It's a holiday weekend because of the Fourth of July being this Saturday -- not that America feels like something worth celebrating right now -- but maybe that means you've got some time off and it definitely means there's less music out this week than usual. I picked [X] new albums to highlight below, and here are some honorable mentions: Willie Nelson, Paul Weller, Keleketla! (ft. the late Tony Allen, Shabaka Hutchings, Antibalas, and more), Anteloper (Jaimie Branch + Jason Nazary), Big $ilky (Psalm One + Angel Davanport), Jayda G, Too Much (Ian Svenonius + Rich Morel), Forest Green, The Real McKenzies, Transit Method, Little Kid, and the Pure Bathing Culture EP.
Also, today is another Bandcamp first Friday, where Bandcamp is waiving its cut of sales and giving all profits directly to artists and labels. There's a whole bunch of special/exclusive releases out for that, and we also have a roundup of many of those. If you're buying new music today, buy it on Bandcamp if you can.
Read on for my picks. What was your favorite release of the week?
Pop Smoke - Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon
Pop Smoke was one of the most promising new voices in rap when his life was tragically cut short. He was shot and killed at age 20 this past February, less than two weeks after he released his excellent mixtape Meet the Woo 2. Now, Pop's family have released a posthumous album of music he had been working on before his passing, with help from 50 Cent (who also executive produced), Future, Quavo, DaBaby, Lil Baby, Lil Tjay, Roddy Ricch, Swae Lee, Karol G, Tyga, DJ Mustard, and more. It speaks to how huge Pop's potential was that a star-studded cast like that would come together to help finish what would have been his proper debut album, and these songs only further prove that Pop was just getting started. Sometimes guest-filled posthumous albums can sound overcrowded, and it's too soon to make that call on this one, but the best moments are when Pop himself is in the spotlight. He has songs where he sounds as menacing as ever ("44 Bulldog," "Got It On Me," the latter of which features Pop interpolating a hook by his hero who helped bring this album together, 50 Cent's "Many Men"), but Shoot for the Stars also proves that Pop had been honing his singing voice before he passed. He has a handful of R&B-friendly songs on here -- alongside his usual Brooklyn drill, some Atlanta trap, some west coast shit, and some Karol G-aided urbano -- and he really proves that he was about to emerge as a highly versatile artist, and not just be pigeonholed into the Brooklyn drill scene that he helped define.
Boris - NO
"All kinds of anxieties, fear, sadness, anger, and hatred have arisen to drive the world apart," Boris wrote in the announcement of their new album, NO. "It was our actions up to this point and our methodology, various cultural influences, as well the connections and support we received from people around the world that led us to create this latest album."
"The title of this album is NO," the band continues. "People have a system whereby they unconsciously grow accustomed to things and adapt to them. But, this same system is also cursed in the way it allows inconvenient or troubling things to be disregarded as if they were never there to begin with."
You can tell from their screed that these long-running Japanese metal greats are feeling what a lot of us are feeling this year, and you can hear all of that pouring into NO, an album that this moment really needed. NO is the followup to last fall's LφVE & EVφL, a lengthy, meditative, psychedelic double album that was rolled out over a five-month period last year. In contrast, NO was just announced last week alongside the release of its riotous lead single "Loveless," and it's exactly the kind of album that's meant to just fall into your lap out of nowhere and set your world on fire. Boris have written fast songs before, but NO makes a conscious move away from the band's trademark psych/noise/experimental side and is almost entirely punk-informed thrash and speed metal. Music like this just hits harder when the world is in a critical state, and Boris are such masters of so many different types of music that it's no surprise to hear how well they pull this off. And it's not just a genre exercise in thrash; it's still unmistakably Boris. They eschew generic thrash tones and play this stuff with the same thick sludge tones that are more typical of Boris, and they work in a handful of snail-paced sludge breakdowns too. Thrash and sludge have long gone hand in hand, and this album fuses them better than I've heard any band fuse them in a while. They also eschew generic thrash shouting patterns and instead they approach the genre as Boris. They bring their usual aggressive/melodic balance to the vocals, which results in really memorable songs and genre fusions that you don't hear everyday. NO can sound like a shoegaze band covering Slayer, but really it just sounds like Boris, and it's pretty remarkable how good they are at sounding like Boris, whether they're doing ambient drone or mile-a-minute thrash.
Cloud Nothings - The Black Hole Understands
Cloud Nothings surprise-released a new album that frontman Dylan Baldi and drummer Jayson Gerycz made entirely in isolation during the pandemic by trading files back and forth over email. It's a little rougher sounding than the albums the band usually makes in real studios, and it's also the calmest and prettiest Cloud Nothings album yet. I wrote more about it here.
