Notable Releases of the Week (6/19)
It's another Bandcamp fundraiser day, only this time, Bandcamp is giving its cut of sales to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, "America’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice." The fundraiser is in honor of Juneteenth, an annual holiday that celebrates the end of slavery, and it's also inspired by the nationwide protests that broke out after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police. Many artists and labels have also pledged to give their share of Bandcamp revenue to the NAACP or other causes that fight for racial justice today too. If you can, I recommend buying new music from Bandcamp today, and you can also get involved in the fight for racial justice everyday. Here are some resources.
Today also happens to be a stacked week for new albums, and fortunately, a handful of these are on Bandcamp. I highlighted 12 below, and here are some honorable mentions: Lamb of God, Cro-Mags, Darkstar, John Legend, Skyzoo, Joey Fatts, Tee Grizzley, Meyhem Lauren & Harry Fraud, 42 Dugg, Black Eyed Peas, Curren$y & Fuse, Plays, Neem & AraabMuzik, Hail Spirit Noir, Kall, Braids, Croatian Amor, Ed Askew, Sault, Wire's album of rare, unreleased, and reworked tracks, the Panopticon live album, the Jockstrap EP, and the Every Scar Has A Story (mem 108, You and I) EP. (The Japandroids live album that was originally due today was pushed back to next week due to the band not wanting to release it on Juneteenth.)
Read on for my 12 picks. What was your favorite release of the week?
Teyana Taylor - THE ALBUM
G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam
THE ALBUM opens with a recording of Teyana Taylor's then-fiancé, NBA player/rapper Iman Shumpert, on the phone with the emergency operator as Teyana gave unexpected, early birth to their first child, Iman Tayla Shumpert Jr (nickname Junie). That happened in 2015; nearly five years later, Teyana and Iman are married, they're expecting their second child, and Junie's voice can be heard alongside Rick Ross on "Come Back To Me," the first proper song on Teyana's new album. THE ALBUM follows K.T.S.E., the New York R&B singer's installment of Kanye West's Wyoming Sessions albums, an exercise in brevity that also included short albums by Pusha T, Nas, Kids See Ghosts (Kanye & Kid Cudi), and Ye himself. K.T.S.E. proved to be a breakthrough for Teyana, but like all the Wyoming Sessions albums, it felt like Kanye was the one steering the ship and Teyana herself had said there were other songs she had intended to include on K.T.S.E. In contrast, THE ALBUM feels like the grand statement Teyana wanted to release all along.
Instead of just eight songs clocking in at 23 minutes, THE ALBUM features 23 songs broken up into five sections. It includes at least one of the songs originally intended for K.T.S.E., "We Got Love," which surfaced in a couple different ways since K.T.S.E.'s release and now includes the legendary Ms. Lauryn Hill on the album version. And Lauryn isn't the only legend present. Erykah Badu graces the airy "Lowkey" with her show-stopping voice, and Missy Elliott's voice is in the mix with Teyana and Future on the slowed-down rap&B of "Boomin'." Quavo, Big Sean, Kehlani, Davido, and Diddy's song King Combs pop up too, but no one ever overshadows Teyana. Her powerful voice and strong vision carry this record all throughout its many peaks and valleys and twists and turns. Teyana holds nothing back, and the results are thrilling.
Owen - The Avalanche
Very few musicians have a career path like Mike Kinsella. As the drummer of Cap'n Jazz and the frontman of American Football, he's responsible for two of the most influential emo albums of the '90s (and of all time), and thanks to American Football's 2019 album LP3 (which we named the 17th best punk/emo album of the 2010s), they became a rare band to put out a reunion album that's arguably better than their impossibly classic debut. One of the reasons that LP3 rivals LP1 -- and sets itself apart from it -- is that Mike Kinsella spent the time after American Football's breakup honing his singing and songwriting with his solo project Owen. American Football's debut album was full of inventive musicianship, but Mike didn't really come into his own as a singer and storyteller until Owen's 2002 sophomore album No Good for No One Now, and he's only sharpened his skills since then. His last Owen album, 2016's The King of Whys, was born out of the same songwriting sessions as American Football's first reunion album, LP2, but for The Avalanche, Mike Kinsella seems to have drawn the lines between Owen and American Football more clearly. LP3 is like no other album in Mike's discography, and The Avalanche really isn't either.
