Notable Releases of the Week (8/13)
The concerts-during-COVID restrictions continue to increase, with even outdoor events like SummerStage in NYC requiring proof of vaccination as of this week. And even with restrictions like those, it's still hard to say what the future will bring. Even Fred Durst says "the system is still very flawed." Meanwhile, we got hit with another heat wave this week on both coasts. Stay safe and cool, everyone.
As for this week's new music, I highlight six below, and Bill looks at A Certain Ratio (who he also interviewed), Vivien Goldman, Chorusing, and more in Bill's Indie Basement. More honorable mentions: Joey Cape (Lagwagon), Jade Bird, Pet Symmetry, $uicideboy$, Mouthbreather, SOB (DaBoii & Slimmy B), Jungle, M.A.G.S, Entropy, Stuck, Ænigmatum, alexalone, Gost, the Benny the Butcher EP, the Devendra Banhart & Noah Georgeson ambient album, the expanded Snow Ellet EP, the Under Attack EP, the Binki EP, the Sepultura quarantine live sessions album, and the Rehasher (Less Than Jake) covers album.
Read on for my picks below. What's your favorite release of the week?
P.S., if you're in the mood for some older music, maybe try one of the 64 essential ska albums we highlighted earlier this week.
Quicksand - Distant Populations
When a band makes a long-awaited comeback album, there's always a little too much riding on it; the reception is almost always unfairly negative or a little too positive. As exciting as those long-awaited comebacks are, it's often the band's second reunion album that really cements their new era. We saw it with American Football, we saw it with Swans, and I think we're seeing it right now with Quicksand. The band's current trio lineup -- vocalist/guitarist Walter Schreifels (also of Gorilla Biscuits, Youth of Today, Rival Schools, and more), bassist Sergio Vega (also of Deftones since 2009), drummer Alan Cage (formerly of Burn and Beyond), and sans original guitarist Tom Capone -- released their first album in 22 years with 2017's Interiors, and it was a fine comeback album that hearkened back to Quicksand's '90s post-hardcore but pushed it forward too. Walter's other classic bands like Gorilla Biscuits and Youth of Today still put on cathartic reunion shows to this day, but those shows are victory laps for careers that have long been set in stone. Interiors proved Quicksand had more to say. "Those bands are really just time and place; Quicksand I don't think exists in that way," Walter told me recently. "We were about progress. I've always been curious and impatient creatively, so to do [a new Quicksand album], that would be the only way to do it."
As strong of a comeback as Interiors was, in hindsight, it was just setting the stage for Distant Populations, Quicksand's second reunion album and fourth overall. If Interiors channelled '90s Quicksand while cracking open the door for something new, then Distant Populations finds Quicksand storming right through that door and not looking back. Like Interiors, the new album was recorded with producer Will Yip, whose production style played a major role in shaping the past decade of post-hardcore bands, almost of all of whom were influenced directly by Quicksand. Working with Will helps keep Quicksand sound modern, but it's not just the production style that makes Distant Populations sound fresh; it's the songwriting too. Back in the '90s, Quicksand began introducing a shoegaze influence into their sound, long before post-hardcore bands were regularly doing so, and on Distant Populations that more atmospheric influence is stronger than ever. And sometimes they take it even further than just a hint of atmosphere; "Phase 90" is a psychedelic slow-burner, "Missile Command" finds Quicksand fully embracing their Ride obsession, and "Brushed" is closer to The Bends than to Manic Compression.
For every song like that, there's one that does tip its hat to Quicksand's '90s sound ("Lightning Field," "Colossus," and "EMDR" all could've been fan favorites in that era), and Distant Populations succeeds because the Headbangers Ball songs and the trippier songs all fit equally well within the context of the album. On Distant Populations, Walter, Sergio, and Alan solidify what Quicksand sounds like 30 years into their career. The band's '90s roots are still there, but the album isn't overshadowed by those roots. It sounds like a timely, relevant 2021 album in its own right.
Pick up 'Distant Populations' on "purple cloudy" vinyl or standard black vinyl in our store, and we've got copies of 'Interiors' on colored vinyl available as well.
The Killers - Pressure Machine
The Killers' follow up their best album in ages with the quiet, folky Pressure Machine, which was made with the same production team as its predecessor (and features Phoebe Bridgers), but sounds like nothing they've ever done. You can read my full review of it here.
Boldy James & The Alchemist - Bo Jackson
Detroit rapper Boldy James had been an underground rap staple for years before achieving crossover success in 2020, a year that saw him release not one but four albums. One of the very best of those albums was The Price of Tea In China, which was entirely produced by The Alchemist, who also helmed Boldy's 2019 EP Boldface and 2013 album My 1st Chemistry Set. Alchemist -- whose presence in the fast-growing post-boom bap world is massive -- knows exactly what kind of production best suits Boldy's unique delivery, so it's exciting news that they've made yet another project together, Bo Jackson. Like on their previous collaborations, Alc puts a psychedelic, laid-back twist on boom bap, and Boldy delivers ruthless lyrics without ever raising his voice. If you're not paying close attention, you could miss all the attention to detail, but once Boldy's songs reveal themselves to you, there's no turning back.
