Last week might've been the busiest week for new album reviews at BV this whole year (we reviewed 25, and listed over 50 honorable mentions), but things are a bit slower this week. That gives you some time to catch up on last week's many albums, but also there are a handful of heavy hitters this week too. Bill tackles Billy Bragg, The Pop Group's dub album, Sam Evian, and Geese in Bill's Indie Basement, and I highlight six below.

And here are this week's honorable mentions: Tori Amos, Jerry Cantrell, Lotic, Kayo Dot, Monolord, Bat Fangs, Theon Cross, Former Member (mem Kid Dynamite), Lone, Calling All Captains, Jamire Williams, ACID, Charlotte Cornfield, SUSTO, Lily Konigsberg (Palberta), Swim Camp, Lucifer, MH Chaos, Half Past Two, Teethgrynder, Bastarður (mem Sólstafir), Cryogeyser, Contrition (mem Novembers Doom, Cobalt, Wolvhammer), Josh Freese, Magnolia Park, Wine Lips, Be'Lakor, Coco (mem Dirty Projectors, Lucius), Bremer/McCoy, Goat Torment, Curren$y & Harry Fraud, Jay Worthy, the Big Sean & Hit-Boy EP, the Pozi EP, the Gates EP, the Ric Wilson & Yellow Days EP, the Artz & Bugy EP, the Naomi Alligator EP, the Planningtorock EP, the Soot Sprite EP, the Megan Thee Stallion mixtape, the Bad History Month / Nyxy Nyx split, the Minus The Bear live album, the Mansions album of acoustic versions of earlier songs, the Richard Ashcroft album of acoustic versions of earlier songs, the Death Cab For Cutie Photo Album 20th anniversary deluxe reissue, the R.E.M. New Adventures in Hi-Fi 25th anniversary deluxe reissue, the Thao & The Get Down Stay Down album of acoustic and orchestral reworks, the Nina Simone compilation, and the The Sun Shines Here: The Roots Of Indie Pop 1980-1984 compilation.

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

The War On Drugs - I Don't Live Here Anymore
Atlantic

The War On Drugs aren't just arena rock-loving indie rockers anymore; they've followed in the footsteps of Springsteen and Dylan and Neil and their other heroes and will make their Madison Square Garden debut this January in support of I Don't Live Here Anymore, their second consecutive album for Atlantic Records (they've even got the Atlantic logo right on the front cover, just in case you forgot they're on a major label now). And they've got the perfect radio-friendly single to back it up; I Don't Live Here Anymore's title track is a heartland rock anthem (with gospel-tinged backing vocals from Lucius) that has all the accessibility and staying power of their heroes. It's the biggest standout on the new album, and it does overshadow the rest a bit, but I Don't Live Here Anymore provides something else that the heartland rockers of yesteryear were (and still are) often known for: consistency. Not every track pops out at you, but the whole thing feels familiar and comforting. As the followup to 2014's instant-classic Lost in the Dream, a lot was riding on 2017's A Deeper Understanding, and you could feel it when you listened, but now it feels like the pressure's off. I Don't Live Here Anymore is a calm, relaxed, feel-good record -- all good traits for some heartland rock workhorses.

Pick up The War On Drugs' new album on limited blue double vinyl in our store.

 

Mastodon - Hushed and Grim
Reprise

Mastodon had one of the finest runs in modern metal throughout the 2000s, from their 2002 instant sludge classic Remission to the thrilling advancements of 2004's Leviathan and 2006's Blood Mountain to 2009's proggier Crack the Skye, so it's understandable that their more recent work is often criticized for not living up to the bar set by their first four albums. From 2011's The Hunter onwards, Mastodon have transitioned into something that's a little more "rock" than "metal"; it's not an inherently bad thing, and they've put out some true gems in the past decade ("The Motherload" from 2014's Once More 'Round the Sun is as good as anything on the first four albums), but reactions have been mixed. I suspect Hushed and Grim will be met with a similar reaction to its most recent predecessors. It was produced by David Bottrill (who did most of Tool's classic albums and '90s King Crimson) and it's a double album, which suggests a lot of ambition, and there is indeed a pretty wide range of music on Hushed and Grim. There are moments that channel the same rage as the Leviathan days, and also moments that branch out into new territory (like the prog-funk riffs of "Sickle and Peace," which actually sound a little King Crimson-y). It probably won't fully win back the fans who want Mastodon to be a sludge metal band again, but it's got a little something for everyone.

