With everything going on, business as usual is not really an option, and it's hard to know what exactly the role of music should be in a time like this. Is this no time for entertainment, or is music important for mental health during these times? Personally, i go back and forth. I do think it's great to see several artists using their new releases this week as ways to raise money for organizations that fight for racial injustice. Almost every artist whose album I included in this week's Notable Releases is doing that, and I've provided information on that in my album writeups below. Some of this week's planned releases were also pushed back (including Tigers Jaw offshoot Pay For Pain until 6/12, Amnesia Scanner until 6/19, and Trash Talk indefinitely), while Run The Jewels released their album two days early because of everything going on. It's not hard to see the merit of either decision.

Today is also also a Bandcamp First Friday, for which Bandcamp is waiving their cut of sales and giving all profits directly to artists. This originally started to help artists impacted by the effects of COVID-19, but this month, over 60 artists and labels are donating their Bandcamp profits today to racial justice causes. We highly recommend buying something from one or more of those artists or labels today if you can.

Due to the time constraints created by this week being far from "normal" I had to keep the writeups in this week's Notable Releases shorter than usual, but short or not, they exist and you can read on for my picks. Some honorable mentions: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Sonic Boom, No Age, Hinds, Flee Lord, Sleepy Hallow, Brigid Mae Power, Westerman, Drakeo The Ruler, Paul Wall & Lil Keke Modern Nature, Ohmme, -(16)-, Gruesome/Exhumed split, A Grape Dope (mem Tortoise), The Gay Agenda, GoGo Penguin, Sarah Jarosz, Vinyl Williams, Baauer, Katie Malco, 156/Silence, the Rain of Salvation EP, and the Nick Lowe EP.

Lastly, if you're looking for more ways to help in the fight against police brutality and racial injustice, we compiled a list of resources.

Read on for this week's Notable Releases...

Run The Jewels - RTJ4
Jewel Runners LLC

Amidst all the protesting, Run The Jewels gave their album an early release, and though it was recorded last year, it's full of exactly the kind of energy the world needs right now and it's truly the soundtrack of the revolution. You can read my full review here. The album's out everywhere, including as a free download on RTJ's site, where you can also make a donation to the list of organizations that the duo is promoting.

Flatbush Zombies - now, more than ever
Glorious Dead Recordings

Going by the EP title, Flatbush Zombies are presumably in the "we need music now more than ever" camp, and like Run The Jewels, they wrote this EP before they could've realized just how much it would resonate this week. All three members of the group rap about the deaths of parental figures on this EP, including Meechy Darko, whose father was killed by police earlier this year. Musically, the EP is as loud and psychedelic as Flatbush Zombies' music ever is, but lyrically, it's some of their most somber and devastating work yet.

Armand Hammer - Shrines
Backwoodz Studios

Armand Hammer -- the duo of veteran New York underground rap greats Billy Woods and Elucid -- are back with their first album since 2018's great Paraffin, and first since Billy got some pleasantly unexpected, long-overdue acclaim for last year's Hiding Places with Kenny Segal. Billy also put out Terror Management since then and Elucid has put out a couple recent releases too, but these guys are never too prolific for their own good. Shrines immediately resonates as top-tier work from these two, and from the album's many impressive guests: Earl Sweatshirt, R.A.P. Ferreira, Moor Mother, Pink Siifu, Quelle Chris, Akai Solo, Fielded, and others. With psychedelic, experimental production coming from Earl, Navy Blue, Kenny Segal, and others, Shrines partially falls under "abstract rap," and sometimes Billy and Elucid's metaphors and tongue-twisters contribute to that too, but usually they contrast the trippiness with a loud, clear delivery and lyrics that are full of venom. Even with the avant-rap niche that Billy, Elucid, and their usual collaborators have carved out for themselves, Armand Hammer remain in a lane of their own.

END - Splinters From An Ever-Changing Face
Closed Casket Activities

I wanna try to refrain from using the term "supergroup" to describe END -- whose lineup includes vocalist Brendan Murphy (Counterparts), guitarist Will Putney (of Fit For An Autopsy and producer for Knocked Loose, Vein, Every Time I Die, and tons of other cool bands), guitarist Gregory Thomas (ex-Misery Signals, ex-Shai Hulud), bassist Jay Pepito (Reign Supreme, ex-Blacklisted), and drummer Billy Rymer (ex-The Dillinger Escape Plan) -- because even though each member in this group is obviously pretty super, I feel like it somehow takes something away. The word makes END sound like some ego-fueled, too-big-to-fail rock star side project rather than a vital hardcore band whose members just happen to also play in other vital hardcore bands, and END are very much the latter. END put out their debut EP From the Unforgiving Arms of God back in 2017, and they've spent the time since then solidifying themselves as a force of their own who stand tall next to the members' more famous projects. Splinters From An Ever-Changing Face, their first full-length, only further cements this. It's angry, in-your-face, metallic hardcore that would sound great whenever you listen to it, but which especially feels cathartic with all the anger in the air right now.

END will be donating 100% of the profits they make from merchandise sold through the Closed Casket Activities store this weekend to the ACLU, so if you're going to pick up this album or some other END merch, we recommend doing it before Monday.

Mattachine - Isolation as a Form of Torture EP
Zegema Beach Records

Virginia screamo band Infant Island already put out two great records this year (Beneath and Sepulcher), and they've got a Bandcamp compilation out today to benefit the Richmond Bail Fund. On top of all that, Infant Island guitarist/vocalist Alexander Rudenshiold's queer-metalcore band Mattachine (whose lineup also includes Michael Toney of Black Matter Device, who recorded and guested on Sepulcher) have a new EP out today too, and not only does it totally rip, it's about some very powerful stuff.

