Before I get to the new music, I just want to take a moment to honor Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, and their families. 20-year-old Daunte Wright's life was taken by Minnesota police officer Kim Potter earlier this week, and video just surfaced of the fatal police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago. These tragedies are reminders that change is long overdue. As Trevor Noah said earlier this week, We’re not dealing with bad apples, we’re dealing with a rotten tree. [...] If we’re meant to believe that the police system in America, the system of policing itself, is not fundamentally broken, then we would need to see good apples."

I'd also like to mention that a few musicians, like Phoebe Bridgers, Home Is Where, For Your Health, and Origami Angel, have been helping to raise money for Daunte Wright's family and/or organizations that fight racial injustice and police brutality. You can also donate to Wright's family directly via Holistic Heaux.

As for this week's new albums, I highlight six below, and here are some honorable mentions: Young Thug's Young Stoner Life comp (ft. Drake, Future, Lil Uzi Vert, Skepta, and more), AJ Tracey, Andy Stott, Spectral Wound, Cannibal Corpse, Gotham (Talbi Kweli & Diamond D), Bronze Nazareth & Recognize Ali, Cory Hanson (Wand), Son Lux, Noods, Oh The Humanity!, The Offspring, Julia Stone, The Brother Brothers, Caroline Kingsbury, the Jon Hopkins EP, the Colonial Wound EP, the Koningsor EP, the Wild Pink covers EP, the Norah Jones live album, the Portugal. The Man "lost" live session album, the Vitamin comp, the Bob Mould box, Tom Petty's Finding Wildflowers (Alternate Versions), the massive John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band 50th anniversary reissue, and the expanded Gloria Record reissue.

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

The Armed - ULTRAPOP
Sargent House

The Armed have been one of the most unique punk bands around for a while, and their new album ULTRAPOP is the most uncompromising thing they've released yet. It's their first album for Sargent House, and first since the once-mysterious band revealed who their lineup is. (You can view the full nine-piece lineup, which includes Converge's Ben Koller, METZ's Chris Sloarch, Rough Francis' Urian Hackney, and others, here, and the album also features Mark Lanegan and Queens of the Stone Age's Troy Van Leeuwen, and co-production by Chelsea Wolfe collaborator Ben Chisholm, and it was also executive produced by longtime collaborator Kurt Ballou of Converge.) Guitarist/vocalist Dan Greene says the concept of subgenre is "almost the antithesis of vitality in art," and he also refers to the album as "anti-punk," which feels like the perfect description for it. It's punk in spirit, and sometimes punk in sound, but this is a million miles away from the Ramones or Black Flag or something. Sometimes ULTRAPOP is as harsh and abrasive as grindcore, and other times it's as bright, poppy, and ethereal as Mew or M83. And they cover all kinds of ground in between too. Whatever mode The Armed are in, ULTRAPOP is a maximalist, sensory overload of an album. It's a lot to take in, and it's definitely not an album you can just throw on whenever; it's all-consuming. It's an album that seems intentionally made to turn people off -- too poppy for punk and metal purists, too abrasive for people who don't like heavy music -- but it's actually a very accessible record, especially if your taste gravitates towards artists who defy genre. For an album that's so overstuffed with conflicting ideas, the songs always feel focused and hook-oriented. ULTRAPOP is just as good of a descriptor as "anti-punk." In some very weird way, this is pop music.

 

Conway the Machine - La Maquina
Griselda/Drumwork/EMPIRE

Conway the Machine remains insanely prolific. Last year, he released two EPs and From King to a GOD (one of our favorite albums of 2020), and now he's back with his second project of 2021, ahead of his highly anticipated Shady Records debut God Don't Make Mistakes. La Maquina follows February's If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed (a collaboration with Big Ghost Ltd), and this new one was helmed by various producers -- including Alchemist, Daringer, Murda Beatz, JR Swift, Bangladesh, Don Cannon, Cosmo Beats, and Cardiak -- and it features some big name guests like 2 Chainz, J.I.D, and Ludacris, as well as Conway's Griselda pals Benny the Butcher and Westside Gunn (marking the first time all three of them have been on a track together since rumors that Griselda was splitting up). Given the amount of music Conway puts out, you'd think his hunger would start to curb, but he sounds as fired-up on this new project as he ever has. The overall vibe of La Maquina is what you'd expect (gritty, noir-ish, '90s-style boom bap) but no complaints about getting more of a good thing when the songs are this effective.