Pick up the new Mastodon album on standard black vinyl or the Revolver deluxe collector's bundle in our store.

 

Marissa Nadler - The Path of the Clouds
Sacred Bones/Bella Union

Marissa Nadler has been a leader of dark, dreamlike folk music for over 15 years, she remains incredibly prolific, and just about everything she puts out is truly mesmerizing. The Path of the Clouds is no exception. The album features a handful of impressive contributors -- Mary Lattimore, Cocteau Twins' Simon Raymonde, Emma Ruth Rundle, Milky Burgess (the Mandy soundtrack), Jesse Chandler (Midlake, Mercury Rev), and Amber Webber (Black Mountain) -- but as ever, Marissa only needs her voice and guitar to put the listener in a trance. Even within the context of Marissa's always-dark music, this one has some of her most haunted work ("Couldn’t Have Done The Killing" is especially chill-inducing), and the songwriting is as strong as ever. Marissa has a way of writing songs that you feel like you've known your whole life, with words that really pop out at you, and each album sounds as fresh as the last. She doesn't change her style up that much, but when you've tapped into something this appealing and you continue to operate on such a high level, you don't need to.

Pick up the new Marissa Nadler album on silver vinyl in our store.

 

Save Face - Another Kill For The Highlight Reel
Epitaph

Save Face deservingly broke through with their 2018 Epitaph debut Merci, a very solid 2000s-style emo/pop punk album, and now they're upping the ambition exponentially for its followup, Another Kill For The Highlight Reel. They're still working within the realm of 2000s emo/pop punk, but this time they're going for a rock opera-sized offering of bombastic gang vocals, Broadway-style pianos, and the most theatrical, flamboyant delivery that band leader Tyler Povanda has ever laid to tape. It's hard not to compare their emo-meets-Queen aspirations to fellow NJ band My Chemical Romance, but Save Face do their hometown heroes justice. Not many bands are brave enough to even try making their own Black Parade; Save Face go for it and they sound pretty damn great in the process. They even nabbed Thursday's Geoff Rickly (who produced and sang on the first My Chem album) to sing on "A.M. Gothic," and it's no surprise that Geoff sees something special in this band. Sometimes the MCR comparisons are a little too easy to make, but it clearly takes a lot of talent and attention to detail to be able to pull an album like this off. Save Face deserve a lot of credit for pushing their sound as far as they already have, and if they keep going at this rate and keep honing in on finding their own voice, they'll be unstoppable.

 

Mick Jenkins - Elephant in the Room
Cinematic Music Group

Last year, Mick Jenkins put out the brief The Circus EP, and now he's back with a full-length followup to 2018's great Pieces of a Man, Elephant in the Room. Like on its predecessor, the new album finds Mick rapping over lush, jazz/soul-derived instrumentals, and he uses his deft, in-the-pocket delivery to tell personal, emotional stories. Mick shares traits with other artists in the thriving Chicago rap scene -- his taste in beats is similar to Noname's, he shares a love of melodic rapping with Chance the Rapper -- but even within the context of that very crowded scene, Mick stands out. As soon as he opens his mouth, he reminds you that nobody sounds like him, and he keeps you hanging on every word. His storytelling and his delivery are both as unique as they are commanding.

 

156/Silence - Don't Hold Your Breath EP
SharpTone

Pittsburgh's 156/Silence left a big mark on the modern metalcore scene with their great 2020 album Irrational Pull, and they're back with a quick and dirty EP to prove they're only getting better. Irrational Pull was already recorded and self-released before SharpTone picked them up and put out the deluxe edition, so Don't Hold Your Breath is technically their first new release for the label, and it already sounds like a clear step up. It's clearer and more spacious sounding than Irrational Pull, and that just makes 156/Silence's songs hit even harder. They keep things aggressive, with harsh screams and bone-crushing riffage, but these are also some of the band's most accessible songs. The EP employs a greater sense of atmosphere (especially on closer "Coup De Grâce [The Final Blow]"), and 156/Silence find subtle ways to work in brighter melodies (like with the guitars of "The Wrong Sense"). It only has three proper songs and an intro track, but it leaves an impact that lasts even when the 12-minute runtime is up.

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Looking for more recent releases? Browse the Notable Releases archive or keep scrolling down for previous weeks.

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