Notable Releases of the Week (7/17)
Hello and welcome back to another edition of Notable Releases. Hope everyone's doing as alright as possible, staying safe, and hopefully getting outside. (In case you lost track of time, it's mid-July, and at least here in New York, the weather had been lovely until today's rain, but tomorrow's supposed to be nice.) And if you need some new music in your life, this week is not lacking in that department.
I highlight seven new albums below, and here are some honorable mentions: the surprise new Oddisee EP, Actress, Spice (mem Ceremony), Bing & Ruth, Zara McFarlane, Illuminati Hotties, Kommand, Dehd (who we interviewed), Zombi, Laraaji, Lianne La Havas, The Pretenders, Crickets (mem Le Tigre, Faith No More), S.G. Goodman, NoCap, Crack Cloud, the Sheff G EP, the Jay Worthy & Shlohmo EP, the Angel Du$t EP, the Gladie EP, the Yo La Tengo EP, and the Gang of Four EP (which features some of the last music founding member Andy Gill worked on before his death).
Read on for my seven picks. What was your favorite release of the week?
Strike Anywhere - Nightmares of the West
Richmond's Strike Anywhere spent all of the 2000s making anthemic, fiercely political melodic hardcore, and they remained consistently at the top of their game the whole time. Early releases like their 2001 debut Change Is A Sound are as sonically and (sadly) lyrically relevant now as they were then, and their most recent album (2009's Iron Front) proved that Strike Anywhere had only gotten better at what they do over time. They ended up taking a long break from new music after Iron Front (but kept playing shows), but now they're finally back with their first new release in 11 years, Nightmares of the West. It's full of cathartic protest songs that the world really needs right now, and Strike Anywhere haven't lost their touch one bit. If anything, they might be an even better band than ever.
Strike Anywhere have been railing against things like police brutality, institutional racism, and corruption since day one, and their music would resonate in the Trump era regardless, but they couldn't have known just how much it would resonate following the pandemic and the nationwide protests that began breaking out after the murder of George Floyd. It was recorded before any of that happened though, and actually one of the main catalysts for the band's return was the death of their friend Marc Maitland, drummer of UK punk band Blocko, whose song "Opener" Strike Anywhere cover on this EP. "The immediacy of it turned on when Marc Maitland died, and that made us want to record a Blocko cover and do something in Mates' memory and for our friends in England who were grieving his death," vocalist Thomas Barnett told us in a recent interview. "That was part of the 'now it's really coming together, we have to do this.'"
Nightmares of the West has six originals alongside the Blocko cover, and it's technically an EP, but it doesn't feel like a short project or a stopgap release of any kind; it feels as complete as any of their full-lengths. Sometimes seven songs is all you need to say everything you need to say (just ask Pusha T). The songs are fueled by seeing and feeling the effects of injustice, but they don't necessarily feel negative; they feel uplifting. Strike Anywhere wrap their messages in triumphant, ultra-catchy melodies and bolster them with a driving, hard-hitting backbone. Like all great punk songs should, these songs hit you in the heart, the gut, and the bones all at once, and they make you think too. They give off the kind of visceral rush that makes you wish you were living in a time where you could get to a show and scream along at the top of your lungs. These songs don't just deserve that kind of reaction; they make it damn near impossible to hear them and react any other way. This EP is about as ideal as punk/melodic hardcore gets in 2020. It's loud, smart, and emotional. It scratches the familiar itch that all punk fans have but it manages to feel fresh too. And that freshness is all the more impressive coming from a band who are 20 years into the career and haven't released music in over a decade.
The Lawrence Arms - Skeleton Coast
Speaking of punk bands who know how to age gracefully and are making great comebacks this week, The Lawrence Arms -- who have also been around for two decades -- are back with their first album in six years and it's a graceful late-career album that stands tall next to their classics. We spoke to co-lead vocalists Brendan Kelly and Chris McCaughan over email about each of the 14 tracks, and they gave a very detailed (and entertaining) breakdown, which you can read here.
JARV IS… - Beyond The Pale
Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker has finally released the first album by his JARV IS... project (and first proper album in 11 years), which he formed for live shows three years ago and released the first song from over a year ago. It's genuinely great stuff that sounds like classic Jarvis but is a clear evolution too, as Bill writes much more about in his review. And for (much) more Jarvis, read Bill's extensive interview with him too.
Nicolas Jaar - Telas
Nicolas Jaar has been extremely prolific this year. He already released a new Against All Logic album, followed by the first proper Nicolas Jaar album in four years, Cenizas, and now he's back with a second new album under his own name, Telas. The new album's made up of four songs, each of which are around 15 minutes, and it doesn't feel like leftovers from either of his two recent projects or anything like that. This is yet another complete-sounding work, and it's distinctly different from the other two albums Nico put out this year. Throughout the nearly-hour-long album, Nico incorporates free jazz, percussive modern classical, bursts of glitchy electronics, waves of gorgeous ambient pieces, arpeggiated dancefloor synths, bits of static-y noise and found objects, and brief appearances of Nico's own voice. The album pulls from so many sources but brings everything together to create one cohesive whole, and it's subtle but intense. It feels like it could be the score to a silent film; even with no dialogue, Telas induces imagery and tells a story.
Blu & Exile - Miles
Dirty Science Records
Below the Heavens, the 2007 debut collaboration from West Coast rapper Blu and producer Exile, remains one of the most beloved underground rap albums of the past 15 years, and while Blu and Exile have separately remained prolific over the years, it's always even more of a treat when they come together. They've done just that on their new 20-song double album Miles, their third album together and first in eight years, following Give Me My Flowers While I Can Smell Them. The album features some of the same guests as Below the Heavens (Miguel, who's a lot more famous now, and Aloe Blacc), some of the same as Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them (Fashawn, Jimetta Rose, Johaz of Dag Savage, ADAD), and some new ones (The Last Artful Dodgr, Cashus King, Iman Omari, West Coast legend and Freestyle Fellowship member Aceyalone, and more), and it (obviously) gets its title from Miles Davis, who's a clear influence on here. Exile provided jazzy beats on his last two albums with Blu too, but the production here has an especially live-band jazz feel, and the album is full of long songs that stretch out more like jazz songs than like traditional rap songs. Contrasting the more freeform music is Blu's extremely focused rapping, which -- as usual -- pays homage to '90s rap greats without sounding like blatant revivalism. There's a lot packed into this album, but it doesn't drag or feel overstuffed. It requires some patience, but it's worth it.
Protomartyr - Ultimate Success Today
Detroit's Protomartyr have been making dark, experimental post-punk for nearly a decade, and they continue to be great at what they do and toy with their sound in interesting ways. Ultimate Success Today incorporates some free-jazz style horns and it's got some of Protomartyr's darkest, most intense music yet, and you can read much more about it in Bill's review.
Entry - Detriment
LA hardcore band Entry (whose guitarist Clayton Stevens is also in Touche Amore) make dark, heavy, D-beaty hardcore, and they just released their debut LP on Southern Lord, which you can read more about 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.