"These songs are sort of a reaction to what I see as a cultural ostracization from hardcore that gay men feel," Alex says. "Between cultural expectations of gay men to be effeminate, and the pervading belief that the hardcore scene is generally the purview of jocks, it’s not always a space that I (and other gay men that I know) have felt comfortable in. It’s a microcosm of society (yes, I said it) at-large in that sense, and while obviously things are changing and there are other bands making inroads — it’s not hard to find overt and latent homophobia hanging around your local hardcore scene."

The EP is crushingly heavy, and it spits in the face of oppression ("no matter how many times you call us faggots, no matter how many times you call us queers, no matter the number of us you murder for your entertainment, and no matter how many loads of bullshit that you shoot all over us, just know that in the end we’ll all sleep together, one day, we’ll all sleep together rotting in the same fucking dirt"). This is music that will make you rightfully angry, but it can also fire you up and inspire you to actually get out there and do something, like members of this band have been doing all week. Proceeds from this EP are also going to Richmond bail funds and legal funds, so click play, get angry, give to the good causes this EP supports, and make a fucking change.

Covet - technicolor
Triple Crown

San Francisco trio Covet have been making gorgeously technical math rock since their 2015 debut EP Currents, but other than some humming, one thing they haven't made yet is songs with proper vocals. However, guitarist Yvette Young (who also has a pretty prolific solo career on the side) says "our policy is ‘never rule anything out,'" and with this new album -- their second full-length -- Yvette has added proper lead vocals to the band's sound. Yvette's riffs are of the clean, mathy, '90s Midwest emo variety -- picture the noodliness of American Football, the lush atmosphere of The Appleseed Cast, and the polished, melodic technicality of Minus The Bear all rolled into one band -- but her singing recalls airy '90s dream pop, and it turns out she's just as great at singing as she is at guitar. (She's also great at painting -- she made the album artwork.) The only real complaint I have about this album is that I wish she'd sing even more (it's still largely instrumental), but that aside, if you like melodic math rock, technicolor is total ear candy.

Covet are also encouraging donations to ActBlue. They wrote:

Hi there everyone. We have a new album that is scheduled to come out on Friday, but before we release it, we want to acknowledge that we stand with our fellow Americans who are peacefully protesting police brutality, systemic racism and racial injustice throughout the country. As some of you may know this release has been planned for several months now and we want everyone to know that it is not our intention to have this distract from these very real issues and important voices.

The link in our bio allows you to not only donate to various bail funds, mutual aid funds, activist groups and individual groups but also to allocate how your donation is spread amongst the options listed. We are currently discussing ways to most effectively contribute financially alongside the release of “Technicolor”. Now is the time for us to educate ourselves and use our voices to help find a way to hold those in power accountable for their actions.

P.S. Be safe out there and don’t forget to wear a mask!

Muzz - Muzz
Matador

Muzz is the new trio of Interpol frontman Paul Banks, Walkmen drummer Matt Barrick, and everywhereman Josh Kaufman (Bonny Light Horseman, Josh Ritter, Day of the Dead, much more), and it may actually be the strongest Paul Banks-fronted project in years. It's more somber than Interpol, almost more similar to The National (who themselves were inspired by Interpol early on, and whose members have worked extensively with both Barrick and Kaufman), and it's a treat to hear Banks abandoning his usual sneer for this softer, more melancholic style, which ends up suiting him just as well.

Muzz are donating all Bandcamp profits today to Campaign Zero, Black Lives Matter, Colin Kaepernick's Know Your Rights Camp, and the NAACP.

Soft Plastics

Soft Plastics - 5 Dreams
Paper Bag

There's really nobody else in the world with a voice and songwriting style like Canadian indie rock veteran Carey Mercer -- and, especially compared to his collaborators like Destroyer's Dan Bejar and Wolf Parade's Spencer Krug, Mercer remains criminally underrated -- so it was a bummer when we learned in 2018 that he would be ending his long-running project Frog Eyes. Fortunately, Carey ended up with another great batch of songs, and those songs have now become the debut album by Soft Plastics, whose lineup also includes longtime Frog Eyes drummer (and Carey's wife) Mel Campbell and late-period Frog Eyes member Shyla Seller. If you're a Frog Eyes fan, I think you'll be very pleased to hear what Carey has cooked up, and if you're new to his music but you like arty, off-kilter, and strangely catchy indie rock, this album is not to miss.

Soft Plastics will be donating to Black Lives Matter Vancouver.

Casa Loma - This Is Coping EP
Pure Noise

Casa Loma is the new solo project of Nik Bruzzese, who's best known for playing in the long-running pop punk band Man Overboard, but Casa Loma isn't pop punk at all. It pulls from atmospheric post-rock, string and horn-fueled chamber pop, delicate-sounding indie folk, and other tender, beautiful sounds, and the lyrical content is truly devastating. Nik says that he "started writing this EP as a therapy session for myself" after he "lost two people very near to [him]" because "when you’re a dad and have two daughters like I do, you’re not allowed to be sad. You have to be excited and happy about everything, even though inside you might be ripping to shreds." It really does sound like this EP was therapeutic for Nik to make; he pours his heart out on every song, and when the emotion is this authentic, you can just feel it.

The EP is out now on Pure Noise Records, who donated $2 for every $1 spent in their webstore on Wednesday and Thursday to Black Lives Matter, the NAACP Legal Defense fund, and Colin Kaepernick's Know Your Rights Camp (including pre-orders for this EP). Pure Noise are also donating all of today's Bandcamp profits to the Peoples City Council Freedom Fund.

Update: there's also a limited edition LP/slipmat bundle with 50% of proceeds going to The Bail Project.

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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.

For ways to help in the fight against police brutality and racial injustice, we compiled a list of resources.