Like The King of Whys, Mike made this one with S. Carey of Bon Iver and frequent S. Carey collaborator Zach Hanson, and the three of them have developed a chemistry over the years that's even stronger on The Avalanche than on The King of Whys. In the past, mathy, noodly guitars were Mike Kinsella's calling card, but on The Avalanche, he takes a more simple approach -- strummy, folky guitars and textural atmosphere -- letting the lyrics do even more of the talking than you'd already expect from an Owen album. And the lyrics on this one are as devastating as the heart-wrenching songs he wrote half a lifetime ago, but with entirely new perspective. There's a built-in nostalgia to this album that longtime fans will quickly feel, but the songwriting on this album is as urgent now as Owen's early 2000s albums were then. You don't need to be a longtime fan to appreciate it, and you don't need to start somewhere else if you're new to his music. This is a fine addition to an already vast discography, and it's as unique and powerful as just about anything else you'll find in it.
Via press release: "In recognition of the Juneteenth holiday, Owen and Polyvinyl are making the entire Owen digital catalog (including The Avalanche) pay what you want on Bandcamp for 24 hours (on Friday, June 19th), with 100% of the proceeds going to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Additionally, instead of purchasing anything from the Owen/Polyvinyl store [on Friday], fans are encouraged to instead consider making a donation to one of the many invaluable organizations supporting the fight against racial injustice including Color of Change, NAACP, Equal Justice Initiative and The Loveland Foundation."
Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher
Phoebe Bridgers' highly anticipated sophomore album takes her music in all kinds of new, bigger directions without losing the intimacy of her instant-classic 2017 debut. You can read my full review here.
Phoebe is encouraging you to donate to one of these organizations before listening, and Dead Oceans is putting all digital revenue from Bandcamp today towards "a new, employee-led fund, which will gear all money toward anti-racism and racial justice initiatives and organizations."
Bob Dylan - Rough and Rowdy Ways
The 79-year-old Bob Dylan's first album of new, original music in eight years is a late-career triumph and his best album in a long time. You can read my full review of it here.
Neil Young - Homegrown
Neil Young held a listening party for Homegrown in 1975, but then quickly decided to shelve it. "They'll never hear that one," he told Cameron Crowe in a Rolling Stone interview that same year. "It was a little too personal... it scared me." Over the years, songs were included on or reworked for other releases, Neil played some of the music live, and now, 45 years later, he finally released the album. All but three of these recordings had gone unreleased the whole time. Contributors include Emmylou Harris, The Band's Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson, and more. You can read my full review here.
Bad Cop/Bad Cop - The Ride
Fat Wreck Chords
Since the early 2010s, LA's Bad Cop/Bad Cop have been waving the flag for catchy, driving, political punk that brings you right back to the genre's explosive '90s era but sounds fresh today too. With their third album The Ride, they just may have written their best record yet. As the band broke down for us in a track-by-track discussion of the album, The Ride tackles heavy subjects like singer/guitarist Stacey Dee's breast cancer diagnosis, America's oppressive immigration laws, the casual sexism that women deal with on a daily basis, and more, and Bad Cop/Bad Cop turn this stuff into one of the best adrenaline-fueled punk albums I've heard this year. Read more here.
Protest the Hero - Palimpsest
Music moves in roughly 20-year cycles so it's no surprise that early 2000s melodic post-hardcore is making a comeback right now. A handful of great new bands are influenced by that sound, and some of the classic bands are making genuinely inspired comebacks. We've seen bands like Alexisonfire, Hopesfall, and Thrice release great new music that not only rivaled their classic material but took the band in new directions, and now Protest the Hero are back with their first new album in six years, and it does the same. By their 2008 sophomore album Fortress, Protest the Hero had perfected a prog/math/pop/metal/post-hardcore fusion that was like The Mars Volta, Coheed & Cambria, Between the Buried and Me, The Fall of Troy, and My Chemical Romance in a blender, and as a lot of bands in this realm fizzled out or changed up their styles, PTH just got better at it. Their most recent album, 2013's Volition, did this type of thing in the early 2010s as well as the genre's biggest bands did in the early 2000s, and now Palimpsest is keeping it alive in the early 2020s. It's been a while since I've heard a new album do this kind of unabashedly bombastic, flamboyant, proggy post-hardcore, but Palimpsest nails it. And the cherry on top is that this band -- who have always had radical left-wing politics -- gave the album a powerful message that's even more timely now than the band could've ever predicted. As they explained in a recent Loudwire interview, it's a concept album about early 1900s America and the ways in which Americans rewrite their own history to omit the oppression of Black and indigenous people that the country was built upon. And if any Trump-loving fans take issue with it? "They can kick rocks as far as I'm concerned," singer Rody Walker said. "Fuck 'em."
