As December rolls on, more and more year-end lists continue to come out, but this month is not a total dead zone; in fact, one of the year's most widely-anticipated albums didn't come out until this week. More on that and a few others below, and more in Indie Basement, including the new Taken By Trees EP of Colin Blunstone covers.

Honorable mentions this week include A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Valee, Ready For Death (members of Indecision, Pelican, Racetraitor, Milhouse, and more), Mount Westmore (Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, E-40 & Too $hort), Stalley, Leland Whitty (of BADBADNOTGOOD), Icewear Vezzo ft. DJ Drama, Bun B & Statik Selektah (ft. Boldy James, Flee Lord, Big K.R.I.T. & more), Sha Ek, Colonial Wound, Kool G Rap, Photay with Carlos Niño, Nathan Salsburg, Dead Meadow, the Justin Courtney Pierre (Motion City Soundtrack) EP, the Kamaiyah EP, the Bree Runway EP, the Maria Uzor EP, the En Love EP, the Keratin EP, the Desperate Living EP, the Hammok EP, the Psykof EP, the Knucks deluxe EP, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross' Empire of Light score, and Bryce Dessner & Alejandro G. Iñárritu's Bardo soundtrack.

Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?

SZA
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SZA - SOS
TDE/RCA

The rollout for SZA's followup to her instant-classic 2017 debut album Ctrl has been a long, rocky road, but SOS is finally here and it was well worth the wait. With singles dating back as far as 2020, some of SOS' songs ("Good Days," "I Hate U," "Shirt") already feel as established as the songs on her last LP, and within the other previously unheard 20 tracks, there are plenty of other moments that already feel on par with her hits.

As the singles hinted, SZA's distinct style of atmospheric R&B and her uniquely soaring voice remain as arresting and unmatched as ever, and SOS has plenty more where those songs came from. Her songs range from immediate and upbeat ("Used" ft. Don Toliver, "Notice Me," "Conceited") to bare-bones and acoustic ("Blind," "Nobody Gets Me," "Special") to moments that fall somewhere in between, and she works in a few surprises along the way too. She straight-up raps on "Smoking On My Ex Pack," dives into murky trap on "Low," and perhaps the most unexpected moment is "F2F," a loud, stadium-sized, full-on rock song that SZA pulls off just as well as she pulls off the quiet songs (and which has an uncredited Lizzo appearance). Having already collaborated with Travis Scott on Ctrl's big hit "Love Galore," she reunites with him on "Open Arms" for a more somber, ballad-driven song, and their chemistry remains intact. Posthumous bars from the late Ol' Dirty Bastard (including lines that were also used on "Goin' Down" and "The Stomp") spice up the dusty boom bap of album closer "Forgiveless" (which also samples Björk’s "Hidden Place"), and SZA provides ear candy to her indie rock fans by bringing in Phoebe Bridgers to sing the bridge on "Ghost in the Machine." As on Ctrl, SZA's songs on SOS are intimate and personal; she tackles subjects like love, sex, and mental health in a way that feels real, conversational, and entirely void of clichés. In our fast-paced culture, taking over five years to release a new album means you risk the world moving on and passing you by, but SOS makes it feel like no time at all has passed. It reminds you that there's still no one out there who does it like SZA.

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The Sound of Animals Fighting Apeshit
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The Sound of Animals Fighting - Apeshit
Born Losers Records

It's been a very busy year for Anthony Green, who released one last Circa Survive EP before the band went on hiatus, put out a great new solo album, and launched his new supergroup L.S. Dunes. It's also been a busy year for Rich Balling, who put out the guest-filled debut album by his new hyperpop project Hospital Gown. And somehow, even with all of that, Rich, Anthony, members of RX Bandits, and whoever else is in The Sound of Animals Fighting came together to write and record the band's first EP in 14 years. It's got just four songs, but it's the perfect kind of comeback release; it sounds like a culmination of everything they did on their first three records, and captures the evolution that the band's members have undergone separately over the past 14 years too. The title track sounds more like the band's iconic debut album Tiger and the Duke than anything they've released since that album, starting with a thunderous drum pattern, then bringing in the proggy post-hardcore lead guitars, and then letting Anthony take it away with a searing fusion of airy clean-sung vocals and piercing screams. It's the kind of experimental post-hardcore song that no band does quite like TSOAF do, and it's not just a rehashed version of their debut; it's a step forward. From there, TSOAF dive into atmospheric electronic art pop territory on "Wolf," mix it up between their heavy side and their psychedelic side on the intense "Sharon Tate, Despite Everything," and close out with more glitchy electronica on "Duche Das." It has moments of pure catharsis, and moments of utter weirdness, and it's the kind of EP that only The Sound of Animals Fighting could write. Hopefully it won't be another 14 years until we hear from them again, because my only complaint: it ends way too soon.

For more on this EP, listen to our recent podcast episode with Rich Balling.

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Crosses Permanent Radiant
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††† (Crosses) - Permanent.Radiant
Warner

In the eight years since Chino Moreno's side project Crosses released their debut album, Deftones put out two of their best albums to date (2016's Gore and 2020's Ohms), and now Chino returns to Crosses to close out 2022 with a new EP from the group, Permanent.Radiant. Now just the duo of Chino and Far guitarist Shaun Lopez (they parted ways with bassist Chuck Doom), Permanent.Radiant picks up where Crosses' debut left off and it also continues the creative hot streak Chino has been on with Deftones. When Crosses first surfaced, it was pegged as witch house -- the short-lived, internet-born, early 2010s genre that was more of a punchline than an actual cultural movement -- but it was never really meant to be lumped in with that, and Permanent.Radiant doubles down on the assertion that Crosses is a band that's meant to be taken seriously. For Deftones fans who are always itching to hear more of that band's atmospheric, melodic side and electronic influence, you get that in full force on Permanent.Radiant. Chino's unmistakable voice packs the same punch it does on Deftones records, and the songwriting is just as well thought out.

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Fear Mercury
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Mercury - Fear Mercury
Honeymoon

Earlier this year, Memphis-born, Atlanta-based rapper Mercury released the Tabula Rasa mixtape, and she wraps up 2022 with the four-song Fear Mercury EP. Talking about her influences in a recent 'Rising' feature on Pitchfork, Mercury talked about why Kid Cudi was important enough to her to get a tattoo of him, called Young Thug the best rapper alive, shouted out Young Thug affiliate Gunna, and credited her dad with introducing her to Memphis rap like Three 6 Mafia and Tommy Wright III. You can definitely hear how her own music was influenced by both Kid Cudi and Young Thug -- it ranges from poppy and melodic to weird and psychedelic to hard-hitting rap. That all comes across on Tabula Rasa, and she continues down the same path on Fear Mercury. Each song is appealing in its own way, but the best might be closing track (and lead single) "wyha," which is powered by a sped-up, trap-infused sample of Basement Jaxx's classic "Where’s Your Head At" and features some of Mercury's most intricate rapping yet.

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Since the year is winding down and it's an overall short week, browse the Notable Releases archive for reviews of hundreds of great albums that came out this year that you may have missed.

Read more new reviews in Bill's Indie Basement and more metal reviews in 'Upcoming Releases' on Invisible Oranges.

And check out what's new in our shop.

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