Notable Releases of the Week (10/14)
Two weeks ago, I said it might be one of the biggest release weeks of the year, but this one might top it. I highlight 17 new albums below, Bill covers nine more in Bill's Indie Basement -- including Bill Callahan, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Ecstatic International (Priests, Ex Hex), Matt Kivel, and more -- and there are still plenty of others worth checking out beyond that.
Honorable mentions: the second Red Hot Chili Peppers of 2022, Todd Rundgren (ft. Rivers Cuomo, Thomas Dolby, Sparks, The Roots & more), Brian Eno, John Carpenter (Halloween Ends soundtrack), Lucrecia Dalt, Zella Day, Palm, Sparta, Tove Lo, Louis Cole, Daeva, Boundaries, Spark, The Wolfmanhattan Project, Tee Grizzley, She/Her/Hers, Kool G Rap, Field Medic, Surprise Chef, PVA, Rival Consoles, Julianna Riolinio, Virgin Mother, Ways Away (Stick To Your Guns, Samiam), Sam Gendel, G Herbo, Smoke DZA, L.A. Salami, Pony Girl, Charlotte Dos Santos, Nok Cultural Ensemble (Sons of Kemet), Logan Farmer, Meat Wave, Microwaves, Boston Manor, GIFT, Mabe Fratti, Robin Holcomb, Ribbon Stage, Lolo Zouaï, Betty Who, the Central Cee EP, the Justice EP, the Joyeria EP, the BEKIND EP, the Law of Power EP, the Native Sun EP, the Fire-Toolz EP, the Fazerdaze EP, the Natural Lines (Matt Pond) EP, the Poppy EP, the Steve Queralt (Ride) & Michael Smith EP, the PUP live EP, The Early November 20th anniversary album, Ryuichi Sakamoto's soundtrack for Exception, the deluxe edition of Ayra Starr's 19 & Dangerous, the Can live album, the Florence + the Machine live at Madison Square Garden album, the Kid Congo Powers & The Near Death Experience live album, the "supreme edtion" of Robert Glasper's Black Radio III, and the Leonard Cohen tribute LP (ft. Iggy Pop, Peter Gabriel, Mavis Staples, Norah Jones & more).
Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?
The 1975 - Being Funny In A Foreign Language
Across their last three albums, The 1975 always seemed to be pushing themselves as far as they could go, with collections that often neared or surpassed 20 songs, clocked in at around an hour or more, and constantly hopped between different styles of music. For their fifth album, Being Funny In A Foreign Language, it seems like they're reeling it in, and making what is merely a good 1975 album, not one that's trying to push their envelope even further. It's got a lean 11 songs in 43 minutes, and it tends to stick to what's always been the most accessible side of their sound: their '80s pop-inspired stuff. Outside of the Bon Iver-ish "Part of the Band" and a couple ballads ("All I Need To Hear," "Human Too"), basically every song is designed like an '80s pop hit, and they haven't lost the ability to 1975 things up, making these would-be-retro songs sound like no other band in the world, even when they're being intentionally derivative. (Matty Healy especially remains a distinct singer and lyricist.) Besides their recurring eponymous intro track, there are no ambient interludes, no out-there electronic tracks, no out-of-character punk songs; just a solid collection of songs that scratch the itch of fan faves like "Somebody Else" and "It's Not Living (If It's Not with You)." Their more adventurous side is missed, but they already made three messy, sprawling epics in a row. Maybe it was just time to make a catchy, concise album like this one.
Plains - I Walked With You A Ways
Plains is the new collaborative project of Katie Crutchfield (aka Waxahatchee) and Jess Williamson, and their debut album I Walked With You A Ways was made with frequent Waxahatchee producer Brad Cook and features a band made up of Spencer Tweedy and Phil Cook. It finds Katie and Jess exploring their love of classic country and folk, and they prove to have a lot of chemistry together. They trade lead vocals throughout the album, but the best parts are when they harmonize together, showing how their noticeably different voices come together to create a uniquely stunning whole. They say this is a one-time collaboration, but Plains doesn't feel like a side project. It feels like Katie and Jess gave this album their all, just like they do on their own albums.
