Notable Releases of the Week (4/23)
It continues to be a year full of tension and chaos, and while we were pleased with the conviction of Derek Chauvin, one conviction doesn't mean justice, and it doesn't mean any of this is over. There's still a long way to go and a lot of work to be done.
Moving on to this week's new music, I highlight nine new albums below, and here are some honorable mentions: the first Rudimentary Peni album in over 25 years, the first Bongzilla album in 16 years, Snoop Dogg, Lil Yachty, Amends, the Black Soprano Family/TCF joint album, Bodom After Midnight, Paysage d'Hiver, Field Music, Róisín Murphy, Arooj Aftab, Ulrich Schnauss & Jonas Monk, The Prize Fighter Inferno, Moneybagg Yo, Drakeo The Ruler & Ralfy The Plug, Cabaret Voltaire, Tashaki Miyaki, Tom Jones, Beneficence & Confidence, Fog Lake, Monobody, Harker, King Azaz, Imelda May, Yellow Ostrich, Spectral Lore, Satomimagae, Tokyo Lungs, Silent, the Dam-Funk instrumental album, the Zouo reissues & new S.H.I. LP, the Homeschool EP (ft. Bartees Strange, Samia, and more), the Ethel Cain EP, the Extinguish EP, the Cordae EP, the Category 514 demo, the "lost" Alan Vega album, the Motorhead live album, the Sonic Boom remix album, The Mars Volta's album of De-Loused In The Comatorium's "unfinished original recordings", the Life Without Buildings reissue.
Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?
Remember Sports - Like A Stone
Father/Daughter / Big Scary Monsters
The cliché for punk and punk-adjacent bands is that you make your best music when you're young and starting out (and probably recording with a low budget), but of course there are plenty of bands who defy that cliché, bands who gradually hone their craft over time. Remember Sports are one of those bands, and Like A Stone -- their fifth album in eight years -- is easily the best thing they've done yet. They started out as a scrappy, snotty indie-punk band, but on Like A Stone they've embraced crisp production, they sound tighter than ever, and they've written their most appealing and musically diverse batch of songs yet. They haven't abandoned their driving indie-punk sound, but they've expanded upon it, and Like A Stone has jangly indie pop songs, ballads, and more, and a song that clocks in at almost seven minutes, which is two or even three times the length of an average Remember Sports song. Matching the wider scope of music are the best vocal performances that Carmen Perry has ever laid to tape; this album has gotten its fair share of comparisons to Hop Along, and Carmen's soaring, versatile voice is no small part of why. This may be Remember Sports' fifth album, but it feels like a fresh start, and quite possibly a new breakthrough.
Sour Widows - Crossing Over EP
Exploding In Sound
Bay Area trio Sour Widows' first proper release was their self-titled 2020 EP, and as promising as that EP is, it couldn't prepare you for how stunning Crossing Over would be. It casually blurs the lines between genre -- incorporating elements of '70s Laurel Canyon folk, '90s slowcore and shoegaze, Sharon Van Etten-esque indie rock, and just a slight hint of psychedelia -- and the results are genuinely alluring. It's just a four-song EP, but it doesn't feel like a low-stakes project. It feels complete, and it marks the arrival of a great new band. The EP as a whole is a better representation of this band than any individual song, but if there's one major standout track, it's the nearly-eight minute title track. It channels the spirit of jammy, psychedelic '60s/'70s folk rock, and it's as hypnotic as the genre's pioneers were half a century ago.
Topaz Jones - Don't Go Tellin' Your Momma
New Funk Academy/Black Canopy
It's been five years since Topaz Jones released his breakthrough album Arcade, and he's finally back with a followup, which is the most ambitious and personal project he's done yet. The album is accompanied by a film of the same name that Topaz co-wrote and directed, which won the Short Film Jury Award: Nonfiction at Sundance, and both the music and the film pull from Topaz's personal stories and experiences more directly than his art ever has. "There’s so much of me in the album that I was maybe not ready to communicate in all the music I’ve released prior," he told L’Officiel. "I finally found the story that is mine to tell, and I finally found the confidence to tell that story. Those aren’t easy things to come by."
Like Arcade, the new album is a funk/soul/rap/R&B hybrid that fits as nicely next to George Clinton as it does next to Anderson .Paak and Kendrick Lamar, and in the five years since that album, Topaz has gotten better at just about everything he does. He's blurring the lines between those genres more seamlessly, his singing is stronger and his harmonies are more complex, his rapping is tighter, and the production is richer. The album also features some great collaborators -- Levan Kali, anaiis, Phonte, Maxo, Floyd Fuji and Gabriel Garzón-Montano -- and it feels like a very communal record. You often hear multiple voices and multi-layered instrumentation at once. It makes sense that Topaz was the only person pictured on the cover of Arcade but the cover of this album has a spiral staircase full of multiple people. It may be Topaz's most personal album, but it also sounds like the work of an ensemble.
Dinosaur Jr - Sweep It Into Space
Ever since the original Dinosaur Jr lineup reunited in the mid 2000s, they've been even more prolific than they were the first time around, and they continue to be consistently great, reliable lifers. You always kind of know what to expect from a new Dinosaur Jr album, and they always deliver quality stuff, Sweep It Into Space being no exception. There are a few unexpected moments to keep things fresh (plus production and musical contributions from Kurt Vile), but mostly it's the Dinosaur Jr you know and love. You can read much more about the album in Bill's review.
