Notable Releases of the Week (4/8)
With the first quarter of 2022 in the rearview, we recently ran down 30 albums we love from January through March, plus 41 albums we're anticipating from now through June, and this week in particular is full of some of those spring heavy hitters we've been waiting for. I highlight ten albums below, and Bill talks about Orville Peck, Kae Tempest, The Pop Group's Mark Stewart, Mick Trouble, and more in Bill's Indie Basement.
More honorable mentions: Jack White, Father John Misty, Camila Cabello, Renata Zeiguer, Calexico, Crossed, Coi Leray, Whatever The Weather (Loraine James), Lucius, Omar Apollo, Yung Lean, Pendant, Girl Talk, Wiz Khalifa, Big K.R.I.T., and Smoke DZA, Marzz, ORANGEPURPLEBEACH (John Vanderslice), Destruction, Heart to Gold, BANKS, Simon Love, Hallas, Paul Wall & Termanology, Deer Scout, Real Bad Man, Wet Tuna, I Start Counting, Horace Andy, Pictoria Vark, Signals Midwest, Abysmalist, Good Looks, Tody Castillo, The Insides, Annie Blackman, Zachary Cale, Matt Gold, Romero, OR, Brush (ex-Chumped/Adult Dude), the Homeschool EP, the Vaccines EP, the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah EP, the Mean Jeans EP, the Tiny Blue Ghost EP, the Rosie Thomas EP (ft. Sufjan, The Shins, Iron & Wine, and more), and the Hiatus Kaiyote remix album.
Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?
Syd - Broken Hearts Club
The Internet member, former Odd Future member, and solo artist Syd hadn't released her own new album since her 2017 debut LP Fin, but last year she began rolling out an excellent string of singles, and now she finally releases her second album and first in five years, Broken Hearts Club, featuring her three 2021 songs and ten new ones, with guest appearances from Smino, Kehlani, and Lucky Daye. Fin had sort of a colder, darker, more heavily electronic feel throughout, but Broken Hearts Club has a more varied sound that follows the lyrical concept, which is said to "chronicle the ebbs and flows of a relationship from beginning to end." You can feel the butterfly rush of new love coming through Syd's warm, bright, lively fusions of R&B, synthpop, funk, and more, and she pivots to yearning ballads as the album shifts towards heartbreak. It's a concept album where the music itself has as much of a narrative arc as the lyrics, making for something even grander than its instant-classic singles could have possibly suggested.
Vince Staples - Ramona Park Broke My Heart
Last year, Vince Staples released his great self-titled album, a collection of the the most intimate, plainspoken songs he'd ever released. Around the same time he was making that album, he also made Ramona Park Broke My Heart, and he says there's a "direct correlation" between the two albums, saying, "I was in a similar state of mind. I’m still working through things and the questions that life poses." The difference, he adds, is that "this one has more answers." The other difference is that, after making the most minimal, bare-bones music of his career on the self-titled LP, Ramona Heart finds him returning to a more upbeat, accessible sound. Still, it's Vince Staples, and "accessible" is relative; the album's got some undeniable hooks, but these songs are still too eccentric to qualify as pop-rap, and they're just as personal and introspective as the songs on his last album. Like every Vince Staples album before it, it sounds like nothing else in his discography and it serves as a reminder that Vince refuses to make the same album twice. His career has been an ever-changing journey, and at this point it's very clear: coming along for the ride is always worth it.
billy woods - Aethiopes
In the past two years, billy woods released two of the most highly acclaimed underground rap albums in recent memory with Armand Hammer (his duo with ELUCID), as well as a collaborative album with Moor Mother, but he hasn't released a solo album since 2019's Hiding Places and Terror Management. That changes today, with Aethiopes. Like Hiding Places, the new album was entirely helmed by a single producer, this time Preservation, who's best known as one half of Dr. Yen Lo with Ka and as a longtime Mos Def collaborator. woods and Pres have worked together before -- including on Terror Management -- and they prove to have a ton of chemistry for the length of this entire album. As stunning as the last two Armand Hammer albums are, that project tends to have a little more of an abstract haze than woods' solo material, and Aethiopes finds woods delivering his most direct, fired-up bars since Hiding Places, with punchlines that pop out at you and stick in your head right away. He's also roped in some truly great guest verses, including from El-P, Boldy James, Quelle Chris, Despot, Fatboi Sharif, Denmark Vessey, his Armand Hammer partner ELUCID, and more, and the variety of different style rappers keeps the momentum of this album going. It's a lean 13 songs that always leaves you wanting more, and it gets better every time.