Lil Baby - It's Only Me
Lil Baby called his shot with 2020's My Turn, the album that skyrocketed him to the forefront of mainstream rap. It found him mastering the art of moody, auto-tuned pop-rap, and Baby had more than just catchy songs. On its monumental bonus track "The Bigger Picture," he proved he could be just as serious and purposeful as the Kendricks and Killer Mikes when the song calls for it. He kept the momentum going last year with a collaborative victory lap with Lil Durk, The Voice of the Heroes, and now he releases his own new album, It's Only Me. This one comes with more anticipation behind it than any previous Lil Baby album, and Baby meets expectations and makes it sound effortless. Like a lot of pop-rap albums, it's a little longer than it needs to be (23 songs in 65 minutes), but there are a lot of gems on there. Lil Baby seamlessly moves between his catchy pop side and his more serious side, and he dives into some Weeknd-ish downtempo R&B on "Forever" (ft. Fridayy) and "Stop Playin" (ft. Jeremih). Other guests include Future, Young Thug, Pooh Shiesty, Nardo Wick, Rylo Rodriguez, and EST Gee, the last of whom's verse on "Back and Forth" is one of this album's secret weapons.
MAVI - Laughing So Hard It Hurts
Charlotte experimental rapper MAVI returns with not just his first full-length project since his 2019 breakthrough Let the Sun Talk, but his lengthiest, most expansive project yet. Part of MAVI's breakthrough was thanks to a collaborative relationship with Earl Sweatshirt, who MAVI was frequently compared to early on, but he's really come into his own since then. He recruited a team of producers, including Monte Booker, Ovrcast, Wulf Morpheus, Coffee Black, Dylvinci, and more, and together they created an album that veers more towards warm, organic jazz-rap compared to the warped, crackling sound that defined Let the Sun Talk -- though there's still a little of that too. MAVI's delivery is also clearer and more melodic than ever; he puts his strong lyricism front and center, and he's got a newfound knack for casually blurring the lines between rapping and singing. The only guest appearance on the album comes from Amindi, who injects a dose of neo-soul into "Trip"; otherwise MAVI handles everything himself, and he's got the commanding presence needed to do so.
Birds In Row - Gris Klein
Red Creek Recordings
French post-hardcore band Birds In Row do not work quickly, but whenever they do return with a new album, it's always worth the wait. Gris Klein is their third album in 10 years (and first for Cult of Luna's label Red Creek Recordings, following previous releases on Deathwish), and it feels like just as much of a progression from 2018's We Already Lost the World as that album was from their 2012 debut. It feels more accessible and more aggressive at once, and it finds Birds In Row making an increasingly unique version of post-hardcore. In their DNA, you can hear traces of anything from '80s/'90s Dischord to early screamo to crust punk to post-rock and post-metal, and Birds In Row have gotten better and better at swirling all of those ingredients together at once. The result is an album that severely separates Birds In Row from the pack, as well as some of the most intense hardcore-derived music I've heard all year.
M.I.A. - MATA
The timing isn't great to be saying positive things about M.I.A., considering less than two days ago she was comparing the Alex Jones verdict to "every celebrity pushing vaccines," but her first album in six years is here and it's tough to deny that it's a good one. As she's been doing for years, she's crafted an album that constantly blurs the lines between music from all over the world, from US/UK-style rap and dance music to Afrobeat to reggaeton to Indian music and beyond. MATA's also a reminder of how influential M.I.A. has become. It's been a while since she's released new music, but in her absence, lots of M.I.A. acolytes have cropped up. MATA fits right in with a musical landscape that M.I.A. herself helped shape.
The Holy Ghost Tabernacle Choir - Slow Murder
Back in the 2000s, Savannah, Georgia was a hotbed for heavy music, but it's been a minute since we've seen a new band from that city make a mark the way they were 10-15 years ago. But if there's a new Savannah band that seems primed to put their city back on the map, it's The Holy Ghost Tabernacle Choir. Their debut LP Slow Murder was recorded by Chris “Scary” Adams of hometown heroes Black Tusk, and they've got some of that classic Savannah sludge in their sound, but The Holy Ghost Tabernacle Choir are definitely not just rehashing the music of their forebears. They also embrace everything from underground screamo to sasscore to deathcore to Jesus Lizard-style noise rock/post-hardcore to Slint-style post-rock, and more, and they've got guest screaming from Soul Glo's Pierce Jordan and Gillian Carter's Logan Rivera on the record. Slow Murder is all over the place, and THGTC blend their vast array of influences seamlessly, while also churning out genuinely powerful songs. This is a band that can't easily be pinned down to any subgenre, but if you like heavy music of any kind, you should check them out.