 

Spencer Krug - Fading Graffiti
Pronounced Kroog

Spencer Krug has released an insane amount of music over the past two decades -- with Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, Swan Lake, his solo project Moonface, and more -- but in all that time he's never put out an album under his own name. Until now. "I'm just tired of the name [Moonface], and crave the excitement of a clean slate," Spencer said in 2018 when he revealed that he'd be retiring his former moniker. "I'm in my 40s now, and ready to make music and tour under my own name - Spencer Krug; ready to get personally behind what I do in a more literal and meaningful way." In 2019, Spencer began releasing a song a month on his Patreon, and now he has completed his first album as Spencer Krug, featuring full-band versions of songs that were originally released as piano ballads via Patreon. It's some of Spencer's most earthy music -- full of breezy acoustic guitars, piano, and a great deal of pedal steel -- and it's nice to hear him make such a relaxed, stripped-back album. And though the arrangements are a little more straightforward for his standards, the songwriting is about as classic Spencer Krug as it gets. Longtime fans will find this comfortingly familiar, and if this album is the first you're hearing from Spencer, this album would give you a good idea of what makes his songwriting so special and timeless.

 

Joystick - I Can't Take It Anymore
Bad Time Records/Stomp Records

New Orleans' Joystick have spent the last decade honing their craft and emerging as one of the best modern ska-punk bands around, and their fourth record I Can't Take It Anymore is their most mature, refined record yet. "Everybody started getting married and having kids and kind of like settling down -- we definitely became less of a party band," lead vocalist Duck told us in a recent interview. Duck also got sober four years ago and he's now working as a volunteer to help other alcoholics and addicts, and those experiences informed the personal, honest tone of his lyrics on this record.

The music sounds more "mature" too, but in Joystick's case, growing up doesn't mean slowing down. It's still an urgent, fun, fast-paced record that toes the line between ska-punk and ska-core and sounds as hungry as Joystick did on their debut. It also has a subtle approach to musical diversity; it's a straight-up, '90s-style ska-punk record, but it also weaves in aspects of traditional '60s ska, shouty '80s hardcore, and plenty of the in-between. Read more about it in our recent feature.

 

Vientre - Estado de Imago
self-released

Colombian screamo band Vientre have been on the rise for the past few years, with two full-lengths and several EPs/splits/etc under their belts, and they've just released their third album Estado de Imago. Their last full-length came out two and a half years ago, and Vientre have made a noticeable progression in that time without abandoning what made the first two albums great. Estado de Imago offers up a seamless blend of post-rock and screamo, and it's a big, clean, melodic record that still finds plenty of time for aggression and frantic energy. If you like screamo and screamo-adjacent bands that really shoot for the stars -- anything from Envy to La Dispute to Viva Belgrado -- this album is very worth checking out. Screamo can be a very niche thing, often by design, but this album has the grandeur of a band who could be playing stadiums.

 

Sharon Van Etten (and various artists) - epic Ten
Ba Da Bing

Sharon Van Etten's music has consistently grown and evolved over the years, and before she was writing Springsteen-sized indie-synthpop anthems on 2019's Remind Me Tomorrow, she released the much more intimate indie folk of 2010's Epic. That album has been given a unique 10th anniversary reissue, which features the original album plus covers of every song on it by artists from multiple generations and genres: Big Red Machine (Bon Iver's Justin Vernon + The National's Aaron Dessner), IDLES, Lucinda Williams, Shamir, Courtney Barnett & Vagabon, St. Panther, and Fiona Apple. Just about all of the covers nail a balance between reinventing the song and embracing Sharon's distinct style. It's a lovely tribute to how special of an album Epic is, and it gives these songs new life.

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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.

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