Daniel Rossen - You Belong There
The only release that Grizzly Bear/Department of Eagles co-leader Daniel Rossen had previously put out under his own name was 2012's Silent Hour/Golden Mile EP, a collection of songs started as demos that Daniel considered including on Grizzly Bear's 2012 album Shields, and that had a similarly proggy feel to that album. Since then, Grizzly Bear released one more album, 2017's comparatively streamlined Painted Ruins, and now they appear to be on hiatus, so Daniel is taking the time to put out a second solo release, his first ever full-length, You Belong There. Daniel played almost everything on it, including guitars, piano, and woodwinds, the latter of which he just learned how to play, but he did enlist Grizzly Bear drummer Chris Bear to aid him on nine of the 10 songs, and the chemistry that's always existed between Daniel's intricate guitar playing and Chris' distinct drumming style is all over this album. That, coupled with Daniel's immediately recognizable singing and songwriting style, makes You Belong There feel a whole lot like a Grizzly Bear album, and it actually sort of picks up where Shields and Silent Hour/Golden Mile left off, returning to the more complex, proggy style that was toned down on Painted Ruins. It makes sense; Grizzly Bear's process has always been highly collaborative, but the more immediate, pop-friendly songs on Shields like "Yet Again" tended to be led by Ed Droste, while the more tangled, sprawling ones like "Sleeping Ute" saw Daniel taking the lead. If you're looking for more where that came from, You Belong There scratches the itch.
The Linda Lindas - Growing Up
Last year, The Linda Lindas -- a four-piece punk band whose members are all in their teens or pre-teens -- went viral after they played their song "Racist, Sexist Boy" on a livestreamed edition of LA Public Library's TEENtastic Tuesdays for AAPI Heritage Month. A lot of today's viral music moments are either calculated beforehand or accompanied by some kind of meme, but this one felt refreshingly unique because it was entirely organic. Nobody aiming for virality would choose an LA Public Library livestream as the place to do it; "Racist, Sexist Boy" caught on because, seemingly out of nowhere, a young, little-known punk band debuted a song that felt like the second coming of Bikini Kill. It wasn't entirely out of nowhere, as The Linda Lindas had actually been hand-picked to open for the real Bikini Kill two years prior, but their rise had been slow and steady until "Racist, Sexist Boy" put the pedal to the metal. Now they've released their debut full-length Growing Up on Epitaph Records, including a studio version of "Racist, Sexist Boy" and nine more songs, and it proves that there's a lot more to The Linda Lindas than just one viral moment. The Riot Grrrl influence pops up a few other times, but the bulk of the album is brighter and catchier than "Racist, Sexist Boy," with driving power chords and multi-part vocal harmonies that sound like a cross between Lookout! Records-era Green Day and The Go-Go's. They also change it up entirely for the Spanish-sung, bossa nova-tinged "Cuantas Veces." Because of "Racist, Sexist Boy," people might be quick to paint The Linda Lindas as a political band, but true to the album's title, Growing Up is about the vast array of emotions you're flooded with as you're coming of age and trying to figure out the world -- anger, sadness, confusion, happiness, loneliness, and beyond. It's something punk bands have been tackling for decades, and The Linda Lindas are some of the brightest new voices to be carrying on this tradition.
EST Gee & 42 Dugg - Last Ones Left
Louisville's EST Gee and Detroit's 42 Dugg are both rappers who know how to achieve pop-level accessibility without sacrificing their street-level grit or their regionally-specific sounds. They're both signed to Yo Gotti's CMG label, both have high-profile Lil Baby collaborations, and both have collaborated with each other on multiple occasions too. They've got a lot in common, great chemistry together, and some of the most appealing voices in modern rap, so it should come as no surprise that their new collaborative project Last Ones Left feels like one hit after the next. A lot of the most-loved joint rap albums of the past decade or so have come from two superstars, but Last Ones Left is a great joint album from two rappers on the come-up, each sounding hungrier and hungrier as the album goes on, eager to prove themselves as they simultaneously aim to out-rap and uplift their friendly opponent. If Gee and Dugg keep going at this rate, it might not be long before they are superstars.