Denitia - Highways
New York-via-Houston artist Denitia began her solo career making a similar type of atmospheric, downtempo R&B to what she made in her now-defunct duo with Sene, but she's making a pretty hard pivot on new album Highways, towards country music. It might seem like a drastic departure, but Denitia grew up listening to country and folk (while also singing in church choirs), so it should actually come as no surprise that she does this type of music as genuinely and brilliantly as she does R&B. Highways was primarily written by Denitia alone in her studio, with some virtual help from co-producer Brad Allen Williams (Brittany Howard, Bilal, etc), and it sounds intimate and homespun in the way you might expect an album born out of isolation to sound. But it's also an album that feels ready for a world that's opening back up. As the title Highways suggests, it's an album that feels perfect for the open road. It's earthy, spacious, warm, and bright -- almost the polar opposite of her previous material, which tended to feel cold and dimly-lit. And despite the change in genre, it still feels like Denitia. She utilizes time-tested country tropes in her own unique way.
Ripped To Shreds - 劇變 (Jubian)
San Jose's Ripped To Shreds have been rising up in the death metal world for a few years now, and their Relapse debut 劇變 (Jubian) seems poised to be their biggest breakthrough -- and possibly best album -- yet. The album is immaculately produced, and it channels everything from old school death metal to melodeath to grindcore in a way that feels totally fresh. A good handful of modern death metal bands like to worship very specific subsets of death metal, but 劇變 (Jubian) feels wide-ranging and doesn't even necessarily limit itself to the genre's usual confines. It also eschews the campy horror themes that often populate death metal albums in favor of real world issues like the US bombing North Korea and life as an Asian-American during a time where AAPI hatred is increasingly prevalent. Guitarist/vocalist Andrew Lee says one of the band's purposes has been "to increase the visibility of ABCs [American-born Chinese] in extreme metal by being very blatantly Chinese," and that's there in 劇變 (Jubian)'s lyrics, as well as the album artwork, which depicts a statue of Taiwanese sea goddess Mazu. Andrew, who originally started Ripped To Shreds as a solo project, also leaned into making 劇變 (Jubian) a very full-band album. He made it with drummer Brian Do and bassist Ryan (the latter of whom also plays in the crossover thrash band Doomsday), and he told Stereogum that he wrote most of this album with the live show in mind, something he'd never done before. That might explain why 劇變 (Jubian) feels bigger and grander than Ripped To Shreds' previous work. This doesn't feel like niche extreme metal; it feels like loud, lively metal that's built for the big stage.
Mightmare - Cruel Liars
Kill Rock Stars
Sarah Shook & the Disarmers are one of the best alt-country bands going and this year's Nightroamer is another winner, but that's not the only new album Sarah's got for us this year. They're also debuting their new solo project Mightmare with the new album Cruel Liars, out now on Kill Rock Stars. Sarah's voice is as unmistakable in this project as it is with the Disarmers, but Mightmare is not country. For this project, Sarah embraces brooding rock, synthy bedroom pop, and other indie-centric subgenres, and they pull it off just as masterfully as they do alt-country. The album came together during the pandemic, and right after Sarah got sober, and not that Sarah doesn't write personal songs with the Disarmers, but this is some of their most personal work yet.
Mykki Blanco - Stay Close To Music
Mykki Blanco made a big comeback with 2021's Broken Dreams & Beauty Sleep, a maximalist, post-genre project almost entirely produced by FaltyDL that felt much more expansive than their previous releases. And those same sessions actually resulted in two albums, the second of which gets released today. Like Broken Dreams & Beauty Sleep, Stay Close To Music is all over the place in the best way, seamlessly incorporating art pop, rap, soul, innovative electronics, and a variety of other experimental subgenres, and this one's got an even bigger cast of guests than its predecessor: R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, Sigur Ros' Jónsi, ANOHNI, Devendra Banhart, Kelsey Lu, Saul Williams, Diana Gordon, Ah-Mer-Ah-Su, MNEK, and Slug Christ. It's Mykki's most musically ambitious album yet, and they match the genre-hopping backdrop with personal topics that range from living life as a trans person to Mykki's experiences with religion and spirituality. It's a remarkable project, and even with all those guests and all those different styles of music, it remains a catchy, cohesive listen.