PTH are encouraging donations to organizations that support the Black Lives Matter movement.
Roy Ayers - Roy Ayers JID 002
Jazz Is Dead
Vibraphonist and jazz-funk pioneer Roy Ayers has been making music since the early '60s and he remains active and relevant today. (One of his recent endeavors was an appearance on Tyler, the Creator's 2015 album Cherry Bomb.) This is his first album in nine years (following 2011's King Of The Vibes), and this one finds him once again proving how forever-relevant he is. He made it with modern-day psychedelic soul musician Adrian Younge and A Tribe Called Quest's Ali Shaheed Muhammad (who also make music together as The Midnight Hour), and it's out on the duo's Jazz Is Dead label. Adrian and Ali have already proven to be a pretty dynamic duo, and with the legendary Roy Ayers in the mix, it's no surprise that this record sounds as fantastic as it does. Sometimes it sounds like Roy's classic '70s material, sometimes it sounds like modern hip hop and neo-soul. It's timeless upon arrival, and it's yet another reminder that six decades in the music industry has done nothing to dampen how lively and fresh Roy Ayers' music sounds.
Trash Talk & Kenny Beats - Squalor EP
Trash Talk Collective
Sacramento hardcore maniacs Trash Talk have long crossed paths with hip hop (they have two albums on Odd Future Records) and of-the-moment hip hop producer Kenny Beats has brought a real punk vibe to his work with rappers like Rico Nasty, Denzel Curry, and Vince Staples, and he's now starting to work with actual punk bands like IDLES, so Kenny and Trash Talk make a perfect pair on this EP. There are times when Kenny's usual style pokes through, but mostly he adapts to what Trash Talk's music requires, and this EP is just flat-out fury. It takes like eight minutes to listen to so I'm not gonna write much more; just listen to it.
Amnesia Scanner - Tearless
Not to get too hyperbolic, but it's not everyday you hear music like Amnesia Scanner. The Berlin duo's sophomore album Tearless is abrasive, in-your-face, experimental, electronic art pop, and one of the guests is nu-metalcore band Code Orange. (The other two are DJ/producer/singer LYZZA and performance artist/musician Lalita.) Tearless is somewhere between a rougher-around-the-edges version of Yves Tumor or Holly Herndon and a less novelty version of 100 gecs, but even that description doesn't really do this album justice. It's grueling, demanding music, and it's got the ability to hypnotize you at times and knock your bones out of your body at others.
Like Bandcamp itself, Amnesia Scanner are donating all Bandcamp proceeds to NAACP today.
Vile Creature - Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!
How can you not love a band who names themselves Vile Creature, made that their album artwork (look up), gave their album a name that Godspeed You! Black Emperor probably wish they thought of already, and who write 10-minute metal songs that give a voice to marginalized communities and fight fascism and oppression? Vile Creature do all of those things, and their third album (and first for Prosthetic Records) is perhaps their most intense statement yet. At the very least, it's their best-sounding record, and the cleaner production really brings out the best in Vile Creature's music, which is like a more blackened version of Neurosis' post-sludge metal. Black, sludge, and post-metal have crossed paths before, but Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm! puts a new spin on it, especially on the epic, two-part, 14-minute title track. "This song is the most cathartic, personally satisfying song I have ever written from start to finish," KW recently told us. They wrote it with guest vocalist Laurel Minnes, who adds a classic 4AD-style goth element to VC's usual racket, and it takes their sound to a whole new level. It's quite possibly the best song Vile Creature have ever written, but the rest of this album really isn't far behind.
Like Bandcamp, both Vile Creature and Prosthetic Records are donating 100% of Bandcamp proceeds to NAACP today.
Eye of Nix - Ligeia
If the black/sludge/4AD blend of Vile Creature's title track appeals to you, you might wanna hear of Eye of Nix's new LP too. Ligeia bounces between whirlwind-inducing black metal, towering sludge, and dark folk, and with Joy Von Spain's ability to bounce between harsh screams and operatic cleans, they sound like a black/sludge metal version of Dead Can Dance for basically this entire record. It's very cool stuff, and it's the kind of album that bring together the most extreme metalheads with the indie/art/goth rock crowd. It never stays in one place for long and it's nearly impossible to pin down, and it's all the better for it.
Nuvolascura - As We Suffer From Memory and Imagination
Zegema Beach/Dog Knights
I actually reviewed this album in last week's Notable Releases but it got pushed back at the last minute and it's streaming in full now.
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 out in the fight against racism and police brutality, here are some resources.