Like Boldy James and Alchemist's other collaborations, this one's got great guests, all of whom are staples of the corner of the rap world that Bo Jackson occupies. Frequent Alchemist collaborator Earl Sweatshirt returns on "Photographic Memories" alongside boom bap-noir trailblazer Roc Marciano, and Earl's verse reminds you how much he's grown since he appeared on Boldy and Alc's debut eight years ago. Alchemist's Fetti collaborators Freddie Gibbs and Curren$y join forces with Boldy on "Fake Flowers," and they both sound as good here as Freddie did on The Price of Tea In China. Another Price of Tea guest, Benny the Butcher, reprises his gritty guest role on "Brickmile To Montana." And rising '90s-style Syracuse rapper Stove God Cooks shakes things up on "Diamond Dallas." This whole extended family of rappers has really been making the case lately that the sound of mid '90s rap is still alive and well, and it's a thrill to hear them always hopping on each other's albums, making each one feel like a small piece of something much greater.
Meet Me @ The Altar - Model Citizen EP
Fueled By Ramen
Pop punk is more popular now than it's been in about 15 years, and one of the genre's most promising new bands is Meet Me @ The Altar. Not to diss all the Travis Barker-produced stuff, a lot of which I like, but if you're looking for pop punk that's unabashedly poppy and polished but has a bit more of a bite, you should not miss out on Meet Me @ The Altar's new EP Model Citizen. They dive head first into the chugging easycore sound that quickly came and went in the late 2000s, and they balance it out with a dreamlike atmospheric side that this genre didn't tend to have a decade ago. They've got two big tours coming up, one with Coheed & Cambria and The Used and one with All Time Low, and Model Citizen is heavy enough for the former and catchy enough for the latter. Whatever they do, they go all in; their mechanic double-kick drum hits feel like a punch in the gut, the hooks are irresistibly sweet, and the urgency is palpable and sincere. This isn't a band who are selling shirts that say "generic pop punk"; their version of pop punk isn't generic, and it isn't inherently and knowingly retro. They feel like a band who want to push the genre forward, with a fresh perspective and a fresh sound, and I'd say they're already doing it.
A Great Big Pile of Leaves - Pono
Back in the early 2010s, when a large chunk of emo revival bands were mining the scrappy sounds of Midwest bands like Cap'n Jazz and Braid, A Great Big Pile of Leaves stood out with a smoother math-pop sound that recalled stuff like Dismemberment Plan and early Minus The Bear. Unlike a lot of their peers and Topshelf labelmates, they didn't proudly wave the "emo" flag, and you might argue they were never emo to begin with, but they were emo by association and their unique sound made them stand out amongst the increasingly large number of emo revival bands. Their 2013 album You're Always On My Mind was one of the era's best, but as the decade went on and their contemporaries' careers progressed, AGBOL grew silent. Now, they're finally back with their first album in eight years, Pono, and it picks up right where YAOMM left off. Pono doesn't necessarily sound like eight years have passed since their last album -- you can easily imagine this being the album AGBPOL released in 2015 if they didn't go on hiatus -- but it doesn't sound outdated either. In the eight years since AGBPOL's last album, almost nobody else tried to channel this sound, and Minus The Bear broke up. And for the few bands who did try, nobody made it sound as effortlessly cool as AGBPOL do on Pono. Like on their last album, Pete Weiland sings like he's in his room by himself, humming over his guitar, and somehow it comes out sounding like a tangible pop hook. The sound of his voice and his approach to melody are both just as distinct as they were eight years ago, and the whole album just seems to exist on its own timeline. It sounds like AGBPOL's early 2010s material, which in turn sounded like a few early 2000s bands, but Pono never sounds like it's looking to the past. AGBPOL are just kind of doing what they do, regardless of how trendy they may or may not sound. Eight years ago, there just so happened to be a hot new trend that AGBPOL got lumped in with. Now there isn't, and in both cases, their music speaks for itself.
Wednesday - Twin Plagues
Asheville, North Carolina indie rock band Wednesday open their new album with a track that borders on sludge metal and they end with one that channels lo-fi bedroom folk, and they spend the other 10 songs making music that exists somewhere in between those two extremes. There's shoegaze, punk, indie rock, indie folk, alt-country, and more; the ingredients are familiar, but Wednesday blend them in inventive ways. Sometimes they sound like Hop Along with J Mascis and Kevin Shields on guitar, but even that only describes a portion of the album. They've got a strong backbone that really makes the loud songs hit hard, and their quiet, tender songs are just as effective. And fueling everything is vocalist/guitarist Karly Hartzman, whose powerful voice feels simultaneously familiar and unique, and who really soars over these songs.
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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