Notable Releases of the Week (5/13)
This has been a huge week in the music world! Sunny Day Real Estate and Saetia reunions were announced, the first new My Chemical Romance song in 8 years was released, and two of the most anticipated albums of the year by two of the most widely loved artists around just came out. (You know the ones, and if you don't, you'll find out soon!) Those two albums are among the nine I highlight below, and Bill talks about even more in Bill's Indie Basement, including Kevin Morby, and Arab Strap/The Twilight Sad offshoot Gentle Sinners.
On top of that, honorable mentions: The Black Keys, Moderat, Luke Steele (Empire of the Sun), 49 Winchester, Azzacov, Max Creeps, Lyle Lovett, They Hate Change, Say Sue Me, Yves Jarvis, Cavernlight, Sonny Singh (Red Baraat), Elcamino, OT the Real x Statik Selektah, Pulley, Mandy Moore, Moon Tooth, Dana Buoy (Akron/Family), Misery Index, Sam Gendel & Antonia Cytrynowicz, David Knudson (Minus the Bear), Black Uhuru, The Stereo (first in 20 years), RLYR, Becky G, Tank and the Bangas, Mallrat, The Garbage & Flowers, Double Gainer, Mary Halvorson, Oded Tzur, Perel, WOORMS, Phelimuncasi, Nectar, Post Animal, Bear's Den, Ye Vagabonds, Pkew Pkew Pkew, Nechochwen, Cartilage, the TOPS EP, the Circuit des Yeux live EP, the FredAtLast (Little Dragon) EP, the TSVI & Loraine James EP, the Graduation Speech EP, the Zombi covers album, the Rolling Stones' live album of their secret 1977 Toronto show, the Emma Ruth Rundle album of improvised music, the John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter & Daniel Davies soundtrack for Firestarter, the expanded edition of Amyl & the Sniffers' Comfort to Me, the expanded edition of Opeth's In Cauda Venenum, and the expanded reissue of The Muffs' Really Really Happy.
Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?
The Smile - A Light for Attracting Attention
Radiohead haven't released an album in six years, but just about all the members have stayed active with one project or another (and two major retrospective albums came out), and the latest edition to the extended Radiohead universe is The Smile, whose lineup includes Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood alongside Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner, and whose debut album A Light for Attracting Attention was produced by Radiohead's longtime producer/collaborator Nigel Godrich. The name is new, but the music is cut from the familiar cloth that you know and love, and some of the songs actually date back to previous projects. Thom played both "Open the Floodgates" and "Skrting on the Surface" at solo shows as far back as 2009, and Radiohead had a version of the latter in their repertoire on the King of Limbs tour. And those are just the ones we know about from live shows; it wouldn't be surprising to learn that Radiohead have hidden drafts of other songs on this record too, as just about all of these would fit on a Radiohead album. It's got the kind of guitar-fueled art rock songs that Radiohead tended to stray from after the 2000s, like "Thin Thing," "The Opposite," "We Don't Know What Tomorrow Brings," and especially "You Will Never Work In Television Again," which just might be Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood's hardest-rocking song since Hail to the Thief. It's also got "Pana-vision," a piano-fueled song that would've fit on Amnesiac, and the aforementioned "Open the Floodgates" finds The Smile in even sparser piano ballad mode. "A Hairdryer" is the kind of glitchy song that could've worked on The King of Limbs, while the pulsating synths of album opener "The Same" recall Thom's last solo album ANIMA. There's also some less frequently explored territory, like "The Smoke," which has a bluesier, groovier feel than you might expect from the Radiohead family. It's a musically diverse batch of songs, and a consistently gorgeous one too. The stakes might be a little lower because it's not technically a Radiohead album, but the music is no less towering than what you'd expect from that band.
Kendrick Lamar - Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
Kendrick's first album in five years is stunning, complex, complicated, and already feels like his fourth consecutive masterpiece. Like his three previous ones, it'll take multiple listens to unpack, but you can read our first-listen review now.
Leikeli47 - Shape Up
Brooklyn rapper Leikeli47 began a planned trilogy with 2017's Wash & Set and 2018's Acrylic, both two of the best and most unique rap albums in recent memory, and now she finally completes the trilogy with Shape Up. She probably didn't mean to wait four years to release it (she revealed the title and released the lead single back in 2020, but, well you know), but it's here now, and it just might be her best yet. It takes everything that was great about the first two -- the singular rapping style, the memorable hooks, the loudly eccentric production, the fashionista punchlines -- and amplifies it exponentially. It makes sense that she considers it the finale of a trilogy; it's the logical conclusion of everything she's been working towards, and the album she was always destined to make.
Obongjayar - Some Nights I Dream of Doors
Nigerian-born, London-based artist Obongjayar has been making a name for himself as one of the most uniquely great new artists around, thanks to a series of increasingly good EPs, and now he finally releases his debut full-length, Some Nights I Dream of Doors. Even more so than the EPs, it's impossible to pin down this album into one genre; it flirts with hip hop, jazz, art pop, Afrobeats, soul, R&B, and each individual song gives you two or more of those genres at once. And it's a lot more easily digestible than it might sound on paper. It pulls influence from all kinds of different eras, regions, and genres of music, but Obongjayar compresses all of it into a collection of focused, accessible songs. He made almost the entire album with producer Barney Lister, except for working with J Rick on "All The Difference," and the only guest is UK jazz great Nubya Garcia on "Wrong For It." Some artists would need a large cast of collaborators to pull off this much at once; Obongjayar does it almost entirely by himself.
