkness/lightness spectrum. Listening to Terminus, I’m reminded of stuff like Beach House, Have A Nice Life, and the newest Low album more than I’m reminded of classic Jesu. Maybe that won’t sit well with some longtime fans, but I’d say he does it well.
Aesop Rock – Spirit World Field Guide
Aesop Rock and his Def Jux labelmates helped define the sound of early 2000s underground rap with classics like 2001’s Labor Days and 2003’s Bazooka Tooth, and the sound of the Def Jux era remains influential today; you can hear echoes of it in contemporary greats like Armand Hammer and R.A.P. Ferreira. Aesop himself has sort of moved away from the spotlight and into a world of his own in recent years, and though he’s not as prolific as he was in the early 2000s, he has never stopped making great music. He’s still figuring out how to twist his words into mind-bending rhyme schemes, and he still sounds as inspired as he did two decades ago. That very much comes across on Spirit World Field Guide, his first proper full-length album in four and a half years, following other cool projects like Malibu Ken and an EP of music for the video game Freedom Finger. Spirit World Field Guide is a psychedelic concept album that, to quote Aesop Rock’s press release, offers “firsthand know-how of the terrain, wildlife, and social customs of our parallel universe, rife with hallucinatory images of killer eels, magic spells, and people on the run, peppered among anecdotes, recipes, survival tips, warnings, maps, drawings, and more.” That should give you an idea of the otherworldly journey this 21-song album takes you on, and if you’ve been following Aesop Rock’s career, it shouldn’t surprise you that an ambitious feat like this fits snugly within his wheelhouse.
Chris Stapleton – Starting Over
Chris Stapleton became a massive success after releasing his 2015 debut album Traveller, but he’s always tended to shy away from fame and that came through on his two-part 2017 album From A Room, which favored a rawer sound than Stapleton’s debut and perhaps weeded out some of the fans who were expecting something a little more commercial. On Starting Over — a title that nods at Stapleton and his band beginning the album at Alabama studio Muscle Shoals Sound in 2018 before halting the process, going on tour, and regrouping with frequent producer Dave Cob at their usual RCA Studio A in Nashville — Stapleton sounds a little more settled-in, occupying a comfortable middle ground between Traveller and From A Room. Like both of those albums, Starting Over rolls together country, rock, blues, folk, and soul, and Stapleton’s got the chops and the conviction to handle all of it. Alongside his usual band, the album features Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and it’s got covers of song by John Fogerty and the late outlaw country icon Guy Clark, and Chris Stapleton is a guy who can hang comfortably with legends like those. He’s got an old soul, but not in a way where it feels like he’s trying to be retro. He’s just being himself, in the same humble way that Tom Petty always was. It’s no surprise two Heartbreakers fit right in on his album.
Boundaries – Your Receding Warmth
Connecticut’s Boundaries have been leaving their mark on modern metalcore since their formation in 2015, and today they follow their first three EPs (including last year’s killer My Body In Bloom) with their first full-length. It obviously owes a lot to late ’90s / early ’00s metalcore, but it also positions Boundaries as fresh new faces of the metalcore revival that birthed Code Orange, Knocked Loose, Vein, and a quickly-growing number of other great bands. Read more about it (and read our discussion with the band about their influences) here.
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.