Oceanator - Nothing's Ever Fine
Oceanator (the project of Brooklyn indie rock musician Elise Okusami) recently covered Sponge's "Plowed," specifically because of its usage in Empire Records, the title of her new album is an Empire Records quote, and she's releasing the LP on Rex Manning Day, which is probably not a total coincidence. This is all important to mention because if the moment in alternative culture that Empire Records represents means anything to you, then Oceanator's new album Nothing's Ever Fine will be total ear candy. Elise taps into so many different types of '90s alternative, from ripping pop punk to slacker indie rock to distortion-coated power pop to headbanging grunge to the slightest hint of ska (hats off to Jeff Rosenstock playing sax on "Bad Brain Daze"), and her soaring voice and addictive melodies feel like a breath of fresh air for the ongoing '90s revival. Nothing's Ever Fine makes me think of those bands who never really had more than one or two minor hits in the mainstream, but never really had cool-kid indie acclaim either (bands like Harvey Danger, Veruca Salt, that dog., Superdrag, etc), and a lot of that stuff has actually aged better than bands who were popular or respected at the time, so it's a well that feels more untapped than, say, Pavement worship or Pearl Jam imitation, and Oceanator is the perfect person to tap the well. Nothing's Ever Fine captures the weird, expressive, exciting spirit of the '90s in a way that feels just as exciting today, and if you've read this far, you should probably just listen to it. Because, to quote, Mark, we mustn't dwell. No, not today. We can't. Not on Rex Manning Day!
Fivio Foreign - B.I.B.L.E.
When the ascendant Brooklyn drill star Pop Smoke was tragically shot and killed at 20 years old, not long after (not undeservingly) declaring himself the new king of New York, comparisons were immediately made to Biggie. It was a comparison that had legs; like Big before him, Pop and his distinct low voice brought a new sound to the birthplace of hip hop, and in the years since his passing, his legacy has only grown. Fivio Foreign, a fellow Brooklyn drill rapper and former Pop Smoke collaborator who once lived in Pop's shadow, now releases his proper debut album B.I.B.L.E., and he looks to be positioning himself as the Jay-Z to Pop Smoke's Biggie. He's the student that's carrying the torch for his hero, and continuing to bring what Pop started to the masses. B.I.B.L.E. is the mainstream-friendly album that Pop never got to make, with polished production and slick R&B hooks that give the album widespread appeal without sacrificing the unique Brooklyn drill sound. Its lead single "City of Gods" even feels like a direct sequel to Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind." Like that song, it features Alicia Keys singing a hook about New York City, and it also features co-production and guest vocals from longtime Jay-Z collaborator Kanye West, who actually said Fivio reminds him of Hov. On it, Fivio raps, "Pop was the king of New York/Now I'm the n**** in charge," a sentiment Jay-Z has expressed about Big on multiple occasions.
"City of Gods" quickly became a hit, so much so that Alicia Keys already released her own "City of Gods (Part II)" to capitalize on its success, and B.I.B.L.E. seems poised to keep the momentum going. It clearly aims to be a Blueprint-style classic, and whether or not it will be that impactful, it does share some traits with that album. It has street songs, radio songs, a sentimental slow jam ("Left Side"), and the songs never drag or blur together; each one stands on its own, and almost any of them seem like they could be Fivio's next hit. With 17 tracks, it sounds long on paper, but it actually clocks in a few minutes shorter than The Blueprint, and in an era where mainstream rap albums tend to run long, it's refreshing how carefully constructed this one feels. And all these Jay-Z comparisons would feel too hyperbolic if Fivio didn't sound so much like a star. Fivio hasn't always sounded this focused, but on B.I.B.L.E., he has the confidence and the vision needed to get the whole world paying attention.
Wet Leg - Wet Leg
To quote Bill, "One of the most hyped groups in recent memory, Wet Leg deliver on the promise of 'Chaise Longue' with easygoing charm and catchy song after catchy song." Read his full review.
HEALTH - DISCO4 :: PART II
Noise pop/industrial greats HEALTH have released a second part of their collaborations album DISCO4, this time including songs with Nine Inch Nails, Lamb of God, Poppy, Backxwash, Ho99o9, The Body, Street Sects, and more. There's a whole lot of cool stuff in here, and you can read much more about it by reading Alex Brown's track-by-track interview with the band.
Read Bill's Indie Basement for more new album reviews.
Looking for more recent releases? Browse the Notable Releases archive or scroll down for previous weeks.
For even more metal, browse the 'Upcoming Releases' each week on Invisible Oranges.
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