Mach-Hommy & Tha God Fahim - Duck CZN: Tiger Style
Underground rappers Mach-Hommy and Tha God Fahim are nothing if not incredibly prolific. They very recently put out the fourth installment their Dollar Menu EP series, and this week they surprise-released a sequel to their collaborative 2018 album Duck CZN: Chinese Algebra. Production on several tracks comes from Montreal's Nicholas Craven, who's fresh off producing the great new Boldy James album, and his distinct sample-based style helps make for several of Tiger Style's biggest standouts. Sadhu Gold also produces several tracks, and there's some production from Wino Willy and Tha God Fahim himself, and frequent Mach/Fahim collaborator Your Old Droog shows up to rap on "Blue Hill @ Stone Barns," while Juju Gotti guests on two tracks. It's all cut from the same outsider rap cloth as Mach and Fahim's many other releases, and even with their vast number of projects, they still sound as fresh and hungry as ever.
Alela Diane - Looking Glass
Alela Diane has been one of the most consistently great (and often underrated) singer/songwriters of the past two decades, and today she returns with another great album -- her first in over four years -- Looking Glass. It was produced by Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket, The Decemberists, etc), and made with a cast of collaborators including Carl Broemel (My Morning Jacket), Scott Avett (The Avett Brothers), Eli Moore (Lake), Mikaela Davis, Luke Ydsitie (Blind Pilot), and Ryan Fracesconi (Joanna Newsom). The period between Alela's 2018 album Cusp and this new one has been an intense one in Alela's life; she got married, divorced, married again, and became the mother of two, and that's reflected in the personal nature of these songs, which range from folk songs to piano ballads to sweeping orchestral music.
Punitive Damage - This Is The Blackout
Punitive Damage, the PacNW hardcore band fronted by Steph Jerkova (who also plays bass in Regional Justice Center), have just followed up their early EPs and demo with their first full-length, the Taylor Young-recorded This Is The Blackout, out now via Atomic Action. It's got 13 songs in 18 minutes, and it pulls from caustic hardcore and punk but they also incorporate influences like Springsteen, AC/DC, The Rolling Stones, mariachis, Elvis, and KISS. It's a record that's nasty, groovy, and fun all at once, and it's full of purpose, and for a deeper dive into the themes of this record, Steph gave us a track-by-track breakdown. It's a really great, in-depth read, and you can check that out here.
Wild Pink - ILYSM
For their fourth album, NYC indie band Wild Pink embark on their most ambitious journey yet. It's a sprawling record that's loaded with an amazing cast of guests: Dinosaur Jr's J Mascis, Julien Baker, Ryley Walker, Yasmin Williams and Samantha Crain, plus co-producer Peter Silberman of The Antlers), and it revolves around one of the most devastating and personal topics of main member John Ross' career thus far: his cancer diagnosis and treatment. John also spoke to us about some of the musical influences behind the album, including Mazzy Star, Iron & Wine, Nick Lowe, and more, and you can read about those here.
Enumclaw - Save The Baby
Tacoma, Washington's Enumclaw have been on the rise thanks to their fresh take on traditional, '90s-style indie rock. Dinosaur Jr is a clear influence, but they also pull from everything from The Smashing Pumpkins to Yves Tumor to Turnstile to Blood Orange to Kacey Musgraves to Soccer Mommy (whose 2018 debut album Clean inspired Enumclaw to recruit producer Gabe Wax for this LP), as they spoke to us about for a recent feature.
Skullcrusher - Quiet the Room
For her debut album as Skullcrusher, Helen Ballentine took inspiration from her childhood in Mount Vernon, NY, looking back at "a darkness hovering just out of view" in old home movies. Her somber indie folk style drew comparisons to Phoebe Bridgers on her early EPs, but Quiet the Room finds her coming into her own and taking her music in a variety of new directions. It's strung together with this forgotten childhood ephemera, ambient interludes of spectral atmosphere and spare, haunted piano that sound plucked out of faded photographs. Songs like "Building a Swing" and "Lullaby in February" sound like they've been swaddled in a cocoon of gauze, insulated from the present. "There's some moments where everything is really lo-fi and crackly, sounding like it's coming through an old radio, and then all of a sudden it'll be really clear and really present," she told Our Culture. On tracks like "Window Somewhere" and centerpiece and first single "Whatever Fits Together," though, there's a surge of immediacy as Ballentine sounds ready to reckon with the past and face the present. [Amanda Hatfield]
Read Bill's Indie Basement for more new album reviews, including Bill Callahan, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Ecstatic International (Priests, Ex Hex), Matt Kivel, and more.
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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