Gospel - The Loser
In certain circles, Gospel need no introduction, but in most, they probably do. The Brooklyn screamo band released one album during its initial run, 2005's Kurt Ballou-produced The Moon Is A Dead World, and it took the kind of underground screamo pioneered by bands like Orchid, pg.99, and Saetia and fused it with early '70s prog and psychedelia. Even at a time when prog was starting to infiltrate post-hardcore more and more, nobody else sounded like Gospel. The band broke up not long after Moon's release, and their career might've ended up as a blip, but their style of DIY screamo lived on and helped pave the way for bands like Touche Amore and La Dispute, as well as the more recent screamo revival, and the true believers in this sound have rightfully elevated Gospel to legendary status. A brief reunion occurred in 2010, which found them performing new material and releasing one digital single, but the "album's worth of new material" they said they'd written never materialized into an actual album and the band went back on hiatus. Now they're back once again -- over a decade since their last reunion and 17 years since their debut album -- and this time they've really got a new album. At least some of the material dates back to that 2010 reunion, but Gospel have always been ahead of their time, so The Loser still sounds like the future. It also still sounds like no other band; even with their debut as a certified classic, no one has ever really managed to fuse screamo, prog, and psych like Gospel have, and this new album does it just as effectively as Moon did. It's got eight songs that clock in at 41 minutes, and they really engulf you. Even the few great singles that came out already can't prepare you for how much of a journey The Loser takes you on. They worked once again with Kurt Ballou, and Kurt once again employed a raw production style that keeps things sounding abrasive but still lets all of Gospel's proggy nuances shine. It might've come 17 years later, but it's the natural followup that The Moon Is A Dead World always deserved.
Side note: Gospel's next show is opening for another reunited band, These Arms Are Snakes, at Brooklyn's Warsaw on June 18 alongside Young Widows. Amazing bill!
Florence + the Machine - Dance Fever
With 2015's How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful and even more so with 2018's High As Hope, Florence took her sound in a more comparatively subdued direction, and came out with some truly stunning music in the process. But if you miss the more bombastic Florence of "Dog Days Are Over" and "Shake It Out," you're in luck; Dance Fever is almost an entire album of those. The album and title was inspired by choreomania, "a Renaissance phenomenon in which groups of people danced wildly to the point of exhaustion, collapse and death," but Florence also describes the songs as "Nick Cave at the club," suggesting that there's a more brooding and personal undertone beneath those dancefloor anthems, and that is absolutely the case. She wrote these songs at home during COVID lockdown, and then recruited Jack Antonoff and Glass Animals' Dave Bayley to help her bring them to life, and it's good that these are coming out at a time when she's able to take them on an arena tour, because those are exactly the rooms these song are built to be performed in.
Ethel Cain - Preacher's Daughter
Daughers of Cain
Ethel Cain sounds like she's absorbed the last decade of alt-leaning pop music and pop-leaning alt music, and she regurgitates all of it on her debut album Preacher's Daughter. She admits that she constantly gets compared to Lana Del Rey, and cites Florence + the Machine as a formative influence, but she also cites gothier, more underground artists like Chelsea Wolfe and King Woman, and you can hear all of that coming through on his album. She can tend to wear her influences on her sleeves, but the combination of artists that she pulls from feels more unique than whoever the latest alt-pop bandwagon jumper is. And no matter who you think she sounds like, there's no denying that she's got a powerful voice or that the songs are there.
Quelle Chris - Deathfame
Mello Music Group
Quelle Chris returns with his first new album since 2020's Chris Keys-produced Innocent Country 2, and the prolific rapper/producer has done it again. Chris has spent the last decade-plus becoming a staple in underground rap, both with his own music and as a very busy collaborator (he's on recent albums by Armand Hammer, billy woods, Homeboy Sandman, Preservation, Mach-Hommy, and Your Old Droog, and co-composed the Judas and The Black Messiah score, to name a few things), and Deathfame is yet another triumph. Quelle Chris produced most of it himself, with some contributions from the aforementioned Chris Keys on a few tracks and Knxwledge on one, and it features appearances by Navy Blue, Pink Siifu, Denmark Vessey, and more. Throughout Deathfame, Chris tends to rely on vintage jazz and soul, but sometimes he goes for something noisier and more futuristic, like on "The Agency of the Future" and "Excuse My Back." His rhymes are both pensive and tongue-twisting, resulting in an album that immediately scans as "alternative rap" but never feels abstract for abstraction's sake. Underneath all those dizzying inner-line rhymes, he's really got something to say.
Primitive Man - Insurmountable EP
Closed Casket Activities
However heavy you think this EP is, I promise you it is even heavier. "Planet earth's 1st and only Death Sludge band" have built up a reputation for making doom/sludge with three people that's thicker, louder, and more abrasive than bands with twice as many members, and the four lengthy songs on Insurmountable (which clock in at nearly a half hour) only further that reputation. The only song that breaks from the band's usual formula is the ambient-noise track "Boiled," and even that one is just as ominous as the full-band songs. Alongside the three new originals, Insurmountable includes a cover of The Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream classic "Quiet," and if you didn't look at the tracklist, you might not even realize what song they were covering. The riff is slowed down to a snail's pace, and Ethan McCarthy's atonal growl strips the song of its usual melodies. (The drum intro is probably the most recognizable part.) It's a total (and entirely badass) reinvention of the song, and it suggests that some unlikely influences may lay beneath their ten-ton attack.
Read Bill's Indie Basement for more new album reviews, including Kevin Morby, Gentle Sinners, 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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