The album is out now on Cloud Nothings' Bandcamp, and today (7/3) is also a Bandcamp fundraiser day which means Bandcamp is waiving their cut of sales. The band is also donating 25% of sales to Play On Philly and Rainey Institute.
Jesu - Never
Justin Broadrick (of Godflesh and many other projects) is back with the first (non-collaborative) release by his much-loved Jesu project in seven years, Never. (His last was 2013's Every Day I Get Closer to the Light From Which I Came, which was followed by two albums with Sun Kil Moon.) Electronic music has always been part of Jesu's sound, but it informs this 30-minute EP/mini-LP much more heavily than you might expect from Jesu. The post-metal and shoegazing elements are almost entirely absent, and in their place are blissful, ethereal synths, minimal drum machines, and Broadrick's hummed vocal delivery. The result is cripplingly beautiful. These songs just gently swarm around you and gradually shake you to your core. It's the Jesu you know and love, but presented in a new light, and it's a stunning return.
Westside Gunn - Flygod Is An Awesome God 2
Westside Gunn already released one of the year's best albums (rap or otherwise) with April's Pray For Paris, and now he's back just two and a half months later with another new album, Flygod Is An Awesome God 2. WSG's group/label Griselda has been on a roll this year and this album is no exception. It's got plenty more of the hazy production and gritty raps that you want from this crew, and WSG continues to find ways to make these '90s-style sounds feel fresh. It's got plenty of great guest verses (Benny the Butcher and Boldy James on "Buffs vs Wires" and Armani Caesar on "Lil Cease" being two major standouts), and a timely skit addressing the recent news of an SUV driving into a line of police officers in Buffalo, Griselda's hometown.
A.A. Williams - Forever Blue
At the beginning of 2019, UK dark singer/songwriter A.A. Williams issued her promising self-titled debut EP on Holy Roar. By April, she had made her live debut at the esteemed Roadburn festival and by December she rereleased a collaborative two-song single with veteran post-rock greats MONO. Now she has just put out her debut full-length album on Bella Union, and it comes with guest vocals from Cult of Luna members Johannes Persson and Fredrik Kihlberg and Wild Beasts' Tom Fleming. Needless to say, A.A.'s music is very quickly attracting very cool people, and as soon as you listen to it, you'll hear why.
The EP was already a fleshed-out, intricately-arranged work, and the album is even better. A.A.'s soaring, haunting vocals and the album's blend of folk, ethereal goth, and flirtations with metal have gained A.A. several comparisons to Chelsea Wolfe, Emma Ruth Rundle, and Marissa Nadler, and her overall style is indeed similar to all three of them but she also brings something new to the table. She sounds as natural harmonizing with Tom Fleming's baritone on the dusty, somber "Dirt" as she does when she makes way for sludge metal riffs and Johannes Persson's roar on "Fearless." And to say she holds her own next to these established artists would be an understatement; the boldness in her delivery already rivals that of her more famous guests. Because of her relative newness as an artist, it's easy to get caught up talking about who she sounds like and who she collaborates with, but more important than any of that is the depth in A.A.'s songwriting. I think it's clear from just a few listens that this album will stand the test of time.
The Lees of Memory - Moon Shot
Ever since Superdrag broke up (for the second time) in 2010, frontman John Davis and guitarist Brandon Fisher have been keeping busy with their newer band The Lees of Memory (whose lineup also includes drummer Nick Slack of post-Superdrag band Epic Ditch), and if you miss Superdrag, you need to be keeping up with The Lees. Every album they've put out so far has been different and great in its own way. Moon Shot is their fourth, and it's no exception. Their previous album, 2017's The Blinding White of Nothing At All, was a double album that dove head-first into the band's love of '60s psychedelia, but Moon Shot reels it in a bit, fusing the '60s psych stuff with the '90s-style crunchy power pop that Superdrag got their start making. If anyone is perfectly suited to create a '60s/'90s fusion, it's John Davis and Brandon Fisher, and they come up with some of their most interesting ideas when they're operating on this middle ground. Moon Shot is not quite psych, grunge, power pop, or shoegaze, but it's informed by all of those things, and the lines between those genres look a little blurrier on this album than you might remember them.
Glorious - Unashamed EP
Employed To Serve and Renounced are two of the best bands in the UK's current melodic metalcore scene, and members of both have come together to form Glorious, which they say was formed "to make music totally unlike their pre-existing bands [and] for the sole purpose of having fun and creating high energy music." This is indeed unlike their other bands, high-energy, and fun. It's more rooted in sneering, classic British punk, but they do it in a way that's crisp and modern and still fits right in with today's forward-thinking hardcore bands. And it seriously fucking rips. The EP includes four killer originals and a genuinely cool cover of Type O Negative's "I Don't Wanna Be Me." You can read more about the EP 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.