Alfa Mist - Bring Backs
UK musician Alfa Mist makes what can rightfully be considered jazz, but he didn't start at the source. He found jazz from listening to hip hop producers like Madlib, J Dilla, and Hi-Tek. "There’s no access to jazz where I’m from," Alfa says. "There’s no way I would have come to it without finding those hip-hop records and wanting to understand them." On his new album (and ANTI- debut) Bring Backs, you can hear Alfa connecting the dots between the hip hop producers that initially inspired him and the classic jazz that it led him to. The album's as smooth and warm as hard bop era Miles, but the beats snap like modern hip hop and electronic music. Alfa also incorporates psych-rock guitar, guest soul singing (from Kaya Thomas-Dyke) and rapping (from Lex Amor), and an array of multi-generational sounds and styles. Bring Backs sounds vintage and futuristic all at once, and even with the current wave of hip hop-infused jazz musicians growing at a rapid rate, this album stands out from the pack.
Body Void - Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth
Previously, guitarist/bassist/vocalist Willow Ryan has used Body Void as an outlet to write about personal issues like mental illness and gender, but after seeing the chaos that ensued nationwide in 2020, Willow's songwriting on Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth began looking more outwards. "As I was writing the lyrics, George Floyd was murdered and that whole summer kicked off protests and fighting against police brutality," Willow told Metal Injection. "So, the album became half ecological disaster and half white supremacy and the state of the US at the time—and obviously, those two things are connected."
Like previous releases, Bury Me found Willow and drummer Edward Holgerson crafting a gnarly, slow-moving soundscape of blackened doom -- this time with an extra layer of noise from the band's touring bassist Entresol -- and the bleak, heavy music is the perfect backdrop for the lyrical content. And, while some extreme metal bands often sound like they're in competition to sound as inhuman as possible, Body Void stands out because they sound so incredibly human. In Willow's harsh shrieks, you can feel real, raw emotion coming through. The anger and frustration that inspired this album is entirely palpable. It never feels like a put-on, or like it's trying to out-brutal some other band. It's so compelling because it feels so real.
BIG | BRAVE - Vital
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" doesn't always make for a musician's most interesting career path, but when your music is as unique and powerful as BIG | BRAVE's, there's nothing wrong with sticking to what you already do best. Vital is their fifth album, and it basically picks up where 2019's excellent A Gaze Among Them left off. It also doesn't sound like any other music that's come out in the time since that album. As I've written before, BIG | BRAVE combine the weight of sludge metal with the ebb and flow of post-rock, and it's topped off by the soaring vocals of Robin Wattie, a kindred spirit of artists like Chelsea Wolfe, Emma Ruth Rundle, and Marissa Nadler. There's really no one else combining all this stuff the way BIG | BRAVE do -- or at least not as seamlessly -- and the compelling music is matched by a strong, timely message that deeply examines race and gender. "This album involves what it means navigating the outside world in a racialized body and what it does to the psyche as a whole while exploring individual worth within this reality," the band says. Sometimes Robin tackles these topics bluntly ("I belong only where you think I'm from"), but she often does so with vivid imagery, and her lyrics can paint a picture that's as simultaneously coarse and beautiful as the music itself.
Jeff Rosenstock - SKA DREAM
On April 1, Jeff Rosenstock tweeted a version of the album art for his 2020 album NO DREAM that was retitled SKA DREAM and he captioned it "4/20." It looked a lot like an April Fool's joke, but to quote this amazing tweet from Craig of the Creek head writer/voice actor Jeff Trammell, "Jeff made April Fools of us all, for not believing in the power of Ska." 4/20 came, and Jeff proved that SKA DREAM was no joke; it's a complete ska reworking of NO DREAM and it's very real. "As with most things ska in my life, what started out as a fun goof with friends eventually morphed into 'Hey, what if we tried to make it good though?,'" Jeff said, and they really did make it good. We named the excellent NO DREAM the best punk album of 2020, and Jeff's roots in ska (Arrogant Sons of Bitches, Bomb the Music Industry!) have been coming up a lot lately, as a whole new generation of ska bands that follow in the DIY footsteps of ASOB and BTMI have been gaining steam, so the timing was perfect for Jeff to turn his already-acclaimed album into a ska album, and hopefully direct people's attention to the current ska scene in the process.
Jeff made the album with tons of cool collaborators (including members of We Are The Union, Mustard Plug, Deafheaven, The Slackers, Fishbone, Oceanator, PUP, AJJ, Laura Stevenson, Mike Park, and more -- see the full list), and it also includes a tribute to The Suicide Machines' "Our Time" (on "No Time To Skank") and a snippet of The Specials' "Nite Klub" (on "Leave It In The Ska"). The whole thing may seem tongue-in-cheek, but Jeff really took it seriously and he came out with an album that's just as good on its own as NO DREAM is.
You can pick up SKA DREAM on white vinyl and other Jeff Rosenstock records in our shop.
Bone Cutter - Bone Cutter EP
While the pandemic put Heavy Heavy Low Low's anticipated reunion tour on pause, founding members Robbie Smith (vocals), Andrew Fritter (bass), and Chris Fritter (drums) have been staying busy with their new band Bone Cutter (whose lineup is rounded out by Sam Pura, who worked with HHLL as a producer before joining as their guitarist in 2010). Their self-titled debut EP is out today, and if you miss HHLL, this will very much scratch the itch. It picks up where that band's chaotic hardcore left off, and it takes it into even heavier territory. Read more about the EP -- and a Q&A with Robbie -- 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.
And check out what's new in our shop.